EGD News #128 — Deep work
Sent on April 1st, 2022.
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When I started time block planning, I immediately noticed a few things. First, I could feel more productive for spending 30 minutes answering emails versus answering them at any point of the day.
What is time blocking? It’s a system that Cal Newport, author of Deep Work and A World Without Email, has popularized. In time blocking, you plan your workday into 15min, 30min, 60min, or 90min blocks, where each block has one defined task.
– Answer emails, 30min
– Slack and LinkedIn messages, 30min
– Call with partners, 90min
– Draft presentation, 60min
Every day, at the start of the day, I do a time block planning session, where I lay out my workday into several chunks of time. I have a writing chunk here for 60 minutes, called 500 words. That’s my goal every day, and I add it as the first 60 minutes of the day.
Why 500 words? It works because it’s a numerical goal that is easy to count if I can hit that.
I’m constantly working on probably ten different pieces for my newsletter, so I can easily spend 5 minutes of the 60 min block to pick which part I will work on. After putting down that 500 words block, I block 30mim for exercise, then another 30min to eat some food, and then continue doing some projects, like Edit Podcast 60 min.
I won’t add any Slack or email blocks before noon if possible. That helps a lot in getting my knowledge work done when I’m most refreshed after the night’s sleep. I also try to have all of my calls in the afternoon. Regarding calls to the Americas, which are seven to ten hours behind, I try to block those for one evening in a week, which is Wednesday. Then I have free time on Monday and Tuesday for family hobbies, and Thursday and Friday for other activities after work.
With remote work, the good thing is that people can’t show up behind your back and start talking when you’re trying to focus. Since you are doing the time blocking thing, you can close Slacks and others and not be disturbed.
Above, Cal Newport demonstrates the creation of a daily time block plan.
I put together Questions and Answers for explaining how I get things done with time blocking:
Why should I time-block?
I started doing it to get more joy from working. I want to maximize the pleasure I get from working on EGD. After reading Cal Newport’s book Deep Work, the ideas in that book made me want to explore. And the most straightforward system and the most effective one is time-blocking.
I have had weeks where I fell back to working in a non-deep way: I’d have Slack on constantly, I’d check emails and reply to them at a moment’s notice, and those weeks felt miserable. Then I went back to time-blocking, and I immediately felt so good. The context-switching, from email to Slack to Google Docs to something else, all at the same time, is poison. Time-blocking and discipline to stick to the blocks make me feel like I’m working on cloud nine.
What if people in my company want to schedule meetings and calls at all times of the day?
Most people want to work on an ad-hoc basis, where emails are sent constantly, calls are coming through Slack, and Whatsapp messages are waiting for responses.
I believe that change in companies happens through discussion, sharing ideas and success stories from implementing ways to make work feel better.
If you are in a small startup with only a few people, these systems are much easier to experiment on. For bigger companies, individual teams could experiment with these ways of working. I think they key is to embrace experiments and not get overwhelmed with trying to do a big overhaul. Time-block planning is simple to communicate and experiment with, so start from there.
What about externals, trying to take my time?
I get a lot of messages saying, “Let’s jump on a call?” or ” Can I pick your brain? Do you have time for a quick call next week?”
I’ve tried to keep as many things as possible in an async mode for some time now. I’m trying to have most of my meetings over email.
An example reply from me could be: “Really wish I could just, but I’m slammed right now. Is there anything I can help with async? Pretty straightforward.”
Or if there’s material, like prototypes or a pitch deck, “Can you send over your material and questions? I can record a 2 min Loom video for you with the answers.”
I started asking people about doing this, and it’s worked out quite well. Now I can move these away from 30min call slots to batching them up in my afternoon slots of email or other communication.
What if I want to check my phone during a block that doesn’t involve the phone?
If you want time blocking to work, you can’t check your phone. Suppose you are bored of an arduous task that you are doing, like drafting a presentation in Google Slides. In that case, your Pavlovian impulse might be to seek some novel stimuli by browsing social media on your phone or collecting rewards in that RPG game. Besides going cold turkey on all the apps on your phone, one exercise that I’ve seen useful is to force myself to read a lot of non-fiction every day.
Start by reading 20 minutes a day for a week, and then increase that amount every week until you get to a comfortable level of reading 45 to 60 minutes a day, with total concentration. Gradually, this mental exercise will remove the need to check the phone since reading will take up all your mental bandwidth, and the Pavlovian impulses will subside.
Read more about this at Cal Newport’s time-block planner website.
Get my book, “Long Term Game: How to build a video games company” from Amazon. Available on Kindle, audiobook and paperback. Check it out!
Andrew Sheppard — From Operator to Investor
In this podcast episode, I’m talking with Andrew Sheppard, who is the Managing Director at Transcend Fund, a venture capital firm investing in the future of games and digital entertainment.
In this discussion with Andrew, we talk about his move from being an operator in gaming to becoming an investor, what has been hard about being an investor and what Andrew thinks will change and stay the same as new platforms emerge.
Listen to the full episode by going here.
EGD News classics
- Kristian Segerstrale lecture from 2011
- You’re never too old to start a games company
- Adding more co-founders
- Investor feedback on the game
- Batting average
- To have a startup is the fastest way to learn
- A series of silver bullets
- and more
Articles worth reading
+ How to calculate the UA budget for a soft launch? — “Usually, you get that first batch of users into your new shiny concept via user acquisition (UA). But how much money should you allocate to the first campaign in order to get meaningful results and actually validate the new concept with a good level of certainty? How much should you spend on the first-ever UA campaign for a new app?”
+ Yuga Labs: The Beginning of a Web 2.5 Enterprise — “With the release of ApeCoin and chatter in the press of Yuga Labs planning a virtual land sale and P2E metaverse, it seems they have a lot of plans to keep everyone entertained – but what will happen if the new ventures don’t live up to their hype?”
+ Complete Guide to Mobile Game Gachas in 2022 — “The main premise of gacha games and mechanics: you activate the gacha (usually by pulling a lever, rolling dice, or spinning a wheel) to obtain a random reward. Typically, these rewards will all have a different level of rarity, dictated by a drop rate, which incentivizes players to keep activating the gacha until they get the reward they’re after.”
Quote that I’ve been thinking about
“Risk is what’s left over when you think you’ve thought of everything.”
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I hope you have a great weekend!