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14 - Deep Work - Health Fit Biz


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There is shallow work and then there is deep work.

Deep work is a concept Anthony and I got from the book, Deep Work. 

Essentially you can do work that is shallow. Work that is easy and quick. Task based worked. It more or less maintains business as usual. Answering emails, filing papers, etc. Those are easy things that can be done with little thought.

Then there is deep work. Hard, focused, intense work.

Deep work is where the magic happens. Deep work is where we need to spend our time if we want to make incredible things and incredible progress.

How We Use It

The most important thing you can do when it comes to deep work is knowing, when you boil it all down, what tasks, when done, give you the MOST progress in your field and in your business?

One example from the book was the author who is a professor. To make progress as a professor at university, the most valuable thing for professional progress is the number of papers published. When you boil it all down, that is what matters most. That is where deep work should be focused.

You need to identify which area of your business/life has the most control over your progress.

Once you know that, set a target number of deep work hours you want to hit per week. Set a reward for yourself if you are able to hit those deep work hours.

You might start by saying, “I am going to do 3 deep work hours per day”. In all honesty, that is too lofty to start with. We recommend starting with 30 minutes to 1 hour per day until you develop your stamina and abilities.

It’s extremely important you track your deep work hours per day. Write this down in a spreadsheet or a journal.

In review and your weekly challenge

Figure out where in your business progress comes from.

Set a goal for number of deep work hours you will achieve in the coming week with a reward if you hit that goal.

Divide that number by 7 to get your daily deep work hours.

Each day, get after it and get the hours done.

Record your hours.

Now get after it!


Podcast Transcript


Ryan: I’m Dr. Ryan Debell. Thanks for tuning in once again to the Health Fit Biz podcast for episode number 14. In this episode, Dr.  Anthony Gustin and I will talk about the concept of deep work versus shallow work. We defined each those terms. We take a look at how do you determined what work you should be doing, what work you should be paying somebody else to do based on whether it is deep or shallow? We also talk about how do you get yourself to actually do this deep work? How do you monitor it? How do you manage it? How do you measure it to make sure that it gets done? Because this is probably the single most effective thing you could be doing. Now before we get in t this episode though, if you’ve been enjoying these podcast episodes, we would greatly appreciate it if you will leave us a review on iTunes. We’d love five stars but leave how many stars or written review if you feel so inclined we would greatly appreciate it. Okay! Without further ado, let’s listen in to episode 14.

Ryan: Dr. Anthony Gustin, good to see you!

Anthony: Good morning doctor. How are you?

Ryan: I’m good! Where are we today?

Anthony: We are at a bonfire

Ryan: At my house, again.

Anthony: Staying warm, cuddling.

Ryan:  We are not cuddling but we are staying warm. We are staying warm.

Anthony: Anyway, this is another episode…

Ryan: …of the…

Anthony: Health

Ryan: Fit

Anthony: Business

Ryan: Pod…

Anthony: Podcast

Ryan:  Podcast. And we are talking about.

Anthony: Today, we are going to be talking about something that we’ve been focusing on after we read the book Deep Work and that would be deep work. Deep Work vs. Shallow Work and how do think about doing things in a different mindset rather than just saying “Oh! I’m working!” There’s really kind of two different ways on you could approach this and so that will be deep work or shallow work.

Ryan: So, maybe what we could do then is define what deep work is versus what shallow work is. When I think of shallow work… Is that a good coffee? What kind of coffee is that that you are drinking?

Anthony: Knox Coffee Roasters based of out of Portland, Oregon. This is a Brazil.

Ryan: I’m drinking a…

Anthony: Ethiopian…

Ryan: Imagining Ethiopia.

Anthony: Blue berry a little bit of dark chocolate.

Ryan:  Yeah. The reason what we can taste this is we don’t put things in our coffee.

Anthony: Oh no! Sure enough.

Ryan: If you have to put stuff in your coffee, it means it is not a good coffee. Right? Because if it’s coffee you don’t want to ruin it.

Anthony: Yeah! That is pretty deep right there. So maybe we could go back to…

Ryan: So, shallow work to me would be like. Alright… let’s say I’m talking about the context of me doing a workshop. Shallow work would be me going and gathering data about the gyms and things in the area that I’m going to go to teach. It is something that isn’t pushing the needle forward but it is required to do business as usual but it is also very easy for someone else to do for me.

Anthony: I still think also that shallow work is anything that doesn’t require a massive amount of focus or attention and can be done well being distracted. So, for instance like writing an email.

Ryan:  Yeah, because only you can write that email sometime.

Anthony: Right and so, you can’t outsource writing email but it doesn’t take a whole lot of attention. It doesn’t take a lot of focus, it doesn’t talk a lot of effort mentally and so, the input is very shallow.

Ryan:  And yeah, the shallow tasks they don’t push the needle forward. Deep work is really what pushed the needle forward. In terms of getting you further or farther. Further or farther? Do you know how to know the difference between further and farther? Farther is distance, further is by degree.  English lessons for today I guess.

Anthony: Thank you.

Ryan:  So, anyways the deep work is the stuffs that really gets big projects done. Things that really get the ball rolling and an email certainly doesn’t do that. You may or you may not be able to outsource shallow work, but being able to figure out “Are the tasks I’m doing right now shallow or are they deep?” Now, Anthony. Dr. Gustin.

Anthony: Yes sir.

Ryan: Why is deep work so important?

Anthony: Deep work is… You should be focused on the wildly important goals and this is by the author Cal Newport in his book Deep Work probably titled. When you are thinking about how you progress things and how you are making achievements happen, what that sets people apart from being very successful and not is the amount of focus and attention put towards reaching wildly important goals. So, Cal is a professor and he is working towards tenure so one of his big things was to get tenure which is very important to him. Publishing papers is the kind of the measuring stick in which to get tenure.

Ryan: Like when you boil the thing down, the thing that matters most is publishing papers.

Anthony: Right! And so, his deep work is something that you need focus very very intensely on and not have any distractions and work pretty much as hard as possible. And so, this is the work that gets better with more focus you have. For instance, the email is not going to get better if you remove all distractions it’s just going to be email. But writing a paper, assimilating knowledge, learning a new skill, creating content -these are the things that when paid attention to more closely and more intensely, the output becomes greater and greater.

Ryan: And so, in order to be able to figures out what deep work I should be doing you have to know what is the thing that matters most in achieving your goal. So, for him it was writing papers. What is it for you Anthony?

Anthony: I put deep work in to two different categories. I put it in to learning new skills as well as creating contents. And so, for me, that would be…. For instance, if I am learning how to do a new marketing channel or sales channel or how to build website, I will…. If it’s about learning certain skills, I would isolate myself completely for any distractions and I will focus as hard as I can about researching that and how to apply the skills and then I’ll try to apply it without any distractions. Without going back fort and reading fifteen different articles. I’ll focus as hard as I can be learning one specific thing. Then if I want to create something as far as creating content – a blog post, email anything like this, there’s another thing where I, for instance word processor, google talks usually super easy or I will shell out, I will make it full screen, I will shell out every other distraction possible and I will just hammer out as much as I possibly can of an article, just like how Cal needs to write papers. Creating content on websites is no different from that.

Ryan:  Yeah. It is essentially the same thing. For me, some of the deep work things that I do would be writing blog posts as you just said or making the videos. Making content frequently like you have to really spend a lot of time figuring out what to make in advance and nobody can really figure that out but you. You can’t have somebody say “Hey! This is what you should make. That’s going to be impactful and meaningful.” And then also the content for my course or workshop and then also some of the other things that I’m making. Nobody can do that except for me. Now one of the things that he said in the book was “If you can consistently do deep work on a daily basis, that is where the rubber…” (almost broke your computer there).

Anthony: Oooopppss…

Ryan: Good thing Apple’s announcing your MacBook in a couple of days huh. So, if you can consistently do deep work on a daily basis, so every day you commit to doing some amount of deep work. Whether that’s one hour or two hours, that when multiplied by number of days and weeks in the time frame that you’re looking at, it adds up to a huge amount of work that is very focused on the things that matter most and you can get massive amount of things done that are meaningful. Because if you spent an hour just answering emails versus an hour doing really deep focused work on the things that matter most for your goal, that’s where the magic happens.

Anthony: Yeah!

Ryan: And it’s not magic!

Anthony: No, it is just being methodical.

Ryan:  Being methodical and putting in the blood, sweat and tears. There is no easy way to be successful. Maybe if you like live back in the day and you had a farm and there’s oil coming up at the ground, like that was easy.  But these days, you don’t accidentally do incredible things. It takes methods. It takes devotion. It takes strategy. You have to think in advance of where do I actually need to be spending my time?

Anthony: A really good example of this and we have kind of always talked about is if you think about an author and then writing a book you have to have a sort of a plan and you have to chip away out of it because of a very huge milestone you can’t just write a book in a day. Right? And also, when you are writing book of any author and what they do as far as how they write and the process behind everything I guarantee you every single one of them is they lock themselves away. They have no distractions and they write on a daily basis,

Ryan: Well, if you wrote one page a day for a year, that will be 365-page book.

Anthony: Correct.

Ryan: 365 days? Well, I guess it’s a leap. Every time there’s a leap year. We are talking regular year here. Insignificant! That’s a shallow question. The point is though writing a book is like a daunting task. Unless you spend dedicated time every single day. And you track this, yes?

Anthony: Yeah. For instance, a good point to be made about this is way is true deep work and this is another thing a lot of author says is that they usually wake up in the morning, they get to work, they do it and then when they are done they are done. And so, they are not trying to force this deep work all the time because when you are focusing your attention, you are burning so hot and bright, you can’t be doing that all day. You can’t do that every day.

Ryan:  The power of thousand suns burning inside you, I don’t think so.

Anthony: No. Super nova explosion. I think Cal on the book says four hours is like max that human can do in a day of deep work. Just like working out, right? You can go out walk or even jog for hours and hours but you can’t sprint for hours.  You can’t have that level of intensity for that long. And so, it’s also important to know yourself and how much you can be doing this as far as input for this episode. It’s not like it should be the work that you do all day long. It is not possible.

Ryan: I think that some people feel, like I kind of almost feel about a lot of people could relate to this. You feel kind if guilty of you aren’t trying to do that all day long but that’s actually a bad strategy because you’ll wear yourself out so fast and then long term, you can’t keep that up.  Like you almost have to stop yourself short so that don’t bleed your deep work in to essentially useless time wasted where you can be recovering for the next day. Like, we aren’t… Human beings are not machines. We just aren’t. Knowing that there is limit on the daily amount of deep work that you can do, it is important so you can say “Hey! I’m done! After this, it’s useless time.” And that is sort of a hard thing for people who started their own business to do. Don’t you think? Like to intentionally stop.

Anthony: I also conversely think, it is very difficult for people who are deep into school or have their own clinic or have their own gym, something like this and they don’t have an hour or two or three or four per day to do deep work. And so, we are taking away the ability to actually do important things. You’ll start spinning your wheels at some point.

Ryan: So how do people manage that? How do they become able to do that an hour or two hours?

Anthony: And so, if your schedule is packed and you’re waking up stressed out running to work. And then, you come home stressed out whatever. Your day is packed with all these meaningless stuff, that’s where stuff like time-blocking comes in. That’s where stuff like canned responses comes in. Using these little tips and tricks to be able to free as much time as possible so that you can actually focused deeply on a task you know even if it is 30 minutes a day turns in to an hour, turns in to two hours. That’s kind of how my progression went. It definitely wasn’t… I was running super busy clinic until next day I was doing four hours of deep work every day. Doesn’t work like that.

Ryan: It’s not a realistic transition.

Anthony: And so, I hacked away about applying all these principles we talked about step by step so that way I can then batch together these deep work hours and actually get a lot of things done.

Ryan: And I think too, you know at first the struggle is keeping your attention focused on one particular topic for 30 minutes or an hour if you’re not use to it, it’s really hard. Because it’s just like you know, you can go do a bunch of heavy lifts in the gym if you haven’t been training. Your brain and it’s ability to focus on one thing is similar to that. You have to start small so you don’t just fry yourself. And you’ll find probably that you want when you hit something challenging, the behavior that we’ve all been trained to do is like “Oh! I’m going to do something easy instead.” Because we are so used to that. We’re conditioned for that. So, I think at least you’ve acknowledged that that’s probably what’s going to happen and you’ll be a little bit more prepared to deal with that appropriately when you’re trying to make these deep work things done. Start with 30 minutes and then build from there.  It will become easier and easier to maintain focus on your deep work as you get better as you spend time doing it.

Anthony: Yeah. If you asked me before a question I didn’t answer which was “Do I track this?” and the answer is absolutely! I have a little pretty to be tracker that I work with most days. And so, when the biggest things about deep work in general is that, it’s a habit. If you want to make it a daily thing, we talked about this before.  Making automatic is the biggest thing. And so, what I do is I set up a little reward system where for instance I put “I want to buy a new guitar” for instance and it’s pretty expensive you know. It’s not I would just go and get for no reason and so I have no reason to get it. It’s just, it’s something I want.  And so, I put down “Once I hit 400 deep work hours. I’ll get it.” And so, it’s something to work towards and kind of have a carrot hanging in front of me. And so, what I do is each day if I set a timer whenever I’m going to be completely absorbed in one task and so Sunday I thing I probably averaged about two or three hours a day. Some day’s it’s one some days, it’s five. It just depends. But having that continual tracking you can look back at it and “Oh! Last four days I’ve gotten zero hours of deep work done. I to like need to figure out what’s going on and get back to this habit.” So, if you just going to say you’re going to do it and change it, what doesn’t get measured doesn’t get managed right.

Ryan:  What doesn’t?

Anthony: Peter…

Ryan: Peter?

Anthony: Tracker. The Drunkman, doesn’t he said? The Drunkmeister?

Ryan:  I don’t know… where… Who said it first.

Anthony: May be Abraham Lincoln, I don’t know.

Ryan:  Someone probably. I don’t know whoever said it we’ll give credit to them. Yeah, if you don’t measure it, you don’t manage it. If you don’t measure and record and track things, you’ve just got to do it. That’s the point.

Anthony: Yeah Cal on the book calls it ‘The Deep Work Scoreboard.’

Ryan:  When people start keeping score, it changes how people play the game.

Anthony: Yeah.

Ryan: Right. When I’m going out and just playing ping pong. Do you play ping pong?

Anthony: I used to be actually a national champion.

Ryan:  Oh whatever! Really? My parents have a ping pong table. Maybe we should go there later. If you’re playing ping-pong you’re just rallying and then you start keeping score, you know you start hitting the ball, the ball differently and you start playing differently. And so, when you start keeping track of things, you start keeping score, you play the game differently. That’s essentially what measuring and recording your hours is.

Anthony: Yes. So, I guess deep work versus shallow work. deep work is getting things done with massive amount of focus and attention. The thing is that they move the needle forward.

Ryan: And the aren’t… They can’t be done quickly. It’s not just a quick one off task.

Anthony: Yeah.  They are huge investments of time and effort.

Ryan: Four hundred hours of really intense work. That’s like major projects getting done.

Anthony: Yeah.

Ryan: That takes a long time to do you know. It’s not like this instant gratification thing.

Anthony: And so, making a daily habit is key and so the way to do that is to track it somehow. And then, the way to make that easier is to set a goal and place and having this awareness between deep and shallow work.

Ryan:  Yeah. The awareness, tracking it, and then knowing what it is. So, Anthony, what is the challenge this week?

Anthony: So, you know write down tasks to do. Figure out what is really the important that’s moving the needle forward.

Ryan: So, boiling it down to what matters most for your success.

Anthony: And that will make the answer of what is deep work to you.

Ryan: Much more clearly.

Anthony: And then so, figure out what is deep, what is shallow. And then, like you said doctor. Dedicate – start with 30 minutes. See if you can hit 30 minutes a day. See if you can start your goal of “If I hit 5 hours of deep work this week or this month then I can do xy or z.”

Ryan:  So figure out, what deep work task you need to do. Make a goal and then record it.

Anthony: Precisely.

Ryan:  And then, get after it!

Anthony: I think you should get after it.

Ryan: Get after it!

Ryan: Thank you guys for tuning in to this episode of the Health Fit Business podcast. If you find it helpful, please share with someone that you think it would also help and leave us a five-star rating on iTunes. Make sure also to go to healthfit.biz and sign up for the email notifications to which you can find right on the homepage so that you get all the updated podcasts and blog posts sent directly to you. Until then, we will see you next time.