Attempting Deeper Work
I’m in the midst of reading Deep Work. I’m about two-thirds of the way through and while it’s probably a bit hasty to jump into a review, I have been thinking about what it means to how I work and what I want to work on.
The concept behind the book is that for the knowledge worker, success comes from the ability to think and work deeply on something. Basically, to get into a state of flow.
This is extremely difficult for me with my constant need to read Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Slack, and whatever else I think needs me attention immediately.
Deep Work describes how we need to train our minds to resist shallow distractions. More than that, we need to develop a routine so that these shallow distractions don’t deplete our ability to attend to things deeply.
I’m currently looking at my schedule to see how I can structure my day, to think less about what I should be doing at any given moment, and to think more deeply about the task that I know is at hand.
The temptation is definitely there to just give up on social media altogether—especially with the onslaught of negativity that pervades the platforms right now. I believe I still get value from these platforms and can also provide value back. Thus, I don’t plan to give them up outright.
I do need to restructure my relationship with them, though. And I haven’t determined the best way to do that, yet.
07:00 Day Prep 09:00 Deep Work 10:00 Break 10:30 Deep Work 11:30 Lunch 13:30 Deep Work 15:00 Research 16:30 Disconnect 19:00 Reading
Day Prep attempts to normalize days I do and don’t have my kids with me. I get up, get them ready, and off to school. When I don’t have them, this is time I can use to go get a coffee, chill out, or do whatever. Maybe practice some meditation. I want to avoid using this time to be on my phone because I don’t want to deplete my attention energy at the beginning of the day.
Meditation in some form or another would be ideal. (The book talks about different forms of meditation that can be helpful.)
Although it’s only two hours worth, I’m trying to front load my time for deep work. The intention being that I won’t already be mentally fatigued and thus, more able to get into a state of flow.
The lengthy two hour lunch lets me go out to grab a bite to eat or stay in and prep a meal. If I have extra time, I can deal with email and other social media. This would be the first time of the day in which I would do so.
After lunch, I have my next big block of time to focus on Deep Work. This brings the grand total to 3½ hours. That’s not a lot but hopefully the increased focus during this time will bring greater gains.
Lastly, I cap off the afternoon with some research time. This is shallow activity time. This could include social media time, as well.
After all that, the early evening routine, again, attempts to normalize my days with and without my kids. When I have the kids, we’re doing dinner and homework. When I don’t, maybe I’m getting groceries. Or hanging out with friends. Or just relaxing with a book.
I wasn’t really sure what to do with the end of the day. Do I spend this time back on social media? Is there anything else that might fit in here? Having a routine of daily reading sounds ideal. Basically, finish off the day with something to sleep on, letting the subconscious process things.
When I first put together my schedule, I noticed I only had an hour and a half of deep work time by the time lunch rolled around. Putting most of my deep work time in the afternoon might mean I’d already be too tired to get into a state of flow. Thus, I switched things around to at least get a bit more time. I could use more but I think it’d mean getting up earlier and I’m not yet sure I want to do that.
How do I deal with identifying and dealing with urgent matters? If I get a text from my ex that I need to pick up a sick kid from school, do I potentially go over an hour before even noticing that I have something to deal with? I’ll need to set things up in a way to let those requests in.
Work to do
This’ll take some time and effort to retrain myself to focus. Just writing this post, I distracted myself three different times. I’ll likely move towards creating more barriers to giving into distraction such as going completely offline or (as the book mentions) doing grand gestures like taking a lengthy flight with no wifi just to get some work done. (I spent 6 hours on a plane yesterday, which I spent reading and left the plane brimming with ideas and things to work on.)
Speaking of grand gestures, one of the stories in the book is of an author who booked a $4000 flight to Japan and back, just to focus on writing. If whatever you’re working on can pay back in spades, then those grand gestures might be worth it.