Book Review: Cal Newport’s “Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World”







Book Review: Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, by Cal Newport

Cal Newport’s Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World is another good book I would recommend. It talks about the importance of doing deep, focused work in our age of distractions. Deep work is the ability to focus without distractions on a cognitively demanding task. It’s a skill that allows us to quickly master complicated information and produce better results in less time.

I shared this with my class and set them off to work on a task without distractions, just to give them a taste of getting into a state of flow. 20 mins later, they don’t want me to interrupt them!

It is not just social media and gadgets that are distracting us today. The constant influx of emails, information, and conversations also interrupts us from getting into the flow. Interruptions are detrimental to deep work as they draw upon our mental energy each time we switch between tasks. Think of it as rebooting your computer each time you embark on a new task – regardless of how small it is. Each time we ‘multitask’ by opening our email, checking our smartphone, or send a text, we are rebooting our brain. Talk about inefficiency!

Where can I get hold of its content?

If you too feel the need to tap into this discipline of deep work, google the book title to find out more. Many others have blogged about parts of the book and you can pick up something from there. Here is a great summary that you can check out.

For the visually-inclined, has the following infographics that captures the gist of the book:


For Singaporeans who want to get the full content, you can check out the e-book from NLB or the audiobook. The audiobook narration by Jeff Bottoms is so good that it can really draw you in.

How does this relate to living vocationally?

I have quoted Cal Newport elsewhere in my blog when he talked about why “following your passion” is bad career advice. So, how does this book relate to us living our calling?

Firstly, knowing your calling does not automatically translate to being good at your calling. You have to hone your skills and sharpen your ax to really excel in doing what you do. According to Newport, that excellence can only come about through deep work. Shallow work (the kind that we are used to) does not produce much value and can be easily replicated. Deep work creates the most impact and therefore can be significant over time.

Secondly, doing deep work does not mean you neglect everything else. Newport suggests that the maximum we can clock in for true, deep work is only around 4 hours each day. So it takes intentional planning to work out how to incorporate deep work in your life, without losing balance with other important areas.

Thirdly, as Christians, we work for the glory of God. Colossians 3:23 says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men”. Doing deep work is an expression of that attitude. It is not so much of “staying ahead of the competition”, as Newport puts it, but rather doing all things with a spirit of excellence that reflects the wisdom and glory of God. It is doing work that truly matters.

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men”.

Colossians 3:23

What do you think? Which part of Cal Newport’s ideas resonates with you? Do you think more can be said for the multitasking approach to work? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

This post is part of my column on Book Reviews, where I share some of the insights gleaned from my reading. Feel free to check out the other blog posts on books that have influenced me significantly.

Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


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