Right now I’m working on my next essay for New York, about the culture of mass distraction. Concentration is the new black. One thing I realize, I thought I was living a life and blogging; in fact I was just blogging. It’s zero-sum. You can’t do both at once.
Andrew Sullivan, from this New York Times interview
(Bob Morris put me onto this interview on his blog post, here)
On Saturday, at the Business Leadership Center of the SMU Cox School of Business, I presented my synopsis of Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport for a group of attentive, engaged MBA students. Here’s how Cal Newport defines Deep Work:
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.
So, yes, to affirm Andrew Sullivan, “concentration is indeed the new black.” And, though he is truly stating the obvious, it is harder than ever before to maintain concentration. I remember taking time management seminars a few decades ago, and they warned of the distractions of too many phone calls, or too many people knocking on your office door and taking away your concentration. If only…
Today, you have to make a more conscious effort than ever before to stay concentrated on any one task. The cries of the Sirens (SEIRENES) continue unabated, taking us off the concentration course we attempt to set, maybe to our own distracted destruction.
And, the bad news – I’ve got a hunch this age of perpetual distraction is only just beginning, and will get more distracting – much, much more distracting.
So, concentrate. Turn off, separate from, get away from, any and all distractions for large chunks of time at a time, and focus and concentrate on some task that requires such concentration. (Reading is one good example of such a task, by the way).
Such focused concentration is going to have to become a newly re-learned skill. And, it is a skill you can nurture – with enough deliberate practice.
And, I’ve got a hunch that it will be a very lucrative skill, one that produces sought-after results in this too-distracted era. Not too mention, it can be personally enriching and rewarding.
Read my blog post on Deep Work here: Deep Work by Cal Newport – Here are My Four Lessons and Takeaways.
And, you can purchase my synopsis of Deep Work, with my handout and the audio recording of my presentations, at our companion site, 15minutebusinessbooks.com.