Deep Work Deep Work 8.5分

Deep Work

2018-01-01 19:00:03

by Cal Newport


While the author spends a lot of (more than it takes to convince me, since I more or less already did) to ditch social media platforms such as FB, twitter, and I add its Chinese counterpart, WeChat, it also makes a strong point as to why one should focus on deep work and how to make it easier adapt to. Furthermore, (not so) surprisingly, the idea of “deep work” not only works in knowledge work, but also in other activities such as rock climbing, a sport that I have endeavored myself into for the recent half year. So long as it is something that is believed to be non-trivial, there are more than obvious ways it can be improved and even led by creative deep work. And I believe that is the most important attitude I ever learned by reading this book.

Notes by Chapter and Dates


*Deep Work*: Professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that

by Cal Newport


While the author spends a lot of (more than it takes to convince me, since I more or less already did) to ditch social media platforms such as FB, twitter, and I add its Chinese counterpart, WeChat, it also makes a strong point as to why one should focus on deep work and how to make it easier adapt to. Furthermore, (not so) surprisingly, the idea of “deep work” not only works in knowledge work, but also in other activities such as rock climbing, a sport that I have endeavored myself into for the recent half year. So long as it is something that is believed to be non-trivial, there are more than obvious ways it can be improved and even led by creative deep work. And I believe that is the most important attitude I ever learned by reading this book.

Notes by Chapter and Dates


*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*: Noncognitively 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.

To make matters worse for depth, there’s increasing evidence that this shift toward the shallow is not a choice that can be easily reversed. Spend enough time in a state of frenetic shallowness and you permanently reduce your capacity to perform deep work.


Deep work is not some nostalgic affectation of writers and early-twentieth-century philosophers. It’s instead a skill that has great value today

If you can create something useful, its reachable audience (e.g., employers or customers) is essentially limitless—which greatly magnifies your reward. On the other hand, if what you’re producing is mediocre, then you’re in trouble, as it’s too easy for your audience to find a better alternative online.

“Average is over.”

Deep work is so important that we might consider it, to use the phrasing of business writer Eric Barker, “the superpower of the 21st century.”

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. I build my days around a core of carefully chosen deep work, with the shallow activities I absolutely cannot avoid batched into smaller bursts at the peripheries of my schedule.


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.

Good point. Should reduce the energy spent on the shallow stuff.

Chapter 1: Deep Work Is Valuable

In 2013, for example, the George Mason economist Tyler Cowen published Average Is Over, a book that echoes this thesis of a digital division. But what makes Brynjolfsson and McAfee’s analysis particularly useful is that they proceed to identify three specific groups that will fall on the lucrative side of this divide and reap a disproportionate amount of the benefits of the Intelligent Machine Age.

To understand why, first recall that bargaining theory, a key component in standard economic thinking, argues that when money is made through the combination of capital investment and labor, the rewards are returned, roughly speaking, proportional to the input. As digital technology reduces the need for labor in many industries, the proportion of the rewards returned to those who own the intelligent machines is growing.

“We deny that these differences [between expert performers and normal adults] are immutable… Instead, we argue that the differences between expert performers and normal adults reflect a life-long period of deliberate effort to improve performance in a specific domain.”

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; you receive feedback so you can correct your approach to keep your attention exactly where it’s most productive.*

The reason, therefore, why it’s important to focus intensely on the task at hand while avoiding distraction is because this is the only way to isolate the relevant neural circuit enough to trigger useful myelination.


He can be excused for this dip, however, because this same year he published a book titled Give and Take, which popularized some of his research on relationships in business.

Maybe add to reading list.

They see productivity as a scientific problem to systematically solve—a goal Adam Grant seems to have achieved.

Within a semester dedicated to research, he alternates between periods where his door is open to students and colleagues, and periods where he isolates himself to focus completely and without distraction on a single research task.

He typically divides the writing of a scholarly paper into three discrete tasks: analyzing the data, writing a full draft, and editing the draft into something publishable.

Coding can divide like this, too.

The best students understood the role intensity plays in productivity and therefore went out of their way to maximize their concentration—radically reducing the time required to prepare for tests or write papers, without diminishing the quality of their results.

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.


Chapter 2: Deep Work Is Rare

To name another example, consider the common practice of setting up regularly occurring meetings for projects. These meetings tend to pile up and fracture schedules to the point where sustained focus during the day becomes impossible. Why do they persist? They’re easier. For many, these standing meetings become a simple (but blunt) form of personal organization. Instead of trying to manage their time and obligations themselves, they let the impending meeting each week force them to take some action on a given project and more generally provide a highly visible simulacrum of progress.

Clarity about what matters provides clarity about what does not.




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.

Technopoly eliminates alternatives to itself in precisely the way Aldous Huxley outlined in Brave New World,” he argued in his 1993 book on the topic. “It does not make them illegal. It does not make them immoral. It does not even make them unpopular. It makes them invisible and therefore irrelevant.

Chapter 3: Deep Work Is Meaningful

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.

deep work can generate as much satisfaction in an information economy as it so clearly does in a craft economy.

The thesis of this final chapter in Part 1, therefore, is that a deep life is not just economically lucrative, but also a life well lived.

what we choose to focus on and what we choose to ignore—plays in defining the quality of our life.

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.


According to Gallagher, decades of research contradict this understanding. Our brains instead construct our worldview based on what we pay attention to. If you focus on a cancer diagnosis, you and your life become unhappy and dark, but if you focus instead on an evening martini, you and your life become more pleasant—even though the circumstances in both scenarios are the same. As Gallagher summarizes: “Who you are, what you think, feel, and do, what you love—is the sum of what you focus on.”

if you spend enough time in this state, your mind will understand your world as rich in meaning and importance.

The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.

Human beings, it seems, are at their best when immersed deeply in something challenging.

Csikszentmihalyi even goes so far as to argue that modern companies should embrace this reality, suggesting that “jobs should be redesigned so that they resemble as closely as possible flow activities.” Noting, however, that such a redesign would be difficult and disruptive (see, for example, my arguments from the previous chapter), Csikszentmihalyi then explains that it’s even more important that the individual learn how to seek out opportunities for flow.

In 2011, Dreyfus and Kelly published a book, All Things Shining, which explores how notions of sacredness and meaning have evolved throughout the history of human culture. They set out to reconstruct this history because they’re worried about its endpoint in our current era. “The world used to be, in its various forms, a world of sacred, shining things,” Dreyfus and Kelly explain early in the book. “The shining things now seem far away.”

maybe read this up

What happened between then and now? The short answer, the authors argue, is Descartes. From Descartes’s skepticism came the radical belief that the individual seeking certainty trumped a God or king bestowing truth. The resulting Enlightenment, of course, led to the concept of human rights and freed many from oppression.


The task of a craftsman, they conclude, “is not to generate meaning, but rather to cultivate in himself the skill of discerning the meanings that are already there.” This frees the craftsman of the nihilism of autonomous individualism, providing an ordered world of meaning.

The Pragmatic Programmer, a well-regarded book in the computer programming field, makes this connection between code and old-style craftsmanship more directly by quoting the medieval quarry worker’s creed in its preface: “We who cut mere stones must always be envisioning cathedrals.”

You don’t need a rarified job; you need instead a rarified approach to your work.

在前端開發這件事情上,還在尋找rarified approach上走得很辛苦,不過好像越來越好了。

Eventually, the goal you pursue needs to resonate at a more human level. This chapter argues that when it comes to the embrace of depth, such resonance is inevitable. Whether you approach the activity of going deep from the perspective of neuroscience, psychology, or lofty philosophy, these paths all seem to lead back to a connection between depth and meaning. It’s as if our species has evolved into one that flourishes in depth and wallows in shallowness, becoming what we might call Homo sapiens deepensis.

Rule #1: Work Deeply

You have a finite amount of willpower that becomes depleted as you use it. Your will, in other words, is not a manifestation of your character that you can deploy without limit; it’s instead like a muscle that tires.


In fact, perhaps the single best piece of advice I can offer to anyone trying to do creative work is to ignore inspiration.

This strategy, mixed with Kelly’s aggressive recruitment of some of the world’s best minds, yielded some of the most concentrated innovation in the history of modern civilization. In the decades following the Second World War, the lab produced, among other achievements: the first solar cell, laser, communication satellite, cellular communication system, and fiber optic networking. At the same time, their theorists formulated both information theory and coding theory, their astronomers won the Nobel Prize for empirically validating the Big Bang Theory, and perhaps most important of all, their physicists invented the transistor. The theory of serendipitous creativity, in other words, seems well justified by the historical record. The transistor,

At the same time, don’t lionize this quest for interaction and positive randomness to the point where it crowds out the unbroken concentration ultimately required to wring something useful out of the swirl of ideas all around us.

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.

You must be careful to choose a philosophy that fits your specific circumstances, as a mismatch here can derail your deep work habit before it has a chance to solidify.

I have been a happy man ever since January 1, 1990, when I no longer had an email address. I’d used email since about 1975, and it seems to me that 15 years of email is plenty for one lifetime. Email is a wonderful thing for people whose role in life is to be on top of things.

But not for me; my role is to be on the bottom of things. What I do takes long hours of studying and uninterruptible concentration.

For some reason,讀到這段陳述,覺得很受鼓舞。我也想要走到bottom of things。

Practitioners of the monastic philosophy tend to have a well-defined and highly valued professional goal that they’re pursuing, and the bulk of their professional success comes from doing this one thing exceptionally well.

I try to learn certain areas of computer science exhaustively; then I try to digest that knowledge into a form that is accessible to people who don’t have time for such study.


lest [my communication policy’s] key message get lost in the verbiage, I will put it here succinctly: All of my time and attention are spoken for—several times over.

On the other hand, if you’re inside this pool—someone whose contribution to the world is discrete, clear, and individualized*—then you should give this philosophy serious consideration, as it might be the deciding factor between an average career and one that will be remembered.

average is over


He ran a busy clinical practice that often had him seeing patients until late at night; he was an active participant in the Zurich coffeehouse culture; and he gave and attended many lectures in the city’s respected universities.

Jung’s life in Zurich, in other words, is similar in many ways to the modern archetype of the hyperconnected digital-age knowledge worker: Replace “Zurich” with “San Francisco” and “letter” with “tweet” and we could be discussing some hotshot tech CEO.

haha I like this analogy

The bimodal philosophy believes that deep work can produce extreme productivity, but only if the subject dedicates enough time to such endeavors to reach maximum cognitive intensity—the state in which real breakthroughs occur. 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.

As Jung, Grant, and Perlow’s subjects discovered, people will usually respect your right to become inaccessible if these periods are well defined and well advertised, and outside these stretches, you’re once again easy to find.

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.

This philosophy argues that the easiest way to consistently start deep work sessions is to transform them into a simple regular habit.


are trained to shift into a writing mode on a moment’s notice, as is required by the deadline-driven nature of their profession

Without practice, such switches can seriously deplete your finite willpower reserves. This habit also requires a sense of confidence in your abilities—a conviction that what you’re doing is important and will succeed.

By reducing the need to make decisions about deep work moment by moment, I can preserve more mental energy for the deep thinking itself.


As revealed in a 2009 magazine profile, “every inch of [Caro’s] New York office is governed by rules.” Where he places his books, how he stacks his notebooks, what he puts on his wall, even what he wears to the office: Everything is specified by a routine that has varied little over Caro’s long career. “I trained myself to be organized,” he explained.

[Great creative minds] think like artists but work like accountants.


If they had instead waited for inspiration to strike before settling in to serious work, their accomplishments would likely have been greatly reduced.

be likely to be prepared when inspiration strikes

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.

He eventually realized that thirty thousand feet was an ideal environment for him to focus.


To achieve this state, Shankman did something unconventional. He booked a round-trip business-class ticket to Tokyo. He wrote during the whole flight to Japan, drank an espresso in the business class lounge once he arrived in Japan, then turned around and flew back, once again writing the whole way—arriving back in the States only thirty hours after he first left with a completed manuscript now in hand.


This structure, located at the intersection of Main and Vassar Streets in East Cambridge, and eventually demolished in 1998, was thrown together as a temporary shelter during World War II, meant to house the overflow from the school’s bustling Radiation Laboratory.

A physicist on his way to lunch in the cafeteria was like a magnet rolling past iron filings.

we can argue with some confidence, probably required Bell Labs and its ability to put solid-state physicists, quantum theorists, and world-class experimentalists in one building where they could serendipitously encounter one another and learn from their varied expertise. This was an invention unlikely to come from a lone scientist thinking deeply in the academic equivalent of Carl Jung’s stone tower.

Expose yourself to ideas in hubs on a regular basis, but maintain a spoke in which to work deeply on what you encounter.

Brattain would concentrate intensely to engineer an experimental design that could exploit Bardeen’s latest theoretical insight; then Bardeen would concentrate intensely to make sense of what Brattain’s latest experiments revealed, trying to expand his theoretical framework to match the observations.

As Christensen later explained, this division between what and how is crucial but is overlooked in the professional world. It’s often straightforward to identify a strategy needed to achieve a goal, but what trips up companies is figuring out how to execute the strategy once identified.

The general exhortation to “spend more time working deeply” doesn’t spark a lot of enthusiasm. To instead have a specific goal that would return tangible and substantial professional benefits will generate a steadier stream of enthusiasm.

David Brooks endorsed this approach of letting ambitious goals drive focused behavior, explaining: “If you want to win the war for attention, don’t try to say ‘no’ to the trivial distractions you find on the information smorgasbord; try to say ‘yes’ to the subject that arouses a terrifying longing, and let the terrifying longing crowd out everything else.”

最近,攀岩這件事就是非常好的例子。因為 I said “yes” to the kind of challanges encountered in climbing, 它真的自動幫忙排好了生活裡各種各樣的事情。健身練什麼,如何休息,攀岩的節奏如何,不去攀岩的時候就儘量自己做飯等等。當然,它也順便“擠”掉了其他的事情。



As each week progressed, I kept track of the hours spent in deep work that week with a simple tally of tick marks in that week’s row. To maximize the motivation generated by this scoreboard, whenever I reached an important milestone in an academic paper (e.g., solving a key proof), I would circle the tally mark corresponding to the hour where I finished the result.

This served two purposes. First, it allowed me to connect, at a visceral level, accumulated deep work hours and tangible results. Second, it helped calibrate my expectations for how many hours of deep work were needed per result.

In retrospect, it was not so much the intensity of my deep work periods that increased, but instead their regularity.

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.

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.

spending time in nature can improve your ability to concentrate.



listening to music while making dinner

omg my favorite bass monitor and jazz

Ericsson notes that for a novice, somewhere around an hour a day of intense concentration seems to be a limit, while for experts this number can expand to as many as four hours—but rarely more.

your mind trusts your ritual enough to actually begin to release work-related thoughts in the evening.

Rule #2: Embrace Boredom

So we have scales that allow us to divide up people into people who multitask all the time and people who rarely do, and the differences are remarkable. People who multitask all the time can’t filter out irrelevancy. They can’t manage a working memory. They’re chronically distracted. They initiate much larger parts of their brain that are irrelevant to the task at hand… they’re pretty much mental wrecks.


In my experience, it’s common to treat undistracted concentration as a habit like flossing—something that you know how to do and know is good for you, but that you’ve been neglecting due to a lack of motivation.

To simply wait and be bored has become a novel experience in modern life, but from the perspective of concentration training, it’s incredibly valuable.

On the one hand, his attention might appear to be hopelessly scattered, spread over what one classmate called an “amazing array of interests”—a list that biographer Edmund Morris catalogs to contain boxing, wrestling, body building, dance lessons, poetry readings, and the continuation of a lifelong obsession with naturalism

To support this extracurricular exuberance Roosevelt had to severely restrict the time left available for what should have been his primary focus: his studies at Harvard.


A subtler, but equally effective adversary, is looping. When faced with a hard problem, your mind, as it was evolved to do, will attempt to avoid excess expenditure of energy when 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.

This cycle of reviewing and storing variables, identifying and tackling the next-step question, then consolidating your gains is like an intense workout routine for your concentration ability.

We’re not wired to quickly internalize abstract information. We are, however, really good at remembering scenes.

Rule #3: Quit Social Media

Thurston struck up conversations with strangers. He enjoyed food without Instagramming the experience. He bought a bike (“turns out it’s easier to ride the thing when you’re not trying to simultaneously check your Twitter”). “The end came too soon,” Thurston lamented.

Notice the complexity of Pritchard’s tool decision.

比较受这个例子的启发。平时代码也要留意这一点。我们对应的工具就是各种各样的框架或者库嘛,还要多累积,形成相关的态度,然后才有动脑做这个决定的依据。这行还是难过那些可以更容易依赖common sense的行业。

包括以后万一做自己的事情了,talking about entrepreneurship,這個技能更加有用吧。

He began with a clear baseline—in his case, that soil health is of fundamental importance to his professional success—and then built off this foundation toward a final call on whether to use a particular tool.

I propose that if you’re a knowledge worker—especially one interested in cultivating a deep work habit—you should treat your tool selection with the same level of care as other skilled workers, such as farmers. Following is my attempt to generalize this assessment strategy. I call it the craftsman approach to tool selection, a name that emphasizes that tools are ultimately aids to the larger goals of one’s craft.

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.


It’s amazing how overly accessible people are. There’s a lot of communication in my life that’s not enriching, it’s impoverishing.

While your goals will likely differ, the key is to keep the list limited to what’s most important and to keep the descriptions suitably high-level. (If your goal includes a specific target—“to reach a million dollars in sales” or “to publish a half dozen papers in a single year”—then it’s too specific for our purposes here.) When you’re done you should have a small number of goals for both the personal and professional areas of your life.

The first step of this strategy is to identify the main high-level goals in both your professional and your personal life.

regularly read and understand the cutting-edge results in my field.

要参与到open source community当中去。

The next step in this strategy is to consider the network tools you currently use. For each such tool, go through the key activities you identified and ask whether the use of the tool has a substantially positive impact, a substantially negative impact, or little impact on your regular and successful participation in the activity.

Research patiently and deeply.

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.

This argument, however, misses the key point that all activities, regardless of their importance, consume your same limited store of time and attention. 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.

Given these dangers, you might expect that more knowledge workers would avoid these tools altogether—especially those like computer programmers or writers whose livelihood explicitly depends on the outcome of deep work. 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.

To Bennett, this is a lot of time, but most people in this situation tragically don’t realize its potential. The “great and profound mistake which my typical man makes in regard to his day,” he elaborates, is that even though he doesn’t particularly enjoy his work (seeing it as something to “get through”), “he persists in looking upon those hours from ten to six as ‘the day,’ to which the ten hours preceding them and the six hours following them are nothing but a prologue and epilogue.” This is an attitude that Bennett condemns as “utterly illogical and unhealthy.”

Accordingly, the typical man should instead use this time as an aristocrat would: to perform rigorous self-improvement—a task that, according to Bennett, involves, primarily, reading great literature and poetry.

These sites are especially harmful after the workday is over, where the freedom in your schedule enables them to become central to your leisure time.

Put more thought into your leisure time. 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.”

It’s crucial, therefore, that you figure out in advance what you’re going to do with your evenings and weekends before they begin. Structured hobbies provide good fodder for these hours, as they generate specific actions with specific goals to fill your time. A set program of reading, à la Bennett, where you spend regular time each night making progress on a series of deliberately chosen books, is also a good option, as is, of course, exercise or the enjoyment of good (in-person) company.

What? You say that full energy given to those sixteen hours will lessen the value of the business eight? Not so. On the contrary, it will assuredly increase the value of the business eight. One of the chief things which my typical man has to learn is that the mental faculties are capable of a continuous hard activity; they do not tire like an arm or a leg. All they want is change—not rest, except in sleep.


Rule #4: Drain the Shallows

Process-Centric Response to E-mail #2: “I agree that we should return to this problem. Here’s what I suggest… “Sometime in the next week e-mail me everything you remember about our discussion on the problem. Once I receive that message, I’ll start a shared directory for the project and add to it a document that summarizes what you sent me, combined with my own memory of our past discussion. In the document, I’ll highlight the two or three most promising next steps. “We can then take a crack at those next steps for a few weeks and check back in. I suggest we schedule a phone call for a month from now for this purpose. Below I listed some dates and times when I’m available for a call. When you respond with your notes, indicate the date and time combination that works best for you and we’ll consider that reply confirmation for the call. I look forward to digging into this problem.”

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.

刚刚开始很经常去kinetics的时候有过这样的担心。担心自己因为“可以经常去”就浪费掉在岩馆里的状态。不过,as it turns out,还是相对比较好地利用了这些时间。其一,因为自己不能天天呆在里面,毕竟还有其他的事情,过去一次也还是要费一些周折。另外,身体状态、肌肉力量,是会用尽的,要在身体状态最好的时候去,尽可能地用在更难得技术上。

They note that for someone new to such practice (citing, in particular, a child in the early stages of developing an expert-level skill), an hour a day is a reasonable limit. For those familiar with the rigors of such activities, the limit expands to something like four hours, but rarely more.


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 day. You can turn to a new page. You can erase and redraw blocks. Or do as I do: Cross out the blocks for the remainder of the day and create new blocks to the right of the old ones on the page (I draw my blocks skinny so I have room for several revisions). On some days, you might rewrite your schedule half a dozen times. Don’t despair if this happens. Your goal is not to stick to a given schedule at all costs; it’s instead to maintain, at all times, a thoughtful say in what you’re doing with your time going forward—even if these decisions are reworked again and again as the day unfolds.

On the other hand, a task that our hypothetical college graduate can pick up quickly is one that does not leverage expertise, and therefore it can be understood as shallow.

but a boss might reply, in so many words, “as much shallow work as is needed for you to promptly do whatever we need from you at the moment.” In this case, the answer is still useful, as it tells you that this isn’t a job that supports deep work, and a job that doesn’t support deep work is not a job that can help you succeed in our current information economy. You should, in this case, thank the boss for the feedback, and then promptly start planning how you can transition into a new position that values depth.

Luckily, right now I’m well-protected from such circumstances.

As Nagpal admits, early in her academic career she found herself trying to cram work into every free hour between seven a.m. and midnight (because she has kids, this time, especially in the evening, was often severely fractured). It didn’t take long before she decided this strategy was unsustainable, so she set a limit of fifty hours a week and worked backward to determine what rules and habits were needed to satisfy this constraint.

For example, she decided she would travel only five times per year for any purpose, as trips can generate a surprisingly large load of urgent shallow obligations (from making lodging arrangements to writing talks).

Another tactic that works well for me is to be clear in my refusal but ambiguous in my explanation for the refusal. The key is to avoid providing enough specificity about the excuse that the requester has the opportunity to defuse it. If, for example, I turn down a time-consuming speaking invitation with the excuse that I have other trips scheduled for around the same time, I don’t provide details—which might leave the requester the ability to suggest a way to fit his or her event into my existing obligations—but instead just say, “Sounds interesting, but I can’t make it due to schedule

It takes a lot to convince me to agree to something that yields shallow work. If you ask for my involvement in university business that’s not absolutely necessary, I might respond with a defense I learned from the department chair who hired me: “Talk to me after tenure.”

In turning down obligations, I also resist the urge to offer a consolation prize that ends up devouring almost as much of my schedule (e.g., “Sorry I can’t join your committee, but I’m happy to take a look at some of your proposals as they come together and offer my thoughts”). A clean break is best.


Walter Isaacson


后来又查了一下,原来是Steve Jobs(传记)的作者。

During my third year at Georgetown, which spanned the fall of 2013 through the summer of 2014, I turned my attention back to my deep work habits, searching for more opportunities to improve.

Takes long time to keep and improve.

There’s also an uneasiness that surrounds any effort to produce the best things you’re capable of producing, as this forces you to confront the possibility that your best is not (yet) that good.




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