Deep Work: How to Produce More in Less Time (Book Summary)

Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World

Muhammad Sarwar
4 min readMar 6, 2021


Deep work book summary — how to produce more in less time — better than yesterday

Deep work as described by Cal Newport in his book “Deep Work” is a professional activity performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that pushes your cognitive capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate.

One to two hours a day, five days a week, of uninterrupted and carefully directed concentration, can produce a lot of valuable output. As a consequence, the few who cultivate this skill of going deep, and then make it the core of their working life, will thrive.

The ability to perform deep work is becoming increasingly rare at exactly the same time it is becoming increasingly valuable in our economy.

It’s because every day we are bombarded with emails from co-workers that expect us to answer them immediately. Bosses want us to work in open offices, with massive distraction all around us.

So Cal argues that this type of work doesn’t allow us to go deep. He calls this type of work, shallow work. It’s noncognitive demanding, often performed
while distracted, doesn’t create much new value in the world and is easy to replicate.

There are two core abilities for thriving in today’s economy:

The ability to quickly master hard things

The ability to produce at an elite level, in terms of both quality and speed.

But to learn hard things quickly, you must focus intensely without distraction.

If you’re trying to learn a complex new skill, like programming, in a state of low concentration, for example, while having your Facebook feed open. You’re firing too many circuits simultaneously and your brain can’t focus properly. This is called attention residue.

Let’s say you’re working on a deep work project, for example writing an article. And you happen to glance at your email box and you see a few emails that need answering.

Now even if you return back to your deep work, you’re going to be producing at a much lower rate of cognitive capacity, because there has been a residue on your…



Muhammad Sarwar

I’m passionate about technology, grad school, productivity, machine learning, finance, electrical engineering, and life. Follow my blog to read about these.