5 Hours of Great Work

Source: Fast Company, Nov 2013

the greats didn’t just work, they did deep work.

Unlike shallow work, like answering emails, attending meetings, or reporting on the work they’ve already done, deep work is when you are immersed in “cognitively demanding activities that leverage our training to generate rare and valuable results, and that push our abilities to continually improve.” 

You probably know the feeling of deep work: it’s when you’re working on a problem that pushes you just beyond your skill level, allowing you to dip into a state of flow. You’re concentrating, experiencing mental strain, the way a programmer feels wading into layers of code or a novelist sculpting a character or a startup founder mapping out the direction of a company. And since deep work is so cognitively demanding, it’s also differentiating.

“We cannot find real satisfaction in efforts that are easily replicable,” Newport says, “nor can we expect such efforts to be the foundation of a remarkable career.


  1. Say no: Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, and other badasses keep clear calendars.
  2. Make buffer time: Take a cue from LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner and schedule nothing.
  3. Spend your mornings in solitude: Then bring your ideas to the team.
  4. Find ways around email: It can set your career back.
  5. Outsource basic tasks: Startups want to do your boring stuff–so you may focus on the deliciously difficult.

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