Professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit.
These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate.
Cal Newport, Deep Work
I have a confession to make. I am a world-class time waster.
Each month, I have to read three books fully and completely, to prepare my synopses. Two are business books, for our First Friday Book Synopsis gatherings; one is a book dealing with issues of social justice, for the Urban Engagement Book Club. It takes me a hefty chunk of time to read these books, and prepare my synopses handouts. Many hours per book. (I cannot speed read books for this work; it is slow reading; deliberate reading).
But — and here is the confession — I’m glad I have to do this. Otherwise, I think I could go days, maybe weeks, with little but what one might call shallow reading.
We have never lived in a time more custom made for time wasting than this time.
My particular time-wasting addiction is Twitter. I know plenty who waste their time on Facebook. Others, YouTube. Now, you may object to the use of the term “time-wasting” for such activity. But, with all due respect, I have wasted enough time on my distraction of choice to know how time-wasting it actually is.
We need to find a way to lock ourselves in to periods of deep work. Even when we don’t “have to” for our jobs.
So, some suggesrtions:
#1 – Start with book reading. Always have a book going; have it nearby. If you can, carve out big chunks of time to read in the book at hand. If not, carve out enough time to read one chapter. In my own reading, always on my Kindle app on my iPad, I highlight each chapter I finish reading in the table of contents. It provides a real sense of progress as I see the table of contents filling up with my highlights.
#2 – Read some serious speeches. A good place to start is AmericanRhetoric.com. Click on this link for the Top 100 speeches of the 20th Century. You can read the speech; abd/or you can watch, or listen to the speech for most of the speeches. I promise you, reading speeches by Barbara Jordan, Martin Luther King, Jr., or the other speakers included, is a deeper use of your time than checking your Facebook feed.
#3 – Read the more substantive magazines – on-line, or on paper. I regularly check The Atlantic during my week.
But, whichever path you take toward tackling some deep work, do tackle it. It will be a better use of your time; it will not be time-wasted!