Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport

Summary

  1. Deep work – professional activities performed in a state free of distractions which push your cognitive abilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill and are hard to replicate. This state is totally necessary to maximize your potential 
Key Takeaways
  1. A commitment to deep work usually entails short term sacrifice for long term outperformance and is found in nearly all great accomplishments
  2. Montaigne, Jung, Woody Allen, Bill Gates and others took deliberate time out to chunk, think deeply and about big things. This is especially important today with so many distractions. Chunks of time with no distractions is vital in any line of work. Those who recognize the importance of this depth of thinking have a humongous competitive advantage – it is becoming rarer just as it is becoming more vital. This tactic allows you to learn faster, think deeper, make more connections than shallow, distraction filled thinking does
  3. Add friction to people accessing you – less social media, don’t give out email freely, no spam…
  4. This type of work allows you to compress and accelerate your productivity – 4-6 hours per day, 5-6 days per week can accomplish extraordinary things
  5. Helps you be totally present and grateful and comfortable being bored
  6. As barriers are removed, competition intensifies as it becomes easier for the average person to access resources and learn, making more fields a winner take all type environment.
  7. Those who can work intelligently with machines, those with access to capital and those who are the best at what they do will vastly outperform others – world becoming more ‘winner take all’
  8. Ability to master hard things quickly and produce high quality work quickly are two vital characteristics in order to succeed
  9. Many corporate pressures to be always connected but has shown to lead to lower quality work. Most of these habits can be broken with habits which promote deep work
  10. Clarity for what matters gives clarity into what doesn’t 
  11. Deep work goes hand in hand with awareness and attention which are strongly correlated with happiness 
  12. Flow, challenging tasks are inherently important for a happy life but just as important is what you choose to put your energy into
  13. Need to develop own routines and philosophy for Deep Work. Some may set aside a certain time every day for deep work, some may fit it in wherever they can and still others might try to remove all distractions for constant Deep Work with regular breaks
  14. Having a set time and location when you do certain types of work helps save some willpower and eliminate certain decisions
  15. Mason Curry spent 5 years studying great thinkers and their routines
  16. Great, creative minds think like artists but work like accountants – can’t wait for inspiration to strike, must have great routines
  17. Grand gesture – radical change to normal environment with big effort of time or money with the goal of improving the deep work task, you increase the perceived importance of the task and reduces procrastination and increases focus and energy. Bill Gates’ think week, JK Rowling staying at a 5 star hotel, $4,000 for round trip flight solely to do deep work and Michael Pollan’s writing cabin with no internet or phone are some examples. Dominant force is the psychology to get you completely committed to deep work
  18. Hub and spoke model – the hub is what you do deep work on but also expose yourself to serendipitous ideas, people, meetings and interactions
  19. White boarding effect – sometimes doing Deep Work collaboratively is more effective than solo Deep Work
  20. Focus on the wildly important (less but better and deeper), act on elite measures (both lag and lead measures), keep a compelling score card of elite measures, create a cadence of accountability and plan weekly reviews of how much and how effective your Deep Work is
  21. Productive meditation – think of your deep work task during some mindless physical activity such as walking the dog or going for a run. Beware distractions and looping of things you already know
  22. Being able to memorize a deck of cards will help you stay concentrated for long periods of time
  23. Quit social media as much as possible
  24. Craftsman’s approach to tool selection – determine key things that will determine your success and happiness and only use tools which help you get substantially closer to achieving these goals. Focusing as much of your time and energy on tools which bring disproportionate rewards is the best way to leverage your time
  25. A minimalistic, simplistic lifestyle is helpful to stay focused and do Deep Work
  26. Be very deliberate about how you spend your leisure time before it begins 
  27. Most people hit a mental block with deep work after about 4 hours
  28. It can be a helpful and insightful exercise to try to plan out your day by half hour chunks and see how closely you can follow it and to clearly see where and how you spend your time. This is more about establishing thoughtfulness to your schedule than constraints and rigidity
Why I got out of it
  1. Scheduling your life to create time to be able to think and work deeply for a couple hours everyday will compound over time and give you more success and happiness than you could ever imagine