Communication is Deep Work

We treat workplace and professional communication as a nuisance. We might not admit it, but in most articles, conversations, and surveys, communication is framed as the opposite of deep work. We have things to accomplish, tasks to perform, and goals to achieve. And sometimes, we manage to do that despite emails, meetings, and constant pings from our chat apps. Sometimes. 

Thinking of workplace communication as the opposite of actual work is understandable, given how we communicate. Most of our meetings are ineffective; some are even redundant. Most of our emails are pointless; even if a few are essential, it is impossible to identify them in our cluttered inboxes. Instant messaging seems immediate and responsive, but the line between the constant chatter being helpful and intrusive is ultra-thin. 

To many, the solution is either to live with this conflict or artificially reduce communication overhead by shortening meetings, limiting the number of participants, and adopting rigorous inbox-cleaning methods. With the growing use of AI, many of us believe we can control this constant noise better and settle with automated summaries and some alien entities communicating on our behalf. 

The problem is that the premise of communication interrupting deep work is a mistake. It is a mistake that has a grave cost: it diminishes our ability to achieve greater things we cannot accomplish alone. 

We need to reframe the way we think about professional communication. Communication is essential for collaboration. Communication is the cornerstone of creativity in a world where no single person can have all the required knowledge and expertise. Communication is not a necessary evil but an essential part of our toolbox. 

Of course, rethinking the importance of communication doesn’t make it automatically effective. However, what we must do next becomes apparent when we realize communication is essential and treat it as deep work. 

When we perform deep work, we have a goal, and we expect (or are expected) to make progress in its direction. Every email you send and every meeting you attend should similarly take you closer to a predefined target. 

When we perform deep work, we pick the right tools for the task we need to accomplish. When communicating, we must decide which platform to use for the desired results. No communication platform is “the best” communication platform. Each platform is designed to achieve different things. 

We don’t need an audience when we are engaged in deep work. An audience distracts us. Likewise, the people we communicate with should be the people who can help us accomplish the tasks we are set to perform. People not essential to performing the task should not be part of the communication flow. 

Communication is an essential part of deep work. It must be. When you treat communication as deep work, you do it with care. You are intentful about it. It is way too easy to send an email or a text message or to invite more people to a meeting. But when you look at it through the lens of deep work, it is suddenly clear how to make communication way more effective.

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