On Deep Work
Aug 22, 2020
Christopher Yee
3 minute read

Ask my wife anything about me and she’ll be the first to testify that I have more books than clothing (lol).

One book that dramatically changed my life and highly recommend reading is “Deep Work” by Cal Newport.


Newport’s thesis can be summed up in a couple sentences:

The ability to perform deep work is becoming increasingly rare at exactly the same time it is becoming increasingly valuable in our economy. As a consequence, the few who cultivate this skill, and then make it the core of their working life, will thrive.

He builds the case on why developing this deep work philosophy is valuable, rare, and meaningful in the “Intelligent Machine Age”:

  • Too many distractions
  • More connected than ever before
  • Competing globally
  • There are only a few winners

To achieve success in the modern knowledge economy, the individual needs to master difficult subjects in a short amount of time while producing high quality work. Newport formulates this into an equation:

High-Quality Work Produced = (Time Spent) * (Intensity of Focus)

Despite its simplicity, I think this formula operates similar to a loss function where over/under investment in either factors are penalized. Here is what that graph might look like:

This visualization makes a lot of sense to me.

Not enough time and focus? It means the final output might oversimplify a very complex topic. Spent too much time and effort? Work quality decays because we get stuck in analysis paralysis mode.

Thus, to deliver exceptional work the goal is to significantly increase concentration levels while being cognizant on how much time we sink into the project.

Make it happen

How can someone intensify their focus in the age of unceasing distractions?

Below are a few starting points which have worked for me but I recommend a gradual shift rather than going cold turkey over night:

  • Schedule time blocks on calendar dedicated to deep work
  • Actually turn off the computer at the end of the work day
  • Put cell phone on vibrate and leave it in a different room
  • Log off slack and other social media apps
  • Close email and turn off any desktop notifications during deep work

In fact, I am such a fan of this that I will purchase a copy of the book for you if you are unable to do so - no questions asked.

Please DM me on Twitter or LinkedIn but this offer stands until stated otherwise and is eligible only for US mailing addresses.