Summer is Here- Do You Need a Vacation or a Rhythm?

Summer is in full swing. The days are long, the kids are out of school, and the office may not be quite as bustling as it usually is whether it’s the physical office space or your email inbox because people are taking vacation. 

I myself just took a long one, kicking off the summer for two weeks at the beach, but working intermittently while there. It was a long spring, and for the first time our family was able to check out for more than the standard one week, once a year vacation and get away. 

While there, I dove deeper into some of Cal Newport’s work. He postulates in his book Deep Work that there are four philosophies for deep work. The type of work you do, your natural disposition, and the season of life you are in all play into which one is best for you. 

They are: 

  • The Monastic Approach- Eliminate all the shallow work you can to focus deeply on one thing
  • The Bimodal Approach- Create clearly defined stretches for deep work and then back to regular routine for stretches of time
  • The Rhythmic Approach- Daily deep work sessions that occur at consistent times each day
  • The Journalist Approach- Fit in deep work when and where you can. To note, this approach is not for the novice of deep work!

Watch this cool video to get a good overview of these. 

While I find something that is appealing in each one of these approaches, you, like me, may not be at a stage in life or working at a place or in a field where one or some of these are realistic. 

Even though only one approach is called “rhythmic” all of them have some thought of a rhythm tied to them, and it takes some reflection on what rhythms work for you. And these may change overtime.  

In looking at some of the research as well as my own experience, some thoughts on rhythms emerge to order to do deep work and do it well and consistently: 

Daily Rhythms- To do your best work: 

  • Break every 50 min to an hour, get up and move around if you work with your mind, sit down and rest if you work with your hands
  • Utilize time blocking techniques to complete tasks that take deep thought; batch work shallow work into a time block to get it done efficiently
  • Honor the “trough” period of the day when your energy is lacking (most people’s is in the early afternoon) by scheduling shallow work or a break during this time
  • For more great thoughts on daily rhythms and the research behind it, read When

Weekly Rhythms– To do your best work: 

  • Take one hour to plan at the beginning of each week (or at the end of the previous week) to map out your “big rocks” for the week and schedule time to get deep work done
  • I like to have one day a week that does not have any meetings or appointments scheduled to focus on deep work and catching up
  • Get a Full Focus Planner to help you with the weekly rhythm and big rock setting

Monthly to Quarterly Rhythms- To do your best work: 

  • Reflect- What worked and what didn’t in the previous period? Celebrate what did. 
  • Refocus- Chart out goals for the upcoming period and block time for those that may require or need the bimodal approach for deep work if you are lucky enough to have the autonomy to deploy this approach.
  • Again, use the Full Focus Planner to help with this. It operates on a quarterly model so it naturally helps you structure your thinking around reflecting and focusing.

Yearly Rhythms- To do your best work: 

  • Honor the seasons if your work has periods of intensity and down time and schedule accordingly; deploy the bimodal approach if you can.
  • Our approach at HPC is every three years a sabbatical occurs for deep rest and deep reflection.  This is a period of six to eight weeks of complete time off from work. 

Overall, rhythms create the opportunity for reflection that helps foster deep and creative work. As the CEO of Airbnb Brian Chesky stated on Adam Grant’s podcast, if you don’t create rhythms, “you’re just on the treadmill and that gets boring and anxiety ridden fairly quickly.” 

How do you create rhythms in your life to do work and do it well? 


Mary Ila Ward