Deep Work by Cal Newport

I recently finished Cal Newport’s Deep Work and was impressed by his thesis: 1) deep work matters – especially in a world where most knowledge workers are really struggling with distracting, low-impact, shallow work – and 2) you can build the habits that facilitate deep work with a little planning, time, and discipline.

Have you ever had a day where you feel like you were busy 100% of the day but didn’t get a single truly important thing done? You replied to a ton of emails, were in a bunch of meetings or on a bunch of phone calls. You got some forms to the right people, gave the go-ahead on a few things. And then you looked back on your day and realized that none of it really mattered.

Deep work is “the act of focusing without distraction on a cognitively demanding task.”

Check out Deep Work. It’s a pretty quick read and arms you with both strategies and tactics for changing a few things about the way you work and the people you work with.

In one of the most important sections of the book, Cal emphasizes the importance of defining:
1) Where you’ll work and for how long (working out of a coffee shop on Monday mornings),
2) How you’ll work (when I want to write something new, I always start by consuming interesting & reputable content – usually a podcast or book – then I write for 60 minutes, edit for 30, etc)
3) How you’ll support your work with rituals (making yourself a french press of coffee, putting on your favorite hoodie, lighting candles and praying to Chutulu, etc)
4) Any grand gestures you can perform (moving to the mountains/beach for a month to isolate yourself and focus, for example)

I especially like the concept of creating a shallow work budget (I’ll allow myself to do 90 minutes of shallow work today) and reframing the relationship between work and distractions as “taking a break from focus” instead of “taking a break from distractions.” I also really enjoyed the section on developing a scoreboard that works for you and your deep work goals. I’m still working on mine, and I’ll share it not he blog when it’s finished.

There’s a ton of valuable and actionable information in the book and it’s already had an impact on me and my work. If you’re dissatisfied with the way you work at all, I’d highly encourage you to get and read this high-ROI book.