Following on from my other recent posts about revisiting some of my favourite books from last year the next book I have revisited is Deep Work by Cal Newport. When I listened to it last year it helped me to change my mindset towards how I value my time and what I do with it. It spurred me to change the way I handle digital correspondence such as email and a host of messaging apps. It also helped me to consider how I plan my "extra-curricular" activities such as blog posts, books, courses etc.
I have decided to revisit it for 2 main reasons:
1) I found some of the concepts refreshing first time around and wanted to see how they connected with me a second time around.
2) I wanted to see if there were any useful ideas that I could implement in a few months when I start at the new practice.
Re-listening to this has definitely allowed me to see things in a different light. Previously I liked the concept but struggled to see how I could apply much of it apart from the simple email handling sections and the approach regarding social media. However with more thought and hindsight I can indeed see a deeper connection with dentistry.
It strikes me that a lot of what I do during my work day is actually fairly "shallow" work. That is to say, work that could be carried out by someone with not a massive level of training. Whether that is because I am doing tasks that I could really delegate to my nurse or a receptionist for instance getting out equipment, writing notes etc. Or on a deeper level, you could argue that even a lot of the examination and basic treatment is shallow work. For example carrying out a thorough examination using a checklist is not a hugely complex task that most dental students can do very effectively. The real skill comes later when trying to work out what to do with that information and relay it to the pt. I discussed an idea I have had about exactly that in a recent blog post discussing customised exam reports for every patient here:
If you compare our day with that of some dentists in highly organised practices around the world things look quite different. Eg in some parts of the world many tasks that only dentists do here can be done by nurses or therapists of some sort. This may be impression taking, administering LA, taking photos and even in some places a lot of the exam itself. This mindset allows the dentist to better use his or her skills and time doing the more complex (Deep) tasks for which they are trained therefore ultimately achieving more overall. I had not made this connection until recently and I think it is very interesting to ponder this idea. I know there is talk among those in charge of the dental education system in this country to change the way dentistry is taught so that there are a lot more therapists doing the "simple" dentistry, leaving dentists to only do the more complex work. And while I know that this is a controversial idea, in terms of maximising the skills of each individual when seen from the idea of depth it does have some merit.
The main take away messages from Deep Work for me are:
1) Stand back and take a look at how you spend your time, energy and attention. Are a lot of these very limited resources going towards fairly trivial things that either add little to your life or could instead be done by someone with a little training?
2) Ponder what you want to achieve with your career over the next 5-10 years and reallocate some of the time spent doing trivial things towards these goals.
3) Rethink the way you handle email and social media. Do you need to be as ever-connected as you currently are? My website and email now have automatic messages making it clear that people should not expect a reply instantly via these methods of communication and if they need to contact me urgently, there are better ways of doing so.
Whether you are an individual trying to make the most of your time and further your career, or if you are trying to run an efficient and effective business, then I think many of the ideas discussed in Deep Work could really help. Have a look here to get it for yourself: https://amzn.to/2qUCOa3
Dr Chris Harper