On Deep Work and Templating
Fragments from imaginary dialogues
“How can I optimize Deep Work?”
“Think of it as a template.
I like to think of the work-day as consisting of a number of ‘slots‘ [another model].
The slots represent the fixed part of the template.
Their content, number and order represent the variable part of the template.
Each slot corresponds to a single work-task, and they form a sequence [<link; short read], in the order of importance – from the most important to the least important.”
“What does your typical work day look like?”
“It looks like this:
Slot 1: Writing
Slot 2: Learning
Slot 3: Reward (work-related, random)”
“Do the slots have a fixed length?”
“No. This is a modular structure – it expands or contracts based on the available time.
The deep-work unit is the pomodoro – 25 minutes of deep focus, followed by a 5-minute break.
The 5 minutes are also a buffer, in case I have a hard time breaking away from the work. 25 minutes is the floor, 30 minutes is the ceiling. [floor/ceiling model]”
“That’s a nice problem to have.”
“When you’re doing deeply meaningful work, that’s usually the case, I imagine.
When I exceed the 5-minute buffer, it’s a subtle sign that I may need a longer rest.
For quality work, rest is essential.
Quality work requires alternating between work and rest. I call this the Oscillation System.
The beauty of the pomodoro structure is that it has a built-in break. I call this the micro-oscillation.
You’re able to maintain peak focus for 2-3 pomodoros in a row – what I call a deep-work-block. After that, the quality of the work starts to decline. After a deep-work-block, you need a longer break. I call this the macro-oscillation.”
“How long a break do you take after a deep-work-block?”
“The length of the break is proportional to the number of pomodoros I’ve done in a row, how rested I am, and the time of day. The later in the day, the longer breaks I need.
p p break
p p p longer break
p p p p even longer break
[p stands for pomodoro]
Ideally, each slot consists of at least one deep-work-block. But when time is limited, the minimum [the floor] is one pomodoro.”
“Don’t you take any days off?”