Thoughts: 'Deep Work'

On Cal Newport's book about the value, processes, and challenges of engaging in the title's namesake.

My skip level recommended Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World in a company all-hands some months ago. After waiting for 6 weeks, I got a hold of it through my e-library. I just finished it today.

The author is Cal Newport, an associate computer science professor at Georgetown University. As of this writing, he has authored 7 productivity books, including this one; along with multiple other academic papers. He is a dad of young kids and husband to his wife. He does all this while, allegedly, not working past 5 p.m. or on the weekends. In other words, he has gotten efficient deep work down quite effectively.

He outlines the core of his book in this way:

  • Part 1: The Idea
    • Deep Work is Valuable
    • Deep Work is Rare
    • Deep Work is Meaningful
  • Part 2: The Rules
    1. Work Deeply
    2. Embrace Boredom
    3. Quit Social Media
    4. Drain the Shallows

This book was a surprisingly engaging page-turner for me. For a 260-something-page book (not including references), I got through it in 13 days, which is hella fast for me. (I have never been a fast reader.) Unlike many self-help books I've read, I thought this book wasn't nauseatingly repetitive, padded with fluff, or filled with tips that were too shallow, obvious, or general to be useful. I got out of it new, actionable, and yes, useful tips that resonated with me and hope to enact in earnest.

One of those things was assessing my professional and personal goals in life in order to more thoughtfully plan out where and how I spend my time.

After doing that, I was convinced to heed another piece of advice which was to purge all my social media accounts, except those related to my professional career. I realized that most social media does not advance my goals or align with my affirmations. Social media instead largely detracts from my desire to live more intentionally and engage in deep work more frequently.

Finally, I am trying out some ways to more intentionally plan out each day. Newport proposes several methods for different lifestyles and jobs, so I will see which works best for me.

This reminds me a lot of minimalism[1][2] in which you try to be much more intentional with the material things you acquire and keep in your life. I have had casual aspirations in my life that I'd like to make more serious, such as foreign language fluency, more frequent career development courses, weight loss, cooking skills expansion... and maybe piano playing, again (?). These aspirations are a lot more enriching for me than the meandering things I stumble into quite frequently.

  1. Newport references Ryan Nicodemus, a minimalist. ↩︎

  2. Newport also unsurprisingly wrote a book on digital minimalism. ↩︎