Deep Stack Planning

This article is my attempt at synthesizing and combining Cal Newport's Deep Life Stack 2.0 [1] [2] and Planning System [3]. The goal will be to continue tweaking it as I learn more from Cal. Links to his sources will be at the bottom under "References."

Stage One: Become a Capable Human Being #

Discipline #

Lay down a foundation of discipline.

In my strategic plan(s), I maintain an evolving list of core disciplines (behaviors, habits, activities) that I follow as strictly as possible to lay a foundation for a deep life. Sometimes, I track my execution of these disciplines with metrics.

At this stage, I should have a habit in each of the following three buckets:

  • Body: Improve your health and fitness
  • Mind: Sharpen your mind
  • Heart: Interactions with other people

Control #

Control your time and obligations.

Multiscale Planning #

  • Create a strategic plan for your semester or quarter
  • Quarter plan informs your weekly plan [4] [5]
    1. Choose a schedule of work hours that you think provides the ideal balance of effort and relaxation.
    2. Do whatever it takes to avoid violating this schedule.
  • Weekly plan informs your daily time-block plan [6] [7]

Full Capture System [8] #

  • Keep a master calendar and a master to-do list on your computer. I don’t care what software you use.
  • Buy a two dollar small spiral bound notebook that you carry in your pocket everywhere you go.
  • Whenever a task, date, or deadline pops into view — for example, a professor mentions a test date or you read an e-mail that requires action — jot it down in your notebook.
  • Every morning, do two things: (1) transfer new items from your notebook onto your computerized list and calendar; (2) review your lists and calendar.

Craft #

Practicing Getting Better #

Plan a skill or hobby to practice getting better at. Learning how to do something really well teaches you how to know how to do things really well.

Appreciate Better #

Cultivate appreciation of other people that do skilled work motivates you to do better work.

Example: Film appreciation

Simplification #

Start slashing obligations and simplify your life. What tools do I really need? [9]

Stage Two: Cultivate Depth #

Coming soon...

Core Documents #

Values #

My roles and the values by which I try to live in each of them.

Career and Personal Strategic Plans #

I have one plan for each of these two parts of my life that lays out my current thoughts, experimental systems, and plans for living them true to my values. Sometimes, these will also link to an extended plan when I have a big enough, long enough pursuit that it might need its own space.

Maintenance #

  • I review my values once a week and create a weekly value plan with notes about what to emphasize and perhaps experimental habits/rules to try out that week to keep me closer to my values. Include best practices for mental health in the value plan.
  • I review my strategic plans (and extended plans) once a week, preferably when doing my weekly plan.) I can tweak them anytime, but I give them major overhauls roughly once a semester.
  • I sometimes maintain an idea notebook and digital idea storage system, keeping thoughts on values and strategic plans. At the very least, I should review this in detail when I do my strategic plan updates.

References #

  1. The Deep Life Stack ↩︎

  2. Deep Life Stack 2.0 ↩︎

  3. How To Organize Your Life ↩︎

  4. Plan Your Week in Advance ↩︎

  5. Fixed-Schedule Productivity: How I Accomplish a Large Amount of Work in a Small Number of Work Hours ↩︎

  6. The Importance of Planning Every Minute of Your Work Day ↩︎

  7. The Time-Block Planner ↩︎

  8. Three Student Resolutions Worth Making ↩︎

  9. Digital Minimalism summary — key takeaways from Cal Newport's groundbreaking work ↩︎

Updated December 4, 2023