Library / Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World

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It’s a fine book, but some parts are a little dry and boring. Main insights are quite basic and common for GTD books, examples are lengthy.

The book consists of two parts: “The Idea” and “The Rules”.

The first part covers the general philosophy behind the concept of deep work. Deep work is a state of mind, in which one is extremely focused and productive and is capable of achieving a lot within a short period. True deep work is a rare mental state, and one should train their skills to develop an ability to enter it.

The second part is mostly a set of practical recommendations, most of which are classic:

  • Quit social media, disable notifications and messengers
  • Schedule a day in advance, and allocate time for deep work (max: 4-5 hours)
  • Set up rituals for deep work (start, end); shutdown ritual at the end of the day
  • Artifical deadlines
  • Boredom - a useful exercise for training life without distractions
  • Review all activities and remove everything that doesn’t justify time spent
  • Setting a cutoff point (Don’t do any work after xx:yy pm)
  • Productive meditation: think about a dedicated problem during a walk/run/cleaning and don’t get distracted

The author introduces the following classification of various regimes of deep work:

  • Bimodal philosophy: live as usual, but sometimes go to the woods for a month of deep work
  • Rhythmic philosophy: live by the schedule, allocate n hours for deep work daily
  • Journalist philosophy: be ready to switch to deep work at any moment once there is an opportunity for that

The introduced deep work and shallow work are similar concepts to hyperfocus and scatterfocus from Hyperfocus.

Most references are to online resources, not so much to scientific papers.

There are shallow discussions of some papers like leroy2009 and masicampo2011.

Quotes (6)

The Rhythmic Philosophy

This chain method (as some now call it) soon became a hit among writers and fitness enthusiasts — communities that thrive on the ability to do hard things consistently. For our purposes, it provides a specific example of a general approach to integrating depth into your life: the rhythmic philosophy. This philosophy argues that the easiest way to consistently start deep work sessions is to transform them into a simple regular habit. The goal, in other words, is to generate a rhythm for this work that removes the need for you to invest energy in deciding if and when you’re going to go deep

The Any-Benefit Approach

The Any-Benefit Approach to Network Tool Selection: You’re justified in using a network tool if you can identify any possible benefit to its use, or anything you might possibly miss out on if you don’t use it.

The Bimodal Philosophy

Jung’s approach is what I call the bimodal philosophy of deep work. This philosophy asks that you divide your time, dedicating some clearly defined stretches to deep pursuits and leaving the rest open to everything else.

Creative Minds

In a New York Times column on the topic, David Brooks summarizes this reality more bluntly: “[Great creative minds] think like artists but work like accountants.

The Journalist Philosophy

I call this approach, in which you fit deep work wherever you can into your schedule, the journalist philosophy. This name is a nod to the fact that journalists, like Walter Isaacson, are trained to shift into a writing mode on a moment’s notice, as is required by the deadline-driven nature of their profession.

Smart Plan

I cannot afford to allow a large deadline to creep up on me, or a morning to be wasted on something trivial, because I didn’t take a moment to craft a smart plan.

References (4)

  1. Hyperfocus (2018) by Chris Bailey Has notes 4 1
  2. GTD
  3. Why is It so Hard to Do My work? The Challenge of Attention Residue When Switching Between Work Tasks (2009) by Sophie Leroy Has notes 1 1 Psychology Flawed
  4. Consider It done! Plan Making Can Eliminate the Cognitive Effects of Unfulfilled Goals (2011) by E. J. Masicampo et al. Has notes 1 1 Psychology Flawed