Welcome to episode 9 of the Self-Publishing School podcast. Today, I am joined by Cal Newport an Assistant Professor of Computer Science at Georgetown University. In addition to studying the theoretical foundations of our digital age, he also writes about the impact of these technologies on the world at work. His most recent work Deep Work argues that focus is the new IQ in the modern workplace, and that the ability to concentrate without distraction is becoming increasingly valuable.
Previous work by Cal includes three popular books with unconventional advice for students, and So Good They Can’t Ignore You a book that debunks the long held belief that following your passion is good advice. Today, we are going to dive into the deep work methodology. If you have ever tried to write a book, then you know that the hardest thing in the process is the actual focus and getting to the finish line. On this episode, Cal shares his principles behind having the focus to accomplish deep work and his writing process with us.
[01:47] Cal’s first book was How to Win at College and he wrote it when he was a senior in college.
[02:29] Stop talking about writing a book and do it or move on.
[02:58] Cal tried to make writing his first book easier by choosing a format that was short rules with counterintuitive titles.
[03:41] How Cal would wake up early and write 1 chapter every morning.
[04:13] Importance of chunking and creating an early morning routine.
[04:37] Lessons learned, books need social proof included in the book.
[05:43] Being on a tight deadline helped with the writing process.
[06:46] Cal learned early on that writing a book is like a job and the work just needs to be done.
[07:51] Find time for writing and write all the time. Build up your writing muscles.
[08:29] Don’t mix planning and writing.
[09:12] Productive meditation. Walking and thinking about what you are working on or each chapter.
[11:45] Cal spends about a year to get his book ideas. It takes a lot of mental work to come up with a great idea.
[15:05] The hardest book that Cal wrote was probably his first book.
[16:54] Principle of deep work is that the ability to focus is like a super power. Long focus sessions produce massive results.
[18:18] The ability to concentrate intensely is becoming more and more valuable.
[19:00] Cultivating the ability to work deeply will have massive value.
[20:20]Pomodoros and practice can be active training for concentration.
[21:11] Building up an addiction to novel stimuli will inhibit your concentration. Learn to embrace boredom.
[22:58] Writing is an intense cognitive activity. Treat your brain with respect.
[24:08] Cal has never had a social media account. He wants to trust himself to get a lot of value out of his brain.
[25:05] If you want to be serious about writing. You have to be serious about your brain.
[25:17] Work deeply and put routines and rituals into your day.
[25:45] Embrace boredom and free your mind from the need for novel stimuli.
[25:51] Quit social media if you are going to be a craftsman, you have to be selective about the tools in your life.
[26:25] Drain the shallows minimize non-deep work so that it doesn’t take over all of your time.
[26:57] People think quit social media is the toughest, but it’s not hard at all. Embrace boredom is actually the most difficult.
[29:12] Take the next two weeks and block out 4 hours each week. Treat this time like an appointment. Use this time for focusing intensely on one thing. This what deep work feels like.
[30:54] Find an activity to train your brain.
[31:14] Take one step that proves you take focusing seriously.
[32:22] The marketplace values things that are rare and valuable.
[34:23] Producing value produces autonomy busyness does not.
[35:03] Minimize non-deep work and deep work is where the value is at.
[36:28] The goal is to find satisfaction doing deep work. The right mindset is the foundation and the work will follow.