There’s much to admire in the central idea of Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, namely that to reproductive we need, at least sometimes, go into a mental cave and focus intensely. But why did the book grate on me so much? The random equations (e.g. high-quality work produced = time spent * intensity of focus) — so hokey, so unworthy of a computer scientist! The almost-exclusive focus on academic work, either ignoring or denigrating the “shallow” work of those in other professions. The arrogance of academics who refuses easy contact by the hoi polloi and instead rely on their assistants to open their (snail) mail. Really? And who has the luxury of an assistant these days? That said, most of my irritation came from the first part of the book. The second, where the author gives practical suggestions to organize for deep work, is surprisingly practical and accommodating of the majority of jobs that simply require a good measure of fast-paced interactions .
Tag Archives: time management
I appreciated the funny title of I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time. (Have you read I Don’t Know How She Does It? Highly recommended for its chick-lit, unpretentious, and hilarious description of the life of a harried working mother). I did not, however, appreciate its content very much,
The author, a time-managment specialist, collected time logs from “successful” working mothers. Try not to cringe when she explains that the only criteria for success is to make $100,000 per year (but at least she is clear about her methodology), or that most of the diaries were obtained through highly selective method (so much for randomness!) Her main conclusion from reading the diaries is, wait for it, that women have all the time in the world to be with their children, husbands, and friends, and even to be alone. How? Well, the author has unusual ideas about time management. For instance, she does not count commuting as work time, but as personal time since, clearly, it’s a wonderful moment to listen to an audiobook or whatnot, and in any case we may “cheat” by running an errand on the way back from work. And she feels that reading books in short bursts while cooking food in a microwave is a great way to fit reading into your life. Perhaps her book can be read that way, but certainly not serious books.
She does make good points, in particular that people who claim to work over 60 hours of work per week never do (I used to work with many of them, who constantly boasted of their exhausting schedules, shooting the breeze with colleagues in the kitchen) and that planning is best done on Friday afternoons (I am a fan). Still, the general hectoring tone was a big turn-off to me, along with the author’s habit of citing her own lifestyle as the epitome of success. I see nothing wrong with doing laundry every day or shopping for groceries yourself rather than ordering online, if that’s what you want to do. I don’t see why her way is the only way.
When I picked up Distracted I thought it would talk about how our collective inability to focus on any one task for more than a couple of minutes is driving us to personal and perhaps societal doom. And it certainly starts in this direction, with a funny story about romance in telegraph offices (so we 21st century people did not invent mechanical distractions!) And then, it starts to meander to how and why we trust others, how we tend to treat robots as people, how digital records will crumble faster than the great library of Alexandria. In brief: the book itself has attention-deficit disorder. Perhaps it’s all a metaphor?
I can’t say I did not enjoy the book, in particular the description of how people treat robots (and their dogs, as pointed out, astutely, by the author) as capable of understanding not only language but emotions. But I remain confused about its point, not to mention its focus.