Last semester I went all-in on self-regulated learning; this semester, I am going all-in on Cal Newport’s ideas surrounding Deep Work. I will regularly post on ideas I am implementing. I am only going to post on ideas from the book that Cal has already blogged about so that I don’t give away the whole book.
My reasons for doing this are pretty simple. First, I think that it can help me be a better researcher, which is part of my job description. Second, should I choose to eventually go up for promotion to full professor, I will have the option of doing so based on either the strength of my research or the strength of my service to the college. I find the former to be a bit more enjoyable (although getting a recently accepted paper properly formatted for the journal has been testing this idea quite a bit), and also a bit rarer at my particular college, which I hope will give me a bit of a competitive advantage. In either case, the idea of Deep Work could help me greatly.
The first idea I used was to schedule every minute of my work day. Every night before I go home, I get out my hipster PDA and block of (in 30 minute chunks) what I will do for the next day. This is a first draft, and I am allowed to change it during the day if events warrant (and they usually do).
This has been a huge gain for me already. I spent about 3 minutes making the schedule the previous day, and it buys me probably an extra hour of productivity the next day. I think that I probably wasted a lot of time either wondering what I should do, or otherwise taking breaks that I did not need. I have had a lot of service requirements this week (about 20% of my week has been in meetings), yet I have been able get get about an equal amount of research in (leaving 60% of my time for teaching, planning classes, and meeting with students). This is quite a bit of research time for me, and a large part of it is due to scheduling every minute of the day.