Single Tasking and 12 Months of Modernism

The verdict is in; multi-tasking doesn’t work.  It has been proven time and time again.

Ever since reading Cal Newport’s fantastic book Deep Work, I have consciously worked to set up my day and work flow to accommodate uninterrupted periods of single task focus.  Let my focus be on each task, and that task alone.

Another interesting and congruent philosophy I’ve been thinking on is from Derek Sivers.  He has been on The Tim Ferriss Show a number of times and is an interesting guy.  From circus performer, to founder of CD Baby, he now basically does what he wants.  But the interesting thing is that he chooses one thing to do, then dives deep on it.  The idea being that you fully commit to something and work just on that for the full year.  Get truly good at something rather than jumping all over the place.

I’ve been thinking on these two ideas as I review this year and plan the next.  I’ll be publishing my goal list on January 1st, and as I work on the list using these ideas as a filter it has become an exercise in subtraction, rather than addition.

Spoiler Alert!

One of my goals is fairly simple, but I’m planning it in a fashion that makes it a little more structured than it might otherwise be.  I’m going to start reading all of those books that I am “supposed” to have read already; the literary Classics.  Many of these were required reading by my parents, and are consistently listed as “must reads”, but I’ve never gotten around to them.

To keep it achievable I plan to read one of these every month, with each month dedicated to a different author.  That’s the minimum.  The caveat is that if I’ve got time in I’ll read another by that author.  But by keeping the condition for completion low it will help ensure success.  Plus I’m a busy guy and some of these books are thick!

How will I choose which books to read you ask?  Well I’ve got a few ideas on that.

I started by looking at various Top 100 lists.  But the issue there is:

  1. Too many books
  2. Over too long a timespan

I want to use this exercise get to know a specific time period.  My wife reads books about the Royal family like crazy, and has a developed a deep knowledge of the period, which I respect.  I’d like to gain that same depth vs. breadth.  Plus I’d like to start with something that really interests me.

That said, the author that jumps out at me, whose works I should have read entirely by now, is Ernest Hemingway.  The man was a true force of nature and while I’ve read various accounts of his life, I’ve have not read the majority of his novels.

To continue with that theme I’ll be selecting works from each of his contemporaries each month; F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound, Ayn Rand, and so on.  I’m not sure which exact novels yet so will be open to suggestions!

And while I am a huge proponent of ebooks I feel that the spirit of this project will be better served by reading physical copies.  Buying a used copy off Amazon or better yet, a visit to the local second hand bookstore.  Read a great book, build a nice library, and support a local business all at the same time!

I’ll be posting a brief history of the author’s on the first of each month, followed by a review of the book once it is complete.  If you are interested in finally reading these literary classics then I invite you to join me.  I’ve started a Facebook group dedicated to this project here.

The novel for January will be For Whom the Bell Tolls, starting on the 1st.  I hope to see you on the Facebook page.

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