Deep Work Summary in 3 Minutes
3 min read

Deep Work Summary in 3 Minutes

Looking for a quick summary of Deep Work? I’ve got you covered.
Deep Work Summary in 3 Minutes

In this post I'll cover what Deep Work is all about. Then I’ll give you a punchy summary of the book so you can use its ideas for your career and decide whether you should go ahead and read the whole thing. All in 3 minutes. So strap in and let's get started.

What is Deep Work about?

First, we need to define deep and shallow work:

  • Deep Work: Professional activities performed in a state of concentration free from distraction. Work that pushes your cognitive capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill and are hard to replicate.
  • Shallow Work: Non-demanding, logistical-style tasks, often performed while distracted. These efforts tend not to create much new value in the world and are easy to replicate.

For example, deep work would be spending three hours building a financial model in Excel, where an example of shallow work would be cleaning data in Excel.

Here’s the point of the book: The ability to perform deep work is becoming increasingly rare at exactly the same time it is becoming increasingly valuable in our economy. As a consequence, the few who cultivate this skill, and then make it the core of their working life, will thrive.

So Deep Work, the book, is about why you need to develop the ability to perform deep work and how you can do this.

What are the main ideas in Deep Work?

The book essential covers two questions:

  1. Why should you focus on deep work?
  2. How do you focus on deep work?

Why should you focus on deep work?

In the absence of clear indicators of what it means to be productive and valuable, many knowledge workers turn to a subpar indicator of productivity: doing lots of stuff in a visible manner. This does not make you happy, or lead to real long-term impact.

How do you focus on deep work?

The key to developing a deep work habit is to move beyond good intentions and add routines and rituals to your working life designed to minimize the amount of willpower necessary to transition into and maintain a state of unbroken concentration.

You can use one of four approaches:

  1. The monastic approach: This means shutting yourself off completely. For example by moving to a cabin in the woods to write a novel, and not coming back until it’s finished.
  2. The bimodal approach: This means prioritizing deep work above everything else. For example, setting a 4 to 6 hour block each day for deep work where you lock yourself in your office. This is similar to the monastic approach, however you are then free to do other activities when the main block is over.
  3. The rhythmic approach: This means breaking your working time down into time blocks, similar to the Pomodoro technique and using a calendar to track your progress. For example, plan your week around 10 blocks of 90 minutes on your calendar, and make working with timed blocks a habit.
  4. The journalistic approach: This means dedicating any unexpected free time to deep work and works well if you have a busy calendar that is out of your control.

Pick the one that works for you and try it out. If it works, stick with it.

If it doesn’t, then try another approach.

The book then dives into more practical tactics on how you can set yourself up to make the most of this time. Like quitting social media and finishing work at the same time every day. To learn more about these you should read the book, but they are largely generic productivity advice.

Top quote from Deep Work

“I build my days around a core of carefully chosen deep work, with the shallow activities I absolutely cannot avoid batched into smaller bursts at the peripheries of my schedule. Three to four hours a day, five days a week, of uninterrupted and carefully directed concentration, it turns out, can produce a lot of valuable output.”

How can Deep Work help my career?

The principles in Deep Work will set you up to be someone who delivers more value, in less time. If you work in a profession where results matter, and the outcomes you deliver are tied to the quality and quantity of your work efforts, then Deep Work can provide a blueprint that will help you get ahead.

Who should read Deep Work?

Read this book if you are an academic, programmer, writer or any other kind of deep problem-solver where big blocks of uninterrupted time for thinking are essential.

Final thought

Reading the best books is a surefire way to improve your career and find ideas to bring purpose to your efforts. If you are interested in another powerful way 10x your impact, you should sign up for my free newsletter.