Deep Work Checklists: Plan Your Day Effectively

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Deep Work" by Cal Newport. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

Like this article? Sign up for a free trial here.

Looking for advice on how to plan your day effectively? How can planning your day in 30-minute chunks help you be more productive?

In Cal Newport’s Deep Work, he suggests that you make a checklist for the work day and for your end-of-day shutdown. Following these checklists will help keep your deep work schedule on track.

Keep reading for Cal Newport’s deep work checklists.

Checklist: Planning Your Day in 30-Minute Chunks

The book Deep Work suggests that you plan your day in half-hour blocks. This will 1) help you focus on a single task without switching, 2) carve out time for deep work, 3) confine distraction time to specific periods. You can complete this checklist with your favorite calendar app.

  • Make a list of tasks you need to finish in the day.
  • Schedule time for each task to the nearest half-hour. Be realistic, but also set a challenging deadline to force focus.
  • Schedule time in advance for when you’ll use the Internet. Avoid it completely outside these times.
  • Schedule overrun blocks for tasks you suspect might run overtime.
  • Look over your schedule. If you have lots of shallow tasks (more than 30-50% time), consider how you can replace these with deeper work.
  • During the day, if you have momentum on a task or feel particularly inspired, keep going. After you’re done, reorganize your schedule.
  • At the end of the day, review the accuracy of your time blocks. 
  • Reflect: how well did you focus during the day? How could you focus better tomorrow?

Checklist: End-of-Day Shutdown

Try to end each workday with a shutdown procedure like this one. By clearly stopping work, you’ll free your mind to relax.

  • Check your emails for any last urgent items.
  • Update your todo list of unfinished items.
  • Make sure every item in your todo list is scheduled to be done at some point.
  • Look through your calendar to make sure there aren’t important deadlines you forgot.
  • Make a todo list of tasks tomorrow.
  • Say “shutdown complete” to explicitly mark the end of work.

Deep Work Checklists: Plan Your Day Effectively

———End of Preview———

Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Cal Newport's "Deep Work" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full Deep Work summary:

  • How deep work is critical for performance and productivity
  • Why focus is like a mental muscle
  • Why willpower isn't as good as a ritual

Hannah Aster

Hannah graduated summa cum laude with a degree in English and double minors in Professional Writing and Creative Writing. She grew up reading books like Harry Potter and His Dark Materials and has always carried a passion for fiction. However, Hannah transitioned to non-fiction writing when she started her travel website in 2018 and now enjoys sharing travel guides and trying to inspire others to see the world.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *