Notes from Cal Newport on Deep Work

Deep work definition: “Professional activities performed in a distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate.”

Deep work hypothesis: “The ability to perform deep work is becoming increasing rare at the same time it is becoming valuable in or economy. As a consequence the few who cultivate this skill and then make it the core of their working life will thrive.”

Attention residue: “Every time you switch your attention from one target to another and then back again, there’s a cost. This switching creates an effect that psychologists call attention residue, which can reduce your cognitive capacity for a non-trivial amount of time before it clears.”

Persistent attention residue: “If you constantly make “quick checks” of various devices and inboxes, you essentially keep yourself in a state of persistent attention residue, which is a terrible idea if you’re someone who uses your brain to make a living.”

Four rules for cultivating deep work:

1) Work deeply. Don’t wait for lots of free time. Schedule deep work blocks and protect them.

2) Embrace boredom. Frequently expose yourself to boredom. Don’t “bathe yourself in novel stimuli at the slightest hint of boredom.”

3) Quit social media. Don’t measure social media value only by advantages. Disadvantages outweigh them.

4) Drain the shallows. Shallow work doesn’t require uninterrupted concentration. Aggressively minimize optional shallow work.