Minor tasks vs deep work

When I walked into a shopping mall, they gave me 10 plastic tokens.

And they said, “Each token buys one item — anything you want, whether a 10 rupee pen, a 1,000 rupee T-shirt, or a 1 lac rupee laptop. It is your choice.”

What would you say if I bought 10 pens? Stupid, right?

Yet, we do that all the time with our attention. Like those plastic tokens, our attention is finite and limited.

When we invest all our attention into checking Slack, WhatsApp, and email messages, we are buying those 10-rupee pens.

When we do minor tasks, we are buying 1,000 rupee t-shirts.

When we do deep work, we are buying 1 lac rupee laptops.

They cost the same attention (like those plastic tokens) but give us dramatically different values.

Now, the above analogy is imperfect — we can’t avoid emails or Slack messages totally. But if that is all we are doing most of the day, we are collecting lots of 10-rupee pens. Yikes!

Here is my personal experience — everything of value that I have done in my startup HabitStrong, has come from hours of focused reading and work, when my phone was often switched off.

And what about all the time I spent on Slack and email? I collected lots of 10-rupee pens. It was no good.

– Rajan

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