The Deep Work Experiment: Week Two

What is the Deep Work Experiment? Click here to catch up.

I’ve been thinking about this experiment a little bit like starting a diet, or a new exercise regime. The first couple of days you are fuelled by excitement – you fill your cupboard with unexpected ingredients (quinoa! bulgar wheat!) and schedule an ambitious schedule of hitting the gym 5 days a week.

In the initial phase of any lifestyle change you are fuelled by motivation: the seductive vision of what your life will be like once you have reaped the benefits of these changes drives you forward, sustains you through dinners that are not pizza, and encourages you to keep going to the gym even when you are tired.

But once that initial stage of excited fizz has faded, once you settle into a new routine that at times feels boring, or tough – well, that’s when things get more interesting. This is where your capacity for discipline comes in: your ability to get yourself to do things that might seem boring, or difficult because your rational brain is convinced of their benefit. It’s the reason we floss – no-one likes flossing (do they?) – but we understand the health benefits of doing so, and so we floss (with greater or lesser regularity depending on your own personal oral hygiene routine!).

There are elements of the deep work experiment that I’ve been having more difficulty continue implementing. Here’s a summary:

  • Keeping a daily journal and account of my deep work practice completely fell off the rails this week. I’m debating whether this is something I want to continue or abandon as it wasn’t particularly drawn from the book – in theory it seems like a good accountability tool, but if it doesn’t work for me, I’m not sure how far I want to push it.
  • Scheduling emailing time, blocking out my schedule for different types of task… I love this in concept and yet I got a bit lax in putting into action this past week. I think partly because I’ve been using email as a substitute distraction for social media (whoops). I want to be more aware of my tendencies here and make a conscious effort to avoid task-switching and dipping in and out of emails as a way to distract myself.
  • Making time for boredom hasn’t really happened. I think I’ve uncovered what is actually a deep-seated discomfort with being quiet and alone with my thoughts. Which probably bears further examination.

One thing that struck me as I began to feel bad about my “failures” from this week was another analogy from my experience of changing my eating and exercise habits: it’s really easy to do too much at once. In our initial enthusiasm, we swear off everything that even has a passing resemblance to a carb, and schedule every spare minute to be spent in the gym. We forget to be kind to ourselves, and that this isn’t a race. Real change, lasting change, takes time, and effort. And that’s ok.

And then I looked at my scoreboard (number of words of my novel written this week) and to my surprise I’d done much better than I’d given myself credit for:

June 07 898
June 08 733
June 09 915
June 10 0
June 11 749
June 12 666

Another week where I chalked up just under 4,000 words. Through simply trying and being committed to this process, I am already seeing results.

Now, onto Week Three!

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