Posted in Bookish

Deep Work

Title:  Deep Work: Rules For Focused Success in a Distracted World

Author: Cal Newport

Author Nationality: American


Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Year Published/ Release: January 2016

Pages:  296

Book Version:  Paperback

The author defines “Deep Work as the 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.” On the other hand, “Shallow work is the 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. In an age of network tools, in other words, knowledge workers increasingly replace deep work with the shallow alternative-constantly sending and receiving email messages like human network routers, with frequent breaks for quick hits of distraction.”

Key Insights:

  1. Digital devices and social media have created a permanent effect on our attention thus affecting our ability to maintain focus and be present.
  2. Engaging in deep work is not easy; you have to set aside time to work on something or that skill you are seeking to improve and respect that time and attention.
  3. Deliberate practice requires that; your attention is focused tightly on a specific skill you are trying to master and you receive feedback so that you can correct your approach to keeping your attention exactly where it is most productive.
  4. Deliberate practice cannot exist alongside distraction and that it instead requires uninterrupted concentration.
  5. Deep work helps you produce at an elite level.
  6. To learn hard things quickly, you must focus intensely without distraction, which is an act of deep work. If you are comfortable going deep, you will be comfortable mastering the increasingly complex systems and skills needed to thrive in our economy.
  7. People who multi-task will rarely be able to tell the difference between important and non-important information, this means they are chronically distracted and end up doing work that is irrelevant without actually knowing it.
  8. To embrace and engage in Deep work you have to do the following: (a)Schedule time on your calendar to get things done. If it is a demanding task, Newport recommends that you work on it within a 90-minute chunk. Once the time is blocked on your calendar, treat it as an appointment or meeting and be ready to reschedule meetings with others that may fall within your deep work time frame. (b)Embrace boredom: imagine a case scenario where you are lining up in the store waiting your turn, the reflex is to take out your phone! learn to gird yourself for the temporary boredom, and fight through it with only the company of your thoughts. To succeed with deep work you must rewire your brain to be comfortable resisting distracting stimuli.  Training your brain to get bored means improving your ability to focus.(c)Productive meditation: The goal of this is to focus your attention on a single well defined professional problem. You must continue to bring your attention back to the problem at hand when it wanders or stalls. This you can do by taking on an activity that occupies you physically but not mentally such as Walking, jogging, driving, and showering. The aim is to bring your focus back to the problem you are working on. (d)The Craftsman Approach to Tools Selection: This means that tools are ultimately aids to the largest goals of one’s craft. Start by identifying the core factors that determine success and happiness in your professional and personal life. Then adopt a tool only if it’s positive impacts on these factors substantially outweigh its negative impacts. This will help you pick the right tools, define deep work, and enable you to allocate your time in an appropriate manner.
  9. Prepare for Deep work by adopting a healthy routine such as identifying all the resources you need prior to getting your work done, clearing your work station off anything that would distract you, notice your shallow work to better avoid it and create a Do Not Disturb policy during your deep work time.
  10. Identify a small number of ambitious outcomes to pursue within your deep work hours then work on those “wildly important goals”.This way your brain will focus on that task and stay motivated to reach the expected outcomes.

My take:

After reading this book, I was inspired to borrow this concept and see what I could achieve. I realized I could learn almost anything if I put my mind to it and deliberately focused to learn on the subject or skill area.

Simply put, you have to be intentional about what you want to learn, then make time and put in the effort without wavering.

What I did differently:

  • I listed the areas I wanted to learn, improve, and master.
  • Set a time every day (started with two hours daily) for 14 days.
  • The result: 18 articles that I am now working on translating into podcast episodes.
  • I still continue to write, some days are tough but most importantly, I show up.
  • I understood the value of what I was doing, the results I wanted to see, put in the commitment, took responsibility, and tried to remain as consistent as possible.

Deep work is a skill that allows you to master complex information, turn it into a skill, and produce better results within a lesser time. It will make you so good at what you do, creating a sense of fulfillment and confidence.

Leadership is everywhere, take your pick and shine.

Memorable Quote (s):

“To remain valuable in our economy, you must master the art of quickly learning complicated things. This task requires deep work. If you don’t cultivate this ability, you’re likely to fall behind as technology advances.”.”

“if you keep interrupting your evening to check and respond to e-mail, or put aside a few hours after dinner to catch up on an approaching deadline, you’re robbing your directed attention centers of the uninterrupted rest they need for restoration. Even if these work dashes consume only a small amount of time, they prevent you from reaching the levels of deeper relaxation in which attention restoration can occur. Only the confidence that you’re done with work until the next day can convince your brain to downshift to the level where it can begin to recharge for the next day to follow. Put another way, trying to squeeze a little more work out of your evenings might reduce your effectiveness the next day enough that you end up getting less done than if you had instead respected a shutdown.”

We tend to place a lot of emphasis on our circumstances, assuming that what happens to us (or fails to happen) determines how we feel. From this perspective, the small-scale details of how you spend your day aren’t that important, because what matters are the large-scale outcomes, such as whether or not you get a promotion or move to that nicer apartment. According to Gallagher, decades of research contradict this understanding. Our brains instead construct our worldview based on what we pay attention to.”

If you are seeking focused success, this book is a great starting point.


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