The 100 Day Deep Work Challenge – Update – 8 Days in

I am writing this post during one of my early morning “Deep Work” sessions. Today is the 8th day of the challenge. If you didn’t see my initial post on it, check it out HERE.
So far it is going great. But not totally in the way I envisaged it would. What do I mean by that?
Well I haven’t got a huge amount of tangible “work” done. Although I have done a lot of exploratory work and pre-planning for my video course.
Which in my experience is actually the more difficult part of the whole exercise anyway.
Basically its the whole “coming up with ideas” phase. Its that first phase that many people, myself included, often never get passed. So I’m pleased about that.
But its the impact that undertaking this challenge has had on my life as a whole that has got me excited.
Really excited.
I’m getting up at 5am everyday.
The first thing I do is my “Deep Work”, which is work that I want to work on.
By doing that, I am finding something amazing.

I am finding I am so much more productive in everything else.

What benefits am I seeing exactly?

I’m getting way more work done in my regular 9 – 5 job than I was before.
I have cut down on so much wasted time in the evening. Where I would mindlessly watch TV or browse the internet.
Because by the time its 9 – 10pm, I am TIRED and want my bed.
I used to feel guilty when I got in from work. I used to tell myself that I had to open up the computer and work on one of my projects. How else was I ever going to get anything of real value done?
Now that I am doing this work in the morning. First thing. With fresh eyes and a fresh mind. I don’t feel this guilt anymore.

It’s like a whole burden has been lifted.

I’ve also been more present with my wife, son and rest of the family.
Again because i’m not racked with guilt in my free time.
Thinking that I should be recording some screen-cast footage right about now. Or writing some code. Or doing anything other than actually spending quality time with loved ones.
At the start of this challenge, these are some of the main benefits I hoped to achieve from this undertaking:
  • Building the habit of getting up early and doing work first thing
  • Being able to relax in the evening knowing work is already done
  • Actually doing some work and making real progress
  • Training myself to learn discipline – going to bed early / getting up early
  • Health benefits such as drinking less alcohol. Cause its damn hard getting up at 5am to do “Deep Work” with a hangover.
I know I am only 8 days in. But I am feeling all the above benefits massively, and more.

Refinements to the Challenge

A few days into the challenge, I noticed a few tweaks that I needed to make.
This wasn’t unexpected at all.
Even in the original post I stated that I expected things to come up that I hadn’t thought of.
First of all my wife, who encouraging as she was, wasn’t actually thrilled by my alarm going off at 5am each day. Not when we were in the same bed. Whoops… I hadn’t thought of that.
Luckily, the solution was pretty simple. Amazon Prime to the rescue as usual.
I bought one of these – a fitness tracker, the Jawbone UP3. It has a vibrating alarm that only wakes the user up. Exactly what I needed.
The other benefits of a fitness tracker, such as step counter and sleep tracker, are a nice bonus as well.
Next, I realised something else a few days in.
Not giving myself a day off, although it was one of the 6 original rules, was a massive mistake.
Why? Because although I have named this a 100 day challenge, I want to keep it going for well beyond 100 days.
I don’t want to force myself to get to day 100, be totally burnt out, and quit.
I want sustainability.
The 100 days is just a nice round number that I chose. One that fits in with the time taken to build a new habit.
So I decided to allow myself one day off at the weekend.
It was REALLY nice to have that 1 day break, and much needed. It meant that I could have a night out with my wife. And not worry about having a few drinks.
I also didn’t feel like I had broken my flow too much when I got back to Deep Work the following day.
If anything I actually benefited from the downtime.
I would say though, for me, having 2 days off (i.e. the whole weekend) would be too much. That’s just me though.
Finally, I acknowledged that I hadn’t set myself any “reward” for completing this challenge.
I thought that the satisfaction of completing the challenge would be enough.
To be honest it is. And i’m not interested in a tangible new toy like a bike or an iPad.
If I want something like that I just buy it for myself anyway, rightly or wrongly.
But after more thought I decided having a reward at the end of day 100 was important after all.
So what do I actually want?
A holiday? No, ill be having that with the family regardless of how this challenge goes.
A new car? I can’t exactly afford that….
And then it came to me. TIME.
Let me explain….
I love playing video games, it has been and always will be my guilty pleasure.
But I don’t have the TIME to play them.
The reward isn’t the video game itself. It’s the TIME to play it.
A typical video game for me (assuming I don’t buy a brand new one) will be like £10 – £20. Not an amazing incentive, cash value wise.
But rewarding myself with the TIME to sit down and lose myself for hours in one. That has real value to me.
It’s that reward that I have decided to give myself.
Now i’m even more motivated than before.
And I was already pretty damn motivated.
That’s enough rambling for now.
To summarise, this whole challenge is going wildly better than I imagined. Even though I imagined it to go great anyway. I am feeling more motivated, passionate and driven than ever.
Now I just need to keep it going, and actually produce this course….
  • Mark Crowther

    Time – the best gift you can give yourself 🙂 I strongly recommend wasting that time on our Minecraft server at if you play that game that is!

    Day 6 here for me, it’s going pretty much to plan, with weekends off to ease the intensity. I’ve settled on trying to deep learn ‘one small problem’ at a time as my plan was way to grand. But, as you say, this is 100 days and beyond and the learning just keeps rolling!

    Good luck as always,


    • James Willett

      Thanks Mark! I’ve tried to get into Minecraft a couple of times, but just haven’t caught the bug yet… maybe that’s not such a bad thing though !?

      Loving the comprehensive blog posts you are writing on your progress – doing that is such a great way to ingrain your learning…. and you have something to look back on in the future to remind yourself of just what you learned