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Deep work

"Rules for focused success in a distracted world"

by Cal Newport

The main reason to read this book was to dive in a bit into how focus works. Sometimes I feel like I spend way to much doing shallow things so I wanted to know more about this topic.

It is a very decent read, pretty straight forward and with lots of situational examples. While the author is defnitely an expert in the field, the reader can easily dive in without prior knowledge of this topic. What bothered me a bit was a strong emphasis on one's personal productivity. Even though there were chapters where author explicitly praised boredome and relaxation, it felt like those play quite a minor role in what the book is trying to tell.

Definitely learned some interesting concepts I was not aware of before reading it.

Attention residue

Once you switch from an activity A to B, if A was not fully finished, you still carry some amount of cognitive burder in your head. This can drown you if there are many of these pending activities. It seems to be especially strong if task A was of low intensity and not time-bound.

Serendipitous creativity

Aka 'bumping randomly into each other'. One of major pitfalls of remote work done wrong. We all know those situations where a simple small talk over coffee in the kitchen can initiate further frutful findings. A good example where this worked well used to be Bell Labs.

Process centered emailing

This is an interesting one. Especially relevant in contexts of heavy email communication. When you're being 'pinged' by someone in an email chain to maybe get together at some point to discuss something, natural tendency would be just to 'pong' back some vague response back. Problem with this approach is that this induces further (and possibly long) email exchange which might result only in time lost and nothing being done.

In these scenarios - author proposes to take a step back and if that email is worth your reply, take your time and be proactive and try to suggest some options when to meet and what the framing of that session would be. Then you pretty much constrain the whole 'discussion' and drive it to some conclusion to avoid that yeah maybe sometime kind of tone.

Minor learnings

  • "Dont' take breaks from distraction, take breaks from focus instead" :)
  • attentional control - ability to focus on essential information
  • maximal deep work span is said to be ~ 4 hours per day as science says

Final thoughts

It was a nice read that gave me some deeper insights into how our attention works and how to keep and protect my focus a bit more. There was a lot of rules & suggestions that I could not apply (could be also the lack of imagination tho) in my life but still I would recommend to read it if you're interested in exploring ways how to focus better on whatever you'd like to focus on.