Yesterday I posted about a great interview I heard with Cal Newport discussing his latest book Deep Work. In the interview (on Zack Arnold’s Optimize Yourself podcast), Newport points out that, in a knowledge economy, the ability to focus is extremely valuable. Ironically we are living in a time when distraction is backed by trillions of dollars, big data and the smartest minds (carbon and silicon based) on the planet.
Focused work can only happen when you work one thing, uninterrupted, for at least 30 minutes. Every time you get interrupted or choose to interrupt yourself (by checking email, news, Facebook, texts, messenger, Whatsapp, Instagram, Twitter, Linkedin, Hulu, Youtube…..) it decreases your ability to think deeply for a while.
Focusing, he points out, is not a habit. It’s a skill that needs to be practised. Like any skill, it’s not going to feel great to do it at first. For example, exercising regularly is a habit you can develop. Swimming or dribbling a basketball is a skill.
To do deep work you have to embrace boredom because you have to get over your addiction to stimulation. He suggests waiting in line or going for a walk or just sitting around for specific periods of time with no phone and nothing to do. This dovetails with what Manouch Zomorodi talks about on her fantastic NPR podcast Reply All and her new book Bored and Brilliant. (here’s her great TED talk http://ift.tt/2x0Nwgs). What Manouch and her listeners discovered (or rediscovered) is that great ideas come out of being bored. The enemy of boredom is that magically phone/internet device in your pocket.
So put down the phone for a while and you’ll be able to write that book or invent that better mousetrap.
So my advice. Create stuff. Switch off all your notifications except one. The one you’ll get after you subscribe to my Youtube channel!!!