Deep Work

A kind reader sent me a great link to share. Below is an interview from The Federalist Radio Hour about focusing and doing creative deep work. It features Cal Newport, an Assistant Professor at Georgetown University, speaking about concepts from his recent bestseller, Deep Work. Give it a listen and tell me what you think.


I appreciate his distinction between shallow and deep work (and his emphasis that “shallow” isn’t pejorative). It isn’t controversial or scandalous to recognize that we don’t have to devote ourselves heart-and-soul to every little thing. But, multitasking or switching focus around a lot (like on social media) can unintentionally turn things into shallow work, even if we intend them to be deep work. Or, put another way, so often we try to constantly multitask to network or feel on top, when some intentional focus would accomplish more.

If you only have bits and pieces of time, you can listen to the first 15 minutes or so to get a taste of the content. After that, around minute 23, Cal gets briefly into personal best practice and organizational best practice. In short, routine helps, avoid email/Facebook, and allow yourself a time or point to step away to recharge (or do “shallow” stuff).

Around minute 27.5, the interviewer specifically brings up writers, such as journalists who are susceptible to rapidly developing events. At one point Cal Newport responds, “Everything good in a creative field like writing really comes from the ability to do deep work quickly.” He even suggested that a dependence on needing a deadline can demonstrate an addiction to stimuli, since a person needs that extra shove to do the work before them.

Deep work, on the other hand, might be compared to being in shape. You’re more self-motivated, produce faster, and make better work overall.  Once you are out of shape for deep work, it makes it harder, takes longer, etc.

I appreciated that Cal Newport brought up attention residue. In short, that quick glance at Facebook has a bigger impact on your brain, time, and intention than you may realize.

I haven’t bought the book so this isn’t a review. It does, however, bring to mind a different book that has made a lasting impression on me:

I suspect the two would go together pretty well. I’ll add Deep Work to my Wishlist!

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