Another Tale of Finding Depth in a Locked Down Life by Cal Newport

In my last post, I profiled a novelist who took advantage of the lockdown to slow down; giving herself more than enough time and space to inhabit her manuscript revisions. This shift allowed her to tap a “mysterious” source of creativity and finish her work ahead of schedule.

In response, a reader sent me some notes on how he had similarly leveraged the disruption induced by the lockdown to experiment with a deeper, more deliberate lifestyle, despite the fact that he has a typical email-bound knowledge work job and two young kids at home.

Here’s his schedule:

Monday-Friday from 5-7 am: I do my morning routine (push-ups, sit ups, squats, meditation, and reading The Daily Stoic prompt for that day). This takes about 30 minutes, depending on how slow I’m moving that morning.

Following that I spend at least an hour and a half of writing the novel I’m working on.

Then an hour of tasks/admin for my day job.

At 9am, I take over child care while my wife works her job. We have lunch and nap time. I’m back to my day job processing various tasks/admin from about 1-5pm.

I only check email three times a day (personal and work) and I have those times set on my Google Calendar which enforces a limit for dealing with those emails to a half hour per session.

When I’m done with my afternoon tasks, this is when I’m available for phone calls and meetings. (I treat this like office hours.)

I shutdown work around 4:30-5pm.

Social media is blocked during my work hours. There’s no social media or email apps on my phone.

There’s a vague uneasiness that comes from a life overfilled with busyness and distraction. We crave something deeper, in which we spend more time on things that matter and are more ruthlessly efficient about the things that don’t.

But change is hard, and it’s easier in the moment to mindlessly scroll the iPad, or play email ping-pong, wondering, in true Office Space style, what it is that you really do here.

Most of what’s going in our current moment is terrible. But there is a sliver of light among the darkness: sometimes hard changes require a hard disruption.

More on this to follow…

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