Deep Work (Book Review)
Deep Work – Cal Newport
Summary: In a distracted world, deep work becomes more and more valuable. Protect your time and rewire yourself, only that way you can achieve greatness.
Part 1: The Idea Chapter 1: Deep Work Is Valuable Chapter 2: Deep Work Is Rare Chapter 3: Deep Work Is Meaningful
Part 2: The Rules Rule #1: Work Deeply Rule #2: Embrace Boredom Rule #3: Quit Social Media Rule #4: Drain the Shallows
Jung example, not to escape his professional life, but instead to advance it
Deep Work: Professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate.
Deep work, though a burden to prioritise, was crucial for Jung’s goal of changing the world
Bill Gates think weeks (twice a year) Neal Stephenson, organise time to have long chunks of uninterrupted time
we lose the value of going deep, because (oa) we have network tools 60% of workweek is dedicated to electroning communication and searching online 30% reading and answering emails
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.
Rule of thumb: months that a college educated person needs to study to accomplish task. To define Deep from Shallow Work.
spend enough time in a state of frenetic shallowness and you permanently reduce your capacity to perform deep work. network tools are distracting us from work that requires unbroken concentration, while simultaneously degrading our capacity to remain focused.
Our work culture’s shift toward the shallow is exposing a massive economic and personal opportunity for the few who recognise the potential of resisting this trend and prioritising depth.
Learning something complex like computer programming requires intense uninterrupted concentration on cognitively demanding concepts — deep work
Deep work enables: 1) learning – you must master the art of quickly learning complicated things 2) impact in digital world – only great products survive in this new world (mediocre perish) – to succeed you have to produce the absolute best stuff you’re capable of producing – and this is a task that requires depth
The Deep Work Hypothesis: The ability to perform deep work is becoming increasingly rare at exactly the same time it’s becoming increasingly valuable in our economy. As a consequence, the few who cultivate this skill, and then make it the core of their working life, will thrive.
Cal Newport – very accomplished in his field and with writing books – but rarely works after 6pm – minimise the shallow in his life – he gets the most out of the time he frees up – he is comfortable being bored
(schedule for me: work, free, blog?)
Deep good, shallow bad (1984, George Orwell)
Part 1: The Idea Chapter 1: Deep Work Is Valuable
Nate Silver (Moneyball?) David Heinemeier Hansson (Ruby on Rails, Basecamp) John Doerr (Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers) – micro, personality traits and tactics overlap – macro, type of work they represent
Erik Bryonjolfsson & Andrew McAfee Race Against the Machine – employers are becoming increasingly likely to hire ‘new machines’ – Great restructuring, dividing jobs (up and down, no middle) – Tyler Cowen, Average Is Over
The High-Skilled Workers – intelligent machines can assist this group
The Superstars – once the talent market is made universally accessible, those at the peak of the market thrive while the rest suffer – the superstars will win the bulk of the market
The Owners – access to capital provides massive advantages – With so little input from labour, the proportion of this wealth that flows back to the machine owners, is without precedent
Winners: those who can work well and creatively with intelligent machines, those who are the best at what they do, and those with access to capital.
FLORIS: Become high-skilled worker and leverage capital to become/stay owner in the projects to reap the benefits (ala DHH)
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
Intelligent machines are complicated and hard to master You must be able to do it quickly, again and again If you can’t learn, you can’t thrive Or ability to perform (high-skilled vs superstars) All depends on ability for deep work
Deep Work Helps You Quickly Learn Hard Things Antonin-Dalmace Sertillanges – The Intellectual Life – to learn requires intense concentration
Anders Ericsson – Peak – deliberate practice – specific form of practice 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.
The Talent Code – Daniel Coyle – oligodendrocyte cells – to learn hard things quickly, you must focus intensely without distraction
Give and Take – Adam Grant – see productivity as a scientific problem to systematically solve – batching of hard but important intellectual work into long, uninterrupted stretches – it’s important to enforce strict isolation until you complete the task at hand
high-quality work produced = (time spent) x (intensity of focus) – by maximising the intensity of work, maximise the output of work – can only do it a limited amount of time, no extra productivity after that
Attentional residue – switching between tasks has a cost to it
Jack Dorsey – twitter – people who thrive without depth – characteristics of specific job – connection there is most valuable currency
Deep work is not the only skill valuable in our economy, and it’s possible to do well without fostering this ability, but the niches where this is advisable are increasingly rare. Unless you have strong evidence that distraction is important for your specific profession, you’re best served, for the reasons argued, by giving serious consideration to depth.
Chapter 2: Deep Work Is Rare Example, journalists at NYTimes, have to have social profiles – many of these trends actively decrease one’s ability to go deep – the brain responds to distractions
FLORIS: time the moments when I’m taking a break! And when to answer social media and messaging things!
free and frictionless method of of communication had soft cost equivalent to procuring a small company Learjet even though we accept that distraction has costs and depth has value, these impacts are difficult to measure there is a metric black hole – we have a culture of connectivity – does it really help to be more connected (no) – experiment with consultants (BCG) one day per week no communication – more enjoyment in work, better communication among themselves, more learning
FLORIS: At Queal do no communication days? Or already practising this?
The Principle of Least Resistance: In a business setting, without clear feedback on the impact of various behaviours to the bottom line, we will tend toward behaviours that are easiest in the moment.
– many people run work from inbox – If email were to move to the periphery of your workday, you’d be required to deploy a more thoughtful approach to figuring out what you should be working on and for how long. – This type of planning is hard Getting Things Done – David Allen
Surely You Must be Joking Mr Feynman – Feynman – avoiding administrative duties – Clarity about what matters provides clarity about what does not
Busyness as Proxy for Productivity: In the absence of clear indicators of what it means to be productive and valuable in their jobs, many knowledge workers turn back toward an industrial indicator of productivity: doing lots of stuff in visible manner.
Neil Postman – technopoly – Aldous Huxley – Brave New World – the alternative (no internet) is invisible and therefore irrelevant
Deep work is at a severe disadvantage in a technopoly because it builds on values like quality, craftsmanship, and mastery that are decidedly old-fashioned and non-technological. Even worse, to support deep work often requires the rejection of much of what is new and high-tech. Deep work is exiled in favour of more distracting high-tech behaviours.
– stop doing shallow work – delegate? or just make disappear – deep work for few hours – relax/study rest of time – learn to live fearlessly – be myself – no conformity to society
Chapter 3: Deep Work Is Meaningful
Craftsmanship: Every hit, though forceful, is carefully controlled – work in state of depth – find great meaning in work – clarity about goal/mission of work – but, many knowledge workers ambiguity about goal/mission
FLORIS: What is my goal/mission, what am I good at? – document my own journey?! – how to find the time/make it? – how to live more structured? – only teach what I know/am expert in?!
Deep work can generate as much satisfaction in an information economy as it so clearly does in a craft economy.
Deep life is not just economically lucrative, but also a life well lived.
Neurological – skillful management of attention – who you are, what you think, feel, and do, what you love – is the sum of what you focus on – ignore the negative and savour the positive
– spend enough time in this state, your mind will understand your world as rich in meaning and importance – Such concentration hijacks your attention apparatus, preventing you from noticing the many smaller and less pleasant things that unavoidably and persistently populate our lives.
– don’t spend your working day on shallow concerns – the world represented by your inbox, in other words, isn’t a pleasant world to inhabit
A workday driven by the shallow, from a neurological perspective, is likely to be a draining and upsetting day, even if most of the shallow things that capture your attention seem harmless or fun. – I’ll live the focused life, because it’s the best kind there its. We’d be wise to follow her lead.
Psychological – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi – flow – the best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile – human beings, it seems, are at their best when immersed deeply in something challenging. – depth over shallowness – going deep is in itself very rewarding (not a focus on content)
FLORIS: Idea, poster with diamond/gold on bottom of concentration chart thing
Physiological – Hubert Dreyfus – Sean Dorrance Kelly – All Things Shining – task is not to generate meaning, but rather to cultivate in himself the skill of discerning the meanings that are already there – a glimpse of the sacred – CAREER CHOICE is not about what fits perfectly, but about finding meaning in the job
Homo sapiens deepensis – A deep life is a good life, any way you look at it
Part 2: The Rules Rule #1 Work Deeply – eudaimonia room example
– people fight desires all day long – desire turns out to be the norm, not the exception – shallow desires will often win – finite willpower? – you have to be smart about your habits
You must be careful to choose a philosophy that fits your specific circumstances, as a mismatch here can derail your deep work habit before it has a chance to solidify.
Monastic – eliminating or radically minimising shallow obligations – all of my time and attention are spoken for – several times over – Stephenson – Anathem
Bimodal – divide time, dedicating some clearly defined stretches to deep pursuits and leaving the rest open to everything else – at least one full day (per deep work session) – e.g. stack courses in one semester – bimodal schedule on weekly scale – be monastic for 2-4 days per week – still value the value received from shallow work
Rhythmic – Seinfeld example, chain, don’t break it – start deep work at the same time – works best with reality of human nature
Journalistic – Walter Isaacson (computer history) – fit it in whenever you can – not for the deep work novice
Ritualise – Everything is specified by routine – artists don’t work from inspiration, work at it every day – great creative minds think like artists but work like accountants – build rituals at the same level of strictness and idiosyncrasy as the important thinkers
– where you work and how long – do not disturb sign – how you’ll work once you start – how you’ll support your work – systematised
Make grand gestures – in expensive hotel – Think Weeks – psychology of commitment
Don’t work alone – tricky relationship between deep work and collaboration – hub-and-spoke – serendipitous encounters and isolated deep thinking are supported – expose yourself to ideas in hubs on a regular basis, but maintain a spoke in which to work deeply on what you encounter
– working together with someone – whiteboard effect – alternate with writing (async)
Execute like a business – Clayton Christensen – Andy Grove – division between what and how of work (need to know how)
FLORIS: tell business how to do it, not what!
1) Focus on the wildly important – the more you try to do, the less you can actually accomplish – The Art of Focus – David Brookshttps://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/03/opinion/brooks-the-art-of-focus.html?_r=0
2) Act on the lead measures – not lag measures – time spend in a state of deep work dedicated toward your wildly important goal
3) Keep a compelling scorecard – physical artefact – and Toggl online
4) Create a cadence of accountabilty – weekly update to Onno?! – execution is more difficult than strategising
Be Lazy – Tim Kreider – necessary to get anything done – at the end of the workday, shut down your consideration of work issues until the next morning – shut down work thinking completely – 1) Downtime Aids Insights – Ap Dijksterhuis – unconscious mind, distracted group experiment performed best – 2) Downtime Helps Recharge the Energy Needed to Work Deeply – attention fatigue – directional attention (to focus) – talk with friend, listening to music, making dinner, playing a game, restores it – 3) The Work That Evening Downtime Replaces is Usually Not That Important – Anders Ericsson, only so much time you can spend in deep state – other work wont happen at night – shutdown ritual – Shutdown Complete – Zeigarnik effect (don’t have incomplete tasks, in your head)
FLORIS: Update Tasks Daily in Basecamp?!!!!
– regularly resting your brain improves the quality of your deep work. When you work, work hard. When you’re done, be done.
Rule #2 Embrace Boredom – you cannot consider yourself as fulfilling this daily obligation unless you have stretched to the reaches of your mental capacity – daily mental practice – ability to concentrate intensely is a skill that must be trained
Efforts to deepen your focus will struggle if you don’t simultaneously wean your mind from a dependence on distraction. – people who multitask all the time, can’t filter out the irrelevant – take breaks from focus (instead of from distraction) – schedule occasional breaks – 1) strategy works even if you have to be online a lot – 2) keep time outside of blocks absolutely free from internet – 3) scheduling internet at home as well, improve concentration training
Meditate Productively – focus your attention on a single well-defined professional problem – at least two or three such sessions in a typical week – requires practice – 1) be wary of distractions and looping – 2) structure your deep thinking – review of relevant variables, then next-step question, consolidate gains
Rule #3 Quit Social Media – I was less stressed about not knowing new things; I felt that I still existed despite not having shared documentary evidence of said existence on the internet. – infotainment sites (facebook, twitter, business insider) – accept tools as not evil, but have a threshold)
(bad) The Any-Benefit Approach to Network Tool Selections: You’re justified in using a network tool if you can identify any possible benefit to its use, or anything you might possibly miss out on if you don’t use it. – opportunity costs (neglected here)
The Craftsman Approach to Tool Selection: Identify the core factors that determine success and happiness in your professional and personal life. Adopt a tool only if its positive impacts on these factors substantially outweigh its negative impacts.
Apply the law of the vital few to your internet habits – identify the main high-level goals in both your professional and personal life FLORIS – build business & share knowledge to help others – to have a comfortable life, enjoy, tranquility – build Queal & own consultancy, plan & enjoy personal time, find work/balance, keep on learning
– think what has significant positive or negative or little impact – drinking more than 2 drinks! (negative overall) – social media (meh) – reading (positive) – solve (business) problems (positive) – improve physique (positive) – go somewhere together
The Law of the Vital Few: In many settings, 80% of a given effect is due to just 20% of the possible causes. – Pareto principle – power law – zero-sum game (limited time available)
– experiment!!! – ban yourself for 30 days from social networks, see what happens! – they are not really that important in your life
Don’t use the internet to entertain yourself – to perform rigorous self-improvement, not much to find on internet, or also easily distracted – put more thought into your leisure time – structured hobbies – set program of reading
If you want to eliminate the addictive pull of entertainment sites on your time and attention, give your brain a quality alternative.
Rule #4 Drain the Shallows – people should enjoy the weather in the summer – Basecamp, Jason Fried, less work in summer
Schedule every minute of your day – we spend much of our day on autopilot – schedule every minute of your day – 30 min (minimal) blocks – if disrupted, reschedule during the day at next moment – use tasks block for email etc, be liberal with it – have backup things if anything is earlier – if an insight, can work on it, reschedule rest – not about constraint, but about thoughtfulness – treat your time with respect
Quantify the depth of every activity How long would it take (in months) to train a smart recent college graduate with no specialised training in my field to complete this task
Ask your boss for a shallow work budget – what percentage of time?
Finish your work by five thirty – don’t work after that – fixed-schedule productivity – Radhika Nagpal (example) – defend your time
Become hard to reach – 1) make people who send you email do more work (see book) – sender filter – reset expectations – people appreciate clarity – 2) do more work when you send or reply to emails – process-centric approach – reduces number of emails – more time on specific emails – 3) don’t respond – if it’s ambiguous or hard to generate response – no question or proposal for me – nothing good happens if you do / nothing bad if don’t respond – Tim Ferriss, develop habit of letting small bad things happen
Conclusion ability to concentrate is a skill that gets valuable things done deep work is way more powerful than most people understand
I’ll live the focused life, because it’s the best kind there is