Cal Newport has a knack for counterintuitive insight.
His book, So Good They Can’t Ignore You, was a compelling challenge to quit trying to find your elusive vocational passion and instead focus on obtaining the kind of mastery that leads to genuine career fulfillment. (Pick a career path you wouldn’t mind getting really good at and stick with it for a while.)
His most recent book, Deep Work, is a wake up call that most of us are doing work wrong. Busyness is not the same as effectiveness. He exhorts us to escape the trivial distractions that drain our time and attention and instead block out time and space for focused, deep work.
Now he’s shared his recent TEDx Talk that is a provocative encouragement to quit social media altogether.
He makes a solid argument. Social media is primarily entertainment. And it’s particularly, deviously addictive and distracting.
Weeks ago I deleted the Facebook and Instagram apps from my phone, and I don’t miss them.
Tweetbot, though, is still on my home screen and is my most used app by far. Whenever I get even the slightest bit restless, it’s off to Twitter I go. I can disappear there for a long time, mindlessly scrolling, hypnotized by whatever others are tweeting at the moment, clicking links that lead me further into interesting if not important diversions.
I have unearthed some real insights this way, but most of my time browsing internet time-sinkholes is sadly unaccounted for by meaningful results.
I’m not ready to delete my social media accounts. But I can put a hedge around my attention and structure my time more rigidly to get real work done.
I’ve found that my best work comes after I’ve spent around 30-45 minutes ramping up my focus without taking breaks to check email or Twitter. It’s like I need that warm up time before flow sets in and then magic can happen.
Two hours can fly by once I get in that zone. And that zone is a happy place to be and exponentially more productive and more fertile for breakthroughs than ten times as much time spent flitting about the internet.
Quit social media? Maybe.
But at least shrink its hold on your attention and on the little time you have to make something worthwhile each day.