Book review: Deep Work by Cal Newport

When I was in high school, I spent a lot of time with a book called How to Be a High School Superstar by this dude, Cal Newport. The book was great – it inspired me, but that was just about it. I barely scraped my way in to college, and then dropped out of that a semester later.

Turns out, I just sucked at school because I hated it. I turned out okay, and ended up doing okay professionally. I heard rumblings of this book called Deep Work, and vaguely recognized the name of the author. I eventually connected the dots, and procrastinated reading the book for a couple of years.

I recently read it. It’s incredible.

I love Cal’s approach – he takes a sensible line. Not too prescriptive, he outlines a bunch of strategies to help knowledge workers get the most out of their time, without saying that any particular one is the be-all-end-all. Many books focus too much on the why and not enough on the how. Cal has managed to pull both sides off in an effective and balanced way with actionable steps and things to try. His different schedules of deep work offered particularly stand out. Another piece that jumps out is his bit about increasing memory through deck-of-cards memorization, which is something I’ll be trying out.

All-in-all, Deep Work was a great book of an almost exactly appropriate length. It’s well regarded, and for good reason. It’s only been out a couple of years, but I see it being increasingly relevant as time passes and deep work becomes harder to obtain.