Let’s talk about Deep Work.
Deep work is work performed in a state of distraction-free concentration to produce meaningful output.
🤔 Why you should care about it
“To do real good physics work, you do need absolute solid lengths of time … it needs a lot of concentration.” - Richard Feynman, Nobel Prize-winning physicist.
The ability to produce (code, words, ideas) at an elite level, both in terms of speed and quality, is one of the characteristics of top performers in the current knowledge economy. This is true for developers as well as for engineering managers.
Leaders often mistake busyness for achievement —> there is little to no feeling of achievement when ending a day full of meetings, e-mails and Slack messages.
High-quality work requires time and intensity of focus —> It’s impossible to achieve anything meaningful if your focus times last 15 minutes between two meetings.
Interruptions have a significant impact on concentration —> According to a study from the Georgia Institute of Technology, developers need 10 to 15 minutes to start editing code after resuming work after an interruption.
The key to producing high-impact, meaningful work for individual contributors and managers alike is scheduling uninterrupted deep work sessions where you only focus on one thing. While some people prefer to schedule deep weeks multiple times a year, the easiest way to consistently start deep work sessions is to make them a regular (daily) ritual.
💡 Key Concepts
Flow —> a flow state is a mental state in which a person performing some activity immerses themselves in a feeling of energised focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the activity.
Rituals —> a sequence of activities involving gestures, words, and objects, performed in a sequestered place and according to a set sequence.
Shallow Work —> Non-cognitively demanding, logistical-style tasks, often performed while distracted.
Multitasking —> belief in the ability to perform multiple tasks simultaneously (though research shows that the human brain cannot perform heavy-duty multitasking).
Attention Restoration Theory (ART) —> research shows that mental fatigue and concentration can be improved by time spent in or looking at nature.
”My job as a manager is to enable my team members’ productivity by always being available for them.”
—> I like to call managers who think this way “DNS managers” because team members “ping, ping, ping”, and they “answer, answer, answer”. The thing is that even managers, especially engineering leaders, have to produce meaningful work to improve their team’s performance (designs, processes, documentation, ideas, etc.)
“I don’t have time for deep work; I’m too busy with meetings and day-to-day activities.”
—> If you don’t schedule deep work sessions, you will never have time for them. The high performers schedule their days around deep work sessions and never cancel them.
“Even if I schedule deep work sessions, I keep being interrupted!”
—> It’s as essential to communicate on your deep work sessions as to schedule them. When you’re in deep work, you can create an automated message explaining to colleagues why you’re not available, when you are ready for them and who they can contact in case of emergency.