Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World
by Cal Newport
The state of many of our workplaces seems to be geared toward busyness rather than productivity. We have to run fast to keep up with the barrage of emails and chat notifications, not to mention the stream of seemingly pointless meetings. They make us feel productive but, in the big picture, do little to advance our careers, especially when we stop to consider what they displace.
We long for stretches of time to focus on the things that will make a difference—projects and breakthroughs where we can do our best work. The work that we know we are capable of if only we could find the space for it amid the demands and distractions.
That’s where the idea of deep work comes in. Deep work is focusing on a cognitively demanding task without distractions. It’s about creating space to concentrate and work on those difference-making, career-building projects that are currently sitting on our “someday” lists. And in the process, develop a suite of skills that are very much in demand but increasingly rare as our attention spans get spread thinner and thinner.
Moreover, the value of deep work is increasing in today’s information-based economy:
- Deep work is necessary for learning. We increasingly rely on complex systems that change rapidly. To succeed, we have to learn complicated things quickly. And that requires concentration – deep work.
- Deep work will keep you competitive as the digital revolution continues to restructure our economy. A networked world gives creators almost unlimited reach, which amplifies the rewards. (Example: Instagram, with just 13 employees, was sold for $1 billion.) But more access also means more competition. (Technology is disrupting local labor markets by making superstars more accessible.) Producing the best work you can is essential to success on both fronts. And that requires deep work.
Deep Work, the book, will help you break free of the traps of the modern workplace and show you how to make deep work a centerpiece of your career instead of a sideshow. Cal Newport, a best-selling author and computer science professor at Georgetown University, draws on his own experience as a long-time deep-work practitioner and supports his approach and claims with forays into the research literature.
The book has two goals: The first (discussed in Part 1 of 2) is to show that 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 result, the few who cultivate this skill and then make it the core of their working life will thrive.” The second (covered in Part 2) is to help you take advantage of this reality by showing you ways to train your brain and change your work habits to make deep work the cornerstone of your professional life.
This summary reflects my takeaways from a useful book I recommend to others. Reading a summary isn’t a substitute for reading the book. There’s much more than I can cover here. Plus, this is my interpretation. If these ideas resonate with you, I encourage you to get a copy from your favorite bookseller. Here are the Amazon links: eBook | Audiobook | Print
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes should be attributed to the book’s author.
Deep work is defined as “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.”
Deep work has become the exception rather than the rule. Network tools (Email, Twitter, Facebook, and infotainment sites) have fragmented our attention and disrupted our ability to do deep work. A McKinsey study reported as early as 2012, the average knowledge worker spends over 60% of the workweek on electronic communication and Internet searching, with close to 30% on reading and responding to emails.
Knowledge workers are busier than ever, but much of it is “shallow work.” Shallow work is “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.” In other words, the inverse of deep work.
Aside from degrading our concentration, network tools also distract us from focus-intensive tasks. Larger tasks involving deep thinking often become fragmented into distracted sprints that don’t yield the best results.
The Deep Work Hypothesis: The ability to perform deep work is becoming increasingly rare at exactly the same time it is becoming increasingly valuable. The few who cultivate this skill—and then make it the core of their working life—will thrive.
Deep Work is Valuable
The rise of digital technology is causing enormous changes in our labor markets. Employers are increasingly likely to hire “new machines” rather than “new people.”
This restructuring is dividing jobs rather than eliminating them. As more jobs are automated or easily outsourced, more people will lose their jobs. Some others, however, will survive and thrive, increasing their worth and rewards.
As the restructuring continues, three groups are winning big:
- Highly skilled workers. Those who are good at working with intelligent machines. Technology is automating many low-skilled jobs, but high-skilled workers who master intelligent machines are in demand.
- The superstars of their field. Those who are the best at what they do. Virtual meetings, collaboration tools, and communications technology have eliminated regionalism in many knowledge work fields. It no longer makes sense to hire someone locally when you can pay one of the world’s best for just enough time as you need. Because of this, more and more people compete with the superstars of their field of work.
- The owners. Those with capital to invest in the new technologies. “Bargaining theory,” a key part of standard economic thinking, states that capital investment and labor are rewarded in proportion to their input. Digital technology has reduced “labor” in many industries and increased the share of rewards for “capital.” Owners are reaping unprecedented returns.
You’ll do well if you can join one of these groups, but your position will be more precarious if you can’t.
Two core abilities are required to thrive in the new economy:
- The ability to learn hard things quickly. You must master hard things to work with intelligent machines. And since technology is constantly changing, learning hard things is an ongoing process.
- Being able to produce at an elite level, both in terms of quality and speed.
Deep work optimizes your performance. It takes extended periods of concentrated work, free of distractions, to work at your peak level. Deep work also speeds up your ability to learn hard things. To thrive professionally, you need to be comfortable going deep for extended periods.
Deep work as deliberate practice. In deliberate practice: (1) your attention is firmly focused on the skill you’re trying to master or improve; (2) you receive feedback to help you adjust your approach in the most effective areas.
- Deliberate practice requires uninterrupted concentration. “Diffused attention is almost antithetical to the focused attention required by deliberate practice.”
- Focused practice is critical for how your brain wires what you learn. Being great at something means you are well myelinated. Myelin is a layer of fatty tissue surrounding neurons that acts as an insulator, allowing them to fire faster and more efficiently. Focusing intensely on a particular skill forces the relevant circuit to fire in isolation again and again. Oligodendrocyte cells then wrap layers of myelin around those neurons, which cements the skill. Diffused efforts mean no repetition, no myelination, and little or no learning.
The law of productivity: High-Quality Work Produced = Time Spent × Intensity of Focus.
Deep Work is Rare
The absence of good measures allows bad practices to proliferate. Distraction in the workplace continues to increase because of a lack of metrics about its negative impact on productivity and the positive benefits of deep work.
Without good metrics, people operate under the Principle of Least Resistance: In a business setting, without clear feedback on the impact of various behaviors on the bottom line, we will tend toward behaviors that are easiest in the moment. Some of the proliferating poor practices include:
- Constant connectivity. In a culture of constant connectivity, people are expected to read and respond to emails and other communications quickly (and no matter the hour in some cases). Harvard professor Leslie Perlow found that professionals she surveyed spent twenty to twenty-five hours a week outside the office monitoring email, believing it was essential to respond to all emails within an hour. There are two major reasons for this:
- Standing meetings. People often use standing meetings much like they use their inbox, as an external tool for organizing themselves. By preparing for the impending meeting, they muster a sense of urgency to complete a project instead of building that muscle on their own accord.
- Thoughtless emails. Emails that take seconds to write but consume minutes (or even hours) to respond. Sending a message with more care could save everyone’s time.
Because knowledge workers lack a better way to show their value, they tend toward increasingly visible busyness. In the absence of clear indicators of what it means to be productive in their jobs, many knowledge workers turn back toward an industrial indicator of productivity: doing lots of stuff in a visible manner.
We have a troubling relationship with technology. Instead of discussing the potential downsides of new technologies, we assumed they are all good, resulting in a technopoly. According to the late Neil Postman. “Technopolyeliminates alternatives to itself in precisely the way Aldous Huxley outlined in Brave New World. It does not make them illegal. It does not make them immoral. It does not even make them unpopular. It makes them invisible and therefore irrelevant.”
Deep work relies on old-fashioned values like quality, craftsmanship, and mastery, which are at a disadvantage in a technopoly. Deep work struggles in a culture where tweets, likes, and tagged photos dominate.
In today’s business environment, deep work should be a priority. However, it isn’t. There are several explanations for this paradox. Deep work is hard, whereas shallow work is easier. Without clear measures, shallow work becomes a self-preservation technique. And, our culture has developed the belief that if it has to do with the Internet, then it must be good, regardless of how it impacts the quality of our work.
Deep Work Is Meaningful
Besides being economically lucrative, a deep life is one of meaning. The connection between depth and meaning may seem less clear in knowledge work, but it’s still there. It’s there to be discovered and developed.
A Neurological Argument for Depth
“…the skillful management of attention is the sine qua non of the good life and the key to improving virtually every aspect of your experience.” –Winifred Gallagher
What we focus on shapes our worldview. We often erroneously think our circumstances determine how we feel. The big picture is what matters, not the small details of your day. Winifred Gallagher says decades of research disagrees. She says, “who you are, what you think, feel, and do, what you love is the sum of what you focus on.”
Deep work generates meaning and significance. Gallagher’s theory predicts that when you devote significant time to deep endeavors, you’ll see the world as meaningful.
A shallow-driven workday is likely to be draining and upsetting, even if most of the shallow things that capture your attention appear harmless or fun. When you lose focus, your mind focuses on what’s wrong with your life rather than what’s right.
Time spent in a deep state at work means using your brain in such a way that maximizes the meaning and satisfaction inherent in your job. And since your attention is occupied by more valuable thinking, you don’t notice the many smaller and less pleasant things that pop up in our lives incessantly.
A Psychological Argument for Depth
Deep work generates “flow,” a mental state where we are “fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.” Deep work activity is well-suited to generating flow states. And flow leads to happiness. Putting these two ideas together, we get a powerful argument for depth from psychology.
Deep work points us to a life of meaning. Gallagher and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi both emphasize depth over shallowness. Gallagher says that content matters. The more we focus on important things and ignore shallow negative things, the more positive our working life feels. Csikszentmihalyi notes that going deep is rewarding in itself. In short, going deep orders consciousness in a way that makes life worthwhile.
A Philosophical Argument for Depth
Deep work is an opportunity to develop our craft. Craftsmanship involves developing skills and cultivating an appreciation for and discernment about the materials involved. It’s a stance that is imbued with depth of meaning.
A deep work life is not only more satisfying and meaningful, it is an opportunity to hone our skills to perform at an elite level. By embracing deep work, you can transform what was once a distracting, draining job into something worth living—a gateway to a world of new possibilities..
You don’t need a rarified job; you need instead a rarified approach to your work.
Rule 1 – Work Deeply
Willpower is limited. Like muscles which fatigue, willpower becomes depleted during the day. Developing a deep work habit requires going beyond good intentions and adding routines and rituals to your working life to reduce the amount of willpower needed to enter and remain in a state of unbroken concentration.
Decide on Your Depth Philosophy
Integrating deep work into your career requires a philosophy. Trying to schedule deep work ad hoc wastes your limited willpower. Choosing the wrong philosophy can derail your deep work habit before it starts. There are four depth philosophies that work well in practice. It’s worth taking the time to find one that works for you.
The monastic philosophy of deep work scheduling. A monastic deep work schedule is based on eliminating or drastically reducing shallow obligations and maximizing deep efforts. Monastics typically have a single, highly valued professional goal and succeed by accomplishing it well.
The monastic approach is appropriate for a limited number of people. If you’re outside of this pool, don’t let its radical simplicity make you jealous. But if you’re someone in this pool, someone whose contribution to society is clear and discrete, then you should seriously consider this philosophy since it might be the difference between an average career and a legacy-making one.
The bimodal philosophy of deep work scheduling. Bimodal means that some of your time must be devoted to deep pursuits while the rest should be dedicated to everything else. This division of time between deep and open can take many forms. For example, you could dedicate a four-day weekend to deep pursuits and the rest of the week to open pursuits.
Using the bimodal approach, for deep work to be productive, you must spend enough time to reach maximum cognitive intensity—it takes a full day. A few hours in the morning isn’t a deep work stretch with this approach. It’s typically used by people who can’t succeed without substantial attention to non-deep pursuits.
The rhythmic philosophy of deep work scheduling. Jerry Seinfeld is famous for his advice to young comedians: the way to be a better comedian, is to write better jokes. The way to write better jokes is to write every day. The way to write every day is to mark completion of your writing session on your calendar with a red X, then just keep the chain going.
Seinfeld-style chains are a rhythmic way of scheduling deep work. They combine a simple scheduling heuristic (do the work every day) with an easy way to remember to do it (such as an “X” on the calendar). It’s about generating a rhythm for this work so you don’t have to spend energy deciding when and if you’re going deep.
Setting a set time is another rhythmic approach. Replace the visual aid of the chain method with a set time to start deep work every day (Between 5:30 and 7:30 AM, I do…). Just like keeping visual indicators of your progress can make it easier to go deep, eliminating even the simplest scheduling decisions can do the same.
The rhythmic approach doesn’t provide the intense, daylong concentration sessions of the bimodal approach. But it’s better suited to the reality of many work environments and to human nature. By supporting deep work with rock solid routines that make sure a little bit gets done regularly, the rhythmic scheduler will often log a larger total number of deep work hours per year.
The decision between rhythmic and bimodal can come down to your self-control or the nature of your job. If no one is pressuring you to get it done, the habitual nature of the rhythmic philosophy might be necessary to maintain progress on your deep work. But, your job may not allow you to go bimodal and disappear for days at a time when the need to go deep arises. That’s why deep workers in typical offices use the rhythmic philosophy.
The journalistic philosophy of deep work scheduling. The journalist approach is to fit deep work into your schedule whenever possible. Journalists are trained to shift into writing mode on a moment’s notice because of the deadline-driven aspect of their jobs.
For people new to deep work, the journalist approach may not work. Switching quickly from shallow mode to deep mode does not come naturally, and without practice, such switches can seriously deplete your finite willpower reserves. It also requires a feeling of self-confidence—a conviction that what you’re doing is worthwhile and that it will succeed. It is typically based on existing professional accomplishments that creates this type of conviction.
The right deep work ritual depends on the person and project. Take these considerations into account:
- Workplace and duration. Your deep work ritual needs a location. This can be your office with the door closed and desk cleared. A conference room or quiet library used solely for depth can have an even greater positive effect. In an open office, finding a deep work retreat is crucial. To keep the session from becoming a slog, set a time limit regardless of where you work.
- Work style. Structure your ritual with rules and processes. To focus, you could ban Internet use or set a word count as many writers do. Without this structure, you’ll have to mentally debate what you should and shouldn’t do during these sessions and whether you’re working hard enough. These waste willpower.
- Support your work. This might include having your favorite tea or coffee and snacks are close at hand. Similarly, ensure that your raw materials and environment are appropriately organized so that you don’t have to go hunting or wanting.
Experiment to find a ritual that works. Creating something that feels right can have a big impact. Deep work is serious. Surrounding your efforts with a ritual gives your mind the structure and commitment it needs to focus on creating things that matter.
Make Grand Gestures
Sometimes daily efforts at deep work don’t feel sufficient for the goal we’re striving for. Consider making a “grand gesture”:
A grand gesture involves changing your normal environment. Investing a considerable amount of effort, time, or money to support a deep work task will increase its perceived importance. You will feel motivated and energetic because of this boost in importance, which reduces your mind’s tendency to procrastinate. Taking a week off work, putting yourself in an exotic location, or locking yourself in a hotel room to finish an important project, these gestures elevate your deep work to a mental priority that unlocks mental resources.
Don’t Work Alone
Working collaboratively with others. Deep work can complicate collaboration, but collaboration can improve your professional deep work, so it’s worth untangling. Deep work usually means working alone. But working with others can bring out “serendipitous creativity,” which is something we often can’t come up with on our own. But working alone or in collaboration does not have to be either/or. The key is to keep deep work and intentional collaboration separate. Attempting to combine the two is a mistake, as with open-plan offices.
A hub-and-spoke approach involves regularly exposing yourself to a hub of colleagues but keeping a spoke (solo work) for deep reflection. It straddles the extremes between the solo thinker, isolated from inspiration but free from distraction, and the fully collaborative thinker in an open office, full of inspiration but lacking the deep thinking needed to build on it.
The whiteboard effect is widely used in academic circles. Working together on a problem, whether in a team or collegial partnership, allows you to push each other to dig deeper and produce more valuable output than working alone.
Execute Like a Business
Newport draws on the book, The Four Disciplines of Execution:
Discipline #1: Focus on the Wildly Important. Concentrate your efforts. This means choosing an ambitious goal that will yield tangible and substantial professional benefits that will sustain your enthusiasm.
Discipline #2: Act on the Lead Measures. There are two types of measures: lead and lag. Lag measures represent your end results—what you are attempting to create or improve. But lag measures arrive too late to change behavior. A lead measure measures the actions or behaviors that drive success on the lag measures. For a someone beginning a deep work practice, a relevant lead measure is time spent in deep work.
Discipline #3: Keep a Compelling Scoreboard. Since deep work hours is the leading measure for an individual, your scoreboard should be a physical artifact that shows your current deep work hour count. For a team, a public place for recording and tracking lead measures is important. This creates a sense of competition and helps them focus on them even when other demands vie for their attention. Team members become invested in perpetuating a successful lead measure as soon as they recognize its success.
Discipline #4: Create a Cadence of Accountability. A weekly review is a good interval, but it has to be consistent to be effective. A frequent review helps you celebrate good weeks, understand why bad weeks happened, and figure out how to make sure your score is high in the future.
Protect Your Down Time
When work is done completely stop thinking about work. Keep all work considerations in check until the morning—no e-mail after dinner, mental replays of conversations, or planning how you’ll handle an upcoming challenge. Extend your workday if necessary, but when you are finished, your mind must be free from work matters.
Reason #1: Downtime aids insights. According to Dutch psychologist Ap Dijksterhuis, certain decisions should be left to your subconscious mind to handle. By loading up the relevant information and then moving on to something else while letting your subconscious layers mull things over, you are more likely to achieve better results. Those regions of your brain have more neuronal bandwidth, which enables them to process more information and sort through more possibilities. Allowing your unconscious mind time to sort through your most complex professional challenges allows your conscious brain to rest. So a shutdown habit doesn’t mean you reduce productive work, but diversify it.
Reason #2: Downtime helps recharge the energy needed to work deeply. A study of city walkers vs nature walkers found city walkers became fatigued after just 50 minutes of focused navigation—it depleted their store of directed attention. Similarly, checking email in the evening deprives your directed attention centers of rest. Even short work dashes prevent deeper relaxation. You can only relax if you know you’re done with work until tomorrow. Working late may reduce your productivity the next day, resulting in less work than if you had respected a shutdown.
Reason #3: “Evening work” usually isn’t that important. You don’t miss out on much by deferring evening work. Anders Ericsson’s review of the research on an individual’s capacity for cognitively demanding work notes that novices can only concentrate for an hour a day, while experts can concentrate for four hours, but rarely more. You’ve already hit your limit during the day, so your likely robbing your rest with shallow or less-than-productive attempts at deep work.
Conclude your workday with a strict shutdown ritual. Review every incomplete task, goal, or project and confirm that either (1) you have a plan you trust for its completion or (2) it’s captured in a place where it will be revisited when the time is right. It’s all about the Zeigarnik effect: “Committing to a specific plan for a goal may therefore not only facilitate attainment of the goal but may also free cognitive resources for other pursuits.” Shutdown rituals add 10–15 minutes to your workday, but they’re necessary to reap the benefits of systematic idleness.
Rule 2 – Embrace Boredom
Deep work requires training to focus. Many assume that they can switch between a state of distraction and one of concentration on demand with enough motivation. They can’t. It takes training to rewire our brains to a configuration better suited to staying on task.
Once you’re wired for distraction, you crave it. Reaching for high-stimuli/low-value activities at the first sign of boredom teaches your brain to never accept a lack of novelty.
Constant attention switching has a long-term negative effect on your brain. According to the late Clifford Nass, “people who multitask all the time can’t filter out irrelevancy. They can’t manage a working memory. They’re chronically distracted. They initiate much larger parts of their brain that are irrelevant to the task at hand… they’re pretty much mental wrecks.”
Task switching leaves a residue. Even if you finish the first task, switching tasks doesn’t immediately shift your attention entirely. Part of your attention stays stuck on the previous task which leads to poor performance on the new task, and the more intense the residue, the worse they’ll do. This is another strong argument for keeping task switching to a minimum.
You can’t deepen your focus without simultaneously weaning yourself from distraction. Like athletes in training, you can’t improve your ability to concentrate if you spend the rest of your time practicing how to avoid boredom.
Put yourself on an internet diet. Plan when you’ll use the Internet ahead of time, and then don’t use it at all other times. Until that time, you can’t connect to the network at all, no matter how tempting it might be.
“Don’t take breaks from distraction. Instead, take breaks from focus.” Schedule the occasional break from focus so that you can give in to distraction. The goal is to increase your ability to focus intensely while overcoming your desire to be distracted. Note, this isn’t an invitation to multitask, rather, it is a scheduled break within a larger, longer focused work session.
Do deep work sprints. Pick one of your important projects. Give yourself a highly compressed deadline. Work with full intensity to complete the project.
Practice productive meditation, which involves focusing on a single well-defined professional problem while walking, jogging, driving, or showering. It exercises your concentration.
Engage in memory training, which has a side effect of improving the ability to concentrate, a critical deep work skill.
Rule 3 – Quit Social Media
Internet sabbaticals are now considered the only way to avoid social media and infotainment distractions, but this binary approach is too simplistic and impractical. There’s nothing inherently evil about these tools, and some of them can be very useful.
We need to make it harder for distracting sites to regularly access our time and attention, not to mention our personal information. And most of us should use fewer of them.
Reject “any benefit” thinking, which says “you’re justified in using a network tool if you can identify any potential benefit to its use, or if there’s anything you might miss out on if you don’t use it.
Be more careful about tool selection. Skilled workers throughout history have approached new tools with sophistication and skepticism. There’s no reason network and other Internet tools should be treated differently.
Take the “craftworker 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 craftworker approach doesn’t ignore the benefits of network tools or dismiss technology. Instead, it holds that these tools should be critiqued like any other skilled trade tools.
Apply the Law of the Vital Few to your Internet habits: “In many settings, 80 percent of a given effect is due to just 20 percent of the possible causes.” Start by identifying your top professional and personal goals. Then list the top two or three activities for each goal. Now, for each of your network tools, ask whether the tool has a significant positive, negative, or neutral impact on those activities.
Give your brain a quality alternative to entertainment sites if you want to eliminate their addictive pull. “Addictive websites thrive in a vacuum: If you haven’t given yourself something to do, they’ll always beckon.”
Stop using social media for 30 days then ask: Would this service have made the last thirty days better for me? Did anyone notice or care that I wasn’t using this service?
Rule 4 – Drain the Shallows
Use time blocking to schedule your time with intention:
- Arrange your workday schedule into blocks and assign an activity to each block.
- Make blocks as long as you think the activity will take, but at least 30 minutes.
- Batch similar tasks into generic task blocks.
- When your schedule is disrupted, simply revise it for the time that remains in the day.
- Most things will take more time than you expect at first, so be prepared for that.
- Follow hard to estimate activities with an “overflow” block – extra time that’s there if needed; have an alternate use for the extra block, if not.
- Include ample task blocks so that you have already identified spots to deal with surprises.
- As you schedule (or reschedule) keep this focal question in mind: “what makes sense for me to do with the time that remains?”
Respecting your time is an essential part of a deep work habit. Rather than constraints, time blocking is about thoughtfulness. This combination of thorough planning and flexibility will lead to more creative insights than a more “spontaneous” approach. You may resist time blocking since it’s easier to follow your whims and let your inbox dictate your schedule. But if you want to create things that matter and perform at an elite level, you have to get comfortable with structure.
Your goal is not to stick to a given schedule at all costs; it’s instead to maintain, at all times, a thoughtful say in what you’re doing with your time going forward—even if these decisions are reworked again and again as the day unfolds.
Sort the deep from the shallow. An enormous benefit of scheduling your day is that it makes it easy to track how much time you devote to deep work and how much is being consumed by shallow activities. Sometimes it’s tricky to discern if an activity is deep or shallow. Newport suggests this question: “How long would it take (in months) to train a smart recent college graduate with no specialized training in my field to complete this task?” Of course, the more months it takes, the deeper the work.
Budget your shallow work. What percentage of my time should be spent on shallow work? is a brilliant question to ask your boss, even if that boss is you. (The recommended range in the book is 30 to 50%.)
Finish your work by “5:30.” Make a commitment to fixed-schedule productivity. Start by committing to not working past a certain time and then define productivity strategies that allow you to meet this commitment.
Fixed-schedule productivity is a meta-habit that’s simple to adopt but broad in its impact. If you have to choose just one behavior that reorients your focus toward the deep, this one should be high on your list of possibilities.
Become hard to reach. Email is the “quintessential shallow activity is particularly insidious in its grip on most knowledge workers’ attention.” But there are a few things we can do to deal with email and limit its demands on our attention:
- Make people who email you do more work. Don’t put your email address on your website or make it easy for people to find it. Instead, make them work for it. And have senders filter themselves by using unique addresses or contact forms for different queries.
- Do more when sending or responding to emails. Cut down on the back and forth by sending more complete and detailed emails and replies. Keep in mind, “What’s the best way to bring this to completion?”
- Don’t respond. “Develop the habit of letting small bad things happen. If you don’t, you’ll never find the time for the life-changing big things.” – Tim Ferriss
Send fewer e-mails and ignore those that aren’t easy to process—doing so will significantly weaken the grip your inbox maintains over your time and attention.
Deep work is not a moral or philosophical belief – it’s a pragmatic understanding that the ability to concentrate is a valuable skill. But “to leave the distracted masses to join the focused few is a transformative experience.” Even so, it won’t appeal to everybody. It takes effort and changes and leaving behind the artificial busyness of e-mail and social media that many find comforting.
Any attempt to produce your best work also comes with a certain amount of unease. Many fear being judged or they worry that their best work may not yet be all that good. They find it safer to sit in the stands rather than step in the ring. But using your mind to its fullest potential to make things that matter is the surest path to a life full of productivity and meaning, if you’re willing to ignore your fears and comforts.
I’ll live the focused life, because it’s the best kind there is. — Winifred Gallagher
Book details and where to buy it:
Get the book on Amazon: eBook | Audiobook | Print (affiliate links*)
Amazon rating: 4.6 of 5 stars
Goodreads rating: 4.2 of 5 stars
Page count: 287
Publication date: January 5, 2016
Author website: https://www.calnewport.com/books/deep-work/
*These are affiliate links. We may receive a small commission from Amazon on your purchase at no additional cost to you.