my name is isaiah lim and i’m distracted

#16 – Deep Work – Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport

I have difficulty focusing on some of my tasks.

I am easily distracted by my phone and the internet.

I am spending too much time on the Internet.

The things I do have value but I’m not sure if they are important.

I am not spending enough time developing myself in a goal-oriented, disciplined way that will allow me to create greater value and contribute more.

I am not pushing my brain enough.


Deep Work suggests I do the following:

  • Find “wildly important goals” that “arouse a terrifying longing”. This will help overcome the draw of distractions.
  • Set aside two hours every morning to work on valuable projects that are intellectually demanding. It means – “wake up early”.
  • When doing deep work, turn off internet access. No notifications, no emails, no internet. Tell your colleagues to leave you alone.
  • Schedule in advance when I use the internet (“internet blocks”). Stick to the schedule.
  • Be stingy with your time. Get out of meetings and projects that don’t matter. Say no.
  • Schedule every minute of your day. Allow buffer and revision.
  • At work, have a hard stop every day. Take 15 minutes to do a shutdown ritual to review a list of tasks and to plan for the next day. This ritual helps to free up cognitive resources in the evening.
  • Preplan leisure activities. “Don’t use the internet to entertain yourself”.
  • When waiting in line, don’t check the internet. Learn to be comfortable with boredom. This is good for concentration training.
  • Quit social media.


Summary: Remove distractions. Train to concentrate intensely.  Set important goals. Schedule every minute of your day.


What else I learnt:

“We spend much of our day on autopilot—not giving much thought to what we’re doing with our time. This is a problem.”

Deep Work: “Professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate.”

To thrive in today’s economy, we must learn complex things quickly. Learning is a matter of brain circuitry. We improve our skills by developing more myelin around the relevant neurons. When we focus intensely on a task while avoiding distraction, we “isolate the relevant neural circuit enough to trigger useful myelination.” Summary: “To learn requires intense concentration.”

Attention residue – when you switch from Task A to Task B, “a residue of your attention remains stuck thinking about” Task A. This hampers performance and is worrying in today’s working environment where multi-tasking is the norm and often heralded.

We fight desires all day. Our willpower is limited. This is why we need to embrace routines and rituals which are automated rather than conscious.

“It is objectively difficult to measure individual contributions to a firm’s output.” This includes the CEO’s.

“The Principle of Least Resistance: In a business setting, without clear feedback on the impact of various behaviors to the bottom line, we will tend toward behaviors that are easiest in the moment.”

“Busyness as Proxy for Productivity: In the absence of clear indicators of what it means to be productive and valuable in their jobs, many knowledge workers turn back toward an industrial indicator of productivity: doing lots of stuff in a visible manner.”

“When you lose focus, your mind tends to fix on what could be wrong with your life instead of what’s right.”

The Zeigarnik Effect “describes the ability of incomplete tasks to dominate our attention”.

I’m inspired by Mark Zuckerberg’s annual projects and decided to have one of my own.  Read a non-fiction book every week and write about it. Subscribe to my newsletter.

2 thoughts on “my name is isaiah lim and i’m distracted

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s