For knowledge workers, deep work is important, valuable, fulfilling; many important people have followed it and there are four rules to it: 1. Work Deeply 2. Embrace Boredom 3. Quit Social Media and 4. Drain the Shallows

Some Definitions

Deep Work: 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.

Shallow Work: Non-cognitively demanding, logistical-style tasks, often performed while distracted. These efforts tend to not create much new value in the world and are easy to replicate.

The Deep Work Hypothesis: The ability to perform deep work is becoming increasingly rare at exactly the same time it is becoming increasingly valuable in our economy. As a consequence, the few who cultivate this skill, and then make it the core of their working life, will thrive.

Network tools: Social Networks (FB, Twitter etc) + Infotainment sites (BuzzFeed, Business Insider etc)


In the introduction, the author expresses his own positive experience with Deep Work and gives detailed stories of some of the important and successful people such as Carl Jung, Bill Gates, Woody Allen, Neal Stephenson who took the Deep Work approach to their professional lives. The author argues that deep work is important in our Information Economy because the system necessitates learning hard things fast, and the network tools can be both good and bad. The Deep Work Hypothesis is at the core of the book, making the remainder of the book an expansion and exploration of the hypothesis.

Deep Work Is Valuable

There are three types of knowledge workers:

  1. High skilled workers
  2. The Superstars
  3. The Owners

Unless you have enough capital to invest in new technologies, you will need to develop skills to advance your professional life.

It is pointed out that Twitter, Facebook etc are not serious tools but products made for consumers. The kind of tools needed to sharpen one’s skills are generally complex and hard to learn, but they add clear and measurable value in the long run. For example, learning SQL is a big skill even for someone in finance or predictive markets. Learning these tools requires deliberate practice like singers and athletes do. To practice deliberately, you need to concentrate without distractions for long periods. Hence, Deep Work.

High Quality Work Produced = Time Spent × Intensity of Focus

This hypothesis is supported by two observations: myelin sheath development & theory of attention residue. A form of protective layer develops around neurones as the same circuits are fired over and over, protecting the paths and thereby improving the retention rates - this layer is called myelin the sheath.

Theory of attention residue says that it takes approximately 20min to switch context - biologically.

Given these two observations, we can derive the fact that long sessions of undistracted practice are needed to acquire new skills.

A common counterargument to deep work is that people like Jack Dorsey do virtually no deep work yet they are very successful. The author agrees and says this book is not needed for people in such high executive positions, where their role is that of a decision machine. At the same time, he advises not to be too hasty in declaring your job to be like Jack and think deeply before concluding such a thing.

Follow up: Deep Work Summary Part 2 (Deep Work Is Rare)