Deep Work Sprints are a technique that I created to produce the optimal environment and mindset for improving and getting things done on a daily basis.
This simple method doubled the amount of creative and business work I get done each year.
You can apply this technique to any type of work; creative, business, or personal.
It will help you to be more productive & improve quickly at anything you’re working on.
How & Why I Designed This Technique
Deep Work (read the book) is a method that forces you to physically remove all distractions from your surroundings and work on one specific task for a 2-hour block of time, then repeat.
Sprints are a technique used within the Agile Project Management System.
I combined my favorite aspects of both systems, with a few of my own methods, then named the technique Deep Work Sprints.
Deep Work Sprints break the day up into three, two-hour work sprints.
Each sprint is separated by a 10 to 20 minute active break.
I’ll discuss the specific step by step method below.
The Most Important Outcomes
OUTCOME 1: Working in pre-set allotments of time produces a sense of accomplishment, which can be hard to find with undefined working hours or undefined daily task lists that never end. Pre-determined work time also gives you an end goal to aim for which isn’t tied directly to work output. Every day you work, you accomplish a goal, no matter what!
OUTCOME 2: Forcing active breaks allows you to step back from the work and ensure you’re always moving in the most important & efficient direction. Each break is a short mental meeting with yourself. During these active breaks, my brain usually solves problems that I was stuck on while doing the actual work.
OUTCOME 3: Forcing activity also gets the blood moving to your brain & reduces the stress and anxiety that can come from long days of mental processing and creative work. This allows you to work more efficiently, have higher output, and make better decisions.
Here’s the process…
My Daily Work Schedule Breakdown
I have an actual checklist used to complete these tasks each day.
A checklist removes any unwanted thinking & allows all mental processing to go towards getting things done that matter to me.
Daily Startup Routine:
- Wake up: Personally, the time doesn’t matter to me, but 7.5 to 8 hours of sleep is a requirement. Usually, I wake up between 5:30 & 8AM.
- Coffee & read for 30 minutes.
- 20 minutes of meditation: Meditation is scientifically proven to improve concentration ability and reduce stress. Reducing stress improves decision making and decreases mental & physical fatigue.
- Miracle Morning Routine: I was very skeptical about this at first. It actually proves to be one of the most important steps in my day.
- 20-30 minute walk or run, either will work: The goal is to get the blood moving to the brain. This is when I think about what I need to work on for the day, as outlined below.
- Select 1-2 tasks which are most important to accomplish for the day: These should be power multipliers. Note, I said 1 or 2, not 10! By selecting a reasonable amount of work each day, then completing it, you’ll always finish the day with a sense of accomplishment instead of failure. You can always come back and select more work if need be. Not getting everything done always feels bad. Getting more done than you planned always feels great! Feeling accomplished sets you up to keep putting in the work, day after day.
Deep Work Sprint 1:
- Turn off all phone & internet distractions: I recommend putting your phone in another room if possible. (Freedom App, lifetime subscription, changed my life)
- Set a 2-hour countdown timer with a loud alarm & make sure it’s out of sight. This keeps you from looking at the leftover time every 10 minutes.
- Deep Work Sprint 1: Select your biggest power multiplier task and work on it, without distraction, for the next 2 hours. The first 15 minutes are the hardest. Once you’re into the flow of working, things get way easier. During the entire time, you will want to check your phone, social media, or an array of other distractions that keep you from being prolific. Over time, you will become better and better at working for 2 hours, without distraction. You’ll be surprised at how much you get done with 2 hours of distraction-free work. You’ll also be surprised at how accomplished this makes you feel after you’re done!
- 10-20 minute walk, jog, or meditation: If I’m physically sluggish I’ll choose to walk or run. If I’m mentally scattered, meditation works best. This break allows you to determine what’s most important to work on next. Without this break, I find myself making mistakes, working on the wrong thing, or easily getting distracted during the next round of Deep Work Sprints.
Deep Work Sprint 2:
- Determine what’s most important to work on next: A good question to ask yourself is, “If I only get this one thing done will I feel accomplished today?”.
- Set 2-hour timer per the steps above.
- Deep Work Sprint 2: This takes the same form as Deep Work Sprint 1. I highly recommend reading the book, Deep Work. It’s a game-changer.
- Optional coffee
- Light lunch of 300-500 calories max. If I eat more I find that my energy and concentration levels drop. Test it out on your own.
- 10-20 minute walk, run, or meditation per the steps above.
Deep Work Sprint 3:
This sprint takes the same form as the ones above, so I won’t explain fully.
- Determine what to work on next per the tips above.
- Set 2-hour timer.
- Deep Work Sprint 3.
- Guaranteed coffee
I’ll discuss why I don’t do more than 3 deep work sprints below…
Mental Processing & Running Routine
This is one of the most important aspects of my day. It allows my mind to separate from work, solve problems, and process information.
The goal is to push my heart rate to the point where I can’t think about all the other stuff in life or work, only breathing and running. Any workout will do, but I find 1-2 hours of hard cardio, running in the woods, to work the best.
I find 30 minutes of hard cardio is the minimum time needed to produce the desired outcome.
During this time my brain automatically processes the work from the day and produces ideas on what needs to be added, fixed or updated, next.
While running, I make voice recordings, into my phone (Evernote), to ensure these ideas don’t slip away.
During the following shutdown routine, I can integrate these ideas into the next day of work.
If you can’t run, take a walk or a bike ride. Prolonged movement & increased heart rate are the key!
Daily Shutdown Routine
This routine allows you to easily start work the next day, without the dreaded tasks of organizing or doing “busy work”, first thing in the morning.
Here’s What I Do:
- Review new ideas from the run and makes notes so they easily integrate into the next day’s work schedule.
- Make any other notes on work from the current day, so there isn’t confusion on what was completed, or where I need to pick up for the next day.
- Organize files on computer & Evernote.
- Ensure that my desk & home office are organized, with everything in place, prior to closing the door for the evening.
A Few More Things to Consider
I find 3 deep work sprints to be sufficient for a days work.
6 hours of uninterrupted work is more than most people will get done in 2-3 days at an office filled with distractions. If you work at an office, reference the Deep Work book for ways to remove distractions.
Some days I only get 1-2 sprints done. The goal is to find the right personal balance between getting a lot of important work done and burnout.
If you’re burnt out you can’t work at a high level to your full capacity.
For this reason, it’s great to track your deep work sprints on a tally over your desk.
Doing so you can see the number of deep work sprints you complete each week.
My running average is 28 hours of Deep Work per week.
You’ll be surprised how much you get done in that time.
Experimenting with 4 sprints a day, I became burnt out and wasn’t ready to start work the next day.
By selecting the right kind of work, depending on my mood and energy, it’s easy to work on something, every day, without taking days off.