In this book Mr. Newport is trying to convince us that meaningful work is much better than wasting time on social media, e-mails, video games and other things that most of population practices most of the day. I will put below some quotes from this book and some of my comments. My comments will be like this to distinguish from authors opinions. By his definition:
Deep Work: Professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate.
Cut the crap, remove distractions. Work hard and pay attention on your amount of willpower because there are only few hours of productivity per day. Make a habit to say NO to shallow work, plan your time, make a schedule, and don’t forget to rest. It will make your life more meaningful and increase value in society.
All the time-wasting activities he calls: Shallow Work: Noncognitively demanding, logistical-style tasks, often performed while distracted. These efforts tend to not create much new value in the world and are easy to replicate.
The Deep Work Hypothesis: 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.
There are few “classes” of people who use and benefit from deep work. It sounds like benefit means not only material but also spiritual gain. These classes are:
1. The High-Skilled Workers
2. The Superstars
.3 The Owners
If you want to be one of them and “become a Winner in the New Economy” you will need two core Abilities
1. The ability to quickly master hard things.
2. The ability to produce at an elite level, in terms of both quality and speed.
Quantity of high-quality work is calculated as:
High-Quality Work Produced = (Time Spent) x (Intensity of Focus)
Then there is a part of the book that processes Jack Dorsey who should be something like exception that confirms the rule – founder of Twitter who wastes no time on deep work, but spends his days completely unfocused.
The Principle of Least Resistance
When it comes to distracting behaviours embraced in the workplace, we must give a position of dominance to the now ubiquitous culture of connectivity, where one is expected to read and respond to e-mails (and related communication) quickly. In researching this topic, Harvard Business School professor Leslie Perlow found that the professionals she surveyed spent around twenty to twenty-five hours a week outside the office monitoring e-mail—believing it important to answer any e-mail (internal or external) within an hour of its arrival.
The Principle of Least Resistance: In a business setting, without clear feedback on the impact of various behaviours to the bottom line, we will tend toward behaviours that are easiest in the moment.
Busyness as a Proxy for Productivity
Nobel Prize–winning physicist Richard Feynman explaining in an interview one of his less orthodox productivity strategies:
To do real good physics work, you do need absolute solid lengths of time… it needs a lot of concentration… if you have a job administrating anything, you don’t have the time. So I have invented another myth for myself: that I’m irresponsible. I’m actively irresponsible. I tell everyone I don’t do anything. If anyone asks me to be on a committee for admissions, “no,” I tell them: I’m irresponsible.
Feynman was adamant in avoiding administrative duties because he knew they would only decrease his ability to do the one thing that mattered most in his professional life: “to do real good physics work.”
Busyness as Proxy for Productivity: In the absence of clear indicators of what it means to be productive and valuable in their jobs, many knowledge workers turn back toward an industrial indicator of productivity: doing lots of stuff in a visible manner.
The Cult of the Internet
He called such a culture a technopoly, and he did not mince words in warning against it. “Technopoly eliminates alternatives to itself in precisely the way Aldous Huxley outlined in Brave New World,” he argued in his 1993 book on the topic. “It does not make them illegal. It does not make them immoral. It does not even make them unpopular. It makes them invisible and therefore irrelevant.”
In Morozov’s critique, we have made “the Internet” synonymous with the revolutionary future of business and government. To make your company more like “the Internet” is to be with the times, and to ignore these trends is to be the proverbial buggy-whip maker in an automotive age.
Deep work is at a severe disadvantage in a technopoly because it builds on values like quality, craftsmanship, and mastery that are decidedly old-fashioned and nontechnological. Even worse, to support deep work often requires the rejection of much of what is new and high-tech. Deep work is exiled in favour of more distracting high-tech behaviours, like the professional use of social media, not because the former is empirically inferior to the latter. Indeed, if we had hard metrics relating the impact of these behaviours on the bottom line, our current technopoly would likely crumble. But the metric black hole prevents such clarity and allows us instead to elevate all things Internet into Morozov’s feared “uber-ideology.”
Bad for Business. Good for You.
Deep work should be a priority in today’s business climate. But it is not. Deep work is hard and shallow work is easier. In the absence of clear goals for your job, the visible busyness that surrounds shallow work becomes self-preserving, our culture has developed a belief that if a behaviour relates to “the Internet,” then it is good—regardless of its impact on our ability to produce valuable things. All these trends are enabled by the difficulty of directly measuring the value of depth or the cost of ignoring it.
Then the author lays out different opinions backed by examples, experiments and more opinions why deep work is better:
A Neurological Argument for Depth
A Psychological Argument for Depth
A Philosophical Argument for Depth
Deep work is important, rare, valuable, and meaningful. Many famous people isolated themselves while they worked and that was the reason why they made what they did. Willpower is finite resource and people use it to fight distractions. But if you run away from distractions, there is more willpower for deep work.
Homo Sapiens Deepensis
Following part of book describes a rigorous program for transforming professional life into one centered on depth.
Decide on Your Depth Philosophy
You need your own philosophy for integrating deep work into professional life. You must be careful to choose a philosophy that fits your specific circumstances, as a mismatch here can derail your deep work habit before it has a chance to solidify. The goal is to convince you that there are many different ways to integrate deep work into your schedule, and it’s therefore worth taking the time to find an approach that makes sense for you.
The Monastic Philosophy of Deep Work Scheduling
Let’s return to Donald Knuth. He’s famous for many innovations in computer science, including, notably, the development of a rigorous approach to analysing algorithm performance. Among his peers, however, Knuth also maintains an aura of infamy for his approach to electronic communication. If you visit Knuth’s website at Stanford with the intention of finding his e-mail address, you’ll instead discover the following
note: I have been a happy man ever since January 1, 1990, when I no longer had an email address. I’d used email since about 1975, and it seems to me that 15 years of email is plenty for one lifetime.
Knuth goes on to acknowledge that he doesn’t intend to cut himself off completely from the world. Writing his books requires communication with thousands of people and he wants to be responsive to questions and comments. His solution? He provides an address—a postal mailing address. He says that his administrative assistant will sort through any letters arriving at that address and put aside those that she thinks are relevant. Knuth deploys the monastic philosophy of deep work scheduling. This philosophy attempts to maximize deep efforts by eliminating or radically minimizing shallow obligations. Practitioners of the monastic philosophy tend to have a well-defined and highly valued professional goal that they’re pursuing, and the bulk of their professional success comes from doing this one thing exceptionally well.
Another person committed to monastic deep work is the acclaimed science fiction writer Neal Stephenson. If you visit Stephenson’s author website, you’ll notice a lack of e-mail or mailing address.
Persons who wish to interfere with my concentration are politely requested not to do so, and warned that I don’t answer e-mail… lest [my communication policy’s] key message get lost in the verbiage, I will put it here succinctly: All of my time and attention are spoken for—several times over. Please do not ask for them.
The Bimodal Philosophy of Deep Work Scheduling
In the 1920s, at the same time that Carl Jung was attempting to break away from the strictures of his mentor, Sigmund Freud, he began regular retreats to a rustic stone house he built in the woods outside the small town of Bollingen. When there, Jung would lock himself every morning into a minimally appointed room to write without interruption. He would then meditate and walk in the woods to clarify his thinking in preparation for the next day’s writing. These efforts, according to Cal Newport were aimed at increasing the intensity of Jung’s deep work to a level that would allow him to succeed in intellectual combat with Freud and his many supporters. Jung did not deploy a monastic approach to deep work and attempted to completely eliminate distraction and shallowness from professional life. He sought this elimination only during the
periods he spent at his retreat. The rest of Jung’s time was spent in Zurich, where his life was anything but monastic: He ran a busy clinical practice that often had him seeing patients until late at night; he was an active participant in the Zurich coffeehouse culture; and he gave and attended many lectures in the city’s respected universities. In this case target is to divide your time, dedicating some clearly defined stretches to deep pursuits and leaving the rest open to everything else. During the deep time, the bimodal worker will act monastically – seeking intense and uninterrupted concentration. During the shallow time, such focus is not prioritized.
Another example for this technique is Adam Grant, the Wharton Business School professor. He stacked his courses into one semester, so that he could focus the other on deep work. During these deep semesters he then applied the bimodal approach on the weekly scale. He would, perhaps once or twice a month, take a period of two to four days to become completely monastic. He would shut his door, put an out-of-office autoresponder on his e-mail, and work on his research without interruption. Outside of these deep sessions, Grant remained famously open and accessible.
The Rhythmic Philosophy of Deep Work Scheduling
Seinfeld began his advice to Isaac with some common sense, noting “the way to be a better comic was to create better jokes,” and then explaining that the way to create better jokes was to write every day. Seinfeld continued by describing a specific technique he used to help maintain this discipline. He keeps a calendar on his wall. Every day that he writes jokes he crosses out the date on the calendar with a big red X.
“After a few days you’ll have a chain,” Seinfeld said. “Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You will like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain.”
This chain method (as some now call it) soon became a hit among writers and fitness enthusiasts—communities that thrive on the ability to do hard things consistently. The rhythmic philosophy argues that the easiest way to consistently start deep work sessions is to transform them into a simple regular habit. The goal is to generate a rhythm for this work that removes the need for you to invest energy in deciding if and when you’re going to go deep.
The Journalistic Philosophy of Deep Work Scheduling
…Any time he could find some free time, he would switch into a deep work mode and hammer away at his book. This is how, it turns out, one can write a nine-hundred-page book on the side while spending the bulk of one’s day becoming one of the country’s best magazine writers.
This approach, in which you fit deep work wherever you can into your schedule, the journalist philosophy. This name is a nod to the fact that journalists, like Walter Isaacson, are trained to shift into a writing mode on a moment’s notice, as is required by the deadline-driven nature of their profession. This approach is not for the deep work novice. The ability to rapidly switch your mind from shallow to deep mode doesn’t come naturally. Without practice, such switches can seriously deplete your finite willpower reserves. This habit also requires a sense of confidence in your abilities – a conviction that what you’re doing is important and will succeed. This type of conviction is typically built on a foundation of existing professional accomplishment.
An often-overlooked observation about those who use their minds to create valuable things is that they’re rarely haphazard in their work habits.
There’s no one correct deep work ritual – the right fit depends on both the person and the type of project pursued. But there are some general questions that any effective ritual must address:
Where you’ll work and for how long?
How you’ll work once you start to work?
How you’ll support your work?
Make Grand Gestures
Rowling’s decision to check into a luxurious hotel suite near Edinburgh Castle is an example of a curious but effective strategy in the world of deep work: the grand gesture. The concept is simple: By leveraging a radical change to your normal environment, coupled perhaps with a significant investment of effort or money, all dedicated toward supporting a deep work task, you increase the perceived importance of the task. This boost in importance reduces your mind’s instinct to procrastinate and delivers an injection of motivation and energy.
Don’t Work Alone
The relationship between deep work and collaboration is tricky. It’s worth taking the time to untangle, because properly leveraging collaboration can increase the quality of deep work in your professional life.
Example for this tactic is Building 20 at MTI – bunch of different scientists on one place (big room) not divided by walls. Or Bell Labs. Places with big general room and bunch of closed offices, so people could hang out or isolate where needed (like in any normal company or university in the world). The key is to maintain both in a hub-and-spoke-style arrangement: Expose yourself to ideas in hubs on a regular basis, but maintain a spoke in which to work deeply on what you encounter.
This division of efforts is not the full story, as even when one returns to a spoke, solo work is still not necessarily the best strategy. Consider, for example, the previously mentioned invention of the (point-contact) transistor at Bell Labs. This breakthrough was supported by a large group of researchers, all with separate specialties, who came together to form the solid-state physics research group – a team dedicated to inventing a smaller and more reliable alternative to the vacuum.
This strategy asks that you consider this option in contemplating how best to integrate depth into your professional life. In doing so keep the following two guidelines in mind. First, distraction remains a destroyer of depth.
Second, even when you retreat to a spoke to think deeply, when it’s reasonable to leverage the whiteboard effect, do so.
Execute Like a Business
School professor Clayton Christensen received a call from Andy Grove, the CEO and chairman of Intel…
Division between what and how is crucial but is overlooked in the professional world. It’s often straightforward to identify a strategy needed to achieve a goal, but what trips up companies is figuring out how to execute the strategy once identified.
Here is reference to Christensen’s book “The 4 Disciplines of Execution”, which built on extensive consulting case studies to describe four “disciplines” (abbreviated, 4DX)
Discipline #1: Focus on the Wildly Important
“The more you try to do, the less you actually accomplish.” Execution should be aimed at a small number of “wildly important goals.” This simplicity will help focus an organization’s energy to a sufficient intensity to ignite real results. For an individual focused on deep work, the implication is that you should identify a small number of ambitious outcomes to pursue with your deep work hours. The general exhortation to “spend more time working deeply” doesn’t spark a lot of enthusiasm.
Discipline #2: Act on the Lead Measures
Once you’ve identified a wildly important goal, you need to measure your success. In 4DX, there are two types of metrics for this purpose: lag measures and lead measures. Lag measures describe the thing you’re ultimately trying to improve. For example, if your goal is to increase customer satisfaction in your bakery, then the relevant lag measure is your customer satisfaction scores.
Lead measures “measure the new behaviors that will drive success on the lag measures.” In the bakery example, a good lead measure might be the number of customers who receive free samples. This is a number you can directly increase by giving out more samples. As you increase this number, your lag measures will likely eventually improve as well. In other words, lead measures turn your attention to improving the behaviors you directly control in the near future that will then have a positive impact on your long-term goals.
Discipline #3: Keep a Compelling Scoreboard
“People play differently when they’re keeping score,” the 4DX authors explain. When attempting to drive your team’s engagement toward your organization’s wildly important goal, it’s important that they have a public place to record and track their lead measures.
Discipline #4: Create a Cadence of Accountability
The 4DX authors elaborate that the final step to help maintain a focus on lead measures is to put in place “a rhythm of regular and frequent meetings of any team that owns a wildly important goal.” During these meetings, the team members must confront their scoreboard, commit to specific actions to help improve the score before the next meeting, and describe what happened with the commitments they made at the last meeting.
To me, this section of book looks just like a commercial for another book.
“Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets… it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done.”
When Kreider talks of getting work done, of course, he’s not referencing shallow tasks. For the most part, the more time you can spend immersed in shallow work the more of it that gets accomplished. As a writer and artist, however, Kreider is instead concerned with deep work—the serious efforts that produce things the world values. These efforts need the support of a mind regularly released to leisure. This strategy argues that you should follow Kreider’s lead by injecting regular and substantial freedom from professional concerns into your day, providing you with the idleness paradoxically required to get (deep) work done.
At the end of the workday, shut down your consideration of work issues until the next morning—no after-dinner e-mail check, no mental replays of conversations, and no scheming about how you’ll handle an upcoming challenge; shut down work thinking completely.
This is followed with some kind of “science behind the value of downtime” explanations:
Reason #1: Downtime Aids Insights
“The scientific literature has emphasized the benefits of conscious deliberation in decision making for hundreds of years… The question addressed here is whether this view is justified. We hypothesize that it is not.” Dutch psychologist Ap Dijksterhuis
Some decisions are better left to your unconscious mind to untangle – unconscious thought theory (UTT) – an attempt to understand the different roles conscious and unconscious deliberation play in decision making. At a high level, this theory proposes that for decisions that require the application of strict rules, the conscious mind must be involved.
Reason #2: Downtime Helps Recharge the Energy Needed to Work Deeply
Attention restoration theory (ART) claims that spending time in nature can improve your ability to concentrate. This theory, which was first proposed in the 1980s by the University of Michigan psychologists Rachel Kaplan and Stephen Kaplan is based on the concept of attention fatigue. To concentrate requires what ART calls directed attention. This resource is finite: If you exhaust it, you’ll struggle to concentrate.
What’s important to our purpose is observing that the implications of ART expand beyond the benefits of nature. The core mechanism of this theory is the idea that you can restore your ability to direct your attention if you give this activity a rest. Walking in nature provides such a mental respite, but so, too, can any number of relaxing activities so long as they provide similar “inherently fascinating stimuli” and freedom
from directed concentration.
Reason #3: The Work That Evening Downtime Replaces Is Usually Not That Important
If you’re careful about your schedule you should hit your daily deep work capacity during your workday. It follows, therefore, that by evening, you’re beyond the point where you can continue to effectively work deeply.
Shutdown ritual – to finish the day it is useful to have some kind of shutdown ritual, like overview of what was done that day and what is left for tomorrow, and organising that into lists. Shutdown rituals can become annoying, as they add an extra ten to fifteen minutes to the end of your workday (and sometimes even more), but they’re necessary for reaping the rewards of systematic idleness summarized previously.
Decades of work from multiple different subfields within psychology all point toward the conclusion that regularly resting your brain improves the quality of your deep work. When you work, work hard. When you’re done, be done.
Quit Social Media
Facebook or Tweeter don’t add any value to human life regarding entertainment or interactions.
The Any-Benefit Approach to Network Tool Selection: You’re justified in using a network tool if you can identify any possible benefit to its use, or anything you might possibly miss out on if you don’t use it.
The Craftsman Approach to Tool Selection: Identify the core factors that determine success and happiness in your professional and personal life. Adopt a tool only if its positive impacts on these factors substantially outweigh its negative impacts.
Apply the Law of the Vital Few to Your Internet Habits
The first step of this strategy is to identify the main high-level goals in both your professional and your personal life. Once you’ve identified these goals, list for each the two or three most important activities that help you satisfy the goal.
The next step in this strategy is to consider the network tools you currently use. For each such tool, go through the key activities you identified and ask whether the use of the tool has a substantially positive impact, a substantially negative impact, or little impact on your regular and successful participation in the activity.
Now comes the important decision: Keep using this tool only if you concluded that it has substantial positive impacts and that these outweigh the negative impacts.
The Law of the Vital Few: In many settings, 80 percent of a given effect is due to just 20 percent of the possible causes.
Stuff accumulates in people’s lives, in part, because when faced with a specific act of elimination it’s easy to worry, “What if I need this one day?,” and then use this worry as an excuse to keep the item in question sitting around.
In more detail, this strategy asks that you perform the equivalent of a packing party on the social media services that you currently use. Instead of “packing,” however, you’ll instead ban yourself from using them for thirty days. All of them: Facebook, Instagram, Google+, Twitter, Snapchat, Vine, or whatever other services have risen to popularity. Don’t formally deactivate these services, and (this is important) don’t mention online that you’ll be signing off: Just stop using them, cold turkey. If someone reaches out to you by other means and asks why your activity on a particular service has fallen off, you can explain, but don’t go out of your way to tell people.
After thirty days of this self-imposed network isolation, ask yourself the following two questions about each of the services you temporarily quit:
1. Would the last thirty days have been notably better if I had been able to use this service?
2. Did people care that I wasn’t using this service?
If your answer is “no” to both questions, quit the service permanently. If your answer was a clear “yes,” then return to using the service.
But part of what makes social media insidious is that the companies that profit from your attention have succeeded with a masterful marketing coup: convincing our culture that if you don’t use their products, you might miss out.
They’re just products, developed by private companies, funded lavishly, marketed carefully, and designed ultimately to capture then sell your personal information and attention to advertisers. They can be fun, but in the scheme of your life and what you want to accomplish, they’re a lightweight whimsy, one unimportant distraction among many threatening to derail you from something deeper.
Don’t Use the Internet to Entertain Yourself
Abandon webpages for entertainment – YouTube, Reddit etc.
These sites are especially harmful after the workday is over, where the freedom in your schedule enables them to become central to your leisure time. If you’re waiting in line, or waiting for the plot to pick up in a TV show, or waiting to finish eating a meal, they provide a cognitive crutch to ensure you eliminate any chance of boredom. If you want to eliminate the addictive pull of entertainment sites on your time and attention, give your brain a quality alternative.
Drain the Shallows
Journalist Tara Weiss wrote a critical piece for Forbes titled “Why a Four-Day Work Week Doesn’t Work.” She summarized her problem with this strategy as follows:
Packing 40 hours into four days isn’t necessarily an efficient way to work. Many people find that eight hours are tough enough; requiring them to stay for an extra two could cause morale and productivity to decrease.
…Fried was quick to respond. In a blog post titled “Forbes Misses the Point of the 4-Day Work Week,” he begins by agreeing with Weiss’s premise that it would be stressful for employees to cram forty hours of effort into four days. But, as he clarifies, that’s not what he’s suggesting. “The point of the 4-day work week is about doing less work,” he writes. “It’s not about four 10-hour days… it’s about four normalish 8-hour
Very few people work even 8 hours a day. You’re lucky if you get a few good hours in between all the meetings, interruptions, web surfing, office politics, and personal business that permeate the typical workday. Once everyone has less time to get their stuff done, they respect that time even more.
Schedule Every Minute of Your Day
We spend much of our day on autopilot, not giving much thought to what we’re doing with our time. This is a problem. It’s difficult to prevent the trivial from creeping into every corner of your schedule if you don’t face, without flinching, your current balance between deep and
shallow work, and then adopt the habit of pausing before action and asking, “What makes the most sense right now?
Then there is another instruction how to implement idea…
Quantify the Depth of Every Activity
An advantage of scheduling your day is that you can determine how much time you’re actually spending in shallow activities. Extracting this insight from your schedules, however, can become tricky in practice, as it’s not always clear exactly how shallow you should consider a given task.
Shallow Work: Noncognitively demanding, logistical-style tasks, often performed while distracted. These efforts tend not to create much new value in the world and are easy to replicate.
Some activities clearly satisfy this definition. Checking e-mail or scheduling a conference call, is unquestionably shallow in nature. But the classification of other activities can be more ambiguous. Consider the following tasks:
• Example #1: Editing a draft of an academic article that you and a collaborator will soon submit to a journal.
• Example #2: Building a PowerPoint presentation about this quarter’s sales figures.
• Example #3: Attending a meeting to discuss the current status of an important project and to agree on the next steps.
The purpose of this strategy is to give you an accurate metric for resolving such ambiguity providing you with a way to make clear and consistent decisions about where given work tasks fall on the shallow-to-deep scale. To do so, it asks that you evaluate activities by asking a simple question: How long would it take (in months) to train a smart recent college graduate with no specialized training in my field to complete this task?
If our hypothetical college graduate requires many months of training to replicate a task, then this indicates that the task leverages hard-won expertise. As argued earlier, tasks that leverage your expertise tend to be deep tasks and they can therefore provide a double benefit: They return more value per time spent, and they stretch your abilities, leading to improvement. On the other hand, a task that our hypothetical college graduate can pick up quickly is one that does not leverage expertise, and therefore it can be understood as shallow.
Ask Your Boss for a Shallow Work Budget
Here’s an important question that’s rarely asked: What percentage of my time should be spent on shallow work? This strategy suggests that you ask it.
For most people in most non-entry-level knowledge work jobs, the answer to the question will be somewhere in the 30 to 50 percent range (there’s a psychological distaste surrounding the idea of spending the majority of your time on unskilled tasks, so 50 percent is a natural upper limit, while at the same time most bosses will begin to worry that if this percentage gets too much lower than 30 percent you’ll be reduced to
a knowledge work hermit who thinks big thoughts but never responds to e-mails
Finish Your Work by Five Thirty
Commitment fixed-schedule productivity – fix a firm goal of not working after some time and then work backward to find productivity strategies .
Another thing to watch out is using “yes”. Be clear in refusal but ambiguous in explanation for the refusal. The key is to avoid providing enough specificity about the excuse that the requester has the opportunity to defuse it.
Even if you’re not a professor, fixed-schedule productivity can yield powerful benefits. In most knowledge work jobs, it can be difficult in the moment to turn down a shallow commitment that seems harmless in isolation—be it accepting an invitation to get coffee or agreeing to “jump on a call.” A commitment to fixed-schedule productivity, however, shifts you into a scarcity mind-set. Suddenly any obligation beyond your deepest efforts is suspect and seen as potentially disruptive. Your default answer becomes no, the bar for gaining access to your time and attention rises precipitously, and you begin to organize the efforts that pass these obstacles with a ruthless efficiency. It might also lead you to test assumptions about your company’s work culture that you thought were ironclad but turn out to be
malleable. It’s common, for example, to receive e-mails from your boss after hours. Fixed-schedule productivity would have you ignore these messages until the next morning. Many suspect that this would cause problems, as such responses are expected, but in many cases, the fact that your boss happens to be clearing her inbox at night doesn’t mean that she expects an immediate response—a lesson this strategy would soon help you discover.
This approach doesn’t function in many places, people trying it might end up on street.
Become Hard to Reach
This strategy pushes back at this fatalism. Just because you cannot avoid this tool altogether doesn’t mean you have to cede all authority over its role in your mental landscape.
Three tips that will help you regain authority over how this technology accesses your time and attention, and arrest the erosion of autonomy. Resistance is not futile: You have more control over your electronic communication than you might at first assume.
Tip #1: Make People Who Send You E-mail Do More Work
Approach called a sender filter, as I’m asking my correspondents to filter themselves before attempting to contact me. I like to help individuals, but these requests became overwhelming—they didn’t take the senders long to craft but they would require a lot of explanation and writing on my part to respond.
The default social convention surrounding e-mail is that unless you’re famous, if someone sends you something, you owe him or her a response. For most, therefore, an inbox full of messages generates a major sense of obligation.
Example: consultant Clay Herbert, who is an expert in running crowd-funding campaigns filters ended up taking a different form. To contact him, you must first consult an FAQ to make sure your question has not already been answered. If you make it through this FAQ sieve, he then asks you to fill out a survey that allows him to further screen for connections that seem particularly relevant to his expertise. For those who make it past this step, Herbert enforces a small fee you must pay before communicating with him. This fee is not about making extra money, but is instead about selecting for individuals who are serious about receiving and acting on advice. Herbert’s filters still enable him to help people and encounter interesting opportunities. But at the same time, they have reduced his incoming communication to a level he can easily handle.
Tip #2: Do More Work When You Send or Reply to E-mails
Consider the following standard e-mails:
E-mail #1: “It was great to meet you last week. I’d love to follow up on some of those issues we discussed. Do you want to grab coffee?”
E-mail #2: “We should get back to the research problem we discussed during my last visit. Remind me where we are with that?”
E-mail #3: “I took a stab at that article we discussed. It’s attached. Thoughts?”
These three examples should be familiar to most knowledge workers, as they’re representative of many of the messages that fill their inboxes. They’re also potential productivity land mines: How you respond to them will have a significant impact on how much time and attention the resulting conversation ultimately consumes.
In particular, interrogative e-mails like these generate an initial instinct to dash off the quickest possible response that will clear the message temporarily out of your inbox.
The right strategy when faced with a question of this type is to pause a moment before replying and take the time to answer the following key prompt:
What is the project represented by this message, and what is the most efficient (in terms of messages generated) process for bringing this project to a successful conclusion?
Once you’ve answered this question for yourself, replace a quick response with one that takes the time to describe the process you identified, points out the current step, and emphasizes the step that comes next. I call this the process-centric approach to e-mail, and it’s designed to minimize both the number of e-mails you receive and the amount of mental clutter they generate.
The process-centric approach to e-mail can significantly mitigate the impact of this technology on your time and attention. There are two reasons for this effect. First, it reduces the number of e-mails in your inbox sometimes significantly. Second, to steal terminology from David Allen, a good process-centric message immediately “closes the loop” with respect to the project at hand.
Process-centric e-mails might not seem natural at first. For one thing, they require that you spend more time thinking about your messages before you compose them. In the moment, this might seem like you’re spending more time on e-mail. But the important point to remember is that the extra two to three minutes you spend at this point will save you many more minutes reading and responding to unnecessary extra messages later.
Tip #3: Don’t Respond
Famous MIT academics… Their default behavior when receiving an e-mail message is to not respond. When it comes to e-mail, they believed, it’s the sender’s responsibility to convince the receiver that a reply is worthwhile. If you didn’t make a convincing case and sufficiently minimize the effort required by the professor to respond, you didn’t get a response.
This tip can be uncomfortable at first because it will cause you to break a key convention currently surrounding e-mail: Replies are assumed, regardless of the relevance or appropriateness of the message. There’s also no way to avoid that some bad things will happen if you take this approach. At the minimum, some people might get confused or upset. Here’s the thing: This is okay. As the author Tim Ferriss once wrote: “Develop the habit of letting small bad things happen. If you don’t, you’ll never find time for the life-changing big things.
In conclusion author describes what he did and how it helped him to succeed in his work.
The deep life, of course, is not for everybody. It requires hard work and drastic changes to your habits. For many, there’s a comfort in the artificial busyness of rapid e-mail messaging and social media posturing, while the deep life demands that you leave much of that behind. There’s also an uneasiness that surrounds any effort to produce the best things you’re capable of producing, as this forces you to confront the possibility that your best is not (yet) that good.
But if you’re willing to sidestep these comforts and fears, and instead struggle to deploy your mind to its fullest capacity to create things that matter, then you’ll discover, as others have before you, that depth generates a life rich with productivity and meaning.
The book is quite full of useless words, like “To return to where we started”, “however”, “Therefore”, “As …. explains”, “From my experience”, “To further justify”, “on the other hand”, “examples from earlier”, “I argued”, “In other words”, “To summarize”, “for example”… And my favorite: “As I argued in Rule #2, however…”. Sometimes these words/phrases could fit in, but many times it would just stab me in the eyes. That makes reading a bit annoying.