The premise of Cal Newport’s Deep Work is that deep work is what creates value in the knowledge economy but our culture encourages people towards distraction. Therefore opportunities exist for those who can prioritise depth. The book outlines strategies for doing so.
Newport defines deep work as:
“Professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate.”
Its antithesis, shallow work, is:
“Noncognitively demanding, logistical-style tasks, often performed while distracted. These efforts tend not to create much new value in the world and are easy to replicate.”
If the thought of a life of concentration sounds exhausting, the good news is that it is not necessary – in fact, would be counter-producive – to try to spend all one’s working time in deep work. Newport says the aim should be to minimise the shallow and get the most out of the time this frees up by committing three to four hours a day to deep work. A certain amount of idleness is necessary to make sure the time spent in deep work is productive and creative.