Deep Work Book Summary (PDF) by Cal Newport

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Ready to learn the most important takeaways from Deep Work in less than two minutes? Keep reading!

Why This Book Matters:

In this must-read book, Cal Newport will show you why silencing the hundreds of distractions that bombard you every day and carving out time for deep work is the only way to accomplish worthwhile goals and live a fulfilling life.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Don’t mistake being busy for being productive
    1. What separates high achievers from everyone else is their capacity for deep work, which is the ability to focus on a challenging task.
    2. Example: Great works of literature, innovative inventions, and successful businesses were all a result of deep work, or the creators’ ability to focus on a difficult task until they solved it.
  2. Deep work is a muscle that must be exercised, or it will atrophy
    1. We’re unaccustomed to deep work because we’re inundated by shallow tasks and distractions that demand our focus.
    2. Example: Study participants who were interrupted by a task while working on a puzzle performed worse on the task than those who completed the puzzle without distractions.
  3. The monastic approach to deep work requires seclusion
    1. By isolating yourself like a monk, you eliminate all distractions and allow yourself to get into a deep state of focus.
    2. Example: J.K. Rowling cooped herself up in a hotel to finish her last Harry Potter book.
  4. The bimodal approach to deep work requires setting aside time for seclusion
    1. Block out time for uninterrupted work and tend to other tasks the rest of the day so that your most important work gets done first.
    2. Example: An employee blocks out three hours daily for deep work on the shared calendar.
  5. The rhythmic approach helps you cultivate the habit of deep work
    1. Set aside time for deep work every day, so it becomes a habit.
    2. Example: If you want to blog every day, find a place you enjoy like a coffee shop and create the habit of going there every day to blog.
  6. Take advantage of free moments in your day with the journalistic approach
    1. Deep work doesn’t have to be planned. If you find some downtime, shut off the distractions, put up a “do not disturb” sign, and get to work.
    2. Example: Your dinner date just canceled. Turn off the TV and dive into deep work.
  7. Use productive meditation to take advantage of unstructured time
    1. Try to leverage moments like when you’re in the shower or commuting to brainstorm solutions to a problem you are trying to solve. These moments are often when we are at our most creative.
    2. Example: Writers who can outline a piece in their mind while driving home from work may come up with a more innovative piece than if they were to just stare at their computer screen.
  8. Keys to deep work: embrace boredom, quit social media, limit shallow work
    1. Shallow tasks such as email or social media are like addictions: hard to quit at first, and the boredom is uncomfortable.
    2. Example: When you do break away from shallow work, you can fill the void with deep work, which is what will move the needle for you on whatever path you are on.

Want To Keep Reading?

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I started Two Minute Books to help people improve their lives and their businesses or careers. My work has been featured by the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the U.S. & U.K. Governments. You can read my writing about digital nomading & life improvement at