Deep Work
Deep Work

Deep Work

Deep Work: Professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit. (Location 58)

Tags: deep work

Deep work is necessary to wring every last drop of value out of your current intellectual capacity. (Location 60)

Tags: deep work

The sixteenth-century essayist Michel de Montaigne, for example, prefigured Jung by working in a private library he built in the southern tower guarding the stone walls of his French château, while Mark Twain wrote much of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer in a shed on the property of the Quarry Farm in New York, where he was spending the summer. (Location 70)

Tags: isolation

Microsoft CEO Bill Gates famously conducted “Think Weeks” twice a year, during which he would isolate himself (often in a lakeside cottage) to do nothing but read and think big thoughts. (Location 83)

Tags: isolation, deep work

The ubiquity of deep work among influential individuals is important to emphasize because it stands in sharp contrast to the behavior of most modern knowledge workers—a group that’s rapidly forgetting the value of going deep. (Location 92)

The reason knowledge workers are losing their familiarity with deep work is well established: network tools. (Location 94)

Tags: network tools

to 30 percent of a worker’s time dedicated to reading and answering e-mail (Location 99)

Tags: email, network tools

Shallow Work: 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. (Location 103)

Tags: shallow work

network tools are distracting us from work that requires unbroken concentration, while simultaneously degrading our capacity to remain focused. (Location 117)

Tags: network tools

This compressed schedule is possible because I’ve invested significant effort to minimize the shallow in my life while making sure I get the most out of the time this frees up. (Location 230)

More generally, the lack of distraction in my life tones down that background hum of nervous mental energy that seems to increasingly pervade people’s daily lives. (Location 238)

a truth embraced by the most productive and important personalities of generations past: A deep life is a good life. (Location 251)

Tags: good life

“Hearing a succession of mediocre singers does not add up to a single outstanding performance.” In other words, talent is not a commodity you can buy in bulk and combine to reach the needed levels: There’s a premium to being the best. (Location 318)

In this new economy, three groups will have a particular advantage: those who can work well and creatively with intelligent machines, those who are the best at what they do, and those with access to capital. (Location 345)

Two Core Abilities for Thriving in the New Economy The ability to quickly master hard things. The ability to produce at an elite level, in terms of both quality and speed. (Location 359)

differences between expert performers and normal adults reflect a life-long period of deliberate effort to improve performance in a specific domain.” (Location 424)

This brings us to the question of what deliberate practice actually requires. Its core components are usually identified as follows: (1) your attention is focused tightly on a specific skill you’re trying to improve or an idea you’re trying to master; (2) you receive feedback so you can correct your approach to keep your attention exactly where it’s most productive. (Location 432)

Tags: feedback, practice

Note: Focus and feedback are crucial for deliberate practice

conclusion: To learn hard things quickly, you must focus intensely without distraction. (Location 454)

the batching of hard but important intellectual work into long, uninterrupted stretches. (Location 476)

Tags: productivity

High-Quality Work Produced = (Time Spent) x (Intensity of Focus) (Location 491)

attention residue. (Location 503)

The problem this research identifies with this work strategy is that when you switch from some Task A to another Task B, your attention doesn’t immediately follow—a residue of your attention remains stuck thinking about the original task. This residue gets especially thick if your work on Task A was unbounded and of low intensity before you switched, but even if you finish Task A before moving on, your attention remains divided for a while. (Location 507)

Tags: multitasking

attention residue concept is still telling because it implies that the common habit of working in a state of semi-distraction is potentially devastating to your performance. (Location 523)

To produce at your peak level you need to work for extended periods with full concentration on a single task free from distraction. Put another way, the type of work that optimizes your performance is deep work. If you’re not comfortable going deep for extended periods of time, (Location 530)

A good chief executive is essentially a hard-to-automate decision engine, not unlike IBM’s Jeopardy!-playing Watson system. (Location 562)

Tags: ceo

They have built up a hard-won repository of experience and have honed and proved an instinct for their market. They’re then presented inputs throughout the day—in the form of e-mails, meetings, site visits, and the like—that they must process and act on. (Location 563)

To ask a CEO to spend four hours thinking deeply about a single problem is a waste of what makes him or her valuable. It’s better to hire three smart subordinates to think deeply about the problem and then bring their solutions to the executive for a final decision. (Location 565)

Tags: ceo

Many other ideas are being prioritized as more important than deep work in the business world, including, as we just encountered, serendipitous collaboration, rapid communication, and an active presence on social media. (Location 617)

To summarize, big trends in business today actively decrease people’s ability to perform deep work, even though the benefits promised by these trends (e.g., increased serendipity, faster responses to requests, and more exposure) are arguably dwarfed by the benefits that flow from a commitment to deep work (e.g., the ability to learn hard things fast and produce at an elite level). (Location 639)

The consultants were equally nervous and worried that they were “putting their careers in jeopardy.” But the team didn’t lose their clients and its members did not lose their jobs. Instead, the consultants found more enjoyment in their work, better communication among themselves, more learning (as we might have predicted, given the connection between depth and skill development highlighted in the last chapter), and perhaps most important, “a better product delivered to the client (Location 696)

Busyness as a Proxy for Productivity (Location 738)

To do real good physics work, you do need absolute solid lengths of time … it needs a lot of concentration … if you have a job administrating anything, you don’t have the time. So I have invented another myth for myself: that I’m irresponsible. I’m actively irresponsible. I tell everyone I don’t do anything. If anyone asks me to be on a committee for admissions, “no,” I tell them: I’m irresponsible. (Location 749)

Tags: no

Note: If asked to be on a committee/manage something you don't want to do say - no, I'm irresponsible

Clarity about what matters provides clarity about what does not. (Location 755)

In Taylor’s era, productivity was unambiguous: widgets created per unit of time. It seems that in today’s business landscape, many knowledge workers, bereft of other ideas, are turning toward this old definition of productivity in trying to solidify their value in the otherwise bewildering landscape of their professional lives. (Location 771)

Busyness as Proxy for Productivity: In the absence of clear indicators of what it means to be productive and valuable in their jobs, many knowledge workers turn back toward an industrial indicator of productivity: doing lots of stuff in a visible manner. (Location 776)

This potent mixture of job ambiguity and lack of metrics to measure the effectiveness of different strategies allows behavior that can seem ridiculous when viewed objectively to thrive in the increasingly bewildering psychic landscape of our daily work. (Location 794)

Writing in the early 1990s, as the personal computer revolution first accelerated, Postman argued that our society was sliding into a troubling relationship with technology. We were, he noted, no longer discussing the trade-offs surrounding new technologies, balancing the new efficiencies against the new problems introduced. If it’s high-tech, we began to instead assume, then it’s good. Case closed. (Location 813)

Deep work is at a severe disadvantage in a technopoly because it builds on values like quality, craftsmanship, and mastery that are decidedly old-fashioned and nontechnological. (Location 845)

Even worse, to support deep work often requires the rejection of much of what is new and high-tech. (Location 846)

Deep work should be a priority in today’s business climate. But it’s not. I’ve just summarized various explanations for this paradox. Among them are the realities that deep work is hard and shallow work is easier, that in the absence of clear goals for your job, the visible busyness that surrounds shallow work becomes self-preserving, and that our culture has developed a belief that if a behavior relates to “the Internet,” then it’s good—regardless of its impact on our ability to produce valuable things. All of these trends are enabled by the difficulty of directly measuring the value of depth or the cost of ignoring (Location 853)

This connection between deep work and a good life is familiar and widely accepted when considering the world of craftsmen. (Location 895)

It can be hard to define exactly what a given knowledge worker does and how it differs from another: On our worst days, it can seem that all knowledge work boils down to the same exhausting roil of e-mails and PowerPoint, with only the charts used in the slides differentiating one career from another. (Location 900)

Depth-destroying behaviors such as immediate e-mail responses and an active social media presence are lauded, while avoidance of these trends generates suspicion. (Location 906)

Tags: deep work, social media

Like fingers pointing to the moon, other diverse disciplines from anthropology to education, behavioral economics to family counseling, similarly suggest that the skillful management of attention is the sine qua non of the good life and the key to improving virtually every aspect of your experience. (Location 928)

Our brains instead construct our worldview based on what we pay attention to. (Location 934)

“Who you are, what you think, feel, and do, what you love—is the sum of what you focus on.” (Location 936)

These elderly subjects were not happier because their life circumstances were better than those of the young subjects; they were instead happier because they had rewired their brains to ignore the negative and savor the positive. (Location 950)

By skillfully managing their attention, they improved their world without changing anything concrete about it. (Location 952)

Gallagher’s theory, therefore, predicts that if you spend enough time in this state, your mind will understand your world as rich in meaning and importance. (Location 957)

Gallagher teaches us that this is a foolhardy way to go about your day, as it ensures that your mind will construct an understanding of your working life that’s dominated by stress, irritation, frustration, and triviality. The world represented by your inbox, in other words, isn’t a pleasant world to inhabit. (Location 983)

‘the idle mind is the devil’s workshop’ … when you lose focus, your mind tends to fix on what could be wrong with your life instead of what’s right.” (Location 989)

Ironically, jobs are actually easier to enjoy than free time, because like flow activities they have built-in goals, feedback rules, and challenges, all of which encourage one to become involved in one’s work, to concentrate and lose oneself in it. Free time, on the other hand, is unstructured, and requires much greater effort to be shaped into something that can be enjoyed. (Location 1018)

The connection between deep work and flow should be clear: Deep work is an activity well suited to generate a flow state (the phrases used by Csikszentmihalyi to describe what generates flow include notions of stretching your mind to its limits, concentrating, and losing yourself in an activity—all of which also describe deep work). (Location 1031)

Your work is craft, and if you hone your ability and apply it with respect and care, then like the skilled wheelwright you can generate meaning in the daily efforts of your professional life. (Location 1095)

“I’ll live the focused life, because it’s the best kind there is.” (Location 1123)

You have a finite amount of willpower that becomes depleted as you use it. (Location 1192)

This is why the subjects in the Hofmann and Baumeister study had such a hard time fighting desires—over time these distractions drained their finite pool of willpower until they could no longer resist. The same will happen to you, regardless of your intentions—unless, that is, you’re smart about your habits. (Location 1194)

Tags: willpower

The key to developing a deep work habit is to move beyond good intentions and add routines and rituals to your working life designed to minimize the amount of your limited willpower necessary to transition into and maintain a state of unbroken concentration. (Location 1197)

(As argued in this rule’s introduction, attempting to schedule deep work in an ad hoc fashion is not an effective way to manage your limited willpower.) (Location 1221)

Jung’s approach is what I call the bimodal philosophy of deep work. This philosophy asks that you divide your time, dedicating some clearly defined stretches to deep pursuits and leaving the rest open to everything else. (Location 1290)

This is why the minimum unit of time for deep work in this philosophy tends to be at least one full day. To put aside a few hours in the morning, for example, is too short to count as a deep work stretch for an adherent of this approach. (Location 1297)

This chain method (as some now call it) soon became a hit among writers and fitness enthusiasts—communities that thrive on the ability to do hard things consistently. (Location 1328)

For our purposes, it provides a specific example of a general approach to integrating depth into your life: the rhythmic philosophy. This philosophy argues that the easiest way to consistently start deep work sessions is to transform them into a simple regular habit. (Location 1330)

The goal, in other words, is to generate a rhythm for this work that removes the need for you to invest energy in deciding if and when you’re going to go deep. The chain method is a good example of the rhythmic philosophy of deep work scheduling because it combines a simple scheduling heuristic (do the work every day), with an easy way to remind yourself to do the work: the big red Xs on the calendar. (Location 1331)

There is a popular notion that artists work from inspiration—that there is some strike or bolt or bubbling up of creative mojo from who knows where … but I hope [my work] makes clear that waiting for inspiration to strike is a terrible, terrible plan. In fact, perhaps the single best piece of advice I can offer to anyone trying to do creative work is to ignore inspiration. (Location 1426)

Great minds like Caro and Darwin didn’t deploy rituals to be weird; they did so because success in their work depended on their ability to go deep, again and again—there’s no way to win a Pulitzer Prize or conceive a grand theory without pushing your brain to its limit. (Location 1434)

There’s no one correct deep work ritual—the right fit depends on both the person and the type of project pursued. But there are some general questions that any effective ritual must address: (Location 1438)

Where you’ll work and for how long. Your ritual needs to specify a location for your deep work efforts. (Location 1440)

How you’ll work once you start to work. Your ritual needs rules and processes to keep your efforts structured. For example, you might institute a ban on any Internet use, or maintain a metric such as words produced per twenty-minute interval to keep your concentration honed. (Location 1447)

How you’ll support your work. Your ritual needs to ensure your brain gets the support it needs to keep operating at a high level of depth. For example, the ritual might specify that you start with a cup of good coffee, or make sure you have access to enough food of the right type to maintain energy, or integrate light exercise such as walking to help keep the mind clear. (Location 1451)

Rowling’s decision to check into a luxurious hotel suite near Edinburgh Castle is an example of a curious but effective strategy in the world of deep work: the grand gesture. The concept is simple: By leveraging a radical change to your normal environment, coupled perhaps with a significant investment of effort or money, all dedicated toward supporting a deep work task, you increase the perceived importance of the task. This boost in importance reduces your mind’s instinct to procrastinate and delivers an injection of motivation and energy. (Location 1475)

Tags: deep work, environment

Note: Change up your environment to facilitate deep work

In all of these examples, it’s not just the change of environment or seeking of quiet that enables more depth. The dominant force is the psychology of committing so seriously to the task at hand. To put yourself in an exotic location to focus on a writing project, or to take a week off from work just to think, or to lock yourself in a hotel room until you complete an important invention: These gestures push your deep goal to a level of mental priority that helps unlock the needed mental resources. Sometimes to go deep, you must first go big. (Location 1513)

Open plan is pretty spectacular; it ensures that everyone is attuned to the broad mission, and … it encourages curiosity between people who work in different disciplines.” (Location 1530)

This combination of soundproofed offices connected to large common areas yields a hub-and-spoke architecture of innovation in which both serendipitous encounter and isolated deep thinking are supported. It’s a setup that straddles a spectrum where on one extreme we find the solo thinker, isolated from inspiration but free from distraction, and on the other extreme, we find the fully collaborative thinker in an open office, flush with inspiration but struggling to support the deep thinking needed to build on (Location 1583)

The key is to maintain both in a hub-and-spoke-style arrangement: Expose yourself to ideas in hubs on a regular basis, but maintain a spoke in which to work deeply on what you encounter. (Location 1593)

First, distraction remains a destroyer of depth. Therefore, the hub-and-spoke model provides a crucial template. (Location 1615)

Separate your pursuit of serendipitous encounters from your efforts to think deeply and build on these inspirations. You should try to optimize each effort separately, as opposed to mixing them together into a sludge that impedes both goals. (Location 1616)

Note: Separate efforts for serendipity and deep work

Christensen walked through the basics of disruption: entrenched companies are often unexpectedly dethroned by start-ups that begin with cheap offerings at the low end of the market, but then, over time, improve their cheap products just enough to begin to steal high-end market share. (Location 1627)

I came across this story in a foreword Christensen wrote for a book titled The 4 Disciplines of Execution, which built on extensive consulting case studies to describe four “disciplines” (abbreviated, 4DX) for helping companies successfully implement high-level strategies. (Location 1638)

Discipline #1: Focus on the Wildly Important (Location 1647)

The more you try to do, the less you actually accomplish.” They elaborate that execution should be aimed at a small number of “wildly important goals.” This simplicity will help focus an organization’s energy to a sufficient intensity to ignite real results. (Location 1649)

Discipline #2: Act on the Lead Measures (Location 1661)

Once you’ve identified a wildly important goal, you need to measure your success. In 4DX, there are two types of metrics for this purpose: lag measures and lead measures. (Location 1662)

Lag measures describe the thing you’re ultimately trying to improve. For example, if your goal is to increase customer satisfaction in your bakery, then the relevant lag measure is your customer satisfaction scores. As the 4DX authors explain, the problem with lag measures is that they come too late to change your behavior: “When you receive them, the performance that drove them is already in the past.” (Location 1663)

Tags: measuring

Lead measures, on the other hand, “measure the new behaviors that will drive success on the lag measures.” (Location 1667)

Tags: measure

Note: Look at lead measures!

well. In other words, lead measures turn your attention to improving the behaviors you directly control in the near future that will then have a positive impact on your long-term goals. (Location 1669)

Tags: goals

Note: Focus on lead measures to track progress towards your goals

Discipline #3: Keep a Compelling Scoreboard (Location 1676)

“People play differently when they’re keeping score,” the 4DX authors explain. (Location 1677)

They then elaborate that when attempting to drive your team’s engagement toward your organization’s wildly important goal, it’s important that they have a public place to record and track their lead measures. This scoreboard creates a sense of competition that drives them to focus on these measures, even when other demands vie for their attention. It also provides a reinforcing source of motivation. Once the team notices their success with a lead measure, they become invested in perpetuating this performance. (Location 1678)

Tags: measuring, lead measures

Discipline #4: Create a Cadence of Accountability (Location 1693)

The 4DX authors elaborate that the final step to help maintain a focus on lead measures is to put in place “a rhythm of regular and frequent meetings of any team that owns a wildly important goal.” (Location 1694)

During these meetings, the team members must confront their scoreboard, commit to specific actions to help improve the score before the next meeting, and describe what happened with the commitments they made at the last meeting. (Location 1696)

Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets … it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done. (Location 1730)

Tags: rest

heuristic: At the end of the workday, shut down your consideration of work issues until the next morning—no after-dinner e-mail check, no mental replays of conversations, and no scheming about how you’ll handle an upcoming challenge; shut down work thinking completely. If you need more time, then extend your workday, but once you shut down, your mind must be left free to encounter Kreider’s buttercups, stink bugs, and stars. (Location 1739)

Reason #1: Downtime Aids Insights (Location 1746)

At a high level, this theory proposes that for decisions that require the application of strict rules, the conscious mind must be involved. (Location 1759)

On the other hand, for decisions that involve large amounts of information and multiple vague, and perhaps even conflicting, constraints, your unconscious mind is well suited to tackle the issue. (Location 1761)

Your conscious mind, according to this theory, is like a home computer on which you can run carefully written programs that return correct answers to limited problems, whereas your unconscious mind is like Google’s vast data centers, in which statistical algorithms sift through terabytes of unstructured information, teasing out surprising useful solutions to difficult questions. (Location 1764)

The implication of this line of research is that providing your conscious brain time to rest enables your unconscious mind to take a shift sorting through your most complex professional challenges. A shutdown habit, therefore, is not necessarily reducing the amount of time you’re engaged in productive work, but is instead diversifying the type of work you deploy. (Location 1767)

Reason #2: Downtime Helps Recharge the Energy Needed to Work Deeply (Location 1770)

This study, it turns out, is one of many that validate attention restoration theory (ART), which claims that spending time in nature can improve your ability to concentrate. (Location 1777)

is based on the concept of attention fatigue. To concentrate requires what ART calls directed attention. This resource is finite: If you exhaust it, you’ll struggle to concentrate. (For our purposes, we can think of this resource as the same thing as Baumeister’s limited willpower reserves we discussed in the introduction to this rule. (Location 1780)

Tags: willpower

Put another way, when walking through nature, you’re freed from having to direct your attention, as there are few challenges to navigate (like crowded street crossings), (Location 1788)

The core mechanism of this theory is the idea that you can restore your ability to direct your attention if you give this activity a rest. (Location 1795)

Only the confidence that you’re done with work until the next day can convince your brain to downshift to the level where it can begin to recharge for the next day to follow. Put another way, trying to squeeze a little more work out of your evenings might reduce your effectiveness the next day enough that you end up getting less done than if you had instead respected a shutdown. (Location 1803)

The Work That Evening Downtime Replaces Is Usually Not That Important (Location 1806)

The implication of these results is that your capacity for deep work in a given day is limited. If you’re careful about your schedule (using, for example, the type of productivity strategies described in Rule #4), you should hit your daily deep work capacity during your workday. It follows, therefore, that by evening, you’re beyond the point where you can continue to effectively work deeply. Any work you do fit into the night, therefore, won’t be the type of high-value activities that really advance your career; your efforts will instead likely be confined to low-value shallow tasks (executed at a slow, low-energy pace). By deferring evening work, in other words, you’re not missing out on much of importance. (Location 1818)

Another key commitment for succeeding with this strategy is to support your commitment to shutting down with a strict shutdown ritual that you use at the end of the workday to maximize the probability that you succeed. In more detail, this ritual should ensure that every incomplete task, goal, or project has been reviewed and that for each you have confirmed that either (1) you have a plan you trust for its completion, or (2) it’s captured in a place where it will be revisited when the time is right. (Location 1831)

When you’re done, have a set phrase you say that indicates completion (to end my own ritual, I say, “Shutdown complete”). This final step sounds cheesy, but it provides a simple cue to your mind that it’s safe to release work-related thoughts for the rest of the day. (Location 1835)

since). The first thing I do is take a final look at my e-mail inbox to ensure that there’s nothing requiring an urgent response before the day ends. The next thing I do is transfer any new tasks that are on my mind or were scribbled down earlier in the day into my official task lists. (Location 1839)

the Zeigarnik effect. This effect, which is named for the experimental work of the early-twentieth-century psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik, describes the ability of incomplete tasks to dominate our attention. It tells us that if you simply stop whatever you are doing at five p.m. and declare, “I’m done with work until tomorrow,” you’ll likely struggle to keep your mind clear of professional issues, as the many obligations left unresolved in your mind will, as in Bluma Zeigarnik’s experiments, keep battling for your attention throughout the evening (a battle that they’ll often win). At first, this (Location 1847)

The shutdown ritual described earlier leverages this tactic to battle the Zeigarnik effect. While it doesn’t force you to explicitly identify a plan for every single task in your task list (a burdensome requirement), it does force you to capture every task in a common list, and then review these tasks before making a plan for the next day. This ritual ensures that no task will be forgotten: Each will be reviewed daily and tackled when the time is appropriate. Your mind, in other words, is released from its duty to keep track of these obligations at every moment—your shutdown ritual has taken over that responsibility. (Location 1860)

Tags: issue5, zeigarnik

When you work, work hard. When you’re done, be done. (Location 1870)

work: The ability to concentrate intensely is a skill that must be trained. This idea might sound obvious once it’s pointed out, but it represents a departure from how most people understand such matters. (Location 1900)

the Internet Sabbath (sometimes called a digital detox). In its basic form, this ritual asks you to put aside regular time—typically, one day a week—where you refrain from network technology. (Location 1939)

The idea motivating this strategy is that the use of a distracting service does not, by itself, reduce your brain’s ability to focus. It’s instead the constant switching from low-stimuli/high-value activities to high-stimuli/low-value activities, at the slightest hint of boredom or cognitive challenge, that teaches your mind to never tolerate an absence of novelty. (Location 1961)

To summarize, to succeed with deep work you must rewire your brain to be comfortable resisting distracting stimuli. (Location 2012)

Estimate how long you’d normally put aside for an obligation of this type, then give yourself a hard deadline that drastically reduces this time. (Location 2039)

Tags: execution

Note: Set hard deadlines that drastically reduce the time you would normally allocate for a task.

Like Roosevelt at Harvard, attack the task with every free neuron until it gives way under your unwavering barrage of concentration. (Location 2045)

Roosevelt dashes leverage artificial deadlines to help you systematically increase the level you can regularly achieve—providing, in some sense, interval training for the attention centers of your brain. (Location 2051)

The goal of productive meditation is to take a period in which you’re occupied physically but not mentally—walking, jogging, driving, showering—and focus your attention on a single well-defined professional problem. (Location 2069)

rule. By forcing you to resist distraction and return your attention repeatedly to a well-defined problem, it helps strengthen your distraction-resisting muscles, and by forcing you to push your focus deeper and deeper on a single problem, it sharpens your concentration. (Location 2083)

possible. One way it might attempt to sidestep this expenditure is by avoiding diving deeper into the problem by instead looping over and over again on what you already know about it. For example, when working on a proof, my mind has a tendency to rehash simple preliminary results, again and again, to avoid the harder work of building on these results toward the needed solution. You must be on your guard for looping, as it can quickly subvert an entire productive meditation session. (Location 2097)

Assuming you’re able to solve your next-step question, the final step of this structured approach to deep thinking is to consolidate your gains by reviewing clearly the answer you identified. (Location 2112)

To prepare for this high-volume memorization task, White recommends that you begin by cementing in your mind the mental image of walking through five rooms in your home. Perhaps you come in the door, walk through your front hallway, then turn into the downstairs bathroom, walk out the door and enter the guest bedroom, walk into the kitchen, and then head down the stairs into your basement. In each room, conjure a clear image of what you see. (Location 2153)

Once you can easily recall this mental walkthrough of a well-known location, fix in your mind a collection of ten items in each of these rooms. (Location 2156)

The second step in preparing to memorize a deck of cards is to associate a memorable person or thing with each of the fifty-two possible cards. (Location 2164)

The two steps mentioned previously are advance steps—things you do just once and can then leverage again and again in memorizing specific decks. (Location 2168)

Quit Social Media (Location 2190)

The first point is that we increasingly recognize that these tools fragment our time and reduce our ability to concentrate. (Location 2206)

Willpower is limited, and therefore the more enticing tools you have pulling at your attention, the harder it’ll be to maintain focus on something important. (Location 2210)

To be clear, I’m not trying to denigrate the benefits identified previously—there’s nothing illusory or misguided about them. What I’m emphasizing, however, is that these benefits are minor and somewhat random. (Location 2250)

The Any-Benefit Approach to Network Tool Selection: You’re justified in using a network tool if you can identify any possible benefit to its use, or anything you might possibly miss out on if you don’t use it. The problem with this approach, of course, is that it ignores all the negatives that come along with the tools in question. (Location 2255)

These services are engineered to be addictive—robbing time and attention from activities that more directly support your professional and personal goals (such as deep work). (Location 2258)

The Craftsman Approach to Tool Selection: Identify the core factors that determine success and happiness in your professional and personal life. Adopt a tool only if its positive impacts on these factors substantially outweigh its negative impacts. (Location 2316)

Notice that this craftsman approach to tool selection stands in opposition to the any-benefit approach. Whereas the any-benefit mind-set identifies any potential positive impact as justification for using a tool, the craftsman variant requires that these positive impacts affect factors at the core of what’s important to you and that they outweigh the negatives. (Location 2319)

In a time when so many knowledge workers—and especially those in creative fields—are still trapped in the any-benefit mind-set, it’s refreshing to see a more mature approach to sorting through such services. (Location 2354)

The Law of the Vital Few*: In many settings, 80 percent of a given effect is due to just 20 percent of the possible causes. (Location 2439)

If you service low-impact activities, therefore, you’re taking away time you could be spending on higher-impact activities. It’s a zero-sum game. And because your time returns substantially more rewards when invested in high-impact activities than when invested in low-impact activities, the more of it you shift to the latter, the lower your overall benefit. (Location 2456)

When Ryan Nicodemus decided to simplify his life, one of his first targets was his possessions. (Location 2471)

Everything’s more exciting when it’s a party, right?” (Location 2475)

Once the packing was done, Nicodemus then spent the next week going through his normal routine. If he needed something that was packed, he would unpack it and put it back where it used to go. At the end of the week, he noticed that the vast majority of his stuff remained untouched in its boxes. So he got rid of (Location 2476)

They offer personalized information arriving on an unpredictable intermittent schedule—making them massively addictive and therefore capable of severely damaging your attempts to schedule and succeed with any act of concentration. (Location 2499)

But part of what makes social media insidious is that the companies that profit from your attention have succeeded with a masterful marketing coup: convincing our culture that if you don’t use their products you might miss out. (Location 2502)

Part of what fueled social media’s rapid assent, I contend, is its ability to short-circuit this connection between the hard work of producing real value and the positive reward of having people pay attention to you. (Location 2523)

It has instead replaced this timeless capitalist exchange with a shallow collectivist alternative: I’ll pay attention to what you say if you pay attention to what I say—regardless of its value. (Location 2525)

The implicit agreement motivating this behavior is that in return for receiving (for the most part, undeserved) attention from your friends and followers, you’ll return the favor by lavishing (similarly undeserved) attention on them. You “like” my status update and I’ll “like” yours. This agreement gives everyone a simulacrum of importance without requiring much effort in return. (Location 2529)

world. They’re just products, developed by private companies, funded lavishly, marketed carefully, and designed ultimately to capture then sell your personal information and attention to advertisers. (Location 2540)

Tags: social media

Note: Social networks are designed to sell your personal information and attention to advertisers

evolved. But it has not. If anything, with the rise of the Internet and the low-brow attention economy it supports, the average forty-hour-a-week employee—especially those in my tech-savvy Millennial generation—has seen the quality of his or her leisure time remain degraded, consisting primarily of a blur of distracted clicks on least-common-denominator digital entertainment. If Bennett were brought back to life today, he’d likely fall into despair at the lack of progress in this area of human development. To be clear, I’m indifferent to the moral underpinnings behind Bennett’s suggestions. His vision of elevating the souls and minds of the middle class by reading poetry and great books feels somewhat antiquated and classist. But the logical foundation of his proposal, that you both should and can make deliberate use of your time outside work, remains relevant today—especially with respect to the goal of this rule, which is to reduce the impact of network tools on your ability to perform deep work. In more detail, in the strategies discussed so far in this rule, we haven’t spent much time yet on a class of network tools that are particularly relevant to the fight for depth: entertainment-focused websites designed to capture and hold your attention for as long as possible. (Location 2564)

time. If you’re waiting in line, or waiting for the plot to pick up in a TV show, or waiting to finish eating a meal, they provide a cognitive crutch to ensure you eliminate any chance of boredom. As I argued in Rule #2, however, such behavior is dangerous, as it weakens your mind’s general ability to resist distraction, making deep work difficult later when you really want to concentrate. (Location 2582)

Put more thought into your leisure time. (Location 2587)

In other words, this strategy suggests that when it comes to your relaxation, don’t default to whatever catches your attention at the moment, but instead dedicate some advance thinking to the question of how you want to spend your “day within a day.” (Location 2588)

In my experience, this analysis is spot-on. If you give your mind something meaningful to do throughout all your waking hours, you’ll end the day more fulfilled, and begin the next one more relaxed, than if you instead allow your mind to bathe for hours in semiconscious and unstructured Web surfing. (Location 2607)

Fewer official working hours helps squeeze the fat out of the typical workweek. Once everyone has less time to get their stuff done, they respect that time even more. People become stingy with their time and that’s a good thing. They don’t waste it on things that just don’t matter. When you have fewer hours you usually spend them more wisely. (Location 2634)

Tags: time management, productivity

The strategies that follow are designed to help you ruthlessly identify the shallowness in your current schedule, then cull it down to minimum levels—leaving more time for the deep efforts that ultimately matter most. (Location 2662)

Here’s my suggestion: At the beginning of each workday, turn to a new page of lined paper in a notebook you dedicate to this purpose. Down the left-hand side of the page, mark every other line with an hour of the day, covering the full set of hours you typically work. Now comes the important part: Divide the hours of your workday into blocks and assign activities to the blocks. (Location 2710)

Tags: time management

It’s here, of course, that most people will begin to run into trouble. Two things can (and likely will) go wrong with your schedule once the day progresses. The first is that your estimates will prove wrong. You might put aside two hours for writing a press release, for example, and in reality it takes two and a half hours. The second problem is that you’ll be interrupted and new obligations will unexpectedly appear on your plate. These events will also break your schedule. (Location 2722)

This is okay. If your schedule is disrupted, you should, at the next available moment, take a few minutes to create a revised schedule for the time that remains in the (Location 2725)

The second tactic that helps is the use of overflow conditional blocks. If you’re not sure how long a given activity might take, block off the expected time, then follow this with an additional block that has a split purpose. (Location 2735)

This type of scheduling, however, isn’t about constraint—it’s instead about thoughtfulness. (Location 2758)

Shallow Work: 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. (Location 2779)

How long would it take (in months) to train a smart recent college graduate with no specialized training in my field to complete this task? (Location 2791)

Tags: favorite

Second, the limits to our time necessitate more careful thinking about our organizational habits, also leading to more value produced as compared to longer but less organized schedules. (Location 2933)

Tip #1: Make People Who Send You E-mail Do More Work (Location 2961)

A commitment to deep work is not a moral stance and it’s not a philosophical statement—it is instead a pragmatic recognition that the ability to concentrate is a skill that gets valuable things done. Deep work is important, in other words, not because distraction is evil, but because it enabled Bill Gates to start a billion-dollar industry in less than a semester. (Location 3145)