Today’s business world is a loud world. Information and knowledge workers spend most of their time in open office spaces. E-mail and Social Media Messages chase people across all digital devices 24/7. Attention is switched between subjects so quickly, that the mind can barely keep up. This article is about the need to find a way out of this state of constant distraction and into what Cal Newport calls “Deep Work, (the) professional activity performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that pushes your cognitive capabilities to the limit.”
The new world of information work
After years of optimising production and manufacturing with concepts like Kaizen, the focus has changed to the productivity of the knowledge worker. Inspired by the spirit of the New Economy companies introduced open office space concepts in an attempt to resolve boxed thinking and “sitting”. Almost simultaneously the world of business software picked up on the newly introduced social media and networking concepts. A billion people on Facebook had to be an indicator that people loved being connected in the digital world. But e-mail had already become the every day, and sometimes all night, companion of the employee who wants to show dedication and climb the career ladder as quickly as possible. Being “present” on the other end of the digital line – irrespective of personal situation or time of day – was turned into an implicit requirement for the ambitious. The new social messaging, chat feed and collaboration channels now add to the already constantly humming e-mail box and have begun to chase people with additional notifications across all devices.
Nowadays, the walls of time zones, offices and hierarchies have been (almost) broken down. Combined with a 24/7 exchange and information flow, the knowledge worker is facing a completely new challenge: a million voices that want an answer – ideally a quick one.
The inbox dictates every day’s agenda
Mobile e-mail, social-style communications and ever present wireless internet have changed expectations for turnaround times. “Immediate” is the new “well informed”. Too often it’s not about substance anymore but the availability of an answer in almost real time. Inboxes dictate the day’s agenda across all devices and because there is more than one person waiting for an answer, actual “work time” gets pushed back…and back…and back.
The information worker is conditioned to an unhealthy multi tasking mode in order to even stay somewhat afloat in the avalanche of requests and digital distractions. The Bryan College has published an impressive info graphic on the annual loss of productivity (est. US$ 450bn globally) because, based on their research, millenials switch their focus 27 (twentyseven!!) times an hour.
How to shield yourself from distraction?
Self organisation and discipline sounds like the lame advice that parents gave when school got tough. “You just need to be a bit more organised and ignore all the distractions”.
If you listen to people like Jeff Bezos or Ashton Kutcher, it doesn’t seem so far off the actual solution to the problem, though. In an interview with TechCrunch Bezos said: “(…) I like to be doing whatever I’m doing. I don’t like to multi-task. If I’m reading my email I want to be reading my email (…) I multi-task serially.” Ashton Kutcher, a serious business investor for those who only know him as a goofy guy from television, revealed his simple secret to getting ahead of work at an AirBnB Spotlight event: “When I wake up…I spend the first hour of my work not looking at email, and actually just writing out what it is that I want to accomplish in a given day. And then before I go through my emails, I’ll do all my outgoing, outbound stuff, which is what I want everyone else to do for me. And then I’ll go and get reactive to whatever’s going on.”
“Yes, but I am neither a billionaire nor a TV star. I have to do what people ask me to do,” is what you’re probably thinking right now. However, if you take a step back it’s not about “full control”. It’s about taking the amount of control that it necessary to get things done. According to Cal Newport, author of Deep Work, this won’t be for more than 4 hours of the day, even for the really advanced.
Turn off the voices & temptations and take control over your work
Cal Newport believes that 2 hours of Deep Work, the state of mind in which substantial value creation happens, is realistic for the average Joe. For those two hours it’s about stepping away from all the channels that scream for your attention and from all the notifications, likes & shares, that want to reward you for the small contributions that you have made to the digital world.
Then it’s about being in control of the personal agenda:
- What do I have to do?
- When do things have to be done?
- Where is the information I need, to make well informed decisions?
The more organised the personal workspace or better still, work eco system is, the easier to retain the overview and have all the pieces at hand to solve the puzzle. Two hours of focussed, undistracted work in an organised world can be an eternity. Compared to the 27 attention fractions, that are cramped into a colleague’s hour, it’s productivity on steroids.
Fleep wants to help enable Deep Work experiences
Besides the discipline to “take time out” from the voices and distractions, at Fleep we believe that Deep Work requires a new place to organise communication around knowledge work. The inbox has reached its limit. Conversations and facts get distributed and disconnected in e-mail threads. Action items get lost in digital ping pong. Enter Fleep, a place where all your digital conversations take place, in one place.
We have consciously decided not to hound our users with notifications and bouncing icons in task-bars by default. We want our users to decide for themselves how notifications appear. Or the frequency in which e-mail reminders are sent. Or even when others see whether their message has been read or not. We want you to shield yourself from distraction.
Fleep is built to radically improve the way people work alone and together on projects. And this irrespective of whether they are all Fleep users or engaged in conversations with others via e-mail. With this confidence, users can visit the conversation they want to focus on in the moment when they want to focus on it – and they are always in charge. Always.
Fleep focusses heavily on making digital communication a pleasant experience again. But we have gone even further, in Fleep you’ll find baked-in light weight collaboration features like assignable task lists or pinned messages (aka reminders) within conversations, primarily for those users who aren’t using suites like Trello or Asana.
Shield yourself from distraction and try the Deep Work experience!
Sign up for Fleep today. It’s free. It’s addictive. It can become your one single hub for private and business conversations thanks to it’s open network and inter-operability with E-mail.
Manage Business Conversations with Fleep.
Get your team ready for Deep Work. Put the power over their attention span back in their hands. At the same time Fleep for Business offers full control over access & user accounts through extended administration features. So you and your team can enjoy the full Fleep experience plus the admin rights you need for a business environment.
About the author
Philipp is a business coach and consultant who helps teams to find the “True North” for their digitalisation programs & projects. He works with structured discovery, design methods & engaging workshops, drawing on his cross-industry experience in internal & external digitalisation along the way. Find him on digital-sherpa.me and Twitter!