Hacking Deep Work with Project Step LabelsJune 5th, 2013 · 13 comments
Acting on this equation, however, can be surprisingly difficult.
Here’s a simple hack (that came out of my recent anti-planning stretch) that has helped me rack up more deep work toward my computer science research: I append my list of active projects with a code indicating the next step I’m trying to reach (see the left column in the image above).
Having this extra column greatly simplifies my transition into a deep work mode, as my goal for these sessions is now simple: try to advance to the next steps on these projects.
This hack also works, in part, because specificity is crucial for deep work (your mind needs a crystal clear target before it will marshal the resources needed to go deep). It also works because the simple positive feedback (updating my board every time I move to the next step of a project) taps into our brain’s habit circuitry (c.f., Duhigg).
When it comes to deep work, there’s no magic bullet that will make it effortless. This work is hard. But hacks of this type can help keep these efforts from sliding toward impossible.