November 27th, 2015 · 23 comments
A Look Inside My Systems
I’m committed to the idea that deep work is the key to a successful and meaningful professional life. Not surprisingly, I back up this commitment with a complex set of battle-tested systems that ensure I spend a non-trivial amount of time in a state of intense depth each week.
At the moment, due to these systems, I average between 15 – 20 hours of deep work per week. I manage this even though I’m professor with a full course and service load, an active blogger and writer, a father of two young boys, and someone who rarely works in the evening.
Now I want to let (some of) you inside my world and explain exactly how I make this happen…
In more detail, I’m going to host an exclusive, invite-only webinar on Sunday, January 3rd where I will walk through the details of my deep work systems and answer any and all questions on this general topic from the webinar attendees.
Here’s the catch: invitations to the webinar will be limited to people who pre-order my new book DEEP WORK (which will be released on January 5th).
Once you’ve pre-ordered the book (of if you’ve already done so): simply click here to access an online form where you’ll be asked to enter your e-mail address and some order confirmation information.
Once we’ve confirmed all the entries, I’ll e-mail this pre-order list the information needed to access the webinar. After the webinar, I’ll also send this pre-order list a full recording of the event for those who cannot attend live.
Why am I limiting this event to people who pre-order the book?
Pre-orders carry a great weight in the modern book business. Major retailers such as Barnes & Noble, for example, now use pre-order numbers to determine how seriously to take a new release.
I’m using this event, therefore, for two reasons:
- To try to convince those who think they’ll buy the book anyway to consider pre-ordering it.
- To thank those of you who have supported my efforts over the years to spread the gospel of deep work.
This offer will only be available for the next few weeks, as we’re planning on processing all the entries before the Christmas vacation. So if you’re thinking about taking advantage of this invitation, don’t procrastinate too much.
Enough about this. Now back to our regularly scheduled programming…
November 25th, 2015 · 10 comments
After his second year of graduate school at Princeton, Richard Feynman faced his oral examinations. Feynman was not yet the famous physicist he would soon become (as his biographer James Gleick put it, “His Feynman aura…was still strictly local”), so he took his preparation seriously.
Feynman drove up to MIT, a campus familiar from his undergraduate years, and a place “where he could be alone.” It’s what he did next that I find interesting.
As Gleick explains:
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November 20th, 2015 · 22 comments
A New Book
I’m excited to announce my new book, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World.
The book will be published on January 5th (though it’s available now for pre-order). In this post, I want to provide you a brief sneak peek.
My Deep Work Mission
If you’ve been reading Study Hacks over the past few years, you’ve witnessed my increasing interest in the topic of deep work, which I define to be the act of focusing without distraction on a cognitively demanding task.
I firmly believe that deep work is like a superpower in our current economy: it enables you to quickly (and deliberately) learn complicated new skills and produce high-value output at a high rate.
Deep work is also an activity that generates a sense of meaning and fulfillment in your professional life. Few come home energized after an afternoon of frenetic e-mail replies, but the same time spent tackling a hard problem in a quiet location can be immensely satisfying.
There’s a reason why the people who impress us most tend to be people who deployed intense focus to make a dent in the universe; c.f., Einstein and Jobs.
Focus is the New I.Q.
Which brings me to my new book…
Deep Work is divided into two parts. The first part is dedicated to making the case for this activity. In particular, I provide evidence that the following hypothesis is true:
The Deep Work Hypothesis.
Deep work is becoming increasingly valuable at the same time that it’s becoming increasingly rare. Therefore, if you cultivate this skill, you’ll thrive.
The second part of the book provides strategies for acting on this reality.
Drawing on my own habits, the habits of other adept deep workers, and reams of relevant science, I describe how to improve your ability to work deeply and how to make deep work a major part of your already busy schedule.
In this second part, you’ll also find detailed elaborations of some of my more well-known ideas on supporting deep work, from time blocking, to fixed-schedule productivity, to depth rituals — in addition to many more tactics that I’m revealing for the first time.
If you want to learn more about the book, the Amazon page includes the full flap copy as well as the nice endorsements it received from Dan Pink, Seth Godin, Matthew Crawford, Adam Grant, Derek Sivers and Ben Casnocha.
You can also read this extended excerpt on Medium that discusses how a star professor uses deep work to dominate his field.
The book will be released on January 5th but is available for pre-order today on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
November 17th, 2015 · 6 comments
A Fellow Dartmouth Alum Discusses E-mail
Not long into a recent Fresh Air interview with Shonda Rhimes, Terry Gross brings up the last subject you might expect: e-mail habits.
Rhimes, it turns out, has the following signature appended to all her e-mails:
I don’t read work e-mails after 7 pm or on weekends, and if you work for me, may I suggest you put down your phone?
Gross and Rhimes discussed the details and implications of this e-mail habit for over four minutes, which is more than a tenth of the entire interview.
Listening to this exchange, I was struck by three points which I think speak to some of the larger issues surrounding work and distraction in a digital age…
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November 9th, 2015 · 24 comments
I’m currently re-reading Genius, James Gleick’s celebrated biography of physicist Richard Feynman.
I was particularly drawn to the opening chapters on Feynman’s childhood in Far Rockaway, Queens. It’s tempting when encountering a brilliant mind like Feynman’s to resort to cognitive hagiography in which the future Nobel laureate entered the world already solving field equations.
But Gleick, whose research skills are an equal match for his writing ability, uncovered a more interesting origin tale…
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November 3rd, 2015 · 44 comments
Making Time for Time
Something organized people don’t often talk about is how much time they spend organizing their time.
I think this is a shame.
The past half-decade has seen a trend in (online) time management discussions toward simplification. It’s now accepted by many that it’s enough to jot down each morning a couple “most important tasks” of the day on an index card, and if you get those done, consider your day a success.
Think about this for a moment. This belief essentially cedes the majority of your working hours over to meetings separated by bursts of non-productive inbox shuffling and web surfing.
I for one am not yet willing to give up so many hours, as doing so would significantly reduce what I’m able to accomplish in the typical week. Which brings me back to time spent organizing time…
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October 27th, 2015 · 27 comments
Here’s a typical scenario. Looking at your daily schedule, you see that you’re entering a period of time that’s not dedicated to deep work or a specific large shallow task.
This seems like a good opportunity to tackle some of the small tasks that accumulate in most knowledge work schedules (e.g., e-mails, planning, bills, looking up information, arranging meetings, filling out forms, etc).
Tackling these administrative blocks in an effective manner, however, can be elusive for most people — especially if you find yourself arriving at the office after a weekend, or a trip, or any other instance when an overwhelming number of obligations have been piling up, waiting to ambush you.
It’s easy to start such blocks with a reasonable plan, such as “let me answer some e-mails.” But this will soon generate many more new obligations than you can fit into your limited working memory at one time.
At this point, you might start lurching around, perhaps trying to knock off the new obligations as they arise (so you don’t forget them), then giving up on this goal as futile, then seeing even more urgent messages, and having those generate even more things that you can’t quite finish all at once, and then, the next thing you know, you look up after an hour of frenzied e-mailing and feel more overwhelmed than when you began!
The solution to such scenarios, I will argue, is to augment your limited neuronal capacity with some digital help…
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October 21st, 2015 · 21 comments
The Weirdo in the Woods
I took this picture last week. While most people enter the woods with a hiking stick, or perhaps a dog, I was the weirdo carrying a cup of coffee and a notebook.
But I was stuck on some early stage problems and needed some serious deep thinking to try to shake things loose — so I grabbed the tools of my trade and headed into the wilderness.
After about a half hour of walking and thinking, I stopped here to organize and record my thoughts:
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