Category Archives: Workplace issues

Deep Work Experiment – Day 1

I have been reading the book Deep Work by Cal Newport.  I have made it through the theoretical portion of the book and am now in the practical  section where you attempt to put the ideas into practice.

I do not remember how I came across the book but I was patient and it was finally available at our local public library.

I think the interest in the book has been fueled by a frustration of sorts that I have faced more recently when the company I work for moved into some new facilities.  I am glad that we have new facilities but I am finding it hard to adjust to the new normal of the open concept floor plan where there are no cubicles or dividers.  Offices are reserved for those who are director level and above.  There are huddle rooms, focus rooms, etc.  The focus rooms are a bit small and tend to be on the claustrophobic side.  The huddle rooms are good especially if you have a day full of conference calls.  Working on the floor is nothing more than a big distraction now that there are no walls.

Before I go any further, I think it is important to define what deep work actually is:

Deep work:  Professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit.  These efforts create new value, improve your skill and are hard to replicate.  (Deep Work – pg.3)

It is also important to understand what the opposite is – shallow work

Shallow work:  Noncognitively demanding, logistical style tasks, often performed while distracted.  These efforts tend to not create too much new value in the world and are easy to replicate. (Deep Work – pg. 6)

Through personal experience and reading enough articles on the subject, I knew firsthand that multitasking does not help one become more productive, it makes one stupid and less productive.  Not only is multitasking bad, being distracted is equally as bad.  We are distracted by notifications from our smartphones (guilty), notifications when we receive an email in our inbox both on our smartphone and while using our work computer (guilty). Instant Messaging at work is another major distraction because we are always reachable.  Once we respond to those distractions, it is very hard to get back to what we were doing.  How many times have you been in the midst of something and something beeps at you, whether it is email, instant messenger, etc.  For the record, I silence my phone while I am work and have most notifications turned off.  My phone is not my biggest distraction during my workday, it is the tools like email and Instant Messenger.  I will admit it is very convenient to “ping” someone to ask them a quick question rather than clogging up their email in box with another email.  I have been guilty of using Office Communicator at work to do this, not realizing I could have been contributing to someone else’s distraction.  I know that I have been distracted many times in the midst of a task by an IM and I also know how hard it is to get back on task.

For several weeks, I was already frustrated with the new “open” floor plan but I also noticed that I was unable to really make any significant progress on my daily work.  Before writing this post, I went back and checked my work calendar and there were two days where I had very little time to get my real work done.  I spent those days in meetings, on conference calls, dealing with email, etc.  Ironically, on April 13th (my birthday) I was literally busy from the time I arrived at work shortly after 8 am until lunch time at 12:30 and then again from 1:00 until I left around 4:30 pm.  I had two open slots that were unscheduled, but I was so distracted from various back to back meetings and conference calls that it was hard to focus for those “open” time slots.

I decided to try to see if I could do Deep Work today and it was the perfect day to try it because for the first time in weeks, my work calendar did not have one meeting, one conference call on it.  I went in last night and blocked my time in 90 minute increments for my larger tasks.  When I got to work I was going to use a huddle room, but there was some issue with the wireless network, so I had to drag my stuff to a desk on the floor and resign myself to being distracted at some point because of the noise, chatter, etc.  One of the first things I did was turn off the annoying sound and the display when you receive an email in Microsoft Outlook, you know that annoying box that comes up when an email arrives.  That is doing nothing more than training people to be like Pavlov’s dog, when the chime goes off and the dialog box appears, you check the email.  I tried something different, I turned off the notifications and gave myself a 30 min period in the morning to deal with emails and I didn’t close out Outlook, it stayed open but I didn’t check it every ten seconds.  That was hard because I was so used to feeling like I had to respond to every email as soon  as it hit my inbox. I think as long as I respond back in the same day or within 24 hours is acceptable.  This experiment worked because I didn’t feel as stressed and I was able to get through all of my emails for the day.

I did an assessment of my data and productivity and found that I had one of the most productive days that I have had in a long time.  I plan on trying to do more deep work tomorrow.

I also plan on writing a more detailed review of the book Deep Work once I finish the remaining pages that I have left.




The rules must be different… double standard at HP

The news broke on Friday regarding the resignation of Mark Hurd as the chairman and CEO of HP (Hewlett-Packard).  The reason for his resignation was given that he was the subject of a sexual harassment complaint. The related investigation also uncovered that he also falsified expense reports in order to conceal the inappropriate relationship, even though the relationship was not sexual in nature.

So, the bottom line is that Hurd was forced out for dishonesty and such actions would get most employees fired without any recourse.

But here is the kick in the gut (especially if you are an HP shareholder)

According to CBS News, Hurd will get the following:

  • $12.2 million severance payment and 350,000 shares of HP stock worth around $16 million according to Friday’s closing price.
  • Extended the deadline to exercise an additional 775,000 options of HP shares.

I guess that when you are a CEO and dishonest, you can lose your job and get rewarded.  If a normal employee had done the same thing, they would have been fired and been given nothing!

I think that HP shareholders need to ask the Board of Directors some hard questions.  Why would they “reward” a dishonest CEO with an unbelievable severance agreement along with other perks?

I guess I will have to teach my son that in some cases dishonesty does not have a severe penalty. This one is going to be tough to explain. Luckily my son is only 4 and does not understand this stuff, but older kids and some adults may have questions also.

What really bothers me is that the CEO of the company that I work for serves on the board of HP!

Enough said… your comments or opinions?

Can we really limit speech – Political Correctness gone too far!

Recently, I was made aware of a situation where I work regarding a person in authority told a subordinate that they were not allowed to use a certain word.  That word was “huddle” .  When I first heard this, I laughed and thought that it was a bit over the top.  I then inquired as to why the prohibition against the word usage.  I was told that the word “huddle” reminded this individual of sweaty football players and the violent nature of football itself.  I was still in shock because the context in which it was being used was a meeting to go over some strategy.  I felt like the usage was creative and no meaning of violence was created.

After I had time to think and process this, it made me angry for several reasons:

1) Outside of using speech that is either unprofessional or rude in nature.  This individual should have not been rebuked.

2) I was reminded of an incident I had with this individual some time back and I used the word “rant” to describe a caustic email that I had received.  I was told that “we do not use words like this”

3) The person who objects to words like “rant” and “huddle” is a staunch liberal and has no shame  in dropping not-so-subtle hints regarding their liberal ideologies.

4) What is worse is that this action will go unchecked.  The person directly involved will not discuss it further with senior mgmt because they fear for their job and the doctrine of political correctness in speech will continue to be propagated unless someone says something

If I were involved, believe me, I would speak up and go as far up the chain of command that I could!  This is not about just controlling someone’s words, it is about freedom of speech in general!  What is worse is that this person has managed to make it into a substantial leadership position in the company that I work for.

What would you do?  Comments are welcome and encouraged!

How bold are you?

Read this post and ask yourself that question…

Personally, I was convicted and challenged by this post.