Why Would you read it?
In my view this is an intriguing and thought provoking book for those of us who want to be more productive, find ourselves with too much to do and too little time and want a strategy, not someone to tell us that we have as many hours in the day as Einstein or Beyonce!. Cal Newport starts by defining deep work as professional activities performed in a state of distraction free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to the limit and states that these efforts produce new value, improve your skill and are hard to replicate.
Central to the book is the argument that most people have lost this skill just at the time that it is becoming increasingly valuable economically due to the amount of distraction we face in our lives especially at work. Distraction, the enemy of deep work is everywhere in the form of open plan offices, email, constant connectivity, expectations of quick responses and social media. Distraction leads to shallow work and shallow work adds little in the way of value.
Newport also introduces the concept of “attention residue” which puts to bed the notion of multi tasking by arguing that it’s not physically possible for the brain to switch to the new task fully, for up to 15 minutes which can seriously hamper our productivity. If we want to be really productive we need to set the right conditions and Newport suggests these can include (amongst other things) scheduling in deep work and working in bursts, using creative rituals, quitting social media, getting comfortable with boredom and reducing the amount of shallow work we do.
Another key thought from the book is the idea that instead of trying to say no to distraction we should instead say yes to the wildly important, by identifying a small number of ambitious outcomes to pursue with your deep work hours, which will act to drive out distraction.
During my time running Estate Agency businesses I found that my true mission, to develop the companies capabilities was rarely furthered by attending to my inbox or answering endless questions from colleagues or giving in to the deadliest request of all “have you got two minutes.” Although I did all of those things, so this book really chimed with me, hence my recommendation. I think the biggest take away for me was starting to define my “wildly important” priorities that I am going to pursue in my scheduled deep work time.
If you think that there are important priorities that you are not really getting round to because of all the other stuff that you have to do in your life then maybe give this a book a go.