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By Jesse Schutt

A Deep Life is a Good Life - Part 1

According to my DISC profile, I'm a strong C-personality, which, as their eerily accurate descriptions go, means I'm more comfortable with data than I am with people.

It also means I enjoy figuring out ways to improve the processes in my life.

I've been programming full-time for nearly three years, and while there are always new coding practices, recently I've become specifically interested in productivity habits. My reasoning is simple:

I will always need to be learning the latest coding 🔥, but if I can implement some lifestyle productivity hacks, I will likely multiply my efforts in the future.

If you've been on Twitter lately you've probably seen the trend of articles about how we are being (negatively) affected by the constant bombardment of push notifications, emails, texts, and media. To our detriment, we've conditioned ourselves to crave a steady stream of shallow entertainment, negatively affecting our ability to concentrate for extended periods of time. Cal Newport, in his excellent book Deep Work, suggests that the consistent flow of distractions has the potential to cause an irreparably fractured capacity to go deep. Instead of focusing on a targeted challenging task, we tend to flip back and forth between surface-level work and substitute busyness for true productivity.

I do not want to live my life this way.

Two weeks without coffee?

Another book that has been helpful in my recent quest is The Productivity Project by Chris Bailey. Chris studied productivity by taking an entire year to experiment with different techniques, ranging from alternating work weeks of 90 hours and 20 hours to study how much more (or less) he gets done by overworking, or using simple heuristics such as thinking about your future-self, in order to squeeze out as much efficiency from the day.

One of Chris' experiments that caught my attention was where he cut out all caffeine, alcohol, and sugary beverages from his diet for several weeks in order to track the ebb and flow of natural energy levels during the day (Bailey, p. 46).

His proposal (which agrees with Newport's) is that since we only have a limited capacity to work on hard things in a given 24 hours, it behooves (yes, I used "behooves" in a blog article; bucket-list-item achieved) us to line those tasks up with the periods of our day where we naturally have the most energy.

As a long-time coffee-drinker, I knew this was the experiment I really didn't want needed to try!

So, how will this work?

The experiment:

Over the next two weeks, I won't drink a drop of coffee and I’ll track my energy level every hour of each day. This way I’ll be able to identify which hours of the day I am naturally most productive. (My energy tracking will be a subjective number between 1 & 10 based on how I feel, during the hours I'm awake. Not too scientific, but will at least provide a baseline to see fluctuations throughout the day.)

A few other things I plan to try out:

  1. Wake up naturally, without the help of an alarm
  2. Put my phone away for 12 hours of the day
  3. Silence work-chat, emails, and notifications during certain portions of my day

What do you think? Will I survive?

See Part 2 of my quest for productivity!

Meanwhile, please tweet @jesseschutt with any productivity hacks that have helped you!

(The title of this article comes from Deep Work, Cal Newport p. 18)

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By Jesse Schutt

Director of Engineering

Jesse is our resident woodworker. His signature is to find the deeper meaning in a project and the right tool for the job.