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Book Review – ‘Deep Work’ by Cal Newport

The world today is full of distractions. From the addictive pleasures and dopamine rushes of social media to the constant stream of entertainment from on-demand TV, it’s never been more difficult to focus on one thing for a prolonged period.

It’s a subject that Georgetown University computer science professor and author Cal Newport feels strongly about. His book, ‘Deep Work’, lays out a series of ground rules for anyone who wants to get their work done in a more focused, disciplined way.

The first part of the book starts by defining what the author means by ‘deep work’, and why it is important. Newport, through a series of real-life cases, shows us that people today are losing the ability to focus on a given task for a prolonged period. This, Newport believes, results in work that is not as good as it could be. Instead, by learning to focus on a single task in an intense way over a set amount of time, we can create work of a higher standard—and we’ll feel better about it, too.

Part two lays down a number of rules to follow in order to sharpen your own ability to work deeply. These include things like quitting social media, embracing boredom, and thinking like a business. These frameworks are more nuanced than the subtitles suggest, but they do offer straightforward, pinpointed advice to help you work better.

While some of the rules feel slightly too prescriptive in nature (suggesting that someone should quit all of their social media accounts is a big ask), they are all backed-up by insightful case studies to reinforce the thinking.

An important aspect of ‘Deep Work’ is the idea that focused work not only allows you to be more productive but that it also enables you to feel more fulfilled. It’s certainly a compelling argument. We’ve all had that feeling of sleepwalking through a day of work, not really applying yourself to a task, due in large part to the constant distractions of a connected life. If that sounds familiar to you, then this book is worthy of investigation.

Of course, to many people, the teachings in ‘Deep Work’ will feel like simple common-sense practices. After all, do we really need a book to tell us that we’ll make better stuff if we ease off on checking Twitter every fifteen minutes? It turns out that, for many of us, the answer is yes, we do.

The beauty of Newport’s book (and his equally celebrated ‘So Good They Can’t Ignore You’) is that it weaves together a cohesive philosophy that we can buy into wholesale. It’s a book to absorb, re-read and take as a bible for getting better work done in a more satisfying way.

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