I’m generally a sceptic of Silicon Valley life advice. As Anna Wiener points out in a recent New Yorker
piece, perhaps we shouldn’t place our mental and physical health in the hands of a bunch of twenty-somethings. Maybe they don’t know what’s best for us.
If you were to read most of the life advice that comes out of Silicon Valley, you’d spend the majority of your day meditating, fasting, sleeping and inspecting your bowel movements. It’s a wonder anyone gets anything done.
The Stoics didn’t seem like a laugh, and the new wave of fasting, meditating bros the Valley seems to be attracting these days don’t exactly scream “fun times”.
Still, in among all this noise, Cal Newport has been a consistent voice of reason. Sure, he can be a bit of a suffering bore. And his articles veer into “this one hack will save your life” territory.
But I have a lot of time for his thoughts around working. I devoured his book “Deep Work” over the weekend and found it strangely satisfying. Mainly because I was already doing a lot of the things he recommends. Which made me feel impossibly smug.
Since last July, I haven’t owned a smartphone (well, at least not one you’d call “smart”). It’s an Alcatel 1, which calls itself a smartphone but in reality can only handle one app: WhatsApp. Given it takes 15 seconds to load this one app when you unlock the home screen, I don’t feel the need to check it all that often.
The genius of it is that the phone is so frustrating to use that I never want to look at it. The experience is annoying enough to make me give-up and go find something else to do.
For the last three years I’ve managed to set aside the first three hours of my day to be meeting free. Sure, it takes a little work. In the early days I used to block out three-hour sections of my calendar and label them “No Meetings Please”. But nobody respected that.
There was always someone who’d ask “This meeting on your calendar that says "no meetings”, is that real?“
Pieces of time would get bartered away. Can I get 15 minutes? Can I book over this.
In the end, it was a battle I couldn’t win. So instead of having three hour "blocks”, I invented fake meetings. Always these meetings would be 30 minutes long. Phone call with x. Interview with y. 1:1 with c. Fortunately my seniority in the company allowed me to create these meetings with no questions asked.
But I’ve encouraged my direct reports to do the same. Nobody will ever question a call with a client. So invent them, if it gives you the free time you need to do actual, meaningful work. Then I’m all in favour of that.
Too often we all flit between tasks. Small, logistical details that one day will be automated away. Take the time now to invest in learning how to do deep work. Or you’ll be replaced. Or so the story goes.
Speaking of which, if you are looking to become a UX Writer then you can a 15% discount on the UX Writers Collective
course by using the code JOBNEWS15.
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. Yeh, you heard that right. Get on it.
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. It’s a freelance role and you’ll need 7 years of experience. It’s in New York. This isn’t posted online yet so you might consider this “a scoop”.
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. I would always be careful going into a post-IPO company.
Back on this side of the pond. Source
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. The job ad has been up for 2 months but they’re had only a handful of applicants. Worth digging into why.
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in Berlin. 3 years of experience required for this gig.
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Send your faint praise as a reply to this email.
My name is Gordon Macrae
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Good luck out there!