The Full-Stack Freelancer Can Deep Work

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In Tiago Forte’s article, The Rise of the Full-Stack Freelancer, I think he makes an error when it comes to deep work.

It’s trendy now to proclaim the universal superiority of “deep work.” We’re advised to lock out all distractions and interruptions, fixate completely on one project at a time, and optimize for long, long stretches of focus.

This advice isn’t wrong; it’s just limiting. It’s appropriate if what you want is to be the best employee you can be. If, on the other hand, you want to be a manager, run a business, develop side projects, or collaborate with others, it is terrible advice. It gives you no portfolio to work with.

Portfolio thinking recognizes that having multiple parallel projects provides many opportunities for synergy. They don’t have to interfere with and impede each other — they can actually combine into something greater than the sum of its parts. Each one can make the others easier, more fun, and more profitable.

The issue I see here is that he equates focusing on work for extended periods of time to only ever working on one thing. That’s a fault jump to make.

Deep work is about taking your morning without interruptions to focus on one project. Then maybe take your afternoon to focus on another project. Repeat the next day and the next day.

Just like he says, these projects can compliment each other and build on each other. I focus on writing early in the week and then record and edit video later in the week. I focus afternoons on coding, which builds back into learning more about the capabilities of my iPad, which feeds my writing and video work.

I’m a “full-stack” freelancer and I love deep work. The two ideas aren’t incompatible as Forte seems to present.