Deep work habits
At the CUTE office, we also experience the daily struggle between ‘deep work’ & ‘shallow’ work. Do we need to do this meeting now, or is it better to work on strategic projects? Let’s look deeper into some deep work habits any manager or entrepreneur should develop.
Cutesolutions Deep Work Tips
We asked Sarah (= CEO of CUTESolutions) how she manages her time.
Getting Things Done Method
After years of teaching the habit principles from the Getting Things Done method, I finally get it. This happens to me all the time. I teach an at first sight really simple model for communication, leadership or in this case time management and then years later some hidden layer hits me. And recently it hit me how in the Getting Things Done method, you start with the control axis (getting the short-term and endless stream of daily inputs under control) before you get to managing the perspective axis (or working towards your longer-term dreams and bigger goals).
Deep work habits training and coaching
In coaching or training people, we always start with helping our participants get 4 big categories under control. First we get their email under control. Then we manage the expectations from and interruptions by others. After this we focus on their to do lists and finally their calendar. Then we give them about 6 weeks to install new systems and small daily habits. The main goal of this phase, is to help people ‘download’ everything from their minds into reliable systems, so that they can free their mind for what it is best at: creative, deep work, being present in the moment and connecting with others.
As long as we have all these to do’s floating around somewhere in our heads, we are constantly suppressing a nagging feeling of overwhelm that blocks us from using our brains to their full potential. Because our minds are not well equipped as an automatic reminder system for all of our to do’s. When do you remember that the batteries for your flashlight have run out? Right, the exact moment when your electricity falls out, not the hundreds of times when you pass the batteries in the supermarket!
A mind like water
I love the Buddhist metaphor David Allen, the author of Getting Things Done, refers to: ‘a mind like water’. When you throw a small stone into water, the water will react with small ripples and will get back to normal in just the amount of time it needs for that. No more, no less.
When you throw a big stone into water, the water will react with big ripples and it will take a little bit longer for the water to get back to normal, but again, not a second longer than necessary. What does my mind do? Sometimes it obsesses over something small, like an offhand remark someone made. And even worse, I’m sometimes shocked to realize how little time my brain spends on working out the stuff that on the longer term is really important to me. It’s like I’m always living in some state of procrastination.
The Habit Company
The funny thing is, that although in our sessions we leave only 6 weeks between both sessions. It feels like I have spent the first 15 years of my career and building my company CUTESolutions in the first phase. I was just trying to get things under control! And although I have developed some really helpful habits for more strategic time management, it feels like I am only now really sensing the ‘perspective axis’ as the more urgent stuff that I want to focus on and give all my energy and attention to. Maybe the fact that I just hit 40 has something to do with this. The longer term does not seem that far away anymore and all the more pressing. And although I thought I had some pretty decent habits for working on the ‘perspective axis’, it feels like I’ve only entered the arena.
Time for some deep work in Portugal
Last week I flew to Portugal for a week of ‘deep work’. Because I literally felt I had to remove myself from my daily life. I wanted to concentrate on the work that I am most passionate about and that I add most value with. I am still trying to figure out why I don’t spend more time in daily life on ‘deep work’. It is my goal to spend about 4 hours every day on ‘deep work’, instead of the more shallow but more obvious work I sometimes get lost in, like answering mails, attending meetings and solving the issue of the day. My week in Portugal felt rewarding, because I was working on a project I am passionate about. And in the end the potential financial rewards also justify it.
So really, there is no excuse for not working more strategically in daily life. And no worries, I’m not all about work, no play. My hubby and my ‘colleagues turned friends’ jumped on a plain to join me and spend some quality time together.
Let’s close on a more philosophical note. The Getting Things Done model is a blueprint of life. You somehow move to the ‘perspective’ axis as you get older. And suddenly you want to spend all your time there. Reflecting on all of this, I’ve decided to test some new habit loops in my life: Spend a week in Portugal for ‘deep work’ every 2 months Schedule 1 day a week for ‘deep work’ Don’t check emails before 11am Start the day with setting my 3 wins for the day (tip from Peter Thiel in Tools of Titans).
Please let us know what your Deep Work habits are in the comment section below!
Find out more about Time Management.