Everyone's Busy, But No One is Productive: A Guide to A Productive Workplace

What do Carl Jung, Mark Twain, and J.K. Rowling have in common besides writing big books? According to Georgetown University Computer Science Professor Cal Newport, these influential thinkers demonstrated the ability to regularly “cut themselves off from their lives of busyness and communication and distraction, and isolate themselves to think deeply.”

Newport is the author of “Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World,” where he advocates for focused productivity over busyness. He explains that for the vast majority of us, whether we realize it or not, make a living using our brains. Our brains are essentially “the main capital resources in our economy,” yet we don’t use them as efficiently as we should. Most people recognize they are distracted and perhaps shouldn’t multi-task, but the need for deep work is more urgent than simply noticing and avoiding bad habits.

In an interview on NPR’s Hidden Brain, Cal Newport proposes that “people would probably be surprised” to realize “how much they’re leaving on the table by the way they’re currently working right now.” 

 

 

What’s Wrong With How We Work?

The way that we work--especially in terms of what Newport calls “digital knowledge work”-- is a matter of convenience. The seemingly endless stream of emails, phone calls, and notifications feels like work, and it is. But it’s not deep work. The simplicity and ease we’ve prioritized has “come at the cost of effectiveness and true productivity.”

In the knowledge economy, we are using our brains to produce value. That value could be anything from marketing copy to putting together a business plan. The important thing is that we’re using our brains to process concepts and information in order to turn that into value. The way that most workplaces operate, we spend more time on those emails, spreadsheets, and phone calls rather than actually producing value.

Of course, work can’t be boiled down to simple input and output, either. Newport laments that in our dominant work culture, we’ve become “human network routers” as we “sit here and process messages and sort through task lists,” creating a “sense of busyness that treats our mind like a digital computer processor.” This busyness creates the sensation of productivity, but may not be what’s best for your brain or your business. 

Instead, Newport suggests finding a balance between deep, focused work--that inherently activates your brain’s reward system--and the less focused work required for us to collaborate with one another. The proper ratio may vary depending on your job description, but the important thing is to consider how to “optimize yourself” so that you’re not treating your brain like your browser, with a million tabs open. 

But Then How Will I Know How Productive I Am?

Focusing on one task at a time is a novelty these days, and often doesn’t feel productive at all. That twinge of shame at not constantly doing something makes finding the balance between deep and shallow work an excruciating task. After all, shallow work is still work that begs to be done, and not all of us have the attention span for consistent deep work. 

So, is there a way to measure productivity by taking both shallow and deep tasks into account? How do we quantify how much time we’ve spent on various tasks, whether we’ve created a “product” from them or not? Fortunately, you don’t have to rely on your brain to do that math, either. After all, it isn’t a computer processor, remember? 

Prodoscore can take care of it for you. It syncs with multiple applications like email, O365 and G Suite, Phones, and your CRM to measure just how much time you spend on those tasks, whether it’s a quick email response or a deeply focused report. Then, it takes all of those tasks and uses machine learning to generate a productivity score, so that you can visualize how you choose to spend your work days.

With Prodoscore, it’s easy to monitor your ratio of shallow work to deep work, and to truly optimize your productivity rather than resorting to the flurry of busyness. Demo Prodoscore today to see how it can revolutionize how you use your workplace, and your brain space.