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Phil’s Picks for August: Nathan Lozeron on Deep Work

Things I noticed this month that look useful for leaders …

Nathan Lozeron on Deep WorkDeep Work, Cal Newport

I continue to be impressed by Nathan Lozeron’s animated book summaries. And the one-page pdfs he creates to go along with them.

Unlike the big, corporate, paid-for book summary services, which appear to be written by robots, Nathan’s strength is in engaging with the ideas and highlighting the most powerful stuff AS HE SEES IT – using his judgement.

And after watching or reading just one of his pieces you quickly get to trust that judgement.

Nathan gets to the nub of things. And as his purpose is to improve our productivity, that’s what you want: all lean, no fat; the essence in minutes; or even a minute. It’s more of a distillation than a summary.

Nathan published his assessment of Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, in July. I just got to it in August. But, hey, it’s a distracted world, right, and I’m running behind.

How we learn

The learning model my company uses for leadership development is an “attention-based learning model”. All models are or should be, really. It assumes that attention, not information, is the scarce resource. And that the job of leadership development today is to grab attention for literally a minute or minutes at a time each day.

And give the learning leader an inspirational “I never thought of it like that” or “That confirms something” or “Oh, so that’s the opposite of what I thought to be true” or “Clever! I’ll try that this week and see if it works for me” moment.

The “Aha!” moment in other words. You have to push away other distractions for just a few minutes for that seed to get in and to take root.

The problem with that is …

‘Micro-lessons’ as the L&D (Learning & Development) world call this approach, need to have beneath them a kind of flowing stream or theme – the learning curriculum, I guess – that is not necessarily visible, but that connects ‘bites’ of learning into a direction of travel. That creation or collecting and knitting together of ‘moments’ of learning needs a curator. Well, that’s how we do it anyway.

Because fleeting moments do not make – if they are not connected thematically – a deep learning experience.

And that applies to the value of the work we all do in a hyper-connected world. Or, as Nathan distills it, too much of our work becomes shallow work as we rush to keep ahead of the in-tray or in-box:

The Dangers of Shallow Work

“Shallow work includes work that involves ‘non-cognitively demanding, logistical-style tasks, often performed while distracted. These efforts tend to not create much new value in the world and are easy to replicate.’ 

Shallow work fails to produce innovative solutions and expert skill levels because…

1. ‘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 group of neurons you actually want to strengthen.’

Without intense focus you can’t generate myelin in the brain, making it difficult to learn complex skills and produce at an elite level.

2. Shallow work generates attention residue: ‘when you switch from some Task A to another Task B, your attention doesn’t immediately follow—a residue of your attention remains stuck thinking about the original task…even if you finish Task A before moving on, your attention remains divided for a while.’

3. ‘Unless your talent and skills absolutely dwarf those of your competition, the deep works among them will outproduce you.’

Nathan’s full distillation of Deep Work, by Cal Newport, and how to incorporate it into your daily schedule, is on his site here . It includes his usual brilliant video animation to help embed the learning.

Nathan Lozeron


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