A January Experiment: Focused Deep Work

Late in November of last year, I took on some new responsibilities at work. My team grew. My role grew. The amount of stuff I’m responsible for grew.

I’m going to have to do some things differently.

So in January, I’m going to experiment.

First, I overhauled my schedule so that I can have a solid block of focused work time each day, mostly first thing in the morning. Making this happen took an amazing (to me, anyway) two hours of focused effort on overhauling my calendar – but while I was at it, I also built in three visits to the gym, two long walks, and a preset day to work from the San Francisco office. This is all weekly, so it gives me a lot more predictability, and I feel good about having that work time to look forward to.

Second, over time I’ve gradually reduced my own multitasking. If I’m in a meeting, I don’t take my laptop, just a notebook and pen. This reduces the temptation to check email, especially becauseā€¦

Third, I’ve turned off all email and chat notifications on my phone. I’ve also decided not to check email until after my daily focused work time.

So that’s January! I’m looking forward to seeing how it goes. I’m hoping that in combination, these changes will lead me to get more thoughtful work done, at a greater level of depth, while feeling less scattered.

2018 -> 2019

2018 was tough. In pretty much every aspect of life except work, 2018 was full, it was difficult, it was a headache and a pain both emotionally and physically and logistically (yeah, I know, that’s more things than ‘both.’ Too bad). I don’t know when I’ve ever spent so much time scheduling, and I hate scheduling. And scheduling was when I got a handle on things.

Some of the full was good. I travelled to Australia, and Tokyo, and Tel Aviv, and New Mexico, and New York (twice). At home, the avocado tree didn’t die. The deer in the yard are more used to me, and watch me cautiously instead of fleeing. There’s a red-shouldered hawk that’s taken to hanging out on the fence or cedar (cypress? I can never remember) tree. The house remodel, awful though it is, did start, and make progress. There’s now a ceiling light in the master bedroom, among other things. I published my first poem (thank you, Modern Haiku!) and was invited to be a featured reader at Coastside Poetry (coming up in February – thank you, Coastside!). And there’s work: work was a bonus this year. I joined a team I love. I took on new responsibilities I’m excited about. Plus I just like it. Work right now is, and throughout 2018 has been, my calm and happy place. I’m almost inexpressibly grateful for and excited about that.

In 2018, my goals were simple. Trust my energy. Find some whitespace. Get comfortable with uncertainty. Follow some patterns that work for me (morning planning, meditation, flow). That worked… okay-ish. I liked the idea of not having set goals, but I also often felt scattered and reactive, and until I sat down to think it over at the end of the year, I didn’t have any sense of progress. Plus I don’t like meditation; my notions of whitespace were vague; and the need for scheduling that is simply a side effect of travel house remodel new work responsibilities felt antithetical to uncertainty. By the end of the year, I’d taken on a ‘one day at a time’ approach that seemed to work; realized I want more of an ongoing sense of progress; and thanks to an ‘ack’ moment involving a favorite dress not fitting, realized I have a serious need for more fitness.

On to 2019!

#planning #goals

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