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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.

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Swanand Pagnis

March 19, 2019
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Transcript

  1. The Deep Work Divide Balancing between collaboration and deep work

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

    postgres-workshop.com
  3. Premise, problem Rules, strategies Pitfalls, gotchas

  4. Raise your hand if

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

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

    executive, coach etc
  7. You were present in a meeting where you weren't required.

  8. You were so engrossed in work, that you forgot to

    have lunch or dinner.
  9. You were extremely satisfied how you wrote a particular user

    story.
  10. Premise, problem A primer and a pitch

  11. We live in a knowledge economy

  12. Knowledge work is the most value producing kind of work

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

    this era
  14. Being a highly skilled worker is one way of thriving,

    amongst many.
  15. Deep Work paves a path to becoming one.

  16. But…☝

  17. We're fundamentally social

  18. Naturally, our work is also social

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

  20. And so work is a balance between solo work and

    collaborative work
  21. But…☝

  22. BALANCE

  23. Modern work environments lean heavily towards collaboration

  24. Collaboration is about: • An open exchange of ideas •

    Decision making • Responding to stimuli
  25. Deep work is about: • Immersive thinking • Long threads

    of thoughts • Shutting down external stimuli
  26. tl;dr They're at odds with each other

  27. Chess vs Cricket

  28. Do less to do better.

  29. Start here:

  30. – Cal Newport, in Deep Work Professional activities performed in

    a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit.
  31. – 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.
  32. Just focussed working is not enough

  33. Just distraction-free is not enough

  34. Challenging work in a deep focused mode over a long

    period of time is
  35. And the result?

  36. – Cal Newport, in Deep Work These efforts create new

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

    create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate.
  38. That's your x-factor.

  39. Hypothesis • Over a longer period of doing deep work,

    you develop two abilities:
  40. 1. To quickly master hard things. 2. To produce at

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

    an elite level, in terms of both quality and speed.
  42. To summarise

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

    skill.
  44. Process. Not result.

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

    skill.
  46. Deep work is valuable Deep work is rare Status quo

    favours collaboration
  47. Rules, strategies The tenets of deep work, staying on course

  48. First, some meta talk.

  49. Disclaimer • This is an experience report • YMMV •

    No one true way
  50. Not just about: http://calnewport.com/ books/deep-work/

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

    of selection bias
  52. A good complimentary strategy: https://mindsetonline.com/

  53. Practice. Learn from experience.

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

  55. Deep work Shallow work Draw clear boundaries

  56. Errno!::ETOOMANYMEETINGS

  57. Number of meetings is always more than needed *

  58. Discourage status meetings.

  59. Only allow meetings with pre-written agenda.

  60. No meeting should be an obligation. .

  61. Have meeting free days.

  62. Have meeting free days weeks.

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

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

    the EOD.
  65. Written communication is effective. Don't downplay it.

  66. 100% pairing = 100% distraction

  67. Have pairing free days.

  68. Have pairing free weeks.

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

  70. Avoid deep work during that period.

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

  72. Focus on focus Work deeply, plan for depth

  73. Uncertainty is a focus killer

  74. Plan your day well

  75. Plan your week well

  76. Invest in a productivity system like GTD® – David Allen's

    Getting Things Done®
  77. Leisure time is essential. Budget for it.

  78. Forgive yourself for wanting to have fun.

  79. Work environment is critical

  80. Noise is a distraction

  81. Viewport activity is a bigger distraction.

  82. Workplaces suffer from tap on the shoulder disease

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

  84. Do not walk up to people and break their flow.

    Even for things like ☕ break.
  85. Golden rule: No surprises.

  86. Learn from Barbeque Nation

  87. Flag is up !=> Bring food! Flag is down !=>

    Stop!
  88. Establish an etiquette, stick to it.

  89. Hunger is a distraction, manage it well

  90. Co-ordinated lunches are great for bonding.

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

  92. This is a core Deep Work rule.

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

  94. e.g. Don't jump to Twitter when waiting for your app

    to load up
  95. Dial up the verbosity on logs, ssh sessions, bundle install,

    rspec etc
  96. Put your phone away, say in a different room, when

    working.
  97. Train yourself by not carrying the phone to the

  98. Raise your hand if

  99. Embrace boredom.

  100. This habit requires a lot of training. Possibly the hardest

    to change.
  101. Why is it important?

  102. Hypothesis • It (the jumping around) trains your mind to

    be distracted, and prevents long hours of focus, eventually reducing your ability to focus.
  103. H

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

  105. Pick something you haven't done.

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

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

    works.
  108. Write a compiler

  109. Design a new font

  110. Pick something outside your domain

  111. Pick something adjacent to your skills

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

  113. If work isn't offering you a stretch, pick a MOOC

    or a book
  114. Side projects are overrated, because they are "side" projects *

  115. If you want to work on something 'side', take a

    few days off and make it the main thing for those days.
  116. Offer your team a stretch time where they can hone

    their craft.
  117. Invest in and get better at writing. ✍ ✨

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

  119. Writing improves communication. N

  120. Writing improves collaboration.

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

  122. Sleep well.

  123. Gift yourself regular exercise QST

  124. Understand your biological cycle ⏰

  125. Discipline is important. It brings reliability. ✌

  126. Seek reliability, not discipline.

  127. Allow people to choose their own schedule.

  128. Separate deep & shallow Focus on focus Stretch the limits

    Don't fight biology
  129. Pitfalls Traps, false positives, gotchas.

  130. Going too far down the rabbit hole Losing the big

    picture
  131. Abdicate responsibility in search of focus H

  132. Ineffective collaboration

  133. Ineffective communication

  134. Becoming a JIRA ticket pusher

  135. Over-estimating your deep work ability There is a point of

    diminishing returns
  136. Missing out on leadership Deep work is a very individual

    effort
  137. Losing the big picture Losing out on collaborative aspects of

    work Trying out too much deep work Missing out on leadership
  138. Despair not, remember what we're working towards:

  139. To quickly master hard things To produce at an elite

    level, in terms of both quality and speed
  140. Thank you!

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

    postgres-workshop.com