Book Review: Deep Work

In today’s world bombarded by social media, technology notifications and the culture of instant availability, it is no surprise every individual dreams for more time to relax or work undisturbed. Cal Newport is a professor at Georgetown University and wrote the book Deep Work in hopes of providing rules for focused success in a distracted world.

Professional activities performed in a state of disctraction-free concentration that pushes your cognitive abilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improved skills, and hard to replicate.

The definition of Deep Work by Cal Newport

This article highlights three main strategies from the book that can be incorporated into your schedule to heighten your ability to focus and produce results that are hard to replicate.

Scheduling distractions

Whether it is at home or at work, schedule your distraction periods. Most individuals go online at any moment and check on their phones whenever it buzzes a notification but by doing so, it trains your brain to avoid deep work – a day full of unscheduled distraction is training your brain to give in to any, and all distractions! To build your tolerance to avoid disctaction, you will need to place boundaries on your distractions.

Keep a notepad nearby and note down the next distraction break you will have. Hold your focus until that time comes. At first, it will be painful, but remember that by doing this, it will effectively develop your ability to concentrate. Similar to the repetitions when lifting a barbell and over time, progressing towards lifting more weight!

Develop a rhythmic deep work ritual

Newport says that the easiest way to consistently start a deep work session is to transform them into a simple regular habit. In other words, the goal is to generate a rhythm for this work that removes the need for you to invest energy in deciding if and when you are going to “go deep”.

The book states several examples to reveal that scheduling chunks of deep focus in an ad hoc manner does not yield much productivity. For people who are not seasoned at doing deep work, it is best for them to have a reoccuring time each day or each week to go into deep work. Findings report that the early morning is the best time to do this because there is no need to deal with incoming requests, phone calls and others.

The research finds that people who are new to deep work can typically do it for only about an hour. While a master of deep work can hold their attention for up to four hours in intervals between 60 to 90 minutes throughout the day. The ultimate goal each day is to plant deep work rituals throughout the day with the paramount goal of building up the sum of your deep work practices to four hours a day.

Evening Shutdown Complete Ritual

The final strategy to cultivate deep work in your life is to have a daily shutdown complete ritual – sleep is the price we need to pay in order to do deep work. In order to achieve deep work, we must ensure that we get adequate sleep and restore our attentional reserves for the following day. Newport recommends that we incorporate an evening shutdown into our daily routine.

An evening shutdown ritual involves making a plan to complete any unfinished tasks goals or projects the following day. Getting a series of steps lined out for the following day is enough to get items off your mind so you can disconnect for the rest of the day. When you get things off your mind you restore the ability to sleep well and perform deep work the following day. After Newport completes his plan for the following day, he would say to himself “shutdown complete” – it’s pretty cheesy but he says it’s a great cue to unplug!


Deep Work is a valuable book to train your brain to produce innovative work that is hard to replicate. The easy and comprehensive manner Newport teaches deep work rituals and reducing the fear of leaving shallow work behind makes this book an easy read for anyone looking to make something meaningful in this world, develop productivity or improving working in academia.