“If you don’t produce, you won’t thrive – no matter how skilled or talented you are.”
Does this sound familiar? You had a long day, filled with many meetings, barely could stem the flood of emails, not even time for a real lunch, just a quick snack at the desk. Still, by the end of the day you go home and are frustrated because you got nothing done. And you spend the remainder of the day at home and/or the weekend to catch up on the real work.
According to Cal Newport, author of the intriguing “Deep Focus: Rules for focused success in a distracted world”, this is a typical example of being caught in so-called “shallow work”, daily activities we easily get caught in but that don’t provide any real value and don’t achieve any real progress. Newport argues that playing around on the smartphone, engaging constantly in social networks and staying on top of inboxes dramatically reduces our ability to focus on activities of real worth.
To combat these temptations, Newport suggests a variety of tips and tricks to reduce distractions and “wring every last drop of value out of your current intellectual capacity.” Visualize the time you spend engaged in focused work, almost never respond to any email, with the exception of the few emails that truly matter. Use the Internet sparingly throughout the day, schedule time ahead for being connected. Invest more in reading primary information sources, less of the lightweight news sources that provide more distraction than substance.
“Two Core Abilities for Thriving in the New Economy: 1. The ability to quickly master hard things. 2. The ability to produce at an elite level, in terms of both quality and speed.”
The ability to perform deep work is becoming increasingly rare at a time where it becomes even more important and valuable in our economy and current world. Newport groups them into four rules:
- Work Deeply – To perform deep work, you must remove distractions.
- Embrace Boredom – Schedule the occasional break from focus to give in to distraction.
- Eliminate Social Media – Or, at least, select a few platforms because they provide a specific utility to your happiness and success.
- Drain the Shallows – Aggressively schedule your day to focus on deep work and limit the shallow work.
If you plan on getting many things done in 2017, this book will provide you a head start.