To be honest, I’ve always found it quite hard to read books about work. I have to read a lot when researching exhibitions, and I like to read fiction or travelogues for relaxation. So that has never left me much time or motivation to read books about working.

However, I got into a podcast habit recently thanks to great freelance podcasts like Being Freelance and Doing it for the kids. So I thought I’d try listening to (rather than reading) a business-related book.

My first listen was Cal Newport’s Deep Work. The first half of this book is a treatise on why deep work is important. In the first three chapters, he outlines; why deep work is valuable, why it is rare and why it is meaningful. Then the second half of the book is a ‘how to’ manual for finding time and space to do deep work. What I found most useful was the analysis of why deep work is rare and why organisations resist the conditions that allow for deep work.

Before I read this book, I had been feeling that I had been doing too much ‘multitasking’ and I’d felt my ability to concentrate properly slipping away. This book has given me a framework for understanding what each type of work achieves. I did enjoy his ‘rules’ for deep work but I will never take all of his advice. I don’t want to shut off communications and be less contactable. And I actively disagree with some of what he writes about ignoring emails and resisting workplace team obligations. But the book did give me some really useful approaches and tools for separating out time for each kind of work.

If you’ve had enough of endlessly ticking small tasks off ‘to do’ lists and feel like you’re losing the ability to really focus, then this is the ideal book to help you get back control of your creative thinking and intellectual ability.