Freelancing can give the balance we want in our lifestyles. We have the freedom and time flexibility to juggle our passions, family time, and our careers. But we need to be disciplined enough to handle all the distractions we have with this freedom.
And we can use “Deep Work” to our advantage.
What is Deep Work?
Ever had those moments when you have just a short amount of time to finish your work, and suddenly you have this intense focus that resulted in the perfect output your clients love? You were so in the zone that all the ideas just kept flowing in at record time.
That, my friend, might be a deep work session.
According to Cal Newport, the writer of “Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World,” Deep Work is a professional activity performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that pushes one’s cognitive abilities to your limit. This type of concentration produces topnotch work that is hard to be copied by everyone.
Examples of deep work might be strategizing on how to market yourself to clients or brainstorming for possible marketing pitches and campaigns for your client.
Conversely, shallow work is non-cognitive work that can be done while distracted. Since it’s something easy or almost mindless to-do, you don’t get a competitive advantage over that work. It doesn’t add much value.
An example is organizing your emails alphabetically or typing the birthdates of your teammates from Facebook.
We All Have the Power
The good news is we all have the capability to do deep work. The bad news is the world is so distracted, we don’t do it enough or at least intentionally. Imagine the value we can create by harnessing the power of deep work at our will, how different will your freelancing career be?
With that, here are tips to take advantage of deep work for your freelancing career.
Schedule Your Deep Work
Firstly, you need to intentionally find time to do deep work. Deep work is a skill that everyone can learn. But like a muscle, it needs to be practiced to strengthen more. On maximum, a person adept in deep work can do around 4 hours per day in 60 to 90-minute intervals.
This might be lower when you’re just starting. Here are 4 schedule philosophies that you can choose from.
Monastic Philosophy and Bimodal Philosophy of Deep Work Scheduling
The first two philosophies are quite extreme. The Monastic Philosophy is secluding yourself from all the distractions in the world pretty much like how monks and nuns are cloistered, while Bimodal Philosophy is secluding yourself for certain timeframes. It can be weeks, months, and even bi-annually.
Although these two are the most effective, it might not be an ideal setup for freelancers because you need to communicate with your clients online. You can’t be disconnected for long periods of time.
Rhythmic Philosophy of Deep Work Scheduling
The next two are probably a better fit for freelancers. The Rhythmic philosophy entails incorporating deep work in your work rhythm. As freelancers, we probably have the time flexibility.
We can schedule our commitments. And we know the best time to work based on our natural tendencies. Are you an early-riser, or are you a night owl?
Schedule deep work on your best hours to reap more productivity.
Journalistic Philosophy of Deep Work Scheduling
What if you don’t have a fixed schedule? Sometimes, our freelancing career might be on-call. Or we just like that productive chaos of arranging meetings and commitments back-to-back. If you have so much going on, how can you do deep work? The Journalistic Philosophy of deep work scheduling is for you.
Similar to how journalists work, they need to be on-the-go with the latest happenings around their area. At their downtimes, they write as fast as they can to deliver the time-sensitive news the public needs. But they don’t know their exact schedules or when certain events will happen.
They take advantage of the pockets of downtime they have to do deep work. If your schedule is also erratic, having the journalistic philosophy might suit you.
Building a Deep Work Routine
Now that you have chosen your desired scheduling philosophy that will fit you. It’s time to build a deep work routine. Your routine will be heavily influenced by the following factors:
We associate our surroundings with certain habits we have. For example, we feel sleepy when we are on our bed. In the same way, we can associate certain places for deep work. It might be your home office space, a corner in a cafe, or a plane ride.
As long as you’re in that location, you are doing deep work.
To be intentional, you need to set how long you will do deep work. It’s like a muscle you need to train.
For starters, a 15-25 minute session is a good start. If you do this consistently, you can work your way up to around 60-90 minutes per deep work session at around 4 hours per day.
You will have to set rules for your deep work session. Something like, you are not allowed to use your phone, or you need to be seated the whole time for the deep work session.
The same with associating your location, you can associate rituals to your deep work session. For example, if you start the Pomodoro timer or if you open your laptop, you are in deep work.
Make Sure You Rest
Life is not all about work. You need to rest and enjoy your life as well. And the practice of deep work acknowledges that.
The amount of deep work we can do is finite. By resting, you can recharge your ability to do it again tomorrow. With that, I hope you take advantage of this new superpower in your freelancing career! Good luck!