Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Don’t Stay In The Shallow End

Written by: on September 19, 2019

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In Deep Work, Cal Newport, associate professor of computer science at Georgetown University, lays out his argument for focused work or what he calls deep work. The guiding principle Newport lays out is one that encourages the reader to engage in work that demands your full focus. By engaging in this type of work, one gains more intrinsically valuable and rewarding experience. Newport rightly points out that in our fast-paced and information-driven world, we can quickly become distracted, which leads to missed opportunities in both our personal and professional lives. He solution, deep work, so let us see how he defines said work.

Newport defines deep work as “Professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capacities to their limit.”[1] Current trends continue to push us all to do more and engage more as we are digitally connected at all times.[2] This state of “rushedness” and distractedness is what Newport calls shallow work. Shallow Work is defined as “Noncognitively demanding, logistical-style tasks, often performed while distracted. These efforts tend not to create much new value in the world and are easy to replicate.”[3] In essence, Newport says, shallow work is most often than not the normal state of most people, but it brings limited value. Deep work, on the other hand, brings profound value and is the state most people choose not to operate.


Following four rules will help you embrace deep work:

1. Work Deeply

Make deep work a regular part of your life. Remove distractions and increase your level of focus. Many distractions come from within.

2. Embrace Boredom

People in today’s world suffer an addiction to distraction. The focus that deep work requires means that you must escape that addiction. Without distraction, however, you will suffer boredom. When trying to concentrate intensely, you will yearn for something to break the tedium. But if you stop fighting that boredom and recognize it as proof of your focus, you can make focused concentration a “habit,” something you do regularly because it is good for you.

3. Quit Social Media

Social media are entertaining and keep you in touch with people. These benefits are minor compared to what social media cost you. When considering the use of any social media tool, identify which factors create “success and happiness in your professional and personal life.” Use that tool only if it offers more benefits than negatives.

4. Drain the Shallows

Shallow work crowds out more valuable deep work. Deep work is exhausting because it pushes you to your limits. Most people have a maximum capacity of four hours of deep work a day. They have to build up to that level. Starting with an hour is not uncommon.[4]

    As I continue to study for my research-based around Paracletic Spirit-embodied leadership, it struck me that we (Christians) tend to treat the Holy Spirit as “shallow work.” What I mean is that we seem to take the time to pause rarely, and think cogni-theological (yes I made this up, if Digby can I can), in a distraction-free zone, as it comes to our leadership these days. I am wondering what deep work looks like as it relates to Paracletic Spirit-embodied leadership? As with every week, I am left with more questions than answers.


[1] Newport, Cal. Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World. New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2016, 3.

[2] Fottrell, Quentin. “People Spend Most of Their Waking Hours Staring at Screens.” MarketWatch, Last modified August 4, 2018. https://www.marketwatch.com/story/people-are-spending-most-of-their-waking-hours-staring-at-screens-2018-08-01.

[3] Newport, Cal. Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World. New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2016, 6.

[4]  Newport, Cal. Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World. New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2016.

About the Author

Mario Hood

Most importantly, I am married to the love of my life, Misty Hood, and I'm kept on my toes all day every day, by my son Dalen and daughter Cola Hood. I also serve as the Next Generation Pastor at Church On The Living Edge in Orlando, Florida, under the leadership of Senior Pastor, Dr. Mark Chironna as well as being a Youth and Family Life coach.

6 responses to “Don’t Stay In The Shallow End”

  1. Harry Fritzenschaft says:

    Yes, we should leave it to Digby to sort out our intentions and our theological language. How are you finding Newport’s suggestions help you think more deeply? Perhaps your thoughts for Paraclete enabled leadership for your dissertation will flow out of your own applied “philosophies and rituals”? How do you see your personal leadership impacted by Newport’s proposals?

  2. Rev Jacob Bolton says:

    Thank you for this incredibly cogni-theologically deep post Mario!

    Seriously, your comment about treating the Spirit as “shallow work” has struck me . . . and stayed with me. What a dreadful characteristic, one I am grateful you are researching to remedy!

  3. Andrea Lathrop says:

    Love it, Mario! Thank you for the overview – seriously. I needed to read again about the importance of being bored and the need to build up to longer sustained periods of deep work. Four hours makes sense to me – much more than that is really hard in any given day. Love your conclusion with your research – keep going!

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