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Is one of the most valuable skills in our economy becoming increasingly rare?

SYNOPSIS

According to Cal Newport, author of Deep Work, the answer is yes.

‘Deep work’ is the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task. In this book Newport hypothesises that deep work will make you better at what you do, let you achieve more in less time, and provide the sense of true fulfilment that comes from the mastery of a skill.

In short according to Newport, deep work is like a superpower in our increasingly
competitive economy – because this ‘superpower’ of being able to focus deeply is the
valuable skill which is becoming very rare.

In this book the author explores why this focus is valuable, why it has become rare in today’s world, and how to cultivate it. The first section is dedicated to him defining and making the case for deep work, with the latter sections offering actionable advice on how to develop a deep work routine and how to train yourself in new rituals & habits.

OPINION/COMMENTARY

It’s a good book, a wake-up call to a distracted world, and is worth a read. It has already had a positive impact on my life and working habits.

Initially I was sceptical, it seemed as though it was going to be common sense.
Distracted? Then just quit Facebook!

But as I learned that our distraction runs much deeper than that, and that distracted
behaviour in the short term has longer lasting effects, I was intrigued to keep reading.
Understanding that focus needs to be treated like a muscle, trained as an athlete would, has been hugely beneficial. I found the practical rules very helpful and easy to apply.

But it is a far from perfect read.

It’s unnecessarily long and is repetitive in parts. The organisation of the content could be
better – it is not easy to refer back to, to try and find a certain section you’re looking to re-
read. This is particularly troublesome if using it as a guide, the key ‘rules’ could be easier to navigate.

I enjoyed the multiple anecdotes he employs to bring his arguments to life, however the lack of diversity in these stories is alarming (mostly a white male perspective), and specifically there is a miniscule level of reference to women honing deep work as a skill in their lives.

Pick it up if you’re feeling overwhelmed and frazzled, but equally if you find a summary of its key lessons you won’t be missing out by not committing to the full read.

WHO SHOULD READ IT

Anyone who: 

  • Is lacking a sense of fulfilment from their work
  • Wants to improve their skills
  • Is worried about their work being replaced by automation
  • Craves productivity
  • Wants more personal time back
  • Is managing teams who are feeling any of this.

WHY ITS WORTH/NOT WORTH READING

  • Worth reading for the actionable steps and practical advice
  • Not worth reading because paradoxically it is long-winded and lacks focus!

STAR RATING

⭐️⭐️⭐️