Reading for writing

Cal Newport outlines the basics of how he reads when working on a project. According to Newport,

The key to my system is the pencil mark in the page corner. This allows me later to quickly leaf through a book and immediately identify the small but crucial subset of pages that contain passages that relate to whatever project I happen to be working on.

For the balance of Newport’s process, see his original post. For broader suggestions about effective and efficient reading, see for example Rick Ostrov’s Power Reading and James Sire’s How to Read Slowly.

Focus—there’s an app for that

For various reasons, focus can be difficult in a whole host of contexts—at work, at home, or during recreation. One contemporary culprit that can all too easily hamper efforts to “lose” oneself in the “play” of the real world are the digital devices and media with which some of us are constantly surrounded. As a helpful set of “training wheels” to foster better focus amid such distractions, enter Freedom.

 

For a quick overview of how to configure and begin using Freedom, see the clip below.

 

For additional discussion of the significance of focus and concentration, and (especially Internet-enabled) humans’ susceptibility to distraction, see Better attention than a goldfish, Eliminating distractions, Hyatt’s interview with Newport, Productivity assessment, Skills to cultivate for better work, Staying focused, Tips for better focus.

Staying focused

Over at the Evernote blog, Valerie Bisharat has some helpful reflections on “how to avoid focus-stealing traps.” One particularly interesting study that Bisharat cites is

from the University of Texas at Austin [and] suggests that having our cell phones within reach – even if they’re powered off– reduces cognitive capacity, or ability to concentrate.

The cognitive pull of our devices is something that can be difficult to recognize, present with us as they often are. But the possibly deleterious effects on concentration that derive from having too much access to novel stimuli is certainly something that bears careful consideration.

For the balance of Bisharat’s comments, see her original post on the Evernote blog. On the same theme, see also Michael Hyatt’s interview with Cal Newport, author of Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World (Grand Central, 2016).