Book Summary: Deep Work

Book: Deep Work

Author: Cal Newport

Key takeaways: I think the book is modestly repetitive and broadly prescriptive, and though the last part may be perceived as too loose (you can do this or this or this) or as too strict (do this and this and this) by some, I think that if you take in every prescriptive element and customize them to your needs, you can come away with some good takeaways for yourself.

Below are mine (yours are very likely much different) :

  • It is important to batch hard but important intellectual work into long, uninterrupted stretches.
  • To get this, rhythmic deep work scheduling is important. Seinfeld used to have a calendar on his well and every day that he wrote jokes, he would cross out the date with a big X. Paraphrasing him: “After a few days, you’ll have a chain, and as you keep at it, the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain grow, especially after you have a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break that chain.”
  • Practice productive meditation: this is a period when you’re occupied physically (walking, jogging, showering) and focus your attention on a single well-defined professional problem (try 2-3 such meditative sessions per week).
  • Be wary of distractions: the obvious thing to do is to not go for very many breaks (social media, eating, chatting etc.) but one also needs to think about the subtler way the brain wants to take a break by avoiding diving into a deeper problem by looping (and “solving”) a simpler problem that you already know about.
  • Every month or so, question your social media diet.

An interesting and vital side-effect of being able to focus deeply on something difficult is that it makes your life seem more joyful. Because if you lose focus, mind tends to fixate on what’s wrong with one’s life vs. what’s right. Thus, a workday driven by the shallow, from a neurological perspective, is likely to be a draining and upsetting day, even if most of the shallow items are harmless and fun.



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