Sunday, October 03, 2021

Life Lately: Virtual bible study and three tips for working more deeply

With part of the crew. Some of my favourite people in the world

One of the things I miss the most about living in Lagos is the spontaneous discussions my group of friends, affectionately known as The Crew, often have. I met the first members of The Crew when I started at OAU and joined the Student Christian Movement in 2006. I took an instant liking to Joseph, Kemi, and Wale. I met Ope through Wale in 2007, and then Detola, Bunmi, and Busola in 2008. A lot has happened in those 15 years, and we’ve stayed together for most of it, so everyone has a lot of context on everyone else. We’re often able to build on that constructively in our conversations and I missed that so intensely this past week.

So, when the idea came to me to suggest a virtual Bible Study plan, I leapt at it. Thankfully, they were up for it and we’re now on Day 6 of this lovely 7-day plan: Wisdom for Right Living. We all read the same devotional and bible passages, and then comment on WhatsApp or using the discussion space in the Bible app. It’s not the same as getting together in someone’s living room to discuss passionately, but it’s close enough, and I’m thankful we can use technology to bridge the gaps in geography.

An increasing number of young people are relocating from Nigeria in the ongoing wave of migration. As winter approaches and the days get shorter and darker, consider using tech to continue feeding your relationships with friends back home and elsewhere around the world.


I gave a 30-minute talk on Deep Work to employees at a start-up in Nigeria during the past week. While preparing, I was surprised to find I have not really written about Deep Work. I’ve practiced it for years, starting before I read Cal Newport’s work, and think about it a lot. If you’re new to it, Cal defines Deep Work as professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate. This is as opposed to Shallow Work, non-cognitively demanding, logistical- style tasks, often performed while distracted. These efforts tend not to create much new value in the world and are easy to replicate.

I wanted to share three tips for building more Deep Work into your professional life. If you haven’t, and you can, you really should read the book.

Build Routines: Deep Work is tiring (it’s hard to maintain the required focus for longer than two to three hours) and it’s easy to put off (most people are drawn to easier things than thinking hard while trying to solve a problem), so it often gets deprioritized in favour of shallow work. Therefore, most knowledge workers should pick a few hours a day that they will protect for Deep Work. For me, that’s trying to block 9 to 11 every workday. I sometimes have to take calls or respond to urgent requests, but I’m better off trying for 9-11 every day and succeeding 70 to 80% of the time than not trying at all.

Demote your Devices: While phones are easy to pick on, I think this goes beyond phones. Workplace chat is also incredibly disruptive, with people often instant-messaging to ask questions they should have sent over email. I’ve got notifications on our workplace IM app turned off. I’ve also got email notifications turned off and I often set my Outlook to “work offline” so I can control my email addiction. I recognize there are jobs that require people to check their emails frequently. The key thing is for people to approach this consciously.

Drain the shallows: A certain amount of shallow work is required of knowledge workers, but I think people need to cap it. For some, this may require renegotiating some responsibilities with their managers. I imagine many managers would rather have people deliver important projects than be great at the shallow stuff, so this shouldn’t be too much of a difficult conversation.


What I’m currently reading: Invention: A Life, by James Dyson. A modern-day Edison, Sir. Dyson famously tested 5,127 handmade prototypes of his cyclonic vacuum and ran up nearly £700,000 in bank overdrafts before cracking the design of the Dyson vacuums that made him a household name across much of the West. He has an interesting writing style, and the book is peppered with his thoughts on subjects such as growing up, education, and Britain’s place in the world today. I generally learn a lot from biographies as opposed to dry “Do this and that and you’ll succeed books” and I’m really enjoying this one.

What I’m currently listening to: The latest episode of The Guardian Long Read focuses on TB Joshua and explores his ministry and how he built such a strong and diverse following. It is objective, which I imagine will come across as critical to fans of the late prophet. The Guardian Long Read turns essays into podcasts, so this is also available in essay form here.


Have a nice week!



  1. This is great advice Koye. Building routines into my work day is something I'm still working on, I almost always end up using it for meetings/workshops because it's so hard to find time with other people when needed. Yay for bible study with friend