books · english · idea · review

Deep Work [Book Review]

I should say that this book is my gem in 2018. I read this book in early 2018, tried to practice some of the rules, and re-read again this one. So, I really think I should try to summarize this book for myself.

Before 2018, I found myself so difficult to focus on a task for a long time (throughout 30 minutes, I check my phone or wandering the internet while trying to finish a task).  Even, finishing a book took me a lot of effort. Sounds familiar? A lot of people suffer from this condition in this digital and high-connectivity era: a new kind of attention-deficit-disorder. Or in another word: “craving for distraction”. It’s scary, isn’t it?

Despite being a computer scientist and professor, Cal Newport is extremely against the digital world and high-connectivity. In this book, he campaigns the term and rules of ‘Deep Work’. This deep work has helped him to be a high achiever in his professional life, without sacrificing his personal and family life.

As he explains: High-quality work produced = (time spent) x (intensity of focus). Majority of us will do overtime to produce a good result for our work (although a lot of people do overtime just for the sake of ‘fake productivity’). Newport campaigns that we should increase our ‘intensity of focus’ instead of time spent to produce the same result.

He divides this book into 2 parts:. In part I, he explains WHY we need to practice deep work. He convinces (and bought me!) that deep work is valuable, rare, and meaningful to balance our professional and personal lives. In part II, he explicates HOW we could start practicing deep work. Some of the ‘rules’ are quite extreme, but he explains a good reason behind it.

Here are the rules of deep work:

#1 Work Deeply.  Move beyond good intentions to do a deep work. Routine and rituals are helpful to minimize the amount of our limited willpower! Example of some things that need to be decided before doing a deep work: where you’ll work and for how long; how you’ll work once you start to work; how you’ll support your work (coffee? light exercise? aromatherapy?).

Another important thing in mind is to shut down ourselves after work! This is important to recharge energy for the next workday. Moreover, we don’t have full energy after work, so the work we do in the evening is much less valuable.

#2 Embrace Boredom. Don’t take breaks from distraction, take breaks from focus! It is just natural now that we take a glance on our phones anywhere anytime: in the toilet, inside the subway/tram to our work, when finishing an important deadline. This is what Cal calls as ‘craving for distraction’. Embrace boredom to heal ourselves from such nasty craving. We could try several strategies, such as scheduling internet time (ikr, this is sooo difficult! But, let’s try together!). Another strategy is to meditate productively, e.g. take a walk, shower, on a tram/bus, anything that gives you time without the necessity to think . Use this time to think something important about your work/goal. Plan what to think ahead so you don’t just daydreaming.

#3 Quit Social Media.  “Willpower is limited, and therefore the more enticing tools you have pulling at your attention, the harder it’ll be to maintain focus on something important.” (page 182).

Don’t use the internet to entertain ourselves! Use time outside of work as time meaningful for us: cuddling with fams, doing hobbies, put more thought into your leisure time! Choose some activities we would like to enjoy for the rest of our day outside work hours (this time is as important as work hours!). Cal suggests us to choose structured hobbies that will generate specific goals to fill our time.

#4 Drain the shallows. The ultimate advice from Cal is that we should try to classify a shallow vs a deep task. This would help us tremendously to focus on the few things that are most important to us. Some of his tips are:

  • quantify the depth of every activity, this will help us to prioritize tasks
  • schedule every minute of your day
  • finish your work by five-thirty! This creates the sense of urgency and discipline ourselves to drain the shallows!
  • Become hard to reach. Not every message comes to our e-mail or IM apps need to be replied.

This book helps me to read books again (28 books so far in 2018), write some papers, and enjoy boredom more (as a housewive). But, I admit that I still couldn’t totally drain the shallow social media in my life :)). Let’s see how far I could practice this deep work during thebook more challenging year of 2019!

books · english · review

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking


I nodded many times when I read this book, as this book is a kind of self-affirmation reading for me (and my husband). Both of us are introverts, but often take the opposite sides of introversion. As Susan Cain writes, there are a lot of sides of introversion, in which different people may have some but not the other traits.

It’s interesting how Susan explains how ‘the culture of personality’ takes over human interaction in the 20th century, where people are expected not only to sell product or service, but also ‘themselves’. “We live with a value system that I call the Extrovert Ideal – the omnipresent belief that the ideal self is gregarious, alpha, and comfortable in the spotlight.” (page 4).

Here are several notes I take from this book:

  1. the excessive collaboration and open-office systems happening right now are not always the better ways to improve creativity and achieve goals.
  2. both introvert and extrovert leaders can produce the same effective results, if only they recognize the character of their teams.
  3. the ‘rubber band theory’ and ‘free trait theory’: we are elastic and can stretch our personality, but only until a certain point. A lot of introverts act as pseudo-extroverts if they think it will beneficial for things that matter to them (their job, people they love, etc.). But still, they need their solitude to calm their mind at the end of the day.
  4. several cases on how to deal with extrovert-introvert conflict, as well as how to nurture the potency of our introvert children.

Susan also argues about the correlation of genetic make-up (short allele of SERT gene) with high-reactivity and introvert people. However, I think it’s still a very early conclusion as there is no research paper directly prove the correlation of SERT and introvertness. We still need more effort to prove the biological correlation between genetic make-up and human traits (if any).

Reading this book makes me realize some reasons underlying my actions. After an intense and happy vacation with family or friends, I need a day or two to ‘take a breath’. My husband and I find that the maximum time we should go out in a week is three (attending events, dinner or lunch with our friend). In addition to the conversation during dinner time, our quality time is when we lay beside each other, he watches some youtube videos (about game strategy, or news, or cute kitten) while I read a good book. We enjoy our solitudes! Lucky me that we understand each other the importance of this kind of solitude 🙂