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nothing time is for deep work


Staff member
Feb 16, 2024
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In slow media for the great reset I noted that one nice thing about blogs is that there are few trolls because it takes more time write a comment on a blog post and often there is an approval process. Plus, anyone can easily delete crap comments from their own blogs. If more people engage in longer form writing and share through blogging, we may collectively address some of the challenges we face with the misinformation and disinformation on consumer social media. Perhaps ‘slow media’ can slow the reversal effects of digital platforms which create a mono-culture of noise without meaning and meme wars. Or, in the words of Marshall McLuhan, “The ignorance of how to use new knowledge stockpiles exponentially”.

I see sensemaking as a manual skill, which can be assisted with various tools, but the most important tool is our mind, using good practices. One such practice is working asynchronously. Dealing with complex challenges is not assembly-line work, but rather constantly putting together ideas and concepts and looking for patterns to emerge. It requires time for reflection. As Albert Einstein stated, “Combinatory play seems to be the essential feature in productive thought”. Doing deep work requires time. Many people during pandemic lock-downs have found that working from home (or elsewhere) gave them more time for thinking.

Knowledge and creative work requires time apart from others. There are times for collaborative synchronous work but this cannot be the dominant mode of work. Unfortunately, it is how many organizations are structured. As a result, deep work is done on evenings and weekends and often the best workers burn out over time. In addition, many managers have little experience or have not been trained in how to manage asynchronous work. They believe that they need to be present while others work. In fact, managers often make deep work more difficult for others.

An asynchronous work model, for example, empowers individuals to tackle complex problems on their own schedules based on critical thinking rather than constantly reacting to requests in real time. That approach values depth over shallow busyness and allows time for reflection. So that speed and agility are harnessed productively rather than becoming an end in themselves.” —why i think slow and embrace asynchronous work

The only reason to come together face-to-face is for people to be in conversation with each other! —Nancy Dixon

We have known for a long time that offices are often not the most productive places for deep work. As I said in flip the office (2014), instead of going to work, we should be going to socialize, converse, and collaborate. Productive solo time is not for the office. Knowledge workers can be productive anywhere but at the office.

My colleague and friend Jay Cross understood this.

“Visualize the workflow of a physical job: produce, produce, produce, produce, produce, produce, produce, produce, produce.

Now visualize the workflow of a creative knowledge worker: nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, flash of brilliance, nothing, nothing, nothing.”
Jay Cross

‘Nothing’ time is for deep thinking.
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