Review of “Deep Work” by Cal Newport

This is one hard to put down book especially if you are one person interested in deciphering the codes behind the intellectual capacities of some people who may have amazed you at work. The level of concentration and the depth of observation they have at times is hard to believe. Have you ever encountered such people in life? I have.

Cal gives away nuggets of some stories of such people like Carl Jung who questioned the assumption of the most influential psychologist ever, Sigmund Freud. He built his own house near a river to buy time for something called Deep Work, as defined by Cal Newport in his book.

The title “Deep Work” and the words “Success in the distracted world” strike so hard on the reality of life that you cannot escape from the temptation to pull the book and read at least a few words. This simple book with only 3 real chapter and 4 simple rules is an easy and fast read. A simple language and an engaging set of stories of real geniuses create enough appeal to read on.

I will give you a little insight into what is Deep Work. As per Cal, Deep work is about stretching oneself to complete a task that requires both time and high level of intellectual concentration like preparing a full business report, writing a book, and developing a strategy. I would not want to go deep into the concept as I am only reviewing the book here.

Cal, in the first part of his book, has talked much about the distracted world and sees networking as the cause of humans losing the ability to focus. Social Media platforms, emails, and technological solutions like smartphones only divide our attention into so many things that we forget to enjoy the depth of a single task.

If you are wondering if the concepts covered in this book are useful for you, I would truthfully tell you that I did find it a little challenging to follow his idea of moving away from networking but at the same time, I totally agree with the idea of deep work. It does have the potential to change one’s life. Now, it is up to you to choose serenity of life over modern entanglements.

I feel an urge to practice deep work after reading this book but I do not intend to let go of the retreats that social networking gives and I can definitely not go deep when I am working in an environment with so many people to coordinate with. I am a writer by choice but a strategist by profession. I love my work and I love interacting with people. But, spending some time in a day working on something that takes my deep attention is no harm. It will only enhance my mental capacities and give me a peaceful time as another benefit.

At some point in time, the strategy did feel impractical if I had to follow it sincerely. How can one go off like Carl Jung and escape into a room for months to work only on a single paper? This concern was also addressed by the author in his first rules chapter – Work Deeply, where he mentioned about the complicated relationship between collaboration and deep work.

He spoke about the theory of serendipitous creativity that talks about creativity emerging from the collaboration. This theory supports the concept of open offices that are designed by new entrepreneurs to allow people to bump into each other and brainstorm to come up with new ideas. You may think that deep work could be impossible and definitely oppose the effective theory. Yet, Cal says that the combination of the two can actually support innovation. I would not get into the details of it as you can read the book for that.

When considering buying this book, just like anyone else, you may want to rely on reviews and would appreciate if hit by social media promotions regularly. But, as I already mentioned, Cal criticizes networking platforms like Facebook so you cannot expect a lot of digital marketing from him. You would not even find a way to connect through any media, be it a social page, or an email on a website.  But, I must mention his credentials and achievements as a thinker and a scholar if you have to trust the book. He is a Ph.D., has published four books, wrote many papers in peer-reviewed journals, and is a renowned professor at Georgetown University. His insights are both observational and psychological that delve on theories and experiences.

A few ideas that I liked in the book are ‘working deeply’ which I already mentioned, ‘drain the shallowness’ of life, and ‘embrace the boredom’. If one has to do nothing but sit idle, I may be the last person to let that happen to me and yet why I liked the idea? Because it could become a shield against distractions which is a big problem in my life. I am excited by too many things and at times, I see myself wanting to learn about almost everything I feel is interesting. I would like to mention some more interesting ideas that he mentioned in the chapter like – When you want to work with intensity, take a break from emails, Facebook, and even daydreaming. He also spoke about concepts of deep meditation and card memorization technique. I would leave the details to the book for you to read.

I wrap up this review with one last thought. The book gives you revelations you need in this highly distracted world and even if do not embrace the idea of deep work completely, you can always find its use in situations demanding high intellectual engagement.


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