Sunday, January 06, 2019

Bringing Cal Newport’s concept of “deep work” to the barn

I’ve decided that in 2019 one of my aims is to build in two “deep work” days a week: one at my writing desk, and one in the barn.

If you haven’t read Cal Newport’s book titled Deep Work, I recommend it. He comes at it from a business perspective but I feel it’s a Jungian concept at its roots. In a nutshell, it’s giving yourself the space and time to allow your creative mind to do what I call “puttering.” Which means you’re not trying to do ten things at once, you’re not racing through a to-do list, you’re just letting yourself float, but with purpose, within a specific context of work.

With writing, it means ditching social media and email, the smart phone, house chores. It means settling in with your work in progress and staying with it for a good chunk of the day. Working, pondering, woolgathering, focusing. It’s what writing retreats provide easily, but I need to find a way to get that at home, for a day a week.

Deep work at the barn is somewhat of a puzzle. Just being at the barn generally thrusts me out of time, in that I feel like I’ve been there an hour and it’s been an entire day. I’ve lost that this past year, the luxury of just going to the barn without a list of things waiting for me in the house, or places I have to be, or getting caught up in doing a big barn chore and nothing else.

Today I started my deep work barn day. I went out there with no real plan, except to have fun. I ended up grooming two little donka boys, who were happy to join me in the barnyard and get some special donkey time. I had a pocket full of treats to share and that made them happy too.

After awhile the three big guys offered to join me in the arena, so we had some liberty play. Eventually Cody got tired of being bossed by the pony, so he left, then the pony got tired of having no one to boss, so he left. Keil Bay and I did some free lunging and he looks wonderful. Cody joined us on the outside of the arena fence and I shared treats all around.

Seeing Keil moving so well and feeling so good inspired me to go clean his tack. His saddle and bridle and girth and pad are now ready to roll. (A note: with all the rain we’ve had I expected to find a moldy saddle but happily, the Damp Rid bucket I put in the tack room apparently works! Not one bit of mold.)

The donkeys rejoined the horses and pony and got busy with their hay pillows. (Another note: if you need slow feeder options, Hay Pillows are the very best thing I’ve seen, and we now have 10 of them.)

The Corgis came out and helped me finish cleaning tack. We walked, we played, we enjoyed the 65 degree sunshiny day.

For the barn, for me, this was deep work. I got things done, I took steps toward a larger goal (riding), and I came in happy and smiling.

Give it a try. Wipe the mundane tasks off your plate for a day and let yourself get to the good stuff.


Grey Horse Matters said...

This really seems like a good idea. I'm going to give it a try and see what happens.

billie said...

I was very happy with the results - I’m making Sunday my deep work barn day and Wednesday my deep work writing day. Will report back and you do the same if you try it!

Grey Horse Matters said...

I’ll let you know how it goes.😉

Matthew said...

I always love to hear when you have a "deep work" day. :)

It is easy to get caught up in the shallow work and so important to remember what gives our soul wings!

billie said...

Sadly I still haven’t managed a deep work day for writing. :(