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CM 028: Cal Newport on Deep Work

Episode description

Should we expect distractions at work? Or are we unwittingly cooperating in our own ineffectiveness?

In this conversation, Cal Newport, bestselling author of Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, shares how deep work has become the superpower of the 21st century. Cal argues that today’s workplace is a minefield of distractions. With email, open floor plans, and instant messaging systems, we’re continually pulled away from meaningful, productive work. And the very tools our workplaces rely on to promote productivity are actually contributing to increased distraction and inefficiency.

Learning to take control of our own attention is not only the key to a meaningful life, but it is the key to economic viability in a distracted age.

Cal is Assistant Professor of Computer Science at Georgetown University, as well as the bestselling author of five books. His ideas and writing are frequently featured in major publications, and he is author of the popular blog, Study Hacks.

In this episode, we talk about:

What makes deep work so valuable
How deep work makes life more meaningful
What deep work looks like and how little distraction it takes to ruin it
Why boredom is actually the key to doing deep work
Why relationships hold the key to deep work
Why we should be teaching young people to engage in deep work
The value of being lazy when it comes to deep work
Why you need a philosophy for doing deep work

Cal also shares his deep curiosity to rethink cognitive workflows in a post-industrial age.

Selected Links to Topics Mentioned


Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World

Georgetown University



Eric Barker

The Second Machine Age by Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson


Adam Grant

Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania

Sophie LeRoy and attention residue

Jack Dorsey



Industrial Revolution

Henry Ford

Scientific management

Assembly lines

Knowledge worker

Wilhelm Hofmann

Roy Baumeister

How to Live on 24 Hours a Day by Arnold Bennett

Downton Abbey

The Collaboration Curse in The Economist

If you enjoy the podcast, please rate and review it on iTunes. For automatic delivery of new episodes, be sure to subscribe. As always, thanks for listening!

Thank you to Emmy-award-winning Creative Director Vanida Vae for designing the Curious Minds logo!



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In this groundbreaking new book, The Gratitude Diaries: How a Year Looking on the Bright Side Can Transform Your Life, Janice …

CM 006: Mick Ebeling on How to Achieve the Impossible

November 9th, 2015


Mick Ebeling is the Founder of Not Impossible Labs, an online crowdsourcing platform that dramatically improves the lives of millions by creating low-cost, open-source, and do-it-yourself devices. For example, through a …

CM 005: Nir Eyal on Rethinking Our Online Habits

November 2nd, 2015


Nir Eyal is the bestselling author of Hooked and a contributing writer for Forbes, TechCrunch, and Psychology Today. An entrepreneur, educator, and …

CM 004: Wendy Suzuki on How Exercise Makes You Smarter

October 26th, 2015


Wendy Suzuki is a Professor of Neural Science and Psychology at New York University. Wendy is an award-winning teacher and researcher, a TEDx …

CM 003: Bernie Roth on How to Design a Life

October 17th, 2015


Bernie Roth is a Professor of Engineering and the Academic Director and Co-founder of the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design (the at …

CM 002: David H. Hansson on How to Rethink Leadership

October 17th, 2015


David Heinemeier Hansson is the Founder and CTO of Basecamp (formerly 37signals), best-selling author of Rework and Remote, and creator of the …

CM 001: Seth Godin on How to Author a Life

October 14th, 2015


Best-selling author Seth Godin discusses how to reimagine life and work in the post-industrial age. His books include Linchpin, Tribes, The Dip, and Purple Cow.

In this interview, Seth talks about the liberating power of …

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