10 KEY TAKEAWAYS: Cal Newport – Deep Work

This is a summary of the key take-aways of Cal Newport’s bestseller Deep Work. The purpose of this summary is to spark your interest. A short summary will never replace the experience, knowledge and impact you will get from reading the actual book.

Deep Work, a productivity hack book by Cal Newport

Cal Newport is an American non-fiction writer. He has written several books, for example How to Win at College (2005), So Good They Can’t Ignore You (2012), Digital Minimalism (2019) and A World Without Email (2021). The theme throughout Newport’s books is how to perform better and be more productive. Deep Work, published in 2016, is no different. If you are a person who is into productivity hacks or maybe feel that you are having a hard time getting things done, then this book is definitely for you. We all tend to get distracted when trying to focus, be it by our constantly present smartphones or a very talkative colleague sitting next to us. Distraction is a huge obstacle to our flourishing. We all have a huge potential but distractions and inability to focus need to be solved for that potential to not get lost.

“Deep work is the killer app of the knowledge economy: it is only by concentrating intensely that you can master a difficult discipline or solve a demanding problem.”
The Economist

“As a presence on the page, Newport is exceptional in the realm of self-help authors.”
New York Times Book Review

“Deep Work accomplishes two considerable tasks: One is putting out a wealth of concrete practices for the ambitious, without relying on gauzy clichés. The second is that Mr. Newport resists the corporate groupthink of constant connectivity without seeming like a curmudgeon.”

Wall Street Journal

  1. Shallow work refers to work tasks of a logical kind, which demands a low cognitive effort and can be executed in a messy environment. This type of work doesn’t create much new in the world and it is easy for others to copy. Deep work on the other hand, refers to tasks executed in a concentrated state of mind where you use all of your mental capacity. This type of work increases the quality of the work, sharpens the skills of the person and leads to results that are hard to copy by others. Newport’s hypothesis is that the ability to do deep work is getting more and more rare, at the same time as it is getting more and more valuable in today’s economy. The consequence of this is that the few people who practice this ability and make it central to their way of working will flourish.
  2. There are four rules of discipline in Deep Work:
    1. Focus on important and valuable goals
    2. Instead of measuring results, measure your behavior that leads to the result.
    3. Put up a scoreboard.
    4. Create a progress review process to see how much you have accomplished.
  3. After your workday, you should postpone everything that is work related to the next morning. Relaxing and not thinking about work will give you both new insights and more energy to deep work the next day. If you start opening your work inbox during the evening or add a few hours of work after dinner, you will deprive your brain’s concentration center from the rest needed for recovery.
  4. If your smartphone is stuck in your hand in evenings and weekends, it’s probably hard for you to put it away during work. Your brain can’t tell the difference between a Sunday and a Monday.
  5. The key with scheduled internet use is not to avoid or even reduce the total amount of time you spend on recreation. It is instead to give yourself an opportunity to resist the impulse of turning to these recreations at first hint of boredom. To just wait, and be bored has become very rare. But from the perspective of concentration practice, it is highly valuable.
  6. Social media can be fun. But in the long run and considering what you want to achieve in life, they weigh light and are unimportant distractions that threaten to steal your attention from something deeper.
  7. Do more work when replying to e-mails. Answer in a process-focused way to avoid many e-mails back and forth on the topic. Don’t answer e-mails that don’t have a clear value.
  8. Productive meditation is to use moments when you are physically but not mentally busy, e.g. walking, jogging, showering or doing the dishes, for focusing your thoughts on a tricky work task.
  9. To create a detailed plan for your goal is both a way to make sure the goal will be reached and a way to free cognitive resources for other means.
  10. The ability to concentrate intensely is an ability you can train.

To buy Deep Work by Cal Newport, click here.

Cal Newport, the author of Deep Work.
Cal Newport, the author of Deep Work.

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