Scott's Reviews > Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World

Deep Work by Cal Newport
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bookshelves: self-help, business, academic, design


Deep Work was a solid self-help/productivity book. Being a podcast junkie, I had heard the majority of things that Newport preaches in his book. However, I really appreciated his practical applications of how to enter into Deep Work, or 'the zone' as I call it.


In Deep Work, the author tells a story of a young consultant who automates his work responsibilities using Excel macros. He then studied computer programming to increase his worth in the workforce. I, too, am a consultant, and this is exactly what I'm doing with UX design. I'm getting myself out of the mundane work of project management, and moving toward the thought-provoking and challenging field of design.


- Deep work is a skill that can and must be developed to be successful in knowledge work. Leaders in the next generation will have the power to put away distraction and enter into deep work.

- Working creatively with machines is one of the three types of people who will success in the new economy. UX designers are right in line with this thinking. AN added benefit is being able to work remote and control your work environment.

- Knowledge work is not supposed to be shown through producing X amount of widgets. It shouldn't be solely measured by quantity of hours worked or public messages/deliverables sent. Quality is what really matters.

- When telling people that you're busy, they will respect it. Deep work stretches are always understood if they are well defined, and well communicated to those trying to get your attention.

-3 Methods of Deep Work:
The habitual 'rhythmic method' of deep work is more sustainable and actually produces more hours of deep work cumulatively. It becomes engrained in us as scheduled thinking time. Try waking up early and starting your day with a few hours of deep work. Over times, this habit will increase your ability to think deeply (work it out just like a muscle).

By and large, most jobs don't allow you to disappear for large chunks of time. The 'monastic method' of deep work is rarely doable.

Fitting in deep work whenever you can into your schedule is called the 'journalistic approach'. Walter Isaacson exemplified this method in writing his novels on the side of his job as the NY Times lead editor.


- To learn quickly, you need to study for long periods of time consistently. This is neurologically proven.

- Force yourself to concentrate by locking away digital distractions. To write comprehensive thoughts, put away and limit distractions, interruptions, and constant checking of messages.

-Perform a 'shut down' complete action that signifies the end of your professional work day

-Regularly rest your mind to improve frequently and intensity of deep work (e.g. short walks, water breaks)

- Embrace boredom - Don't flee from being bored! Allow your mind to relax and be un-stimulated. Your mind cannot come up with creative solutions and personal insights if it is constantly bombarded with digital stimulus. If you cannot allow yourself to be bored for more than a few minutes without mindlessly swiping around on your phone, then you are not ready for deep work. Your mind has been conditioned for distraction. It's being rewired.

- Study like Theodore Roosevelt - Focus in short intense bursts of deep work, not long drawn out marathon study sessions filled with interruptions

- The 'any benefit' reason for using social media platforms is not a good reason for using them. This reason essentially says that if something provides 'any benefit' then it is worth using. This is a trick! We must focus on the best uses of our time, not merely on good uses of our time.

- Get off social media, cold turkey. Don't announce it. See who actually notices that you're gone. You'll be surprised by how many won't miss you from social networks. Sad, but true.


"I'll live the focused life, because it's the best life to live." - Winfield Gallagher
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Reading Progress

February 24, 2016 – Started Reading
February 26, 2016 – Shelved
February 29, 2016 – Shelved as: self-help
February 29, 2016 – Shelved as: business
February 29, 2016 – Shelved as: academic
February 29, 2016 – Finished Reading
February 24, 2017 – Shelved as: design

Comments Showing 1-2 of 2 (2 new)

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Paul Zheng Scott,

Profoundly different and splendid review about the book! There are various and sumptuous stories that Cal mentioned. The one that I particularly found intriguing is Bill's "Think Week". Where he eliminate any distractions to contemplate deeply about the future.

Will definitely recommend this book to my Harvard friends.

Hope to learn more from you,
Paul Zheng

message 2: by Francesco (new)

Francesco Mari can you please suggest some good podcasts?

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