Deep Work (Cal Newport)

RECOMMENDED READING

Deep Work

by: Cal Newport

Deep Work: Professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit.

Every day, distractions, interruptions, and urgent (but relatively unimportant) demands on our time attention pull us toward a state of shallow, near-sighted, and frenetic busyness. If we don’t actively create space and time to think deeply and focus on work that is truly important, the likely outcome is that we will sink into (and remain in) this state of shallowness by default.

In the first half of book, Cal Newport argues that the ability to perform deep work is becoming increasingly rare at exactly the same time it is becoming increasingly valuable in our economy. Mastering the skill of going deep work and making it the core of your working life can help you succeed because it creates new value, improves your skill, and is hard to replicate.  In the second  half, he shows you exactly how to do this.

This is an excellent read for anyone who wants their work to be meaningful, and a must for anyone who is considering graduate school, starting a company, or getting serious about writing/designing/building/creating truly useful and important work.

How to Break Up With Your Phone (Catherine Price)

RECOMMENDED READING

How to Break Up With Your Phone

by: Catherine Price

“I feel like I can’t live without you. That’s why it’s so hard for me to tell you that we need to break up”

Are you in a toxic relationship with a terrible partner? Is that partner your phone?

I read this book as part of my ongoing effort to do meaningful work, build deep relationships, learn to be generous, and cultivate peace and balance in my life. If you want any of these things for yourself OR if you just feel icky about the way your phone makes you act, think, or feel, give this a read.

The Power of Boredom (Mark A. Hawkins)

RECOMMENDED READING

The Power of Boredom

by: Mark A. Hawkins

“A generation that cannot endure boredom will be a generation of little men.”

-Bertrand Russell

It turns out, most of us are repulsed by one thing more than almost any other… boredom. We will do almost anything to avoid the discomfort that comes with having nothing to occupy our attention. We fill every empty moment with distraction that our phones so readily provide. In this provocative book, Mark Hawkins suggests that avoiding boredom prevents introspection, finding meaning in our lives, creativity, and even gets in the way of considering the ethics of our behavior.

Kitchen Brewing (Nielsen, Zetterberg, and Ottoson)

RECOMMENDED READING

Kitchen Brewing

by: Jacob Nielsen, Mikael Zetterberg, and Fredrik Ottoson

This is the latest find in my on ongoing quest to find the easiest path into brewing beer for the first time.

If you’re interested in learning how to brew beer (which I recommend, because it is great fun). This book may be the simplest way to get started and requires almost nothing beyond some basic tools you probably already have in your kitchen.

I still really like Emma Christensen’s book, Brew Better Beer and, of course John Palmer’s How To Brew, but this approach is so simple and so cheap to try, it’s hard not to recommend it as your first brewing book.

Life Advice: Don’t Find Your Passion (Cindi May)

RECOMMENDED READING

Life Advice: Don't Find Your Passion

by: Cindi May

CC Image - オシャレのDays off - Courtesy of Christian Bucad on Flickr

Let’s just round up to 600 billion results to my Google search for “find your passion”. If we split all those up evenly, that’s roughly 80 unique results for every human being on the planet.

A popular topic, to be sure, but there is growing evidence that trying to “find your passion” is, at best, unhelpful life advice, and at worst utter bullshit. (I believe pretty strongly it’s the latter).

This is not to say that passion is bullshit. It is not. True passion for what you do (and why you do it) is amazing and something we should all want in our lives. It’s just that “discovering” it, in my view, is impossible. Passion must be developed (through your development as a person).  Absent that development, passion is just infatuation.

I’ve suggested this before… and this is just another great article articulating why searching for your passion is just stupid… and what you should do instead.

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/life-advice-dont-find-your-passion/

Brew Better Beer (Emma Christensen)

RECOMMENDED READING

Brew Better Beer

by: Emma Christensen

If you’re interested in learning how to brew beer (which I recommend, because it is great fun). This is a great book to get you started.

It is extremely clear and complete, and as a bonus, Christensen includes 1 gallon batch versions of all her recipes which are much more manageable and affordable than the standard 5 gallon if you’re just getting started.

The 7 Differences Between Professionals and Amateurs (Jeff Goins)

RECOMMENDED READING

The 7 Differences Between Professionals and Amateurs

by: Jeff Goins

CC Image - オシャレのDays off - Courtesy of Christian Bucad on Flickr

If you’re eager to be a professional and not an amateur, sorry… it doesn’t just happen overnight. It takes a long time no matter how motivated or disciplined you are

But… If you want to know how to start becoming a professional, check out this solid advice from professional writer Jeff Goins.

https://medium.com/the-mission/the-7-differences-between-professionals-and-amateurs-f8efc4840861

Personal Kanban (Jim Benson & Tonianne DeMaria Barry)

RECOMMENDED READING

Personal Kanban

by: Jim Benson & Torianne DeMaria Barry

If you’ve ever been in my office, you’ve seen the giant wall full of Post-its. This is my version of the personal kanban Benson & Berry describe in their book. Their method is simple, flexible, and effective. As a bonus, it’s also based on agile project management which happens to be my jam.

There are many (many, many, many) tools and systems out there people use to manage their work, keep track of projects, and be productive. The kanban method works really well for me, and I recommend this book for anyone who wants to be more intentional about the way they work and spend their time (even if you use some other system to do it.)

You may find this particular tool is right for you, or you may not (you should be very skeptical of any system that claims to work for everyone). That said, there are some important benefits you should demand of any productivity system, method, or tool you consider using.

It should save you time, not cost you time – This seems obvious, but I’ve found it’s very easy to get wrapped up in feeding & caring for your productivity system. It can become a major distraction from getting real work done. The system should exist to serve you, not the other way around.

It should help you focus – One of the features of my kanban-style system is that it limits my work in progress to only a few things at a time (for me, it’s a maximum of three). This allows me to focus on only a manageable amount of work and free my mind of all the other things I will eventually have to deal with. Most of the systems out there do a reasonable job helping you capture and organize all the to-do’s in your life, but many fall short of helping you focus on accomplishing the work you really need to be doing.

It should help you see and understand what’s actually happening and how that relates to your priorities – This is a big deal. Is the work that’s really meaningful getting done? If not, it’s probably not (just) because you’re lazy. More likely, you’re doing a lot of work but not the important work. What’s worse, it’s probably because you just don’t really have a handle on how you spend your work time… because that can be surprisingly hard to do when you’re really busy. A productivity system won’t make the right decisions for you, but a good one will make it possible to see what you’re actually doing with your time. That way you at least have a chance to do something about it.

So Good They Can’t Ignore You (Cal Newport)

RECOMMENDED READING

So Good They Can't Ignore You

by: Cal Newport

I know for a fact someone in your life (probably a lot of people) told you the key to a successful and fulfilling career is to find your passion and follow it, no matter what. Cal Newport thinks this advice is not only misguided, but that following it can actually prevent you from finding work you can be great at and love doing.

I agree with him.

Fortunately, this book doesn’t just crush your pursuit of your dreams and leave it at that (as much as that prospect may appeal to cynical Gen-Xers like me.) Newport also offers some great advice about what you should do instead of relying on passion as a silver bullet (spoiler alert: it’s building valuable skills and experience and using that to gain more autonomy and pursue mission in your life).

Having passion for what you do is a very good thing. I want that for you… but, like Newport, I believe that will be the result of meaningful work, not the cause. If you want to figure out how to do work that you love, I hope you’ll come talk with me about it. When you do, chances are very good I’ll give you this book.