Ep 7. Cal Newport: Focus for Success in a Distracted World

Ep 7. Cal Newport: Focus for Success in a Distracted World

"I have a zero-tolerance policy for distraction."

-- Cal Newport

Cal Newport is an Associate Professor of Computer Science at Georgetown University who specializes in the theory of distributed algorithms. But he’s not at all that nerdy, even though he earned his Ph.D. from MIT in 2009.  Newport writes about the impact of digital technologies on the world of work.  His 2016 book Deep Work argues that focus is the new I.Q. in the knowledge economy, and that individuals who cultivate their ability to concentrate without distraction will thrive.  

Stew and Cal discuss actionable guidelines for developing the capacity to do deep work. Two of the many useful suggestions in this episode are to quit (or radically reduce) social media and embrace boredom.

Listen below or on StitcherSoundCloud, iTunes, or Google Play

Show Notes (times when new topics start)

2:20. Overview of deep work. Cal defines deep work as focusing on a cognitively demanding task for a significant period of time, an essential skill for modern workers.

6:00. Guidelines for Deep Work. How to do deep work.

7:20. Quit social media.  There are costs of using social media but you can reduce them.

13:30. Embracing boredom. Training your mind to benefit from deep work involves learning how to embrace boredom, which is easier than it sounds.

16:30. Making time for focus. How to carve out the time and space for deep work wherever and whenever you do your work.

Selected Links

Check out Cal’s book Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World.

His other book advocates for skill over passion at work: So Good They Can’t Ignore You.

Cal is not on social media, but find out more about him on his blog.

Cal’s TED Talk: Quit Social Media.

Transcript of Stew’s conversation with Cal.

Leslie Perlow’s TED Talk on her research, discussed at the end of the podcast.


Share your questions, ideas, and stories by tweeting @StewFriedman.