This reader engaged Deep Work during a critical time of reflecting on my potential next assignments and found useful guidelines for reorienting back to a healthy rhythm. Georgetown University computer science professor, Cal Newport, has written extensively on how technology and our distracted, multi-tasking society is affecting break through thinking and overall happiness in our personal and professional lives. Newport’s description and examples in Deep Work of bimodal lifestyle is this student-practitioner’s ultimate dream. The concept of locking oneself away to write without interruption, then emerging to go for a meditation walk in the woods to reflect on what was written and prepare for the following day’s writing is conducive to my internal wiring. The concept of doing that seasonally throughout the year and then in the off season engaging the world to put into practice and test that which I’ve contemplated and created would be a dream life. “The bimodal philosophy believes that deep work can produce extreme productivity, but only if the subject dedicates enough time to such endeavors to reach maximum cognitive intensity – the state in which real breakthroughs occur.” Season and station in life certainly dictates this to some degree and seems especially conducive to older adults when responsibilities begin to shift. What an important opportunity to seize by those who have lived enough life to bring wisdom to bear in deep work, have maintained a growing curiosity and learning posture as they have aged, and have more flexibility with their time. “Those who deploy the bimodal philosophy of deep work admire the productivity of the monastics but also respect the value they receive from the shallow behaviors in their working lives.”
Though I hope to attain this bimodal dream in the not-too-distant future, I have more potential of a rhythmic reality in the present. The Rhythmic Philosophy “argues that the easiest way to consistently start deep work sessions is to transform them into a simple regular habit. The goal, in other words, is to generate a rhythm for this work that removes the need for you to invest energy in deciding if and when you’re going to go deep.” Newport describes the habits of a doctoral candidate with an already busy life as an example of how scheduling and consistency produce a significant outcome. Having a steady routine creates a habit conducive to most human wiring even though it may fail in getting to the deeper work accomplished by more extended times of contemplation.
It’s confession time…I have attempted this before! Each year I tell my assistant we are not going to overschedule me as I must have time for a rhythmic lifestyle. Each year my rhythm quickly moves from a peaceful andante (the musical term for a walking tempo) to a prestissimo (music played incredibly fast). After reading this week I am asking, “Who’s to blame for that?” I could try to cast aspersion on the organization but the reality is once again, I control me. I can say “yes” and “no” which sets the tempo. Unfortunately, Newport also reminds us of the failure of willpower, we have a limited amount and it gets depleted. In his book The One Thing, Keller says, “Think of willpower like the power bar on your cell phone. Every morning you start out with a full charge. As the day goes on, every time you draw on it you’re using it up.” This author describes willpower as a personal resource to be stewarded. Now I must ask myself how well I manage my willpower so that boundaries stay solid.
I will be reflecting these next few days, not on reordering 2020, but how to begin today. I will set the course while my willpower is recharged and ask a few trusted friends to hold me able to keeping an andante rhythm, knowing there are always temporary seasons of presstisimo. This actually makes the music more interesting, these just cannot become the norm. The Flight of the Bumblebee is not the score for deep work! My week proves that, thus the date of this post.
Thank you, Cal. You were a very present help in my time of needing Deep Work.
 Cal Newport, Deep Work (NewYork: Grand Central Publishing, 2016), 150.
 Ibid. 152.
 Ibid. 154.
 Gary Keller with Jay Papassn, The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results (Austin, TX: Bard Press, 2012), 65.