For the past few years, I have been practicing "Deep Work". Deep work is the "ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task." Practicing deep work has significantly improved my own productivity. The concept comes from a book by the same name by author Cal Newport. In the book, Newport gives tips and strategies for improving the quality and quantity of deep work. One of those tips is to simply keep track of how much time you spend doing deep work. One of the principles in the 4 Disciplines of Execution philosophy says "People play differently when they're keeping score." Newport wrote about how he maintained a scoreboard of his deep work while he was in school. He drew horizontal lines on a piece of cardstock—each row representing one week of his school semester. He drew a tick mark for each hour of deep work he accomplished during that week. He would also circle the tick mark representing the hour where he accomplished an important milestone in one of his academic projects.
Inspired by this technique, I made my own template for keeping score:
I made the first template in August 2016 and have been updating the template over time making it more compact and adding a section to record my deep work goals and averages.
I usually update the hours on my worksheet at the end of the day, but keep track of each hour using the Tide App. Tide helps you time your work using the 'Pomodoro' method—doing 25 minutes of work followed by a 5-minute break repeated throughout your workday. I have found that I am more productive doing at least 1 hour of work at a time instead of just 25 minutes so I adjust the settings in the app accordingly. The app keeps track of each work session so 4 sessions mean that I did 4 hours of deep work.
One of Cal Newport's techniques that I haven't yet tried is keeping track of when important project milestones are reached by circling the hour that milestone was completed. It was challenging for me to do that because I usually work on several different projects every day. This month I am going to experiment with using a different color for the tickmarks corresponding to each project so that I can keep track of my milestones across multiple projects.
Today, I am posting my deep work tracking worksheet on my new Downloads page. The worksheet starts in July and goes through December 2018. I plan to update the template every 6 months. Let me know what you think. I'd love to hear your experience with Deep work and get your feedback on how to improve the worksheet template