Notes: Deep Work by Cal Newport

Deep Work by Cal Newport

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

Race Against the Machine

  • Three successful groups in Intelligent Machine Age
    • High-skilled workers
      • Good at working with complex, intelligent machines
    • Superstars
      • Best of the best in market
        • Competing globally now
    • Owners
      • VCs who invest in new tech

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

  • Ability to quickly master hard things
  • Ability to produce at an elite level, in terms of both quality and speed

Deliberate practice

  • Attention focused tightly on specific skill you're trying to improve or idea you're trying to master
    • Cannot exist alongside distraction
  • Receive feedback so you can correct your approach to keep your attention exactly where it's most productive

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

Attention residue

  • When switching tasks, residue of your attention lingers on original task

What about Jack Dorsey?

  • Distracted people who succeed
  • Certain corners of market where depth is not valued
    • Salesmen or lobbyists whom constant connection is their most valued currency
  • High-level executives like CEOs are valuable because they have experience and instinct for their market
    • Don't need to follow this advice
      • Better to hire three deep thinkers that prevent solutions to CEO for final decision
  • Conversely, can't extrapolate their approach to other jobs
  • Deep work is not the only skill valuable to our economy, but the niches where you can ignore it are increasingly rare

Big business trends

  • Open office, serendipitous collaboration
    • Cost of massive distraction
  • Instant messaging
    • Distraction, attention residue
  • Social media presence
    • Distracts from diving deep into work

Objectively difficult to measure individual contributions

  • Metric black hole
  • The negatives of distractions aren't easily detected

Principle of least resistance

  • In a business setting, without clear feedback on the impact of various behaviors to the bottom line, we will tend towards behaviors that are easiest in the moment

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

  • Shop Class as Soulcraft
    • Objective measurement of success when repairing motorcycles
      • Compared to ambiguity as DC think tank director
  • Industrial Age was the last time productivity was observable
    • Frederic Taylor with stopwatch
    • Only metric: widgets created per unit of time
    • Equals visible busyness in modern times
      • Lack a better way to demonstrate their value
      • Busyness as proxy for productivity

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

Neil Postman - technopoly

  • No longer question that newest tech is best tech
  • Doesn't make alternatives illegal or immoral, makes them invisible and therefore irrelevant

To Save Everything, Click Here

  • Made the Internet synonymous with revolutionary future of business and government
  • Consider than any new innovation is not necessarily the next step in humanity's progress
    • Products are released by for-profit companies
    • Funded by investors hoping to make return
    • Run by millennials who are making things up as they go along
  • To question it is desecration
  • New things are necessary because they exist

Fleet of refrigerated shipping trucks

  • Effort made of commissioning and affixing "like us on Facebook" stickers

Ric Furrer - medieval blacksmith

  • Craft - simple to define but difficult to execute
    • Useful balance for seeking purpose
  • Knowledge work exchanges this clarity for ambiguity

Deep work has meaning

  • Neurological
    • Raptby Winifred Gallagher
      • Connection between attention and happiness
      • What we choose to focus on and ignore factors into our quality of life
    • Traditional perspective
      • Emphasis on circumstances, what does or doesn't happen to us
    • However, our brains construct our worldview based on what we pay attention to
    • Ignore the negative, savor the positive
      • By managing attention, improve your world without changing anything concrete about it
    • Cultivate concentration so intense that there isn't attention left over to think/worry about irrelevant things
    • A focused life is the best kind there is
  • Psychological
    • Flow) by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi
    • Gallagher - content of what we focus on matters
      • Csíkszentmihályi - the feeling of going deep is in itself very rewarding
        • Minds like challenge regardless of subject
    • Deep work well suited to generate flow state
  • Philosophical
    • All Things Shining
      • Loss of sacred things in modern age
      • Also call upon craftsmanship to find meaning
        • Value is inherent to object and the task it's meant to perform
        • Task of craftsman is not to generate meaning but to cultivate in himself the skill of discerning meanings that are already there
          • Frees craftsman of nihilism of autonomous individualism
    • Descartes - individual seeking certainty trumped a god/king bestowing truth
      • Led to Enlightenment + human rights
        • But stripped the world of order and sacredness essential to creating meaning
          • Tasked ourselves to identify what's meaningful
    • Two key observations
      • Nothing intrinsic about manual trades when it comes to generating meaning
        • Any pursuit that supports high level of skill can generate sense of sacredness
        • Coding for example
        • "we who cut mere stones must always be envisioning cathedrals"
        • Specifics of work are irrelevant
          • Meaning is due to skill and appreciation inherent to craftsmanship, not outcomes of the work
      • Cultivating craftsmanship is necessarily a deep task and therefore requires a commitment to deep work

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
    • http://nymag.com/selectall/2016/09/andrew-sullivan-technology-almost-killed-me.html
    • 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
      • http://www.artofmanliness.com/2012/06/01/how-to-memorize-a-deck-of-cards/
        • 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
    • http://calnewport.com/blog/2016/09/21/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