By Jon Eckert
This article is 398 words. How many distractions will you experience in the time it takes you to read those 398 words? Our students are growing up in an increasingly distracted world. However, true value is found in hard, thoughtful work.
Deep Work by Cal Newport describes rules for doing meaningful work in a distracted world. He makes a case for the value of thinking for hours at a time about challenging things without any distraction. Primarily, he is writing about adults and professional work, but I see an application for our children this summer.
What if we …
Set Aside Time
If we could protect an hour of time each day for thinking deeply about something we care about or want to get better at, how much could we improve? What if we set aside two hours? The key is to identify something hard that we want to learn or deepen our understanding of, and then clear our environment of distractions. Whether we want to tackle a long-term project, skill, or body of knowledge, we accelerate improvement through focused concentration.
Disengage to Engage
Disengagement might be harder for us than for our kids. In the time it has taken me to write the first half of this article, I have checked my email four times and my calendar once. If we want our kids to set aside time to think deeply, then we have to do the same thing. We have to separate ourselves from our phones – have someone pry it from our fingers and lose the phone for an hour a day. Maybe our deep work can’t be on a computer because we can be too easily distracted. To do deep work, we need to identify the necessary tools to do focused work – maybe those tools are books, paper, and a pencil.
Celebrate the Work
As our students do hard, intellectual work, we must celebrate what they create. My eleven-year-old daughter loves to write creative stories that are chapters long with outlandish dialogue. Hearing her read her work aloud is better than any reading by a famous author. We need to celebrate the deep work of childhood.
In Philippians 4:8b, Paul describes meaningful deep work: “Whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is anything praiseworthy—dwell on these things.”