DEEP WORK: Professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to the limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate. - definition by Cal Newport
I started reading "Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World" by Cal Newport last night. I am only in about 60 pages, but so, so good. I highly recommend all knowledge workers to read this book, especially accounting and law firms that have adopted the open office concept, instant messaging and collaborative meetings upon collaborative meetings.
Cal first emphasizes the value of Deep Work or batching work in blocks of time to allow yourself to really go deep and focus. Stop checking e-mail, instant messaging, etc. Our brains are easily distracted. We will also feel like we are busy and doing valuable work by simply responding to messages, e-mails all day and going from meeting to meeting, but did you really do anything valuable? With that said, Cal does caveat this with the fact that some management roles require quick connectivity and rely on others to do the deep work and come to them with conclusions. High level execs may produce value by being connected and not being isolated or disconnected to do deep work.
For those who are not high-level execs, deep work is required and a necessity. Cal mentions in the book that "as knowledge work makes more complex demands of the labor force, it becomes harder to measure the value of an individual's efforts." So true. Why do you think accounting and law firms have timesheets? Why do we have performance reviews that seem like a waste of time? This supports Cal's thesis that we need to do deep work. Deep work produces value.
He mentions that we all follow the principle of least resistance. This is why, even if we agree with Cal, we will default into the 'fragmented' attention, as he calls it, simply because of the workplace culture we are in. In other words, we won't change unless our culture allows or supports us to change.
Accounting firms and law firms (and corporate tax departments) rely on their associates to do complex work, yet expect that to get done while listening to other people talk on the phone, conduct conversations a few feet away or while having a meeting every hour.
We need to get back to doing deep work, focused work. We need to block out time. Our clients and companies deserve the best we have to offer, and we owe it to ourselves.
The above was some random reflections from reading the first 60 pages. More to come. Let me know what you think and if you have read the book.