Deep Work: Rules For Focused Success In A Distracted World by Cal Newport

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Cal Newport’s definition of deep work is the ability to focus without distraction, on a cognitively demanding task.  He posits that, generally, people have lost the ability to do deep work because they are battling a constant flurry of distraction – much of which is tied to technology and social media.  Newport’s urging is to return to a cultivation of deep work, like a craft, that deep work is meaningful, valuable, rare and fulfilling.  In returning to deep work, whatever your profession, you’ll see massive benefits and increased productivity.

The book outlines a strategy to strengthen your deep work muscles with four rules to follow:

  1.  Work Deeply
    1. Decide on your depth philosophy (with regard to scheduling time to do deep work)
    2. Build rituals:  where you will work, for how long
    3. Don’t work alone – that is, don’t isolate yourself
    4. Execute like a business, set objectives and measure success
    5. Factor in downtime
  2. Embrace Boredom
    1. Take breaks from focus
    2. Give yourself hard deadlines to generate ‘free time’
    3. Productive meditation – for example take a walk or a run, but keep thinking about a problem/solution
  3. Quit Social Media
    1. Social networking tools are not inherently evil, but don’t use them all.  Select those that will benefit your success by considering the impact of using the social media tool on your key activities and goals
    2. Quit social media for a time and measure/consider the impact
    3. Don’t use the internet to entertain yourself
  4. Drain The Shallows
    1. Schedule every minute of your day
    2. Quantify the depth of your activities: shallow vs. deep
    3. Ask your boss for a shallow work budget – everyone is required to answer emails, join meetings and conference calls, that aren’t terribly productive work.  Ask the boss to define how much time you should spend on such things
    4. Become hard to reach (Newport offers some great strategies around emails)
    5. Finish work by 5:30 – this is a commitment to fixed productivity. Nobody can or should be productive 24 hrs per day.  Your brain needs a rest

Book Summary by Karen Longhurst

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