How Deep Is Your Focus?

In June, the I Mostly Read it Book Club examined Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport. So, in 2021, on the heels of a year-long pandemic, exploding social justice movements, and a tumultuous political landscape, she was again drawn to the book’s relevance. “I was reminded when I reread it about the ability to be intentional with my time, and that I have that right. And the first time I read it, it almost gave me permission to do that. And the second time . . . it reminded me of that, and it reminded me of how effective that could be,” she explained. 

As is often the case (almost the expectation), most of our book club members hadn’t finished the book. But that neither stops nor discourages anyone from sharing their opinion. We rely on the discussion leader to guide and frame our thoughts in the context of the book. We embrace this dynamic way of learning and engaging with the lessons.

During the discussion, Jody Seibert of Fix Your Accounting, a Bozeman, Montana-based business, observed, 

You know, we’re constantly dealing with distractions and trying to write them off. I keep trying to turn off more notifications—silence the phone completely. You know, all those things that he talks about, but yet so many job descriptions you see out there say “you need to be able to multitask” and promoting [sic] that distracted way of working. This book is extremely relevant because distracted working still does not work. But yet, so many are still advocates of those inefficient ways, yet we’re a society obsessed with productivity.

At that moment, Regenia acknowledged Leslie Wright of Collective Clarity, as it seemed she was ready to chime in. 

Leslie’s response? 

“Oh, no, I, I was multitasking.” 

The poetry of this deadpan moment sent the group into that ‘been there; done that’ kind of laughter.

Later, Leslie shared that in her previous role in a large nonprofit, she felt constantly pulled, “almost frantic” about the fact that she could never fully immerse herself into her work tasks. Like many of us, she can tolerate that tension for a while, “but it inevitably proves to be an unsustainable drain on our energy, our quality of work, and quality of life. So, we understand intuitively when Newport writes ‘what we choose to focus on and what we choose to ignore—plays in defining the quality of our life’.”

Intellectually, we understand the need to focus, but we don’t always maintain discipline. That is the point of the book, though—we know it; we don’t do it; so here is why we should, how we should, and how to get started. 

 Yeah(sigh), we know. 

The conversation turned to another one of the book’s topics: that constant pull of social media so many of us lament yet give in to on a routine basis. We debated the need to recognize every update, comment on the various posts, have accounts on all social platforms, and more. While our behaviors all differ, our experiences inform one another and challenge what we think we know. 

As with every session of the I Mostly Read It Book Club, the bottom line of this discussion on Newport’s Deep Focus is, “it made us think.” In that way of thinking, we plant the seeds of big ideas; and in the conversations, we tend and nourish the sprouts that they may one day bloom. The books we choose as part of this book club facilitate conversations. It is in the conversations that we build knowledge. So, for that one hour, we are in Deep Focus. 

Grow a garden of big ideas with us! We invite you to join us for future sessions of the I Mostly Read it Book Club. We host them on the third Wednesday of every month. Check the NewBoCo Events Calendar for the next session.