Deep Work Review

Melchor Tatlonghari

If you are a knowledge worker, Deep Work by Cal Newport should be on top of your list. It completely revolutionised and changed the way I look at how work should be done.

Cal dives into the science of how to get the most out of your day without burning out, get into states of flow often and stay there. ‘Flow’ is the state where you perform you’re best work and start to lose track of time. Ever had that moment where you three hours felt like it flew pass by?

deep work review

One of the most perspective shifts for me reading the book was the main point about how we ordinarily we can at most do our best work 3–4 hours, 5 days a week, of uninterrupted carefully directed concentration. He points out that this is the optimal time to produce our most valuable work and anything more than that can have diminishing returns. This is a stark contrast from how office structures are layed out in most companies these days, where there are open floor plans with constant interruptions from coworkers and meetings left and right.

Another main lesson for me reading the book was how much time we actually lose when we context switch. You know when you are deep in thought about one thing and you had an itch to ‘quickly’ just check your email or messages? well, apparently each time you make that switch, you are losing around 30 minutes of your time. Yes, 30 minutes. With all the distractions our phones from emails, messages, calls, background noise, or even your colleague tapping you on the shoulder asking “do you have a quick 5 mins?” that is 30 minutes accumulating every time. No wonder people in the office need 8 hours a day to get the job done. He points out that it actually takes around 30 minutes for the brain to load all the necessary things in your brain to be able to start solving for complex problems.

This excludes shallow work. Shallow work are things we do that we can do without needing to do deep focus, and can be done outside the 3–4 hours deep focus limit our brain has. Simple tasks such has reading your email, replying to your boss, and admin tasks of the sort. Often times we replace shallow work as a proxyness for being productive, once we are able to categorise in our head what constitutes deep and shallow work are and how much time we lose context switching it changes the way we work forever.

Favourite Qoutes from the Book:

— The Deep Work Hypothesis: The ability to perform deep work is becoming increasingly rare at exactly the same time it is 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.

— 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 a visible manner.

— 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.

— In this new economy, three groups will have a particular advantage: 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.

— The key to developing a deep work habit is to move beyond good intentions and 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.

— 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.

— The Principle of Least Resistance: In a business setting, without clear feedback on the impact of various behaviors to the bottom line, we will tend toward behaviors that are easiest in the moment.

— 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.

— Three to four hours a day, five days a week, of uninterrupted and carefully directed concentration, it turns out, can produce a lot of valuable output.

— Two Core Abilities for Thriving in the New Economy 1. The ability to quickly master hard things. The ability to produce at an elite level, in terms of both quality and speed.