Deep Work

“…time spent in a state of deep work dedicated toward your wildly important goal.”

—Cal Newport

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I just read Deep Work by Cal Newport, and I loved it. I highly recommend this book for everyone, but especially for artists. In an effort to really absorb the message of this book, I decided to summarize it in a blog post, focusing on the parts that have been most helpful to me.

I also illustrated it with some cartoons which I hope will make you smile!

So… here goes:

THE IDEA: Deep Work is Valuable, Rare, and Meaningful

  • In an age of network tools…knowledge workers increasingly replace deep work with the shallow alternative—constantly sending and receiving e-mail messages like human network routers, with frequent breaks for quick hits of distraction.

  • If you spend enough time in a state of frenetic shallowness, you permanently reduce your capacity to perform deep work. (yikes!)

“This state of fragmented attention cannot accommodate deep work, which requires long periods of uninterrupted thinking.”   —Cal Newport

“This state of fragmented attention cannot accommodate deep work, which requires long periods of uninterrupted thinking.”

—Cal Newport

  • “…network tools [instagram etc.] are distracting us from work that requires unbroken concentration, while simultaneously degrading our capacity to remain focused.”

  • resist this trend and prioritize depth!

  • “I build my days around a core of carefully chosen deep work, with the shallow activities I absolutely cannot avoid batched into smaller bursts at the peripheries of my schedule.”

  • “…ruthlessly culling the shallow and painstakingly cultivating the intensity of my depth.”

  • “A deep life is a good life.”

  • High-Quality Work Produced = (Time Spent) x (Intensity of Focus)

“Busyness is not the same as Productivity.”  — Cal Newport

“Busyness is not the same as Productivity.” — Cal Newport

THE RULES: Work Deeply, Embrace Boredom, Quit Social Media, Drain the Shallows

Work Deeply

  • work deeply. cultivate a deep work habit.

  • “You have a finite amount of willpower that becomes depleted as you use it.”

  • “…add routines and rituals to your working life designed to minimize the amount of your limited willpower necessary to transition into and maintain a state of unbroken concentration.”

  • Focus on the wildly important.

  • “If you want to win the war for attention, don’t try to say ‘no’ to the trivial distractions you find on the information smorgasbord; try to say ‘yes’ to the subject that arouses a terrifying longing…” — David Brooks, “The Art of Focus”

  • “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.” —Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow

  • “…time spent in a state of deep work dedicated toward your wildly important goal.”

“…your world is the outcome of what you pay attention to…” — Cal Newport

“…your world is the outcome of what you pay attention to…” — Cal Newport

Embrace Boredom

  • Don’t take breaks from distraction. Instead Take Breaks from Focus.

  • Once you’re wired for distraction, you crave it.

  • “Do what Thoreau did, which is learn to have a little disconnectedness within the connected world—don’t run away.” — William Powers, Hamlet’s BlackBerry

  • Diminish your brain’s craving for these stimuli!! Resist switching to these distractions at the slightest hint of boredom.

  • Schedule in advance when you’ll use the Internet, and then avoid it altogether outside these times. Write down the times on a piece of paper! Keep the integrity of those offline blocks!

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Quit Social Media

  • take back control of your time

  • “Clarity about what matters provides clarity about what does not.”

  • again, willpower is limited

  • these services [social media] are engineered to be addictive!

  • When tempted to stray, ask yourself: “Do the benefits outweigh the harm?” (loss of deep work time is harmful)

  • “[Social media services] can be fun, but in the scheme of your life and what you want to accomplish, they’re a lightweight whimsy, one unimportant distraction among many threatening to derail you from something deeper.”

  • constantly checking social media weakens your mind’s general ability to resist distraction, making deep work difficult later when you really want to concentrate.

Drain the Shallows

  • treat shallow work with suspicion

  • become hard to reach

  • you don’t have to answer emails or texts immediately or plan a lot of meetings that fragment your deep work.

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“Let your mind become a lens, thanks to the converging rays of attention;

let your soul be all intent on whatever it is that is established in your mind as a dominant, wholly absorbing idea.”

— Antonin-Dalmace Sertillanges, a Dominican friar and professor of moral philosophy

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I hoped you liked this post. I can’t say enough good things about this book, Deep Work, by Cal Newport. He also wrote a book called Digital Minimalism which has been profoundly helpful to me.

Next week I’ll talk about Essentialism by Greg McKeown.