There is a new and growing philosophy that we need to learn to be bored again. At the slightest hint of boredom we seek high and low stimuli. By doing so every day we train our brain.Every second that is left open we cram in a look at our smartphone, or quickly check Instagram. This habit of receiving high stimuli consistently is addictive and we need to watch out. Our brain is accustomed to receive little hits of dopamine every five minutes.
The problem: when we switch from Task A to Task B, our attention doesn’t immediately follow—a residue of your attention remains stuck thinking about the original task. This residue gets especially thick if your work on Task A was unbounded and of low intensity before you switched, but even if you finish Task A before moving on, your attention remains divided for a while. Meaning it is getting harder to focus on one task.
People strongly believe that all this technology that we invented made us work smarter and faster. If we look at productivity statistics though there is no evidence of this trend. We are in a productivity slowdown, which means that in the ‘70’s we got more productive quickly than now. When IT was applied to the backend of operations we had a burst of productivity but since the 2000’s it has been slowing down. We simply thought, if this applies to logistics and industrial processes surely our workers, and the frontend of the operations should benefit as much. But no, our technology has allowed us to get distracted, but feel more productive.
Newport argues if you spend enough time in a state of shallowness, you permanently reduce your capacity to perform focused work, which he calls deep work.
“Deep work is not some nostalgic affectation of writers and early-twentieth-century philosophers. It’s instead a skill that has great value today.”The ability to perform this deep work is becoming increasingly rare at exactly the same time it is becoming increasingly valuable in our economy. As a consequence, the few who cultivate this skill, and then make it the core of their working life, will thrive.
This new science of performance argues that you get better at a skill as you develop more myelin around the relevant neurons, allowing the corresponding circuit to fire more effortlessly and effectively. To be great at something is to be well myelinated. If you have spare time don’t fill it up with shallow work. Try and be bored, or go deep in developing a skill.
(Get) Inspired by
.Podcast with Cal Newport and Ezra Klein
.Book “Deep Work” by Cal Newport