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

Deep Work by Cal Newport
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it was ok

Alternate title: Legalism for Dummies!

To be fair, I'm not the appropriate audience for this book. I'm a stay-at-home mom, not a "knowledge worker" looking to get ahead in today's economy. Also, I'm a pretty disciplined worker already, so I found most of his conclusions to be fairly obvious things that I already knew. But working deeply is not really a matter of what you know, it's a matter of what you're willing to do day after day, month after month, year after year. That's a heck of a lot tougher than the book makes it sound.

So, if you need to be convinced that deep work is a better way to accomplish meaningful goals, by all means, read this book. If you already know--even without the help of social science and statistics--that attention is a valuable and limited resource, that time can be frittered away with shallow entertainment, and that it takes deep reservoirs of discipline and firm boundaries to truly push yourself to new heights of creativity, than you probably don't need to bother with this book.

I listened to it as an audio book, but I could tell that Newport LOVES capital letters. He loved to give obvious things a name (i.e. "Attention Restoration Theory") and then explain how to maximize each moment of your life. Newport treats himself, and his readers, a little too much like machines. You may get more academic papers published when you turn down every offer for coffee or refuse to connect with neighbors on Facebook, but you're missing out on something. Something you can't quantify or study or even describe, because you don't know what you're missing out on. And he treats Deep Work too much like a means to an economic end.

I value deep work, but not as a pathway to economic success. I serve my children, my husband, my church in myriad ways every day. These efforts may look frivolous, temporary, or shallow by Newport's standards, which measure depth by how easily a recent grad could be trained to replicate these tasks. But I do them, as much as I'm able, with love and humility. THIS is deep work. It is seeing the throbbing meaning behind simple tasks that appear meaningless.

Newport mentions briefly the idea of "lag measures" of success. These are not things you can force to happen, but instead result from doing things well consistently. This is the real benefit of deep work: not that it helps you get ahead, but that you become a person who pays attention to what is meaningful, who asks better and better questions, and who appreciates the world in increasingly meaningful and powerful ways. You, of course, can't force these things to happen or work deeply simply in an effort to get these results. But they do happen as a result of claiming your attention and not offering it as up-for-grabs to any blinking screen.

I will continue to work deeply. I have my own "rules" (many of which I break occasionally, but still uphold as good and useful in helping me cordon off my time) and I may even borrow some of his (I liked the tallying of deep work hours, with circles around tallies to represent breakthroughs.) I try to make lists of internet related chores and turn the computer on only to get several specific things done at once. I try to keep enough "real world" hobbies that I enjoy so that I will not get sucked in to wasting time on the computer. I read books instead of online articles, magazines instead of watching sound-bite news, and admire my garden instead of admiring photos of other people's lives. I do not own, and will resist as long as I can, a smartphone. I don't have a perfect system to sell you, but it is keeping me more-or-less grounded in the real world even though I visit the virtual world at least once a day. After reading this book, I'm reminded of how much I already know about what makes for good, satisfying work.
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Reading Progress

June 20, 2017 – Started Reading
June 20, 2017 – Shelved
June 29, 2017 – Finished Reading

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message 1: by Liev (new)

Liev Birman You should've written this book.


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