Manifest 11: Is it time to disconnect?

Why and how to do more work offline

👋🏼 Welcome new humans!

Happy M̶o̶n̶d̶a̶y̶ Wednesday and thanks to the 1,595 of you who are receiving this newsletter!

In this edition, we're questioning connectivity, and reviewing a few ways to do more work offline.

I've also got a few exciting updates below!


Last weekend I had an unfortunate experience with a beloved piece of technology. Getting home after a day out with the fam and not finding my phone anywhere, and decided to open FindMy. I located it...in the middle of a busy Miami highway (still working surprisingly). I'd had one of those dad moments of putting things on top of the car and forgetting it was up there. Determined to get it back, we drove back to the highway and, after a few tries, I finally found it, completely obliterated.

I wouldn't consider myself addicted to my phone, but the following Sunday, I found myself looking for it constantly, imagining notifications, or reaching for it to take a picture. I hadn't realized how often I relied on this small, magical machine for just about everything.

Later that day, my wife and I took our daughter to a class at a local park and, without a phone, I had an hour to kill.

That hour made me completely rethink my understanding of connectivity, specifically to the internet.

In one hour, I had deep conversations (thanks, Apple Watch) with multiple family members, enjoyed the sunshine, and made surprising progress on The Manifest Playbook (with no internet!)

This made me think: should we intentionally disconnect more often?

I've been thinking about this over the past few days, and came up with a few things we get wrong about connectivity, and some strategies for doing deeper work.

More connectivity is not necessarily better

"We live in an era where anything Internet related is understood by default to be innovative and necessary. Depth-destroying behaviors such as immediate e-mail responses and an active social media presence are lauded, while avoidance of these trends generates suspicion."

Cal Newport, Deep Work

It only took a few hours without connected devices to highlight how much the internet, notifications, and auto-refreshing apps diffuse our attention. It reminded me of this quote from Deep Work.

There are plenty of examples of how the internet has supercharged our economy, output, and innovation, but holistically treating connectivity as a positive prevents us from taking a more critical approach to work.

Speaking of…

We often reward shallow work

This was topical back when email was the only means of work communication. Now, with Slack, Zoom, and async collaboration, the question that pings on your screen nudges you toward action. Focusing on deep work – strategy, research, or product development – requires a conscious choice to avoid items that can feel like they require your immediate attention.

Let's take Twitter as an example. First off, I love Twitter. I've made several meaningful relationships, often connecting around common interests (most likely Notion). But, what behaviors are rewarded? Consistent and abundant content creation. This in and of itself isn't a negative, but when we factor in: work, relationships, family, hobbies, and recreation, the ability to both create high quantities of engaging content and deeper content that is thoughtful and well-researched is often not sustainable. And if we have to choose, the quick, shallow, retweetable content is what many of us will focus on.

Choosing to embark on deep work that's, dare I say, offline, can feel like an antiquated form of work that disregards the speed at which we share information and ideas.

Communication is swallowing our work hours

"Interruptions lead to mistakes. You can’t do your best work if you’re frequently distracted." Nir Eyal, Indistractable

What would happen if we didn't respond to a Slack message until, say, next week? Our means of communication have made everyone available 24/7, but it's come at the expense of deep work.

In a previous email, we went in the importance of building our attention muscle; Cal Newport succinctly breaks down what makes for high quality work:

High-Quality Work Produced = (Time Spent) x (Intensity of Focus)

If we think of high quality work as the product of time and focus, it's simple. The less focused we are, the lower the quality of work. When the day consists of bouncing between meetings, slack messages, and email, carving out large chunks of time for deep work can be a hard sell, even though the output can be exponentially more valuable.

Deep work is harder to quantify

There's nothing like making a to-do list first thing in the morning, then vigorously highlighting or crossing out each item, one-by-one. This can feel productive, but it ultimately comes down to this:

  • Are the tasks high-leverage?

  • Do they directly contribute to a key objective?

  • Do they require a high level of thought or expertise?

If you struggle to find tasks that fit this criteria, they're likely shallow work. Even though 20 checked boxes feels like an accomplishment, it can be worth reflecting on how and when you're setting aside time to tackle deeper questions, and what the outputs will look like.

One starting point: offline blocks

“Are there changes I can make to my calendar that will give me the time I need to better live out my values?” Nir Eyal, Indistractable

There's one approach that requires no extra technology, no new software, no new coursework.

Blocks of time with no internet.

Only have thirty minutes to spare? Great. You'll be surprised how much offline work can spur deep work, free of pings, messages, or social media that we can open and scroll in a few taps.

You may also find how hard it is to stay focused on one task for even thirty minutes. I've been setting aside at least 30 minutes to an hour per day completely offline, and there times when it is not easy.

Need to find something online? Make a note of it and come back to it later.

It's going to happen. You're working and want to look up a particular topic. Don't. The chances of bouncing around multiple tabs is too high, and will likely not contribute sufficiently to your deep work. If you're using Notion, this could be adding a comment to your current page, or adding a task with a reminder to circle back to it.

The internet has brought far more upside than downside, but has also take up a growing percentage of our attention, and it may be time to intentionally wrestle that attention back.

If you've used methods that have worked, I'd love to hear and include them and possibly include them in future newsletters! Email me at dave@thenotioncoach.com.


Other News

⬜ Notion’s Simple Tables are Live!

Okay, you may or may not be as excited as I am, but sometimes, there's situations where you just want to make a simple table, without any of the extra database properties and functions. Notion's database feature is one of its most valuable, but can be too complicated for some use-cases, so it's a welcome update!

I made a quick walkthrough of how it works, and some current limitations, you can check it out here:

✍🏼 Notion's Simple Tables are Here!


📑 The Manifest Playbook launches next week!

The Manifest Playbook launches next week, and we're at 150+ preorders! It's been a fun challenge to try to rethink what it means to create an interactive ebook. And with Notion's new comments functionality, it's possible to create more collective learning experiences without the need for other tools like Slack or Circle. Only one way to find out! I’ve removed the cap for using the promo code from now until launch; just type subscriber at checkout to get it for free!

📖 GET THE EBOOK FOR FREE


🤳🏼 Notion Coach is Now on Twitter and Instagram

It's been a few weeks, but I'm excited to reach more people on more platforms. Expect more educational content, and GIFs, lots lots of GIFs. 😁

Twitter | Instagram | YouTube | TheNotionCoach.com

See you next week!

David
Founder, The Notion Coach