I recently turned on my colleague Peter on to Cal Newport’s great book, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, and Peter really took to it. Among other things, Newport identifies four different styles of work that are conducive getting deep work done: monastic, bimodal, rhythmic, and journalist.
Peter gravitates to the monastic, which means that he needs to seclude himself and shut off all distractions for extended periods of time so he can fully concentrate on research and writing. I have found the rhythmic strategy to work best for me. I wake up every day at 4 a.m., do a quick workout, and then focus on reading and writing for three hours. If I do that, it doesn’t matter too much if the rest of the day is consumed by shallow work like email and meetings that are beyond my control.
Aside from getting my deep work done and done first thing, I also have the most energy in the morning. By the afternoon my tank is out of gas. This morning I told myself I would write a blog post later in the day and that was a mistake. Writing this would probably be better and a lot more fun if I had done it this morning. That’s the other key to a rhythmic strategy: you have to be consistent or else you’ll soon find the shallows creeping in.