This is the first time I’m trying a “Staycation” and that too at home. After three months of Work-From-Home, needed a break before kids start school next week and so have taken a couple of days off to spend time with them. We had great fun today, making a deep-dish pizza from scratch under the able supervision of my daughters who both love baking. We have a whole day of fun activities planned tomorrow. If you have not taken a staycation – highly recommend one.
Guess what flavor pizza this was?
But, enough about deep-dish, let’s switchgear and talk about Deep Work. It’s been a challenging few months for most of us, especially trying to balance work and home-life with no real physical distancing between the two. Early in the cycle, I read two books that appealed to me. “Deep Work” by Cal Newport, and “Indistractable” by Nir Eyal.
Gist of the concepts: The key to achieving anything “great” is to be able to do “Deep Work” regularly and the ability to be “Indistractable.” Irrespective of your profession, the quantity, and quality of your deep work time has a profound impact on your output. And the power of compounding adds up when it comes to “Deep Work.”
Personal application: I entirely bought into this, and with the help of my able assistant Susan, since April 15th, carved out 2 hours per day to work intensely on a topic of focus. This has in no way impacted the rest of my work – still able to do between 8-10 meetings per day (thanks to the efficiency of Zoom calls). But, also able to spend time on things that create long-term value (or of deep interest personally). I log this on AirTable to help track the time I spend on Deep Work on a few different areas and averaging 90+ minutes of productive work (and trying to push it up further).
In the book on Deep Work, Cal had a section called “What about Jack Dorsey?” and goes on to explain that “Deep Work” applies to most people, but might not apply to CEOs – here’s a specific quote on this topic:
I was not convinced about this. And so, pinged a few of the founders I hugely respect and chatted with them on this topic. And, these CEOs, who run large organizations, are carving out 2+ hours daily to spend time on activities that involve deeper thinking. And they block a chunk of time similar to what I explained above.
For those new to this topic, check out the podcasts in Highlights and use some of the tips under Productivity to give “Deep Work” a spin. Start with one area that you always thought was important, but never got time to do. Create a two-hour window in your calendar daily (whenever feasible) and work on it for three weeks (ideally including weekends – but don’t sweat it if not possible) and see how much progress you can make.
- NPR Podcast on “Deep Work” with Cal Newport – a quick recap of the essential concepts
- Podcast with Nir Eyal – Author of “Hooked” – a book on creating habit creating technology products. A must-listen podcast to understand the downsides of being hooked to technology/social media and how to achieve more by being “Indistractable.”
Deep work leads to a state of mind called “Flow,” which is beautiful to experience. I’m sure we all experienced this state when we were so engrossed in doing something that we lost track of time. In this TED Talk from 2004, Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi talks about the importance of “Flow” to achieve greatness.
I have found a few of the tech tools suggested by Nir Eyal in his book “Indistractable” to be very helpful in blocking out distractions. In particular, I want to call out Freedom and Screentime.
- Screentime: Helps you measure where you are spending time on your mobile devices in particular. I also work with my kids on coaching them on using Screen time sensibly, using this app (by setting limits that we have agreed on mutually as suggested by parenting expert Esther Wojcicki in “T.R.I.C.K” which was one of the highlights from the last “Musings”).
- Freedom: This is a tool that helps you block out distracting apps/websites at schedules that you control across all your devices. For example, I have disabled email/social media for most of the day and scheduled 4 hours daily (distributed across the day) when I review and respond – this has been a huge productivity booster. It is important to let people know if you are doing this so that they can call you in case of something urgent. But in the past two months, I have received less than five calls – we commonly overestimate how quickly we need to reply to emails/social media pings.
The best startup founders I have had the pleasure of working with, are very good at doing what James talks about in this tweet. Maybe today’s musing can help you set your vision for what you want to achieve through deep work, and see the reality on where you are on this vision and be able to bridge the chasm.
Step 1: Know exactly what you want. Have a big vision that is crystal clear.
Step 2: Know exactly what is true. See reality for what it is and accept the honest facts of the situation.
Step 3: Be flexible in the way you close the gap between 1 and 2.
Bold. Rational. Adaptable.
— James Clear (@JamesClear) June 13, 2020
That’s about all that I had in mind for today, friends. It’s slightly more than two hours of Deep Work to get this Musing out – and I need to get back to my Staycation. I hope you find it helpful. I would love to hear your feedback and any suggestions via the comments below. To make it easier for us to jam, here’s a “Musings Idea Board” you can use to vote on ideas I’m working on, as well as a way for you to submit content that has positively impacted you.
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