Dan Kim @dankimio

Deep Work — Cal Newport

Introduction

  • Shallow Work: Noncognitively demanding, logistical-style tasks, often performed while distracted. These efforts tend to not create much new value in the world and are easy to replicate.
  • To remain valuable in our economy, therefore, you must master the art of quickly learning complicated things. This task requires deep work.

Chapter 1: Deep Work Is Valuable

Two Core Abilities for Thriving in the New Economy

  1. The ability to quickly master hard things.
  2. The ability to produce at an elite level, in terms of both quality and speed.
  • If you don’t produce, you won’t thrive—no matter how skilled or talented you are.
  • Sertillanges argues that to advance your understanding of your field you must tackle the relevant topics systematically, allowing your “converging rays of attention” to uncover the truth latent in each.

This brings us to the question of what deliberate practice actually requires. Its core components are usually identified as follows: (1) your attention is focused tightly on a specific skill you’re trying to improve or an idea you’re trying to master; (2) you receive feedback so you can correct your approach to keep your attention exactly where it’s most productive.


  • To learn hard things quickly, you must focus intensely without distraction. To learn, in other words, is an act of deep work.
  • The problem this research identifies with this work strategy is that when you switch from some Task A to another Task B, your attention doesn’t immediately follow—a residue of your attention remains stuck thinking about the original task.

Chapter 2: Deep Work Is Rare

  • As we’ll see next, however, even those who have a clear understanding of what it means to succeed in their knowledge work job can still be lured away from depth.

Chapter 3: Deep Work Is Meaningful

  • Her curiosity piqued, Gallagher set out to better understand the role that attention—that is, what we choose to focus on and what we choose to ignore—plays in defining the quality of our life.

Rule #2: Embrace Boredom

To summarize, to succeed with deep work you must rewire your brain to be comfortable resisting distracting stimuli. This doesn’t mean that you have to eliminate distracting behaviors; it’s sufficient that you instead eliminate the ability of such behaviors to hijack your attention. The simple strategy proposed here of scheduling Internet blocks goes a long way toward helping you regain this attention autonomy.

Rule #4: Drain the Shallows

If I stumble onto an important insight, then this is a perfectly valid reason to ignore the rest of my schedule for the day (with the exception, of course, of things that cannot be skipped). I can then stick with this unexpected insight until it loses steam.