In today’s connected world, productivity’s biggest enemy is cognitive overload, costing businesses millions of dollars a year. And this is as much a problem in the boardroom as in the mailroom. A Harvard Business School study found that the “average CEO spends one in three hours on activities that were not planned in advance.” This totals 13 hours per week in unplanned activities, or more than an entire day at work.
Such spontaneity has nothing to do with poor time management or scheduling skills. It simply reflects the number of situations that arise in the day-to-day running of a business that high-ranking executives have to deal with immediately.
Or do they? Some leaders don’t even realize that there is a better way than spending their days in a blur of email, rushing from meeting to meeting, says Cal Newport. The author of “Deep Work,” who is associate professor of computer science at Georgetown University, says that if instead we train ourselves to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task, we could quickly master complicated information and produce better results in less time. He insists that “deep work” will “make you better at what you do and provide the sense of true fulfillment that comes from craftsmanship.”
According to Newport , there are several ways to implement deep work, from removing distractions completely to setting a habit-forming time each day for a couple of hours’ deep concentration. Whichever route we choose though, deep work will only be effective if we have structure or rituals – putting ourselves in an exotic location to focus on a writing project, say, or locking ourselves in a hotel room until we finish a task – and if we constantly review our progress.