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Deep Work (Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World)

Cal Newport · 23 HN comments
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One of the most valuable skills in our economy is becoming increasingly rare. If you master this skill, you'll achieve extraordinary results. Deep work is the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task. It's a skill that allows you to quickly master complicated information and produce better results in less time. Deep work will make you better at what you do and provide the sense of true fulfillment that comes from craftsmanship. In short, deep work is like a super power in our increasingly competitive twenty-first century economy. And yet, most people have lost the ability to go deep-spending their days instead in a frantic blur of e-mail and social media, not even realizing there's a better way. In DEEP WORK, author and professor Cal Newport flips the narrative on impact in a connected age. Instead of arguing distraction is bad, he instead celebrates the power of its opposite. Dividing this book into two parts, he first makes the case that in almost any profession, cultivating a deep work ethic will produce massive benefits. He then presents a rigorous training regimen, presented as a series of four "rules," for transforming your mind and habits to support this skill. A mix of cultural criticism and actionable advice, DEEP WORK takes the reader on a journey through memorable stories -- from Carl Jung building a stone tower in the woods to focus his mind, to a social media pioneer buying a round-trip business class ticket to Tokyo to write a book free from distraction in the air -- and no-nonsense advice, such as the claim that most serious professionals should quit social media and that you should practice being bored. DEEP WORK is an indispensable guide to anyone seeking focused success in a distracted world.
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I finished this book a few months ago. It has a few practical tips for improving focus! Recommend checking it out.

Deep work is one of my favorite books of all time. Also highly recommend 'Getting Things Done' by David Allen
I really liked Cal Newport's first book, "So Good They Can't Ignore You", published in 2012 [1]. The titular sentence is great advice, one I've been following all my life.

Meanwhile a lot of time went by, I'm almost 40, and I have worked at 8-10 companies (incl. FAANG, my own startup). His later advice, from the book "Deep Work", was not in line with my work experience [2]. The problem is, Cal doesn't have a regular 9-5 job as a tech worker, at a tech company. He's in academia (and self-employed), which is very different --- I know, I also worked in academia! And this shows.

For example, I was reading his book Deep Work while I was at Facebook, where the whole company is on Workplace/Workchat internally, with frequent notification/mention/chat interrupts, and the culture is to have quick response times. So no Deep Work, yet velocity and productivity is very high. It's not true that you need a lot of focused time to get things done, you can manage it in smaller chunks. It'd be convenient, but it's not realistic.

Reflecting on this article, in my experience, the key thing to focus on for companies is not personal productivity but team organization. The topline differentiator between high-velocity and high-productivity organizations versus the rest is that these are a collection of self-sufficient cross-functional product teams. The rest, which is most organizations, usually run "projects" instead of products, and multiple departments and teams, with different reporting lines, goals, OKRs/KPIs, etc. are exptected to work together to make it happen --- the result is the organization becomes one big waiting/blocking graph, with 80% of projects being blocked at any given time. This also makes personal productivity harder, because more "sync" and "alignment" type email threads and meetings are needed. In this model people have to work with more people they don't know/trust, so more people are communicating with each other who don't know how to communicate with each other, they may not even know the other person's exact job description or timezone location.

Having said that, I appreciate Cal's perspective, and I'm happy to support him by buying his books.



Background about this project --

I read Cal Newport's Deep Work (, which explains how to work in a way that maximizes your output. In short, he recommends spending short periods of time hyper-focused on difficult problems with absolutely no distractions.

I applied this way of working to how I approached studying for software engineering and it helped me tremendously. I was able to pick up difficult solutions quite quickly without spending huge amounts of time studying. I've continued to use this way of working over the last couple of years, which has helped me perform well at work + on side projects.

During this time, I had no way to track my deep work hours or what I was getting done in those sessions. This allows you to do just that. You can think of it like Google Analytics for your Deep Work time.

It's in the early stages now, but I'm in the process of adding essential features.

I read Cal Newport's Deep Work (, which explains how to work in a way that maximizes your output. In short, he recommends spending short periods of time hyper-focused on difficult problems with absolutely no distractions.

I applied this way of working to how I approached studying for software engineering and it helped me tremendously. I was able to pick up difficult solutions quite quickly without spending huge amounts of time studying. I've continued to use this way of working over the last couple of years, which has helped me perform well at work + on side projects.

During this time, I had no way to track my deep work hours or what I was getting done in those sessions. This allows you to do just that. You can think of it like Google Analytics for your Deep Work time.

It's in the early stages now, but I'm in the process of adding essential features.

Looks interesting, I drop link here for future reference.
Oct 18, 2018 · Omnius on Idleness as Flourishing
You should read "Deep Work" i found it very enlightening and have put a lot of it into practice to make sure i have time for deep and creative work.

Thanks for the recommendation, I'll check it out
I recommend reading The Shallows by Nicholas Carr before reading Deep Work.
Because Deep Work is more a "how", while The Shallows is more of a "why". It's good to know why, before you try to get to know how. Specifically, The Shallows is an investigation into what the Internet and modern technology does to the brain and what kind of side-effects it may have (affecting our ability to focus). It's a very well-written and accessible book.

Deep Work is more of a how-to book - about how to get ahead in world that's losing its ability to focus (due to the stuff described in The Shallows).

Thanks for responding!
Thanks for the follow up i have ordered the book. I didn't find deep work lacking but still look forward to reading the shallows.
I was addicted to browsing during my work. I knew I was wasting my time and it is not helping. I would resolve to not so it again. Then slowly I would fall back into my old ways. What helped was realizing that it is easy to do something 100% of the time than 95% of the time. Previously rationalized when I was getting distracted by telling myself it is just for 5 mins which inevitably resulted in more rationalising and realizing only after an hour. Now when I get distracted and realize it, I just stop it there and then and get back to work. I also made some changes like having specific internet time and strictly avoiding it during other time also helped. Read the book deep work by Cal Newport. It has these and various other ways to focus more.
I found the same to be broadly true for me. One small tip to break the habit - use your hosts file to straight up block distracting websites on your work PC. You can still read them elsewhere when not working. This really helped me break the subconscious habit of checking distracting news sources.

And yes, I blocked HN on my work PC.

There is another great book written by Cal: Deep Work [1].

Don't follow your passion. Instead, become really good at something. Apply methodical approach to improve your craft skills. Once you got mastery, you might actually like it.


edit: formatting

I've read the book. I actually disagree with Cal on the that one for the simple reason you can be really, really good at something and not passionate about it.

I think there's a trick here though - get really good at something and then use that to make someone else's life better - now that is something you can probably get passionate about.

This whole passion debate will run and run though - I don't think anyone really has the definitive solution - it will be different for different people.

> Don't follow your passion. Instead, become really good at something.

The important question always seems to be: at what?

You can't pick a lot of things because mastery takes years, and if you picked something you're unsuited for, you've just wasted a lot of time.

This just doesn't seem like a high value proposition.

The author references Cal Newport's Deep Work [1]. I recently read this book and I can't recommend it enough. It's not just a productivity fluff piece about the importance of focus. He brings an academic rigor to the debate and backs up his claims with legitimate evidence. Best of all, the book is not just theory, it's 100% actionable.

I used Newport's recommendations to reclaim 4+ solid hours of deep focus and it's had a tremendous impact on my productivity and general quality of life.

Here are a few strategies I found successful:

* Create a TODO list each day and separate tasks into shallow and deep categories

* Block off each hour of the day and and fill it with one of the TODO items

* Restrict shallow work to 2 hours (after 2 hours, say no to everything shallow)

* Create a scorecard and track the number of deep hours each day (this number should increase)

* Experiment with Newport's recommendations for two weeks and see which ones increase your deep hours

* Become comfortable saying no


I recall that Cal Newport suggests three ways of scheduling deep work. 1) dedicate a portion of the day: Writer John Grisham regularly writes from 7 to 10 every morning. 2) dedicate a portion of the year: Cal gives the example of a professor who moves out to a remote cabin for several months each year to be away from distraction and do deep work. 3) ad hoc with tracking: Cal himself fits in deep work whenever he can and tracts it, making sure that he is spending the desired amount of hours every week. Any of these methods can work.
Yes, and the article also lists them out. Cal Newport gives these strategies for scheduling deepwork:

- Monastic: “This philosophy attempts to maximize deep efforts by eliminating or radically minimizing shallow obligations.” — isolate yourself for long periods of time without distractions; no shallow work allowed.

- Bimodal: “This philosophy asks that you divide your time, dedicating some clearly defined stretches to deep pursuits and leaving the rest open to everything else.” – dedicate a few consecutive days (like weekends, or a Sunday, for example) for deep work only, at least one day a week.

- Rhythmic: “This philosophy argues that the easiest way to consistently start deep work sessions is to transform them into a simple regular habit.” – create a daily habit of three to four hours every day to perform deep work on your project.

- Journalistic: “in which you fit deep work wherever you can into your schedule.” — Not recommended to try out first, since you first need to accustom yourself to deep work.

What has worked for me in the past has been to create an initial list of TODO items comprising a mix of vague inquiries, curiosities, and specific tasks.

During the day I work from that list, either performing the work for the item or expanding an item into additional more detailed items. Most items will expand into multiple smaller items as they are picked up.

Completed items get a few comments and are moved below the unfinished items, so that a historical stack gets built up over time which can be fodder for monthly progress reports.

I have found this to be incredibly useful from a productivity standpoint, a morale boost, and as a historical record. It requires some discipline to sit down for 15 minutes at the end of each workday to update the list.

This just seems like a crazy amount of micro-management when often the answer is to just set a goal and complete it. Categorising and reducing tasks in this way is surely not healthy long term. Sorry! No more shallow work today. Can't do that. It simply can't work for most people.
As with goals, this will just push you in a direction. You don't have to be absolutely rigid, but at least you'll start to feel when you are straying from your real goals.
Yeah, but just setting a goal and completing it is something a lot of people just don't do anymore - not when you let yourself get distracted by things like emails, messages, or people appearing at your desk. Focusing on getting a task done (and not tolerating any distractions from that) is the main point of the "technique", I'd say.
> * Restrict shallow work to 2 hours (after 2 hours, say no to everything shallow)

Except when the initial classification of a task as “shallow” is incorrect, and it actually should’ve been “deep” (although, this shouldn’t happen too often, except when it does happen).

Agreed, really a great book!
>Block off each hour of the day and and fill it with one of the TODO items

Generally agree with the points but I'd like to note that this point is the most likely failure point in the method. Organizing the day by hours doesn't work for a lot of people. Most productivity books in the old days (60's) recommended it. They generally don't anymore due to the low success rate. That was one of the first things I tried as a student and it didn't work.

I find time and productivity management similar to dieting. It's not about which one is theoretically or objectively the best. It's about which method you personally can stick to. What works for one person will not for the next guy.

You've hit one of the core problems, but your perception of what Cal recommends and what you should do to achieve deep work is wrong.

For deep work, you should be able to block a chunk of your day to do important tasks without being interrupted. That's not the same as organizing the day by hours. This blocked chunk can be dynamic to accommodate emergencies, but you must be able to say nobody should interrupt me for the next few hours at some point in your day.

Otherwise how can you engage in something deep? I've been in this situation many times. I can't do any productive work in my office because there's an endless stream of interruptions, emergencies and stupid things going on. That's why I have to resort to doing all significant work at home, where nobody can annoy me.

I was not in position to block away time like that for years. Currently I am in such position, but that is rather exceptional state. (Home was worst than in work actually.)
Home was worst than in work actually

Yeah, finding that at the moment.

There's a very relevant article on this subject by Paul Graham:
This is a great article. I’ve come back to it many times over the years.

But it always puzzles me why Y Combinator companies don’t organize with the built-in default of private offices, even in brand new startups, but at least for sure in YC companies that grow to tens of employees or more.

Given such an impassioned writing about the need for privacy in workspace, why don’t we see YC putting out articles or blog posts on the value of private offices, for example like Stack Overflow does.

It’s like YC wants to be viewed as progressive (for recognizing how bad open-plan offices were ahead of the curve) but then to ignore this to just grift from unwitting junior employees who may unquestioningly join a startup and not think to negotiate for protection of the privacy they need as a basic workspace tool.

I can stick to eating candy and cake.
For how long?
Until it is all empty and my stomach is sick ...

And then I don't like it for a while...

When I crave chocolate pudding, I'll eventually make a bowl, and instead of splitting it into many desert cups (which I would just crave for), I eat the entire bowl in one go. Then I'm cured from pudding for a while.

Chips (or fries) though, I can't resist. Better not to buy any...

This is a common way to deal with diets and other things.

Do enough of the bad stuff to get sick of it enough to associate it with bad feedback, and that should keep you away from it in the future.

I try this with beer from time to time, the hangover isn't enough to make me quit for any significant amount of time :p.
This is addressed in Cal's book. He acknowledges no plan will survive the day perfectly. Basically, you just re-prioritize your blocks throughout the day. The goal is not to break the day into hour long blocks as much as it is to always have a priority and to maintain focus on that priority. Things happen and no plan survives contact with reality. I have found this method to work well and fit with a modern knowledge worker's work patterns for the most part.
“In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” – General Dwight D Eisenhower
“Failing to plan is planning to fail.”
"Prior planning prevents piss-poor performance"
Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth - Mike Tyson
There's a lot of truth and value in that quote, but understanding the context behind it is important. It's boxing - everyone understands they will be punched in the mouth, has practiced getting punched, etc.

You need a plan, but have to be able to adapt to changing circumstances.

For reference, that quote was given in an interview about his upcoming fight against Evander Holyfield. Holyfield dominated the fight, Tyson bit him twice, and the fight was stopped in the 11th round with Holyfield as the winner.

(It would have been more arrogant to say, but perhaps more honestly stated as "Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth by Mike Tyson". Tyson is widely considered to be the hardest hitting boxer in history. He retired with a record of 50-6, with 44 wins by knockout and 22 of those knockouts were in the first round.)

You're conflating the two Tyson/Holyfield fights. Tyson bit Holyfield twice in the second fight which was stopped in the third round (with Tyson being disqualified).

> "You need a plan, but have to be able to adapt to changing circumstances."


Unfortunately, not all us are the masters of our own universe of deadlines. Too often they're semi arbitrary, set by someone who's not aware of the intricacies, etc.

The point being, even when you have a great plan to get something done, it might not be good enough in the broader (distorted) context? Then what?

You do the best you can? You are always the master of your dealing with your reality.

Communicate. Express your perspective. Manage your reaction. Master what you have domain over, your reactions to the world. Do not be a slave to disappointment.

Sou, let's say a new deadline sets you up for failure. You communicate this perspective. You manage the pang of panic, get to work, do your best.

It's still failure.

It's not that you disappoint yourself, since you _knew_ it was practically impossible to succeed. You dealt with your reality, you mastered your domain. People will still get angry and disappointed that the deadline was not met. Not always, but some (most) of the time, you'll end up taking the blame, or even disciplined/fired.

What you're met with is "So what, change jobs, reframe your perspective, grab life by the balls".

This kind of positive thinking does not solve anything. It's simplistic and misdirected. You'll eventually find this situation in every job you take (or make). What can you learn from the experience? No amount of "mastering your reality" will make this a positive experience. Ok, maybe the first time, you learn that you can't always win. But that is all, no lessons learned for all subsequent ocurrences.

Yes, I'm bitter. But you're saccharine.

Not your fault, but i'm sick of seeing this kind of naive responses that belong in mugs or motivational posters.

I don't think that this belongs on a mug. What is your alternative? What would you do instead?

I'm not saying that this response will fix the problem. But it seems that the first part: communicate your perspective; is crucial. If you don't, then you still fail, but people will believe you thought it possible.

I like to disagree and commit. Keeps me sane, and at least I can show that I knew shit would hit the fan.

That was my point. The ancient stoics would advise you to administer control over what you can. If you did the best you can to influence the situation to a positive result, and it still failed, there is nothing you can do. All that is left is how you react to the situation. Modern psychology would call this CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy). Basically, your reaction and how you deal with things internally is all that is left after you have done what you can. Life has so many elements beyond our control. Focus on what you can change and do not let the unchangeable pull you down. I appreciate your frustration at my advice. If I didn't practice it myself and know how hard it can be to follow, I would never blithely hand it out as some sort of cure all to what ails your mind. It is hard. The mindset takes work. It isn't a magical switch to flip. This is /not/ positive thinking. Stoics did not practice positive thinking in the way pop culture does. In fact they embraced reflecting on negative aspects of life. People will get angry at you for things beyond your control. Your friends or loved ones may die tomorrow. You might get fired. The goal is not to make bad experiences as positive. It is to acknowledge the bad things happened and return to a neutral or centered mental state so you can go on living life. It is kind of a Zen philosophy on that never aiming for "positive" outcomes all the time that we experience fulfillment and joy. There is a lot more to CBT and Stoicism, but this is the high level of it. Hope this explains it some more.

I feel like "reality" is a good placeholder for Mike Tyson. It hits quite hard at times :)

"No plan survives contact with the enemy." - Helmuth von Moltke the Elder

Some clarification for readers: this generally doesn't mean that a plan is scrapped entirely; it means that changes are normal and anticipated (i.e. NOT an automatic sign of failure) that as new information comes to light and circumstances shift, those executing a plan should be adaptable enough to make adjustments where prudent. In fact, decentralized command was developed in order to allow highly-functioning teams to actively exploit unforeseen advantages which develop as a battle/campaign unfolds.

Although these concepts were forged on the battlefield, they are 100% relevant to civilian 'battles' as well - in this case, time management.

Fwiw I prefer Mike Tyson's:

"Everyone has a plan, until they get punched in the mouth."

Or something like that. Life and work are random and sometimes chaotic. That's never going to change. Plans __and (personal) expectations__ should be recalibrated to align with reality.

One step is to acknowledge that you're not supposed to be good at task switching. It takes a negative toll on everybody. Our brains just aren't very good at it. Because of this, your employer, if you have one, should take steps to minimize the amount of task switching required, or at least try to give you blocks of time you can dedicate to focused tasks.

That said, task switching is a practical reality, so coping strategies are important, too.

For help with that, check out Cal Newport's "Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World" ( Full disclosure: He and I share a literary agent.

The acknowledgment that task switching is difficult when fully immersed in an existing focus that requires creative thinking has been an area of conflicting points of view in my current position as a developer, especially since I tend to play project manager and business analyst consistently in my projects. The tasks individually may not always seem that difficult from the surface, but they always seem to require the necessary attention to ensure they are resolved efficiently and effectively, which can be difficult when you’re trying to orchestrate everything while trying to make sure that one piece specifically is executed properly. I’ve been told that’s just how things go and there’s no getting around it so I’ve been forced to adopt my own strategies. My constant insistence that there are times that I will be working on one thing and nothing else unless the sky is falling has helped to a point, although the way this has often been executed results in me pulling an all-nighter so that I can focus without distractions. Reviewing my time sheets will show adjoining 16-19 hour days when I’m working on a large project just due to the fact that I’ve built up inertia and I know that may not last once a client issue comes up or a new project comes down the pipeline. It’s not all bad though and I somewhat seem to thrive to be honest. I think a lot of it just comes down to how you’re wired and having an employer that is able to sympathize with you.
I see that this is a workbook for So Good They Can't Ignore You. How did it help you? Thanks for the tip.
I didn't know that Deep Work was a workbook for SGTCIY. In fact, I read Deep Work as a separate book. And I haven't yet read SGTCIY.

If you're interested in improving your productivity by simplifying your work, it is a good book.

But like all self-help books its effect wears off over time.

Keep in mind that Cal Newport is an academic at MIT. He has autonomy, he works in a field he loves etc. For other people his point of view is valuable, but his advice IMHO is not that easy to follow. You may need to improvise and find your own way.

+1 on Deep Work. This book changed my working habits. I'm also a developer and task switching is nearly impossible.
I've been practicing deep work since reading Cal's book just after it was released. Like any of the good habits it's a tough one to form and keep but the outcome can be tremendous. Deep work has allowed me crank on solo. I do one thing at a time. While I'm doing that task I'm basically disconnected from the world - No email, no messaging, no phone, nothing. I've got 2 kitchen timers on my desk: One set to 60min, the other 15min. I spend the whole day offline alternating between focused tasks for 60min and 15min breaks. I'm constantly surprised by how much I can accomplish with 40min still left on the timer. During the 15min breaks I stay offline. Using this approach of doing one thing at a time I find it's relatively easy to flow from one thing to the next. Unless I crack and get pulled into a network tool :)

For longer, 2-3 day tasks, I completely log off and don't connect to the world until it's done. This means avoiding any network tool through the evenings and mornings until the stretch is over. Easier said than done. Some of my family and friends think I'm weird or get frustrated by my inaccessibility. But they get over it.

After a 2-3 day deep binge like the OP I also face challenges moving from one discipline (say programming) to another (a marketing video). One tool I use is yoga. For a while I had a daily meditation habit going but it's been replaced with 2-3x / week hot yoga. I find it has a way of cleansing my mind and energizing me for the next thing. I also go on fat bike rides to unlock the power nature's constant stimuli has on your mind as Cal talks about in the book.

Really interesting and helpful advice, thanks. Saved it to a personal wiki for stuff like this.

I use a kitchen timer, too, which has minutes and seconds (e.g., digital).

Some tasks with too much inertia/resistence I ask: "Can I work on this for 5 minutes? 2 minutes? 15 seconds?"

That will build momentum and show that it's often not as hard as it seems when you're on the other side of history.

Cal Newport - Deep Work

While following the advice in the book did push my productivity up, sadly I didn't manage to keep up those habits. But it does appear to work, just need to make the right adjustments to make it easier to follow.

Yes, that precisely what I wanted to say. For newbies, I would recommend to read this fantastic book on Deep work [1]


Aug 23, 2017 · beat on Disconnect. Offline only
For those interested in managing online time and getting ourselves offline regularly, the book Deep Work, by Cal Newport, has some very useful ideas. One that I plan to start experimenting with is the idea of scheduled internet access - allow yourself to get online only at certain times of day. This isn't just for work. Even if you're, say, standing in line at the grocery store, you don't get to pull your phone out and check your email.

As the author points out, we've forgotten how to be bored. We need to learn to engage that part of our brain again.

> As the author points out, we've forgotten how to be bored.

I find outdoor activity to be one of the best way to be 'bored'. You have to focus on what your body is doing, you're back in nature, you'll be getting exercise.

Leave the podcast/spotify at home.

I advocate for taking time off to literally do nothing. No schedule. No purpose. No clocks. Just get up and operate based on the sun's movement and your own bodies needs. Be bored. Slow down time and fully disconnect from work. It's a hell of an experience.
It's hell indeed.
I'm on vacation this week and did exactly this on Sunday-Tue. It's Wednesday now and I feel feel very, very refreshed and relaxed. Focus is much easier today than it has been for some time.
As another person mentions, the book delivers a great nessage/idea, question is if a book is needed for sometthing which could have been summarized in a post. But 99% of self-help books belong to this category.

Besides, I am wondering if HN is a good and free lead generation channel for self-help books since I see many people pointing to the right book in the right thread and context. This could be easily scaled.

That would require it to be controlled, really. People recommend certain books because they're good. Word of mouth advertising.

You can't just take word of mouth and automate it and productize it somehow. That kills its nature.

This is what I subtly questioned: How do you want to know if it's real word of mouth or growth hacking?
I cannot imagine the author of this book resorting to growth hacking.
I've bought lots of books through HN recommendations, more often than not they're great. I do always check a bit of the poster's submission/comment history though, because people definitely do try to pitch their eBook or SaaS here.
I bought Deep Work off a HN recommendation, that included a whole bunch of follow-on comments about how great it was.

And it was well worth it.

> As the author points out, we've forgotten how to be bored. We need to learn to engage that part of our brain again.

This sounds like a contradiction. Isn't boredom precisely the state that results when one fails to engage their brain?

I would put it as, we've forgotten how to not be distracted. The mind needs time to wander.
He meant we can't stand to be bored anymore. At the slightest chance we immediately look for distractions, like the internet.

I agree with this but would emphasize that this is just an exercise to get free from a distracted state in your mind all the time.

I feel like this is a common semantic disagreement.

Some people want to encourage disconnecting yourself from external stimulus, and just enjoying your own thoughts, and use the word "boredom" to describe this. Whereas other people feel that "boredom" means the frustrating state of being entirely unengaged.

I sometimes wonder if people who don't disconnect very often haven't experienced much of the latter kind of boredom, and so aren't as aware of it as a negative thing.

Boredom is the state of not being satisfied with any of the sources of reward currently available in your environment.
Kind of. But you can see boredom as the desire for novelty, a cue to find something new so we can get that dopamine hit. Phones, internet and media are fantastic at giving us that little kick to keep us going, so we don't feel the need to engage our brain in more useful ways. Without that easy access to the dopamine treadmill that is your phone, you are encouraged to seek novelty elsewhere. This might be in wandering thoughts, seeking interaction with people or things around you, or some other endeavor.

To think a little further forward, doing this tends to increase the time until the next novelty, so you get practiced in not constantly seeking immediate gratification. It helps increase your ability to be patient and to concentrate, which in part is the ability to not switch tasks at the first hint of boredom.

thanks for the recommendation!
My hope is looking at your phone/social media account will become like wearing fur.
While I'm fond of "deep work the idea", the book was a real disappointment. It's mostly selling the idea instead of explaining how to do something with it.

I followed the author's blog for a while, and I'd say a few key blog posts are enough to get the point accross. Even there it gets repetitive quickly.

The idea is good, it just doesn't require so much elaboration.

Would you be willing to link to what you consider the key blog posts?


It's been a while so I don't remember specifics.

However, after looking around, it seem the category "Patterns of Success for the Working World" ( captures what I thought the interesting content was. It's still 100+ blog posts, so you'll have to do a bit of sorting.

Here's a few from my own quick searching that I found most interesting/foundational/helpful:

...aaaaand that's why it may be a good idea to disconnect in order to get any work done.
Well, what to do with deep work is up to you. I wouldn't expect it to be an instruction manual for anything but "Here is how you build your mind and work habits to be able to accomplish deep work."
> While I'm fond of "deep work the idea", the book was a real disappointment. It's mostly selling the idea instead of explaining how to do something with it.

Sadly, most self-help book are like this. :-(

Your best bet might be to be less responsive on Slack — not only by not responding to everyone immediately, but by not responding to some Slack messages at all. If it's important, the person who pinged you can submit their request via another medium, hopefully in a longer form format like email or bug report that's more thoughtfully considered and thoroughly researched, and which you can reply/fix quickly without spending 10 to 30 minutes of your work day in tight synchronous communication.

It's sort of a bad thing to do, but you will start getting fewer Slack messages. People have an implicit understanding of who's likely to respond in a timely manner, and somewhat ironically, it's the most responsive people who have to improve their responsiveness even more because by being responsive they'll get even more messages and interruptions.

On a meta note, it continues to surprise me that more people and companies aren't talking about the highly distracting effects of the software. It works great at small scale, but if you get large enough everyone's pinging everyone all the time. I recently read Deep Work by Cal Newport (excellent book by the way [1]) and couldn't help but being mildly entertained when they get into the time draining effects of email (it seems to have been written a little before Slack caught on). The distraction engine created by Slack is the SR-71's Pratt & Whitney J58 [2] compared to email's 5 HP motor out of an everyday golf cart.



Deep Work is absolutely fantastic! I can already feel the difference in productivity just one week into practicing its strategies. I did three things to Slack after reading it:

1. Mute channels aggressively.

2. Snooze notifications often during the day.

3. Disable the red dot badge icon in the Slack app for any new messages (including the ones not addressed to you). This was the biggest source of distraction for me in Slack.

> Disable the red dot badge icon in the Slack app for any new messages

How did you do this, and is there a way to disable the blue dot?

Yes. Preferences -> Sound & appearance -> Uncheck "Show badge icon"
Haven't read it, but would highly recommend Cal Newport's book on the same subject. Made me really think about how I spend down time and it's affect on my ability to focus when I really need to.

One more +1 to that. It's easily the most impactful book I've read in years.
+1 for "Deep Work" - very good!
I'd second the recommendation, it made me reschedule my day to ensure I consistently have 'deep work' time.

I took some rough notes if you don't have time to read the whole book right now:

Read Cal Newport's I didn't read the free ebook, but it seem another one based on this book.
Deep Work has been one of the most influential books about productivity.

Can you give me a tl;dr?
> The book is written as if it's presenting "a new, flashy, grand theory of everything". It's not that. The idea of working in a deep, focused manner isn't a new one or one that would shock people (as the book's extensive citations show). But the book puts up a very intense battle against an army of straw men. I don't think you'd find anyone who disagrees with the general notion of working intensely on your priorities; it's making your life conducive to it (and getting done what you aim to get done when you sit down) that's the hard part. So the book feels more to me like ideas you'd share with friends about how to be more productive than a revolutionary new idea, but you have to wade through pages of why this is life-changing and flashy to get to the more useful actionable steps.
This is the problem with almost all self help books. I ignore the category because of this.
I checked it out and it seems to criticize the whole open office movement which is good I think.
May 31, 2016 · zzleeper on The attention economy
Link for the lazy:

It's really useful in fighting against all these distractions (I should probably re-read it every few months though :(

Came here to say the same. Last night I was hanging out with my 3-year-old nephew and wondering how different his life will be, especially with all the advancements like VR coming our way. I feel lucky to be old enough to remember what life was like before the internet.

The idea of people spending 10+ hours in VR per week scares me, but it's probably pretty similar to video game and smartphone usage. Maybe that would be a good place to start research.

A little over a month ago I started working on forming new habits, severely limiting use of network tools. I now only check email/sms/etc twice per day. At 6pm I put all technology away. I'm asleep by 9:30pm, awake at 5:30am, and try not to look at any network tools again until 10am. I'm considerably happier and more productive now. It's a tough habit to maintain and I'm pretty sure a few of my friends think I'm nuts.

A couple good, related reads:

Cal Newport just released a book on "Deep Work" that talks about that subject. I haven't finished it yet, but so far the book is really interesting.

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