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  • Productivity nerds! Where do you do your deep work? (TPS123)


Mike and Thanh discuss the tools, environments, and time needed to do your best work – deep work. Deep work is when you are devoting your entire attention to your most important task, and it’s something many people struggle with. In this episode we cover ideas like clearing to neutral, managing your energy levels, sounds and music that promote deep work, and more.

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Cheat Sheet

  • Why people struggle to make time to do deep work
  • The ritual Thanh follows when he does deep work
  • Why you should try working in 90 minute cycles
  • The things that you need to do to really move the needle when it comes to being productive
  • Setting up your environment so it is easier to do deep work
  • The importance of clearing to neutral and how it can help you get started quicker
  • Managing your energy levels in order to maximize the effectiveness of your deep work
  • Essential tips for working from coffee shops efficiently
  • Sounds and music that you can use to stimulate productivity
  • How items, events, and environments can act as an anchor that triggers deep work
  • Why you should really consider using a Pomodoro timer when doing deep work
  • How to create the time and space to do deep work effectively
  • The importance of scheduling time to do your deep work on your calendar
  • How to implement the 80/20 principle when doing deep work
  • Why a standing desk can significantly boost your productivity
  • How an external monitor can help you work more efficiently
  • How changing up your space can inspire deep work


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  1. I enjoyed this episode. I do my best deep work when I don’t have the distractions of people or hunger. Sometimes this means working in the home office with the door closed, other times it means getting up very early (ahead of my children). I need breaks after an hour and a half or so to go outside, get my heart rate up, and breathe in fresh air.

    I wrote an essay many years ago about working in a coffee shop. I only had one child then. Now, there are three, and it’s still great to get out every once in a while and work at one. No distractions of laundry or clutter, and just the right amount of noise. My youngest child started school this year, and although I’m using a quieter house to my advantage, I work best with some low, steady noise.

    I’ve never understood the standing desk. I thought people were using those to combat being sedentary, but standing for long periods of time is still sedentary, and comes with its own set of
    issues for back, neck, and leg pain. Standing for long periods is much more distracting to me than sitting (though I shift around when I’m having to sit), and I that would cause me to lose the energy to get up and run around or exercise on breaks in my deep work.

    I appreciate the comment about friction. When I keep my home office straightened up and desk cleared, as well as other areas around the house I work at, it’s so much easier to focus and get started right away.

  2. Hi,

    I think this was one of my favourite episodes. I have read the book and listened to your previous podcasts in the field, and AE has gotten me hooked on the concept of setting aside time for deep work. I have been struggling with setting up my environment for deep work so this helped me out a lot. I found that all your techniques and suggestions where easy to understand and apply, it was a really good complement to the book. I thought I would give you some feedback on what I really liked and what I missed out on. I start with my three main takeaways.

    1. The recommendation of buying the Bose QuietComfort 35 headphones. I am not tech savvy so I tend to buy cheap electronics and I often end up being dissapointed and wanting to buy something of higher quality. I got inspired to set up some personal goals for my deep work habits and reward myself with a pair of Bose QC 35 if I can meet them.

    2. Managing your energy levels. This is a concept I have heard the podcast talk about many times and I acknowledge that it is important. I will try to consider it more when perfoming my daily and weekly planning.

    3. Thanhs insight that he sits when he is writing but stands for the reminder of the day was helpful. I have realized that I tend to sit down when I need to focus during my most intense periods of deep work. I will experiment with sitting when writing during deep work, and otherwise standing.

    Regarding improvement; I would have enjoyed some practical tips on how to create the right environment for deep work in a “traditional” working setting such as an office landscape and/or cubicle.

    // Peter

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