Here is a high-level template but I am curious if you have a specific framework/template to slice your deep work time. (note I am not talking about tactics to find time to do deep work but the actual work itself).
Assuming it is 2-3 hours.
- Execution (40%) - Mostly focus on now and next. Unblocking current and upcoming projects, which can include writing specs/stories, drafting key questions etc.
- Long term strategy (40%) - Read through research (user, market, competitor etc), build long term hypothesis and see how we can validate it, read through recent org updates etc.
- Team health (10%) - Understand execution velocity, quality of work etc.
- Self (10%) - Growth areas etc.
To think long term strategy (#2), you have to do pre-work to ensure deep work is productive. for e.g. I usually curate articles I want to read that can shape my long term strategy. Often, I will include pre-work as part of the long term thinking or invite team members to brainstorm ideas etc.
Any other tactics you employ before/after to make #1 and #2 productive. I would love to hear.
I wish I had such a thought out framework for focus time. Realistically, if I have 2 hours to spare, I put on Do Not Disturb, focus music and blast through my ever-growing To do list in Trello.
Assuming I have nothing immediate on that list, I have a list of potential activities including:
- Read something from my ‘To Read’/Find out More item list.
- Review any user research that I haven’t looked at in detail.
- If I am feeling indulgent, listen to one of the podcasts.
- Scribble down hypothesises that the team might help resolve.
Usually if I feel I have time for focus time, I schedule an actual meeting in my diary with an agenda and objective.
Edit: So my advice for making it more productive is to build a list in Trello of things you want to do when you have a moment to breath like - Read/Research/Find out More/Hypothesis/Things to add to the Discovery Backlog.
Overall, I have found it helpful to think about and plan the % of time you should be spending on different areas of responsibility. The areas of focus and percentages will vary based on the level of your role though. Escaping the Build Trap by Melissa Perri has a decent breakdown on execution vs. strategy % by role/level. I don’t just do this for focus time though, I do this at a month level based on my responsibilities. As such, I have more categories.
Once I have the categories and % that I think make sense, I color code the meetings (including focus time) on my calendar and then periodically review how I am spending my time. It isn’t exact but is directionally correct enough to keep me honest and focused.
I’m sure there are tools you can use to track at a more granular level but the simplicity of it has helped me stick with it and see the benefits. Outside of that, I use do not disturb and a to do list when I need to focus on something.
Love the idea of slicing time by % role/level responsibilities. I am partially doing it but could get more structure towards it. Also, love the idea of color-coding category of meetings.
My challenge has been doing pre-work to make mid/long term strategy sessions productive. Do you have a standard set of areas that you deep dive into - e.g. Competitor and market research, Org changes, etc (aka SWOT framework).
Strategy sessions aren’t specific planned events for me. It’s an accumulation of talking to customers, sales, leaders and staying on top of industry trends and competitors. I try to make it regular and whenever possible have the info come to me (recurring meetings, subscribe to your competitor’s email lists etc.). After that, it’s just about putting together content and socializing it. I find peer brainstorming and feedback sessions helpful for that.