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Deep Work – Book Review – More focus for success

Baptiste Wicht | Updated: |

(Disclosure: Some of the links below may be affiliate links)

A few months ago, I read Deep Work, by Cal Newport. This book is excellent if you want to improve your efficiency.

This book is about the benefits of working deeply. If you practice deep work, you will be able to be much more efficient. It means you can achieve more things for you.

But this also means that you can achieve more at your job. And achieving more at your job can make you more valuable and can lead to an increase an income. So, while this book is not about personal finances, it can indirectly improve your personal finances.

So, let’s see what this book is about and how we can get more work done by practicing Deep Work.

Deep Work

The book is organized into two parts:

  • The idea
  • The rules

The first part of the book is about the value of Deep Work. And the second part is about how to work more deeply!

This book is relatively short and is very easy to read. But if you can learn the value of Deep Work and apply it to your life, you will learn some immensely powerful lessons.

So, what is Deep Work? It is the ability to work deeply on a problem without distraction. It is a bit like being in the zone. Deep Work is the state of mind at which your mind is extremely focused on a single issue and can produce its best.

The book shows that the ability to work deeply has a lot of value, and there are several things you can do to improve this ability.

The value of Deep Work

The value of Deep Work is extremely well explained in the first three chapters of the book. It is mostly based on what makes people thrive in the current economy.

According to the author, there are two core abilities to become a high-achiever:

  1. The ability to quickly master hard things.
  2. The ability to produce at an elite level (qualitatively and quantitatively).

You need to cultivate these two abilities if you want to do well. And it just turns out that they both depend on your ability to perform deep work. So, if you can work deeply, you will have a better time at mastering these two abilities and thus thrive in the current economy.

I strongly believe the ability to perform deep work is a great way to increase your career value and grow your income.

Deep Work is getting rare

If you agree that Deep Work is powerful, it should be surprising that Deep Work is becoming rarer and rarer. And even companies that could benefit from it are actively making it more difficult.

For instance, in computer science, most companies are organized in open space. It means you are never really alone. And it also means that there are many distractions. I should know I work in an open space. And it is distracting.

Another example of that is instant messaging. More and more companies are using this to message people. And with instant messaging, people are expecting you to answer very quickly. So, most people, in the middle of a complex task, will have to shift focus to this instant message.

And there is one of the biggest obstacles to Deep Work: Social Media. With social media, you can get an almost continuous stream of notification. If you try to maintain a public presence, you will never be able to work deeply. And some companies are encouraging their employees to be active publicly on social media.

How to work Deeply?

There are many things you can do to increase your capacity to work deeply. But you need to decide to focus on deep work.

The first thing you need to do is to track deep work. You need to know how much time you were able to work in that state. And then, you need to keep yourself accountable about deep work.

You need to reserve time on your schedule for deep work. These periods should be uninterrupted periods where you can focus as much as possible. During these periods, you do not want to do any shallow work. And you want to limit all distractions as much as possible.

You will not be able to do deep work eight hours a day. You need to start small. Even one hour of deep work a day could make a difference. You could set yourself a goal to work deeply for two hours a day for the next month. And then, as you go on, it will become easier and you will be able to do more deep work during your week. If you can do twice two hours a day of deep work, you will already see a significant difference.

And do not forget to rest. Deep Work can be exhausting. Nobody is able to do deep work for 16 hours a day. Your mind needs to rest.

Avoid distractions

Avoiding distractions is probably the more important thing you can do

Just checking your emails for a minute is a big distraction if you are working deeply. Getting a notification on your phone is a big distraction too. It is very important to you shut yourself off from distractions when you want to do deep work.

Avoiding distractions also include avoiding people sometimes. When you work in an open space, you will get a lot of distractions. But you can talk to your colleagues about avoiding it. They do not have to talk to you all the time and you do not have to talk to them all the time.

You can also batch your discussions in a meeting. And you can also simply tell them to leave you alone for instance when you have your headphones.

For some people, it even means going into a room alone, without the internet or even a phone, and do deep work. For me, it means:

  • Having my phone without sound or vibrate.
  • Disabling all the notifications on my computer.
  • Only having one window on my computer open where I can do my current deep work.
  • Wearing my sound suppression headphones with some music.

One thing you can consider is to try to quit social media. People do not realize how much of their time they are wasting on social media. If you cannot quit, you can consider reducing your time on social media to regain your attention.

It may sound easy. But it is essential to avoid distractions. Most people underestimate the negative value of distractions.

Avoid shallow work

When you focus on deep work, you want to avoid as much shallow work as possible. Shallow work is all the work that is not deep: answering emails, doing small code reviews, doing easy work, …

First of all, you need to avoid shallow work if you can. There may be people more suited to do them for you. And there are some things that you do not that do not have as much value as you think. Do you need to check your inbox every five minutes? Or do you need to read all these instant messages from your colleague in a chat group?

Of course, you cannot eliminate all shallow work from your life. But once you have eliminated some of the shallow work, you can still batch it together to limit the impact on your deep work. Try to do most of your shallow work together. And try to set a time for this kind of work during your day as well.

Let your mind rest

Even though you should focus on Deep Work, you cannot work all day deeply. It is very tiring to work deeply. You need to rest your mind.

After you have done something deep, you need to try to switch off your mind. The best example of that is that after your work, you need to stop thinking about it. A great way to do that is to start a shutdown ritual. You write down what you are going to do the next day. If you have some notes to take for this day, do it at this time. That way, your mind will not try to think about your days’ work after work.

And when you can, you need to let your mind rest. You can take a walk and just to enjoy the walk, or you can do some sports. Or some people enjoy mediation. But it is important to let your mind rest.

Things I liked

This book is one of the best non-fiction books I have read recently. There are many things I liked in this book.

First of all, the message is really powerful. If you can follow the strategy lined up by this book and work deeply, you will decuple your work efficiency.

I also really liked that the author said that you could apply these techniques to everything you do. It is not only applicable to work. You can apply it to some of your projects as well. You can apply it to your side projects. Or you can even apply it to your vacation planning if you wish to!

As with all Cal Newport’s books, there is a ton of research that is going into the book. The book contains many references to studies and other books. And more important, in the case of Deep Work, it contains many examples of people working deeply and achieving great things.

The author itself is a great example of a good application of Deep Work. He has a very successful research career and, at the same time, can write books and still spend time with his family. It is impressive.

Things I did not like

Overall, it is a great book. But nothing is perfect, and there are a few things I did not like about this book.

The organization of the book is okay when you read it and already not great. But when you want to come back to the book, it is really bad. It is not well structured in a way that you can quickly find the list of important rules. I had to sift through the entire book to get the information I needed for this review.

This problem does not apply to me, but it lacks some practical tips for people that do not work in research or computer science. It seems to me that it will be difficult to apply many of these principles in many jobs.

The book could go a bit more into detail in the practical aspects of deep work. For a book on deep work, it could have been deeper.

Finally, I think the author is boasting a bit too much about his achievements. There is no doubt that the author has achieved many great things. But he should not boast that much. It is a bit all over the book. There are enough examples of great men in this world.


I have enjoyed Deep Work. It is a great book, and it contains some extremely powerful lessons. Most people do not realize the value of Deep Work.

I never thought about this before reading this book. But one of the reasons I am efficient in my work is because I can work deeply. Now that I realize this, I can work even more efficiently. And I also need to apply these principles to different areas of my life.

The main area where I should work more deeply is with this blog. While I almost always work without distraction for my job, I allow myself more distractions when working on the blog. I could get more work done in less time if I concentrated on Deep Work when blogging.

If you are not convinced, you should just try deep work for a while. On your next big task, try to remove all distractions and focus solely on your task. You should try to see differences compared to work with distractions.

If you want more book reviews, I have an entire page of book reviews!

Have you ever read this book? Did you like it? Do you have another book to recommend me?

A few months ago, I read Deep Work, by Cal Newport. This book is excellent if you want to improve your efficiency.


Name: Deep Work

Author: Array

ISBN: 1455586692

Date Published: 01/05/2016


Editor's Rating:
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Baptiste Wicht started in 2017. He realized that he was falling into the trap of lifestyle inflation. He decided to cut his expenses and increase his income. This blog is relating his story and findings. Since 2019, he has been saving more than 50% of his income. He made it a goal to reach Financial Independence. You can send Mr. The Poor Swiss a message here.

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2 thoughts on “Deep Work – Book Review – More focus for success”

  1. I agreed that the way the companies are structured today with open space, use of instant messaging and the insistence on multi-tasking make it virtually impossible to do deep work. But I think this principal works super well for bloggers as well as those who are self-employed! Thanks for this review; I really enjoyed reading it!

    1. Hi Mama Bear,

      Yeah, I do not really understand the value of being structured like this. It’s much more difficult to do deep work and there is little value in having people on one another. I could do more deep work when working from home if work was not crap these last few months.
      Yes, the principle completely works for bloggers and many people that can work in a good environment. It actually does work really well for software programmers given a good environment.

      Thanks for stopping by!

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