For many of us each day is roughly a repeat of the last. Get up, get ready, bus or train to work, turn on computer, draft/reply/forward emails, wait for new emails, 11am birthday cake for Janice, get back to computer (10 unread emails whaaat?), discuss lunch options with James, marketing meeting, lunch, more emails….. And so on ad nauseum.
If someone asked you what you actually achieved, made, came up with that was really valuable I think lots of us would struggle to answer. Yet at the same time the only real answer to how are you going? “Busy”.
Busy with what though? We are addicted to a feeling and perception of busy-ness yet at the same time achieving nothing more than acting as a glorified (and overpaid) mail centre. If we want to do more or if you want your employees to do things with real value for your business you need to give them time to focus.
In Cal Newport’s book ‘Deep Work’ he notes “In the absence of clear indicators of what it means to be productive and valuable in their jobs, many knowledge workers turn back towards an industrial indicator of productivity: doing lots of stuff in a visible manner.”
What we actually need people to do is to have time to focus on the things that matter. Collaborate intentionally and do all of this without distraction.
The environment is key to this and most offices and, in the case of recent lockdowns, most homes are not set up for this. We have open plan, open kitchens, open door polices and open lives but nowhere to get away from it all and focus.
That’s why we have developed the urban rooms for home and the office. Give people somewhere to do the stuff that you have paid them to do properly. Or as someone who is self-employed, give me somewhere to work so I can get it done and spend more time reading, with my family or cycling.
“Professional activity 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.”
Cal also gives a number of other hints to focus and deep work - I’d highly recommend it.
The ability to perform deep work is becoming increasingly rare at exactly the same time it is becoming increasingly valuable in our economy.