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Time Management Hacks: Deep Work vs. Shallow Work

Updated on January 4, 2016

Throughout the course of a day the average individual/team is bombarded with several distractions and menial task, which shift focus away from core competencies.

Distracting task that can be classified in the category of Shallow work:

  • Activity that is more logistical in nature, that doesn’t require intense concentration.

These tasks have the potential to catch individuals/teams in time traps and in turn distance you from the completion of work that directly impacts your plan. The more fulfilling and meaningful Deep work:

  • Work that is more cognitively demanding and valuable in respect to accomplishing your primary goals.

The difference between the two – shallow work and deep work – can be difficult to distinguish without a proper plan. This occurs because the two task lists tend to run together along the course of a busy day and both are productive.

A few examples of shallow work are as follows:


  • We receive an endless amount of messages on a daily basis which pulls us away from plan impacting opportunities.

Meet to Meet

  • If you have ever attended a pre-planning meeting then you understand how redundant allocating time to schedule a planning session can be.


  • If processes are established and adhered to from the beginning day to day operations will proceed seamlessly.


  • The cost of training has historically caused borderline successful companies to annually look at PL in the red. Teams that avoid this put an emphasis on hiring, retaining and properly training staff on a daily basis.

Micro Management

  • A well prepared team will have the skill set and tools required to complete task with limited supervision.

Leaders who limit the amount of time spent on a daily basis completing routine task – position themselves to focus on critical task that have a direct impact on the bottom line.

Task that are:

Core Centric

  • Sustainable success requires adherence to a living plan. Allocating time towards accomplishing plan Milestones daily will advance your primary agenda.

Cognitively Demanding

  • The more important tasks tend to require contemplation before completion.

* If you spend all your time putting out fires – shallow work -- you will not have enough time to prevent fires – deep work – and developing new ideas that advance your agenda.*

Top Level Benefit

  • When we get down to brass tacks the only thing that matters is moving the needle. Minimizing the time allocated to shallow work will free up opportunities to maximize production and profitability.


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