DEEP WORK by Cal Newport–a Review

I’ve been a fan of Cal Newport for a while now. I’ve linked to his blog from mine. I’ve reviewed one of his previous books, SO GOOD THEY CAN’T IGNORE YOU. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that when he has a new book, I’m going to grab it. And DEEP WORK doesn’t disappoint. It’s short, direct, and not only provides techniques you can start using today, but it also explains why those techniques are going to have tremendous benefits in the long run.

Newport defines deep work as (no spoilers–you can find this definition in the sample chapter on Amazon):

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.

But in a world full of constant Facebook notifications, tweets, e-mail alerts, a thousand channels on top of Netflix and Hulu and Amazon prime, family, friends, pets, hobbies, and more, we live in a world that is rich in distraction and poor in deep work. Even worse, every time we give into refreshing a webpage or replying to a group text, our brain becomes wired in such a way as to make that deep-work-ready mental state harder to achieve. Therefore, at its heart, DEEP WORK is about changing how you think and how you act, so you can decrease distractions and shallow work and increase focus and deep work. Who doesn’t want that? Especially in a time of new resolutions and commitments?

Part One explains what deep work is, why it’s so rare in today’s world, and what makes it so valuable. Part Two offers techniques to maximize deep work and minimize shallow work. While you’ll find many of these techniques (or aspects of them) on Newport’s blog, DEEP WORK brings them all together in one place, offering far more detail. But that isn’t to say these techniques are easy to implement (are you ready to give up all social media?).

But they are useful. I’ll admit that I’m easing into them, like slowly entering the cold ocean. Yes, I realize I could start swimming and enjoying myself more quickly if I dove in, but here we are–better than nothing I suppose. Wow, that metaphor really got away from me. Where was I? Right, Newport’s techniques. In particular, his productive meditative techniques, his tips on dealing with boredom, and his scheduling techniques have all helped get my day in much better, more productive shape. Moreover, while I haven’t given up on social media yet, I have cut back, and am trying to approach it in a new way so as to fix my goldfish brain.

So start your new year right. Get this book, read it, and start implementing these techniques and decision-making tools today.