Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World

Written By James King

3 min read

Cal Newport - Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World

Deep Work by Cal Newport reads like a manifesto on the life-changing power of learning to work in a state of flow. Split into two sections - The Idea and The Rules - Newport frequently refers to examples from his own life as associate professor of computer science at Georgetown University to make a case for the value of working deeply, before spelling out exactly how to do it.

Summary of main ideas

So what exactly is deep work and why is it important? In a world of limitless distractions, ranging from incoming emails and colleagues interrupting you at your desk (admittedly more so pre-Covid!) to the temptations of jumping down the rabbit hole of Youtube and the rest of the internet, it’s easy to find yourself working in a ‘shallow’ way.

Newport argues that we are able to produce work of greater quality and quantity when we succeed in reaching a state of deep concentration. You might recognise this as ‘getting into the zone’ when working on a difficult task that requires all of your focus. It’s a cliché that computer programmers work much more effectively when they reach this state, but try interrupting a room full of focused developers and you will quickly realise the cliché reflects reality!

The key takeaway from this book is that everyone can benefit from learning to work deeply and it is important to deliberately create the conditions to make it possible. Suggestions include breaking your day into slots on your calendar, building routines into your daily life that force you to spend time alone with just your thoughts for company (Newport uses long walks) and taking steps to eliminate distractions such as social media.

How this book can help you

Deep work is one of the most actionable books I have read. I already had a good intuition that working in a focused way was better than getting distracted regularly, but this really crystallised the concept and helped me understand its importance. Personally, this was the biggest help.

Having read the book, I’ve worked in a far more focused way, which has benefited every aspect of my life. I tested the specific tactics outlined in the book and eventually found my own system for deep work by working in 25-minute highly-focused ‘pomodoros'.

Some good further reading/watching/listening

This piece on Medium provides a good overview of how to apply the learnings in Deep Work to your life.

This animated video gives a great summary of the main concepts.

Where to get it

Get Deep Work on Amazon.

Get Deep Work as an audiobook.

About the author

Cal Newport is a computer science professor at Georgetown university who writes about “the intersection of digital technology and culture.” He’s written six books, most notably the excellent So Good They Can’t Ignore You and Digital Minimalism You can read more from Cal on his blog.

Published by

Grand Central Publishing, Hachette Book Group

Publication Date:

January 5, 2016

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