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Book Review: Deep Work

When you work, work hard. When you’re done, be done.

I’ve read a lot of books about how to increase your productivity and I’ve tried a few techniques, but I think this book goes deeper than any other one I’ve read: it tells about the importance of Deep Work and how to work deeply in an era of instant messaging, open offices and constant push notifications on our phones.

Why is that so important ? If you’re like me and work with technology it is not unusual to discover a new technique/language/stack/buzzword envery now and then, and with every new trend comes learning. It is also expected that you perform on our job at an elite level in terms of both quality and speed. However, our latest trends on our industry are Instant Messaging, Open Offices while we seem to be connected all the time (and proactively receiving push notifications on our phones) to a handful of social networks, which isn’t helping that you thrive. This is making people that learns fast and delivers the best work so well valued on our industry.

The book starts with three chapters making the case for Deep Work, why it matters, how it changed the author’s life, and then it goes to how to work deeper with 4 rules (each one described on its own chapter).

The first rule is Work Deeply this seems the whole goal, but there are various pitfalls: how will your willpower sustain your deep work ? How to deal with shallow commitments such as answering to e-mail or going to meetings ? This chapter explain some strategies and how someone can incorporate deep work in his/her daily work (specially if your occupation requires non-deep work as well).

Embrace Boredom is the second rule: it talks about the internet as an agent of distraction, and if you’re distracted all the time when you’re not working, you will also distract when you’re not bored: when you’re bored, do you usually pick up your phone and access a social network or play a game ? If so, you can’t cultivate focus time. As the book quotes:

Don’t take break from distraction, take break from focus,

so cultivate some time off (specially taking internet-breaks).

Following, the third chapter talks about another agent of distraction: Quit Social Media: time is a limited resource, and when you think about how much time do you spend checking your Facebook or twitter feed ? What I really liked about this is that the author presents the any benefit mindset: you think that because of any benefit you might get, you keep using it, without considering the drawbacks. However, if you coldly analyze, and see if it is helping your not your biggest life goals, you might see that the social networks might be costing you relevant time. Despite the dramatic chapter title, the author asks you to evaluate the social networks you’re using and see if it indeed worth it as mileages may vary and it might be useful for you.

Finally, the last rule is about time management, it is called Drain the shallow: I really liked this chapter: the author makes a point on why you should be more thoughtful with your time: you might be wasting it with something and not be aware of that, so he suggests that you keep a notebook (I’m using a calendar) and put a use to every minute of your day, including scheduling shallow tasks. He also recommends a fixed schedule technique: you should finish your workday by a specific time every day, to make time a more valuable resource (as deep work is limited and if you try to squeeze more you won’t ble) and enforcing you to make decisions on what to commit and to use it wisely and to restore your energy for the following day.

One thing that I’ve liked is that the author studied several knowledge workers like Carl Jung, Ted Roosevelt, Donald Knuth, Neal Stephenson, Bill Gates among others and how deep work made such a big difference on their lives. He also does not present it in a dogmatic way, but he rather gives the whys (and quotes academical works when doing so) such techniques provide great results and some real-life examples of each rule.

I’d recommend this book for everyone that does some kind of knowledge work: it might give you some insights on how to increase your skills. It is a great reading for those interested on how to work better, and how to boost your creative power to achieve your full-potential.

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