Book summary — Deep Work (by Cal Newport)

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A quick snippet of the book

Deep Work points out the fact that we have lost the ability to focus deeply and concentrate on complex tasks. Furthermore, it provides digestible chunks of information showing us how to cultivate the skill of deep focus with some simple rules.

Who should read it?

Any person who thinks that he is losing focus quite a lot while working and migrating to other places in his mind should definitely check out the book. But, overall, the book can be read by anyone who thinks that he or she needs insights into the realm of deep concentration and focus.

Summary and Book notes

Deep work and Shallow work

Deep work — Professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate.

Shallow work — Non-cognitively demanding, logistical-style tasks, often performed while distracted. These efforts tend to not create much new value in the world and are easy to replicate.

A commitment is required if you want to produce something which in your capabilities is an absolute best. Through deep work, you can make the commitment stronger and quickly master difficult things. In order to develop a habit of deep work, you need to condition your lifestyle with routines and rituals that will minimize the amount of your limited will power necessary to transition into and maintain a state of unbroken concentration.

Work Deeply

It is really difficult to work deeply in today’s world amidst the rigorous distractions, especially when people expect instant results. In order to render yourself effective, you need to figure out your deep work strategy or philosophy.

I build my days around a core of carefully chosen deep work, with the shallow activities I absolutely cannot avoid batched into smaller bursts at the peripheries of my schedule. Three to four hours a day, five days a week, of uninterrupted and carefully directed concentration, it turns out, can produce a lot of valuable output.

Monastic philosophy — One way of getting rid of distractions is to follow the monastic philosophy. You need to disconnect from the world completely for a certain period of time. Turn off your phone, shut your door and don’t let anything than can distract you come in front of your eyesight.

Bimodal philosophy — This is helpful to people who can’t completely shut themselves out from the world. In such conditions, they can alternate between periods of deep focus. For example, I would write a book review in the morning and study for school in the afternoon, thereby not having clashes.

Rhythmic philosophy — Some people like to schedule deep work sessions for a particular task at the same time everyday. That creates a rhythm and helps the person to be prepared everyday with maximum efficiency.

Journalistic philosophy — This is for those who do not have control over their daily schedule. They can take advantage of the breaks during the day and focus on their most important work. This requires an efficient switch to the deep work mentality quickly throughout the day in multiple small scattered time frames.

Embrace Boredom

When the distractions will be put aside during deep work, boredom will set in. You need to welcome it and embrace the fact that you are getting bored. Try to think of it as a proof of your ability to focus with utmost concentration. Getting bored is part of the process. It will reassure that you are on the right path to success. It will be worth embracing. Moreover, it turns out constantly switching back and forth between focus and distraction, actually trains our brain to multitask with greater efficiency. We can quickly switch our attention between multiple priorities.

Quit Social Media

Cal Newport is not a fan of social media because it is one of the primary reasons our time is fragmented. The cost of social media is more significant than the benefits it provides if you use it for entertainment purpose. Try to minimize the use of social media. For example, checking your Facebook feed once a week only will not sever your connections with what your friends are posting. Try to think of social media as a tool that you can use to enhance your work. Try to apply the 80/20 rule for social media. Find out if you can gain 80% benefit from social media by putting in 20% work. The benefit should always be greater than the cost.

Drain the Shallows

Time blocking is the key here. Most people can deep work a maximum of 4 hours per day. You can start off with only 1 hour per day and increase it gradually. Try to create time blocks so that you can drain out as much shallow work as you possibly can. The goal is the use the time effectively and is not to follow the schedule strictly. There can be works where you will need more time to execute and complete the tasks. The more you use your time wisely, the better you will get at estimating your time blocks.

Packing 40 hours into four days isn’t necessarily an efficient way to work. Many people find that eight hours are tough enough; requiring them to stay for an extra two could cause morale and productivity to decrease — Tara Weiss (Journalist)

Recommended Reading

  1. Book summary — Steal Like an Artist (by Austin Kleon)
  2. Book summary — Show Your Work (by Austin Kleon)



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