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  • Writer's pictureLiz W.

Review for "Deep Work" by Cal Newport

Intro to the Review

We have all had that experience of enthusiastically starting a new book only to realize partway through that it's not what we were expecting. The purpose of the following review is not to judge whether the book is "good" or "bad." The goal is to help you decide whether or not it is a good book for you.

Start by asking yourself:

  • Does it seem like the content covered in this book aligns with what I was expecting to find?

  • Is the main problem addressed in this book similar to my own goal of what I would like to learn from it?

  • Is the style and format written in a way that will not hinder my ability to get the most value from this book?

  • Am I the intended audience for this book?

If after reading the review you can answer yes to all these questions, this book is the right fit for you. If not, well, there are plenty more books out there just waiting for you to read them.

Deep Work

Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World

Cal Newport

304 Pages - Copyright Ⓒ 2015 Grand Central Publishing

“Who you are, what you think, feel, and do, what you love—is the sum of what you focus on.”

Author Background

Cal Newport is a computer science professor at Georgetown University, where he does research about the theory of distributed systems. His focus is on the intersection between technology and culture and how to use technology productively. His first books focused on how to be successful as a student. More recent books include So Good They Can’t Ignore You (2012), Digital Minimalism (2019) and A World Without Email (2021).

His website can be found here. His podcast, Deep Questions, can be found on Spotify, Apple, and other platforms You can also get a time-block planner, as described in Deep Work, here.

What Problem Does This Book Attempt To Address?

Our society has shifted to an information economy, where many people fall into the category of “knowledge workers.” In order to be successful as a knowledge worker, you need to be able to produce high-quality results, something that is becoming increasingly difficult with the ever-present distractions of technology and office culture. Deep Work is the solution to this problem. The purpose of the book is to help you identify these distractions and discover strategies that address them most effectively while acknowledging that you cannot altogether remove them from your life.


· Concept explanation: Clear

· Related stories: Many

· Data references and studies: Less than average

· Charts and graphics: None

· Practical application: Good

The book is broken up into two parts: Why you should care about cultivating deep work and how to do it. It reminds of me of a high-level version of the book Indistractable. While Indistractable talks about very specific strategies for managing technological distraction, Deep Work talks more about the concepts and theory behind it.

Overall, this book is a good mix of interesting and useful. The book goes back and forth between theoretical arguments for deep work, stories of individuals and companies, psychological research studies, and strategies for practical application. This keeps the content varied and interesting throughout. It does feel somewhat light on the research and studies side.

The practical application is good. It is a more conceptual approach and less of a “do this, do that” approach. This will appeal to some readers and not others. If you are looking for more of a how-to guide, this may not be a good fit for you. If you like learning the “why” behind the ideas, you will like this book. Many of the examples are on the extreme end – people without phones, or retreating to cabins to get work done, but that is only to illustrate the point. The strategies are all centered around practical application in situations where you cannot just stop sending emails or attending meetings.

The book is primarily geared toward “knowledge workers,” people who sit in front of a computer for a living. Most of the advice and a majority of the examples are tech industry related. People in this industry will easily find value in this book. If you are not a knowledge worker, however, you can still find value in the concept of deep work. There are some examples of non-knowledge workers using deep work, too. If you fall into this category, it shouldn’t be too difficult to see how deep work translates to professions and skill sets outside of knowledge work.

Writing Style & Presentation

· Tone: Professional

· Organization: Great

· Flow: Great

The book takes on more of a professional tone, as opposed to the more personal tone many books of this type have. The audience of this book is professionals, so the tone feels very appropriate. The organization of the two parts and the subparts within them is logical and works well for presenting the information. The concepts are mostly separate from one another, relating back to overall theme, so they organize very easily into separate sections. While there is nothing particularly unique about the organization or flow, it supports the content well

Bringing It all Together

One thing done really well: The ratio of stories to studies to application keeps the book feeling varied and interesting.

One thing that could be better: While the target audience is meant to be primarily those in the tech industry, because that is the author’s professional focus, I think it will put off many people who could otherwise benefit from this book because after reading the first section they will think it doesn’t apply to them.

One main thing I took away from this book was: Deep Work isn’t something you just decide to do one day, it takes practice. You have to build up your deep work skillset by doing it consistently over time to get the most benefit from it.

Overall Recommendation

Who I would recommend this book for: People who feel like they struggle to produce as much high-quality work as they would like.

Who I wouldn’t recommend this book for: People looking for quick and dirty productivity how-to manual.


Enhance Your Reading by Using a Workbook

If you have decided this book is a good fit for you, I have created a workbook to help you get the most value from reading it. Here is a small sample of the material contained in the workbook.

Your workbook includes:

  • Pre-reading questions

  • Chapter discussion questions with space for writing answers

  • Space to write your own summary for each chapter

  • Vocabulary words with space to write definitions and add words

  • Key terms with space to write definitions and add words

  • Chapter reflection questions

  • Final reflection questions

  • A condensed list of all discussion questions and vocabulary for reference

  • Reflection pages for writing thoughts and ideas

Discussion Question Preview

Below you will find a small sample of the discussion questions. In the workbook, questions are provided for every chapter of this book.

Key Terms Preview

  • Any-Benefit Approach

  • Attention residue

  • Attention restoration theory (ART)

Vocabulary List Preview

Aggregate (n.) The whole sum or amount

Bereft (adj.) Lacking something needed, wanted, or expected

Corollary (n.) Something that incidentally or naturally accompanies or parallels

..... download the workbook to view the full lists!

Where to Find the Workbook

All available workbooks can be found on Amazon in hardcopy and ebook formats. They are free to access for Kindle Unlimited members.

You can find this particular workbook by clicking here.

Your Feedback is Appreciated!

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