Deep Work

Назва книги: Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World

Автор: Cal Newport

I’ll live the focused life, because it’s the best kind there is.

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: Noncognitive 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.

Deep work is not some nostalgic affectation of writers and early-twentieth-century philosophers. It’s instead a skill that has a great value today. Why?

  1. We have an information economy that’s dependent on complex systems that change rapidly. To remain valuable in our economy, therefore, you must master the art of quickly learning complicated things. This task requires deep work.
  2. To succeed you have to produce the absolute best stuff you’re capable of producing – a task that requires depth. If what you’re producing is mediocre, then you’re in trouble, as it’s too easy for your audience to find a better alternative online.

The real rewards are reserved not for those who are comfortable using Facebook (a shallow task, easily replicated), but instead for those who are comfortable building the innovative distributed systems that run the service (a decidedly deep task, hard to replicate).

The Deep Work Hypothesis: The ability to perform deep work is becoming increasingly rare at exactly the same time it is becoming increasingly valuable in our economy. As a consequence, the few who cultivate this skill, and then make it the core of their working life, will thrive.

Deep Work Is Valuable

Attention Residue. When you switch from 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 you 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.

The result backed by numerous of experiments show the following: “People are experiencing attention residue after switching tasks are likely to demonstrate poor performance on that next task”, and the more intense the residue, the worse the performance.

By working on a single hard task (learning how to code, developing a new product, writing a book) for a long time without switching, you minimize the negative impact of attention residue from your other obligations, allowing you to maximize performance on this one task.

Deep Work Is Meaningful

“Grand unified theory” of the mind: Like fingers pointing to the moon, other diverse disciplines from anthropology to education, behavioral economics to family counseling, similarly suggest that the skillful management of attention is the sine qua non (essential element) of the good life and the key to improving virtually every aspect of your experience.

This theory tells us that your world is the outcome of what you pay attention to, so consider for a moment the type of mental world constructed when you dedicate significant time to deep endeavors.

When you lose focus, your mind tends to fix on what could be wrong with your life instead of what’s right. A workday driven by shallow, from a neuronal perspective, is likely to be a draining and upsetting day, even if most of the shallow things that capture your attention seems harmless or fun.

The Rules

Rule #1. Work Deeply

Create a setting where the users can get into a state of deep human flourishing – creating work that’s to the absolute extent of their personal abilities.

Four types (philosophies) of deep work scheduling:

The Monastic philosophy. Maximize deep efforts by eliminating or radically minimizing shallow obligations. No email address, twitter or anything that can steal person’s attention from his work on the professional goal.

The Bimodal Philosophy. The philosophy asks that you divide your time, dedicating some clearly defined stretches to deep pursuits and leaving the rest open to everything else. You can, for example, dedicate 4 days per week for work on some deep task and leave other 3 for open time. Same applies on a scale of month or year: spend first 10 days/1 season on deep work and leave rest for open time.

The bimodal philosophy believes that deep work can produce extreme productivity, but only if the subject dedicates enough time to such endeavors to reach maximum cognitive intensity – the state in which real breakthroughs occur. This is why the minimum unit of time for deep work in this philosophy tends to be at lest one full day.

The Rhythmic Philosophy. This philosophy argues that the easiest way to consistently start deep work sessions is to transform them into a simple regular habit. The goal, in other words, is to generate a rhythm for this work that removes the need for you to invest energy in deciding if and where you’re going to go deep. You can, for example, schedule 2 hours of deep work from 6am to 8am before starting full-time job. Another way of cultivating a habit of deep work on daily basis – put a big calendar on your wall and mark red Xs every day with deep work hours. This way you will create a chain (habit) that you will not want to break.

The Journalistic Philosophy of Deep Work Scheduling. Advance version of deep work philosophy adopted by people who are trained to shift into a deep mode on a moment’s notice, as is required by the deadline-driven nature of their profession. Example: once the meeting at work of the author would be cancelled, or at evening his kids would take a good nap, he would grab his laptop and lock himself in an office for work.


There is a popular notion that artists work from inspiration – that there is some strike or bolt or bubbling up of creative mojo from who knows here…but I hope (my work) makes clear that waiting for inspiration to strike is a terrible, terrible plan. In fact, perhaps the single best piece of advice I can offer to anyone trying to do creative work is to ignore inspiration. – Mason Currey, spend half of decade cataloging the habits of famous thinkers and writers

(Great creative minds) think like artists but work like accountants – David Brooks

There is no one correct deep work ritual, but there’re some general questions that any effective ritual must address: – Where you’ll work and for how long (location; number of hours per day) – How you’ll work once you start to work (no internet connection or some kind of metric to persuade concentration: number of words per 20 minutes) – How you will support your work (good coffee, food access, walking)

Don’t work alone. For some types of problems, working with someone else at the proverbial shared whiteboard can push you deeper than if you were working alone.

Be Lazy. At the end of the workday, shut down your concentration of work issues until the next morning – no after dinner email check, no mental replays of conversations, etc; shutdown work thinking completely. Why?

  1. Downtime aids insights.
  2. Downtime helps recharge the energy needed to work deeply. ART (attention restoration theory) claims that spending time in nature can improve your ability to concentrate. Having a casual conversation with a friend, listening to music while making dinner, playing game with your kids – the types of activities that will fill your time in evening if you enforce a work shutdown – play the same attention-restoring role as walking in nature.
  3. The work that evening downtime replace is usually not that important.

Shutdown ritual. This ritual should ensure that every incomplete task, goal, or project has been reviewed and that for each you have confirmed that either 1) you have a plan you trust for its completion, or 2) it’s captured in a place where it will be revisited when the time is right. When you’re done, have a set phrase that indicates completion (to end his own ritual author say “Shutdown complete”). The final step provides a simple cue to your mind that it’s safe to release work-related thoughts for the rest of the day.

Rule #2. Embrace Boredom (обійми нудьгу)

Much in the same way that athletes must take care of their bodies outside of their training sessions, you’ll struggle to achieve the deepest levels of concentration if you spend the rest of your time fleeing the slightest hint of boredom.

Clifford Nass research: The people (multitasking) we talk with continually said, “look, when I really have to concentrate, I turn off everything and I am laser-focused.” And unfortunately, they’ve developed habits of mind that make it impossible for them to be laser-focused. They’re suckers for irrelevancy. They just can’t keep on task.

If every moment of potential boredom in your life – say, having to wait five minutes in line or sit alone in restaurant until a friend arrives – is relieved with a quick glance at your smartphone, then your brain has likely been rewired to a point where, like the “mental wrecks” in Nass’s research, it’s not ready for deep work – even if you regularly schedule time to proactive this concentration.

Strategies to improve your ability to concentrate intensely and overcome your desire for distraction:

Don’t take breaks from distraction. Instead take breaks from focus. Instead of scheduling the occasional break from distraction so you can focus, you should instead schedule the occasional break from focus to give in to distraction.

Keep the notepad near your computer at work and schedule the next session of Internet/social media activities. By segregating Internet use (and therefore segregation distractions) you’re minimizing the number of times you give in to distraction, and by doing so you let these attention-selecting muscles strengthen.

Meditate productively. The goal of productive meditation is to take a period in which you’re occupied physically but not mentally – walking, jogging, driving, showering – and focus your attention on a single well-defined professional problem.

Memorize a deck of cards. Find instructions online or in the book. If card memorization seems weird to you, than choose replacement that makes similar cognitive requirements. In other words find some daily games / practices that can help develop or improve your ability to concentrate.

Rule #3. Quit Social Media

The Any-Benefit approach to network tool (facebook, twitter, etc.) selection: you’re justified in using network tool if you can identify any possible benefit to its use, or anything you might possibly miss out on if you don’t use it.

The Craftsman approach to tool selection: identify the core factors that determine success and happiness in your professional and personal life. Adopt a tool only if its positive impacts on there factors substantially outweigh its negative impacts.

Among the different network tools that can claim your time and attention, social media, if used without limit, can be particularly devastating to your quest to work deeply. They offer personalized information arriving on an unpredictable intermittent schedule – making them massively addictive and therefore capable of severely damaging your attempt to schedule and succeed with any act of concentration.

Don’t use the internet to entertain yourself. If you want to eliminate the addictive pull of entertainment sites on your time and attention – give your brain **a quality alternative. ** Not only will this preserve your ability to resist distraction and concentrate, but you might even experience, for the first time, what it means to live, and not to just exist.

Rule #4. Drain the shallows (осуши мілину)

Treat shallow work (team meetings, emails, tasks) with suspicion because its damage is often vastly underestimated and its importance vastly overestimated. This type of work is inevitable, but you must keep it confident to a point where it doesn’t implode your ability to take full advantage of the deeper efforts that ultimately determine your impact.

Schedule every minute of your life. At the beginning of each workday, turn to a new page of lined paper in a notebook you dedicate to this purpose. On the left side of the notebook schedule time blocks for deep work projects (work on presentation, book, etc) and lunch time. On the right side write down all the shallow tasks that come up through the day and dedicate specific time block for this purpose. If your schedule is disrupted – create a revised schedule by redrawing blocks.

For skeptics of this practice – author not only allows spontaneity in his schedule, he encourage it. Skeptics critique is driven by a mistaken idea that the goal of a schedule is to force your behavior into a rigid plan. This type of scheduling, however, isn’t about constraints – it’s instead about thoughtfulness. It’s a simple habit that forces you to continually take a moment through your day and ask: “What makes sense for me to do with the time that remains?”.