Book Review: Deep Work

Book Review #10: Deep Work (Cal Newport)


Though not the best written book, Deep Work shares research and proactive actions that can be taken related to a topic I have been thinking a lot about recently – focus. Specifically, about how in the internet-era, people have been losing the ability to focus. And, offices increasingly tend to prioritize “shallow work” (e.g. emails, unproductive meetings, networking) which can fracture your daily schedule in such a way that you never have time to dive into the meat of your work. And then you are at the office later and later, staying connected to colleagues via emails at night and on the weekend. The whole system makes no sense. I’ve seen at the consulting organization I work for that my team – which emphasizes disconnecting from work, not responding to emails immediately, and letting people create their own work schedules from their own preferred locations, is more productive and less burnt-out that other teams that emphasize the opposite.

Here are some takeaways I learned from the book:

  • Make internet time/distracted time the exception, not the norm.
  • Build time into your schedule for focus and create rules around what is and isn’t allowed during that time period. I don’t allow any internet for example – no checking of email, no looking up information. I also write down one thing on a post-it that is the only thing I am supposed to work on. When I finish, I write down something else.
  • Keep track of the number of deep work hours you are working. This helps incentivize you and allows you to set and meet goals.
  • Do less shallow work. Don’t meet people for coffee, don’t respond to useless emails – say no to whatever is not a priority for you.

Since reading, I’ve set an initial goal of two hours of deep work a day. This has already helped me get SO MUCH done. So much. And, I very much appreciate how it shifts me away from mindless internet usage. I have done tremendously well at not using the internet much in my personal life, but creating these structures for my work life has been very helpful.

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