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BOOK REVIEW: Deep Work
by Cal Newport
One of the most valuable skills in our economy is becoming increasingly rare. If you master this skill, you’ll achieve extraordinary results.
Deep work is the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task. It’s a skill that allows you to quickly master complicated information and produce better results in less time. Deep work will make you better at what you do and provide the sense of true fulfillment that comes from craftsmanship. In short, deep work is like a super power in our increasingly competitive twenty-first century economy. And yet, most people have lost the ability to go deep-spending their days instead in a frantic blur of e-mail and social media, not even realizing there’s a better way.
In DEEP WORK, author and professor Cal Newport flips the narrative on impact in a connected age. Instead of arguing distraction is bad, he instead celebrates the power of its opposite. Dividing this book into two parts, he first makes the case that in almost any profession, cultivating a deep work ethic will produce massive benefits. He then presents a rigorous training regimen, presented as a series of four “rules,” for transforming your mind and habits to support this skill.
A mix of cultural criticism and actionable advice, DEEP WORK takes the reader on a journey through memorable stories — from Carl Jung building a stone tower in the woods to focus his mind, to a social media pioneer buying a round-trip business class ticket to Tokyo to write a book free from distraction in the air — and no-nonsense advice, such as the claim that most serious professionals should quit social media and that you should practice being bored. DEEP WORK is an indispensable guide to anyone seeking focused success in a distracted world.
Cal Newport makes a convincing argument that “deep work” is the key to eudaimonia (“a state at which you’re achieving your full human potential”).
In our present time of smartphones, social media and constant distraction connection, deep work has become rare. Those who can focus deeply for periods of time (1-4 hours per day) can be more productive, more valuable and experience deeper satisfaction.
In Deep Work, Newport draws attention to some of our seemingly productive habits that are truly just busyness. For example, forwarding an email with an open-ended question, such as: “Thoughts?” may take the sender just seconds to write/send, but may take the recipient an hour to sort through and respond if they want to do so thoughtfully. This is what Newport calls “busyness as proxy for productivity.” In the absence of clear metrics, people will fall back on what is easiest, and instead focus on being visible.
Newport makes some really great arguments for making time in our schedules for deep, focused work. Do you want to live a life of constant distraction and shallowness or a life of deep focus where you have clarity on what really matters and can accomplish more? Although I will take the “Quit Social Media” chapter with a grain of salt 😉, I do have to agree that deep work is necessary if you want to have a life that is truly rich and meaningful.