tech, simplified.

Ever wondered if you'd work better in a cave, without a phone signal, internet access, TV, or anything else to distract you? Perhaps you write the next great novel, or invent the next big thing. Or at least, you might quit reaching for your phone at the first hint of boredom.

It's hard to do your best work in our distracted world, harder still to focus only on what's most important. And so, author Cal Newport in one of 2016's most popular business books argues the virtues of what he calls Deep Work. With academic data and real-life examples, he teaches the value of focused work—not hard work with long hours of overtime, but a dedicated part of your day where you work at your fullest.

On the flip side is another of 2016's most popular books, Messy from author Tim Harford. It sings the praises of messy desks and chaotic workpaces, of the benefits of strikes and misplaced instruments. It reminds us that genius doesn't appear in a vacuum, that it requires a spark to bring it to life. And that spark so often is the messiness of life.

Opposites, yet so similar. Here's what I learned from both books—and how you can apply their lessons to do messier, deeper work this year.

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