Deep Work by Cal Newman

Towards the beginning of the year our founder & chairwoman bought the whole team the afore mentioned book. It was definitely an interesting read, although the first half could be seen as a waste of time, I found that it put the subject in context which leads to the actionable points in the second half of the book.

The major point that the book makes is that we have two modes of work: 'shallow' and 'deep'. Shallow work is all the emails & social media you can handle along with meetings and other appointments. The real success in today's knowledge economy is when you can do Deep work, focusing on the task at hand, this allows you to be very productive but it takes training to be in this mode for long periods of time and even then one can only do about 4-5 hours a day. Distraction is the enemy when you want to be in this state, the often quoted phrase 'It takes 15 minutes to get back into work you were doing once you have been distracted' rings true.

Distraction is one of the latest problems that we as a society with the aid of technology have beset upon ourselves. Social media is one of the main culprits, so expectantly one of the action points from the book is to cut it out from your life. I haven't managed to do this completely yet, although I have managed to wrangle myself free from Twitter (although I was never fully in that sphere anyway...). One practical example the book suggests is if you can leave X site (without telling anyone) and you don't get anything from them to pull you back then you don't need it.

Another bit culprit of distraction is our inboxes. Personally one of the biggest takeaways I have from this is that you do not have to respond to every email. It may feel rude, but really it just lowers the mental weight on all parties if a conversation doesn't need a response. Another practical solution is when composing an email, compose in such a way that the response for the other person is very predictable so they do not have to take mental effort to compose a response, for example do not write emails as follows:

Hi XXX, Thoughts? Cheers

It should more be along the lines of (although still not perfect):

Hi XXX, I came across this link the other day: I would appreciate your input on this, but understand that you may not have time so I have summarized the key points:

  • First Point
  • Second Point I think we could take these ideas and apply them to project ABC as it meets the specification Please could you reply to confirm you agree or if you don't state why and suggest an alternative solution. Cheers

To round off this book was certainly interesting with some great methods to greater productivity. I would certainly recommend it to anyone looking to improve their work ethic and productivity.