Deep Work: Stop Being Shallow With Your Minutes


"Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World" offers a path for the knowledge worker and business toward increased personal and business efficiency by focusing on "deep work" in a deeply distracted and multi-tasking world.

deep work

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Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World” is a strong call-to-action away from the constant stream of “shallow work” (AKA Facebook notifications, emails, and other disruptions) into the practice of “deep work,” meaningful work that stretches you beyond your limits.

What is Deep Work About?

The basic premise of “Deep Work” deals with the paradox of time management in the age of social media. In a world with more time-saving devices and strategies, we often have less time than ever to do what we need to.

Author Cal Newport puts the blame on two big evils of the modern world, distraction and multi-tasking. All of us know that distraction and multi-tasking pull us away from what we should be doing, but we can’t help it. We just have to check our emails or Facebook page one more time.

In other words, we are hopelessly addicted to the very things that are designed to save us time. Hence, the productivity paradox.

The way out of this paradox isn’t straightforward, as Newport cleverly points out. Distraction and multi-tasking are not simple issues; rather they have become accepted as part of everyday work life. Distraction and its cousin multi-tasking offer our egos immediate gratification (answering 100 emails feels like you’ve earned a productivity point) without the immediate long-term consequences. Businesses, just like individuals, suffer from this problem.

“Deep Work” is Newport’s answer to the paradox. Like the concept of deliberate practice, the focus on “deep work” is on minimizing time in “shallow work” (emails, social media, disruptions in workflow), while increasing time in “deep work” (time spent in critical skill-building).

While this principle of single task focus and prioritization is covered ad nauseam in other time management books, Newport’s goal with “Deep Work” is to help the individual and business in adapting those concepts to a distracted world. Newport wants to bring us back to a world where checking your email more than 20 times a day over developing your occupational craft would have been considered abnormal.

About the Author

Cal Newport (@calnewport) is an assistant professor at Georgetown University specializing in distributed algorithms and an author. He has been featured in several publications and on TV shows for his expertise in helping others find patterns behind success.

What Was Best About “Deep Work”

This book is best for those people who struggle with implementing the time-management strategies they read about in other books. Newport provides insight into why our business environment, not just our will, is to blame for distraction and brings us one step closer to a better balance between productivity and online visibility.

What Could Have Been Done Differently

“Deep Work” is a rather comprehensive book for all of us who fall into the “always checking in our email and notifications” category. The book makes a compelling argument, replete with studies and anecdotes that are helpful.

This isn’t exactly the case for the hyper-connected business though. Newport addresses the issue of declined productivity due to the drive for increased business content, but doesn’t provide a complete solution for how that content can be created. More attention (possibly in a new book) should be placed on how businesses can navigate the balance of productivity vs “shallow work” (like social media) that is required for businesses in the Web 2.0 world.

Why Read “Deep Work”

As stated earlier, “Deep Work” is for people struggling to implement the time-management strategies only hinted about in other books. Distraction comes from our business environment, argues Newport. It’s not just a matter of will power. And understanding this brings us one step closer to a better balance between productivity and online visibility.

As mentioned above, the book is also unique in that it focuses on the unique reality of the knowledge worker (managers, writers consultants, etc.), which is appropriate. As we continue into a year of overcrowded (and increasing) content, the knowledge worker will be on the front line in the battle between the need for productivity and for online visibility.

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Charles Franklin Charles Franklin is a Book Reviewer for Small Business Trends. He has a background as a professional reviewer, and is also a content provider and customer relations professional.

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