A reading club with a view to the future

029 Cal Newport: Deep Work

Deep work, which is the ability to focus on cognitively demanding tasks without distraction, is becoming increasingly rare and valuable in our increasingly distracted world.

Cal Newport: Deep Work


Newport argues that in order to thrive in our information-saturated economy, we need to cultivate the ability to perform deep work - the ability to focus on cognitively demanding tasks without distraction. He offers strategies for achieving this, including blocking out dedicated time for deep work, embracing boredom, and embracing deep work as a core value in our personal and professional lives. Newport also provides insight into the benefits of deep work, such as increased productivity, creativity, and meaning.


Title: Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World

Author: Cal Newport

Publishing year: 2016

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Length: 7 hours and 44 minutes 

5 main ideas

  1. Deep work is becoming increasingly rare and valuable in our distracted world.
  2. Deep work is critical to achieving high levels of productivity, creativity, and meaning in our work.
  3. Deep work requires deliberate practice and the development of focused attention.
  4. To achieve deep work, we must create an environment that minimizes distractions and maximizes focus.
  5. Deep work should be a core value in our personal and professional lives.
Cal Newport: Deep Work

5 funny quotes

  1. "What's a work-life balance? There's work and there's life, and there's no balance."
  2. "You don't get to decide to be a procrastinator. You're either a procrastinator or you're not."
  3. "Most people don't think twice about taking measures to protect their physical health. Few people think twice about protecting the health of their attention."
  4. "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."
  5. "If you can't resist checking your email during a meeting, you shouldn't be sitting in on the meeting."

5 thought-provoking quotes​

  1. "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."
  2. "Efforts to deepen your focus will struggle if you don’t simultaneously wean your mind from a dependence on distraction."
  3. "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."
  4. "Clarity about what matters provides clarity about what does not."
  5. "The ability to concentrate intensely is a skill that must be trained."

5 dilemmas

  1. Balancing the need for "flow state" work with the demands of modern technology and communication.
  2. The potential tension between deep work and collaboration/teamwork in the workplace.
  3. Deciding how to structure one's work day and environment to maximize deep work time.
  4. Balancing the need for deep work with the need for rest and relaxation, as well as other life demands and interests.
  5. Weighing the potential benefits of deep work against the potential costs of disconnection from the larger social and professional world.

5 examples

  1. Warren Buffet, who has been known to read up to 500 pages a day, devotes 80% of his working hours to reading and thinking.
  2. Novelist and screenwriter Richard Price, who disconnects from the internet during the creative process and listens to a specific song on repeat to help him concentrate.
  3. Deepak Chopra, who begins each day with a two-hour meditation.
  4. Bill Gates, who takes two weeks each year to disconnect and read uninterrupted at a secluded cabin.
  5. Steve Jobs, who was known for his ability to focus deeply, holding marathon meetings where he would push his team to come up with a breakthrough idea.

Referenced books

  1. "Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience" by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
  2. "The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains" by Nicholas Carr
  3. "Thinking, Fast and Slow" by Daniel Kahneman

Share a quote

"Clarity about what matters provides clarity about what does not."

Cal Newport: Deep Work
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