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

Deep Work by Cal Newport
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did not like it
bookshelves: blog-in-handy-book-form, self-help

I'm open to the general idea of this book. It's true that I get more done when I am fully immersed in a project, without self-inflicted distractions. And there are some genuinely useful ideas for how to make that happen more often: form rituals for “deep work” time, plan out how you'll spend the next 8-10 hours at the start of each day, don't check Twitter whenever you're momentarily bored, spend time walking and thinking through problems, etc. Also ideally build a stone house on the bank of Lake Zurich in 1922, or write a popular web development framework for Ruby.

But it's padded out by lots of waffle (like a weird digression into how to learn to memorize a shuffled deck of cards), obsessing over the productivity of historical and contemporary figures like Jung or David Heinemeier Hansson, a medium amount of pop-pseudo-psychology, and an infuriating habit of reminding the reader how unimaginably productive Cal Newport is. Yes, we know you managed to write 9 papers and a book in one year while raising two children and teaching computer science courses. You mention it at least once per chapter. Well done!

And take the point that social media is bad for concentration. Yes, of course! And certainly I spend time refreshing Twitter that I could otherwise use for EXTREME PRODUCTIVITY. But when he makes claims like “we can assume that these friendships are lightweight—given that they’re based on sending short messages back and forth over a computer network” (regarding a Facebook group for short fiction writers), it undermines the good advice. That was barely a safe assumption a decade ago, but it's certainly not a safe assumption now. Similarly, arguing that journalists shouldn't be on Twitter because their value is found in deep immersion in the task of writing hard-hitting stories: certainly true for some kinds of journalism (and the author successfully cherry-picks some good examples) but being accessible to readers (and other writers) actually is important in other kinds of journalism, whether to find new sources, engage in serious debate, or just find interesting stories from passing anecdotes.

I stuck it out to the end, hoping for redemption, but all I got was yet another recap of the time the author wrote nine papers in a year. So: I'll take away some useful thoughts on how to better structure my time—which might even help me be more productive!—but I recommend either not reading this book, or skipping chunks of it at the first hint of waffle. To turn some advice from the book about social media back on the book itself, ask “Would the last [5 minutes] have been notably better if I had [read this section]?” and “Did people care that I wasn't [reading everything]?” and tread carefully if the answers are anything but an unqualified “yes”.
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Reading Progress

August 11, 2017 – Started Reading
August 11, 2017 – Shelved
August 21, 2017 – Shelved as: blog-in-handy-book-form
August 21, 2017 – Shelved as: self-help
August 21, 2017 – Finished Reading

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