I first found out about Cave Day through Daybreaker. It seems incongruous, a morning rave and a day of focus. Still, I can see the overlap. There are bound to be people in those early morning sober rave dancers who have their own projects to focus on. The idea of taking an entire day for mandated focus would therefore have a lot of appeal to anyone trying to translate a vision or an ambition into reality, and I’m pretty sure that anyone committed enough to get up at 6am for a sober rave is committed to some sort of hustle
Cave Day is literally just a day of being in a metaphorical cave. That “cave” is a state of focus on a work flow. Whatever one is working on, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that you’re in a cave and isolated from the outside stimulus that may distract and derail. Cave Day is eight hours of work sprinting, of trying to stay “in the flow” of whatever project it is one wants to get done. I checked out a review online, and it seemed to work: the combination of mantras, focus exercises and peer pressure definitely induced work. Oh, and despite their email address of bats (at) caveday.org, they are not related whatsoever to Bats Day.
I signed up for this as part of the 2018 work I’m doing, where I’m trying to focus more, period – and especially on my own arts and projects. I’ve been kicking around an idea for a non-fiction book tied into my Political Science minor in Comparative Federalism, an exposition on my theory of why Canada got Justin Trudeau and his “sunny ways”, and America got Trump and his safe space for white supremacy. Therefore, I wanted space to work on that book idea, and figure out if it was a viable idea I could roll out into a book proposal – and ultimately, justification to take a sabbatical to write. However, as great an idea as I thought this was, I was never finding time to write in my daily life, no matter how many times I blocked it off in my day planner.
Therefore, Cave Day not only guaranteed that I would spend at least half a day writing, but it also gave me a deadline to finish some preliminary research and exploration to ensure that was what I wanted to spend the time on. It isn’t as if I have any shortage of writing projects to work on: I also took a novel writing class last year in the hopes of getting my own tribute to the steampunk genre out of my brain and onto paper, for my own entertainment. If my non-fiction project wasn’t viable, maybe I’d just get re-started on my fiction project. Or I could just crank out a month’s worth of blog entries. Whatever. Cave Day was going to make sure I wrote.
(I should add, one of my goals this quarter was to submit a blog piece to my employer’s Official Company Blog as part of Building my Personal Brand as a Senior Account Director and Media SME. I could have sat down and banged out 5 blog entries, a mix of personal and professional and it would have still been a satisfying day)
I wasn’t sure what to expect at Cave Day, to be honest. I assumed everyone there would be much younger than me, the sort of people who have “side hustles”. I was partially correct on that: the founders and organizers, Jake and Molly, were definitely squarely in the millenial generation, as were many of the attendees. There were a few people in my Xennial category though, including the guys at my table. It was also a slightly male skewed event, with an estimated 65/35 male to female split, as if men feel a pressure to do more. The 25 of us in the room were, however, diverse enough that I didn’t feel out of place.
In fact, I actually made new friends. After an hour sprint of researching why Canadians have such a vested interest in the common good, I looked up to see a group of grad students writing on a whiteboard headed “Why Are Canadians So Happy?” It was, for a moment, disorienting, like my imagination come to life. I bounced into the room, in true Canadian Tigger-like fashion, and discovered it was a marketing project, developing a new campaign. I cheerfully then volunteered my opinions on Canadian culture:
- Bears in swimming pools are a thing in heat waves. So are cougars in suburbs, the predator, not the human female.
- Don’t mention gangs, too soon after the last spate of violence in Vancouver and Toronto
- Yes, Tim Hortons is HUGE in the East, but in the West, we’re all Starbucks
- Nanaimo Bars are the only real Canadian food I can think of
- We are very proud of our diversity and tolerance and of being SLIGHTLY LESS RACIST than America
- Yes, we all agree, Justin Trudeau IS good looking.
- We all secretly love the Queen.
- The North is special to us. We are, after all the True North, strong & free
- We don’t vacation IN Canada. We go to the USA
- These views are limited to English Canada. Don’t ask me about French Canada. Pretty sure they HATE the Queen
- Margaret Atwood is ALL OVER TV right now and we suspect Netflix’s $500M investment is just going to all be adaptations of her work
After expounding on the culture of my homeland though, I did actually get right back to work. The day was structured in work sprints, 50 to 60 minutes apiece, three in the morning and four in the afternoon. In the morning, we also started with a one-line intro and commitment to our projects, which we re-emphasized at the end of the day by stating how much we felt we’d accomplished on that project. We wrote down our plans for our day and each sprint in advance so we would have a clear end goal in sight. And after each sprint, we stopped, stretched, took a five minute break, and re-set ourselves to work again.
Overall, I liked Caveday. I loved the space in the Breather offices in midtown. I appreciated the little bit of drama when we entered and were able to symbolically burn whatever it was was wanted to leave outside the cave by imagining it implanted in a ittle piece of flash paper that was burned on arrival. I appreciated having my phone taken away from me. Even the scents of the candles (citrus) and the sound piped in (water) were selected to improve focus and flow. I wrote over two thousand words, completed a much procrastinated review for a direct report, cleared out a bunch of Scout email and caught up on some of my belated Todoist items. It was a well spent nine hours, in which I accomplished much more than I would have on my own.
Despite liking Caveday, I don’t know if I would go again. Nine hours is a lot to commit – I sensed I was the only parent in the room. It’s also time spent traveling into Manhattan, for a 10.5hr day on a Sunday. That is huge bite out of my time. If I can replicate that kind of focus closer to home, then I’d rather stay in Brooklyn – even if it’s just doing work sprints at the library or a coffee shop, somewhere outside the home where I can’t be disturbed but also where I don’t have to go far from home or take an inflexible amount of time out of my day. Caveday is a great value though: $50 to sit down and accomplish something priceless, with lunch, snacks and coffee thrown in. If it was in Brooklyn, or if it was more flexible, I’d do it monthly.
So that was my experience in the Cave. One last thing I did take away was a custom coaster, printed on one side with “I am IN the Cave” for when I’m in a state of focus/flow, and “I am OUT of the Cave” for when I’m not. It reminded me of my Camp Nerd Fitness wristband, where the red side represented a desire not to socialize, and to be left in an introverted state. Together, my CNF bracelet and my Cave Day coaster side make an impenetrable wall for focus and concentration and staying in my own brain for a bit. Totally leveraging both the next time I need the mental space.