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  • Michelle Law

Deep Work as an independent consultant

Since I've been working independently I have completely changed how I work. It's good for me and it's good for my clients.

My corporate career used to be characterised by

  • back to back meetings

  • an overflowing inbox

  • too many projects

  • catching up in the evenings

But there is another way!

Taking Cal Newport's advice from his book Deep Work I have structured how I work to allow myself to focus deeply and cut out unnecessary distractions. He advocates doing less but better and practices what he preaches. He's written numerous books alongside being a professor at a US university, writing for the New Yorker, hosting a podcast and having a young family.

Too many of us spend our days reacting to what happens in our inboxes and being pulled from meeting to meeting. The constant "cognitive switching" is exhausting. The important work that takes time and thought gets squeezed out to the edges. The quality of work often suffers. But working independently now allows me to take the proper time the work needs.

Deep Work in action on a client project

Recently I was asked to put together an important CEO presentation that was being delivered on behalf of the entire management team. It was on a series of different topics that each had detailed background papers that had been prepared separately. My task was to distil the contents down into a coherent and compelling presentation for an important stakeholder.

I've often done this sort of assignment while working in a company and had to fit it in with meetings, travel, other projects and deadlines. Not this time.

As an independent consultant I was focused ONLY on this presentation and this meant I could do my best work. I didn't have to wait for the material to be drip fed to me throughout the day over email or have 15 different conversations about it. I didn't have to sit in a long review meeting about it or juggle other things.

This is how it worked instead:

  • I had an initial briefing call about the project with the client

  • We agreed a date for all the background material to be sent to me

  • I reviewed all the background material, undisturbed

  • I spent some time thinking about it and put together the outline

  • I produced a first draft presentation and sent it to the client

  • I had an interim call with the client for feedback

  • I updated the presentation to produce a final version

  • The client signed it off

It was fun to work on, it had my full attention, it was an efficient process and no time was wasted on unproductive distractions like constant email checking.

I could polish it and make sure it was just right.

The client was happy.

If this sounds like something I could help you with, please get in touch for a chat.


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