Tag Archives: Performance

The Any-Benefit Approach to Network Tool Selection

Principle
The false belief that a tool that provides some benefit provides more benefit than harm in the aggregate.
Explanation
“The Any-Benefit Approach to Network Tool Selection: You’re justified in using a network tool if you can identify any possible benefit to its use, or anything you might possibly miss out on if you don’t use it.” (186, Deep Work)
“You might reply that value is value: If you can find some extra benefit in using a service like Facebook — even if its small — then why not use it? I call this way of thinking the any-benefit mind-set, as it identifies any possible benefit as sufficient justification for using a network tool in more detail…
     The problem with this approach, of course is that it ignores all the negatives that come along with the tools in question. These services are engineered to be addictive — robbing time and attention from activities that more directly support your professional and personal goals (such as deep work)…The use of network tools can be harmful. If you don’t attempt to weight the pros against the cons, but instead use any glimpse of some personal benefit as justification for unrestrained use of a tool, then you’re unwittingly crippling your ability to succeed in the world of knowledge work” (186-7, Deep Work)
Source
Deep Work by Cal Newport

Productive Meditation

Term

Meditating on a singular problem while being engaged in physical activity

Explanation

“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)

Source

Deep Work by Cal Newport

Zerrissenheit

Term

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.

Explanation

“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)

Source

The Road to Character by David Brooks

Culture of Connectivity

Principle

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.

Expansion

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)

Source

Deep Work by Cal Newport

Deliberate Practice

Term
Purposeful practice that has an objective criteria of what ‘good’ is and is practice designed by an expert. Unlike practice that is merely purposeful, it is informed by the aggregated experience of those who have come before. When a generation of experts gains a deeper understanding of their field, this new understanding revises the training requirements for the novices just entering the field. As a result, the training evolves alongside the development of the field. If a novice practices without adhering to the guidance of those who have come before, his or practice is not deliberate.
Explanations
 Cal Newport explains the requirements for deliberate practice in Deep Work (Nick note: These requirements are more related to Ericsson’s notion of ‘purposeful practice’ than ‘deliberate practice’): “This brings us to question of what deliberate practice actually requires. Its core components are usually identified as follows: (1) your attention is tightly focused on a specific skill you’re trying to improve or an idea you’re trying to master; (2) you receive feedback so you can correct your approach to keep your attention exactly where it’s most productive.” (35)
     Newport continues on what deliberate practice achieves on a neurological level: “By focusing intensely on a specific skill, you’re forcing the relevant circuit to fire, again and again, in isolation. This repetitive use of a specific circuit triggers cells called oligodendrocytes to begin wrapping layers of myelin around the neurons in circuits — effectively cementing the skill. The reason, therefore, why it’s important to focus intensely on the task at hand while avoid distraction is because this is the only way to isolate the relevant neural circuit enough to trigger useful myelination. By contrast, if you’re trying to learn a complex new skill (say, SQL database management) in a state of low concentration (perhaps you also have your Facebook feed open), you’re firing too many circuits simultaneously and haphazardly to isolate the groups of neurons you actually want to strengthen.” (37)
Sources
Peak by Anders Ericsson
Deep Work by Cal Newport

Purposeful Practice

Term
Anders Ericsson’s notion of ‘purposeful practice’ has 4 characteristics:
1- Well-defined and specific goals. Taking a general goal and turning it into something you can work on with realistic expectation of improvement.
2- Focused. Give it full attention.
3- Involves feedback. The more immediate, the better.
4- Gets one out of his or her comfort zone. The fourth point is the one most frequently ignored and most improperly dealt with. When plateauing, it is important that a person try differently rather than just harder: “Whenever you’re trying to improve at something, you will run into such obstacles —points at which it seems impossible to progress, or at least where you have no idea what you should do in order to improve. This is natural. What is not natural is a true dead-stop obstacle, one that is impossible to get around, over, or through.” (21, Peak) Progress ingenuity along with effort.
Source
Peak by Anders Ericsson

Deep Work Razor

Principle
Problem-solving principle for deciding when to opt for a Deep Work approach. Although Deep Work is not the only valuable skill in our economy, we ought to prioritize the selection of Deep Work whenever another approach is not blatantly more advantageous.
Here’s Cal Newport’s explanation: “Deep work is not the only skill valuable in our economy, and it’s possible to do well without fostering this ability, but the niches where this is advisable is increasingly rare. Unless you have strong evidence that distraction is important for your specific profession, you’re best served…by giving serious consideration to depth” (48, Deep Work)
Source
Deep Work by Cal Newport

Immeasurable Intangible Labor

Principle

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.

Explanation

“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)

Source

Deep Work by Cal Newport

Worker Groups Who Will Inherit the Earth

Framework

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

  1. Highly-Skilled Workers
  2.  Superstars
  3. The Owners

Highly-Skilled Workers

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)

The Superstars

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.

The Owners

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)