I have long been a fan of week chunking. Over the past few years, this practice has helped me complete massive projects; writing a book, developing training material for clients, planning and launching a podcast etc. It has also helped many of my clients achieve their goals.
For those unfamiliar with the concept of week chunking, here’s a quick explanation: You decide at the beginning of the week (or end of the previous week) how you will divide your time that week. You then ring-fence certain “time chunks” or blocks of time, for specific tasks or projects. For example, you might block out a three-hour chunk of time on Wednesday to write and publish a blog post (as I’m doing right now). During that time chunk, you focus only on that specified task or project. No phone calls, no e-mails, no social media.
Try it; you will see the difference it can make to your focus and productivity.
So you can imagine my excitement when I read Cal Newport’s book “Deep Work”. His ideas and methodology absolutely resonated with me. This is how I can refine and improve my own way of working! Yes, I am delving deeper. Yes, I am now scheduling time for Deep Work. “Deep Work” takes Week Chunking to a whole new level!
Cal Newport defines Deep Work as follows:
“Professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate.”
Now, this I can work with!
In my observations working with many businesses over the years, I have come to believe that there are two main obstacles to deep work: lack of will power and distractions.
Newport nails both these issues in his book: “The key to developing a deep work habit is to move beyond good intentions and add routines and rituals to your working life designed to minimize the amount of your limited willpower necessary to transition into and maintain a state of unbroken concentration.”
I have however always believed that there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution. People differ. Businesses differ. And Newport addresses exactly this issue when he explains that there are four “Deep Work Philosophies”. Your first task then, is deciding which one (or combination) will work for you.
- The Monastic Philosophy of Deep Work Scheduling:
This attempts to maximize deep efforts by eliminating or radically minimizing shallow obligations. It usually involves lengthy periods (weeks and months) of isolation and disconnection from people and communications. They tend to have a well-defined and highly valued professional goal that they’re pursuing (For example writing a book or developing a new system). This clarity enables them to eliminate all the other shallow concerns that often overtake those who have more varied work.
- The Bimodal Philosophy of Deep Work Scheduling
This asks that you divide your time by dedicating some clearly defined stretches to deep tasks / projects and leaving the rest open to everything else. These workers admire the monks but also derive value from the shallow work they do.
During the deep sessions the bimodal worker will act monastically with intense and uninterrupted concentration, but during the shallow period, they are not so focused. You can decide how to divide your time (for example, two days deep, followed by two days shallow), but the minimum for achieving maximum cognitive intensity is at least one full day.
- The Rhythmic Philosophy of Deep Work Scheduling
This philosophy argues that the easiest way to consistently start deep work sessions is to transform them into a simple regular habit. The goal is to generate a rhythm that removes the need to decide when you’re going to go deep. It may be a commitment to enter the deep zone for the first two hours of each working day, for example.
The routine makes sure that a little bit gets done every day, even though it fails to achieve the same intensity of deep work that the previous two approaches do. This is often the most realistic method for those in standard office jobs.
- The Journalistic Philosophy of Deep Work Scheduling
Those who follow this approach switch into deep work whenever time and opportunity arises. Newport admits this is not for novices, as the ability to switch from shallow work to deep work does not come naturally or easily.
For me personally, the Bimodal approach seems to fit best with my own business and circumstances. So I’m delving deeper into Deep Work, to focus on achieving the goals I have set out for the short and medium term.