Deep Work is a book on the importance of focused work in order to succeed in an increasingly distracted world… written by Cal Newport, author of 5 self-help books and the “Study Hacks” blog focusing on career success.

Shallow vs Deep Work

There are two types of work: shallow work that only needs a little bit of your time and focus, like answering the phone or emails… and deep work that happens when you lock yourself in a room for 5+ hours and focus on one thing, completely free of any distraction.

A famous example of deep work is Bill Gates’ “think weeks”, where he would isolate himself and do nothing but read and think big thoughts.

Another example is: a great author can either isolate herself to write a book that will impact thousands and stand the test of time, or she can split her focus into slivers and get busy answering emails or engaging on social media, contributing no long-term or high-value work of any sort.

What’s wrong with shallow work?

The problem with shallow work is that it’s low value and commoditized – anyone can do it more or less.  But what’s worse is that the more shallow work you do, the more you forget how to do deep work!

Technology, networking, and social media have fragmented our attention too much.  As a result, we confine ourselves to feeling productive by keeping busy.  In contrast, deep work is how we can create value and improve our skills.

The Big Idea

The big idea is that our increasing distraction and focus on shallow work creates opportunities for the few who are still capable of  deep work.

Those who can master their focus, can get more and higher-quality output in less time.  Which in turn frees them to produce even more and higher-quality output and stay ahead of the competition.

What can we do about it?

We have to actively train ourselves and transform our work habits in order to put deep work – focused, uninterrupted work – at the core of what we do.

Maybe that means completely disconnecting for a couple of weeks once or twice a year.  Or regulating our access to social media.  Or allocating a short window every day to respond to emails.

The point is, all these are distractions from truly valuable work we could be performing, and from radically improving our skills.


Unfortunately, busyness – or shallow work – is what’s used as a proxy for productivity in the business world today.  The more emails you get and the more meetings you have, the more productive you appear.

But deep work is what stretches your mind and gives meaning to your life.  And as deep work becomes more scarce, it also becomes more valuable.

That’s why deep work is quickly becoming the super power of the 21st century!