Work deeply, or not at all

When it comes to keeping yourself hydrated, nothing works better than drinking small amounts of water throughout the day.

If you need 3 litres per day, for example, it’s not more efficient to try drinking them all at once – your kidneys can only process around 1 litre per hour, and so anything above that will just be flushed out. You have to give your body the water it needs a bit at a time, throughout the course of whole day

This simple, slow and steady approach works better than anything else for hydration. But it’s an extremely sub-optimal approach to just about everything else in life, especially learning.

Learning requires deep focus

The human brain was designed to focus. The deeper your focus is on a subject, the faster you can learn, the more you can retain what you learn, and the more alive you feel.

The more your focus is diluted, for example by focusing on a higher quantity of items each in a shallower fashion, then you not only don’t learn as quickly, you don’t retain as well what you do learn, and the more bored and frustrated you will feel.

When it comes to learning anything, your best results will by saturating yourself with the thing you are trying to learn.

Work in cycles

The kinds of genius work we all have the potential to produce are only possible for you if you work deeply enough – shutting out the world for several hours at a time, allowing your monkey mind to recede into the background and let the best parts of you work on the task.

But you can’t keep this up forever. If you’ve worked at a sufficient depth, you’ll be knackered after a while – maybe a week, maybe two, possibly even just one day of deep work. You’ve earned yourself a rest. So take it. The rest will renew you, allow your brain to consildate all the stuff you were doing whilst you were working.

It’s a reinforcing cycle – deep work creates the need for deep rest, which strengthens you for the next round of deep work.

Without realising, most of us live in a grey zone. We work on several things in a shallow fashion constantly. Shallow work doesn’t require deep rest, and so after doing one thing we still have energy left to focus shallowly on something else. We use the method that works for hydration on learning stuff, where it doesn’t really work at all.

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