If time is your most valuable resource as a leader, then distraction is your great enemy.
Your schedule is full. Your life feels busy. But you look around and wonder what you have to show for the number of hours you put in today.
Deep and Wide
In his new book, Deep Work: Rules For Focused Success In A Distracted World, Cal Newport isolates this problem and diagnoses it as shallow work, defined as “noncognitively demanding, logistical-style tasks, often performed while distracted.”
Conversely, deep work is defined by Newport as, 'the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task. It’s a skill that allows you to quickly master complicated information and produce better results in less time.'
Digging further into the book, Newport lays out four rules that shape the lives of productive leaders:
Rule #1: Work Deeply
One simply cannot perform deep work (or achieve flow) with constant interruption. You must not only resolve to eliminate distractions, but also create processes and rituals to assure your ability to work deeply.
Rule #2: Embrace Boredom
Train your focus by flipping your current script: “Instead of scheduling the occasional break from distraction so you can focus, you should instead schedule the occasional break from focus to give in to distraction.”
Rule #3: Quit Social Media
Yeah, I know. But I can speak from experience that detaching yourself from those little dopamine hits every time you check Twitter or Facebook opens up whole new levels of focus and intensity. A better alternative is to schedule social media like email - take 1-2 times during the day to break from your focus and get updates.
Rule #4: Drain The Shallows
Shallow work is busy work, and busy work by definition is not what matters. In the words of the great philosopher Tyler Durden: “No fear. No distractions. The ability to let that which does not matter truly slide.” This is the type of work that needs to be eliminated - and if it can't be eliminated, then build a system that allows you to batch or delegate shallow tasks.
Take Up and Read
Deep Work was a challenging read because it reinforced some hard changes that I need to make, while exposing additional areas of my life that need further refinement. If you want to grow as a leader and become more productive in your work, you should pick up a copy of the book.
Wait, There's More
This post was originally published in Leadership Weekly, a handpicked collection of leadership resources from across the internet.
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