A Strange (But Effective) Productivity Hack To Enhance Focus, Clarity & Creativity | Cal Newport

Transcription for the video titled "A Strange (But Effective) Productivity Hack To Enhance Focus, Clarity & Creativity | Cal Newport".


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Podcast Episode Introduction

Why do you work better in strange locations? (00:00)

Well, to get to today's topic, I'll tell you what inspired it. Let me give you a little bit of a peek behind the curtain. As I was leaving New Hampshire, I spent my summer up at Dartmouth College as a Montgomery Fellow. As I left New Hampshire, one of the things I was thinking in particular I'm going to miss is the locations I would leverage on the campus of Dartmouth College to get some thinking done. So I worked on some New Yorker pieces. I worked on some academic pieces. I finalized the manuscript for Slow Productivity, my next book. All that happened this summer while I was up there. Dartmouth is a very scenic campus. If you make your way to the upper valley of New Hampshire, you have to check it out. One of the most beautiful campuses in the country. It's one of the reasons I went there is I just thought visually it would be conducive to deeper thinking. But they've got great locations. I was using this summer the Orozco murals in the basement of Baker Library quite a bit. This is a long basement room in which there are these famous murals painted by Orozco in the 1930s. This may have been a WPA-funded project about the history of the Americas from the perspective of a non-white European. But they're famous murals. We actually found in my grandfather John Newport's diaries after he died, he talked about coming to visit Dartmouth in the 1930s as part of a debate trip. I guess they were doing debate up there. And he writes about in his diary, coming there to see these brand new Rosecoe murals. So that's a great place to work. The Tower Room in Baker Library is another great place to work. This is an old school wood paneled library, double story library with good dark wood details. You can sit in a plush armchair looking out a window over the green. I also made use of the cross country trails down beyond Ockham Pond surrounding Pine Park. That was right down the street from where we lived. Good thinking walks through the woods there. It's a lot of great locations. A lot of great locations. And so that got me thinking about locations and its connection to having creative or really high value thoughts. So that was on my mind. Then one of you sent me an article on this same topic. So now I was thinking about, okay, all of these cool places I worked at Dartmouth. Then one of you sent me a really cool article on this topic, which I'm going to load up on the screen now. So you can watch this. If you're watching, and I'll read what's on the screen. If you're watching, you can go to thedeeplife.com or youtube.com slash Cal Newport media. This is episode two 62. We don't put the number on the title anymore, but the episode titles are in the descriptions. It's also just the episode that came out on August 21st. If you're looking for it. Okay. So here's this article I have on the screen. This is from Lance Fort now, the complexity theorist, computer scientist, Lance Fort now is blog computational complexity. And I have it on the screen. This is from Lance Fortnow, the complexity theorist, computer scientist, Lance Fortnow's blog, Computational Complexity. And I have it on the screen. This is a guest post. So Lance didn't write it, but by a guest post by Evangelos Georgiatis. All right. So here's what we want to see here. This article is talking about where good academic papers come from. So I'm reading now. In order to generate a paper, one needs to come up with a result, something novel, fresh, or interesting to say. The question that has baffled this author is what represents a conducive or perhaps even optimal setting for generating papers. Since papers come in different flavors, dot, dot, dot, the settings may vary. But ultimately, what would be interesting to investigate is whether there is a common denominator in terms of setting or environment, a necessary but not sufficient condition, so to speak. All right, so this is the setup for this article is the author here is saying, where do people come up with really good academic paper ideas? What is the right environment or process for doing this? All right, so let's return to the article and see what the author concludes. Here are some accounts of others which may be helpful as reference point. Knuth's papers entitled Semantics of Context-Free Grammar, along with the analysis of algorithm, entitled Semantics of Context-Free Grammar, along with the analysis of algorithm, represent two instances that suggest research institutes might not provide an optimal idea environment for idea generation. As Knuth points out in selected papers on computer languages, perhaps new ideas emerge most often from hectic, disorganized activity when a great many sources of stimulation are present at once, when numerous deadlines need to be met, and when other miscellaneous activities like child rearing are also mixed into the agenda. Knuth goes on to say that it was challenging to do creative work in office and that finding a few hideaways provided some form of solution, aka sitting under that oak tree near Lake Lagunita. That said, the inspirational settings for getting to the zone for the aforementioned two papers were provided by California Beaches. All right, so there Donald Knuth, famed Stanford professor, emeritus now and author of The Art of Computer Programming, talks about having a pristine research location. Okay, we're at this research institute. We're all just here in our offices working on research. Actually, he's not conducive in his opinion to really good ideas. He says more hecticness is important, that you have deadlines, you're rushing between different activities you're going to, even child rearing. We've talked about this in recent episodes, that we shouldn't think about child rearing only as a source of negative or drag on the ability to have a sustainable professional career. So you see all these different distractions in his experience somehow unlock or occasionally unlock more insight than just being in the pure, pristine. I'm in my office at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. I'm just sitting here trying to come up with big ideas. and I'm just sitting here trying to come up with big ideas. He also mentioned sometimes just novel environments. A particular tree he liked to sit under, and in particular, California beaches. The two papers cited earlier from Knuth were both had core ideas that came up at beaches. All right, let's return to the article here. All right, so then he says, hold that observation. Is this not something we've come across somewhere else fields medalist steven small in chaos finding a horseshoe on the beaches of rio suggests that some of his best work happened at his beach office whether beaches do provide a good setting remains to be shown perhaps for for very innovative ideas. Oceanic freedom is necessary. Here's a couple other quotes from here. Some other meaningful probabilistic advice comes from the fat tails department in the black swan by Nassim Taleb. He says, go to parties. If you're a scientist, you will chance upon a remark that might spark a new research. Meanwhile, Murray Gelman provides an interesting collective account in his Google Tech Talk entitled On Getting Creative Ideas. Gelman recollects a workshop he attended in 1969 in Aspen that focused on the experience of getting creative ideas, not just among mathematicians and theoretical physicists, but also poets and artists. This account seems to neglect the actual setting that might nurture creative thought process, but provides interesting references to people such as Herman von Helmholtz, who happened to have thought about this topic and partitioned the process in terms of saturation, incubation, and illumination. So we got here, you know, some more ideas. Nassim Talaab is saying go to parties, be around other people. Murray Gelman, the physicist, talks about a workshop on creativity where Herman von Helmholtz talked about this formula that he had. Let me say it again. Saturation, incubation, and illumination as a way of actually building up insight. Illumination as a way of actually building up insight. There's a book, Jacques Hadamard, has a book called The Mathematician's Mind that both goes through and iterates on this Helmholtz three-stage process for coming up with big ideas. And finally, here's the last thing from this paper. I'll just read this here. What are good venues or workshops for generating paper? Let's rephrase that a bit. What type of atmosphere at venues fosters creativity? What food for thought to provide participants and how to distribute that food for thought over a given day? One person the author talked to proposed easy problems, informal atmosphere focusing exclusively on thinking about problems in a cycle of downtime where one meets in two intense sessions and have free time otherwise. All right, so just a bunch of thoughts there. That's a theoretical computer scientist thinking about where good ideas come from. This, of course, is a topic I've written about as well. I'm going to load up one of my own old articles here from my blog, from calnewport.com. All right, here's an article from April 2016. This was actually probably right after Deep Work came out. The title of this article I have up on the screen is On Using Inspiring Locations to Inspire Deep Work. The article has a picture of the Capitol building. Then it starts by saying, the return of spring marks the return of one of my favorite deep work strategies of the Capitol building. Then it starts by saying, the return of spring marks the return of one of my favorite deep work strategies, the concentration circuit. So the idea here is you go through a series of very deep work-inducing locations. You circuit from one to the other. So I took pictures. I took pictures of a concentration circuit that I had done recently. According to this article, I was in downtown D.C. to record a radio show appearance, and here is my concentration circuit. All right, location number one is a bench that was tucked into a quiet corner not far from the Capitol building. I believe that bench is on the grounds of the National Botanical Gardens outside the Botanical Gardens. All right. And then here is me inside. I spent some time. There's a picture of a bench inside the jungle biome of the National Botanical Gardens inside a giant greenhouse. That's another place I worked. Then there's a picture here of the, what is this called? This is in the basement of the National Gallery, the tunnel underground that connects the East and West wings, the modern and the non-modern wings. You go through this cool light display tunnel to a cafe in which no Wi-Fi and there's no cell service. You can see a waterfall falling. And then finally I had a pair of armchairs I found. This is on the second floor of the Native American History Museum, also off the mall. So that was an article where I was talking about a concentration circuit of different novel locations in downtown D.C. where on a recent day when I wrote that article, I had gone to work. All right, so what's going on here? I would say this use of location to help get big ideas, which we know is a well-known idea. We just heard from all of those famous mathematicians talk about it. We read one of my articles about it. That is a well-known strategy in a broader philosophy that I call creativity hacking. The idea between creativity hacking is actually being systematic or intentional about how you extract the most creative or impactful ideas from your brain. So location is a big role in this now how does location interact with the generation of deeper more impactful ideas well here i think where people get confused is there's no one explanation there was a lot of different examples there the party the beach being at a workshop or at the third floor of a museum in dc there., there's no one explanation, no one mechanism that explains why all of these different example locations of locations being used to generate creativity, there's no one mechanism that explains it. Because there's actually, the best I could summarize, at least three different mechanisms at work that explain the various ways that locations can interact with your thinking. Different locations will draw from different mechanisms, but not typically all three. So I want to go through these three mechanisms real quick, and then we'll step back and say, okay, so what is my advice for leveraging these mechanisms to do creativity hacking in your own life? So the first mechanism at play is the whiteboard effect. And this is centered on being around other interesting people so environments that put you around other interesting people have these two sub components that lead up to the whiteboard effect number one they have information or ideas you don't so it's like you're expanding the reservoir of potential ideas so i call this the whiteboard effect because it's the proverbial scene of you're at the whiteboard with other people working on the same problem. They're going to know a technique you don't. They're going to have an idea that you didn't have. You're extending the amount of neuronal real estate that is dedicated to whatever thinking is happening that gives you more grist for that particular metaphorical mill. The other subcomponent here is that when you're working with other people, so you're talking with them directly about an idea, or you're at the whiteboard taking turns trying to solve a proof, you focus harder. So again, you're going to get more out of your brain. Now, I go into that particular subcomponent in more detail in my book, Deep Work. But the idea is if I'm staring at a whiteboard and you're staring at the same whiteboard, we're trying to solve a problem. I'm more likely to sustain my concentration because if I let my mind wander, there's going to be a social capital cost. I'm going to have to stop you and say, hold on, hold on, go back, go back. I wasn't paying attention to what you said. Also, I want to make progress. It's impressive. I want to impress you or be a team player. So you also get more focus out of your own brain when you're working with other people. All right, so that's the first factor whiteboard effect. More ideas, more focus if you're working with other people. We see this when Lance Fortnow, that art on his blog, they're talking about the right workshops or the scene to lab talking about parties. That's all about the whiteboard effect. Another great example from my own life. There is a seminar series held in rural Germany called the Dagstuhl Seminars. Dagstuhl, D-A-G-S-T-H-U-L. And it's dedicated mainly towards theoretical computer science. A-G-S-T-H-U-L. And it's dedicated mainly towards theoretical computer science. And what they do is someone will apply. I want to organize a workshop, a Dagstil workshop. And you invite. It's one problem. You'll come up with one problem. And you invite researchers from around the world who know about that problem. And you all come to this research center, which is built on a castle, a castle in rural Germany. And I remember going to one of these earlier in my career. A bunch of us came from all over the world. And what you do is you have informal talks where people talk about problems they're working on or techniques that are really interesting. And then a lot of time beyond that to just discuss problems with the people who are there. There's unlimited coffee, the meals, they assign the seats and rotate so that you have to encounter different people and different ideas. There's also all the German beer you can drink in the evenings. There's an honor system to keep track so you can pay later for what you drunk and really cool grounds. There's nowhere to go. It's impossible to get here. There's nowhere to go to, no town. You're sort of stuck at this castle. So I went there earlier in my career. A bunch of my colleagues were there. I did the to, no town, you're sort of stuck at this castle. So I went there earlier in my career. A bunch of my colleagues were there. I did the math at some point, six papers. In the years that followed, six papers came out of the conversations that were held at Dagstool. So that's the first mechanism. The second mechanism that can come into play when creativity hacking using location is novel stimulation. So being in environments that have new or novel stimulation in terms of sights, smells, and sounds can fire up new circuits of your brain. Your brain is open to this new experience. It's interested. It's taking in more input. And I don't know exactly how this neuroscience works, but it seems to be when you're in that state, you're also open to new abstract ideas. So if you're going to the same office at the same building where you go every day, your brain is not as open or interested in what's going on. It's more focused probably on internal issues to have originality in your thinking that might be otherwise hard to generate. So I think those examples from Lance Fortnow's blog about the beach, Knuth and others using the beach, is an example of this. The beach is a novel environment. You have this big, vast vista and the sounds, and it's very different than life in a building. It's very different to life in a town. So beaches are famously leveraging this mechanism. I've had multiple, multiple papers come out of beach walks back when we used to do more beach vacations. Digital minimalism, that book, that whole philosophy came out of a beach walk as well. I think my examples of the museums in D.C., digital minimalism, that book, that whole philosophy came out of a beach walk as well. I think my examples of the museums in D.C., my concentration circuit that I showed you recently, that's another example of using novel stimulation. I'm in a jungle, in a giant greenhouse, in the National Botanical Gardens. I'm going to have some original thoughts there that I'm not going to have on the third floor of St. Mary's Hall at Georgetown University alright the third mechanism that can come into play when creativity hacking with location avoidance of the familiar alright so that novel stimulation can open up your mind very familiar stimuli can close it so if your brain sees something in a familiar location that brings with it a lot of cognitive weight, you can hijack your brain to start thinking about what's related to that object. And now you are worse off when it comes to having original thinking. So the classic example here, I think I talked about this in my New Yorker piece on working from near home, is if you're at your home office and you see the full laundry basket because you're at home, there's a part of your brain that starts thinking, we got to do laundry. When should I do it? Do I have enough clothes for tomorrow? You've just hijacked part of your brain. It's going to get in the way of original thinking. Same thing happens at a traditional office. Let's say you say hi to a colleague in the hallway as you walk back from the coffee machine. Well, that colleague might remind your brain, oh my God, I got to get back to her because we're trying to organize this thing and I owe her this information. Well, what should I say in my email? Oh, let me start writing the email in my head. There's nothing our brains like to do more for whatever reason than to write emails in our head. You've just hijacked a big portion of your brain. When you're at your desk where you also work on logistics, where you also do email, where you also do Zoom, that same desk, your brain is thinking about those or have those things in its background that's in that type of mindset. It's hijacking neuronal hardware there, you're getting less original thinking. This is why, for example, people, at least in the day before you could turn on Wi-Fi on air travel, used to get a lot of cool thoughts done on planes because there was nothing familiar. So even though it was not a novel stimulated environment like the beach, like, oh my God, look at this great vista, you still were avoiding the familiar and people would find I could focus more. There wasn't anything pulling at my attention. So we have three different mechanisms that can explain location's role in creativity hacking, the whiteboard effect, novel stimulation, and avoidance of the familiar. And as we saw, different environments leverage different combinations of these mechanisms. No one mechanism explains all of the different environments that seem to be useful for deep thinking. All right, so now let's put this into use. Let's say you are in a position where having original ideas would be professionally valuable. Maybe it's core to your main job, coming up with a new strategy or algorithm if you're a computer programmer. Maybe you're working on the side on a book and having a brilliant idea for a book could make a really big difference. Whatever the situation is, how do we leverage these mechanisms if you really want to up the quality of the original thoughts you have? Well, I'm going to give you three suggestions, each taking place at a different time scale. So if you want to leverage this creativity hacking, every day you should have a separate space set aside in which you do deeper, more creative thinking. So this is an everyday habit. I just have a place I can always go if it comes time to think. And this place should be distinctive. Now it could be an actual physical location at your office or home office if you work in an office this could be i go to a conference room i reserve a small conference room to go to with just my notebook when i want to do creative thinking if it's at your house you could have a something distinct from your normal home office where you go when you want to do the deeper thinking, the sort of attic space that you've transformed, the garden shed that you've made into a thinking shed. That last example, by the way, is drawn from the late, great nonfiction writer David McCullough, whose house in West Tisbury, Martha's Vineyard, had a very nice home office with fax machines and phones and all of his files, and then had a garden shed with a typewriter and a desk. So when it came time to write, he went to the garden shed. When it came time to organize a publicity tour, answer mail, or send out requests for accessing archives, he had a different home office. The more distinctive you can make your dedicated deep workspace, the more effective it is going to be. It does not have to be a space you own. It could also be a path. This is like Darwin with his path at Down House. It could be, okay, I leave my office and walk this loop on the grounds at the office park. It could be I leave my house and I do this one-mile loop with a coffee shop halfway through. So it could be someplace that you don't own. It could be a particular path you follow, but it's something you can do every day just to make sure that your deepest thinking is done in a different location than your other type of thinking. All right, moving up in time scales. Every week, schedule time on your calendar to go somewhere novel and interesting to work. It could be going to a coffee shop. It could be driving to a trailhead, hiking a half mile into the woods and working by a particularly scenic spot near a stream. That's something I used to do quite frequently. It could be going to a museum in town or a particular public library or university library if you're near a college town but get a good session in once a week where you put in some effort to get there you're you're not there very often but when you do get there you are there to really think originally and creatively okay final time scale every season every season try to gather other people you work with to unlock bigger ideas so gather people in an interesting space. Let's do a mini dag stool. Let's do a mini workshop. Let's think through big ideas. If you're a writer, it's different writers that bounce writing ideas off of them. If you're in business, you bring your team to think through strategies together. You're a computer scientist working on an algorithm. You're a computer developer. Get together some of the programmers and talk shop. Go somewhere that's not your office. Go somewhere novel. If it's possible, go for a hike. I like that one a lot. Two, three people hiking, talking, generates ideas at a rate that is five times what you're going to get on a Zoom meeting if we're going to make a comparison. Or, you know, you go to the beach. If you live near the beach, it's someplace interesting, a restaurant, a pub. I don't know what it is, but at least once a season, get together the best minds that you know working on what you know and get that whiteboard effect going. You do those three things. Have a distinctive deep workspace every day. Have a distinctive location you go every week and have a gathering of other great minds to brainstorm once a season. Those three things, which are not a major ask in terms of your schedule, will significantly increase the depth and originality of the creative thoughts you have. And this is the core of creativity hacking. It's not just that there's creative people and non-creative people. How you go about this weird alchemy, which is extracting original novel thoughts from a mess of neurons that weren't evolved for abstract symbolic thinking, how you go about that matters. So it's good news, bad news. The bad news is you can't just hope to white knuckle yourself the big ideas in between email checks and Zoom meetings at your home office desk. The good news is most people are not creativity hacking. So if you do, you are going to get an advantage. You are going to have a much more steady stream of great ideas. So the second segment of the show, we're going to do questions from you, and I'm going to try to make these questions all roughly orbiting this topic of coming up with ideas, stimulation, creativity, brainstorming. So we'll get into the weeds here. Before we get to that, though, I do want to mention one of the sponsors that makes this show possible.

Lifestyle And Productivity Questions

Cal talks about Better Help and Henson Shaving (25:34)

In particular, this show is sponsored by BetterHelp. H-E-L-P. So we talked about creativity hacking. Let's generalize this briefly here for the purposes of this ad to cognitive hacking. If you are suffering mentally, if you find yourself having ruminative, repeated negative thoughts, if you find anxiety, like so many people are experiencing these days, is so strong that it's getting in the way of how you approach your life. If there's strong emotions that are really getting in the way, they feel as if this is not helpful to me and what I'm doing with my life. There's something you can do about that, and that is therapy. With therapy, you have trained experts who know how to deal with the life of the mind. And if the life of the mind has gone in a non-helpful direction, they can help get it back. They can help you get your mind back under control, make it someone, a companion and not an enemy. So in a world of knowledge work where your mind matters, it's at the core of everything you do, you should really care about your mental health. So if you're thinking about starting therapy, I suggest giving BetterHelp a try. Here's why. It's entirely online. It's designed to be convenient, flexible, and suited to your schedule. You just fill out a brief questionnaire to get matched with a licensed therapist, and you can switch therapists at any time for no additional charge. So what BetterHelp is doing here is getting rid of that complicated, ambiguous barrier of entry to therapy that used to be there. This sort of asking friends for referrals and just calling places that happen to be nearby. And you find out that, of course, they're full and their waiting list is seven years long. And why would you even bother calling them in the first place? There's also also the expense factor you're not sure about therapy or what style you want to try and it's very expensive locally better help solves all that you do it online so you can be matched with someone anywhere in the country it's more affordable you can switch you can try out you can see what works so it's a fantastic on-ramp to the critical goal of taking care of your mental health. So let therapy be your map with BetterHelp. Visit betterhelp.com slash deep questions. That's betterhelp.com slash deep questions. Don't forget the slash deep questions as it will get you 10% off your first month. That's betterhelp, H-E-L-P dot com slash deep questions. I also want to talk about our good friends at Hinson Shaving, the razor that I use. So here's the deal. The Hinson razor is this beautifully precision milled aluminum tool and hinson's knows how to do precision milling because their main business is actually doing aerospace parts manufacturing we're talking about things that go into the international space station components that go onto the mars rover so they have these aerospace grade cnc milling machines that can do incredibly precise metal milling. They use these to build this beautiful razor. And why does precision matter? Well, it means you can take a 10 cent safety razor blade, put it into this beautiful aluminum precision milled razor, screw it in, and only a, and I'm looking at the number here, screw it in, and only a, and I'm looking at the number here,.001 inch of the blade goes past, well, 0013, let's be precise, of the blade goes past the edge of the razor. And when you have just the very edge of the blade sticking past the razor, what you avoid is the diving board effect, the up and down bending of the blade if too much sticks out. That's what caused nicks. That's what leads to clogs. With just the barest edge sticking out, it's very stiff. And what that gives you with this 10-cent razor and this beautiful blade and this beautiful razor is a really good shave. It's close, no nicks, no clogs. Now, this is also very cost-effective. So in addition to just getting this beautiful tool that just works really well, you pay a little more up front. But because you can just use a standard 10-cent blade in this beautiful razor, it doesn't take long before the cost of operating a Henson's is much cheaper than a subscription service. It doesn't take long before the cost of operating a Hinson is much cheaper than buying the plastic disposable blades from the drugstore. So anyways, I love beautiful tools that do a job very well and do it cost effectively. This is what you get with Hinson's razor. So it's time to say no to subscriptions and yes to a razor that'll last you a lifetime. Visit hinsonshaving.com slash cal to pick the razor for you and if you use the code cal you will get two years worth of blades free with your razor just make sure you add the two years of blades to your cart and then when you type in cal as a promo code the price of those blades will drop to zero that's 100 free blades when you head to h-e-n-s-o-n-s-h-a-v-i-n-g.com slash cal and use that promo code cal all right well let's move on to questions no jesse today to read the question so i'll have to do that all by myself all of these roughly connect to our theme of creativity hacking.

Does Cal read online articles? (30:53)

All right, our first question comes from Maude. Maude asks, I'm curious about whether Cal reads magazines, RSS feeds, and or email newsletters, and if so, how reading those media fits into his schedule. I am pretty discriminating in terms of which magazines and newspapers and feeds I follow, but trying to keep up takes so much time that I have little left for reading books in the evening. I am really curious as to how Cal approaches this. Well, Maude, there are I'll go through my habits here, and then I'll give you my reasoning. There are some email newsletters I subscribe to. I like email newsletters. I read them if I can. So I don't put pressure on myself. If I subscribe to it, it's because I like them. And I'm willing to pay money for email newsletters. I'll pay money for some sub-stack newsletters if I really like it. Others are free. And I don't put pressure on myself. They're there. And if I have time, you know, let's say I'm taking a break. I'm eating lunch during the day. I'll read them. And if I don't and I miss the newsletter for a week let's say I'm taking a break, I'm eating lunch during the day, I'll read them. And if I don't and I miss the newsletter for a week or so and I don't read it, that's fine, too. I don't put pressure on myself for completism that I have to read everything that comes out. Now, people ask, wait a second, the world without email, you don't like email. Isn't this a problem? Not a problem. Not a problem. If you read my book, A World Without Email, what I don't like is the hyperactive hive mind mode of collaboration that email enabled. It's a mode of collaboration where you work things out with back and forth messaging. Back and forth. One direction broadcast are not a source of stress. One direction broadcast are not a source of drag on productivity. They're actually a really good use of email. Oh, there's some newsletters that can sit here in my inbox, tell if and when I want to read them. I don't feel compelled to keep checking my inbox to look for them. And seeing a newsletter arrive does not make me stressed. So email newsletters, I subscribe to probably half dozen, read them some weeks, some weeks I don't. Of course, I should turn this into an ad and say, if you're just a podcast listener, you should subscribe to my email newsletter at calnewport.com. Roughly twice a month, I send out articles on the types of topics that we talk about here on the show. Okay else do i do i try to keep up with the new yorker as they employ me this feels like it is a relevant thing to do my goal is typically make sure you read at least one article from each magazine and be in my goal my role here is uh read the one you might not expect the one people might not expect you to read you want to try to open your mind to good writing on interesting topics i also get the daily email from the new yorker because every day they're publishing articles online right this is true with most publications now there's only a handful of articles in the actual printed magazines so you got to follow what's going online they have a really good the new yorker daily newsletter and i'll look through that every day. And there it'll be if there's something that particularly catches my attention, then I'll read it. So if something catches my attention, I'll read it online. And then I try to read at least one magazine from the one article from the print magazine when I can. The other types of online articles I read are those that you send me. So my listeners and my readers send me articles and videos they think I will like to interesting at calnewport.com. I don't have time to read or watch all of them, but I really do appreciate it. And it's where I get a lot of grist for this show and other ideas. Things will catch my attention that you send me. And so I'll, when I check that inbox once or twice a week, I'll often find a bunch of articles and videos that I'll read as part of that inbox checking. All right, so that's it. So we add that up. That's a lot less online information consumption than I think most people actually do. And here's the thing. I feel completely fine with this. I'm up to date. I know what's happening in the world enough. Maybe I don't know a lot of memes and trends going on. That's fine. Maybe I'm not completely up to speed on the latest controversies. That's fine. I don't want to be. I think I come across as sufficiently erudite, as sufficiently up to speed, as sufficiently knowledgeable. So what I think happens is that we have in our modern attention economy world, we have adjusted. modern attention economy world, we have adjusted. We have adjusted our understanding of the world to the realities of massive amounts of money being invested into getting us to look at stuff online. And we've adjusted our reality of the world to tell ourselves, it's very important that I keep up with all these things. So our perspective on information flow adjusted to the modified information flow, the greatly magnified and accelerated information flow of the 21st century. So this must be important. I need to keep up with all of this. And what I'm saying, you don't. You don't. You don't have to be reading hours of articles a day. Read books. You have some email newsletters. I don't know. Have a magazine you like to read when you can. Don't be stressed when you can. And mainly read books and do other stuff and watch cool movies and you'll be fine. Not only be fine, but your anxiety level will probably go down. To be so plugged into all this online chatter, it just really makes you feel like the world is about to fall apart and civil wars around the corner and the earth will be destroyed by Thursday. You stop consuming all that online information and suddenly you feel a lot more peaceful. apart and civil wars around the corner and the earth will be destroyed by thursday you stop consuming all that online information and suddenly you feel a lot more peaceful so no i don't read a ton online and the stuff i do read i don't mind when i miss all right next question is from ryan ryan says i have an apple watch i've had an Apple Watch since the Series Zero, but in hindsight, I let it serve as a constant and consistent distraction.

Is fitness tracking on my Apple Watch an excuse to stay distracted? (36:36)

That is, until very recently. In the past few months, I have disabled all notifications pinging through the watch other than phone calls and set up my text messages to only notify me if someone responds to a prompt and essentially says, yes, this is urgent. While I think these were the correct steps to take to regain my time and concentration i have often toyed with the idea of switching to a traditional dumb watch but every time i take the apple watch off for a bit i end up getting what i would describe as anxiety around my metrics because i am very fitness oriented am i creating excuses to keep myself from breaking this technological tie? Well, I included this question in part because of a warning. The warning being, if you're doing creativity hacking, and let's say you're trying to use novel stimulation and avoidance of the familiar, you're using those two mechanisms to try to amplify the originality and creativity of your thinking it is not hard at all to sabotage those efforts in particular the avoidance of the familiar mechanism is easily defied and your phone or an Apple watch are fantastic ways to defy that advantage because as soon as you're being exposed to text conversations and emails as soon as you're connected back to a familiar flow of conversations you have negated most of that advantage those will fire up huge portions of your brain to be like oh yes okay i just got a text from ben let me think through what does this mean um What do I need to do? Well, what am I going to write back? Well, we'll run it back now, but what am I going to say? And you've just hijacked a big portion of your brain, and the effect of the fact that you're on the beach or in the middle of a museum somewhere, that effect has now diminished dramatically. So you have to be very careful about sabotaging what makes novel locations so useful for having creative thinking. All right, so Ryan, in your case, do you need to get a dumb watch? I'm a big dumb watch guy, a mechanical watch. Psychologically, I like that. There's no battery in my Omega. You just hand crank it. Do you need to do that? No, if you're a fitness buff and you do tracking of metrics on your phone, I mean on your watch you don't want to necessarily give up those advantages fitness is important, but the answer here is so simple just turn everything else off just make your Apple Watch into a dumb watch and use it just for fitness tracking, no notifications no email that's it, so if you worry about it, do that and you probably should worry about it, again, at least in the circumstances where you're trying to do deep or creative thinking because it doesn't take much to sabotage those creativity hacking mechanisms. We have another question here. This one is from Fahad. He says, when it comes to developing brilliant ideas, who has the advantages?

Which is better for original thinking: the city or the country? (39:37)

Those who live in the city or those who live in the country? It's a good question, Fahad, because I normally live in a city but just got back from a summer in the country. Well, there is no clear answer, but we know why there's no clear answer because in the beginning of the show, we went through the three different mechanisms that help explain why locations can help induce more creativity. So the city and the country draw from overlapping but not identical sets of advantageous mechanisms, right? So the city, for example, in particular, is very good at factor one in a way that maybe the country is not. So that factor one is the whiteboard effect. This is Stephen Johnson famously talking about liquid intelligence networks. When you're around a lot of other people, there's just a lot of ideas in the air. There's smart people to talk to. You constantly can bring in my writer friend, my philosopher friend, my movie director friend. We all got together at this party to celebrate our painter friend who just had a show and you're awash in ideas. You can go see interesting talks. You can go to interesting exhibits. So you can be around smart people and really interesting ideas more easily because there's just more people. Cities attract a lot more people, attracts a lot more thinkers. There's a lot more events going on. It's also a lot easier just to get together with other people. The friends of mine who have moved to the country often will, on regular occasions, come back to the city, in part so that they can hang out with a bunch of people who don't happen to live where they are out there in the country. So the city is really good at that. The city also has probably a larger menu of choices for novel locations to go to because you have museums and you have art galleries and there's probably University and all these different coffee shops and so there's a lot of different options like the the concentration circuit I showed at the opening of the show in Washington DC it's got those options those are advantages I think the country has the advantages of more powerfully dramatic novel locations so nature in particular is uh really novel right the thing with the city is everything is kind of crowded so there is some difference even if you're in a a museum that's different than your office it's still sort of the same people, lots of people, people on their phone. It's different, but it's not as different as I'm on top of Mount Cardigan in New Hampshire, quiet mountain. The wind is going by and I'm looking out over the hills in the distance. It's more powerful novelty. Also a more powerful avoidance of the familiar because when you're going to novel locations in the distance. It's a more powerful novelty. Also a more powerful avoidance of the familiar because when you're going to novel locations in the country, it's often locations that are in nature and really really different from not being in nature. Or again, in the city, the differences are not as strong. There's really something powerful. So I think the city has that advantage. This is not directly one of the mechanisms, but I think it's indirectly one of the mechanisms. What I learned up in Hanover is things are just slower. There's not a lot of crowds. There's not a lot of cars on the road. You're not having that anxiety of trying to monitor and keep track of you among lots of other different people. think that that hits on that mechanism that we discussed before of the familiar so just not as much stimuli social crowd people stimuli tickling your brain in the country so that's advantage too so both have advantages and so we understand why it's possible to say the answer is both because we understand there's different mechanisms at play when you deploy location to amplify creativity and the city and the country lean in the different what's the right thing to do test your personality uh or do what i did this year easy right get a fellowship in the country and go do that in the summer and then come back to the city for the rest of you just everyone should just do that simple all right let's do another question here.

How do I organize the pursuit of deep ideas? (43:46)

This one comes from Anu. He says, I've been trying to cultivate a deep life since I first read your books in 2019. Four years in, I'm known for solving complex problems no one else seems to want to tackle, and I'm shining at work because I limit my exposure to the hive mind. Now I'm trying to get to the next level, which is my own research projects and writing. How should I approach organizing my writing goals and organize my thoughts on disparate topics and projects? Well, I like this in part because what we're looking to do here is build a creativity hacking game plan for a new. He already, and I love this piece because this is like a case study, a mini case study. He already is enjoying success by being separated from the hive mind in his work. So now he's known for solving more complex problems and he wants to push that to the next level. But let's just pause for a moment on that mini case study, right? Because a lot of people are worried about disconnecting themselves more from the hyperactive hive mind, not being in the regular flow of back and forth emails and Slack. They're worried that the inconvenience, they're going to cause people inconvenience, and that's all that matters. And their stock will fall in that position. They'll get yelled at or they'll lose their job. Doesn't always happen. Look what Anud here. I limited my exposure to the hive mind, but instead I concentrated hard on problems that mattered. And now he's known within his company. Oh, this is the guy that does hard problems. He actually generated more career capital because the hive mind doesn't generate career capital. It's not a rare and valuable skill to be accessible. It's not a rare and valuable skill to answer email threads quickly, but it does take away time and cognitive cycles from stuff that does matter. This is an interesting calculus. Less hive mind became more valuable. All right, so Anu, how do we push this to the next level? Well, first of all, do the multi-scale creativity hacking strategy i described at the beginning of the show have a location that you can use every day when you're doing deep work to separate from the location where you do everything else make it distinctive every week put aside a non-trivial amount of time to actually go somewhere to leave the normal building or house or location where you work to go somewhere that's much more novel the woods a museum a library to have an extended creative session where you're really trying at this point to amplify the uniqueness and the novelty the lack of the familiar every season roughly speaking have some sort of brain trust get together when you get together with other smart people working on similar problems and you go to a novel location and you present information and think together and leverage the whiteboard effect to really try to find the best ideas, to really try to push your thinking to the next level. Do that multi-scale creativity hacking, and you're already going to find yourself moving up to the next level. So I think that's a really good place to start. A couple other things I would throw in there. Make sure you're exposing yourself regularly to interesting and relevant material. Read interesting wide variety of books. Listen to interesting podcast interviews. Go to talks. Also make sure you have a good system to capture ideas as you're working on it. It can be as simple as just starting a document for every potential idea you're going to work on, or you can capture thoughts on that as they arise. You might have multiple documents going for multiple ideas. Finally, I'll say be patient about starting on something new. So when the quality of the idea matters, patience matters as well. Be hesitant to get started. I'm working on this idea and that idea. I'm kind of growing these documents. Only after something really, really seems like I can't avoid this anymore. It's a great idea. I have the right pieces here. I see how it's going to come together. I have signs that this is a great thing to work on. Only then should you pull the trigger to work on it. And then I want you to deploy slow productivity, steady but relentless. Again and again, you just keep coming back to it. Most days, not all. Go to your deep work location. Push hard, but not an excessive amount of time. Slow and steady accumulation. Not, I'm going to just crush it for this weekend and get it done. Slow but relentless pile up intense concentration on an idea once you can't help but start it don't worry about how long it takes doesn't really matter what matters is steady progress until this thing finishes so do all those different types of things anew and you're going to put yourself to the next level of original creative thinking. Let's do one more question here.

Does reading books from unrelated genres help idea generation? (48:27)

This one comes from Reading Guy. Reading Guy says, Do you remember a time when reading books from other genres that are totally unrelated to your field has helped you in thinking about or directly contributing to your work as a professor or a writer? Reading Guy, I read all sorts of genres all the time. I don't have a set genre of book that I read from. I love the diversity. Go back and look at my reading reports. Every month we put on the podcast, here's the five books I read the month before. They are all over the place. I'm reading a book right now about deep sea exploration. I just finished a thriller novel about, believe it or not, werewolves. Before that I read a Kenneth Galbraith book on economic policy from the mid-century. I'm all over the place. And I'm always pulling interesting ideas from these books. It happens all the time. So I think about reading in different genres. I think about that like the cognitive equivalent of working in novel spaces. It's the internal equivalent of going to the museum or the beach to think. It's because you're exposing the interior of your mind, the place where ideas are stored and thought about, to all sorts of different ideas. So it can be just as important to have cognitive diversity as it is to have physical diversity. And this happens all the time. So look, for example, I'll give you one concrete example. You asked for a concrete example. Last year I published a New Yorker piece on what we can learn about knowledge work from looking back at how early humans worked. You'll see a bunch of books cited in there. These are books of anthropology. Anthropology books where they're looking back and studying extant hunter-gatherer communities or looking at archaeological evidence. I had just read some books like that because why not? And that was the seed of this idea of we could learn from this lessons for modern work. I wrote a big New Yorker piece on it in my new book on slow productivity. I have the same ideas. So there's a concrete example. So yes, read broadly with non-fiction. With that in mind, I want to talk briefly about another sponsor that makes this show possible and a sponsor that is relevant to that last question and that is our friends at Blinkist.

Cal talks about Ladder and Blinkist (50:41)

Blinkist is a subscription service that gives you access to short summaries of over 5,500 non-fiction titles spread through 27 different categories. These summaries, which they call Blinks, take about 15 minutes to read or listen to. So you can listen to the summary or you can read it right there in the app. Well, this is a great way, as we just talked about in the answer to my last question, a great way to expose yourself to interesting books and other genres because you don't have to know a lot about that genre to find what you want to read. Instead, you should do what I do, what Jesse does, which is you add to a list the books you're thinking about maybe reading and before you purchase a book you go to blinkest and you read or listen to the blink and in that short summary of the book you get a lot of information about is this something I want to actually read the entire book of or do I just want to take these main points and move on it is a triage service for the reading life. If you are a big reader and you read a lot of nonfiction, you have to have something like Blinkist. Jesse and I use it for exactly this purpose. You'd be surprised how easy it is to determine once you've listened to a summary, nope, nope, yes. Like, okay, I know what this book is about. That's not what I thought. Let me put that aside. Oh, this sounds fascinating. Like, okay, I know what this book is about. That's not what I thought. Let me put that aside. Oh, this sounds fascinating. Let me buy that book. There's also a cool feature going on right now called Blinkist Connect, which allows you with a subscription to Blinkist to give a subscription to a friend for free. It's a two for the price of one deal, which I think your friends will appreciate. So I'm just looking here at my list. Honestly, what I'm looking at right now, guys, is my Blinkist app. I have this off camera. And I was just looking at this to emphasize the utility it has in my actual day-to-day life uh well anyways i don't want to i was trying to find a way to put my screen up to the camera here that's not going to work well but let me just leave it at this it is something i use it is something you should consider using for triaging your non-fiction reading all right so right now blinkus has a special offer just for our audience go Go to Blinkist.com slash deep to start your seven-day free trial and get 25% off a Blinkist premium membership. That's Blinkist spelled B-L-I-N-K-I-S-T. Blinkist.com slash deep to get 25% off on a seven-day free trial. Blinkist.com slash deep. And remember, for a limited time, you can use Blinkist Connect to share your premium account. You will get two premium subscriptions for the price of one. I also want to talk about our friends at Ladder. If you're like me, you're my age, one of the things you know that's on your list is life insurance. Maybe you have some, but it's not nearly enough. Maybe you don't have any at all, and you're very worried about your loved ones being left in the lurch if something tragic happened. So knowing that importance of life insurance, why don't you have any? Well, for a lot of people, it's because it's ambiguous how to do it. Where do you go? Who do you talk to? What's a good price or a bad price? This is where ladder enters the scene. It makes it so simple to check that item, get more life insurance off your to-do list. It's 100% digital. There's no doctor's needles or paperwork involved when you're applying for $3 million in coverage or less. You just answer a few questions about your health in an application. You need just a few minutes and a phone or a laptop to apply, and then their smart algorithms will work in real time, and you will find out if you're instantly approved. There's no hidden fees. You can cancel any time. You get a full refund if you change your mind in the first 30 days. These are policies that are insured by insurers with long proven histories of paying claims, insurers that are rated A and A plus by A, M, best. All right. So you just go online, click approved. Here it is. Here's the price. Do I want it? Let's go. Highly rated insurers. We got 4.8 out of five stars on Trustpilot. They made Forbes best life insurance list. All right, so it is just the easy way to get good, affordable, high-quality term life insurance. And since life insurance costs more each year that you age, what's the right time to take this off your list? Right now. The more you wait, the more expensive it gets. So go to ladderlife.com slash deep today to see if you're instantly approved. That's L-A-D-D-E-R life.com slash deep. That's ladderlife.com slash deep. All right, we've got one more segment left in the show.

The Concept Of Overstimulation

Overstimulation is ruining your life! (55:38)

I want to react to something that has been going around the Internet recently. So I'm actually going to share something on the screen here. So again, this is the deeplife.com or youtube.com slash Cal Newport media to watch this episode, episode 262. I've loaded up a YouTube video. I won't have the audio on, but I have closed captioning on. All right. So this is a video from Better Ideas, a popular channel. It has 2 million subscribers. And the title of this video is How Overstimulation is Ruining Your Life. And we see there's a young man on screen here in the woods looking earnestly at the camera. And I have the closed captioning on, so I'm going to play this and read you a little bit of what he's saying. He's saying, during certain periods of my life... Oh, that... Remember when I said the volume was off? The volume was very much on. Let me turn that off here. Sorry about that. During various periods of my life, I have a very difficult time focusing on pretty much anything important or difficult. During these periods, it seems almost impossible to break out of the social media limbo where you're just constantly switching between tabs, refreshing pages, kind of waiting for something interesting to happen. Like for someone to post a cool photo or Instagram or something, you're kind of waiting to be entertained. But if you actually have to apply yourself, it's extremely difficult, borderline painful to do so. And I'm pretty sure almost everyone can relate to this problem. I'm sure you've seen a lot of videos on YouTube, giving you little tips and tricks as to how to better focus, including my own channel. But there are very few videos kind of diving in, talking about why it's so difficult to focus on hard things. You know, like, what's the deal? Why can't we just sit down and do something important with very little strain? All right, so that's the start of that video on better ideas. And he goes on to get into some of the neuroscience of why we're distracted so easily when we're trying to work on something hard. And it's a neuroscience explanation you may have heard before, but essentially our dopamine system, which generates that urge to do something that's going to generate a reward. Keep in mind, we often get that a little bit wrong. I think in common parlance, we often think about dopamine as being a source of rewards. The dopamine itself is what makes you feel a lot of pleasure. Now, dopamine is what gives you that urge to do the thing that you think is going to give you the reward. It's when you have an addiction, it's the dopamine that makes it so irresistible to grab that cigarette because it wants the other rewards you're going to get when you actually smoke the cigarette, right? So what is talked about in this video is this common neuroscience explanation that the dopamine system is firing up to get those quick hit rewards of seeing the video that's really interesting seeing the post that's a little bit scandalous seeing the like number jump on something you did earlier which gives you this big burst of people like me they really like me the dopamine system likes rewards. It wants rewards now. The internet has many rewards lined up. That system kicks into play, and you feel this irresistible desire to click, click, click. You do not get a similar dopamine push for, I'm working for our 900 of 10,000. It's going to take me to finish this really big project because the rewards not proximate and so what's going to win then the complicated deep thing part of your slow productivity push to do something big over a long period of time or Instagram or tick tock and he said yeah your brain is wired to go for that and that's a very hard that's a very hard challenge to win. Now, what I learned from this video is that, yes, he is right. There are lots of videos that talk about this same thing, quote unquote overstimulation. People are really feeling it. And I think young people are feeling it harder because they have more targets for their dopamine systems. They've more acclimatized their mind to all of these various rewards they're very good at these various rewards there's so much pulling at them that young people in particular are really finding yes this is ruining my life i can't do anything long-term deep cognitively useful getting bad grades at school i can't advance in my job i can't produce something that I really want to produce. Those of us my age or older maybe say I distract myself too much and it slows down me doing important work. Young people really do feel like it's ruining their lives. So what should we do about it? Well, I thought, well, I can offer my own advice here. I mean, this is something I've studied and written about for a long time. I kind of wrote the definitive book on the power of focus and why you should cultivate it. I've been thinking and writing articles and books about this for a long time. So I figured, let me review here on the podcast my own very complicated multi-part system for combating online overstimulation. So get a pad of paper ready because you don't want to miss step 9 or 10. There's a very complicated explanation for how you're going to have to very carefully navigate the online world. All right. It's going to be very complicated. Are you ready? Okay. Here it goes. Here's my solution. Don't use things that cause overstimulation. All right. Now I'm being a little bit facetious here, but, but honestly, the answer is as simple as that. Dopamine system is powerful, so don't give it the targets that it's going to fire up for. You have to actually remove most of these sources of overstimulation from your life if you really want to start thinking and producing original thoughts at a high level. There's not these complex habits and careful ways of navigating your notifications and when you use this and when you don't use this. I'm telling you this, as someone who thinks for a living and studies people who thinks for a living, the more sources of overstimulation you eliminate from your life, the easier. And we, of course, know this type of abstention approach is effective because we see it with other things that historically have hijacked the dopamine system and caused a lot of trouble. will have it here and we're going to have an app that that keeps track of how many cigarettes you've had and try to restrict then during certain periods there's a time lock that locks off the cigarettes and you can't have it during that period but you can't have it on this period and uh we do a week on but you don't smoke on saturdays no we just say you got to quit smoking as the same with a lot of other addictions like this that people have trouble with but we resist applying that type of clarity and abstention to online overstimulation so let me get a little bit more granular about this social media this is a big source of it you got to just basically get this out of your life if you have to have some social media for professional reasons it should not be on your phone. It should be on a boring computer. It's something you should do on a schedule or hire someone to do on your behalf. It should never, ever be something you go to when you're bored. It should never be a source of distraction. It should be I'm an author, and I set up my Instagram post in a shared document on Google Drive. Here's the photos. Here's the text. And I have someone who posts it Fridays and Mondays. Or if I have to do that, I log in the thing on my computer, I post it, and then I shut it back down again. So if you have to use it professionally, it's on a computer, it's boring, you never use it as a source of entertainment. You don't scroll online news. Look, you're not an editor it as a source of entertainment. You don't scroll online news. Look, you're not an editor at Gawker. You just get out of that world of online news and discussion. You don't have to be a part of it. How do you keep up with stuff in the world? We talked about this earlier in this episode where I gave advice to Reading Guy. Subscribe to some email newsletters that you read when you can that gives you interesting perspectives. Listen to podcasts. Maybe listen to a daily news roundup podcast if you want to be kept up with more current events, right? Or listen to something like Saga and Crystals, their Breaking Points podcast where they go through, you know, 10 stories about what's going on in the world. Podcasts are fine, right? Because it's something you have to turn on and listen to. It's not a knee-jerk distraction that your dopamine system is going to kick into. No one is like trying to write and halfway through writing, like, oh, and quickly turn on a podcast. TikTok can do that. Online news can do that. Twitter can do that. Podcasts are fine. Newsletters are fine. Maybe even print out the articles you like and read them when you get a chance. That's fine. You'll be informed. You got to get rid of all that online news. What about YouTube? YouTube is tricky. Why is YouTube tricky? I think video is the future of independent content creation, but the recommendations sidebar on YouTube can make it into one of these dopamine inflaming sources of distraction. So when it comes to something like YouTube, you have to use it one way and not another. So this is maybe the place where I come closest to the navigation lines that you hear in a lot of these online videos. But I do think YouTube is a source of information. YouTube has become more a source of entertainment, high quality entertainment that rivals what you would get on, but it's also a giant source of distraction. So how do we make sense of YouTube? Well, here's my YouTube strategy. So in order to preserve YouTube as a way to look up instructions for things, which I think is a great use of YouTube, how do I change the oil in a Honda Odyssey? Look it up on YouTube. You can see a video of someone doing it. It's better than trying to find an article. To preserve that use of YouTube without it making a dopamine-inflaming system, get one of these plug-ins for your browser that you use YouTube on that gets rid of the recommendations. So what you can do is you can search for something. You can see the search results. You can click on a search result. You can watch it, but there's no here's what's coming up next or what about this and what about that. So that one type of plugin alone makes YouTube into a fantastic library without it being something that you can use as a source of knee-jerk distraction. Because again, when you're working on something hard, if you have blocked YouTube, you go, let's go to YouTube.com. You don't see anything. Because again, when you're working on something hard, if you have blocked YouTube, you go, let's go to YouTube.com. You don't see anything. You have to search for something and find something. It's not a highly salient source of distraction. Now what about entertainment on YouTube? Because again, I think this is actually important. I'm a believer that video trumps audio. The future of independent content is going to be video. I mean, this is like radio became a big thing until television was around. And then television just smashed the market share of radio. It was just so much bigger because humans like to see faces. Humans like to see visuals. show on YouTube is better than 99% of the stuff that's on television or that's on non-unscripted streaming services. And I think that gap's going to close more. So how do you, for example, watch a show like mine? Or maybe you're a Lex Fridman fan, you want to watch his interviews. How do you watch these type of programming as a substitute for lower quality television with again not having youtube be a rabbit hole and my answer here is television sets i learned this from our youtube guide jeremy that increasingly televisions are becoming one of the most common devices on which this style youtube video is watched so if you're going to look something up, you have a browser with a plug-in that blocks the recommendations. If you're going to watch quote-unquote independent high-quality content on YouTube, you have it on the YouTube app and your Apple TV or Fire Stick on your television, and you watch it like you would any other television show in the same circumstances where you'd watch television. I'm sitting down with a lunch break. I take out my remote. I turn on the TV. I go to the YouTube app. I search for the latest episode of whatever, and I put it on the TV. There's a lot of friction in using a television. There's also a lot of routine and ritual built into televisions where that's not part of your dopamine cycle. When you're in your home office trying to write something, you don't rush downstairs and turn on the TV and go to Netflix and select a show and turn it on. That's too much overhead. The television you think about, oh, I'm going to have a meal. I'm taking a break. It's a big production to get it going. So you move high quality, independent media consumption to the television and looking up to a browser protected, a plug-in protected browser. Now you don't have to worry about something like YouTube in your life being a source of distraction. Also throw in place better, less dopamine-susceptible entertainment sources to fill the gap that the highly salient, distracting content is probably filling right now listen to get back into music go see good movies and read about them before and after read much more books high quality streaming content high quality podcast right get your mind used to other sorts of much higher quality content for the entertainment and distraction the lower quality stuff will begin to seem less palatable same thing happens with food you eat a lot of junk food is really addictive my god just need chips and cookies and this makes me feel better and what else would i want to eat you stop doing it for a while you start eating better food you start cooking yourself you go to the farmer's market you're using high quality ingredients everyone will tell you this you start eating well a snickers bar or chips ahoy seems weird it's cardboard it's fake it's too sugary you don't crave it anymore right so you don't break this connection to junk food by just white knuckling and eating less you replace it with better food so that's the final part of solving overstimulation is introducing, flooding the zone with much more quality stimulation so that you lose your taste for a TikTok video. You lose your taste for an inflammatory online article that someone tweeted and that you're scrolling through and then clicking the other links. All right? So again, this is how I think you solve overstimulation. If you're serious about it, you get rid of most of the you solve overstimulation. If you're serious about it, you get rid of most of the sources of overstimulation. You stop using social media, you stop doing online news surfing, you put in a lot of high quality content. And in the few places where you might need to encounter these worlds, YouTube, looking things up or high quality independent media, you have to do some limited social media for your work. You do so in a way that makes it so far from being a source of knee jerk distraction that your dopamine system forgets about it so anyways I appreciated that video overstimulation is a problem I'm glad people care about it but let's just get blunt stop doing the thing that's ruining your life stop smoking stop eating the junk food replace it with something better. Let's not get too cute about this. Let's not get too fine-grained. Life without the overstimulation really is a deeper life. It really is a more intellectually engaged life. It really is going to be a more successful life. You're going to produce ideas that astound you. All right, well, that's all the time we have for today. Thank you for listening or watching. I'll be back next week with Jesse in the Deep Work HQ. The band's back together. Time for fall. Time to get back to the way we were before the summer. I'm looking forward to that. And until then, as always, stay deep. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

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