A year ago I read a great book Deep Work – Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport. An extremely interesting book about working deeply and focused without distractions on cognitive demanding tasks. A skill that helps you understand complex knowledge faster and helps you produce better results in less time. In the book, author Cal Newport explains that “Deep Work” is one of the most valuable skills that one can acquire today.
I have been working deeply for that last year as a programmer, and it has really been the most productive time in my life.
Before I started working more deeply, I spend like 1-2 hours each day on Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, mostly scrolling and chatting with friends. I also checked my emails like 5-10 times a day and checked my business analytics data many times each day. I often felt tired and couldn’t really concentrate for more than 30-60 minutes at a time. I worked full time on my two companies, a wine on subscription company and my own artificial intelligence consulting company. I lived a pretty distracted life back then with a lot of context shifting.
The first couple of months with deep work
The first thing I did after reading the book Deep Work, was deleting several apps on my smartphone and turned off email and app notifications. I deleted apps like Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, but kept Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Snapchat and Youtube. I also started checking my email and social media only 2-3 times a day, and started working 2 long uninterrupted blocks of 2-4 hours each day.
My new schedule was like this: Wake up around 5-6AM and then 2-4 hours or programming in the morning, after that I check my email and social media, eat, meeting/talk to clients, after that 2-4 hours of programming, check my email and social media, meeting/talk to clients, around 5 PM i’m done for the day.
In the beginning I had some difficulties getting used to the blocks of 2-4 hours of uninterrupted work, because my concentration muscles was weak. But slowly I started getting better and better at focusing for longer periods, and I started seeing really good work results in these time blocks. I could do my software development job faster and better for my clients, because of my ability to focus.
Deep work days
After the first couple of months with deep work, I started working full days of deep work 2-3 times a week. Monday was almost always business day, talking to clients, emails, etc. Tuesday was my deep work day, a full day of programming and writing. No phone calls, no emails, no social media, just focused work. It was definitely more productive for me to work full deep work days. Even less context shifting and more time for programming work.
From time to time I find it difficult to maintain this work style, because I work with multiple clients and haven’t yet fully developed my concentration skills. It can be really draining to work a full day of deep work. So I switch it up with smaller deep work blocks from week to week, to get more flexibility in my schedule.
My new maker’s schedule
I read this post about Maker’s Schedule by Paul Graham, and this post about How DeepMind CEO Demis Hassabis does 2 days of work in 24 hours. That got me thinking. Why not do more business stuff doing the during the day, and then do more programming at night. Then I more available for clients and new business opportunities during they day. At night I can work with even less distractions, because almost everybody are asleep.
For next couple of months I will try this new late night programming schedule, because I think it will benefit me more in the long term.