Deep Work - Deepstash
Deep Work

Deep Work

Cal Newport

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What Is Deep Work?

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.”

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Why Deep Work Is Rare, Yet Highly Valuable

In short, because it maximizes the amount of productivity you can squeeze out of a certain amount of time.

And the reason for that is quite simple. Deep work refers to single-tasking, without distractions, in a state of intense focus, for extended periods of time. 

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Beware of Attention Residue

When you switch from some Task A to another Task B, your attention doesn’t immediately follow – a residue of your attention remains stuck thinking about the original task. This residue gets especially thick if your work on Task A was unbounded and of low intensity before you switched, but even if you finish Task A before moving on, your attention remains divided for a while. 

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Deep Work Is a Skill

If a newbie starts working deeply, he will not be working as deeply and for as long a time period as someone who’s been doing deep work for many months or years.

Don’t expect to be able to work deeply for hours on end in the beginning. You might only have the concentration and energy to do it for an hour or two a day. But slowly, slowly, as you keep honing in on the skill, you’ll be able to work deeply and produce massive amounts of work and reap all the benefits of deep work.

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The Four Rules of Deep Work

The hard part isn’t knowing that deep work is valuable. The hard part is actually doing it. Why? Because we’re addicted to distractions. We are suckers for multitasking.

The second part of the book is all about helping us deploy more deep work in our lives. To do that, Newport has come up with the following 4 rules:

  • Rule #1: Work Deeply
  • Rule #2: Embrace Boredom
  • Rule #3: Quit Social Media
  • Rule #4: Drain the Shallows

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Rule #1: Work Deeply

Working deeply, due to its effortful nature, is the very thing most of us don’t want to do. Add to this an environment and culture that makes deep work difficult, and a finite amount of willpower that gets depleted as we use it, and you have a recipe for shallow work. To make deep work a staple in our day-to-day lives, we need to create rituals and routines that make things easier and more automatic for us.

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Rule #2: Embrace Boredom

Intense concentration is a skill that must be trained. Much like athletes who must take care of their bodies outside of their training sessions, you’ll need to take care of your concentration outside of your deep work sessions. If, throughout your day-to-day life, you give in to distractions at the slightest hint of boredom, you’ll struggle to develop the type of intense concentration necessary for deep work.

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Rule #3: Quit Social Media

Social media is the prime example for shallow living. As Cal points out, just because it offers a little benefit, doesn’t mean it’s worth the time we give it. You simply can’t work deeply if you feel the need to hop on social media every couple of minutes. Due to its addictive nature, social media and deep living don’t go well together.

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Rule #4: Drain the Shallows

The Shallows is the name of a book written on the effects of the Internet on our brains and lives. Shallow work, if you recall, refers to answering emails, making phone calls, attending to meetings, and other inevitable but ultimately low-value tasks. If you’re serious about working deeply, you need to drain the Shallows – you need to schedule time for deep work and spend as little time on shallow work as possible. Don’t let shallow work get in the way of deep work.

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Writing everything on how to live a better life.

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