Wikimedia Engineering Productivity Team/Lunch and learn/2021-02-01

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EngProd Lunch and Learn[edit]

Archive at: https://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/Wikimedia_Engineering_Productivity_Team/Lunch_and_learn


2021-02-01[edit]

Title[edit]

  • [ Deep Work] by Cal Newport

Presentation[edit]

  • Presentation anticipated to take the whole time :)
  • Ž really liked this book. A lot.
  • High demand and low supply for people who do deep work
    • Technology (social media, phones, etc) makes deep work hard
  • Deep work: Activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration push the edge your...abilities (paraphrased)
  • Shallow work: Low-concentration, things that are easy to outsource
  • Deep work hypothesis: the ability to perform deep work is increasingly rare at the same time it's becoming increasingly valuable.
  • I build my days around a core of carefully chosen deep work. 3-4 hours a day of uninterrupted deep work creates valuable outcomes.

Part I: idea (3 chapters) =[edit]

  • Convince you that it's true
  • Learn to do hard things quickly
  • In our current economy 3 groups have an advantage:
    • those who can work well and creatively with intelligent machines,
    • those best at what they do
    • those with money
  • The ability to quickly master hard things is important -- the ability to produce at an elite level in terms of both quality and speed is imprortant
  • If you don't produce you won't thrive no matter how skill or talented you are
  • Summary: hard work more valuable than talent or skill
  • To learn hard things quickly you must focus intensely without distraction
    • Summary:
    • learning things is hard
    • learning hard things is harder
    • The only way to do it quickly is deep work, deep focus
  • Quality = time spent working * intensity of focus
  • Jack Dorsey - bigshot, twitter, Square
    • Opposite of deep work
    • Reply to email, go to meetings, sits in an open office
    • Deep work isn't the only valuable skill in our economy
      • There aren't that many people who get to be CEOs
  • Deep work is rare
  • Links for Later from Lars:
  • Trends fighting deep work
    • Open offices
    • IMs
    • Social Media
    • There are benefits to these, but it's arguable if they outweigh the downsides
  • We intuitively know there is a cost to distraction
  • It is hard/impossible to measure knowledge work
  • Principle of least resistance
    • In business settings, unless we have clear feedback, we tend to do the easy thing
    • Going to meetings is easy. Writing bad e-mails is easy.
    • "inertia always wins" - Ahmon
    • Ever had a day where you were on IRC a lot, had lots of meetings, spent a lot of time on Phabricator, but at the end of the day you don't feel like you've produced anything?
    • "Busyness as a proxy for productivity"
  • The cult of the Internet
    • We are no longer discussing tradeoffs surrounding new technologies - if it's high-tech, we assume it's good
    • Deep work requires you to think hard about the tools - and reject most of them.
    • All of these trends are bad for business, but good for you if you can engage in deep work
  • Deep work is meaningful
    • Good not just for your professional life, but for your private life
    • Examples of going to a children's performance or drinks with a friend and people are on their phones
    • Live in the moment, live your life
  • Neurological argument for depth
    • All of these constant distractions cause lasting damage to your brain (Citation needed!)
    • Your inability to concentrate causes damage to your life
    • Human beings, it seems, are at their best when they're engaged in something challenging
    • Example: Distance running
    • To build your working life around flow is a path to deep satisfaction
  • Philosophical argument for depth
    • Deep work has the ability to transform your work from "soul crushing" to "enjoyable"
    • "Homo Sapiens Deepensis"
    • "A deep life is a good life any way you look at it"
  • Part II: implementation (4 chapters)
    • How to do it -- The Rules™©®
  • Rule #1: Work deeply
    • How to work it into your schedule and support it with routines and rituals
    • Our minds prefer distractions over depth
    • We have trained our brains to prefer distractions, especially in the last decade or so
    • You have a finite amount of willpower that becomes depleted as you use it [citation needed]
      • (Editorial comment: This one is definitely Citation Needed.)
    • The key to developing a deep work habit is to move beyond good intentions
    • Add routines and rituals to your life that remove willpower from the equation -- structure your day in a way where you don't spend your willpower on non-deep work
  • Decide on your depth philosophy
    • 1. Monastic philosophy of deep work scheduling
      • Maximize deep work at all costs
      • Cut off the distractions of the world
      • Radically minimize shallow obligations
      • This is rare and most people can't make these choices
    • 2. The bimodal philsophy of deep work scheduling
      • Split your worklife into deepwork and shallow work
      • Sections could be as long as a month
      • Example of college professors taking a semester for research and one for lectures
      • Ž has taken Tuesdays and Fridays for deep work - rarely accepts necessary meetings at end of day, etc.
    • 3. Rhythmic philosophy of deep work scheduling
      • Divide your day into blocks: i.e., before work vs after lunch
      • 1 to 4 hours of deep work per day - more than 4 is pretty hard to get to and can be so taxing it uses you up for the next day
    • 4. Journalistic philosophy of deep work scheduling
      • If your days are so crazy that you can't schedule anything: work deeply whenever you can
      • Caveat: Not recommended if you're new to deep work
      • Caveat: These sections can't be too short - you need 30 - 90 minutes, at least
  • Rule #1: Ritualize
    • Where you'll work and how long
      • Keep the kids out with funny animal signs
    • How you'll work once you start
      • Might institute a ban on any internet use
      • Silence your phone, etc.
    • How you'll support your work
      • Coffee, tea, snacks.
      • Light exercise like walking.
    • Make grand gestures
      • A writer renting a room in a fancy hotel to finish a book
      • Booking a business flight
    • Don't work alone
      • Silent offices but large common areas
      • Pair programming, meetings like this one for cross-pollination
      • Pair programming is hard, but it's also productive. You can't surf the internet while you're sharing your screen and staring at code with someone.
  • Execute like a business - 4 disciplines of execution
    • Execution is more difficult than strategy
    • The more you try to do the less you accomplish
    • Act on the lead measures
      • Measure the behaviors that will drive success (Keep a scoreboard)
      • Time spent in deep work
      • "People play differently when they're keeping score"
    • Create a cadence of accountability
      • Figure out what to do to have more than good than bad days
      • Check in at the end of the week or month
    • Be lazy
      • Work hard, rest harder
      • Analogy: Rest after exercise to balance training; same is true for mental efforts
      • When you're done, you're done
    • Reasoning (for being lazy)
      • Reason 1: Downtime aids insights - let things crunch in the background
      • Reason 2: Downtime recharges the energy you need to work deeply
      • Reason 3: The work that evening downtime replaces is usually not important
    • Shutdown rituals
      • Make sure things are done, shut down, etc.
      • Establish a personal indicator that you are done working (and ideally thinking about work) for the day
  • Rule #2: Embrace boredom
    • Being bored is great exercise for avoiding distractions and staying focused
    • Try to be bored instead of checking phone, etc.
    • YMMV
    • Don't take breaks from distraction; take breaks from focus
    • Work like Teddy Roosevelt
      • Would estimate time needed for something, then cut estimate drastically
    • Meditate productively
      • Showering, walking, driving (with caution) -- try to focus on something
      • Be wary of distractions - try to focus on something
      • Be wary of looping
    • Memorize a deck of cards
      • Structured process that requires focused attention can improve your deep work ability
      • Chess
      • Stuff that you really can't do while distracted
  • Rule #3: Quit social media
    • Any benefit approach
      • you're justified in using a network tool if you can find any possible benefit to use of this tool
      • This is the "typical approach"[citation needed]
    • Craftsman(?)approach
      • Any tool that has more positive than negative impacts on your life you are justified in using (e.g.., Facebook is the only way to stay in touch with relatives)
    • Apply the law of the vital few
      • Use only a few carefully selected tools that have a positive impact
    • Experiment: Don't formally deactivate services, don't announce you're going away - just go away for 30 days, cold turkey. After 30 days ask yourself if your life would be notably better if you'd been on those services. And did people actually care you weren't there?
    • Don't use the Internet to entertain yourself!!!
      • Instead of feeding your brain with internet junk food, think about healthy alternatives.
  • Rule #4: Drain the Shallows
    • Avoid shallow work as much as possible.
    • Spend as much time on deep work as possible.
    • Schedule every minute of your day.
      • It's important to have a plan, it's less important to stick to it.
    • Quantify the depth of every activity
      • How long would it take to teach a new person to do this? The longer it takes the deeper the work
      • Shallow work budget at work: drop some meetings, etc
    • Finish your work by 17:30.
      • Have a fixed time when you start and end.
      • Don't plan to work for 12 hours.
      • Pick 8 hours of your day - 4 for shallow, 4 for deep - and stick to it.
    • Become hard to reach.
      • Make people who send you e-mail do more work
      • Do more work when you send/reply to mails
        • Can you craft a reply that will resolve this thread immediately?
        • Don't make an easy reply that goes on forever.
        • Putting more effort into each message means fewer messages.
    • Don't respond.
      • We've been trained that not responding is rude.
      • Don't respond to things where nothing really bad will happen if you don't respond. (?)
  • Conclusion
    • Deep work is hard, and powerful:
      • "Deep work is more powerful than most people understand"
    • Deep work requires hard work and drastic changes


Discussion Notes[edit]