Meditating on a singular problem while being engaged in physical activity
“The goal of productive meditation is to take a period in which you’re occupied physically —but not mentally—walking, jogging, driving, showering—and focus your attention on a single well-defined professional problem. Depending on your profession, this problem might be outlining an article, writing a talk, making progress on a proof, or attempting to sharpen a business strategy” (170, Deep Work)
Deep Work by Cal Newport
A condition in which an abundance of options inhibits an individual’s ability to make meaningful choices. A person whose happiness is negatively affected due to the lack of a coherent moral structure to their choices and actions.
“The Germans have a word for this condition: Zerrissenheit– loosely, ‘falling-to-pieces-ness’. This is the loss of internal coherence that can come from living in a multitasking, pulled-in-a-hundred-directions existence. This is what Kierkegaard called ‘the dizziness of freedom.’ When the external constraints are loosened, when a person can do what he wants, when there are a thousand choices and distractions, then live can lose coherence and direction if there isn’t a strong internal structure”(218, The Road to Character)
The Road to Character by David Brooks
“A reinforcer is anything that, occurring in conjunction with an act, tends to increase the probability that the act will occur again.”
Don’t Shoot The Dog by Karen Pryor
Culture where workers are expected to be constantly connected even if it is at the expense of productivity. This part of a larger trend for workers using busyness as a proxy for productivity.
Employers frequently enforce this culture to the deteriment of their employees: “This mind-set is not necessarily irrational. For some, their jobs really do depend on such behavior. In 2013, for example, Yahoo’s new CEO Marissa Mayer banned employees from working at home. She made this decision after checking the server logs for the virtual private network that Yahoo employees use to remotely log in to company servers. Mayer was upset because the employees working home didn’t sign in enough throughout the day. She was, in some sense, punishing her employees for not spending more time checking e-mail (one of the primary reasons to log in to the servers). ‘If you’re not visibly busy,’ she signaled, ‘I’ll assume you’re not productive.’
Viewed objectively, however, this concept is anachronistic. Knowledge work is not an assembly line, and extracting value from information is an activity that’s often at odds with busyness. Remember for example, the academic from our last chapter who became the youngest full professor at Wharton by repeatedly shutting himself off from the outside world to concentrate on writing. Such behavior is the opposite of being publicly busy. If Grant worked for Yahoo, Marissa Mayer might have fired him. But this deep strategy turned out to produce a massive amount of value” (65, Deep Work)
Deep Work by Cal Newport
The work of knowledge work is often difficult to measure and its value is therefore hard to determine.
Economist Thomas Piketty made this point when arguing that that the general inability to measure the value of work enables executives to claim salaries that greatly succeed an executive’s marginal productivity.
“Generally speaking, as knowledge work makes more complex demands of the labor force, it becomes harder to measure the value of an individual’s efforts.” (55, Deep Work)
Deep Work by Cal Newport
In Race Against The Machines, economists Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAffee explain that as machines becomes intelligent, companies are more likely to hire new machines rather than new people. Consequently, to succeed as a worker in economy of the future, Brynjolfsson and McAffee suggest that one would be best served by falling into three groups
- Highly-Skilled Workers
- The Owners
Those who build machines and the software that runs them or those who are able to augment their own capabilities with the assistance of intelligent machines. Cal Newport describes how famed statistician augments his analysis through machine assistance: “Nate Silver, of course, with his comfort in feeding data into large databases, then siphoning it out into his mysterious Monte Carlo simulations, is the epitome of the high-skilled worker. Intelligent machines are not an obstacle to Silver’s success, but instead provide its precondition” (24, Deep Work)
This group benefits from the power of technology to more widely distribute their products or communicate across long distances. This group possesses a skill or product of high value and is high demand. In the past, these superstars ability to sell their talents was limited to their immediate geography, which meant that their competitors could still sell their talents to the areas where the superstars were not; markets were more localized. Now, the Internet has made it possible for the best within a given area to displace the local monopolies. As a result, superstars can now sell their value at unprecedented scale at the expense of the non-superstars.
Those with capital to invest in technology will be capable of rapidly growing their capital. Cal Newport explains the implications of McAfee / Brynjolfsson’s ‘Great Restructuring’ theory:
“The Great Restructuring, unlike the postwar period, is a particularly good time to have access to capital. To understand why, first recall that bargaining theory, a key component in standard economic thinking, argues that when money is made through the combination of capital investment and labor, the rewards are returned, roughly speaking, proportional to the input. As digital technology reduces the need for labor in many industries, the proportion of the rewards returned to those who own the intelligent machines is growing. A venture capitalist in today’s economy can fund a company like Instagram, which was eventually sold for a billion dollars, while employing only thirteen people” (27, Deep Work)