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Rules for Focused Success…

HR & Organizational Development

jan-laurijssen.png… in a Distracted World. That’s the subtitle of “Deep Work”, a book by Cal Newport. Having read a review of this book in De Morgen in September 2016(!), I immediately ordered a copy. So, it’s now May 2017 and I can finally admit to having occasionally picked the book up. Which, given its message (the case for concentrated work) and format (a paper book), is deeply ironic.


"It emphasizes how our individual and collective productivity and accomplishments are diminished because we no longer plan to achieve concentrated work."
 

I’m glad I finally started reading it, because it is not just booklore that Newport shares with his readers. It echoes some of the issues raised by Theo Compernolle in “BrainChains”, which emphasizes how multitasking has taken our brains hostage. However, Newport’s book goes a step further by emphasizing how our individual and collective productivity and accomplishments are diminished because we no longer plan to achieve concentrated work.

Busy busy busy

The author sets out his views on deep work as follows: “The ability to perform deep work is becoming increasingly rare at exactly the same time it is becoming increasingly valuable in our economy.” And we create that incapacity largely by unconsciously dealing with everything that distracts us (mail, apps, etc.) and organizing (knowledge) work in open office spaces. That leads to using “Busyness as an alibi for productivity.” Need I say more?

The question is, how should we approach this as individuals and as organizations? Can we organize our work by aiming to reduce distractions? Or is the sheer volume and pressure of incoming information too great to resist? Any new way of working should provide a solution to this problem. Working from home, activity-based work and other ways of working allow us to make choices about where and how we do our jobs.

Our problems spring from the fact that this is all about collective and individual human behavior. Habits and behavior are very difficult to change and it takes a much more conscious approach to our work and life to succeed. This is something I struggle with myself, I must admit. I’m curious to find out whether this book will put me on the right track. I have already managed to spend two hours reading and an hour (working from home) writing this blog. Every beginning is hard…

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