Book Summary: "Deep Work" by Cal Newport

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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.

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.

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 the skill, and then make it the core of their working life, will thrive.

The Idea

Once the talent market is made universally accessible, those at the peak of the market thrive while the rest suffer.

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 core abilities for thriving in the new economy: the ability to quickly master hard things, the ability to produce an elite level, in terms of both quality and speed.

If you can’t learn, you can’t thrive.

If you don’t produce, you won’t thrive — no matter how skilled or talented you are.

If you haven’t mastered deep work, you’ll struggle to learn hard things or produce at an elite level.

Core components of deliberate practice identified as follows: your attention is focused tightly on a specific skill you’re trying to improve or and idea you’re trying to master; you receive feedback so you can correct your approach to keep your attention exactly where it’s most productive.

To learn hard things quickly, you must focus intensely without distraction.

If you’re comfortable going deep, you’ll be comfortable mastering the increasingly complex systems and skills needed to thrive in our economy.

High-Quality Work Produced = (Time Spent) x (Intensity of Focus)

To produce at your peak level you need to work for extended periods with full concentration on a single task free from distraction.

Even though you are not aware at the time, the brain responds to distractions.

In a business setting, without clear feedback on the impact of various behaviors to be bottom line, we will tend toward behaviors that are easiest in the moment.

In an 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.

Who you are, what you think, feel, and do, what you love — is the sum of what you focus on.

The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.

A deep life is a good life, any way you look at it.

The Rules

Rule 1: Work Deeply

You have a finite amount of willpower that becomes depleted as you use it.

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 a state of unbroken concentration.

The easiest way to consistently start deep work sessions is to transform them into a simple regular habit.

Your rituals needs to specify location for your deep work efforts.

Your rituals needs rules and processes to keep your efforts structured.

Your ritual needs to ensure your brain gets the support it needs to keep operating at a high level of depth.

By leveraging a radical change to your normal environment, coupled perhaps with a significant investment of effort or money, all dedicated toward supporting a deep work task, you increase the perceived importance of the task. This boost in importance reduces your mind’s instinct to procrastinate and delivers injection of motivation and energy.

By working side by side with someone on a problem, you can push each other toward deeper levels of depth, and therefore toward the generation of more and more valuable output as compared to working alone.

You should inject regular and substantial freedom from professional concerns into your day, providing you with the idleness paradoxically required to get (deep) work done.

Downtime helps recharge the energy needed to work deeply.

You can restore your ability to direct your attention if you give this activity a rest.

The work that evening downtime replaces is usually not that important.

Regularly resting your brain improves the quality of your deep work. When you work, work hard. When you’re done, be done.

Rule 2: Embrace Boredom

Once your brain has become accustomed to on-demand distraction it’s hard to shake the addiction even when you want to concentrate.

To succeed with deep work you must rewire your brain to be comfortable resisting distracting stimuli.

The goal of productive meditation is to take a period in which you’re occupied physically but not mentally and focus your attention on a single well-defined professional problem.

Rule 3: Quit Social Media

To master the art of deep work, therefore, you must take back control of your time and attention from the many diversions that attempt to steal them.

You’re justified in using a network tool if you can identify any possible benefit to its use, or anything you might possibly miss out on if you don’t use it.

Identify the core factors that determine success and happiness in your professional life. Adopt a tool only if its positive impacts on these factors substantially outweigh its negative impacts.

If you haven’t given yourself something to do in a given moment, addictive websites always beckon as an appealing option. If you instead fill this free time with something of more quality, their grip on your attention will loosen.

It’s crucial that you figure out in advance what you’re going to do with your evenings and weekends before they begin.

Rule 4: Drain the Shallows

We spend much of our day autopilot — not giving much thought to what we’re doing with our time.

Schedule every minute of your day.

Once you know where your activities fall on the deep-to-shallow scale, bias your time toward the former.


The ability to concentrate is a skill that gets valuable things done.

If you’re struggle to deploy your mind to its fullest capacity to create things that matter, then you’ll discover, as others have before you, that depth generates a life rich with productivity and meaning.