Book Review: Deep Work

How much time do you spend each day in a distraction-free state of mind? My guess is very little. Whether it’s the “noise” from family members or work colleagues, our cell phones pinging us with phone calls or texts, or the constant interruptions of your favorite social media; most of us live a very distracted life. And yet when I speak to small business owners what I hear is a desire for a quieter life.

This is why this book “Deep Work” is so important. The book, written by best-selling author Cal Newport, is divided into two parts. The first part of the book makes the case for why having a deep work ethic is so important. The second part of the book provides the tools for achieving deep work.

The author defines deep work as, “The ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task”. Newport suggests in the book that the ability to perform deep work is becoming increasingly rare at the same time that it is also becoming increasingly valuable. I see this in many of my small business owner clients that knowingly spend way to much time doing “shallow work” or working in the weeds.

Why is this? Newport argues that, “Without clear feedback on the impact of various behaviors to the bottom line, we will tend toward behaviors that are easiest in the moment”. It is much easier for many leaders to answer a text message than create a new market strategy. Much easier to check email than to consider a product innovation. We find ourselves defaulting to lower altitude tasks because they are easier and seem more urgent.

The second part of the book contains four rules: (1) Work Deeply, (2) Embrace Boredom, (3) Quit Social Media, (4) Drain the Shallows. Here are several of my favorite takeaways:

  • “Don’t take breaks from distraction. Instead take breaks from focus.”
  • “Schedule in advance when to use the internet and avoid it altogether otherwise.”
  • “If you want to eliminate the addictive pull of entertainment sites on your time and attention, give your brain a quality alternative.”
  • “Become hard to reach.”

I enjoyed reading this book and strongly recommend it to any small business owner who wishes to go “deeper”.