At some point this week, you’ve probably been distracted by something while working. Getting back into your focused state might’ve been easy or hard or hard enough that you didn’t get focused again for the rest of the day.
Intermediate packets might help.
It’s a concept from Building a Second Brain to describe a form of expression (E in the C-O-D-E framework).
Reading a book from cover to cover is difficult. Writing it straight through would be nearly impossible. Instead, it helps to compose the book from intermediate packets.
The internet makes it possible to share intermediate packets and create feedback loops as you go along.
If the first thing you share for feedback for a 250 page book is a 350 page draft, you’ll only be able to get high-level feedback from people with patience to read 350 pages of unpolished work.
If you share an idea as a tweet, then 3 pages here, a full section there, you’ll be able to get more diverse feedback.
Another benefit of intermediate packets is that they’re things that you can start and finish in a working session without creating an open loop that drains your energy the rest of the day.
Unfinished work can create attention residue that pulls your attention from the work in front of you right now. From Cal Newport’s Deep Work
The problem this research identifies with this work strategy is that when you switch from some Task A to another Task B, your attention doesn’t immediately follow—a residue of your attention remains stuck thinking about the original task. This residue gets especially thick if your work on Task A was unbounded and of low intensity before you switched, but even if you finish Task A before moving on, your attention remains divided for a while.
The reason I started writing this post was because a friend sent a link to this Brian Scalabrine interview where he talks about playing against amateurs.
I wanted to share it in some form but felt some friction. I’d want to grab a quote from it but didn’t want to transcribe it immediately since I wanted to listen to the entire thing first.
I didn’t really have an idea for a full post to write about it or where it might fit into a bigger post.
I didn’t want to just throw the link into Evernote either. (David Allen jokes that Evernote is Write-only for many people. I fall into that category more often than not.)
And it just reminded me of the BASB lesson about intermediate packets and that the goal is to know what to work on based on context, usually time and mood.
- Malcolm Gladwell writes in the morning. He loves running but feels it’d be a waste of all that cognitive energy available in the morning if he used it for a run.
- Ryan Holiday reads and writes in the morning and similarly loves running. He’ll run in the morning only if he knows that he won’t be able to make the time for it later in the day.
- Shea Serrano often tweets “prime writing hours” after 11pm-ish
It’ll be different for everyone.
In my case, I don’t quite have an answer for “I just want to share a quick link and a quote”. But I can use this blog as my home for intermediate packets of all sizes.
Share a link + some thoughts. (This post got longer than expected.)
In Deep Work, Cal Newport writes about counter examples: CEOs of large companies who live lives wading through distraction while still being effective:
Why? Because the necessity of distraction in these executives’ work lives is highly specific to their particular jobs. A good chief executive is essentially a hard-to-automate decision engine, not unlike IBM’s Jeopardy!-playing Watson system. They have built up a hard-won repository of experience and have honed and proved an instinct for their market. They’re then presented inputs throughout the day—in the form of e-mails, meetings, site visits, and the like—that they must process and act on. To ask a CEO to spend four hours thinking deeply about a single problem is a waste of what makes him or her valuable.
Which does have a connection to Brian Scalabrine. To play in the NBA, you need to be a hard-to-automate decision engine. Scalabrine talks about playing amateurs 1-on-1 on Duncan Robinson’s podcast:
In the NBA you’ve got to be so on top of the reads.
It’s not… it’s not speed.
You can’t look at me and say my brain is slow. My brain is fast. My body might be slow. But you have to read whether a guy’s going to shoot, drive, go to the middle, go to pass.
If you’re not reading those things, you’re not playing in the NBA. There’s countless guys—6’10” athletic, strong—and they don’t read the intricacies of the game. They don’t see a hesitation dribble. They don’t move until the ball is passed.
Duncan, I’m moving when the ball is on the gather. If I’m not, I’m dead. I’m dead in the water.
Me having to analyze the game like that. It allows me to play a guy 1-on-1, I can literally, in the middle of his inside-out move, think what I’m eating for dinner and still challenge his shot. It’s not like I’m doing this against high-level people.
He’ll also remind you: when it comes to basketball skill, he’s much closer to LeBron James than you are to him.