📕Deep Work by Cal Newport: summary

We have a lot to do in our daily routines, but some people manage to do more. In this world, those who succeed to do more things daily, tend to thrive. Work well and be rewarded.

📕Deep Work by Cal Newport: summary
The central message: do the actual work instead of distracting to multiple things.


  1. Have a schedule: plan your day, week, set short-term and long-term goals.
  2. Have deadlines: they help to keep you stick to the schedule.
  3. Prefer deep work over shallow work.
  4. Don't get distracted. Learn how to focus. Practice the skill.
Lost in thoughts
Photo by Ben White / Unsplash

We have a lot to do in our daily routines, but some people manage to do more. In this world, those who succeed to do more things daily, tend to thrive. Work well and be rewarded.

Shallow and deep work

A shallow one is when we do something in a mostly automatic rhythm, not concentrating enough. Such kind of work doesn't require a stable focus and thinking. The deep work is about a strong thinking process and solid concentration. While doing the shallow kind of work, we tend to distract and manage to do much less, than while working deeply.

Concentration is key

It helps to solidify brain cells connections and keep them neat. Concentrating is difficult for our brain, it demands more energy. That's why we like the shallow doings, they're simpler. It's easier to get distracted, but it's hard to recall where we were at when doing B after C.

A side effect of memory training, in other words, is an improvement in your general ability to concentrate.

Learn some memorization techniques. Or do other things that help to enhance concentration skill.

High-quality work produced = (Time spent) x (Intensity of focus)

Tip: taking a walk in nature is more helpful than walking on city streets for a reason that we get distracted less. While walking in a city we switch our attention frequently to many details such as vehicles flow, people, signs, shop titles and glass cases, etc.

Attention residue

We have a limited amount of attention and willpower per a specific time until we get a rest. If we work, then answer emails for 2 mins, then check how many likes on Twitter we have for the last 20 mins, it drains our attention levels. So after doing 6 hours of "work", we may feel like we can't do anything meaningful more. And that's merely an illusion of productivity. Don't get distracted if you plan to concentrate. Routines help to reduce willpower usage as we know exactly what to do next and for how long.

Embrace social media

Limit the use of it or quit completely. Do you need it? Getting likes feels good but it doesn't give us something useful.

Deadlines are your friend

Without them, we tend to expand the work time.

Once everyone has less time to get their stuff done, they respect that time even more.

Having a schedule helps. Thus, we see a plan and how much time allocation we have for each task. Give yourself specific time frames: when you can work deeply, when you can relax, when you can do shallow work.

Inspiration doesn't often come when we roam over the Internet with a thought of what to do. Habits and rituals help. Prefer habits over casual inspiration.

More about deadlines and procrastination from the Predictably Irrational summary.

Rhythmic deep work sessions

Doing more than 4 hours of highly-focused work is laborious. For this reason, we may split it into sessions. Thus, we help ourselves to relax and give a brain to ponder and analyse thoughts in the background between the sessions.

Shutdown ritual

Set a time when you can finish working. Otherwise, your attention will try to think about the work stuff while you try to do the next task. It affects focus, so it makes the task more difficult to embrace. And if it's a planned relax session, then thoughts about unfinished work reduces the possibility to collect willpower and mental strength for the next work session.

Distraction training

Some people are more distraction addicts than others, e.g. they can't withstand a queue in a store without looking at their smartphone. For those, there is a possibility to enhance their focus skills and to be better at doing deep work sessions. Practice the sessions more. For the first times, you may have 10 mins work session without distracting at anything at all. Plan a time, choose an environment(e.g. a location without noise). Then increase the time per session.

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