Deep Work Update #3

I just got a fantastic year-in-review breakdown from RescueTime that showed how I spent my (screen) time in 2019. It gave me some really insightful and beautiful data visualizations like this:

Screenshot of RescueTime's year in review showing that I logged 2,647 hours of screen time in 2019.

Dot graph from RescueTime's year in review showing that my average day entailed logging 7 hours and 19 minutes

Area graph from RescueTime's year in review breaking down the different categories of activities I do on my computer and phone

Histograph graph from RescueTime's year in review that shows my top activities, with Communication and Scheduling occupying 24% of my time.

Aside from the depressing realization that 30% of my year was spent looking at a screen, there’s some incredibly valuable stuff in here.

I shared this on Twitter, and Dave asked “Are you still scheduling every minute of your day?” The short answer is: yes and no. Here’s how my approach has changed since I last discussed it:

  • I scaled back the strictness of my calendar because every time a meeting request came through (which is OFTEN), it required me deleting/moving an existing block of time. That got really really annoying so I yanked out the specific blocks while still keeping the spirit of it.
  • Instead, I’ve landed on a general shape to my day. My morning is dedicated to deep work until meetings pull me away. Depending on Meetingville, I can return to deep work. At some point I eat lunch. I wrap up at 5:30 to go hang out with my family. After my daughter goes to bed, I might dust off my laptop to tackle some shallow work or side project stuff.
  • My shallow work time got more or less pushed out entirely because our client work has been burning so hot. Basically all of my work for the past number of months has been either meetings or deep work (meaning bill-paying work), which meant that handling things like email got pushed out into nights and weekends. Booooo.
  • I defined clear client working hours. Despite client work occupying so much of my time, I’ve been adhering to strict client working hours of 8:30-5:30. And in 2020, I’ve been stopping client work at 4PM on Fridays. Now that my client work has gone from a breakneck pace to a steady pace, I’m hoping to weave in writing, side projects, and other deep work activities into that working time. But it’s been great to set some strict boundaries about client work.
  • I got good at Notion. I’m really excited to write about my Notion workflow, but setting up a productivity workflow in Notion has helped me feel like I’m standing on solid ground. Again, excited to share more.

Ultimately, I feel like the concepts of deep and shallow work have stuck with me even as my specific execution has morphed over time. Change is a constant, so I anticipate things to continue to morph. And that’s ok! Looking forward to sharing more.