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Heads Down Tuesday

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For the past year, I’ve made every Tuesday a focus day. For me, this means two things:

  • I decline all meeting invites unless it’s an emergency
  • I block Slack except for a few minutes every hour

Tuesday for me is a day for Deep Work. I get more accomplished on Tuesday than the rest of the week put together, and I look forward to it every time.

There’s power in 8 hours of unbroken time. It’s not the same as 4 chunks of 2 hours. And it’s not even close to 8 chunks of 1 hour. I sit down for the day and look at my empty calendar, and I’m ready to take on the world.

In the classic essay “Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule”, Paul Graham describes this phenomenon:

I find one meeting can sometimes affect a whole day. A meeting commonly blows at least half a day, by breaking up a morning or afternoon. But in addition there’s sometimes a cascading effect. If I know the afternoon is going to be broken up, I’m slightly less likely to start something ambitious in the morning.

I know this may sound oversensitive, but if you’re a maker, think of your own case. Don’t your spirits rise at the thought of having an entire day free to work, with no appointments at all? Well, that means your spirits are correspondingly depressed when you don’t. And ambitious projects are by definition close to the limits of your capacity. A small decrease in morale is enough to kill them off.

Paul Graham

Heads Down Tuesday is the only solution I’ve been able to find. It’s the only time I’m comfortable starting something ambitious.

As with all good things, there are plenty of reasons not to try it. You don’t want to upset your team (hint: talk to them about it ahead of time). You’re worried something catastrophic will happen while you aren’t looking (hint: give out your cell phone number for actual emergencies). I’m sure you have plenty of other reasons.

But it’s worth a try. Find your least-meeting-heavy day and pitch it as an experimental focus day to your team. And if you do, report back!


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