DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

You Must Do The Work

Written by: on May 11, 2017

DEEP WORK:  Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World  by Newport

  Words by Iyanla Vanzant

When reading this book, Newport mentioned the phrase ‘do the work.’ (111)  The words “you must do the work” kept speaking to me.  It’s a phrase often used by Iyanla Vanzant. Iyanla is a Life coach for many individuals, families, and celebrities. When she shares with the client what they need to do to move forward in their personal life and they are resistant, she would say “If you want your life to work you must be willing to do the work.” [1]  Her phrase was speaking to the spiritual healing of one’s life, whereas, Newport was speaking to being successful and relevant in one’s career life.

Deep work is the process of working intentionally by learning difficult skills sufficiently and quickly. Newport defines it 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 hard to replicate.” (2)   In our times, we have numerous distractions, specifically with the Internet and Cable.

Newport says, according to Hansson, “One should push current skills to their limit and produce unambiguously valuable and concrete results.” (32) Deep work is not for those who rely on willpower. You must have the desire to endure through the intense process and remain focused on purpose. You must but in the time necessary to produce and achieve excellent results. In his research of several individuals and their work, he was able to document that “if you can’t learn, you can’t thrive…” (32) He also presents an equation for deep work:” High-Quality Work Produced = (Time Spent) x (Intensity of Focus). “ (40)

Newport presents in this book numerous theories and strategies for one to achieve deep work. Also, his research covered several executive leaders in many industries, for example, technology and communication. One needs to be creative and think outside the box. He points out that distractions debunk deep work. One must withdraw themselves from all distractions to be successful which include social media. As I continue to digest his information, it appears that the effect of distractions in our economy is similar to the effect of kryptonite is to Superman.

He outlines his research and theories into several themes and focuses. Based on my current situation, I chose to chew on his theories on writing: as a journalist.  He shared thoughts on deep work rituals on writing as a journalist:

  • Where you’ll work and for how long (119)
  • How you’ll work once you start to work (120)
  • How you’ll support your work. (120)

The location of where is work determines your deep of thought and commitment to the work. If you designate an area or location to pursue your deep work, it will nurture a successful product. To maintain progress, one should identify goals. Newport suggests identifying some words to complete in a specific amount of time, or don’t engage in the internet. (120) You must endure the process of deep work by stimulating your mind with coffee, exercise, food, and more. (121)

Newport does include the contra side to deep work labeling it as ‘shallow work.’ That addresses the work that’s necessary but can be time-consuming, so one needs to schedule a time limit. Shallow work includes emails, meetings and work environments.

As one prepares for academic writing, it requires deep work: thesis, research, word limitation, and time restraints. Scheduling time daily was a tool I used successfully in the fall semester, and I was able to achieve the goals. This past semester I found myself overwhelmed with shallow work that was necessary to my personal financial support and ministry.

This semester I will focus on ensuring that I have scheduled sufficient time for the deep work.


[1] Iyanla Vanzant, “Iyanla Vanzant Website”, accessed May 1, 2017,

About the Author

Lynda Gittens

9 responses to “You Must Do The Work”

  1. Jim Sabella says:

    Great post Lynda! I appreciate how you connected the deep work concept to your studies. Like you, in the last semester I found myself swamped with “shallow work.” In fact, there were times when I felt so overwhelmed with shallow work, that I was exhausted when I came time for the deep work. I think that balance is the hardest part of deep work. As Christal pointed out, sometimes a person just doesn’t have control or the ability to say no. Stu is giving it 3.5 hours a week. He has a good point in that it won’t happen without planning. I enjoyed reading your post Lynda. Here’s to “focus[ing] on ensuring that I have scheduled sufficient time for the deep work.”

  2. Mary says:

    Lynda, your quote from Iyanla Vanzant spoke to one of the things I really meditated on from Cal Newport’s book. It really is a choice and no one can make it but me. It’s my responsibility to make sure I schedule enough time for the deep work. I’m not sure why that struck me so much; maybe God is trying to tell me something.
    It is interesting that you chose “journalist” for your focus. That would be too hard for me in my situation.
    It seems to be a very practical book and I enjoyed reading your take on it.

  3. Stu Cocanougher says:

    I think the “how you will work” is the next area that I need to tackle. Simply being alone in a quiet place does not create deep work. I need to make sure that I have the tools, resources, and environment to facilitate deep work.

  4. mm Katy Drage Lines says:

    Nice summary and well written, Lynda. I’m curious how you might see this text connect in with what we read last semester. Like you, I found this text helpful to provide structure for our studies.

    • Lynda Gittens says:

      Last semester was soooo challenging to me to obtain effective time, I don’t really remember what I read at this time. My seasonal job became my deep work and my course reading my shallow.
      I know one book resonated with me “the art of leadership”.

  5. mm Jennifer Dean-Hill says:

    Great analogy of liking distractions to deep work as kryptonite is to Superman. So true! Distractions create shallow work and are the antithesis to deep work. As I was reading your post, I was thinking, “I wonder what the value is to shallow work, if any?” I also found myself longing for more lazy moments and shallow work with my work in my career being so deep. Do you ever feel that way? Thanks Lynda!

    • Lynda Gittens says:

      You know, I believe some shallow work supports our deep work. For example, needing to communicate with someone while you need to control the time of the conversation, emails are great. You can send it and move forward on your deep work.

  6. Geoff Lee says:

    “The location of where is work determines your deep of thought and commitment to the work. If you designate an area or location to pursue your deep work, it will nurture a successful product.”
    This is such a big deal for me Lynda. My working environment affects me greatly and I find myself working so much more productively if I am in the right environment. I still struggle to find this space at times.

  7. Kristin Hamilton says:

    Schedule, environment, and routine are all very important to me in creating space for deep work, Lynda. I so relate to your comment about the “shallow” work that is often necessary for survival getting in the way of the deep work we are striving for in our program. It sucks when we simply can’t carve out the time for a season. I hope this season is more conducive for you!

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