310 – Zach Swinehart on how to get more done, aka being more productive – Part 1

Interview with Zach Swinehart and Nathan Wrigley.

On the podcast today we have Zach Swinehart in the first of an (unexpectedly) two-part episode. We talked for so long that I decided it was best as two episodes instead of a really long single episode.

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Zach was kind enough to write his own show notes for this episode and so rather than reinvent the wheel, here they are:

Zach’s show notes:

“Productivity hacks” feel a bit like snake oil to me at this point. We’ve all heard a million of them and they never seem to work.

Today’s episode should affect your productivity. It’s not a “weird productivity tip that your doctor does not want you to know about”. Instead, it’s a fundamental approach that we can take to our work as designers and developers to prioritise high-quality focus on the right stuff.

Zach is going to go deep on the concept of “strategic deep work” and how you can leverage it to really get meaningful results in your freelancing business.

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Whether you’re a soloist freelancer or you’re trying to scale your agency, you’ll get something out of this episode if you’ve ever had any of these thoughts…

“I feel like I’m spending all my time pulled between random tasks and stuck in project fulfillment, rather than growing my business.”

“I hate how I often end a work day and see that even though I worked all day, I only tracked a couple hours of actual high quality work.”

“It sucks looking back on my progress with my business over the past several months/years and feeling like I’m not actually growing or moving forward — I feel like I’m stagnant and treading water.”

Zach Swinehart

Today Zach and I chat a bit about some of our experiences with deep work and challenges with shallow work, and he tries his best to pry my addicted fingers off my Gmail inbox in favour of deep work. (Good luck with that, Zach!)

He also shares his step-by-step high-level framework he uses to harness the power of strategic “deep work” in his own freelancing business.

Whether you’re drowning in tasks or you’re already feeling like you’re on-it, but looking for some new ideas & tools, today’s episode is a fun one, and we hope you enjoy it. And of course, in a couple of weeks we’ll have the next episode for you!

If you listen to this episode and all this deep work stuff sounds cool to you, Zach’s got a free course where he walks you step-by-step through implementing it, which you can join at:


Mentioned in this podcast:

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Transcript (if available)

These transcripts are created using software, so apologies if there are errors in them.

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[00:00:02.010] - Nathan Wrigley
Welcome to the WP Builds Podcast, bringing you the latest news from the WordPress community. Now welcome your hosts, David Waumsley and Nathan Wrigley. Hello there and welcome once again to the WP Builds podcast. You've reached episode number 310 entitled Zach Swinehart on how to get more done, aka being more productive part one. It was published on Thursday, the 12 January 2023. My name is Nathan Wrigley and some very short housekeeping just before we begin the show, if you would like to keep in touch with all that we do, head over WP Builds com subscribe, fill out the forms there and we will keep you notified when we create new content. Typically that's for the this Week in WordPress show which is on a Monday, and also the podcast, which is what you're listening to now. The other thing to mention is that we have version five of the Page Builder Summit. It's coming around very soon in late February and we are on the lookout for some sponsors. So if you are part of a WordPress related company, you might have a product or a service, who knows? We are keen to hear from you. The best place to go would be Pagebuildersomet.com Sponsor.

[00:01:28.270] - Nathan Wrigley
That's Pagebuildersummit.com sponsor go and cheque out the details there. We've got some very affordable micro sponsorships and it goes all the way up to our Jumbo Platinum sponsor. But if you have any questions, you can either go to the contact form on that page or hit me up on my email, which is [email protected] very keen to get some of you guys helping us put on that event. And in return, we will let people know all about your products or services. The last thing to mention is if you are fed up with Twitter and you want to try out a Master on install, I'm sure you've heard of Masterdon by now. We've had ours up for nearly two years now. I think it's at WP Builds social so you can go there and sign up for free.

[00:02:16.170] - Nathan Wrigley
The WP Builds podcast is brought to you today by GoDaddy Pro. GoDaddy Pro, the home of managed WordPress hosting that includes free domain SSL and 24/7 support. Bundle that with the Hub by GoDaddy Pro to unlock more free benefits, to manage multiple sites in one place invoice clients and get 30% off new purchases. You can find out more by going to go.me/wpbuilds. That's go.me.wpbuilds. And we sincerely thank GoDaddy Pro for their continuing support of the WP Builds podcast.

[00:02:54.310] - Nathan Wrigley
Okay, what have we got on the show for you today?

[00:02:56.520] - Nathan Wrigley
Well, this is an interesting one. This was intended to be a single podcast episode, but because Zach Swinehart and I really got into the weeds about productivity, well, we decided about an hour in that we were going to stop, pause and split it up into two episodes.

[00:03:11.460] - Nathan Wrigley
So this is the first of two. We'll come back and do the other one after next week's podcast, because we.

[00:03:16.780] - Nathan Wrigley
Do an interview one week and then a chat with David the next week. So we'll chat with David next week.

[00:03:21.490] - Nathan Wrigley
So we'll be back in a couple of weeks to finish it off. But this is the first one where.

[00:03:24.680] - Nathan Wrigley
Zach really gets into the idea of whether or not you are productive enough. Now it's all done, really, through the prism of me trying to figure out.

[00:03:33.110] - Nathan Wrigley
If I'm productive enough.

[00:03:34.370] - Nathan Wrigley
And guess what? I'm not, really. My Achilles heel seems to be things like email and Gmail and just getting lost in things like social media and really, it's not the best way to do things. And Zach's got this idea of deep work. It's not snake oil, it's not something that you're being sold, it's not something brand new, you don't have to sign up for anything. He's just explaining the beginnings of his process and we go into that in a bit of detail and we continue that, like I said, in a couple of weeks time. So, interesting episode and I hope that you enjoy it. I am joined on the podcast today by Zach Swinehart. Hello, Zach.

[00:04:12.010] - Zach Swinehart

[00:04:12.860] - Nathan Wrigley
Very nice to have you on the podcast. This is going to be a really.

[00:04:15.480] - Nathan Wrigley
Intriguing episode, potentially like no other.

[00:04:18.290] - Nathan Wrigley
It's going to be more conversational, less interview, and we'll see how it develops. It may be long, it may be short, we have no idea. But Zach's here today, all the way.

[00:04:27.210] - Nathan Wrigley
From Georgia, but possibly not the Georgia.

[00:04:29.840] - Nathan Wrigley
That comes into your mind.

[00:04:31.100] - Nathan Wrigley
Where are you exactly, Zach?

[00:04:32.690] - Zach Swinehart
Georgia the country, not Georgia the state.

[00:04:35.620] - Nathan Wrigley
I'm going to be very interested if anybody listening to this podcast can actually picture where Georgia the state is. Put it this way, it's not in North America. But, yeah, you're joining me today because I don't know exactly how we got connected, but we did get connected and ever since then we've had sort of toing and froing and failures to get on the podcast because of sick children and so on and so forth. But we're here today and it's very.

[00:05:02.530] - Nathan Wrigley
Much in Zach's court, what it is.

[00:05:04.830] - Nathan Wrigley
That we're going to talk about today. But I'm going to hand it over to you, Zach, and tell us what it is that you wanted to talk about.

[00:05:10.610] - Zach Swinehart
All right. The main thing I want to talk about is getting actual work done on the business, rather than getting stuck in client work and for fulfilment and small tasks all the time.

[00:05:24.150] - Nathan Wrigley
Yeah, this is a problem which I would imagine most people can identify with. If you've been in business for any length of time, you realise how easy it is just to focus on the tasks that your clients are throwing at you all the time. And you realise sort of five years later that you've neglected the business and the business hasn't grown. And you're basically exactly where you were five years ago, except you're five years older so we're going to try and tackle that, I guess.

[00:05:48.530] - Zach Swinehart
Yeah, and I think that we can look at it from different lenses too, because not every freelancer wants to scale. And I think that sometimes talking about working on the business, connotes things like building processes and hiring and stuff like that. But if somebody wants to be a highly leveraged soloist, I think that there's still a lot of opportunity for applying deep work strategically to create more time to make music or play with your dogs or whatever it is people like to do.

[00:06:16.330] - Nathan Wrigley
Yeah, I think the trope that's always coming out of you watch these sort of people on YouTube who purporting to espouse wisdom around this subject. The idea is always growth, growth, growth, more growth, and then a little bit more growth, please. It has to be growing. And of course, I think for some people that really isn't the case. They've gone into web development because it fitted around their lifestyle. They could work from home and they could just whip out the laptop when there was nothing else going on. They could work late into the evening and it was just really a function of putting food on the table. And growth is the antithesis. It's just a job because this is what I want to do, enjoying it and so on. So that's good to bear in mind right at the beginning. This conversation may not resonate with everybody. Yeah, okay, where do we go from here then? What's the first step that you're going to introduce us to?

[00:07:06.150] - Zach Swinehart
Well, I guess let's talk high level. So I assume most of the listeners have heard of or know what deep work is, but just to throw a definition out there, cal Newport, I think, is the one who popularised it, and he defines it as, quote, professional activities performed in a state of distraction free conversation. Oh, concentration that push your cognitive abilities to their limit. And so if I were to propose an alternate definition that I think is useful for us as web designers and developers, I think it is Cal's definition, but with the Asterisk, that it's distraction free concentration on the right kind of work. And I think that for different businesses and different goals, the definition of deep work is different. So if someone is wanting to be a highly leveraged soloist who like, I guess I'll share my own preferences, I like to work on one client project at a time as a solo designer developer. And so for me, if I want to spend quality deep work just on fulfilment, then that means applying that distraction free concentration to just get a lot of code written or produce a really good design without being distracted by social media and slack and stuff like that.

[00:08:26.610] - Zach Swinehart
Or if somebody is running a business with employees, probably for them, distraction free work means spending time growing their business building processes. I guess targeting the next goal instead of being stuck answering a million questions from staff on slack and stuff. So I guess the flow to take here is that top level definition and then maybe we could talk a bit about how different people might use deep work and then some strategies and pitfalls and things like that.

[00:08:56.560] - Nathan Wrigley
Yeah, that sounds good. Can I just drill down a little bit on distraction? When we're talking about distraction, presumably we're talking about things which just suck our time away, which really upon inspecting what we just did, we kind of regret. So there's going to be distractions in our lives which are not only a distraction, but they're incredibly important and they need to receive some kind of badge of forgiveness. A good example might be that, I don't know, there's an accident in the family and you need to take time out because you simply have to go and visit the hospital to make sure that everything's okay. Yeah, you can imagine 1000 scenarios like that where you basically forgive yourself and say this is fine, you know, this is perfectly all right. But there then there's the distraction which really has no merit. And regret is the general emotion that you have when you're looking back the hours wasted scrolling on Facebook and myriad other things just like that. So I guess it's important to qualify that all distractions are not equal. And some of them, you have to allow them to take over your life because it's important.

[00:10:04.370] - Zach Swinehart
Totally. And I think something useful that I guess this speaks to is everyone has a sort of hierarchical list of priorities for their life and work is just one item in that list. And you and I, before we started recording, we're talking about your kids and stuff like that. And so for people who are listening to their parents, most likely their kids are one of those priorities on the hierarchical list and most likely they're higher on the list and family is most likely higher. And so to me, if you're taking time that's consumed or that could be labelled as a distraction, but it's in service to one of these top priorities in your life, then it's not such a bad thing really. Probably no way around that without just being a crappy parent or family member.

[00:10:52.580] - Nathan Wrigley
Yeah, no, I get the point. But there's this whole system which has developed in, I imagine, everybody's life, where they really do look back at the end of the day, the end of the week, month, a year, however long it is that you're gazing. Back. And you realise that so much of the time that you could have devoted to making your business grow or whatever it is that your goals and aspirations are, and you realise that you just squandered it. I think often the case is just little increments of time, that you just get bored and then you realise that you've got yourself into a situation where you've done something for 2 hours that didn't really have any merit. And it's just that the accumulation of that over time causes the problem. It's like tooth decay. It's one little thing is not a big deal, but if you leave it for six years and never brush your teeth, then there's a big problem.

[00:11:41.500] - Zach Swinehart
Yeah, I think probably one of the biggest low hanging fruit ones that is the ultimate squandering is task switching, because it's been studied and we lose efficiency every time we switch from doing one piece of work to another. And I know in the earlier days of my freelancing, I always was task switching. Like I'd be working on Project A and then B, and then C, and then A, and then B, and then A, and then C, and every time you make a switch like that, you lose a lot of productivity because you have to remember what you were doing before. Switch your brain into this new type of work, that sort of thing.

[00:12:15.050] - Nathan Wrigley
Sorry, you carry on.

[00:12:16.590] - Zach Swinehart
I was just going to say, I think that that's where some easy big wins can be found and we'll talk about that.

[00:12:22.290] - Nathan Wrigley
I think in my life, the task.

[00:12:23.730] - Nathan Wrigley
Switching is more often than not self inflicted, in that I leave the opportunity for me to task switch wide open. So, as an example, I'm far less bad at this now, but I was really terrible at it. I would have a browser permanently open and dedicated to, let's say, social media, be that Twitter or Facebook, and it would just be there on the desktop. Screens would be covering it up. And that was my nod to ignoring it, really. It was just, oh, it's hidden behind a screen, I can't see it. Of course, the reality is that every five minutes or so, you just do the mousepad gesture and all the screens shuffle around and there's Twitter staring at me. I was the author of my own doom there, really. And my way around that was eventually to just dedicate resources, to closing all that stuff down and at the beginning of the day, make sure none of it got opened and be slightly more self disciplined. I think the problem that I faced, which, again, I now seem to have gotten over, is allowing a lot of these distractions access to my life via notifications, be those on the desktop or on the mobile phone.

[00:13:33.880] - Nathan Wrigley
And I've deliberately ignored, upon installing these apps, the opportunities to turn notifications off or at least go through. And some of the apps really do make it tremendously difficult. Email notifications, bing, Bong and just that tiny little bit of noise is enough to completely derail me totally. And two minutes later, you realise, man, I've just been looking at email that I don't need to look out for another day, potentially. So, yeah, I allowed a lot of that in and I'm more disciplined now.

[00:14:07.070] - Zach Swinehart
Great. What do you do to manage it now just the closing and the decision in advance that you're not going to open them.

[00:14:12.210] - Nathan Wrigley
Yeah. So on the desktop, I literally don't open the social stuff, and I've vowed to myself that no cookies from any social media will go into my main browser. So I've told myself I am not allowed to open it. Sounds ridiculous, but this is what I do. I'm not allowed to open Facebook in my main browser. I have to have it in a separate browser, and I deliberately make that browser like I don't have the icons anywhere sensible. The icons are sort of buried within menus and so on. So I've got that. And then on my phone, I've installed I'm on an Android phone, and the screen, the home screen, if you like, on an Android phone, is called a launcher. And on Android you can customise the launcher. So, like on iPhone, you're basically left with the default. You can move things around, but what Apple gives you is what Apple gives you. On my Android phone, I've got a launcher called, I believe it's called Better. I can't remember the exact name. I'll have a quick look, actually, I'll have a look in a moment, and it allows me to basically just get rid of everything.

[00:15:18.660] - Nathan Wrigley
It disables notifications unless I explicitly allow them. So, for example, I allow text messages to come through because anybody that's actually got my real phone number, there's merit in that because I don't give it out on social media and so on. But also it's got rid of all the icons. Everything is text, everything is text.

[00:15:39.040] - Nathan Wrigley
It's a plain background.

[00:15:41.470] - Nathan Wrigley
And so I've got like seven or eight words on my home screen and it limits me, I think, to eight. I wouldn't be allowed to stray over eight. And so that's been really effective and the fact that it's just text and boring. And I've also uninstalled well, not uninstalled because you can't uninstall it, but I've disabled Gmail, which comes by default, and I use so I've got rid of email and I've uninstalled everything that can reach out to me. My principle was this, if it can reach out to me, I don't want it. So Facebook's gone, Slack's gone, Twitter is gone, the only app that can reach out to me is text message, basically. So I've got rid of anything that can reach out to me without my authorization, if you know what I mean.

[00:16:34.240] - Zach Swinehart
Yeah, that's great.

[00:16:35.870] - Nathan Wrigley
Did it work? Yes, a bit. Yes, it did. It kind of pushed me over to the desktop a bit more. So I get my fix of Facebook now on the desktop, but that's fine because I've got kind of office hours around the desktop, so that's a bit more manageable.

[00:16:49.050] - Nathan Wrigley
What about you? Do you do this kind of stuff?

[00:16:51.700] - Zach Swinehart
I do, but I have terrible impulse control with my ADHD, so I've had to be much more forceful. So your system works for you. And that's awesome. But it's predicated upon your own commitment to it. And for mine, it kind of goes a step further. That's less reliant on my willingness to follow it. So there's an app, it doesn't work as well for iOS anymore because iOS changed it, but it's really good on Android. There's an app called Freedom that will literally you can set schedules where it'll literally not allow you to open Gmail or Facebook or whatever when you're in that schedule. Like if you try to open it, it'll show you the Freedom screen and it'll do it on computer too. So that's something I used to do in the past, but now that I'm on iOS, it doesn't work quite as well because all it does on iOS is it disables calls to the server. So you can open the Facebook app, but if you try to refresh it, there just won't be new stuff on the feed. But you'll see the cache stuff. So it still gives you your little dopamine hits.

[00:17:56.370] - Nathan Wrigley

[00:17:57.690] - Zach Swinehart
So the flow that I do is very similar to yours, I guess. My ultimate don't let things reach out to me model, which I really like the labelling of that for yours? Mine. Well, I have an ipod in addition to my iPhone. And the ipod doesn't have anything that can reach out to me installed on it, right. So what I'll typically do is use my iPhone in the mornings until for me, my deep work, like no reaching out to me kind of time is up until 01:00 p.m. Or 02:00. P.m.. And so I'll not use my phone until then. So on my ipod I have like an authenticator app installed and I have just various things that I would say, oh, but I can't turn off my phone because I need blank. I have all that on the ipod, but I don't have Gmail or Facebook or anything like that. I will, before I go to bed on my phone, turn off the mobile data and WiFi so that if I do need my phone, for some reason, I'm not going to get any notifications. And I have a schedule set for.

[00:19:05.010] - Nathan Wrigley
Do not disturb me too.

[00:19:08.030] - Zach Swinehart
Nice. So you'd have to swipe down to see the notifications and they don't make any noise. That helps a lot. Phone in drawer. It's a good one. Let me think of what else because I have a lot of systems here and I'm just trying to think of.

[00:19:22.870] - Nathan Wrigley
The full yeah, whilst you have a think, I'll just add a couple of bits to that. I do phone in kitchen at night because essentially we have a landline, the old landline, and there's one of those in the bedroom. And basically if there was some kind of crisis and I'm thinking close family members, that will ring. The last time it rang was many, many years ago. But the point is that if truly somebody needed to reach me in the middle of the night, which is very unlikely, but you get the scenario. I'm sure that will ring and yeah, the phone just stays in charging in the kitchen. Do the same for the kids. Trying to install that habit is a lot more difficult with the kids because we didn't enforce that habit for a while and they just got into that habit and so now we're having to break it and it's tough, but yeah, there you go.

[00:20:13.650] - Zach Swinehart
Yeah, I think that the trick, is having a solid reason and then putting systems in place to help enforce it. I think for me, I've been lately thinking a lot about ADHD and dopamine hits and how ADHD brains are a lot more prone to addiction and a lot more prone to dopamine seeking than Neurotypical brains. And how expecting myself to be able to have willpower and just put something away that's serving some emotional purpose or some dopamineogenic, if that's even a real word. Purpose isn't really that realistic. And so thinking in terms of replacement has been really helpful. I've been using this.

[00:20:53.010] - Nathan Wrigley
I was just going to say, bear in mind that the creators of these devices, the guys at Android and Google, I guess, and the guys at Apple, they employ some seriously clever people and they have figured out a nigh on perfect system for derailing your ability to concentrate. But also bear in mind that inside that little black rectangle is every song that was ever written, is all the information in the world, every film that ever existed, and all of the social stuff, all the news, it's right there. So you know that just picking it up, you are going to get some kind of window on the world that you wouldn't do if you didn't pick it up. And and it that's incredibly beguiling and I think that's useful to bear in mind. You know, it's it sometimes it actually reminds me, I don't know if you've seen the film 2001, where there's that literally a black Obelisk, which rather looks like a mobile phone, and it was beguiling to the astronauts who went up there, to Mars, I believe it was, and they couldn't take their eyes off it. It's a bit like that, but it's because it's so utilitarian.

[00:22:03.280] - Nathan Wrigley
It gives you everything you want, and especially for children as they're growing up and their neurons are being set in certain pathways, it's pretty compelling and it does a lot. And so I can well imagine that most of us on some level have a little bit of an addiction. Do you know, you were speaking earlier about your phone and what you've done and it's curious that we've both gone to certain lengths to make our phones worse than they are. I would actually buy a phone. I imagine the market is tiny, but I would literally throw this phone in the bin if I could get a phone which did text messages, was able to play podcasts, had a camera and could play an app like Spotify. That's that's my criteria. Those four things would that's all I need now. And the rest of it is just a weight around my neck.

[00:22:55.570] - Zach Swinehart
Yeah, I heard of actually some sort of flip phone resurrection that could maybe do all those things except podcasts.

[00:23:04.150] - Nathan Wrigley
Yeah, I had a look and I found I found a variety of phones that could achieve half, sometimes a third sorry, like two thirds or something like that, but never quite never did I quite find the device that will do it all. So I'm left with this.

[00:23:18.860] - Zach Swinehart
But the ipod hack might be perfect for you. What that is.

[00:23:23.080] - Nathan Wrigley
Yeah, what I was thinking next time around is I'm just going to buy a really cheap smartphone and get a camera. So make, you know, really, really cheap, so that browsing the Internet is just horrific. Everything would load incredibly slowly, but it can it can cache some songs and all of that kind of stuff because it doesn't take much to do that. So, yeah, just go back to the day, back 20 years or so, carry a little pocket camera in my yeah, in my pocket and a completely rubbish phone in the other pocket. So we'll see how that goes. That'll be for another episode, Zach.

[00:23:58.970] - Zach Swinehart
But yeah, on this topic of eliminating inputs and you talking about your challenges with Gmail, one of the tools I have down that people might really enjoy is called Inbox When Ready. It's a Chrome extension and it will add kind of like a layer of friction, just like how for you logging into Facebook, you have to go into your secondary browser and you have to go through all these extra steps and that adds a little bit of friction. Similarly, Inbox When Ready, what it does is it hides your entire inbox and just put a little button there that says Show Inbox and it'll tell you how many minutes today your inbox has been visible. So it gives you like, a little bit of friction, little bit of accountability, and it just adds that one extra step that might help people catch themselves.

[00:24:42.170] - Nathan Wrigley
If they're the UI is open. Let's imagine it's Gmail. The UI is open, only it's blank. Okay, that is interesting. Okay, I have something similar, so I might as well share that. I have a Chrome extension because I'm actually using Brave, but it's a chromium derivative. And I have something called Active Inbox and it has a very similar feature. You can click a button. I'm trying to find the thing for it now, but I can't quite see it. It used to be like a little I icon, and you click the I icon and the inbox basically goes away. And it also shrinks the menus down to like, font size two. So even the menus are just like horrifically unreadable, but the inbox itself sort of disappears away from view. And yeah, I haven't found myself using that. Email seems to be the one that gets through, not on my phone, because it's gone, but email seems to be the one that I'm less willing. You know, it's more like prize it from my cold, dead hands, it seems. So less of a success story, then.

[00:25:46.540] - Zach Swinehart
I'm interested in exploring this because I think a lot of people can relate to this. If I said, Nathan, don't cheque your inbox until 01:00 p.m., what would your objection be like? Why is it that you want to cheque it out?

[00:25:59.830] - Nathan Wrigley
And what's the genuinely speaking, I don't have one. So I am self employed, so I don't have a boss, so I don't have that excuse. It is just, I think, muscle memory. I've also got so when I close down my Mac, at the point at where you close it I don't know about Windows, but I'm imagining there's a similar scenario. But when I close down my Mac, there's an icon which is permanently checked. I never uncheck it, which is reopen the apps that are open now when you switch it on again. So basically, whenever my Mac comes to life in the morning, essentially when I come sit down, the browser opens and more or less the only tab that I have opening constantly is Gmail. So it's just there by default. And it's interesting, actually, and maybe this is a bit of a hack, if you asked me to do that and I said yes, and I have no objection to that, genuinely, I could totally live without it. The mere fact that I'd said yes to you would mean that I would achieve it because I really don't like letting people down. That seems kind of trite, but if I hadn't agreed to it, then neither here nor there, but if I confirmed to you that I wouldn't do it, even though I know you couldn't see me and cheque up on me, that would be an absolute shoe in for me, having success around that area.

[00:27:23.710] - Zach Swinehart
So I have a couple of ideas if you would be interested in sharing them. So do you have any sort of evening journal where you wrap up your day and have anything like shut down complete? Kind of, yeah.

[00:27:36.710] - Nathan Wrigley
So I've tried a few. I've tried one called Mind Wave and I've currently got one by Automatic, actually, who you may or may not know, they bought it a little while ago. It's called day one. And I kind of got bored of it after basically writing really pathetic little entries that I've then never had any interest in reading. I kind of lost interest in it. I never did diaries, never did any of that kind of stuff. So it just seems to be a part of life that I've never inspected. But I'm guessing there's some wisdom around it.

[00:28:10.330] - Zach Swinehart
Yeah, I mean, I so again, maybe it's an ADHD thing. Sometimes it's hard for. Me to know what's driven by ADHD and what's not. But I have a terrible memory, and so I found a lot of success in sort of automating things with systems to help me not have to remember things. And so for me, I have an evening journal that I do at the end of every day. I do one in the morning and one in the evening, and I can pull it up and tell you what's in it and actually what I can do it's on notion. So I can just give you a link to the template and people listening can pull it up in the show notes.

[00:28:41.210] - Nathan Wrigley
Yeah, nice.

[00:28:42.790] - Zach Swinehart
But I just do like a little cheque in how the day went, what went well, what needs work, what's one thing I'm grateful for stuff like that. But the main thing that's important here that I wanted to mention this for with you is one of my little, quote, preparation for tomorrow tasks is close Gmail. Close Gmail and Extra tabs. That's right, because I would do the same thing. I would open up my computer, the inbox would be open, and I'd see some little interesting things in there. I think the inbox can be especially addictive sometimes. Like right now, I have a proposal out to a client that's for a really big amount of money. And so every time I cheque the inbox, you could say yes. And so it's addictive because you can get good news, but it's dangerous because you can get bad news and you can get distractions. That's kind of the inbox.

[00:29:35.040] - Nathan Wrigley
But also every day that you stare at that where you don't get the good news is kind of a confirmation that it's bad news. Exactly.

[00:29:42.410] - Zach Swinehart
Yeah. It carries a big risk.

[00:29:44.480] - Nathan Wrigley
Yeah. The absence of good news is by default, disappointment. And that's not good either, is it?

[00:29:50.370] - Zach Swinehart
Yeah. And so if others listening have some resonance with what you're saying, I think two things that you might find helpful. One of the tools I wanted to talk about that's worked well for me is this app called Habitica. And basically it's a habit app that is built as this kind of RPG game. And if you play it with friends, if you're in a party well. So the core premise of Habitica is that every time you do one of your daily routines or one of your habits that are not necessarily daily, you just want to do them. You get experience points and gold and stuff like that. And you can, like, level up your character, fight bosses, that sort of thing. But the cool bit for accountability is if you're playing with friends in a party, if you don't do your habits for the day, everyone in the party takes damage. And so if you were to use this app, you might create a daily habit that is shut down my inbox at the end of the day, and then another one that's like, don't look at notifications until XYZ time, or don't open inbox until XYZ time.

[00:30:52.850] - Zach Swinehart
And if you don't do that, you would damage your party. And so it gives you this kind of accountability boost. And dopamine boosts when you do do the things because you get those experience points.

[00:31:01.520] - Nathan Wrigley
Yeah. So that's kind of interesting because it speaks to the thing that I was saying earlier about the accountability. If you asked me to do it and I agreed I would feel dreadful if I didn't manage to achieve that. It's not somehow I disappointed you or what have you so there is that I would gain from that. The interesting thing for me is that I've really never had any interest in kind of gaming of any kind at any point in life you know, if I walk into a room and somebody's gaming more or less anything I'm more or less guaranteed to do a 180 and leave the room. I just never found it that interesting. So I think that would have mixed results for me just because of my proclivity to not really like to do games yeah, you have to have the.

[00:31:44.460] - Zach Swinehart
Right kind of personality yeah, but it's.

[00:31:45.670] - Nathan Wrigley
A nice idea though, isn't it? The idea that you're in a cohort of people who are all trying to do the same thing. I'm guessing Habitica will what did you say it was called? Yeah, Habitica. It will set you up with does it have to be real world friends or could you just combine it with online people that you don't necessarily ordinarily know but who are trying to develop habits as well?

[00:32:06.120] - Zach Swinehart
You could do that. They have a bunch of like, guilds so I joined the ADHD Guild and so you could find party members through the app if you needed to?

[00:32:16.890] - Nathan Wrigley
Yeah. Okay. So that's kind of interesting, especially if it was a manifestation of ADHD that you were trying to tackle. I guess sharing it with that cohort of people would be really useful. In the same way if you were trying to wean yourself off social media, and that was literally the only thing that you were trying to do. Finding a similar cohort of people with the exact same problem would be useful. Yeah.

[00:32:40.450] - Zach Swinehart
Interesting trying to think of what would work well for you in this one. Do you think you respond better to carrot or stick? Because you're letting someone down that's like stick.

[00:32:49.390] - Nathan Wrigley
Yeah, that is a bit stick, isn't it?

[00:32:51.060] - Nathan Wrigley
Maybe stick.

[00:32:51.900] - Nathan Wrigley
I don't really know.

[00:32:52.780] - Nathan Wrigley
Yeah, possibly.

[00:32:54.630] - Nathan Wrigley
Okay, so here's a thing as well, which I don't know if we were due to get onto it right now or not, but there's some things that I really enjoy doing, and so I kind of dwell on those to the exclusion of the things that I don't really enjoy doing. So I don't know if that's a feature of your life or if you're more disciplined than that, but I find myself able to carry out tasks of more or less any length if I really enjoy them. And the opposite is true. If a task, no matter how small, if I really don't enjoy it, and I've had my hands bitten in the past by such a task, then I'll kind of put those things off. So there is a bit of procrastination based upon the nature of the task at hand. So, yeah, that doesn't really answer your question.

[00:33:43.750] - Zach Swinehart
So, for you, is the inbox in this category of things that you really enjoy?

[00:33:49.000] - Nathan Wrigley
I think it is, yeah.

[00:33:50.560] - Nathan Wrigley
I think I quite enjoy perusing email. Doesn't that sound sad?

[00:33:55.930] - Zach Swinehart
Well, I mean, maybe for you, you get more good news than bad news.

[00:33:59.870] - Nathan Wrigley
Yeah, I'll tell you what, I literally don't get horrific email. I don't get the kind of rage email from the boss and telling me that I've failed at certain tasks. I'm not applying for jobs, so there's kind of no disappointment on that end. But essentially, my email is a constant string of either things that I want to read. So I receive a lot of email about WordPress, which I am deeply interested in. And so I received more or less every kind of marketing email on the planet that's centred around that. So, in a sense, it's getting all my dopamine there. But also, it isn't for me an annoyance, in that it's making me cross or angry that nasty things are not coming through my inbox. So maybe that speaks to that a little bit.

[00:34:45.930] - Zach Swinehart
I have two points that I'm hoping will convince you of the ways of the deep work. So the first point is that surely sometimes you get an email that's like, nathan, I listen to your episode about Gutenberg and you're so wrong and it's stupid and you're stupid or something. Never.

[00:35:06.690] - Nathan Wrigley
I'm going to get one now, to be fair. Really? No, I think it's been 24 months or more. Okay, so it's all revealing slightly more than I intended here, but the tiny handful of occasions when that has arrived at my inbox, I have this approach where basically I just kill them with kindness. I just write back and prostrate myself and sort of say, look, I'm really sorry about that. Every occasion where it's happened, and honestly, it's probably two or three, it got turned around in an instant, so even that didn't put me off.

[00:35:49.840] - Zach Swinehart
Okay, well, fair enough, then. The other point may be more compelling, which is, what are your big goals right now with WP Builds? What are the big media projects or big media milestones you want to reach?

[00:36:04.180] - Nathan Wrigley
Yeah, I guess the purpose of a podcast is to have an audience, and I suppose it would be to grow the audience. Although I'm not exactly doing Facebook ads or anything like that. It kind of grows by word of mouth more than anything else. So, yeah, I don't connect those two things. I don't connect goals in email to my inability to close it down, if you know what I mean.

[00:36:37.740] - Zach Swinehart
Yeah, so I guess for me I could say, let's say with this kickass freelancing brand, I have goals of publishing content, building my audits, that sort of thing. And so for me, with where I'm at with this business, the deep work that needs to be done is around content creation or outreach or something like that. Or with my freelancing business, the deep work might need to be also content creation to market the freelancing or deep work on client projects or something like that. And so if I take my best energy before I have had any distractions. So if I see some email that gets me thinking about something and it doesn't even have to be a negative thing. It could just be like, I don't know, I get an email about some new game that's coming out, and so I decide I want to go to the website for that game and learn more about it. Anything that kind of hijacks your attention. I feel like the morning starts out kind of pristine. And then as soon as you see a notification telling you about what somebody who used to go to high school with is doing on Facebook or some email about whatever, your brain gets hijacked into these things, and now you don't have as good of creative energy for whatever really requires it.

[00:37:52.140] - Zach Swinehart
So that's kind of like at least for me, I think that's the biggest argument for deep work. And specifically for me, deep work, first thing is getting to take pristine energy that allows you to get like twice as much done in the same amount of time and use that when you have it versus letting it get drained away unintentionally on stuff that you didn't actually plan to have it go to. Yeah, maybe for you the inbox is something that you actually feel is where you need to be, in which case maybe don't cut it. But if you feel like it's taking you away from important stuff, then that's probably when it makes sense to look at.

[00:38:26.000] - Nathan Wrigley
Yeah, it's kind of so benign. Everything that you've just said resonates really well with social media, but somehow the inbox is less catastrophically bad. It doesn't really seem to have that problem. But what I am going to do, given that we've just had this conversation and I've said that I'm not going to be able to do something if I've committed it, I am going to try that. I'm going to give myself I don't know what a decent amount of time is, I don't honestly know how long it takes for your kind of muscle memory to evaporate, but let me say let's go for like two weeks. So from today I'm going to try that for a couple of weeks, not open it up, disable it so that it doesn't open up first thing in the morning. And I'll just see what the effect of that is. Maybe I'll do what you've talked about, which was giving yourself this deadline of 01:00 or 02:00 before you open it. Maybe that's something I could adopt. I know there's a friend called Mike Killen. I don't know if you've come across Mike Killen, but he was on a podcast episode many years ago actually, and he said that his approach basically is to chunk time for email.

[00:39:37.560] - Nathan Wrigley
So I think it was midday, 20 minutes, and then 05:00, however long it took. So he would block it into two sections. So he'd give 20 minutes and he would go through in that 20 minutes. He'd decide if anything urgently needed to.

[00:39:51.790] - Zach Swinehart
Be dealt with smart.

[00:39:53.370] - Nathan Wrigley
And then at the end of the day, he would deal with the things that needed to be dealt with until that whole process was done and clean out the inbox. I will say one other thing that I've been really good at over the years is I've been very good at keeping my inbox below 50. If my inbox approaches 50. I hate that I want to be able to see every email that I've got on one screen. So maybe that's part of my addiction, is that I've got this habit of going in and kind of deleting things. As an example, over the last, I don't know, 6 hours or so, I've probably received about 20 email. My inbox is now standing at 59 and that's now annoying me. So there's a process of going in and expunging them to keep it low.

[00:40:44.420] - Zach Swinehart
Yeah, and that is really interesting because I think each time I get this with unsubscribing from newsletters that I don't read, each time I unsubscribe from a newsletter I'm not active in, each time you archive an email that's not relevant, that's rewarding. It's inherently rewarding because it's like a gift to your future self. And so I wouldn't be surprised if the little dopamine hits you get just from cleaning out your inbox are a part of it.

[00:41:07.660] - Nathan Wrigley
Yeah, it's kind of interesting when you can sort of tick the box and go through what are clearly 15 spam emails and you hit them all at once and you go from, I don't know, 52 right down to 37 or whatever it might be, just in one hit.

[00:41:21.370] - Zach Swinehart
Yes, it's pretty great.

[00:41:24.170] - Nathan Wrigley
But also that's maybe another reason why I don't fear the email quite so much, because I don't have 16,000 in an inbox. I was talking to a friend the other day and he showed me his Gmail screen and it really was in the tens of thousands of unopened emails and I just thought I wouldn't even know what to do with that. I'd have to take a vacation.

[00:41:43.230] - Zach Swinehart
Yeah, I have that with my task management programme. I was telling you before the call, I spent all Monday and Tuesday doing shallow work that I've been pushing and I had like gosh 100 tasks in TikTok. So I get it.

[00:41:59.110] - Nathan Wrigley
What's the difference between where do you draw the boundary between deep work and is it just, is it just, is it binary? Is it deep work or shallow work? Is that the only distinction? And if that's the case, where does the boundary go between deep and shallow?

[00:42:13.930] - Zach Swinehart
I think it has to do with interruptivity and task, I guess, involved in this and time it takes. So, for example, I have one client who is hosted on WP Engine and they've got some beef with some WebP converting plug in that's using up too much data on the server. So I've been having to like, debug plugins and then I also have to do some CSS stuff for some ads for her and like just all these little micro tasks that I I really don't like this kind of work that take like ten minutes per sitting, but can't be resolved in one sitting. So it's like three tasks that each take ten minutes per day that keep coming up every single day. To me, that's like quintessential shallow work. Whereas deep work could be building a new feature or building a website from scratch. Let me think of a shallow version of deep work. I'll have to think for a second on that. I guess a shallow version of deep work is like, I don't know, let's say that somebody wants some load speed optimization that's like it's kind of a small task still, but it's the kind of thing that would take a bit of time that you could just zoom in and work only on that one thing.

[00:43:26.080] - Zach Swinehart
You're not having to bounce into your inbox to cheque something. Go back to work. Bounce into slack to ask them a quick question. Go back to work. I think that's maybe how I would separate them.

[00:43:35.440] - Nathan Wrigley
I'm guessing that deep work for you and shallow work for you is completely different to me. Then there is no definition of it. You have to come up with your own criteria of what that means because you may find something deeply important that it's just not on my radar because we have different businesses, different lifestyles, different aspirations and so on.

[00:43:55.800] - Zach Swinehart
Yeah, I think maybe the the global definition that we can rewind back to is the Cal Newport one, which is like is it something you can do distraction free, focused work on? And if it's archiving an email, the answer is no. If it's responding to an email, the answer is also kind of no. But if it is doing a task that's implied by an email, the answer may or may not be yes. Maybe that's how we could define it.

[00:44:20.520] - Nathan Wrigley
So how do you, how did you.

[00:44:22.520] - Nathan Wrigley
Go about defining what the things were for you that are deep in inverted commas? You know, what are the, what were the processes that you went through to determine those? What goals form to a better word?

[00:44:35.670] - Zach Swinehart
Well, so you're asking for the goals or for the definitions with my data.

[00:44:39.320] - Nathan Wrigley
Yeah, so the latter, the definitions of.

[00:44:42.490] - Zach Swinehart
Your deep work, I guess it's kind of intuitive really. Maybe I can give some examples and that will help to illustrate it. So something that had me thinking about this recently is that I have a coaching client who so for me, as I said, I am like a highly leveraged soloist. I'm just a freelancer. I work with a small number of clients. I try to work ten to 15 hours a week on my freelance business. But conversely, this client of mine wants to scale and he has a SAS component to his WordPress business and he has a developer who works on the SAS. And his objection to doing deep work, when I was challenging him to do what I was challenging you to do, his objection is that his developer often asks him questions and he doesn't want to leave that dev hanging because he wants to keep him working. He wants to keep him motivated, he wants to keep him thinking that he cares about his work. He doesn't want to appear disengaged. And so in that case, him always having to stay shallow enough to be interruptible is his version of shallow work versus deep work.

[00:45:50.750] - Zach Swinehart
Whereas for him, the deep work might be building processes into his business so that he can actually hire somebody to take the fulfilment work off his plate. But he never seems to have time to do that because he has to always do fulfilment work and he's always distracted during his fulfilment work by responding to clients and his staff members. So I don't really have a good answer for how I arrived at my definition of the two, but the bad unhelpful answers, perhaps, that you just kind of know. Yeah, I think that interruptability is a big part. Like if you are allowing yourself to be interrupted, you are inherently going to be doing shallow work, even if it's on the kind of task that would be suited for deep work.

[00:46:36.430] - Nathan Wrigley
It's interesting because I kind of find some people in life have to describe it. They're very introspective, they're very good at analysing what they need to do and where they fail in inverted commas. And other people don't seem to apply that time. And maybe I'm in the latter category there. You know, I certainly don't think a great deal about what it is that I'm doing and so on and so forth. But maybe you do. Typically you just said just then, people will know for themselves. I would imagine in my case I would actually need coaching on that or certainly need to spend some time writing a load of things out and putting them on a canban board and saying, okay, I find this to be deep and this to be shallow and this to be deep and this to be shallow. What I'm trying to say basically is that it might be that you need to do work on that to figure out how you respond and which way those tasks fall, what you find meaningful and purposeful and will push your business on and what won't. What's just the distraction?

[00:47:38.450] - Zach Swinehart
Yeah, I think that's smart. And the process that I recommend following is to start from a super forest through the trees of view. I think that if you want to apply deep work strategically, it's best to first say, what do I want for my business? Where do I want to take it? So you said you want to grow the audience for WP Builds, but you also said that it kind of grows on its own. So the thing that I would challenge you to think about is what active things can you do to grow your audience? What are the things that will move you forward in that direction? When you have your list of those things, you can ask yourself what subtasks within that list would benefit from intensely focused work? And so let's say one of your subtasks, which I don't think it would be, but let's say one of your subtasks is guest blogging. Obviously, if you're going to be writing blog posts, like that would benefit from really focused work. But let's say that one of your subtasks is reaching out to other podcasts so that you can be a guest on their podcast email.

[00:48:40.950] - Zach Swinehart
To reach out to these people is kind of inherently not I don't know, not that deep. But let's say part of your outreach is doing some research on these podcasters. First, if you don't already know them, maybe listening to their episodes, researching their websites, that's the kind of thing that could be deep work. So it's almost like if you could start with your big goal, dissect that into what you need to do to move forward in that direction, and then you can almost sift those tasks into buckets of whether or not they'd benefit from deep work. Then when you have a deep work block, you know exactly what you can best spend that on. So if you spend a deep work block on shallow work, you kind of wasted it. If you spend a deep work block on deep work, then you've used it to its fullest potential.

[00:49:26.460] - Nathan Wrigley
So when you are sort of chunking up so it is a deep work block. Are you talking about time? There? You've allocated time a bit of a day. Did I misunderstand that?

[00:49:36.730] - Zach Swinehart
You did not misunderstand.

[00:49:38.080] - Nathan Wrigley
Okay, so is that the way you do it then? You've kind of blocked out your, say, calendar, let's say your, your weekly diary into monday there's this, this, and this. And Tuesday there's this and this. And you try to stick to those more or less religiously.

[00:49:54.830] - Zach Swinehart
Well, the first half of that I agree with. The second half, the religiously part, not so much. So it's interesting to hear you talk about introspection and how much you think about things. I used to be very impulsive and intuitive and not very introspective. And then I've been with my girlfriend for almost six years and her and I are opposites, naturally in a lot of ways. She takes a lot of time to think about things and then she takes action. And I usually just jump right in. But we've rubbed off on each other over the years and now I'm kind of a blend. I think about things and take action. And so maybe again I could tie it back to ADHD, maybe not. I'm not really that great at estimating time and sticking to time blocks. So what I personally find works best, my whole kind of framework here, I know that I work best in the mornings, especially if I can build goodwill power with like a low carb breakfast and stuff like that. I know I work best in the mornings. I know I work best without my attention being taken. So for me, I have my deep work blocks at the beginning of the days, and I use an app called Sun Sama that kind of helps you with time blocking.

[00:51:07.570] - Zach Swinehart
A lot of people use it very religiously. I don't. And the app is actually helping me a lot with getting better at actually knowing how long things are going to take. Because when I go over on a time block and I have a regimented time block day, then it kind of screws everything up. So I'm getting better at leaving gaps and making longer estimates and stuff. But the process that I follow that I think is a good place to start for anyone is to first do that high level thinking. Think about your business, think about your goals, think about what's going to benefit from focused work. And then ask yourself what time of the day you're most productive. For someone with kids like you, it might not be the morning if you can't realistically close the office door and not be interrupted. I think that there are a lot of people with kids who their most productive time of day is like the middle of the night or after the kids are put to sleep or whatever. But I think that whatever that time is, having it blocked off to do really high quality work is super helpful.

[00:52:05.250] - Zach Swinehart
And the way that I like to personally structure it is based on 50 minutes work cycles with five or ten minute breaks. And so I have like a Pomodoro timer that instead of the 25 minutes pomodoro typical thing, which if you haven't heard of Pomodoro, it's a 25 minutes work cycle with a five minute break. I like 50 ten a bit better. Okay, so let's say for you, you said you wanted to cut out your email first thing. The thing I would challenge you to do would not to just be to cut it out. Arbitrarily. Because I think if you're not intentional about what you replace it with, you might not see benefits. I would instead challenge you to think of if there are any deep work things for your business that will really move the needle and really push it forward and if so, allocate the time. And the reason I do the 50 ten work blocks is that I get into what I call code zombie mode. If I just sit there and zoom in and then my brain just kind of stops working and I just bash my head against the wall until it works, which doesn't work so well with deep work because deep work often requires that sort of intentionality and brain activity in order to be high quality.

[00:53:15.780] - Nathan Wrigley

[00:53:17.310] - Zach Swinehart
So if you were to start small, like I think you said 01:00 p.m., 02:00 p.m., I think that might be a bit much. I think if you start small with 1 hour or 2 hours and you have tasks slated in advance that you know you're going to be working on, so you don't have to start your deep work and say deep work block and say, what am I going to work on? You already know because you wrote it the day before or whatever, that's where you're going to be really set up for success. So that's what I do personally and that's what I think would be a good place to start is even in 1 hour, even 30 minutes, just anything, any amount of intentionality around this is an improvement over just being pulled around by Slack messages and emails and calls.

[00:53:54.180] - Nathan Wrigley
All day, you mentioned. So there's a couple of things that I'll respond to based upon the things that you said and they're not necessarily going to push the conversation forward, but it's interesting. My dad used to work from home. He did the more or less the whole time that I was growing up. And he had this really clever, I think, life hack, which was if he was in an undisturbed mood because he had to walk through the house to visit the bathroom and things like that. And so there were moments where we as children could have completely derailed his day by just, I don't know, throwing pillows at him or something and all he was doing was using the bathroom and he needed to get back. He would wear a certain pair of shoes and the pair of shoes was indicative that he must be left alone.

[00:54:40.530] - Nathan Wrigley
He very rarely wore the pair of.

[00:54:42.190] - Nathan Wrigley
Shoes, but when he did wear the pair of shoes, it was like a signal saying don't even bother, I need to be left alone. So it was quite interesting. So on some level he had made a decision that this is time that I need to not be derailed. And so he did it and it was a physical manifestation of that, which I thought was quite curious. And the other thing was about the podcast and growing the podcast, i. Imagine you could apply this to anything. People have already had these thoughts before me. You can go and you can purchase, I want to say, but probably there's free alternatives. There are ways of finding this knowledge because people have already gone through it. There are courses that you can run for how to grow your podcasts and things like that. And so there's maybe ways to short circuit even the learning process, which I've seen them they've crossed my radar before, but I haven't really given any thoughts to it in the past. So that's kind of an interesting thing that I might need to take steps towards in the future.

[00:55:44.220] - Zach Swinehart
And learning is a perfect thing for deep work. So it could be that that's where your deep work blocks go at first, is towards learning.

[00:55:52.000] - Nathan Wrigley

[00:55:52.480] - Nathan Wrigley

[00:55:52.820] - Nathan Wrigley
I've just looked at the clock, and.

[00:55:54.340] - Nathan Wrigley
We'Re on about 50 odd minutes, which.

[00:55:56.470] - Nathan Wrigley
Is basically, Zach, the amount of time that we would allocate at the extreme end of a podcast episode. So, yeah, we've definitely kept going. What a wow.

[00:56:06.210] - Nathan Wrigley
How do you fancy splitting this up.

[00:56:08.490] - Nathan Wrigley
And coming back in a couple of weeks'time? We don't normally do this, but coming back in a couple of weeks time and having another round of the podcast, how do you feel about that?

[00:56:17.590] - Zach Swinehart
Yeah, that sounds good. We talked a little bit about my high level framework, and we could, next episode, go more in depth and finish fleshing it out. And I can do a little recap today if you want.

[00:56:28.670] - Nathan Wrigley
Okay, yeah, that sounds good. So we'll flesh out a little bit more about the bits and pieces that we've been talking on a very high level today. But I know that one of the key things that you wanted to get across on this episode we may well do it again in the next episode is, as you just mentioned, a framework that you got for tackling all of these bits and pieces. Do you want to just run through.

[00:56:45.990] - Nathan Wrigley
That before we call it a day?

[00:56:48.070] - Zach Swinehart
Yeah, sure. So to recap the forest through the trees framework that I like to follow, some of which we've covered today already, the framework I like to follow for getting my best work done basically looks like this. Step one, determine what your big goals are. We talked a bit about that already. Step two, determine what needs to happen next to get there. And I think Nathan mentioned something really helpful about this, that sometimes you don't know what that is and you need to take a course. Or for me, I've seen some good success with hiring a mentor, finding someone who's a couple of steps further than me and just booking them by the hour to ask what I should work on next. So step two, determine what needs to happen next to get there. Step three, do the work that moves you towards that daily when you have your best energy. For me, that means before everything else for you. It might be in the middle of the night, after kids are going to bed, whatever, but you have to intentionally carve out that time and make sure no one can disturb you at that time.

[00:57:51.800] - Zach Swinehart
So in the second half of this episode that we're going to come back to, I'll talk about and Nathan will talk about some of our favourite tools and strategies for getting your best deep work done. So this will be things to help with, like not being interruptible, things to help with impulse control, things to help with focus in general, stuff like that. So that'll be helpful in that sense. Step four, only after you've spent time working on the most important things should you spend time working in the business. And so if you're a freelancer wanting to grow, you might have your deep work on the business, followed by your deep work in the business. So that's like your really focused coding time, whatever it might be. And then after that is when you do your shallow work, like responding to emails and stuff. Step five is to be mindful, and this will sound maybe a little bit heavy handed, but be mindful of the idea that if you really want to grow your business each week, that you're only doing fulfilment is essentially treading water. And it might be that situation Nathan was talking about earlier, where you look back after a year and you realise you're just kind of in the same place.

[00:58:56.570] - Zach Swinehart
And then step six of the highlevel framework is to essentially optimise your time and focus with the right tool systems and support to help pick up the slack where you fall off instead of shaming yourself for not being perfect looking at it just as different levers that you pull different strengths and weaknesses you have and putting the stuff in place to help make up for your weaknesses and emphasise your strengths. So that is a high level framework that we'll dig into a bit more in the next one.

[00:59:25.510] - Nathan Wrigley
Yeah. So I think in our broad ranging discussion that we had today, we probably did touch on quite a few of those six different points that you just mentioned just before we finish. As I said, we'll unexpectedly come back next week and no, not next week, in two weeks time, we'll come back and we'll finish this off, hopefully with those six bullet points that Zach just mentioned strapped to our side so that we got a bit of direction. But I know, Zach, that you had something that you wanted to mention. You obviously kind of wrap this up into a course and I think just before we finish, you should probably mention that in case any of this resonates with anybody and they want to inspect that before the next episode. In two weeks.

[01:00:03.110] - Zach Swinehart
Yeah. So originally this outline, which was obviously way too long, had a step by step implementation guide of that high level overview, but in the interest of brevity and not having this take up eight episodes on the podcast or something, I basically cut that and turned it into a free course. So if this idea of getting really good, focused, deep work, moving your business forward sounds good to you, I built a free course that will help you implement. So in it I'm going to walk you through how to set good goals and determine what the right kind of deep work even is and help you zoom in on where you should be spending your time. And then I have some exercise to help you find out where your time is currently going and refine and then move from there into building good habits and systems. And then I talk about different tools to help you implement and keep yourself on track, and a good iteration process that I like to follow for monitoring where I'm doing well, where I need work. And basically the goal is to hone a super helpful system over time. So if you wanted to take that, it's a free course and you can join it at kickassfreelancing.

[01:01:12.800] - Zach Swinehart

[01:01:15.190] - Nathan Wrigley
Nice kickassfreelancing.

[01:01:17.290] - Nathan Wrigley

[01:01:19.890] - Nathan Wrigley
Like I said, unexpectedly, it's going to be another episode in a couple of weeks. So, Zach.

[01:01:24.640] - Nathan Wrigley
Nice one.

[01:01:25.360] - Nathan Wrigley
Thank you. I've enjoyed that chat a lot, but we'll come back in a couple of weeks and round it off. Thanks for talking to me on the.

[01:01:31.340] - Zach Swinehart
Podcast today and thank you. See you soon.

[01:01:34.450] - Nathan Wrigley
Okay, I hope that you enjoyed that episode. Really interesting chatting to Zach, and as you no doubt heard, we did get. Carried away and we decided to split it up.

[01:01:42.450] - Nathan Wrigley
So we'll be back in a couple of weeks time for Zach to finish off. There's lots and lots of ground which we didn't manage to cover. He was incredibly good at writing out comprehensive show notes and the beginnings of.

[01:01:52.950] - Nathan Wrigley
Those are on the WP Builds website, go and search for episode number 310 over there and leave us any comments that you may have and we will find out whether or not I'm any good at giving up my Gmail habit next time round.

[01:02:08.090] - Nathan Wrigley
The WP Builds podcast was brought to you today by GoDaddy Pro. GoDaddy Pro, the home of managed WordPress hosting that includes free domain SSL and 24/7 support. Bundle that with the Hub by GoDaddy Pro to unlock more free benefits, to manage multiple sites in one place invoice clients and get 30% off new purchases. Find out more by going to go.me/wpbuilds. And very sincere thanks to GoDaddy Pro for their continuing ongoing support. Keeping the lights on at the WP Builds podcast.

[01:02:45.830] - Nathan Wrigley
Okay, as it was an interview this week, I'll be back next week with my friend David Warmsley to have a chat about something related to WordPress. We are on our talking about the.

[01:02:58.300] - Nathan Wrigley
Unmentionable series of podcasts and yeah, we'll have to see which one is coming around but hopefully you'll join us for that. If you like doing things live, we've got our this Week in WordPress Show 02:00 p.m. UK Time. Join us live. It'll get repurposed as a podcast episode. But it's always nice when people drop in and give us some commentary. The only thing I need to do. Is say, we'll see you in a couple of weeks for more Zach, and stay safe. I'm going to fade in some cheesy music and say bye bye for now.

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Nathan Wrigley
Nathan Wrigley

Nathan writes posts and creates audio about WordPress on WP Builds and WP Tavern. He can also be found in the WP Builds Facebook group, and on Mastodon at wpbuilds.social. Feel free to donate to WP Builds to keep the lights on as well!

Articles: 1097


  1. Great show, but you cut Zach off as he was explaining about how he controls his ADHD dopamine chasing and then you went on about how all of us have the same problems. I’d love to have heard what Zach was going to say and also you did minimise his neurological problem in a dismissive way.

    • HI there. Thanks for the comment. I did not intend to cut Zach off, in fact this was a bit a editing. We overran by a very large amount and so decided on-the-fly that we’d come back and do a round 2. There was no elegant way to edit it, but I know that it appears that it was a sudden decision!
      In terms of dismissing / minimising Zach’s neurological situation, that was not my intention. Sometimes it’s hard to conjure up the right words, and it would appear that this in case I did not manage that.

      • Yes, sorry, I regretted writing that immediately after commenting. I think I overreacted.

        You do a good job and I really enjoy your podcast and have for years. Thank you.

        • Don’t worry. It was a point well intentioned I’m sure. I appreciate you listening very much. Thank you.

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