Deep Work by Cal Newport: Lessons

Dan Silvestre
6 min readSep 7, 2018

“Clarity about what matters provides clarity about what does not.”

Rating: 10/10

Finished: 08/2016

Related: So Good They Can’t Ignore You

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Short Summary

Deep Work is a guide on how to develop the superpower of deep focus on cognitively-demanding tasks in a distracted world. These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate. It covers many examples from real-world experiences and actionable items make implementing these ideas quite straightforward.


The author divides our professional work into two categories: deep work and shallow work.

He calls the ability to perform Deep Work the “superpower of the 21st century”. He defines it 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.”

Shallow work consists of tasks that you can be performed while being distracted, like emails, meetings and other rituals of the modern workplace. Some are unavoidable, but we should tame them so we have more time for Deep Work.

If you engage most of your time in shallow work activities, you permanently reduce your capacity to perform Deep Work. This ability is becoming increasingly rare and increasingly valuable in our economy.

Only the few who cultivate this skill will thrive.

The Deep Work Hypothesis

In the future of humanity, there will be three types of people who will survive and prosper:

  • Owners of capital, or those with access to it
  • Anyone who can work with intelligent machines and technology
  • Superstars in their field of work

The book focuses on the third kind. To become one, you need to develop two skills: the ability to quickly master hard things and the ability to produce at an elite level, in terms of both quality and speed.

Dan Silvestre

Performance coach helping leaders get the right things done with less effort than anything they've tried before. Join 20k+ readers: