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The Deep Work Divide: Restoring the balance between collaboration and deep work

The Deep Work Divide: Restoring the balance between collaboration and deep work

Deep Work™ is real. It's effective. It's immensely valuable for knowledge work. And yet, it's rare.

Organizations write software in two modes, the focussed mode centered around individual technical skill, and the collaboration mode centered around the communication within the team.

By nature, these two styles are at odds with each other and preferring one means downplaying the other. We know that stellar quality work can come out of an intensely focused mode of working. But we also know that equally stellar quality of work comes from highly aligned teams that work together like a well-oiled engine.

How then should we find a balance between the two? What can leaders and managers do to encourage both? How do we keep the changes small but fundamental?

Modern work cultures and environments are tailored for collaborative work and do not give enough thought to deep work. We will look at how making small changes to the work-day schedule, and the work environment can bridge the gap and support knowledge workers to do the best work of their life.

Swanand Pagnis

March 19, 2019
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  1. The Deep Work
    Divide
    Balancing between collaboration and deep work

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  2. Swanand Pagnis
    ! Principal Engineer at First.io
    meetup.com/Bangalore-Ruby-Users-Group/
    info.pagnis.in
    $ postgres-workshop.com

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  3. Premise, problem
    Rules, strategies
    Pitfalls, gotchas

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  4. Raise your hand if

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  5. You have worked as a
    knowledge worker:
    e.g. programmer, writer,
    designer, researcher etc

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  6. You have worked as a
    people person:
    e.g. manager, leader,
    executive, coach etc

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  7. You were present in a
    meeting where you
    weren't required.

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  8. You were so engrossed
    in work, that you forgot
    to have lunch or dinner.

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  9. You were extremely
    satisfied how you wrote
    a particular user story.

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  10. Premise, problem
    A primer and a pitch

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  11. We live in a
    knowledge economy

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  12. Knowledge work is the
    most value producing
    kind of work in this era

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  13. Knowledge work is the
    most rewarding
    kind of work in this era

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  14. Being a highly skilled
    worker is one way of
    thriving, amongst many.

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  15. Deep Work paves a path
    to becoming one.

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  16. We're fundamentally
    social

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  17. Naturally, our work is
    also social

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  18. Success, value creation,
    wealth creation is also
    social

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  19. And so work is a balance
    between solo work and
    collaborative work

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  20. Modern work
    environments lean
    heavily towards
    collaboration

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  21. Collaboration is about:
    • An open exchange of ideas
    • Decision making
    • Responding to stimuli

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  22. Deep work is about:
    • Immersive thinking
    • Long threads of thoughts
    • Shutting down external stimuli

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  23. tl;dr
    They're at odds with
    each other

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  24. Chess vs Cricket

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  25. Do less to do better.

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  26. – Cal Newport, in Deep Work
    Professional activities performed
    in a state of distraction-free
    concentration that push your
    cognitive capabilities to their limit.

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  27. – Cal Newport, in Deep Work. Emphasis mine.
    Professional activities performed
    in a state of distraction-free
    concentration that push your
    cognitive capabilities to their limit.

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  28. Just focussed working
    is not enough

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  29. Just distraction-free
    is not enough

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  30. Challenging work in a
    deep focused mode
    over a long period of
    time is

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  31. And the result?

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  32. – Cal Newport, in Deep Work
    These efforts create new value,
    improve your skill,
    and are hard to replicate.

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  33. – Cal Newport, in Deep Work. Emphasis mine.
    These efforts create new value,
    improve your skill,
    and are hard to replicate.

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  34. That's your x-factor.

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  35. Hypothesis
    • Over a longer period of doing
    deep work, you develop two
    abilities:

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  36. 1. To quickly master hard
    things.
    2. To produce at an elite
    level, in terms of both
    quality and speed.

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  37. 1. To quickly master hard
    things.
    2. To produce at an elite
    level, in terms of both
    quality and speed.

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  38. To summarise

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  39. Distraction-free work
    that pushes limits,
    creates new value,
    and improves skill.

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  40. Process. Not result.

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  41. Distraction-free work
    that pushes limits,
    creates new value,
    and improves skill.

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  42. Deep work is valuable
    Deep work is rare
    Status quo favours
    collaboration

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  43. Rules, strategies
    The tenets of deep work, staying on course

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  44. First, some meta talk.

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  45. Disclaimer
    • This is an experience report
    • YMMV
    • No one true way

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  46. Not just about:
    http://calnewport.com/
    books/deep-work/

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  47. Some more
    case studies*
    https://
    www.mortenhansen.com/
    book/great-at-work/
    *Be very aware of selection bias

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  48. A good
    complimentary
    strategy:
    https://mindsetonline.com/

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  49. Practice.
    Learn from experience.

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  50. Rules, strategies
    The tenets of deep work, staying on course

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  51. Deep work
    Shallow work
    Draw clear boundaries

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  52. Errno!::ETOOMANYMEETINGS

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  53. Number of meetings
    is always more than
    needed *

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  54. Discourage status
    meetings.

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  55. Only allow meetings
    with pre-written
    agenda.

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  56. No meeting should be
    an obligation. .

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  57. Have meeting free
    days.

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  58. Have meeting free
    days weeks.

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  59. Emails, Asana, Trello,
    Jira, PR reviews etc.
    The shallows!

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  60. Have a fixed time-slot
    for them in the day
    towards the EOD.

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  61. Written communication
    is effective. Don't
    downplay it.

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  62. 100% pairing
    = 100% distraction

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  63. Have pairing free
    days.

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  64. Have pairing free
    weeks.

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  65. On-call rotation, pager
    duty etc. is shallow by
    definition. ☎

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  66. Avoid deep work during
    that period.

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  67. When we know we
    won't be distracted,
    we focus better.

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  68. Focus on focus
    Work deeply, plan for depth

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  69. Uncertainty is a focus
    killer

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  70. Plan your day well

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  71. Plan your week well

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  72. Invest in a productivity
    system like GTD®
    – David Allen's Getting Things Done®

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  73. Leisure time is essential.
    Budget for it.

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  74. Forgive yourself for
    wanting to have fun.

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  75. Work environment is
    critical

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  76. Noise is a distraction

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  77. Viewport activity is a
    bigger distraction.

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  78. Workplaces suffer from
    tap on the shoulder
    disease

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  79. Open office plans are
    probably the costliest
    mistake since Null

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  80. Do not walk up to
    people and break their
    flow. Even for things
    like ☕ break.

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  81. Golden rule:
    No surprises.

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  82. Learn from
    Barbeque Nation

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  83. Flag is up !=> Bring food!
    Flag is down !=> Stop!

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  84. Establish an etiquette,
    stick to it.

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  85. Hunger is a distraction,
    manage it well

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  86. Co-ordinated lunches
    are great for bonding.

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  87. Embrace boredom.
    – Cal Newport, in Deep Work

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  88. This is a core Deep
    Work rule.

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  89. Avoid jumping on to
    something else when
    waiting on things.

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  90. e.g. Don't jump to
    Twitter when waiting
    for your app to load up

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  91. Dial up the verbosity on
    logs, ssh sessions,
    bundle install, rspec etc

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  92. Put your phone away,
    say in a different room,
    when working.

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  93. Train yourself by not
    carrying the phone to
    the

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  94. Raise your hand if

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  95. Embrace boredom.

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  96. This habit requires a lot
    of training. Possibly the
    hardest to change.

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  97. Why is it important?

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  98. Hypothesis
    • It (the jumping around) trains
    your mind to be distracted, and
    prevents long hours of focus,
    eventually reducing your ability
    to focus.

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  99. Stretch your limit
    Pick work at the edge your skillset

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  100. Pick something
    you haven't done.

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  101. If Ruby is all you do, go
    write Haskell.

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  102. If you are a front-end
    developer, understand
    how minification really
    works.

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  103. Write a compiler

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  104. Design a new font

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  105. Pick something
    outside your domain

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  106. Pick something
    adjacent to your skills

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  107. It has to be knowledge
    work or craft work.

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  108. If work isn't offering
    you a stretch, pick a
    MOOC or a book

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  109. Side projects are
    overrated, because they
    are "side" projects *

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  110. If you want to work on
    something 'side', take a few
    days off and make it the
    main thing for those days.

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  111. Offer your team a
    stretch time where they
    can hone their craft.

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  112. Invest in and get better
    at writing. ✍ ✨

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  113. Nothing really brings
    out deep focus like
    writing. M

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  114. Writing improves
    communication. N

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  115. Writing improves
    collaboration.

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  116. Don't fight biology
    Be aware of your boundaries

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  117. Gift yourself regular
    exercise QST

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  118. Understand your
    biological cycle ⏰

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  119. Discipline is important.
    It brings reliability. ✌

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  120. Seek reliability, not
    discipline.

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  121. Allow people to choose
    their own schedule.

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  122. Separate deep & shallow
    Focus on focus
    Stretch the limits
    Don't fight biology

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  123. Pitfalls
    Traps, false positives, gotchas.

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  124. Going too far down
    the rabbit hole
    Losing the big picture

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  125. Abdicate responsibility
    in search of focus H

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  126. Ineffective
    collaboration

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  127. Ineffective
    communication

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  128. Becoming a JIRA ticket
    pusher

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  129. Over-estimating your
    deep work ability
    There is a point of diminishing returns

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  130. Missing out on
    leadership
    Deep work is a very individual effort

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  131. Losing the big picture
    Losing out on collaborative
    aspects of work
    Trying out too much deep work
    Missing out on leadership

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  132. Despair not,
    remember what we're
    working towards:

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  133. To quickly master hard
    things
    To produce at an elite
    level, in terms of both
    quality and speed

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  134. Swanand Pagnis
    ! Principal Engineer at First.io
    meetup.com/Bangalore-Ruby-Users-Group/
    info.pagnis.in
    $ postgres-workshop.com

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