I’ve been attracted to an awesome book called Deep Work, by Cal Newport.
In a world where we are called upon to have multiple tasks, conversations and decisions occupying our mind at once, our ability to connect to deep work is becoming increasingly rare.
But the need for us to really connect to deep work is essential for our role as leaders in our businesses and in our lives.
Newport summarizes by saying “The ability to perform deep work is becoming increasingly rare at exactly the same time it is becoming increasingly valuable in our economy. As a consequence, the few who cultivate this skill, and then make it the core of their working life, will thrive.”
- How often to do you spend deeply thinking and working on an idea?
- Do you create time on your schedule for truly meaningful thought and planning or is it the first thing you replace with more immediate and tactical needs?
While he offers several anecdotal examples of how and why deep work is essential in life in business, one specific example seems relevant to share.
He writes about an experiment Leslie Perlow performed with Boston Consulting Group. The experiment invited the organization to encourage its employees to take one full day off, with no connectivity. The goal of the experiment was to determine if there was any impact on business success if emails were not responded to immediately. The result of the experiment will likely not surprise you. When employees took an entire day off of connection they enjoyed their job more, communication improved, more learning took place AND a better product was delivered to the client.
He addresses the primary reason we address simple, tactical actions, rather than deeper work and he calls it the Principle of Least Resistance.
“In a business setting, without clear feedback on the impact of various behaviors to the bottom line, we will tend toward behaviors that are easiest in the moment.”
Answering email is not only easy, but it feels satisfyingly productive.
As leaders, we can easily believe we have been busy and productive if we are just reacting all day.
But our businesses and our employees need us to be present, connected and thoughtful about what needs our focus.
I believe we can all benefit from fine tuning our practice of focus and deep work.
There are likely many ideas and plans that gnaw at you. They want your attention, but you get engulfed in the day-to-day and they sit… waiting for your time.
Why not instead, create the time for those ideas and plans and work the tactical AROUND them?
But just as it is the case with any new habit, it takes a strategy.
Here are a few to try:
Newport suggests the Chain Method, which he credits to Jerry Seinfeld. Every day that you do deep work, you cross off that day on your calendar with a big red X. Eventually, you see a ‘chain’ of effort and it becomes a part of your daily rhythm.
Newport also discusses the trappings of available media and internet connection. He actually recommends quitting all social media. I’m not ready to go that far.
But I did download an app for my iPhone called RealizD. It tracks how often you are on your phone either online or talking.
The key to gaining access to deep work, might be in realizing how much you are distracting yourself with efforts that are truly tactical and not deep.
What about you?
How much deep work do you practice as it relates to your business and your life?
Would you like to do more?
If you have other ideas or hacks, I’d love to know them!
Here’s to more deep work and realizing those brilliant ideas!!!