The Deep Work Hypothesis from Shreyansh Singh, AIR 357, IAAS


Needless to say, UPSC demands nothing less from the aspirants of Civil Services. UPSC checks on your ability to quickly master hard things and the ability to produce them at an elite level, in terms of both quality and speed.

Prelims, Mains, Interviews: All the three legs of the UPSC preparation test you around these two key elements.

Deep Work is the concept that interlinks these two skills. Hard things are complex and you need to give them all of your attention and focus (also called deliberate practice). Without Deep Work, these things will take time to learn, and mistakes will be made.

Let me be very straight here. There is no way other than ‘deep work’ for your UPSC preparation.

You will need to follow four principles:

  1. You must engage in deep work itself
  2. Learn how to embrace, rather than avoid “boredom”
  3. Have a plan to “quit social media”
  4. You should definitely have a plan to “drain the shallows”

#1. Work Deeply

Our willpower gets depleted as we use it. In an environment and culture that makes deep work difficult, we have to add smart routines and rituals to our working life.

You will have to design rituals/routines to minimize the amount of our limited willpower necessary in transitions and maintain unbroken concentration.

There are 4 strategies that introduce rituals and routines to enable us to do deep work on a sustained basis:

Monastic: isolate yourself for long periods of time without distractions; no shallow work allowed

Bimodal: reserve a few consecutive days when you will be working like a monastic. You need at least one day a week

Rhythmic: take three to four hours every day to perform deep work on your studies.

Journalistic: alternate your day between deep and shallow work and it fits your blocks of time. Not recommended to try out first

#2. Transition to Deep Work

Use rituals and set routines to minimize friction in your transition to depth:

“The key to developing a deep work habit is to move beyond good intentions and add routines and rituals to your working life designed to minimize the amount of your limited willpower necessary to transition into and maintain a state of unbroken concentration.”

You must ruthlessly commit to scheduling deep work blocks into your calendar and sticking to them. Scheduling a specific time of the day in advance takes away the need to use willpower.

#3 Embrace Boredom

Due to our fast-paced lives, our brains have been re-wired and expect and request distraction. As a result, we check our smartphones at any moment of “potential boredom”. Start scheduling breaks from focus, to give in to those distractions:

You should use a technique called productive meditation, which means using your “unproductive” time to do deep thinking:

“The goal of productive meditation is to take a period in which you’re occupied physically but not mentally – walking, jogging, driving, showering – and focus your attention on a single well-defined professional problem.”

The key to successful productive meditation is repeatedly returning your attention to the problem at hand and doing this whenever your mind wanders. You have to continually practice this in order to reap the benefits.

#4. Do not engage in shallow work

“Treat shallow work with suspicion because its damage is often vastly underestimated and its importance vastly overestimated. This type of work is inevitable, but you must keep it confined to a point where it doesn’t impede your ability to take full advantage of the deeper efforts that ultimately determine your impact.”

Finally, I would like to appreciate Civilsdaily’s efforts to help you develop these coming-of-age strategies to stay ahead of the competition.

In most cases, a simple thing like talking to a mentor and getting a clearer picture of what process fits you best can make all the difference.

In the end, I would like to assert that you should build habits that can not only help you ace the UPSC, but help bring out the best version of you! 🙂


Note from CD:

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manik basu
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The Deep Work philosophy was propounded by Cal Newport in his book by the same name.