• P.O. Box 2061 Princeton, New Jersey 08543
1.609.608.6258 Contact Us
February 15, 2019

Cal Newport’s Deep Work: Rules for focused Success in a Distracted World

According to the author, Deep Work is the “superpower of the 21st Century.” Cal Newport, MIT graduate and associate professor at Georgetown University, states there are three types of people that will survive in tough times and prosper in good times:

  • Owners of capital (financial resources), or those with access to it
  • Those who can work with intelligent machines and technology
  • Superstars in their field of work

Deep Work focuses on “Superstars,” in other words, people who:

  • Master difficult things, and
  • Produce at an elite level in terms of quality and speed.

Deep Work Defined

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. Non-cognitively 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.

The items on your “To Do List” are either “deep” or “shallow.” Deep Work is hard and increasingly rare, yet extremely valuable. Shallow Work is easy and self-preserving, such as meetings, emails and reports. You should take great effort to diminish the time spent on Shallow Work so that more time can be spent on Deep Work. Those that can dedicate more of their time to Deep Work will reap great benefits, professionally, socially, personally and financially.

Deep Work Philosophies:

  • Monastic: Dedication to one straight week or more in duration
  • Bimodal: Dedication of at least one day per week in duration
  • Rhythmic: Dedication of at least 3 hours straight in duration
  • Journalistic: Alternating the Day between Deep & Shallow, (i.e. every hour)

Creating rituals and routines creates habits and lessens the need to access your limited willpower.

How to Deep Work – Add Routines and Rituals

  1. Choose a Deep Work Philosophy
  2. Make Deep Work a Habit
  3. Execute Like a Business
  4. Remove Distractions
  5. Use Downtime to Enhance Deep Work Efforts


  1. Decide on a Restricted and Consistent Location
  2. Set a Specific End Time (Time Block)
  3. Set Rules, such as ban Internet, use metrics to measure productivity
    1. Words, Blogs, pages per hour
  4. Set Rituals, like start with a cup of coffee

When you have intellectual material to master, going deep offers the best way to get there. Studying with distractions, multi-tasking, excessively checking emails and viewing social media are the antithesis to learning well. If you wish to gain knowledge and learn wisdom, you must study smarter, not necessarily study more.