Most professionals only focus on the external benefits of deep work.
Sure, deep work can help you get ahead at work or in your career. But there are inner benefits that resonate at a more human level. A work philosophy geared towards depth can infuse your life with meaning and purpose.
Think back to the last time you were truly engaged at work. You were excited to face the challenges ahead, and you lost track of time as you completely immersed yourself in the process. You likely felt invigorated after completing the task, and proud of what you accomplished.
We all crave this experience.
And in this article, we'll explore how deep work can make you feel more fulfilled in your work and life.
Deep Work Creates the Conditions for Flow State to Emerge
Cal Newport defines deep work as "professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are difficult to replicate."
When you're deep in concentration, your mind is engrossed and focused on the task at hand. It isn't wandering or multitasking.
You're in a flow state.
This state is the sweet spot for optimal performance. It's where professionals can do their best work and create high-quality outputs. Deep work creates the conditions for flow to emerge, since it trains you to cultivate intense focus.
But the flow state is more than just a performance enhancer. It actually generates happiness and greater work satisfaction.
Flow State Leads to Greater Quality of Life
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is a Hungarian psychologist who coined the psychological concept of flow.
He found that people who experience flow state on a regular basis are the happiest.
In an interview with Wired magazine, Csikszentmihalyi explains this state as “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.”
Being "in the zone" leads to happiness because you're not thinking about the past or the future. You're completely in the moment, enjoying the challenge of the task.
This state is only achievable through intense concentration. So, deep work becomes a pathway to unlocking more satisfaction and happiness at work.
The Craftsmanship Mentality: How to Make Work More Enjoyable
The key to enjoying your work (and life) is to embrace a craftsmanship mentality.
Craftsmanship evokes images of manual labor. Imagine a blacksmith forging a sword. The hammering process can take several hours, depending on the desired shape and metal used. Each strike is meticulous and purposeful. A skilled blacksmith isn't just going through the motions—they're in a flow state and deeply focused on their work. And once complete, there's a deep feeling of satisfaction.
But since most of us are knowledge workers, it's easy to dismiss craftsmanship as an outdated concept. Many of us sit at desks and stare at computer screens, after all. How could our work possibly compare to that of a blacksmith and other manual trades?
Cal Newport addresses this in his book Deep Work, stating:
“There’s nothing intrinsic about the manual trade when it comes to generating this particular source of meaning. Any pursuit—be it physical or cognitive—that supports high levels of skill can also generate a sense of sacredness.”
In other words, meaningful work doesn't solely depend on the type of work you do. It's also the level of focus and skill you bring to it.
Expanding on this, Newport explains:
“Whether you’re a writer, marketer, consultant, or lawyer: Your work is craft, and if you hone your ability and apply it with respect and care, then like the skilled wheelwright you can generate meaning in the daily efforts of your professional life.”
So, how can you start developing a craftsmanship mentality?
The first step is to see your work as an opportunity to reach excellence. Get out of autopilot mode. Stop treating your craft as a mere commodity and set time aside for deep work. Commit to refining your craft.
A craftmanship mentality also involves seeing failure as part of the process. Be willing to make mistakes and learn from them.
Ultimately, a craftsman enjoys their work. They take pride in a job well done.
If you adopt this mentality, you'll find that your work becomes more enjoyable and meaningful.
Deep work provides you with more than just external benefits, like workplace or career advancement. It also gives you a sense of inner satisfaction, purpose, and enjoyment. By adopting a craftsmanship mentality and practicing your craft, your work will become more meaningful.
Want to learn more about deep work and how it can give you a competitive advantage? Check out our article: Why Embracing Deep Work Gives You a Competitive Advantage.