In a distracted world filled with interruptions, it is becoming increasingly hard to do deep, thoughtful work. Open workspaces, email and chat software make it easy to collaborate, but also enable an always-on culture with an expectation to respond ASAP to all communication. Creating the environment, culture and processes to enable deep work can help companies differentiate and enable better work life balance for their employees.
I’ve been thinking long and hard about how I can enable deep, meaningful work every day for myself and the teams I work with. Here are some of the tweaks I’ve been trying to make in my life to enable more deep work (some of these are still aspirational)
Waking up early – This is the biggest change I’ve made in my life and the results have been staggering. I’m generally up by 5 am and between 5 and 7 am I’m able to work on the most important and impactful tasks for the day
Email only three times a day – Email is a wonderful tool but can often give you a false sense of accomplishment. I’m consciously trying to spend as little time on email as possible and now access email 3 times a day – once in the am, once around noon and once at the end of the business day. I now try and assess the quality of my workday by how much I’ve “created” – more strategy, product design and engineering and more product writing and lesser email.
More thoughtful asynchronous communication – Slack, Telegram, Teams and other chat software can be a double-edged sword. They can enable collaboration and more kinship but can also lead to a distracted, tired workplace with fewer thoughtful discussions. While I still use these channels, I’m also trying to enable more long form, thoughtful asynchronous communication and move away from the expectation that all communication be immediate. More long form, thoughtful communication in the workplace can also help in cutting out unnecessary meetings. Most meetings can be replaced by written, asynchronous communication if done right. The beauty of asynchronous communication is that you can do it on your terms and not interrupt your work to respond or join meetings.
Block entire days or a few hours every week – I’ve started blocking a few hours every week and sometimes entire days and try and work during those hours without any distractions. This one is the hardest as meetings have a way of sneaking into your schedule whether you like it not. The key for this method to be successful is to make no exceptions. These time blocks every week should be sacrosanct.
A combination of open and quiet workplaces – Most of us work in open workspaces and sometimes it’s hard to focus for a long period of time with all the distractions of an open workspace. A combination of open workspaces for better collaboration and quiet workspaces for when you want to focus without distractions will eventually become the norm. Space design is near and dear to my heart and I hope to spend a lot more time thinking about and building spaces that can enable deep work.
I would love to hear from the community on how you are enabling deep work for yourselves and your workplaces.