Takeaways from Deep Work by Cal Newport

3 min readDec 20, 2020
Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash

“Deep Work” is a book by Cal Newport, a computer science professor at Georgetown University. This book focuses mostly on pushing your cognitive abilities to their limit and producing work that is difficult to replicate.

Some examples of what could be considered as deep work :

  • Working on solving some problems that are crucial for your work
  • Learning new skills
  • Reading a book about how to perform well professionally

But these should be performed in an environment with uninterrupted distractions.

Why should we do deep work?

In the 21st century economy, the ability to focus on a given problem for a long time, producing high-quality work faster, and mastering complicated skills (like Machine Learning, Blockchain, etc.) quickly are getting rare.

Therefore, if we can acquire these abilities we could be a great asset to this economy.

Cal says that as we are moving forward to the knowledge economy (where a person is provided with a certain input, that person transforms it using his/her knowledge and produce an output that is valuable to the organization), the employee’s brain will be the most valuable assets for the organization.

Why are we losing our ability to do deep work?

We are surrounded by networking tools that are manipulating us with the data they collect from us. Also, these tools are easily accessible and free most of the time. They are designed to have our attention and use it to generate more ad revenue. They achieve this by keeping us on their platform for as long as possible by constantly changing our feeds.

These networking tools easily distract us from our work and we lose our ability to focus hence, our ability to perform deep work,

How to do work deeply?

Cal Newport has given four rules that will help us perform deep work :

Rule #1 Work Deeply

Cal has defined three approaches to deep work

Monastic Approach: When you eliminate all the distractions.

Bimodal Approach: When you take at least a day off from the distractions and perform deep work.

Journalist Approach: To do deep work whenever you can in your schedule.

We should adopt one of the approaches.

Also, we should make some rituals for performing deep work. This include

  • Where you’ll work and for how long.
  • How you’ll work once you start to work.
  • How you’ll support your work

Making such rituals would help us. Like if we have fixed a place and time to perform deep work, then whenever we sit down at a place and time our brain will make itself ready for performing deep work.

Rule #2 Embrace Boredom

Taking the example of an athlete, if deep work is your practice on the ground then embracing boredom is general fitness. To be a successful athlete you need to focus on your general fitness as well.

Rule #3 Quit Social Media

Rule #4 Drain the shallows

Activities like answering emails and phone calls are “shallow work”. These activities could affect your work in some way but they aren’t essential. We should allocate less time to them.