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Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World Paperback – September 4, 2018
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"Entrepreneurial professionals must develop a competitive advantage by building valuable skills. This book offers advice based on research and reality--not meaningless platitudes-- on how to invest in yourself in order to stand out from the crowd. An important guide to starting up a remarkable career."―Reid Hoffman, co-founder & chairman of LinkedIn and co-author of the bestselling The Start-Up of You: Adapt to the Future, Invest in Yourself, and Transform Your Career
"Do what you love and the money will follow' sounds like great advice -- until it's time to get a job and disillusionment quickly sets in. Cal Newport ably demonstrates how the quest for 'passion' can corrode job satisfaction. If all he accomplished with this book was to turn conventional wisdom on its head, that would be interesting enough. But he goes further -- offering advice and examples that will help you bypass the disillusionment and get right to work building skills that matter."―Daniel H. Pink, bestselling author of Drive and A Whole New Mind
"This book changed my mind. It has moved me from 'find your passion, so that you can be useful' to 'be useful so that you can find your passion.' That is a big flip, but it's more honest, and that is why I am giving each of my three young adult children a copy of this unorthodox guide."―Kevin Kelly, Senior Maverick, WIRED magazine
"First book in years I read twice, to make sure I got it. Brilliant counter-intuitive career insights. Powerful new ideas that have already changed the way I think of my own career, and the advice I give others."―Derek Sivers, founder, CD Baby
"Written in an optimistic and accessible tone, with clear logic and no-nonsense advice, this work is useful reading for anyone new to the job market and striving to find a path or for those who have been struggling to find meaning in their current careers."―Publishers Weekly
About the Author
Cal Newport, Ph.D., lives in Washington, D.C., where he is a writer and an assistant professor of computer science at Georgetown University. He also runs the popular website Study Hacks: Decoding Patterns of Success. This is his fifth book.
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1. Spend enough time in a state of frenetic shallowness and you permanently reduce your capacity to perform deep work.
2. I build my days around a core of carefully chosen deep work, with the shallow activities I absolutely cannot avoid batched into smaller bursts at the peripheries of my schedule.
3. Two Core Abilities for Thriving in the New Economy 1. The ability to quickly master hard things. 2. The ability to produce at an elite level, in terms of both quality and speed.
4. High-Quality Work Produced = (Time Spent) x (Intensity of Focus)
5. Busyness as Proxy for Productivity: In the 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.
6. Depth-destroying behaviors such as immediate e-mail responses and an active social media presence are lauded, while avoidance of these trends generates suspicion.
7. “Who you are, what you think, feel, and do, what you love— is the sum of what you focus on.”
8. You don’t need a rarified job; you need instead a rarified approach to your work.
9. 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 the amount of your limited willpower necessary to transition into and maintain a state of unbroken concentration.
10. … the minimum unit of time for deep work in this philosophy tends to be at least one full day. To put aside a few hours in the morning, for example, is too short to count as a deep work stretch for an adherent of this approach.
11. Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets… it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done.
12. At the end of the workday, shut down your consideration of work issues until the next morning— no after-dinner e-mail check, no mental replays of conversations, and no scheming about how you’ll handle an upcoming challenge; shut down work thinking completely. If you need more time, then extend your workday, …trying to squeeze a little more work out of your evenings might reduce your effectiveness the next day enough that you end up getting less done than if you had instead respected a shutdown.
13. for a novice, somewhere around an hour a day of intense concentration seems to be a limit, while for experts this number can expand to as many as four hours— but rarely more.
14. The ability to concentrate intensely is a skill that must be trained.
15. So we have scales that allow us to divide up people into people who multitask all the time and people who rarely do, and the differences are remarkable. 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.
Dr. James T Brown, Author, The Handbook of Program Management, McGraw-Hill
These books should be taken together as a whole because they give you the WHAT, the WHY and the HOW for being an elite knowledge worker.
So Good they Can't Ignore you shows you why building valuable and rare skills, which Newport calls "career capital" is the number one most important thing for finding a job you love (not "finding your passion"). Building that capital allows you to find a job where you can have creative control over your work and more control over your time, which allows you to do "deep work," aka deliberate practice (and the 10,000 hour rule for expertise, Gladwell, Ericsson and others). There are also 2 other factors, choosing a domain or mission or project where you will have a postive impact on the world, and choosing to work with people who you like being around, which aren't covered much but Newport assumes you should be able to figure out on your own.
Summary of what you need to be So Good They Can't Ignore You
1. Rare and valuable skills (aka career capital)
2. Creative control over projects
3. Control over your time (which allows you to do deep work, virtuous cycle)
4. Work that has a positive impact on the world
5. Working with people you enjoy being with
Here's the formula:
-Use deep work to learn fast and build up rare and valuable skills.
-Then apply these rare and valuable skills to the right projects so that you can build up career capital.
-Then cash in the career capital to get more creative and time control over your job.
-All the while, try to pick jobs and projects that have a positive impact and allow you to work with good people.
-However, these are usually also things that you need to trade in your career capital (rare skills and experience using them) in order to maximize.
-Don't try to save the world or have a big impact until you have the career capital to match. Otherwise you will probably fail. You have to earn all these perks via building career capital by using deep work.
So Good They Can't Ignore You doesn't spend much time explaining how to actually implement deep work (deliberate practice) into you life. It tells you to focus deeply, stretch yourself cognitively and get constant high quality feedback on your work/output.
That's where Deep Work comes in. Deep Work shows you exactly WHY deep work is so important (as opposed to Shallow Work), especially for modern knowledge workers, and why the way most people work, with constant interruptions from social media, email and their phones, is holding most knowledge workers back from being successful and competitive in today's job market.
The first part of the book argues for why Deep Work is important. If you have already bought into the idea, you can skim this part, but I found the examples and people he featured to be very interesting so it's worth a read. Just don't expect a lot of tactics until part 2.
Chapter 1 explains why deep work is VALUABLE. Our economy is changing, and the days of doing the same thing over and over for 40 years until you retire are over. Newport lays out an interesting theory for 3 types of workers, Superstars, Owners and High Skill Workers and makes a convincing and important argument for the importance in the future of being able to work at higher levels of abstraction and work with intelligent machines.
In this chapter he also makes a case for the two critical skills for knowledge workers:
1. Learning Quickly
2. Producing at an Elite Level
This conclusion informs the rest of the book. If you want to be good at these two skills, the most important thing to be good at is deep work.
Chapter 2 focuses on why deep work is RARE. He shows how distractions are becoming more and more common for knowledge workers, and that attention is becoming more and more fractures. Newport makes a good case for how complex knowledge work is often hard to measure, so managers measure busyness instead of output that relates to bottom line results (KPIs). Busyness as a vanity metric. People end up optimizing for looking busy instead of getting real work done, and everybody plays along with this charade.
Chapter 3 goes into why deep work is MEANINGFUL. Meaning is a key part of Newport's argument because the whole book links back to the Passion vs. Rare Skills debate…which is a better strategy for finding a job you love? If the job isn't meaningful, then deep work doesn't fully answer the question of how to best find a job you love. Newport give 3 theories on why deep work is meaningful, a psychological, neurological and a philosophical reason.
That's it for part 1.
In Part 2, Newport tells you how to implement deep work into your day to day life with 4 rules.
Rule 1 gives you a bunch of strategies and examples of how to integrate deep work into your schedule. He offers different strategies depending on what kind of work you do. The Grand Gestures part of this chapter is really good, you learn about Bill Gates Think Week and same famous authors who go to secluded islands or build cabins to get a lot of deep work done when necessary. There is also a section here on execution using the 4 Disciplines from Clayton Christensen's work. The point on lead vs. lag measures is really good.
Rule 2 covers the idea of embracing boredom. Newport gives a number of strategies for doing two important things: improving your ability to focus and eliminating your desire for distraction. At first these seem like the same thing but Newport explains why they are actually two different skills. For example, someone who is constantly switching between social media and infotainment sites can block off time for deep work but they won't be able to focus if they can't control their desire to always have instant gratification and constant stimulus. The point about making deep work your default, and scheduling shallow work in between is also a game changer.
Rule 3 is about social media sites and infotainment sites. This rule isn't as strategic as the other ones, it's mostly about making a side argument that these networking sites aren't as important is you think they are. He gives some good strategies for measuring what sites and services you should include in your day to day life based on the total collection of all the positive and negative effects. This sort of critical thinking and measurement usually doesn't get applied to these kind of sites.
Rule 4 is about draining the shallows, meaning going through the process of eliminating as much as possible shallow work from your daily schedule. This is more tactical chapter, (This and Rule 1 are the most useful of the 4) you learn how to plan out your day, how to stop from bringing your work home with you with an end of day ritual and how to manage your email so that you cut down on the amount of time you spend in your inbox each day. There is also a strategy for how to talk to your boss about deep work so you can get permission to re-arrange your schedule to be more productive.
This book, and Newport's previous book So Good They Can't Ignore You, are some of the most important books you will read on planning your career.
Most people spend little to no time on these decisions, or just go with the flow or with how other people approach things, even though this planning process will affect the next 4 to 5 decades of their life.
Most people's thinking is still stuck in the industrial economy way of thinking…it makes sense thought, our education system is also stuck in this way of thinking. Deep work gives you a solid, actionable plan and doesn't leave anything out that I can think of.