Colouring Books: A Deep Work Technique

Image for post
Image for post

I'm extremely late in this adult colouring book game however, it was intentional.

When, all of a sudden, everybody started talking about how relaxing it was, how it helped to decompress and release stress, that it was like meditation… Seeing a bunch of colouring books for grown ups at the checkout counter in the supermarket started to be normal … I made a mental note to give it a try … after the hype had passed.

A few weeks ago, I finally gave it a try.

The prime thing about activities that can be seen as something only children should do, is that you end up letting go of any preconceived notions and you are actively experimenting without a safety net.

We tend to see these activities — colouring books, lego models, 3000+ jigsaw puzzles, … — as not adult-ish. However, they are opportunities to express our creativity and problem solving abilities, which are beneficial to everyone — I dive into this a bit more in this blog post.

In the book Deep Work, Cal Newport shares one of his deep work techniques, which he calls Productive Meditation. The goal is to engage in a physical and somewhat mechanical activity, in order to free your mind and focus on a single, well defined problem. For example, you can go for a walk on your neighbourhood park and, while you body is actively engaged in the act of walking, your mind could be entirely focused on preparing for that important meeting or presentation, musing about a technical problem, or planning the next event for you alumni group.

This is what the experience of colouring books felt to me. A massive spark in creativity, not only because the activity is fun but, specially it was a vehicle to be more productive. Immediately, I started thinking about prospective projects (including this post), things I'd want to accomplish or want to be better at.

This kind of activity, besides being a great vehicle for practices like Productive Meditation or other kinds of focus and relaxation, are also excellent opportunities to let ourselves be more adventurous. We might not have thought much about it when we were kids and wanted to draw a pink sun, green clouds and orange grass, but those were powerful moments of experimentation! We were being adventurous in a extremely controlled environment, where we tried something new, adjusted and moved on to the next adventure — may it be a drawing, a sculpture, writing an essay, a science project …

This is not a silver bullet, it’s a technique. It's a card up on our sleeve to use whenever we want to focus on something, feel stuck, or simply want to relax. However, much like any other technique, we should not force it, it has to make sense to us, it has to feel like part of us. Otherwise, we could be wasting our time, and not experimenting or pursuing other things that could make us more productive, creative, relaxed …

Thanks for reading 🤓

I write about Data Science, Data Visualization, books and learning more effectively 📚🌱💡🚀

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store