The Promise of Deep Work


The Note to Self Podcast produced an excellent program on Single Tasking that has turned out to be one of their most popular episodes. They contend that the crucial thing to relieve feelings of overwhelm is to select a single task, then work on it until it’s finished.

Gloria Mark, one of the researchers they interview in the show, says: it can take 23 minutes, 15 seconds to recover after an interruption. (Relevant part at about 7:40 of the podcast.) She even argues that after a series of interruptions, workers will begin to interrupt themselves, increasing stress and lowering productivity.

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100 Days YouTube series

Just finished watching a great YouTube series called 100 days.

The series follows two guys who are trying to “have a healthy midlife crisis” by eating healthier, meditating, and exercising. It’s somewhat artificial in that they have hired a support crew of psychologists, nutritionists, doctors, and maybe a dozen personal trainers to help them in the process, but this is part of making it a show instead of their life. They tried activities as common as  tennis, bowling, and golf, as well as more obscure activities like obstacle courses, rock climbing, roller derby, and even aerial circus training — filming the whole mess along with reflections on their progress, photos of their food, and frequent check-ins to see how some basic metrics are going (e.g. number of pushups in a minute, heart rate both before and distance from their toes in a forward fold).

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How I Clear My Mind

 In 1999 I found out about freewriting from a writing professor whose name I don’t remember anymore. I’m not sure it matters. The thing that mattered more was a book called “Writing Down the Bones” and it was this weird, Zen-ist manifesto on writing, where the important thing wasn’t what you said, it was moving your hand across the pages, for time. I learned a lot about myself somehow in that class, even though a lot of the writing I did I don’t remember at all. I was at some stupid community college and I thought I already knew everything after coming out of a private school. Like a lot of things that work, it got me past the rough spot I was in and then I stopped doing it.

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How to get Ripped in Six Months

I’m finally going to do it: I’m going to get in shape. A friend of mine — let’s call him “Billy” — offers to work with me at his gym. He was a competitive powerlifter in high school and today we’re going to squat. So we squat front and back squats, do some other assistance work: hack squats, hamstring curls, quad extensions. I feel good. My legs feel like they might explode. I wobble home, somehow managing to operate the pedals of my car.

The next morning I wake up, kick my legs over the side of the bed and try to stand up. I collapse in a heap next to the bed. I yell “Billy!” at the top of my lungs and I hear my housemate burst into laughter in the next room over. He proceeds to yell “Billy!” at me every time he sees me gimping around that day.

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