CHAPTER 3Develop deep and wide focus

In his book Deep Work, Cal Newport suggests that the ability to perform what he calls ‘deep work’, or the ability to focus deeply on a topic, is becoming increasingly rare at the same time as it is becoming increasingly more valuable in our economy. This skill that can set us apart in a crowded workplace, one possibly changed immeasurably by AI and other technologies in the future, is harder to practice as our workplaces become more distracting, and our workdays become busier and more compressed.

For leaders, being able to focus deeply is one of the skills that we must practice and protect if we are going to truly add value in our role. But it is not just about being able to focus deeply. The real skill for leaders is being able to focus deep and wide, and to move between these states with ease (see figure 3.1, overleaf).

As we have already discussed, being productive is a mix of managing your time, energy and focus. When it comes to focus, how we manage our attention, and subsequently, how we then manage our time and energy around the things we need to do, is key. An effective leader needs to be able to focus in two ways. They need to be able to:

Schematic illustration of deep and wide focus.

Figure 3.1: Deep and wide focus

  • divide their focus across a wide range of topics or issues, ensuring nothing slips through the cracks
  • concentrate deeply on certain topics in order to understand ...

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