Notes: Deep Work by Cal Newport

Jan 30, 2017

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Cal Newport doesn't have Facebook, Twitter, social media besides blog

Race Against the Machine

Two core abilities for thriving in new economy, depend on ability to perform deep work

Deliberate practice

Batching of hard but important intellectual work into long, uninterrupted stretches

Attention residue

What about Jack Dorsey?

Big business trends

Objectively difficult to measure individual contributions

Principle of least resistance

Knowledge workers don't have good metric for how well they're doing

Alissa Rubin forced to interrupt her deep work in order to tweet to appease the social media desk

Neil Postman - technopoly

To Save Everything, Click Here

Fleet of refrigerated shipping trucks

Ric Furrer - medieval blacksmith

Deep work has meaning

The rules

  1. Work deeply
    • Eudaimonia Machine
      • Creates a setting where users can get into a state to create work to the best of their abilities
      • Line of 5 rooms
        • Gallery
          • Examples of deep work produced in building
          • Meant to inspire, healthy stress and peer pressure
        • Salon
          • Coffee, bar, couches, wifi
          • Place to debate, work through ideas
        • Library
          • Permanent record of all work produced in machine, books and other resources used in previous work
          • Copiers and scanners for collecting information
          • Hard drive of machine
        • Office space
          • Standard conference room + cubicles
          • Complete shallow efforts required by project
          • Administrator in office could improve users' work habits
        • Deep work chambers
          • Allow for total focus and uninterrupted work flow
            • 90 minutes inside, 90-minute break and repeat two or three times
            • Brain will have achieved limit of concentration for the day
    • Willpower tires out
    • Important to add routines and rituals to minimize use of willpower
    • Pick from depth philosophies
      • Monastic
        • Donald Knuth
          • Eliminate/minimize all other types of work
        • Well-defined and highly valued professional goals
          • Bulk of their professional success comes from doing this one thing exceptionally well
      • Bimodal
        • Monastic during these retreats
        • Multiple scales: week, year
          • At lesat one day of deep work
        • For those who can't succeed without some commitment to non-deep pursuits
        • Inaccessible periods should be well defined and advertised if you're working with other people
      • Rhythmic
        • Seinfeld calendar chain method
        • Schedule in blocks of deep work
        • Tradeoff compared to bimodal is that works better with reality of human nature
      • Journalistic
        • Walter Isaacson
          • Whenever he had free time, switch into deep work mode
        • Trained to shift into writing mode at a moment's notice
          • Takes practice to avoid depleting willpower reserves
        • Cal Newport takes this approach
          • Maps out on a weekly basis that adjusts as needed on the fly
    • Ritualize
      • Mason Currey
        • Anyone trying to do creative work - ignore inspiration
      • David Brooks
        • Great creative minds think like artists but work like accountants
      • Minimize friction in transition to depth
      • Where you'll work and for how long
      • How you'll work
        • Keep efforts structured
        • Examples
          • Ban on Internet use
          • Metric like words per half-hour
      • How you'll support your work
        • Light exercise
        • How you organize tools
    • Make grand gestures
      • JK Rowling checked into fancy hotel to finish Deathly Hallows
        • Pay more than $1000 a day at hotel
      • Leverage a radical change to normal environment
        • Coupled with investment of money or effort
        • Increase perceived importance of task in your mind
      • Bill Gates Think Weeks
      • Writing cabins or islands
      • Peter Shankman
        • Booked round-trip ticket to Tokyo and wrote during whole flight
    • Don't work alone
      • Theory of serendipitous creativity
      • Hub and spoke architecture of renovated MIT Building 20
        • Soundproofed offices and large common areas
        • Keep these two separate
      • Expose yourself to ideas in hubs on a regular basis
        • Maintain a spoke to work deeply on what you encounter
      • Whiteboard effect
        • Back and forth collaborative form of deep work
        • Presence of other party waiting for your next insight
    • Execute like a business
      • Tricky part is how to execute strategy once identified
      • 4 Disciplines of Execution
        • Focus on the wildly important
          • More you try to do, the less you accomplish
          • Small number of wildly important goals
          • Let ambitious goals drive focused behavior
            • Specific goals with tangible and substantial benefits
        • Act on lead measures
          • Lag measure
            • Thing you're ultimately trying to improve
            • Come too late to change your behavior
            • g. papers published per year
          • Lead measure
            • New behaviors that will drive success on lag measures
            • Deep work: lead measure is time spent in a state of deep work on wildly important goal
          • Keep a compelling score board
          • Create a cadence of accountability
            • Team meetings, confront scoreboard
            • Weekly review to plan for week ahead
    • Be lazy
      • Deep work requires a mind regularly released to leisure
      • Work shutdown each day
        • No after-dinner email check, stop thinking about work
      • Let unconscious mind untangle hard decisions
      • Conscious mind decisions
        • Strict rules
      • Unconscious thought theory
        • Goody for decisions that involve lots of info and multiple vague/conflicting constraints
      • Attention restoration theory
        • Time in nature improves ability to concentrate
        • Downtime to recharge
      • Will hit your deep work capacity during the workday anyways
      • Shutdown ritual
        • Every incomplete task has been reviewed
          • Confirm there is a plan for completion
          • Capture in a place where it can be revisited at right time
          • Set phrase to indicate completion
          • Cal's
            • Check inbox for anything urgent that needs to be responded to
            • Transfer new tasks into to-do lists
            • Skim all tasks on all lists to make sure not forgetting anything urgent
            • Make a rough plan for next day
          • Zeigarnik effect
            • Incomplete tasks dominate our attention
            • By making a plan for how to finish later, can circumvent the effect
  2. Embrace boredom, improve the limits of your concentration
    • Schedule your Internet time both at work and at home
    • Simply waiting and being bored is great for concentrating training
      • Improve mind's ability to resist distraction, important for deep work
    • Work like Teddy Roosevelt
      • Myriad interests
      • Little time for studying, very focused
        • Consider time between 8:30am - 4:30pm
          • Remove time in classes, exercise, and lunch
          • For the rest of time, only spent studying
            • Studying confined to only just these hours
      • Use Roosevelt dashes to do deep work in spurts
    • Meditate productively
      • Occupied physically but not mentally to focus on a single, well-defined problem
        • Walking, driving, showering
      • Be aware of distractions or looping over known material
      • Structure your deep thinking
        • Review relevant variables for solving problem
        • Define specific "next-step question"
    • Memorize a deck of cards
      • Daniel Kilov, Tansel Ali, Joshua Foer, Ron White - memory champions
      • Attentional control
        • Ability to maintain focus on essential information
        • Two prelim steps
          • 1 Five rooms
            • 10 items in each room
            • Add two more items in backyard to get total of 52
            • Practice walking through these rooms and looking at each item in order
          • 2 Associate a person with each card
            • Practice until you can immediately recall associated image with a randomly-pulled card
        • Can now use any time you need
          • Imagine person interacting with item
      • Could also learn to play guitar part of song by ear
      • The actual trick isn't important
        • About practicing a thought process that requires unwavering attention
        • Train your concentration
  3. Quit social media
    • Craftsman approach instead of any-benefit approach
      • Make sure pros substantially outweigh cons of using a platform
    • Identify high-level goals for professional and personal life
      • List the 2-3 most important activities to achieving these goals
        • General enough so not tied to one-time outcome
    • From network tools, cull any that don't have substantial positive impact
    • Why focus on self-promotion when you can focus on getting good enough that the promotion happens by itself
    • Ryan Nicodemus - packing party
      • Packed everything up
      • If he unpacked it, it stayed
        • Everything else he got rid of
      • Apply to social media
        • Would the last 30 days have been better if I had been able to use this service
        • Did people care that I wasn't
    • Social media short circuits connection between hard work of producing real value and positive reward of having people pay attention to you
    • Arnold Bennett - How to Live on 24 Hours a Day (published 1910)
      • Rise of white-collar work in Industrial Age
      • Danger of looking at work day as your "day" and the remaining hours as prologue and epilogue
      • Use this free time as an aristocrat would - to self-improve
  4. Drain the shallows
    • Basecamp has 4-day workweeks from May to October
    • Gave whole month of July off for employees to work on personal projects
    • An adept deep thinker can spend max of 4 hours in state of depth
    • Schedule every minute of day
      • Re-proportion on the fly throughout the day
      • Overflow conditional blocks
      • Overestimate how long it will take
    • Metric for grading on shallow-deep spectrum
      • How long in months would it take to train a recent college grad with no experience in that field to complete the task?
    • Fixed-schedule productivity
      • Fix firm goal not to work past certain time
      • Work backwards from there
    • Turn down shallow things
      • "sounds interesting, but I can't make it due to schedule conflicts"
      • Don't offer a consolation prize for them ("I can do this instead…")
      • Clean break is best
    • Become hard to reach
      • Sender filter
        • Make people who send you email do more work to get to you
    • Process-centric approach to email
      • Identify project represented by the message, what you want to achieve from the thread
      • What is the most efficient process (in terms of messages generated) to bring this email thread to its conclusion
    • Don't respond
      • Sender's responsibility to convince receiver that a reply is worthwhile
      • Make your case and minimize effort required by professor to respond
      • Don't reply if
        • Ambiguous or hard for you to generate reasonable response
        • Not a question or proposal that interests you
        • Nothing really good would happen if you respond and nothing bad if you didn't

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