Deep Thoughts About Deep Work

A Review of Deep Work


I think it’s safe to say I think about budgeting more than the average human.

I also read quite a bit although I’m less confident in quantifying the amount I read as compared to the rest of humanity.

It is not entirely uncommon that in a great book that has absolutely nothing to do with budgeting, I find a budgeting lesson. I’m like the Full House of reading books—always a budgeting lesson to be learned!

Today, I’m going to talk about another book I’ve loved recently: Deep Work by Cal Newport. (It was so good that I made it mandatory reading for the entire YNAB team.)

It is all about how to find greater success by learning to avoid distractions and master intense, focused concentration or “Deep Work.” This involves setting aside chunks of time, cutting yourself off from distractions, and carving out long moments, where you can do hard thinking and ultimately, your best work.

Have You Really Thought About Your Priorities?

I loved the implications for our remote team at YNAB, but I also found myself thinking of the “deep work” that is required in figuring out what really makes you happy. It can be a grueling, intellectual challenge to identify, choose and commit to your true priorities.

We’ve been kicking around a potentially very big change in the Mecham household and it’s tough; you have to really get to the heart of issues. And that requires some deep thinking, some long moments of concentrated conversation, note taking, and analysis.

Take The Time To Do Deep Work

I think a lot of times, we are far too flippant about it all. That’s what I liked about the book, is if you really want your brain to be unleashed on something, if you want problems to be solved, you have to be willing to sit down and really wrestle with an issue.

There are so many fantastic examples of it. The invention of the transistor, the breakthroughs in philosophy or psychology, people going off into these cabins in the woods and thinking for months at a time.

Maybe that isn’t possible for you—I know it’s not for me—but you can commit to unplugging a little bit more intentionally and focusing, uninterrupted, on something hard.

Unplug And Focus

And could one of those things be what you really want your money to do? At your core, what you want your life to be about? If you’re sharing finances, obviously, do this with your partner, but sit down, in a quiet place, for an extended period of time and ask the hard questions.

Think about the breakthroughs that you could have if you really digested, dissected, and just dove into what your life’s priorities are and then how your money can help you achieve those priorities.

I’m biased, of course, but this seems like a fantastic application of Deep Work.

I can’t think of much else that is more important.

Your Biggest Decisions Deserve Your Best Deep Work

If we spend all of our time earning money, wouldn’t it be smart to spend a good bit of effort determining how we’re going to spend that money?

It determines how we will spend our time and what our life will be. It’s everything.

Money is time. You get to spend it twice: once is time to earn the money and once again when you spend the money. Don’t take those decisions lightly.

I encourage you to be very intentional about your own life priorities, and take the time—and do the deep work—of figuring out what’s most important to you. I think this is critical to our lives and our budgets and it is worth doing on at least an annual basis.

PS—I’m not getting paid to say any of this, I just honestly loved the book Deep Work and think you will too.