The Eudaimonia Machine // Digital Minimalism Series
As someone who works from home, it’s easy to obsess over the perfect setup for my office. What would be in the office? A standup desk? A perfect chair? Dual monitors? The possibilities are endless and debatable.
In this article I examine the ideal work environment from a different angle. Instead of the contents of the office, let’s explore the path to the office. It’s a concept that came to my attention when reading Deep Work by Dr. Cal Newport. And, although this series is aimed at the ideas in his newest book Digital Minimalism, the use of spaces explored in Deep Work has great influence on how digital minimalists are exposed to technologies, such as smartphones and email.
David Dewane is an architect, a fan of Dr. Newport, and the inventor of the Eudaimonia Machine. The term “machine” is used loosely, because it’s not a mechanical contraption, it’s actually a series of rooms. The original design described in Deep Work suggests that the rooms be in a line and that they each have one entrance and one exit. The intent is that the person entering the machine passes through each room in order and not be exposed to anything that breaks them from trance-like workflow. For maximum sequencing, I envision my Eudaimonia Machine as a series of spaces built deeper and deeper into the earth. Think of it as a Batcave for people who love to get lost in their work.
In order, this is the flow through the Eudaimonia Machine, with my own flare added to the original design.
1. The Gallery. In this space, the best work ever created in the Eudaimonia Machine is put on display. There are also awards, press clippings, and other reminders of the great things that come from the Machine. This space creates a feeling of tradition and a healthy stress for users. When you enter the gallery, you are reminded that you have come to a place set apart to create something great. In my Eudaimonia Machine, the Gallery is on the ground floor and natural light shines off of the prized works. At the center of the room, a spiral staircase beckons users to descend to the next level.
2. The Salon. Overstuffed chairs and coffee tables fill this subterranean room. A fireplace is going, fine coffee and food are served, and the users engage in spirited discussion. Curiosity and argument are encouraged in the salon. The space can be arranged as conversation requires, and there is no use of distracting devices. A small door on the side of the room opens to another staircase, leading down to the next level.
3. The Library. From the staircase, users open the door to the library and find all the tools they need. Records, resources, copiers, and scanners abound. The space is equipped with large drafting tables for users to pour over their materials. Users have dedicated lockers to hold materials for ongoing projects. Across from the entrance is a small exit door and descending staircase.
4. The Office. Here, the work has begun. Users take advantage of available standing desks to complete low-intensity work as needed to prepare for their deep work, because most deep work requires shallow work on the front end. Some users are taking a break after a long session of deep work. They use their break time for administration, professional correspondence, and preparation for their next session. At the far end of the office, a small door is labeled “No Talking Beyond This Point.” Users open the door and take the stairs down to the final level.
5. Deep Work Chambers. This level is a hallway lined on both sides with separate chambers. Each chamber is soundproof and designed for only one person. Users enter their personal chamber, furnished with a desk and chair of their choosing, and submit themselves to long, flow state-inducing sessions of high quality work. There are no emails, calls, or texts to distract them. This is the place where people bring their unique genius to their work. This is the climax of the Eudaimonia Machine.
An ideal work day in the Machine would be two or three 90 minute sessions of deep work with long breaks and shallow work periods for recovery. At the end of a work day, users make their way to the salon for a bite to eat and a chat with a colleague before heading home. The ritualized experience of doing their best work keeps users coming back.
If a co-working space ever invents a Eudaimonia Machine in Los Angeles, I will be there. Commitment to an optimal deep work environment has the potential to make a dramatic difference in the productivity of a society. How much more effective would you be in a Eudaimonia Machine?
While it may seem far-fetched, there are things we can do now to make our own offices more like the Machine. Line your entry with a gallery of your best work. Set appointments with colleagues to have a rousing discussion about your field. Gather your resources and knock out your shallow work all at once. Then, turn off everything, shut the door, and dedicate yourself to a long session of deep work.
If this sounds good to you, I’d love to hear about it. What would your Eudaimonia Machine be like?