Deep Work by Cal Newport – Summary

Deep Work by Cal Newport - Summary
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I just got done with reading deep work. Well Actually I didn’t I got done with reading half the book and that was it. As contradictory as it is I am writing a summary of the book deep work without actually implementing what it says.

Before we get into what deep work is let me ask you a question.

When was the last time you got work done without being distracted?

As in not checking your phone every 5 minutes or doing your work while listening to music or a podcast.

If the answer is I don’t know then you have been doing shallow work and not deep work and this should be addressed immediately. Shallow work is mindless and not cognitively demanding.

It’s hard to not be bored with our phones in our pockets and with our brains in constant work mode. We need to break away from shallow work and focus more on doing deep work.

We use busyness as a proxy for work and this is not productive and multitasking does not work. Cal Newport says Deep work is going to be the superpower of the 21 st century.

If you are of the opinion that working all day is good and you like to tell people that you work 12-14 hours a day that doesn’t mean that you are really productive. This is not only detrimental to your health but also your productivity. Find the best system of output with deep work.

Let’s uncover what Deep Work is.

What is Deep Work?

So what is Deep Work?

Deep Work is a concept coined by Cal Newport and here’s how he defines it.

Deep Work: 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.

Think of doing deep work as going to the gym but for your brain. It is a mental muscle that you have to exercise. Train your ability to concentrate intensely for short periods of time to do deep work.

Deep work gives you emotional fulfillment and a sense of accomplishment.

How to do deep Work?

Okay so now how do you do deep work?

Focus on just one thing and optimize your productivity. Disconnect from social media and email and any other distractions that you may have.

  1. Schedule your distraction periods ( Time Blocking place boundaries and use a timer if required)
  2. Develop a rhythmic deep work ritual. ( Make deep work a regular practice try an hour if you are a novice and 3-4 hours are for experts)
  3. Have a daily evening shutdown ritual. (Sleep is the price we need to pay in order to do deep work).

Two core abilities for thriving in today’s economy are:

  1. Master Hard things quickly
  2. Produce at an elite level.

“If you don’t produce, you won’t thrive—no matter how skilled or talented you are.”

Cal Newport

Deep work is a skill that you can get better at as you practice it. Allows yourself to be lazy. Create a shutdown ritual from work. Always being in work mode will not allow you to do deep work.

Myelin is a white tissue that allows specific nerve circuits in the brain to fire effortlessly and effectively. So to do deep work you must be well myelinated.

Optimize Interview: Deep Work with Cal Newport

Deep Work Vs Shallow Work

When you do shallow work like answering an email or posting on social media which is not a very cognitively demanding task you fire too many circuits in your brain and you cannot focus properly on the task at hand.

When you switch from some Task A to another Task B, your attention doesn’t immediately follow—a residue of your attention remains stuck thinking about the original task. Your brain cannot focus on two things at the same time and this is what’s wrong with context switching.

Let’s now look at the key differences between deep work and shallow work.

Deep WorkShallow Work
Attention is directed to just one thing.Attention is fragmented and split into slivers.
High-Value work is being done.Low-value work is being done.
The task is cognitively demanding.The task is Non cognitively demanding.
Hard to replicate.Easy to replicate hence commoditized
Gives you a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment.You feel overworked and not well rested and you didn’t get much done.
Differences between Deep Work and Shallow Work

Deep work will help you get a raise or a promotion but shallow work keeps the light on at the office.

Examples of Deep Work

As you now know Deep Work is an increasingly valuable skill and allows you to stand out from the crowd. Here are some examples of people who have employed deep work to their advantage.

  1. Microsoft CEO Bill Gates famously conducted “Think Weeks” twice a year, during which he would isolate himself (often in a lakeside cottage) to do nothing but read and think big thoughts.
  2. Cal Newport author of bestsellers such as so good they can’t ignore you, Deep work, and DIgital Minimalism doubled his output of research while managing his family through deep work.
  3. When Carl Jung wanted to revolutionize the field of psychiatry, he built a retreat in the woods. Jung’s Bollingen Tower became a place where he could maintain his ability to think deeply and then apply the skill to produce work of such stunning originality that it changed the world.

Deep work is necessary to wring every last drop of value out of your current intellectual capacity and to remain valuable in our economy Deep work is a must so what is deep work for you?


2 thoughts on “Deep Work by Cal Newport – Summary”

  1. Hi Muthu.
    I came to your blog from the CTS group where you had shared its link. I really liked your idea of summarizing the books and the voice recording you had used is really good which does the reading for you. I had bookmarked your blog and will be visiting it regularly. Keep posting and share value.

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