Book Review: Deep Work by Cal Newport

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal NewportMy rating: 5 of 5 stars

Deep Work. What's the first thought that comes to mind when you read those two words side-by-side? For me, it's that I don't ever do enough deep work. That I want to do more. That I want to lose myself in flow. That I lack the discipline or the time to do the deep work I feel called to do. What about you?

When I started reading Deep Work, I realized it was the book that had been missing from my productivity book collection. Many books are great at telling you how to get through your list more effectively, how to tackle your biggest project first and how to get it all done. Few delve into the work itself and approaching work with a different mindset.

Deep work is valuable. As I'm going back to school for my BA (and then MBA), I will need to master the ability of learning hard things, new concepts and ideas that require intense, distraction-free focus. Being a mom of a six-month-old and 2-year-old, "distraction free" seems like only a memory. How do I apply the learnings from this book without losing touch with my family, since I do work 100% remotely from my home office?

Deep work is rare. I do feel like it's MUCH easier to be busy than to do deep work. For example, I'd rather be working through my task list in Asana than writing this post. Why? Because the Resistance tells me I'm being more productive. I can cross more items off my to-do list. But, the Deep Work is what brings longer lasting satisfaction. It gives me that sense that I've moved one step closer to my intrinsic goals. My question would be: how do managers classify deep work? How do leaders get enough deep work into their days while still handling all of the busy work that bombards them?

As much as I enjoy deep work (once I turn off all my notifications/eliminate distractions), I wonder if the deep work will actually get me to the next level in my career. I am moving into more of a management position at work, and I notice that I need to "be more available" to clients and open up my calendar to meetings. There's an internal struggle that I'm having right now between the idea from Marshall Goldsmith "what got you here won't get you there" (i.e. being a master at my craft won't make me a great manager) and still embracing the ideology of deep work. Interested to hear your insights.

Rule #1: Work Deeply. My biggest takeaway from this section was developing rituals, especially evening rituals. I tended to skip over the "winding down for bed" rituals because they felt unproductive. Once I started prioritizing that relaxation time, I noticed I was more productive during the day and also slept better.

Rule #2: Embrace Boredom. I'm still not good at this, but I do catch myself enjoying moments of complete boredom while waiting in line at the grocery store, getting stuck at a train or waiting at the doc's office for an appointment. Half the time, I still reach for a device. The other half I spend thinking and relishing the present moment.

Rule #3: Quit Social Media. Okay, this is NEVER going to happen because my day job is being a social media business strategist and programs manager. Engaging on social media for clients is what I get paid to do, so it's not necessarily a distraction. What IS a distraction is hanging out on social channels that are not work-related. I've actually minimized this time and spend less than 15 minutes a day on those channels. It's still important for me to engage, as keeping a strong personal brand is critical to my marketplace viability.

Rule #4: Drain the Shallows. This is always an area I could improve. So many distractions and rabbit holes online. A piece of client content leads me to an article on a tactic I'd like to incorporate into our programs and leads me to signing up for a free trial of an online product. I have started to do more work when I send or reply to emails, as I state exactly what I need done or what I need to know. As a remote worker, I do find that I don't use the "don't respond" to messages often because it's critical I seem more present in clients' inboxes with a quick "thank you" and an appropriate emoticon.

Moving forward, I'm not sure how I will balance deep work with my long-term goals of senior level management, though I am open to ideas and experimentation.

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