Without concentration there can be no learning, and today our ability to concentrate is taking heavy fire from the armies of Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, clickbait links, and plain old email and text messages. Just as we begin to get something important done, our phone vibrates—or we check our inbox, or scan our Facebook feed—and we are pulled away into another world, losing our focus over and over again.
Though I consider myself a hard worker and self-directed learner, I am completely guilty of the above crimes. I leave my inbox open while working, ready to be distracted by the most mundane incoming message. I check my phone multiple times an hour (sometimes dozens). I respond to momentary boredom by opening Facebook. And I go down internet black holes more often than I care to admit, checking back into reality many hours later.
So when I heard that Cal Newport had written a new book called Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, I was curious, but also hesitant. I had serious issues with Cal’s previous book where he argued that following your passion is a bad idea. Eventually I succumbed and read the book—and I’m so glad I did.
Deep Work is a really great book.
Cal has tackled a giant problem in the modern world—how we have invited distraction and fractured attention spans into our lives—and offers many practical ways to deal with it. He makes a strong case for “deep work” being both a major asset in the information economy and a more satisfying approach to getting important work done.
For self-directed learners who don’t have a teacher peering over their shoulder to keep them on task, Deep Work offers practical advice that’s more coherent and actionable then whatever you’ll pick up from browsing online articles about productivity.
Below you’ll find the notes I took while reading the book. They don’t offer a complete summary—because my goal was to write down things that felt highly applicable to my own life—but most of the big ideas are here. Enjoy, and happy focusing. Continue Reading