I asked students to read an excerpt of the first chapter of Cal Newport’s book Deep Work and comment in a discussion board. The prompt asked whether deep work goes on in college and what are the barriers to deep work. I think it’s important for society that some people engage in deep work on our problems. I’m interested in how 20-year-olds perceive Newport’s ideas on focus and what barriers they identify to deep work.
Replies ranged from “I do believe that deep work is happening at college, but I think that it is hard to find students using this strategy regularly.” to “I know multiple people who do not practice deep work….” They each have a different subjective view of “deep work” and their replies are anecdotal. It’s possible that some students are too hard on themselves, considering that I biased them to be negative with the discussion prompt. Some of them might have thought that “deep work” requires many consecutive hours of focus, which is not actually what I expect of undergraduates. Still, the discussion could be helpful to others who aspire to deep work.
The following barriers to deep work were identified:
“The barriers that we experience include social media, roommates, friends, significant others, going to classes, having to work, and any number of other things that cause our day to become disjointed … We are the first generation that has spent the majority of our life utilizing social media… and in general, are used to taking in information from a large number of sources over a short period of time.
“Most students cannot spend a large amount of hours just focused on the one task at hand and that is required for deep work. For most college students it will be nearly impossible to practice deep work because of a job, outside social life, or a heavy class workload …
“I believe that deep work happens in college a lot. Students often times must prepare/study for tests for a long time and that is when it happens the most. When someone has to study for hours they are intensely focused if they put themselves in a good studying environment…
“This can be achieved when you are able to clear your mind of external things and place yourself in a non-distracting environment. As a college student, this can be difficult especially because we are constantly thinking about our to-do list, when will we hang out with friends, or what’s for dinner.