The world is noisy. With the growth of the Internet, social media, fake news, and viral videos there is no wonder why most people are unable to focus on a single task for more than a few minutes. Deep Work, by Cal Newport, is a book that does its best to cut through the misinformation and hot new trends to convert readers to the idea that working deeply without distraction will yield extraordinary results in a shorter (relatively speaking) amount of time.
Author, Cal Newport stresses the idea of Deep Work as opposed to what he calls “shallow work.” He defines Deep Work as a trance-like state where a person stretches the limits of their brain for an extended amount of time to solve a problem or complete a difficult task. Newport defines shallow work as something that can be done haphazardly while distracted, and easily replicated —something anyone can do. The author often references notable professors, computer programmers, and authors to use as examples to show the benefits of working deeply. Cal Newport is a member of all three communities, a feat that he directly attributes to his ability to work undistracted for hours at a time.
The book is broken down into two main parts. The first is the idea of why Deep Work is valuable, rare, and meaningful. The second part is the rules of how to implement deep work into your life and how to get the most out of practice, which are to work deeply, embrace boredom, quit social media, and drain the shallows.
Through his academic writing style, he was able to drive his points home that Deep Work is something we are all capable of and how it can help us improve in our productivity and our skills in any given field. One of the most intriguing chapters, in my opinion, was where the author notes that our society has become so dependent on the Internet and all it has to offer that without realizing it, have tricked ourselves into thinking we need it. In rule #3 he urged readers to quit social media because it not only distracts us and does significant damage to our brains, but these networks mainly foster shallow connections with people we only see through a screen. He even gave a TED Talk of the same title that accumulated over five million views on YouTube.
While reading, I found myself in a bit of a quagmire. Since I began on this journey starting Urban X over a year ago, I aimed to create a platform that has significant influence, with mediums that span across different areas of the culture. That meant working to create better content than my peers and trying to garner a greater readership on the blog (UrbanX.nyc), viewership on the YouTube channel (UrbanX. TV), and now listenership on the podcast (Urban X Podcast). However, as busy as all of this might make me seem, I have been struggling with staying focused on my overall goal. I have noticed that my attention is often fragmented and it has become difficult for me to hone in on what I want to accomplish. How can I work deeply if I must be able to keep up a social media presence to further push the Urban X brand?
Cal’s counter-argument was that by working deeply on creating better quality (in my case content), the market would organically place a higher value on my work that those you aim to take shortcuts utilizing social media. My only response would be that to create the best content I need to stay abreast of what is happening. Urban X is a media platform after all. So through my reading, I concluded that my ability to work intensely would ball down to my self-control and discipline to not fragment my attention and focus by chronically checking social media when I am working, or even when I am bored.
Deep Work is a must-read for anyone who wants to get the most out of their work and time. In the age of the internet, the ability to shut out distractions and focus on a difficult task is becoming more and more rare, and thus valuable to employers, and the market itself. I highly recommend this book. Great Read.
Malcom X. Bowser is a writer, curator, and founder of Urban X.