Deep Work Hacks & Experiments

Deep Work Hacks & Experiments
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(Justin DiRose) #1

I recently finished reading Deep Work by Cal Newport. This book quickly became one of my favorite books, as Newport concisely and clearly makes the case for both why and how we should develop focus on the work that matters.

Of all the practical advice Newport gives throughout Deep Work, there was one piece that caught my attention: making breaks from focus the exception rather than the rule.

Newport states that instead of creating blocks of time in your calendar to focus, set times where you will break focus. It’s a subtle shift in mentality, but a powerful one. He recommends writing the next time you can break focus down on a piece of paper on your desk as a quick little hack to accomplish this.

I’ve been experimenting with the results of this over the last few weeks. At the beginning of the day and after lunch, I write down the next time I can break focus. Here are a summary of my observations about this behavior:

  • The first day was really easy. I was extremely focused all day except during my focus-break times.
  • Subsequent days were much harder. I suppose it’s because building focus is akin to building a muscle. It takes time to get strong.
  • When I don’t have clarity on what to do next, I tend to break focus.
  • Days that turn into dumpster fires often have more unplanned focus-break times because my brain gets fried faster.
  • The easiest way to keep trying the habit, for me anyway, is to put recurring tasks in my task manager to write down the focus-break times.
  • I try to coordinate focus-break times with lull times in my schedule. This has been effective so far.

So far, I’m keeping up with this experiment. While I’m not successful at it every day, it’s been a helpful reset of my mindset toward my day. Focus, then intentionally unfocus, rather than try to focus the insanity of everything buzzing around and inside me.

That’s my favorite Deep Work hack. If you’ve read the book, what’s yours? What works for you to get deeper work done daily?


(Joe Buhlig) #2

Agreed. This is super powerful and I love the concept. But I struggle with a lot of the same setbacks you’ve mentioned here.

I found the same but it had more to do with routine than anything. It’s easy to break old habits for a day but when I have a pattern of distraction or the habit of small focus bursts, it’s hard to go cold-turkey on it or reverse the habit permanently.


(Mike N) #3

I don’t recall if it was covered int Deep work, however much of his advice is dependent on building weekly & daily plans, within the context of his deep work patterns (journalistic, phased, etc.) he proposes.

The narrative weekly plan outlined in the article below vs. the standard bullet lists gives a different experience when seeing how it all fits. You kind of realize your own BS when you have to write it out in this manner instead of just a list where you can fit one more thing into.

http://calnewport.com/blog/2014/08/19/deep-habits-how-a-big-city-lawyer-uses-weekly-planning-to-accomplish-more-in-45-hours-than-most-could-accomplish-in-100/

Critical note from Cal in the comments of the article:

‘Something left out of the above example is that “John” adjusted the schedule once or twice per day. In other words, the key to a weekly plan is not figuring out in advance exactly how your week will unfold (and never deviating), but instead keeping a big picture view of your week, even if shifting, so that you’re not just lurching from one thing to the next.’