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I finished this book a few months ago. It has a few practical tips for improving focus! Recommend checking it out.

Maro · 2020-11-18 · Original thread
I really liked Cal Newport's first book, "So Good They Can't Ignore You", published in 2012 [1]. The titular sentence is great advice, one I've been following all my life.

Meanwhile a lot of time went by, I'm almost 40, and I have worked at 8-10 companies (incl. FAANG, my own startup). His later advice, from the book "Deep Work", was not in line with my work experience [2]. The problem is, Cal doesn't have a regular 9-5 job as a tech worker, at a tech company. He's in academia (and self-employed), which is very different --- I know, I also worked in academia! And this shows.

For example, I was reading his book Deep Work while I was at Facebook, where the whole company is on Workplace/Workchat internally, with frequent notification/mention/chat interrupts, and the culture is to have quick response times. So no Deep Work, yet velocity and productivity is very high. It's not true that you need a lot of focused time to get things done, you can manage it in smaller chunks. It'd be convenient, but it's not realistic.

Reflecting on this article, in my experience, the key thing to focus on for companies is not personal productivity but team organization. The topline differentiator between high-velocity and high-productivity organizations versus the rest is that these are a collection of self-sufficient cross-functional product teams. The rest, which is most organizations, usually run "projects" instead of products, and multiple departments and teams, with different reporting lines, goals, OKRs/KPIs, etc. are exptected to work together to make it happen --- the result is the organization becomes one big waiting/blocking graph, with 80% of projects being blocked at any given time. This also makes personal productivity harder, because more "sync" and "alignment" type email threads and meetings are needed. In this model people have to work with more people they don't know/trust, so more people are communicating with each other who don't know how to communicate with each other, they may not even know the other person's exact job description or timezone location.

Having said that, I appreciate Cal's perspective, and I'm happy to support him by buying his books.



georgex7 · 2020-10-06 · Original thread
I read Cal Newport's Deep Work (, which explains how to work in a way that maximizes your output. In short, he recommends spending short periods of time hyper-focused on difficult problems with absolutely no distractions.

I applied this way of working to how I approached studying for software engineering and it helped me tremendously. I was able to pick up difficult solutions quite quickly without spending huge amounts of time studying. I've continued to use this way of working over the last couple of years, which has helped me perform well at work + on side projects.

During this time, I had no way to track my deep work hours or what I was getting done in those sessions. This allows you to do just that. You can think of it like Google Analytics for your Deep Work time.

It's in the early stages now, but I'm in the process of adding essential features.

long_warmup · 2020-01-17 · Original thread
Looks interesting, I drop link here for future reference.
DennisP · 2019-04-18 · Original thread
This is a common problem. The book Deep Work goes into it in detail, and has some research-based techniques to fix it. Basically it boils down to removing distractions, and determination, gradually building up your brain's ability to focus again.

Omnius · 2018-10-18 · Original thread
You should read "Deep Work" i found it very enlightening and have put a lot of it into practice to make sure i have time for deep and creative work.

tiniuclx · 2018-10-16 · Original thread
Deep Work ( concisely sums up many feelings I've had about distractions and how this always connected world affects the way I think. I believe the teachings of this book are especially applicable to knowledge workers.
thisisananth · 2018-08-03 · Original thread
I was addicted to browsing during my work. I knew I was wasting my time and it is not helping. I would resolve to not so it again. Then slowly I would fall back into my old ways. What helped was realizing that it is easy to do something 100% of the time than 95% of the time. Previously rationalized when I was getting distracted by telling myself it is just for 5 mins which inevitably resulted in more rationalising and realizing only after an hour. Now when I get distracted and realize it, I just stop it there and then and get back to work. I also made some changes like having specific internet time and strictly avoiding it during other time also helped. Read the book deep work by Cal Newport. It has these and various other ways to focus more.
sgdread · 2018-07-09 · Original thread
There is another great book written by Cal: Deep Work [1].

Don't follow your passion. Instead, become really good at something. Apply methodical approach to improve your craft skills. Once you got mastery, you might actually like it.


edit: formatting

The author references Cal Newport's Deep Work [1]. I recently read this book and I can't recommend it enough. It's not just a productivity fluff piece about the importance of focus. He brings an academic rigor to the debate and backs up his claims with legitimate evidence. Best of all, the book is not just theory, it's 100% actionable.

I used Newport's recommendations to reclaim 4+ solid hours of deep focus and it's had a tremendous impact on my productivity and general quality of life.

Here are a few strategies I found successful:

* Create a TODO list each day and separate tasks into shallow and deep categories

* Block off each hour of the day and and fill it with one of the TODO items

* Restrict shallow work to 2 hours (after 2 hours, say no to everything shallow)

* Create a scorecard and track the number of deep hours each day (this number should increase)

* Experiment with Newport's recommendations for two weeks and see which ones increase your deep hours

* Become comfortable saying no


jawns · 2018-02-24 · Original thread
One step is to acknowledge that you're not supposed to be good at task switching. It takes a negative toll on everybody. Our brains just aren't very good at it. Because of this, your employer, if you have one, should take steps to minimize the amount of task switching required, or at least try to give you blocks of time you can dedicate to focused tasks.

That said, task switching is a practical reality, so coping strategies are important, too.

For help with that, check out Cal Newport's "Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World" ( Full disclosure: He and I share a literary agent.

feralmoan · 2017-12-27 · Original thread
"Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World" was a standout read this year
yuribro · 2017-12-22 · Original thread
Cal Newport - Deep Work

While following the advice in the book did push my productivity up, sadly I didn't manage to keep up those habits. But it does appear to work, just need to make the right adjustments to make it easier to follow.

antoaravinth · 2017-11-22 · Original thread
Yes, that precisely what I wanted to say. For newbies, I would recommend to read this fantastic book on Deep work [1]


markdog12 · 2017-10-07 · Original thread
Loved the book and highly recommend, especially to hn crowd.

beat · 2017-08-23 · Original thread
For those interested in managing online time and getting ourselves offline regularly, the book Deep Work, by Cal Newport, has some very useful ideas. One that I plan to start experimenting with is the idea of scheduled internet access - allow yourself to get online only at certain times of day. This isn't just for work. Even if you're, say, standing in line at the grocery store, you don't get to pull your phone out and check your email.

As the author points out, we've forgotten how to be bored. We need to learn to engage that part of our brain again.

brandur · 2017-08-18 · Original thread
Your best bet might be to be less responsive on Slack — not only by not responding to everyone immediately, but by not responding to some Slack messages at all. If it's important, the person who pinged you can submit their request via another medium, hopefully in a longer form format like email or bug report that's more thoughtfully considered and thoroughly researched, and which you can reply/fix quickly without spending 10 to 30 minutes of your work day in tight synchronous communication.

It's sort of a bad thing to do, but you will start getting fewer Slack messages. People have an implicit understanding of who's likely to respond in a timely manner, and somewhat ironically, it's the most responsive people who have to improve their responsiveness even more because by being responsive they'll get even more messages and interruptions.

On a meta note, it continues to surprise me that more people and companies aren't talking about the highly distracting effects of the software. It works great at small scale, but if you get large enough everyone's pinging everyone all the time. I recently read Deep Work by Cal Newport (excellent book by the way [1]) and couldn't help but being mildly entertained when they get into the time draining effects of email (it seems to have been written a little before Slack caught on). The distraction engine created by Slack is the SR-71's Pratt & Whitney J58 [2] compared to email's 5 HP motor out of an everyday golf cart.



feralmoan · 2017-05-25 · Original thread
A lot of the points touched on in the original article and this thread are conducive to deeper, creative and more meaningful work in general. You should say no to meaningless distractions. I just finished reading this book about it, so, good timing...
Read Cal Newport's I didn't read the free ebook, but it seem another one based on this book.
kentt · 2016-09-02 · Original thread
Deep Work has been one of the most influential books about productivity.

zzleeper · 2016-05-31 · Original thread
Link for the lazy:

It's really useful in fighting against all these distractions (I should probably re-read it every few months though :(

aacook · 2016-01-30 · Original thread
Came here to say the same. Last night I was hanging out with my 3-year-old nephew and wondering how different his life will be, especially with all the advancements like VR coming our way. I feel lucky to be old enough to remember what life was like before the internet.

The idea of people spending 10+ hours in VR per week scares me, but it's probably pretty similar to video game and smartphone usage. Maybe that would be a good place to start research.

A little over a month ago I started working on forming new habits, severely limiting use of network tools. I now only check email/sms/etc twice per day. At 6pm I put all technology away. I'm asleep by 9:30pm, awake at 5:30am, and try not to look at any network tools again until 10am. I'm considerably happier and more productive now. It's a tough habit to maintain and I'm pretty sure a few of my friends think I'm nuts.

A couple good, related reads:

chris11 · 2016-01-28 · Original thread
Cal Newport just released a book on "Deep Work" that talks about that subject. I haven't finished it yet, but so far the book is really interesting.

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