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 · idea

Konmari and my husband (and a bit of book review)

“Japan has the highest level of civilization on our planet!”

That was my friend’s joke on how clean every part of Japan: street, river, (most of) public bathrooms, public transportations, train and bus stations, schools, you name it! Several days ago, Japanese went viral again with their immaculacy. Japan football’s supporter collected their own trash in the football stadion after Japan beat Colombia in the world cup. They even brought large trash bags on their own! Japanese have never failed me with their respectful attitude toward cleanliness. Hence, I’m not surprised that there’s even a cleaning and tidying “guru” from Japan.

Konmari is such a “hip” method of tidying and organizing home. Introduced by Marie Kondo of Japan, this method went viral in instagram or other social media (well, at least in my accounts). We can find lots of Kondo’s organizing principals on youtube, pinterest, or other blogs. Here is a short review video about Konmari method by Marie Kondo (with a nice Japanese-English interpreter). And here is her book: the life-changing magic of tidying up.

Image result for marie kondo book

Basically, there are 3 principals of Konmari:

  • Tidy in one shot, as quickly and completely as possible
  • Sort things by category, not location
  • Choose things to keep by asking ourselves: “Does it spark joy?”

Here is a great checklist on how to tidying using Konmari, step by step.

And, here are several interesting notes I take from this book.

  • To truly cherish the things that are important to you, you must first discard those that have outlived their purpose. (page 61)
  • The point in deciding specific places to keep things is to designate a spot for every thing. (page 131)
  • Storage methods should be as simple as possible. (page 137)
  • Clutter has only 2 possible causes: too much effort is required to put things away or it’s unclear where things belong. (page 142)
  • Piling things is the worst organizing method. The things in the pile virtually disappear because we forget that they even exist. Hence, store things vertically. (page 145)
  • When we really delve into the reasons for why we can’t let something go, there are only 2: an attachment to the past or a fear for the future. (page 181)

Ok. So then, what’s the relation of Konmari with my husband?

The more I read this book, the more I found that my husband has implemented this Konmari in his life before knowing anything about this method. Apparently, my husband is a long-lost sibling of Marie Kondo in term of organizing and tidying! He has special areas for each of his stuff. He always thinks twice before buying something: “can I use this in long-term?”. He unpacks his bag every evening after he comes home. He takes pity on his stuff and becomes sad when any of his worn out. Those traits are exactly what Kondo’s written in her book!

While for me, organizing and tidying home are my worst housewifery skill. Well, apparently, I have my personal tidying guru :))


idea · Inspiring people

Atul Gawande and his lessons

I’ve just listened to a nice podcast from freakonomics radio, featuring Atul Gawande. He discusses the complexity of healthcare system and how he attempts to tackle various problems in healthcare and medical practice using as simple as possible strategy. Interested in his talk, I’m searching who is this Atul Gawande. Turns out, he is a cancer surgeon, a public-health researcher, and a best-seller book writer. What a person! (and how silly I am for knowing this late).


Anyway, then I watched his TED-talks above, which is very interesting for me. I’ll just write some of the lessons I got from that video as a reminder for myself.

  • I love how he brings a small cheatsheet for his presentation. I believe he’s a good speaker and storyteller, but look at how he’s still prepared for his points of the presentation.
  • Coaching is important to become the best version of you. I personally relate to this topic. I currently start learning a pretty new subject for myself, and true, it was so difficult without a mentor or coach who can give me a feedback for what I’m learning.
  • Execution of a planning. A good planning is not enough without a good execution. In the video, Gawande shows how a good execution of baby-birth checklist dramatically reduces the birth-complication. However, to conduct a good execution means to beat one’s resistance to a change. I think this is more difficult than making a good planning.
  • When I first visit a doctor in the US, I was overwhelmed by the checklist the doctor needed to do when examined such simple flu-like symptoms. After watched Gawande’s video, I started to understand that such systematic procedure is there to avoid any misdiagnose, even for an ‘easy’ illness. I wonder, this kind of checklist might be suitable to apply in Indonesia drugstore, whether or not to give an OWA (obat wajib apotek) for the patient (or is it something similar has been used, yet?)

Looking forward to reading his books and contemplating more of Gawande’s idea.