I got yelled at by someone at work;
I got stuck in traffic when really in a hurry;
I burnt some cakes;
I forgot I was expecting a friend to come over.
All day, I was rushed. Or, at least, I felt rushed which was more my own impression than an objective state of affairs.
I have always prided myself in working well with deadlines, relishing the pressure that pushed me to do more and better. Give me ten things to do within an allotted deadline and I will most likely do them all. Or, at least, nine. Multi-tasking, rushing, organizing.
But busyness kills creativity. There is empirical and scientific evidence of this.
While I was on vacation, away from electronics, from lists and chores that needed to get done, I was brimming with ideas. Today, I twisted myself in such a knot that I got stuck.
So. After being yelled at, battling with traffic, burning cakes and welcoming the friend at the door, I did what I don’t normally do.
I sat and did nothing.
When I reopened my laptop, I happened to read a piece by Cal Newport, a Computer Sciences Professor at Georgetown, who has written about the “lazy producer paradox”, after studying extensively people who excel in their fields, and noticing that, by today’s standards, they are rather lazy.
Prof. Newport makes the distinction between Deep Work, which requires intense focus, and Shallow Work, i.e. logical tasks that require less intensity.
Deep work, the one that is bound to create things that matter, things that have the potential to change the world, requires uninterrupted chunks of time. And not the fractioned morsels we allocate to a million tasks over the course of the day.
His advice is to skip phone calls that don’t matter, be slow in replying to e-mails, saying no to the requests that interfere with what you are really should be working on.
I found his theory intriguing. And, to a certain extent, useful as I should know better than to try to cram too many things in my day and end up with only partially successful results. But, I would add, deeply focussed work also requires a mind free of clutter. Hence, the need to slow both hands and brains.
Against my best interests: stop reading now and go back to what matters.