My Depth Year 2018: The Constraints of Deep Focus

By Leo Babauta

This year I’m going to challenge myself to go deeper by using constraints, inspired by my friend David Cain’s idea of a Depth Year.

What’s a Depth Year? As David writes:

No new hobbies, equipment, games, or books are allowed during this year. Instead, you have to find the value in what you already own or what you’ve already started.

You improve skills rather than learning new ones. You consume media you’ve already stockpiled instead of acquiring more.

You read your unread books, or even reread your favorites. You pick up the guitar again and get better at it, instead of taking up the harmonica. You finish the Gordon Ramsey Masterclass you started in April, despite your fascination with the new Annie Leibovitz one, even though it’s on sale.

The guiding philosophy is “Go deeper, not wider.”

This lines up perfectly with what I was thinking about for 2018, but adds the idea of some extra constraints. I have long been a fan of constraints, because they force you to choose, they force you to stay instead of running, they challenge you to go deeper and open up to the constraints of ritual.

For me, my Depth Year in 2018 will add these constraints:

  1. Don’t buy new things (unless absolutely necessary). I already have everything I need.
  2. Don’t take up new hobbies. I want to go deeper with the hobbies and skills I already have. Each year I get consumed by a new hobby, but this year I won’t allow that.
  3. Don’t get new books. I already have a shelf full of 20 books I want to read. I’ve created a reading list (mostly mindfulness books, plus Infinite Jest, Ulysses), The Mysteries of Pittsburgh and Jesus’ Son), and I don’t plan on getting any new books until I’ve finished those. And if I do finish the list, there are plenty at the library.
  4. Finish the magazines & online articles I already have. Stop looking for new things to read! I have lots already saved.

These constraints will help me open up and go deeper into what I already want to focus on:

  1. Meditation/mindfulness
  2. Healthy eating
  3. Fitness
  4. My mission (work focus)
  5. Deepening personal relationships
  6. Practicing yoga

If I spend the year going deeper with these focuses, I think that would be a great year. A year spent diving deeper into mindfulness practices (including yoga), getting healthier, deepening and getting better at relationships, and giving focus to my mission. I don’t need new hobbies, new skills, new things to learn … I have plenty to work with already.

Not buying new things (including books) will free me from the habit of looking for newer, better things. I can let that go out of my attention, which frees my attention for the things I want to focus on.

You can see the status of my rituals and Depth Year on this dashboard I’ve created. I should note that this is just my personal way of doing a Depth Year – I don’t prescribe it for anyone else.

Are you willing to live with constraints of your own? Are you interested in going deeper or wider? What would that look like for you?