Deep Work by Cal Newport- 🔑takeaways

Sheryl Li
3 min readJul 17, 2021

Learning and mastering complex skills requires intense uninterrupted concentration-however, with the internet, deep work is increasingly being replaced by the shallow alternatives such as sending and receiving e-mail messages.

Here are my key takeaways from this book, which is an introduction/guide to deep work.

Photo by Jeroen den Otter on Unsplash

🦄Who you are, what you think, feel, and do, what you love- is the sum of what you focus on

willpower is limited!

Actionable steps for deep work:

  • add routines + rituals to life designed to minimalize amount of limited willpower necessary to transition
  • maximize deep work by radically eliminating shallow obligations
  • dedicate clear defined stretches for deep work
  • generate a rhythm for deep work that removes the need for you to invest energy in deciding if and when you’re going to go deep

When you are comfortable going deep, you are comfortable mastering complex skills.


  • determine where you will work + how long
  • how you’ll work once you start to wokr
  • how you’ll support your work grand gesture

❗️lock yourself up → push your deep goal to a level of mental priority that helps unlock the needed mental resources

have a specific goal that would return tangible and substantial professional benefits will generate a steadier stream of ethusiasm

-act on the lead measures

measuring success: lag and lead measures

lag measures describe the thing you’re ultimately trying to improve

lead measures measure the new behaviors that will drive success on the lag measures

relevant lead measure: time spent in a state of deep work dedicated toward your wildly important goal

-say yes to the subject that arouses a terrifying longing , and let the terrifying longing crowd out everything else

-compelling scoreboard

-shutdown ritual:

final email look, transfer new task in list, plan the next day

-plan every minute of your day, including breaks

revise schedule maintain at all times, a thoughtful say in what you’re doing

overflow conditional blocks

only the confidence that you’re done with work until the next day would really recharge for the next day.

once workday is done, no incursion of professional concerns.

when you work, work hard. when you’re done, be done.

schedule breaks. attack the task with every free neuron.

productive meditation: occupied physically but not mentally

craftsman approach 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

  1. identify high level goals in professional and personal life
  2. list two/three most important activities that help satisfy your goal
  3. tools?

the tool needs to offer enough benefits to offset its drag on your time and attention

law of vital few: In many settings, 80 percent of a given effect is due to just 20 percent of the possible causes.

all activities, regardless of their importance, consume your same limited store of time and attention.

service low impact activities → taking away time that could have gone to higher impact activities

For leisure time, it is crucial to preplan leisure activities.

learn that the mental faculties are capable of a continuous hard activity; they do not tire like an arm or leg. All they want is change- not rest, except in sleep

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 allowed your mind to bathe for hours in semiconscious and unstructured web surfing.

so, to eliminate addictive entertainment, give your brain a quality alternative