Deep Work by Cal Newport

Deep Work by Cal Newport,

Grand Central Publishing, New York, 2016.

I am part of an alumni book club through Cal State- San Bernardino. These are my responses I posted for this book.

Responses to book by chapters

Before reading book

I am hoping this book is not the usual claptrap of “follow my system and you will rule the world” that is so prevalent in the book stores. I want it to teach me something new. I am a retired school teacher, so I had to use organized systems to keep my sanity during busy, busy days.

1)My Response to the Introduction
He says there are two ways to work, shallow and deep. He says that the busyness in our world with internet and phones being used constantly, have changed our brains and therefore way we work. He proposes that turning things off and giving yourself a place to do deep work without distraction will enable you to accomplish more in less time. He says he has rules to use when doing deep work and will share them in the rest of the book. He also says as those who know how to do Deep work become fewer there will be a greater need for them.
His ideas sounds correct to me. I know when distractions are minimum in a classroom, children can concentrate better. It has been suggested that classroom walls be left empty to help students concentrate on their studies. When I work, I usually have noise going on– the TV in my office is on, my phone is close, and I answer it when it rings. When I work it usually turns into white noise to cover the quiet in the house. The opposite of what he is suggesting I would think. My sister goes to quiet study rooms to study her college materials by herself on Sundays. She studies the rest of the time in a noisy household with our mother, sister and her two kids running around. She made straight As throughout her junior college years and received three AA degrees. She is amazing. Deep Work idea seems to work for her.

2) I have already made changes to the way I work on reading and writing. When it is serious work and I need my brain totally tuned in- deep work- I turn the TV off now. I put my cell phone on the charger away from me. I place the work I am going to do first on my attack stack each night. I also have a tracking chart to fill out every day with what I have accomplished that day. I am going to try to make 6 pm my quit time, however I am out of the house MWF at 11:15 am and do not get home until after 8 pm. I feel the need to get some work done those evenings, too. I am going to set a hard stop time of 10 pm.

Chapter 1 Response

I know why students have a hard time moving from one task or subject to another-.
It is due to attention residue. They require frequent reminders that a new task is coming up. It is also why they will talk about the last class as they are coming into your classroom. It makes transitioning from one subject to another difficult in a classroom.

I also have seen, when I am focused on reading and the world disappears around me, I have a better understanding of what I read. I am able to take better notes. I also tend to remember what I studied. I know when I am focused on an assignment, I tend to move through the requirements quicker.

I am also trying to cut down on the white noise makers such as the TV that is frequently on while i am studying. I lose what is on the TV when I concentrate, so why have it on at all? It can be on when I am doing the distractions such as email and Facebook.

I think the three successful groups in the Great Restructuring are interesting.
High-skilled workers– workers with the ability to use and tease valuable results out of complex machines. Are they good working with intelligent machines, or not?
The Superstars– when talent is universally accessible, then those whoa re at the top will be the most successful. The consumer will choose the very best. These superstars will win the bulk of the market. An increasing number of workers are competing with these superstars.
The Owners– These people have capital and buy companies and OWN them. They have capital to invest in the new technologies that are driving the Great Restructuring.

It makes me glad I am retired and not in direct competition for these new economy jobs.

The brain research information he gives on practice is interesting.
Deliberate practice requires: your attention to be focused on a specific skill to improve or idea to master and feedback is received so corrections can be made. It cannot exist beside distractions, because it requires uninterrupted concentration. It is an effective behavior. It makes changes in the brain and forces circuits to fire repeatedly creating learning and memory.

Over all Chapter one is a presentation of the research he has found to back up his own ideas on Deep Work. It is an interesting chapter to read.

Chapters 2 and 3

I am not a fan of the writer’s style either. He uses too many big words in long sentences, with a lot of commas, and clauses. I read one sentence four times and even then I do not think it quite made sense to me. This book is not for the uneducated masses or the non English speaker just beginning to learn English.

Newport has one main point to make and backed it up with three sub points.
Main point: Deep work is a better way to work.
Sub points:
Deep work is becoming less prevalent in the work place.
Deep work is need in the work place
Deep work cannot be quantified as valuable in the work place.

He has great example throughout the book for each point he makes. He also has good research to back it up. So now that he has backed up his statements with his research, let’s see where he takes us.

Rule 1

i think the rhythmic or the bimodal type of Deep Work would work for my lifestyle. I am currently retired and am learning how to be a write and author on my own. I am also starting two blogs and I am an administrator on a forum and facebook website.

I have to prioritize my work now. There are things I need to do every day. My blogs require something to be written on them every day or every other day to get people to come to them. I am currently 10,000 words into a novel I am writing. I also have two more book ideas sitting waiting for me to get to them. I am also taking online blogging and writing courses. Plus I need to read, write and o community things to increase my viewpoints as writer. I am going to make a list of all of this and prioritize them. Someday I can ignore some things, others I can work on others.
I like Newport’s ideas of ritualizing your routine. I go to the kitchen, grab a cup and ice, set in on my desk, put my heater on, and step up to the list of things I want/need to do. When I taught middle school at the end of the day I would always leave the next days plans on my desk, along with a “Do this! list. I never left a messy desk at the end of the day.

I still think Newport is wordy. This chapter on Rule 1 is extra-long. He takes simple, basic ideas and makes them hard to decipher.

Rules 2 and 3

I sometimes have my best ideas in the shower. It is a physically busy time and I mull over things as I come clean often in more ways than one. A few of my best lesson plans and story ideas came from a shower. I also follow meditation techniques when going to bed at night. His idea of useful boredom resonates with me.
Meals eaten with the family and no devices out is an old fashioned idea nowadays. Have you seen the kids and adults in restaurants on their cell phones or game pads. I have been bad about using my cell during meals out with my husband. I am making a public promise here and now to not use my device when I am out with my husband eating a meal.
I still want to use my cell phone in the car as a passenger, since I am a nervous passenger and need the distraction. Have you SEEN our California freeways lately?
Sitting at the doctor’s office waiting today, did I use the time to think about the next part of my book I am currently embroiled in writing. For about two minutes, then the phone came out with an excuse. Before I bought my Pixel 2 phone, I would not take my cell phone anywhere, I disliked the idea of being tagged everywhere I went. Now I cannot leave home without the phone. Do I get phone calls on that phone. Not really. Do I need to keep in touch on Facebook that much? No,my life is not that exciting. Is Armageddon coming around the bend and I need ongoing, breaking news? I have not heard about it. I do need the phone along as an emergency aide. If something happens to me, I want my medical information available, as well my SO called.
I played Facebook games for two years straight, almost all day. Farmville 2 was a favorite. They took me away from my depressive thoughts and let me build other worlds during a very tough time in my life. I realized in January of this year I wanted to focus on my love of writing. I wanted to do something with my poetry and ideas. I have not completely quit Facebook games, but most of my day is taken up with writing goals and skills, reading books, and making a community to be a writer in. It is a huge change from distractive work to time spent doing deep work. I made the move before I even read this book.
I think it is instinctive in learners who crave knowledge to move into Deep Work naturally. What do you all think?

I read Rule three today. I have come to detest this book. I find myself making changes to my life based on the ideas within the book. I also discuss its ideas with other people. However, I glare at the book on my desk and slap the cover. I want to take the book and bang it on the wall until the big words and jargon fall out of it, leaving the main points and examples for easier reading. I realize the author is a college professor way up in academics somewhere, however he sure put a lot of extraneous bs into this book.

2) I read Rule three today. I have come to detest this book. I find myself making changes to my life based on the ideas within the book. I also discuss its ideas with other people. However, I glare at the book on my desk and slap the cover. I want to take the book and bang it on the wall until the big words and jargon fall out of it, leaving the main points and examples for easier reading. I realize the author is a college professor way up in academics somewhere, however he sure put a lot of extraneous bs into this book.

Rule 4

I am currently writing a story/book. I have given myself a hard deadline of May 31 to have the 1st draft done and be ready to take on the rewriting phases of it. I am working on checking my email twice a day. I am also trying not to play so much on Facebook games. My writing time is fast becoming sacrosanct to me. Let me write and do not disturb, or the writing dragon will forget she is actually a kind person and will bite your head off.
Now if I can get the stupid phone calls to cease and desist from telemarketers, survey takers, and random organization who want money. They interrupt things quite a few times a day. I act as our home secretary and answer the phone first. I am a lot nicer than hubby is getting rid of the pests.
I also need to do things around our house. I have to clean up and out part of my library room due to my mother moving in with us for ten or so days while they have floors done in their house.
I also deal with a chronic illness everyday and am on dialysis three days a week. This means a huge chunk of my time is devoted to taking care of my health.
So, yes, I can drain some of the shallow swamp in my life. Some things just are what they are.

My Overall Response

     I think in today’s world of busyness and technology being put before everything else, Cal Newport’s book, Deep Work, C. 2016, has recommendations that are useful to the group of information workers that have just been hired, been in their careers for a few years, and are technology based in their communications.  A lot of what he said in his book resonates with me.  I have always tried to put first things first when I work.  Avoiding distraction and working quietly was always used in classrooms as I grew up.

 In today’s world there is a lot of noise during a student’s day.  They use technology and teachers are told constantly to pick up their use of technology in the classroom.  Stay with he times they are told.  When we need to be teaching deep work habits to our students.  Teach the value of following a thought to a conclusion and how to find things in a book instead of using the internet.  Sometimes that slow research can lead to other avenues that are not thought of. 

Newport is correct when he says technology is rewiring our brains.  Look around at any place you go, people are wired into their technology.  He complains about Facebook being a time sucker.  I can attest to the fact it is one.  His suggestions throughout the book of what to do and how to do it make sense.  Working in a quiet atmosphere with no distractions helped him.  He says it will help anyone. 

This book is not the claptrap I worried it would be.  It does not give a magic formula that promises to solve all your problems at work.  Newport’s book promises there will be rewards only through hard decisions to make changes in the way you work.  Only through deep work can the effects of technology and shallow work become less of a force in your work life.

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