Deep Work

Deep Work


Deep Work, written by bestselling author and professor

, inspires a radical shift in the way most of us' work'.

It advises us to work on something with deep concentration, bereft of distractions, to push our cognitive limits and get more done at the same time we have.

Rather than theoretically prophesize or blindly motivate, the author uses real-life examples of how people have implemented Deep Working strategies in their lives and have seen the results and how we too can do the same.

The central idea

We need to work deep because we live in a competitive economy, wherein we are expected to master hard things fast and produce at an elite level.

While it starts with a mindset shift, deep work isn't only about willpower which we have in very limited amounts.

Instead, we should implement routines and processes such that we don't have to use willpower.

We should instead be nudged to work deeply, first, by lack of distracting choices, and eventually, by how our mind and body function.

Key takeaways

  1. Deep work is to work in a distraction-free, focused frame of mind on a single task that'll extend the cognitive limits we have set for ourselves to produce value that would otherwise not have been possible. In contrast, shallow work includes tasks that can be performed while multi-tasking and doesn't carry a lot of value.
  2. Deep work has scientific backing where it states that focusing intently allows us to develop myelin around relevant neurons to make sure the circuits fire better and, therefore, lead to better memory power.
  3. Attention residue: when you switch tasks, a bit of your mind remains on the old task for some time, hampering you from focusing on either the old or the new one. This happens every time you switch, so the more the multi-tasking, the more challenging it is for the brain to switch entirely.
  4. The principle of least resistance encourages deep work as humans tend to perform the easiest tasks to do; hence, it is in our interest to clear out most of the resistance before starting deep work.
  5. We use busyness as a proxy for productivity occurs because we just want to 'feel' productive; we end up doing many things, which makes it look like we're stretching ourselves, whereas our output is severely limited.
  6. Willpower is not a strategy. You have very limited willpower, and therefore, the trick to imbibing deep work is to create routines and situations that happen on auto-pilot and do not require you to exercise your willpower.
  7. Some measures can help your mind engage in deep work. Such activities include renting out a quiet room in a hotel and using it exclusively for working deeply. When you pay for it, you'll be more motivated to do what you want to do.
  8. Not all work is deep work, and not all tasks can, or should be done under the umbrella of deep work. Deep work requires intense brain input, and to do it well, it should be done in a limited capacity each day. You have to divide your time between tasks that require deep work and shallow tasks like cleaning, cooking, etc.
  9. The four disciples of execution :
    1. Focus on the wildly important
    2. Act on the lead measures
    3. Keep a compelling scoreboard
    4. Create a cadence of accountability
  10. Two types of metrics: Lag measures and lead measures.
    1. Lag measures are the eventual result. If you aim to get in shape, getting six-pack abs is the lag measure, i.e., what you have to reach.
    2. Lead measures are the new behaviors that will influence the lag measures, such as regular workouts, healthy eating, and adequate sleep.
    3. Often, we focus only on the lag measures without actually working on the lead ones. You can't build a building without building a foundation first.
  11. You must shut off work, including work thinking, post your work hours. Advantages of downtime :
    1. It aids insights as separation allows your brain to recharge and attack a problem with a new frame of mind the next day.
    2. It helps recharge the energy needed to work intensely to ensure that we're using each session optimally; we should know when to stop.
    3. The work that downtime replaces is most often not important. Post-work, we usually spend time overthinking conversations, checking email, and other things that are not that important.


Deep work is one of the most important books that came out in the productivity space in the last decade. Carl Newport shares why deep work is essential and how to get there; he also elaborates on improving a person's cognitive abilities.

The book also delves into multi-tasking and how that is not advisable. Newport goes into detail about setting up your environment to encourage deep work and achieve a flow state.

Deep work is an excellent read for anyone interested in getting more impactful things done instead of getting caught up with useless distractions that life has to offer.

Book Authors

Cal Newport

Related Methodologies

Fixed-Schedule Productivity

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