Tips

Book Freak #41: How to Succeed in a Distracted World

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Short pieces of advice from books

Book Freak is a weekly newsletter with short pieces of advice from books. Subscribe here.

Cal Newport is a writer and assistant professor of computer science at Georgetown University. Here are four pieces of advice from his book, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World.

Two core abilities for thriving in the new economy“1. The ability to quickly master hard things. 2. The ability to produce at an elite level, in terms of both quality and speed.”

Schedule time to become bored
“To simply wait and be bored has become a novel experience in modern life, but from the perspective of concentration training, it’s incredibly valuable.”

Practice a daily shutdown ritual
“Another key commitment for succeeding with this strategy is to support your commitment to shutting down with a strict shutdown ritual that you use at the end of the workday to maximize the probability that you succeed. In more detail, this ritual should ensure that every incomplete task, goal, or project has been reviewed and that for each you have confirmed that either (1) you have a plan you trust for its completion, or (2) it’s captured in a place where it will be revisited when the time is right. The process should be an algorithm: a series of steps you always conduct, one after another. When you’re done, have a set phrase you say that indicates completion (to end my own ritual, I say, ‘Shutdown complete’). This final step sounds cheesy, but it provides a simple cue to your mind that it’s safe to release work-related thoughts for the rest of the day.”

Focus on the one thing that matters most
“[Richard] Feynman was adamant in avoiding administrative duties because he knew they would only decrease his ability to do the one thing that mattered most in his professional life: ‘to do real good physics work.’”

Book Freak is one our five newsletters from Cool Tools Lab (our other four are the Cool Tools Newsletter, Recomendo, Gareth’s Tips, Tools, and Shop Talesand What’s in my bag?).

-- Mark Frauenfelder 05/5/20