A while back I read a book call Deep Work. I’ve already reviewed the book before so I’ll not rehash things here, but at an incredibly high level the book is about intentionally investing time working on your most important tasks in a laser-focused fashion.
If you’re a developer this might mean setting aside 3 hours a day during which you find a place completely free from all distractions–no email, no messages, no texts, no social media, no notifications of any time–and focus on a core development task.
If you’re a writer this might mean spending the first two hours of your day, when your mind is sharpest, ruthlessly editing your prior day’s work.
And if you’re the COO of a hosting company, this might mean setting aside blocks of time each day during which you snooze all notifications and focus on solving a pre-selected problem within your purview or creating some critical piece of internal documentation.
Focus is Hard
If I let myself, I can very easily spend all day bouncing from conversation to conversation in Slack, Google Meet, and my email inbox. Here’s the thing, if I do spend my day that way I’ll end my day feeling like I got a lot done! However, if I spend my week that way, I’ll get to the end of the week and have nothing to show for it.
The natural inertia of work will lead most of us towards lots of rapid, shallow interactions. These interactions feel nice and feel rewarding because we’re interacting with lots of people and covering lots of issues. However, they typically don’t produce very much of real lasting value.
On the other hand, communication is necessary! If you’re in a dynamic organization and you have responsibility to move initiatives forward, by necessity you must engage in a certain amount of rapid, superficial interaction. That’s how we communicate and organize ourselves.
However, for most of us, there has to be a balance, and the rapid, superficial conversations cannot eliminate your ability to go deep.
A Constant Battle
Finding this balance is a constant battle for me personally. Setting aside time to truly focus, and then keeping my commitment to use that time in that way (and not get sucked into a conversation in Slack) is really hard. However, I also firmly believe it’s a fight worth fighting. Focused work produces value!
Today is a day when I’m struggling. I’m feeling upbeat and positive and that energy leaves me naturally inclined to prefer to spend my time conversing with my colleagues. However, I also know that those training modules aren’t going to write themselves, those new data privacy considerations aren’t going to work themselves out, and that talent deployment strategy isn’t going to implement itself.
Today has been ok. I’ve had a lot of valuable conversations. However, if this week is ultimately going to be productive, tomorrow I’ll need to spend a little less time talking and a little more time focusing.