Jan 24, 2023

The Relationship Between Responding Quickly and Doing Deep Work

This is copied from our Team Member Handbook.

The Relationship Between Responding Quickly and Doing Deep Work

If a message comes through, and you have 2 minutes, respond. If you have less than 2 minutes, then acknowledge receipt.

EX - "Hi Spencer. I just wanted to acknowledge receipt of the above. I am out and about but will respond within the next few hours."

Imagine the following scenario:

You are working on a project with a teammate. Your teammate needs to know how to build an automation that is critical for him/her to move on to the next deliverable in the project. Your teammate asks for your input, and it takes you 24 hours to respond. Now, the project has been set back by a full 24 hours, whereas a quick response to your teammate's question would have enabled the project to continue moving, maintaining all of the built-up momentum. The project is becoming a drag with starts and stops like these, which happen due to long response times.

Lesson: There is a massive difference between response times of 5+ hours and response times of under one hour. To get more done in a shorter amount of time, respond faster. Move faster.

At the same time, we want you to be able to focus on deep work. Cal Newport wrote a book called Deep Work, and he describes "deep work" as focusing on one cognitively demanding task for an extended time in a distraction-free environment.

Deep work is defined as professional activities performed while staying focused without distractions that push human cognitive abilities to the limit. These efforts add value, improve our skills, and are difficult to replicate. As Newport continues, "It's a skill that allows you to quickly master complicated information and produce better results in less time."

(For a summary of Deep Work by Cal Newport, click here)

We want to support your work by allowing you to focus for long, uninterrupted periods. During such periods of deep work, it is OK not to respond to Slack messages instantly because that would pull you out of your focus. Instead, checking Slack and responding once every 2-4 hours is fine. To set the expectation that your response times may be longer than usual because you are engaged in deep work, we encourage you to set your Slack status as "Doing deep work" or something similar while also pausing notifications.