Deep Work by Cal Newport

  • Those that win in the new economy are:

    • High Skilled workers - those that play well with complicated machines

    • Superstars - those who are at the very top of what they do

    • Owners - those with access to capital

  • Core abilities to thrive:

    • Ability to quickly master hard things

    • Ability to produce at an elite level in terms of quality and speed

  • Learning hard things takes deliberate practice

    • Attention focused on the skill to develop

    • Receive feedback to keep attention on the most productive work

  • There are three ways to find meaning in deep work:

    • Neurological - “management of attention is the most important thing for living a good life"



      • —> choose carefully and then give rapt attention: live a focused life



    • Psychological - deep work generates flow, and we are happier when we are immersed in something challenging

    • Philosophical - citing All Things Shining (and it’s observation that the enlightenment removed the sacredness from work), we need to refocus on the craftsmanship and sacredness of our work



      • the meaning uncovered is due to skill and appreciation of your work, not the outcome (the code is not noble, but the shaping can be)



  • Rule 1 - Work Deeply

    • eudaimonia (Greek concept of the state where you achieve your full potential): eudaimonia machine is a conceptual building with 5 rooms, the last of which provides a protected place for deep work

    • you have a finite amount of willpower that becomes depleted as you use it —> need to add routines and rituals to minimize the amount of willpower we need to deploy

    • Decide on your Deep Work Philosophy

    • 1) Monastic Philosophy - maximize depth by eliminating or radically minimizing shallowness



      • single, well-defined goal as measure of success



    • 2) Bimodal Philosophy - divide your time into regular work, and dedicated (monastic-like) stretches of deep work

    • 3) Rhythmic Philosophy - chain method (do it every day, make it a routine)



      • Define a time for your work and stick to it every day


      • Early wake up time to go your work for 1-2 hours before your real job



    • 4) Journalistic Philosophy - get away for any small bit you are able

    • Ritualize - where, how work, how support work (food/coffee)

    • Make grand gestures - like Rowling renting hotel room to finish Harry Potter, a special setting can help put you in the right frame of mind; for me, old building or great library

    • Don’t work alone - hub and spoke model: access to both collaboration and isolation is important

    • Execute like a business - 4 Disciplines of Execution from Clayton Christensen



      • 1) Focus on what is wildly important - say yes to only the most important things


      • 2) Act on the lead measures - lead, not lag: hours of deep work


      • 3) Keep a compelling scoreboard - index card to track your hours of deep work


      • 4) Create a cadence of accountability - regular meetings to assess progress



    • Be Lazy



      • 1) Downtime aids insights - allow your unconscious brain to mull


      • 2) Downtime helps recharge for deep work - go for a walk, and when you disconnect from work you need to fully disconnect


      • 3) The work that evening downtime replaces is not important -





        • develop a “shutdown ritual” - review all your tasks at end of day, plan the next day, then shut down






  • Rule 2 - Embrace Boredom

    • 2 goals



      • improve ability to concentrate deeply


      • overcome desire for distraction



    • Take breaks from focus rather than distraction



      • schedule when you use the internet, then avoid it completely when not in those times


      • 1) This works even if your job needs lots of internet/email





        • amount of use doesn’t matter as much as discipline in avoiding when not supposed to



        • 5 minutes for email/internet every 15 minutes





      • 2) You must keep non-internet blocks completely free regardless of how you schedule





        • if you get stuck, either







          • a) switch to another offline activity




          • b) re-schedule internet block or now and adjust remaining schedule accordingly









      • 3) Schedule internet use at home as well





        • waiting and being bored is increasingly rare and increasingly valuable






    • Work like Teddy Roosevelt



      • Estimate time required, shorten the allowed duration, and work with high intensity to meet the objective



    • Productive meditation - use physical/non-mental time (walk, run, etc.) to think about a work problem



      • 1) Be wary of distractions/looping


      • 2) Structure your deep thinking





        • a) define relevant variables of your problem



        • b) define the next-step question to answer with those variables



        • c) review the answer for future use






    • Memorize a deck of cards



      • a side effect of memorizing is your ability to concentrate


      • a) walk through 5 room and remember 10 objects in each room


      • b) associate a memorable person/think with all types of cards


      • c) remember each person in each room to memorize a deck



  • Rule 3 - Quit Social Media

    • need to evaluate both the benefits and the costs when choosing which tools to include in our lives

    • The Craftsman Approach to Tool Selection: Identify the core factors that determine success and happiness in your professional and personal life. Adopt a tool only if its positive impacts on these factors substantially outweigh its negative impacts.

    • Apply the Law of the Vital Few to your Internet Habits



      • a) Identify the main goals in your personal/professional life


      • b) List the 2-3 most important activities to achieve that goal


      • c) If a tool contributes to these, only then should you use it


      • The Law of the Vital Few: 80-20 rule



    • Quit Social Media



      • ban yourself for 30 days - if still useful after that ban then reintroduce; otherwise delete


      • social media removes the connection between hard work producing content and people paying attention to you: I’ll pay attention to you if you pay attention to me even if neither of us really adds any value



    • Don’t Use the Internet to Entertain Yourself



      • How to Live on 24 Hours a Day: see the time before/after work as a “day within a day"


      • put some thought into structuring your leisure time to give yourself a quality alternative to distraction during your leisure time



  • Rule 4 - Drain the Shallows

    • Schedule Every Minute of Your Day



      • http://calnewport.com/blog/2013/12/21/deep-habits-the-importance-of-planning-every-minute-of-your-work-day/



    • goal it not to stick to plan 100%, but to be thoughtful about how you spend your time

    • Quantify the Depth of Each Activity



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


      • How long would it take to train a smart recent college grad with no specialized training in my field to complete this task?



    • Ask Your Boss for a Shallow Work Budget

    • Finish Your Work by 5:30



      • fixed-schedule productivity: set a limit of fight hours a week and work backward to determine what rules and habits were needed to satisfy that constraint



    • Become Hard to Reach



      • Make people who send you email do more work


      • Do more work when you send or reply to emails





        • Determine the “project” represented by the email and find the most efficient process for concluding the project





      • Don’t respond





        • Tim Ferriss: “Develop the habit of letting small and things happen. If you don’t, you’ll never mind time for the life-changing big things."






  • Winifred Gallagher: “I’ll live the focused life, because it’s the best kind there is."

Created: 2016-01-11
Updated: 2022-02-24-Thu