COVID19 Goals Parenting Work

Day 121: Deep Work Attempt #2 & some Q/A

July 14, 2020

I am armed with fantastic advice from many of you, 2 more episodes of Cal N’s podcast (I know . . . somehow I find it fascinating, motivating, frustrating, and at times infuriating — more on that in a future post), and 2 time blocks in my planner plus a space to break my project into less intimidating chunks.

Each with its own checkbox. Of course.

I will be DND’ing my phone during those time blocks with an auto away message. And we will see how things go! I will certainly report back.

A Brief Q&A

I’ve gotten a couple of questions lately, so here we go!

1- How long does your bullet journal process take? Honestly, this one is not that easy to answer because I tend to add to it continuously throughout the day! But I spend the longest time with it in the morning, right after waking up (and before writing here!).

Today, it took me ~15 minutes to plan the day / fill out data from yesterday. However, this was a mix of thinking about how I want to use my time and what I want to get done, and the actual drawing of lines / boxes / etc. It’s hard to separate the planning process from the part where pen hits paper!

I spend a longer time on Mondays (often up to an hour) and at the end of each month/Quintile.

2- Why don’t you take a vacation? Well. We cancelled our trip to the Keys because the place where we were going to stay sounded (per Tripadvisor reviews which are generally trustworthy) understaffed and frankly unsanitary, plus part of the appeal was going to be use of communal areas/activities and now I don’t feel like that is worth doing in this state at this time.

Taking a vacation with the kids to somewhere with better weather and total isolation sounds nice, but would require a plane trip to get there, and I don’t think that’s a great idea right now (and also, our healthcare’s HR department has highly discouraged us from air travel though I feel it is basically as likely we will contract COVID-19 at Publix or, well, work).

PLUS being from FL I would think perhaps we’d be expected to quarantine in many areas.

Taking a vacation WITHOUT kids sounds like a dream come true right now but I don’t feel comfortable sending our kids to our nanny’s right now when they would be basically stuck inside. We don’t have family members that are available/safe/willing to watch our kids, especially because since we are in health care it seems naive to think we are free and clear of virus at any moment. (My test still is not back BTW and last night I dreamed it was positive.)

So. NOPE. No vacation. We will both have off for a week in August but with no childcare so frankly it doesn’t sound all that restful to me. I am sure we will have some fun, though.

3- What are you going to do about school? Seriously I have no idea. Trying not to think about it.

on a walk with A yesterday (trying to do short walks with just one kid at a time!)
She insisted I make chocolate pudding because it’s featured in 2 books she has (The Poky Little Puppy and Goldilocks and the 3 Dinosaurs). So I did.
Nicoise salad – a family crowd pleaser! Who knew!


  • Reply Lisa of Lisa's Yarns July 14, 2020 at 9:05 am

    Again, super impressed that Viva is eating most of the items in that salad. It looks like she has tuna on her plate? Our son is soooo freaking picky. It’s maddening. I think he sounds like Laura’s son Alex. I never imagined feeding a kid would be so difficult. His tastes are expanding and we hear he eats great at school. But he doesn’t like things most kids love like fruit and cheese! So odd!

    Man, I could not listen to Cal Newport. From the times you’ve mentioned on here, it sounds like he’d fill me with a level of rage akin to what I feel when I read articles about people not wanting to wear masks! Ha! I guess I am rage-prone during this pandemic?? Just me? Ha.

    I totally understand why you are not taking a vacation. We are going up to my parents lake home in August for a week but that’s the extent of our vacation plans. And even deciding to do that was not easy as my dad is high risk. But we will all get tested the Friday before we head up and then isolate until we leave for the lake. I keep telling myself that this is the year of sacrifice and *hopefully* 2021 will be better? Although we’ll have a baby so I don’t see us taking a vacation in 2021. But hopefully we can go up to my parents lake home quite a bit. Going up there is like a mini-vacation because my mom is obsessed with kids so helps out a ton. And there’s just something about being by the water.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger July 14, 2020 at 11:37 am

      viva definitely did not eat everything (to be honest I have no idea what she ate or didn’t eat — third baby problems!). but they didn’t complain and had enough they did like so it worked!

      I did salmon rather than tuna b/c i fear mercury!

  • Reply RKK July 14, 2020 at 10:02 am

    Have you listened to the ‘Focus on this’ podcast? it is put out by the people who do the Full Focus planner, but you don’t need one to listen and benefit from the content (I don’t have one). I find it more laid back, realistic, and practical than Mr. Newport. And, it’s fun to listen to!

    • Reply BethC July 14, 2020 at 10:07 am

      I really like Focus on This too. The hosts are kind of silly and cheerful and it never makes me feel bad about myself, but it always gives me a good idea or two.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger July 14, 2020 at 11:37 am

      I love that podcast!! And the hosts. And i had a FFP for a while 🙂

    • Reply Sam@Eyet to Wonder July 14, 2020 at 11:46 am

      Thanks for the recommendation! I’ll check this out.

  • Reply Young July 14, 2020 at 10:34 am

    How often are you getting tested? I work intermittently with covid+ clients, too and am debating on how often to get tested.
    I’ve listened to several episodes of Cal Newport’s podcast and also read his book Deep Work. He has some great advice, but there’s something about him that irks me. Maybe a vague sense of elitisim, I’m not sure.
    I really look forward to your planner/bujo photos and posts! I’ve been so inspired by them, I ordered a Midori 5 notebook to start my own bullet journal! I think it will help with keeping track of certain elements of the day which might help me during the pandemic.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger July 14, 2020 at 11:38 am

      woohooo new bujo!!! very exciting!

      i’ve been tested twice total. reagents are running very low in our area due to patient needs.

  • Reply CBS July 14, 2020 at 11:12 am

    I got to order a new notebook today as I had exhausted all my random freebies and scraps of paper. Nothing too exciting, just a Rhodia dot grid, but I find they have such nice smooth paper and heavy back pads which is great for working at a too small desk.

    I’m here for all the Cal Newport thoughts (or snark). I want an itemised breakdown of his parenting workload before I feel too guilty about struggling with deep work with a toddler and full-time jobs.

    • Reply Jen July 14, 2020 at 11:36 am

      I started Deep Work a while ago and was really mad. I didn’t bother to finish it. Is his podcast better?

      I get the point of deep work (which is really well illustrated in Flow which is an awesome book) but helping me get rid of distractions keep all those nit-picky things away to help me get through some of the more chunky things was what i was looking for. Telling me that Social media is a total time suck was so unhelpful – yes, it is but it can also be a super helpful connector. We stay in touch with geographically distant family and friends and organize other parts of my life with it. I also wondered who on earth cooks for him, or books day camps (you know, when they were available), etc. I also have a job that requires me to collaborate frequently I CANNOT just work alone all the time which is what he seemed to be saying is important. So for those reasons I read the first chapter or so then read some reviews to see if it improved and decided to return it.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger July 14, 2020 at 11:40 am

      YES. he talks about it like he’s doing a lot but . . . I am skeptical. I’m not sure if his wife is employed or not.
      I am guessing he jumps into ‘very active parenting’ when he feels like it / when it fits into his predetermined day. I’m sure he is very engaged when he IS parenting but i’m very very curious exactly when those windows are, and how many hours/week it adds up to.

      (hey, if it’s a high # then great – maybe there is hope for me!)

      His 3 kids are VERY similar in age to mine.

      ALL THAT SAID – i did 2 hours of SOLID DEEP WORK this morning seriously and i feel pretty pleased with myself right now!!!

  • Reply Perfectly Cromulent Name July 14, 2020 at 11:47 am

    Cal Newport has some good ideas, but he is one of those dudes that I assume has a wife doing all the background, unseen work. It’s easy to do deep work when you don’t have to carry the mental load AND do the laundry. I could be wrong, of course, but that’s just how he strikes me. I take the parts that I can (like not checking email as often-life changing- and ignore the parts that are impractical to me because I don’t have a wife and/or very much paid help to do the background stuff.

  • Reply gwinne July 14, 2020 at 12:35 pm

    I’m honestly astounded by the amount of anti-CN sentiment here (in the comments!). I haven’t listened the podcast, but I read his blog fairly regularly and have read the last two books. A lot of speculation about what goes on in his house, without much actual knowledge. Just saying.

    Even as a single parent with minimal (like 2-4 hrs/day) of teen supplied childcare, I can have something resembling “deep work” if I’m primed for it. It doesn’t take a lot of time. It takes focus. Some days I’m not there…but that’s not because I don’t have a wife 🙂 Sarah, I know you love your mornings, but if you’re really trying to carve out some quiet, wouldn’t taking one or two of those early morning hours do it? (Believe me, I get why that wouldn’t be appealing!!)

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger July 14, 2020 at 4:43 pm

      I’m torn. I’m listening to more of his podcasts and i DO really enjoy them. BUT then I think about what he’s saying, all these suggestions he’s making – read deeply, deliberate practice, live with ‘meaning’, and I just feel like WHEN is a person with family responsibilities supposed to do all of these things!? And again, I’m a lucky person who has had stable childcare even throughout all of this craziness. Then again, maybe my deep work is basically just this blog, the podcast stuff I do, and reading a few books, and maybe that’s enough.

      Re: the deep work – oh I fully acknowledge my inability to do deep work has to do with how I have set myself up as eternally available and I am addressing that. IN FACT today I banged out the Annual Program Eval that had been plaguing me for weeks and I attribute that to DND-ing my phone and NOT opening email. To which CN would say “duh”. And he’s absolutely right!

      • Reply Perfectly Cromulent Name July 14, 2020 at 5:34 pm

        Oh yes, learning to set boundaries is so hard and important! I had to learn that so I did not burn out, and it feels unnatural still at times to not just jump in as things come in.

        I am the only one who does my job at work, and I very deliberately trained people not to expect immediate access to me because it would be impossible to to my actual job if I dropped everything for every (perceived) emergency. I only check email twice in the am and twice in the PM and that helped a LOT. I pretty much never answer my phone either outside of established office hours. I always return work calls the same day,* but if I answered every call as they came in and had to be reactive in the moment, I would not get any of the millions of other time sensitive things done. But people know this about me, and generally respect those boundaries.

        I also have a job that there ARE no emergencies. It might feel like one, but nobody is going to die or lose millions of dollars if they have to wait an hour for a callback. It would be much harder to do if the things were not true.

        *unless you call at 4:55pm, like a MONSTER.

        • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger July 14, 2020 at 6:05 pm

          Love this! Thank you for sharing and inspiring.

        • Reply Kate July 15, 2020 at 12:00 am

          I know you talk to Laura all the time- but have you considered re-reading Juliet’s school of possibilities? There’s good stuff there about emails 🙂

          • Sarah Hart-Unger July 15, 2020 at 5:29 am

            Love that little book!

    • Reply Anon July 15, 2020 at 7:06 am

      I, too, am surprised by the anti CN sentiment. You, LV, and Ana have commented similarly. Frankly for a bunch of people who support LV despite contrary comments, I find the thought strange. When someone criticizes LV, you (generic) say take what you can, not every piece of advice has to fit every person, Etc, why doesn’t that apply with Cal? Just because you think you can’t eliminate distractions as well as he does, that doesn’t eliminate the value of deep work and what he’s saying. So you like Instagram, he doesn’t. You feel you attend more to your kids than he does. Why does any of this negate deep work or what he’s saying? It feels more like perfectionists trying to get gold star than anything is truly wrong with his philosophy.

      • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger July 15, 2020 at 7:18 am

        It doesn’t!! That’s why I still find his podcast very valuable. So much so that I am listening to all of them. I can’t help the thought cascades that some of his work tends to trigger (inadequacy and a feeling like I am somehow playing on a different playing field).

        • Reply Anon July 15, 2020 at 7:33 am

          So you want to ask him all those questions to prove he doesn’t do as much as you and the playing field isn’t even? He can’t really understand your inability to do as much deep work as him if he’s not on as much for his kids? Do you see where I am going – none of that matters. It isn’t a reflection on you, it’s not a reflection on him. Diving deep has great consequences.

          • Sarah Hart-Unger July 15, 2020 at 7:52 am

            When I listen to his podcast, I feel he gives off the impression that is *is* possible to do what I have not found to be as possible for myself. It actually perhaps IS a reflection on me (and not on him or his fault in any way!) that I wonder about this, and you’re right that maybe it’s not fair to expect him to answer to that. I believe Manoush Zomorodi tried to ask him something similar in an interview, and he didn’t come up with much of a response. I’m not saying he owes anyone an answer but I don’t think I’m the only one who has these questions.

            That said, I do see what you are saying — maybe if his points are valuable (and I agree, many of them are) — then none of the rest matters.

  • Reply Sarah July 14, 2020 at 7:35 pm

    Could your nanny watch the kids at your house so you could get away for 2-3 days? Just to have something to look forward to!

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger July 15, 2020 at 5:28 am

      She doesn’t love that option because her husband misses her 🙂 (Plus I think — to be fair — she is getting tired too. MAYBE more realistically I could do one night – like a Friday night – at her house with a pickup midday Sat.)

  • Reply Erica Sparky July 15, 2020 at 9:26 am

    I love the idea of Nicoise salad in the summer! We do something similar but with smoked salmon, but our kids don’t go for that. This is funny because they both eat salmon nigiri when we get sushi … They do eat salad / raw veggies.

    You know, even a staycation could be relaxing if you plan in some fun things, like a day or two at the beach, afternoon movies, and the like. We’re doing one the week of Aug 10. Having time at home where I can focus on the kids without feeling guilty and like I’m dropping the ball on work will be good.

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