Going Deep: John Grishim

How novelist John Grisham made millions writing just 15 hours a week, six months out of the year.

It’s getting harder to remain productive with our days filled with endless distractions. Multi-tasking and looking busy are even professional virtues – just read any job description.

Achieving higher levels of creativity and productivity are not easy, but there’s a thing or two we can learn from those who’ve mastered finding focus.

There’s been a transition from thinking about corporations solely as revenues and profits, and thinking about the organization in a more inclusive way. Clearly revenue and profits are still important, but the leading companies are starting to think beyond that
— Jeff Wong, Ernst & Young’s (EY) Global Chief Innovation Officer

Obviously, few financial writers, analyst, or creatives get the opportunity to create their optimal work environments. By studying the routines of others who have, possibly in our work, we can unlock more value, in less time.

Cal Newport has, he even wrote the book on finding deep work. If you haven’t read yet, start today, it will change your workflow. 

To our benefit, Cal is generous enough to track down and share the deep work habits of well know and highly accomplished thought leaders.

From Newport’s research, here is Grishim’s routine:

  • Grisham primarily writes his novels during the winter months on his farm in Oxford, Mississippi. During this period he works five days a week, starting at 7 am and typically ending by 10 am.
  • Grisham writes in a building on his property that used to house an antebellum summer kitchen. He and his wife refurbished the kitchen to maintain its period details (with the main exception being that they added electricity and air conditioning). Crucially, as Grisham explains: “[the building has] no phone, faxes, or internet. I don’t want the distraction. I don’t work online. I keep it offline.”
  • Grisham maintains strict rituals for his writing. He starts work on a novel on the same day each year and starts writing each day at the same time. He works on the same computer. He drinks the same type of coffee out of the same cup. “My office routine rarely varies,” he explains. “It’s pretty structured.”
  • Grisham starts a new novel on January 1st and is usually done with the bulk of the writing by the end of March. He aims to be completely done with the manuscript by July. This leaves a nice half year period to recharge and work on new ideas.         


We’ve always liked Velocity Partners' ‘Let’s Steal From’ series – where shamelessly, and cleverly they content-hijack great ideas from other brands. Our favorite is Jean-Claude van Damme doing the splits – in jeans – on two moving Volvo trucks. It’s epic and well north of a 100 million views now. 

We’re starting a similar series called Going Deep. This ongoing series will outline the best practices and methods of exceptional knowledge workers, both past, and present. Going Deep’s objective is to help ourselves, and our followers improve our work by taking mental note of The Future of Work.