Ep. 193: The Future of Twitter, Reading More, and Fixed-Schedule Productivity | Deep Questions

Transcription for the video titled "Ep. 193: The Future of Twitter, Reading More, and Fixed-Schedule Productivity | Deep Questions".

1970-01-01T03:26:22.000Z

Note: This transcription is split and grouped by topics and subtopics. You can navigate through the Table of Contents on the left. It's interactive. All paragraphs are timed to the original video. Click on the time (e.g., 01:53) to jump to the specific portion of the video.


Introduction

Intro (00:00)

I'm Cal Newport and this is Deep Questions, episode 193. I'm here in my Deep Work HQ, joined once again after his well missed absence by my producer Jesse. Jesse, welcome back. Thanks. Good to be back. I hope you're your tournament, the lacrosse tournament for the team you helped coach. I hope that all went well. Yeah, it went pretty good. I coached at Gonzaga College High School down in Washington, D.C. right next to the capital. We had some ups and downs, but we're trying to play better lacrosse. Yeah, I mean, I like to imagine, I don't know if this is true, but I get a kick out of imagining that your coaching philosophy entirely comes out of my books. Yeah, pretty much. Yeah. You're out there yelling at your kids. Enough with all of this hyperactive hive mind ad hoc back and forth, unstructured communication on the field. We need communication protocols to avoid all of the cognitive capacity hits from this context switching. So now here's how it works. If you want to make a pass to the player down by the net, there's a Google Doc. So you put that in the Google Doc. We can check that when the player down by the net is ready to check it. You're not going to be able to interrupt them and create a contact shift. That's the secret to your success. It's my terminology, right? The player down by the net. There's probably a good term like the attack man, but especially on defense. So it either goes really well or goes really bad. So the communication is just like on point. Don't give up any goals or we just give up like 20. Well, that's what I mean. I think that's your key is that's going to be the secret. Especially sometimes if the Google Drive doesn't like, you know, refresh when they come over to the sideline. Yeah. And then they're lost. I don't want to tell you how to do your business, but I was just scouting St. John's. The sort of what their number one team in the country this year. They are. They're in our league. They're good.

Intro (04:37)

We're going to mix in calls with written questions with various segments. We'll all get mixed into these these longer episodes. A lot of it will go on YouTube individual segments. We're going to do some straight to YouTube videos as well. We're kind of messing around with that. But here's the reason why we're going through the summer season is we have, it's good news, but we have grown to show enough that we can actually satisfy our ad contracts in one episode per week. So it used to be the ad contracts we sold and we've sold out all of 2022. We would play each ad on Monday and Thursday to get to or beyond the number of downloads we had sold. Now the show is popular enough that in just one episode, we will hit our obligations for how many downloads each ad is supposed to be attached to. So what we could have done is said, great, we can now double our ad inventory. So put the ads we sold on Mondays, episodes, sell new ads for the episodes on Thursday. So I wanted to put in the practice what I preach, the craftsman bucket of the deep life. I stepped back and said what I would rather do first is actually take the time it would free up the temporarily not record two episodes, but just record one episode. Take the time that frees up to improve the show. To think deeply about what's working, what's not working to do more writing before we get on air, to see how can I make this show to use a phrase that you may have heard me say before, be so good it can't be ignored. So that's what Jesse and I are trying. We're cutting back to one episode, we're doubling the amount of time we're spending prepping, we're going to be experimenting, we're going to be tightening, we're going to be trying out new segments. And the hope is we'll come out of the summer with a even better show, we'll push the show up to its next level. With that in mind, we're always happy to hear feedback on what you like or don't like on the show. Your best bet is to send that towards Jesse at cal Newport dot com. He's more likely to see and keep track of that than I am. And so send your thoughts, what's working, what's not working to Jesse at cal Newport dot com.


Discussion On Elon Musk And Twitter

The Secret (02:07)

Yeah. Well, I look, I don't want to give away their secrets. I was scouting them, but I'll give it to you secretly. Trello boards. That is how St. John's is dominating. They're using Trello boards to keep track of their different obligations on the field in a way that allows them to attach files and see context quickly. So look, I don't want to speak out of school, but. Probably definitely helps with the recruiting. I'll tell you that. Yeah. They're like, look, you come here to St. John's and you're not going to be on, you're not going to be on Slack. We're going to have, we're going to have communication protocols that minimize context shifting. They have a giant picture of me. I don't know if you've seen this in the locker room, but there's like a giant picture of me giving double thumbs up and it just says, do it for Cal today. Yeah. And they hit it as that, you know, like a Notre Dame, they all hit it as they go out and they get real psyched and. I'm trying to get consecutive to be the only team in America that doesn't use social media, but that's kind of hard to do. It's always good. It's hard. But remember that there's this thing that went around for a while. I mean, or I got it sent a lot. There was a couple of years ago, there was one of the college basketball teams. He has Texas Tech. I think we've talked about this before. They banned phones on the road. Like you can't bring your phone with you on the road. You can't bring it with you into the hotel room. Like they're like, we want to just focus. And the team made like a really deep March madness run that year. I mean, there's something to that. Yeah. And there's research on that from the NBA where they could correlate Twitter usage because you can see it. There's a record with performance and it was economists who were doing this and they could see, okay, the players on a night in which they were up doing Twitter, like they were tweeting, maybe it was Instagram, I thought it was Twitter, their performance was under their average the next day. So there's like, there's these direct connections, I think, obviously between social media and sports. I think it's why some of my stuff like digital minimalism is popular among professional athletes. Is that like every Epsilon matters? This is a pretty big Epsilon and people are starting to figure that out. Yeah, it all plays into focus, which we talk about. Yeah. And when you're in sports, focus is everything. All right. Well, speaking of focus, we have an announcement, another administrative announcement. We are for our what we're going to call our spring season or our summer season. However, we want to call it our temporarily dropping down to a one episode per week format. So one episode per week. The episode will probably be longer than they had been before.


Intro (00:00)

I'm Cal Newport and this is Deep Questions, episode 193. I'm here in my Deep Work HQ, joined once again after his well missed absence by my producer Jesse. Jesse, welcome back. Thanks. Good to be back. I hope you're your tournament, the lacrosse tournament for the team you helped coach. I hope that all went well. Yeah, it went pretty good. I coached at Gonzaga College High School down in Washington, D.C. right next to the capital. We had some ups and downs, but we're trying to play better lacrosse. Yeah, I mean, I like to imagine, I don't know if this is true, but I get a kick out of imagining that your coaching philosophy entirely comes out of my books. Yeah, pretty much. Yeah. You're out there yelling at your kids. Enough with all of this hyperactive hive mind ad hoc back and forth, unstructured communication on the field. We need communication protocols to avoid all of the cognitive capacity hits from this context switching. So now here's how it works. If you want to make a pass to the player down by the net, there's a Google Doc. So you put that in the Google Doc. We can check that when the player down by the net is ready to check it. You're not going to be able to interrupt them and create a contact shift. That's the secret to your success. It's my terminology, right? The player down by the net. There's probably a good term like the attack man, but especially on defense. So it either goes really well or goes really bad. So the communication is just like on point. Don't give up any goals or we just give up like 20. Well, that's what I mean. I think that's your key is that's going to be the secret. Especially sometimes if the Google Drive doesn't like, you know, refresh when they come over to the sideline. Yeah. And then they're lost. I don't want to tell you how to do your business, but I was just scouting St. John's. The sort of what their number one team in the country this year. They are. They're in our league. They're good.


Intro (04:37)

We're going to mix in calls with written questions with various segments. We'll all get mixed into these these longer episodes. A lot of it will go on YouTube individual segments. We're going to do some straight to YouTube videos as well. We're kind of messing around with that. But here's the reason why we're going through the summer season is we have, it's good news, but we have grown to show enough that we can actually satisfy our ad contracts in one episode per week. So it used to be the ad contracts we sold and we've sold out all of 2022. We would play each ad on Monday and Thursday to get to or beyond the number of downloads we had sold. Now the show is popular enough that in just one episode, we will hit our obligations for how many downloads each ad is supposed to be attached to. So what we could have done is said, great, we can now double our ad inventory. So put the ads we sold on Mondays, episodes, sell new ads for the episodes on Thursday. So I wanted to put in the practice what I preach, the craftsman bucket of the deep life. I stepped back and said what I would rather do first is actually take the time it would free up the temporarily not record two episodes, but just record one episode. Take the time that frees up to improve the show. To think deeply about what's working, what's not working to do more writing before we get on air, to see how can I make this show to use a phrase that you may have heard me say before, be so good it can't be ignored. So that's what Jesse and I are trying. We're cutting back to one episode, we're doubling the amount of time we're spending prepping, we're going to be experimenting, we're going to be tightening, we're going to be trying out new segments. And the hope is we'll come out of the summer with a even better show, we'll push the show up to its next level. With that in mind, we're always happy to hear feedback on what you like or don't like on the show. Your best bet is to send that towards Jesse at cal Newport dot com. He's more likely to see and keep track of that than I am. And so send your thoughts, what's working, what's not working to Jesse at cal Newport dot com.


What Were Doing As The Two of Life Frequency Drops (06:40)

And hopefully you'll like the innovations we attempt in the weeks and months ahead. So when you think Jesse one episode a week, I think it'll be good. I think it'll be good. You put a lot of thought into stuff and you've been thinking about it and bouncing some ideas off myself. I think, like you said, you can make the show even better and I know that your audience likes to hear from you a lot. But I think that the show is like real solid with like some really good segments. It could be. Yeah. And then once you figure out, once you figure out the format that's really working, then it can become more efficient to work on it again and then we can expand the amount we're producing. But anyways, it should be fun. Also, it's the summer and I'm tired and it's nice to just have a little bit more breathing room.


Musk On Twitter (07:26)

We've definitely, okay, behind the scenes, Jesse, you will attest to this. There's definitely, especially during my busy period in the spring, have been times where it's like we have this window and there's a lot of recording that has to be done. And I'm basically like running into the room, jumping down, grabbing the mic, let's roll. We've had to do some pretty high intensity, high stress rapid recording. So it's going to be nice that we can just have some breathing room around our sessions actually kind of enjoy it a little bit more. All right, well, let us do our first segment. I have been enjoying doing some of these news reaction segments. What I'm really looking for of course is not to just give my opinion on everything who cares, but to look at segments in the news that overlap things that we talk about here on the show and give me a chance to actually bounce off them and elaborate some of the theories I've been developing on the show, some of the theories that I talk about commonly on the show. So it's news that's relevant to the show. And unlike prior Cal reacts to the new segments, I actually want to do several different pieces here. So I'm going to start with an article returning to what we've been discussing, returning to Elon Musk and his potential takeover of Twitter. There's an article I read this morning. It came out the morning I'm recording this from the New York Times. It was titled Elon Musk details his plan to pay for a $46.5 billion takeover of Twitter. This article starts by noting Elon Musk said on Thursday that he had commitments worth $46.5 billion to finance his proposed bid for Twitter and was exploring whether to launch a hostile takeover for the social media company. I think he's beating out the $5,000 bid that we put in. I think our vision for Cal Newport Twitter, they haven't said no yet, but it looks like Elon has the better bid he's putting together here. The article goes on to say the financial commitments gathered a week after Mr. Musk made an unsolicited offer for Twitter, put pressure on the social media company's board to take his advances. Seriously, it's serious. Even David Solomon, a professor at the School of Law at the University of California at Berkeley, said of the new filing, he's getting more professional. This is starting to look like a normal hostile bid. You do not do that unless you are going to launch an offer. I think I was leaning towards this was probably not for real until I read this article. I thought he might have just been messing with people. This article is seeming to imply that he is actually serious. Did you take him seriously, Jesse? You were never quite sure if he was actually going to do this. I thought he was serious. You more understood it. The breaking news that almost happened this morning is he tweeted, "Today, the day we're recording this, what was his exact words here?" It was, "Moving on." This is big news in part because I never see Twitter breaking news because I don't use Twitter, but I had to go on to Twitter to get this tweet thread I'm going to talk about for the next story that a user sent me and it was popped up. I was like, "Maybe that was must saying he was moving on from this." Then he clarified, his breaking news. It was 14 minutes before I came over here. He clarified that when he said, "Moving on," it wasn't about his Twitter takeover bid. It was him moving on from making fun of Bill Gates because Bill Gates had shorted Tesla stock at a time where he was talking about climate change. I guess Elon Musk has been dunking on Gates recently for that. Captain climate change is shorting Tesla stock. He was moving on from that. Musk goes on to say, "On Twitter, if our Twitter bid succeeds, we will defeat the spam bots or die trying." That's interesting because that's a new spin. I think a lot of the coverage of Musk's plans for Twitter had to do with content moderation. We'll get into that more here in a second. Here he is emphasizing another type of improvement he would look to do. In this case, get rid of spam bots. That's interesting that he is making that pivot. Final thing is I would point out that Morgan Stanley is a big part of the money he is raising for this takeover bid. They quote a lecturer from Cornell University saying, "There are lots of very senior people at Morgan Stanley that are responsible for that brand. In my view, it would not allow this to happen unless there is some level of seriousness behind it." Okay, so all of the coverage seems to be saying this is probably serious. It's probably not Musk messing with us. Here's the two thoughts I have about that. One, it really still could be Musk messing with everyone. I think he gets enjoyment out of it. I think he's very persuasive. I think he could persuade Morgan Stanley to come on board even if he never actually planned to make the bid. So I'm still not sure about that. The other thing I was thinking about this morning is that there could be a silver lining to this Musk takeover that isn't really being reported, but I think it could be good.


Elon should take over (12:51)

That's the fact that the media for the most part doesn't like Elon Musk for a lot of complicated reasons, but of course the fact that he messes with them this way is probably one of them. If he did take over Twitter, the media might stop using Twitter and focusing on Twitter and allowing Twitter to influence them as much because on principle, they're like, "I don't like Elon Musk. Twitter is now his. I don't want to use Twitter as much anymore as a TV reporter or a newspaper reporter. I don't want to be a part of something that he owns." And this would be good for the Republic. I think if reporters and journalists in general spent less time on Twitter and being influenced by Twitter, it's probably better for everybody. So there's a silver lining here. If Musk continues acting sort of erratically and the media continues to dislike him and he takes over Twitter, maybe it will actually ironically and paradoxically reduce the impact of Twitter on our culture. And I think that would be a good thing. Basically, anything that hurts Twitter I'm kind of a fan of. All right. So then I had a second article here that elaborates on what's going on with Musk and Twitter. And maybe it's not fair to call it an article. It's a Twitter thread. So there's all sorts of recursive ironies, a boundary here. It's from the former CEO of Reddit, Yishin Wang and Hat Tip to listener Andy who emailed this to me. In general, by the way, if you have tips or articles you think I would like my longtime address for that is interesting at cal Newport.com. That's where Andy sent me this Twitter thread. And I thought it was quite interesting is this has gotten quite a lot of play. Yishin starts in this thread by saying, I've now been asked multiple times for my take on Elon's offer for Twitter. So fine. This is what I think about that. All right. So here's his main point. Just Elon takes over Twitter. He's in for a world of pain. He has no idea. I'm going to summarize as a long thread. But Yishin says, there is this old culture of the internet, roughly Web 1.0, an early Web 2.0 that had a very strong free speech culture. This free speech idea arose out of a culture of late 90s America where the main people who were interested in censorship or religious conservatives, in practical terms, this meant that they would try to ban porn or other imagined moral degeneracy on the internet. Many of the older tech leaders today, he points to Elon Musk or Mark Andreessen, grew up with that internet to them to internet represented freedom, a new frontier, a flowering of the human spirit and a great optimism to technology could birth a new golden age of mankind. I'm skipping ahead here a little bit. Reddit which he ran was born in this last year's of this old internet when free speech meant freedom from religious conservatives trying to take down porn and sometimes first person shooters. So we tried to preserve that idea but this is not what free speech is about today.


Twitter is like Reddit (15:59)

He then goes on to argue the internet is not a frontier where people can go to be free. It's where the entire world is now and every culture war is being fought on it. It's the main battlefield for our culture wars. He says it means that upholding free speech means you're not standing up against some religious conservatives lobbying to remove Judy Bloon books from the library. It means you're standing up against everyone because every site is trying to take away the speech rights of the other side. And so he goes on to say for example that all of his left wing woke friends are convinced that the social media platforms uphold the white supremacist misogynistic patriarchy and they have plenty of screenshots and evidence. And at the same time all of his center right libertarian friends are convinced that social media platforms uphold the woke BLM Marxist LGBTQ agenda and they also have plenty of screenshots blah blah blah. So his point is everyone has their own definition of free speech. Everyone wants to stop the other side wherever the other team is from whatever they're doing to impede their team and to get more freedom for their own team. That it's a battlefield where there is no clear sides and he says Elon Musk doesn't realize this. He says Elon doesn't understand what has happened to internet culture since 2014. I know he doesn't because he was late to bitcoin. Elon's been too busy doing actual real things like making electric cars and reusable rockets. Cutting out some inappropriate language here. So he has a pretty good excuse for not paying attention but this is something that's hard to understand unless you've run a social network. Alright I'll call it there. That's my summary. But basically what this former Reddit CEO is saying is that Elon Musk is from an old generation where free speech was an ideal that like all tech people supported and it was pretty clear.


Reactions to Falwell, Gore, Sic & others moderation. (17:42)

It was like the internet is for free speech and we have to stop Jerry Falwell from trying to prevent first person shooters or Al Gore's wife from preventing first person shooters or whatever was going on at the time. It's like today that's no longer the case. Free speech means different things for everybody. There's no solution that's going to make everyone happy. What this team wants is completely different from what this team wants and you're going to have to either pick sides and if you don't pick sides you're just going to everyone's going to hate you. You're going to be in a world of pain from all sides. So this thread has gone somewhat viral and I think it is an interesting take. Alright so here's what I think about that. Having thought a lot about this and written a lot about this. There are some things here I agree with. Yes there certainly was an older internet culture. I think they're often described as the open culture techno optimist that we're a big believer in. The internet is bringing openness to everyone. This is a movement that was really tied to things like information wants to be free, open source software. They are very anti digital rights management. They thought software and music and text and everything should just be freely available on the internet and it was a utopian movement. It came out of California techno optimist circles. Kevin Kelly who I know and respect was one of the big thinkers of that. So that movement did exist. Their version of the internet is very different than it is today. A lot of writers have talked about that transition. I think Jaren Lanier is probably the most eloquent. He was an open culture techno optimist. You became decidedly not that after the internet took a turn in the early 2000s. So I think that is definitely true. I think he's also right. I think we've seen this clearly. That it's also right that there is no obvious solution that's going to make most people happy when it comes to things like content moderation. The left ones, this moderated, the right ones, that moderated. And then there's other weird crazy offshoots of the mainstream left and right that have all sorts of crazy thoughts about what should be moderated or not. And so there's no way to keep everyone happy. Facebook saw this. Facebook somehow got everyone. No matter where they were in the political spectrum, mad at them. The right wing got mad that they were being censored. The left wing got mad. They weren't censoring enough. And so it is a very difficult place to be in. There is no politically neutral stance where people will say like you're doing it well. So I think he's right about that as well. What I think he's getting wrong though is this idea that Elon Musk or Mark Andreessen don't understand that. Gen X I think is too new of a generation. The sort of middle aged tech oligarch class. The Peter Thiel's Andreessen Musk. You might have David Sacks. This sort of big made a lot of money. Reid Hoffman. They were not really from that school of the original open culture techno optimist. They're a little bit older. That's a little bit of an older time. That's Kevin Kelly. That's Stuart Brand. That's Jaren Lanaire. That's a slightly older group. This group came up in the dot com boom of the 90s. They're much more money focused than the original techno optimist are. And they know exactly what's going on. I do not think Elon Musk misunderstands. That's actually happening on Twitter. I think what's going on when he talks about content moderation is much simpler. I don't know why we don't just simplify this to this. I think when Elon Musk says, look at my notes here, but when Elon Musk says basically he wants free speech, I think almost certainly what he means is he thinks that content moderation should come more from a centrist position than from a farther influence to the farther to the left position.


The dot-com boom generation of big tech oligarchs, including Elon Musk. (21:25)

I think that's all it is. And I think we see this split. We saw this split happening in Silicon Valley where this small group of these tech oligarchs, especially the ones with brand names, the people who were made a lot of money were very successful, very, they had accrued a lot of power in the internet out of the internet's growth. Then there was the shift more recently in our culture towards using postmodern critical theories as the main perspective through which we understand the world. That group largely resisted it. And there might be a bit of a don't tell me how to think. Look, I'm used to being the smartest person in the room and explaining how things work. And I don't want someone from a university coming along and telling me how to think. I don't know what it was. It could be the antagonism that grew between the media and these groups. So as more of the culture and especially media culture shifted the using postmodern critical theories as their main lens, their treatment of these tech bro oligarchs got pretty rough. And there's this whole tension that's not reported a lot, but there's basically there's been a complete break between the Silicon Valley name, brand name leaders and the East Coast media where they just won't talk to them anymore. Like every time we talk to you, you just dunk on us in the piece and look, we're just not going to do interviews with you. We'll just talk to people directly through our own podcast and we'll talk to people through our own websites. There's this real tension between the two worlds that probably didn't help either. But I think it's as simple as that. Elon Musk is from that group of brand name tech oligarchs that says, I don't know. I don't want to re-center all my perspectives through postmodern critical theories. I think Twitter does that too much. I wanted it to do it less. So I don't know why it has to be such a complex analysis of what's really going on with free speech and maybe Musk is from this weird prior time and we have to understand these complex rules. I think he just has a different location on the political spectrum and has a lot of money. Put those two things together. I don't know. I mean, Justin, you probably hear this, right? There's a lot of bending over backwards and complex analysis for some of this stuff, but I think some of it's like pretty straightforward. Musk is like, I want to be more centrist on this and I have a lot of money and I'm kind of screwing with people. Yeah. I do think he has a plan. Yeah. Exactly sure what it is, but yeah. I do think he knows what's going on because he uses Twitter a lot anyway. He's been using it for years, right? Yeah. You've got 80 something million followers. Yeah. Yeah. So anything he uses that much, he's obviously thinking a lot about it. I mean, this comes back to my bigger point, which I make often about social media, which is this is the impossibility of trying to have universalism. I just think this model of social media universalism where everyone uses the same small number of platforms doesn't make sense.


Musks Confusion (24:23)

That's not what the internet was architect for. Like the whole point of the internet is now you have a potential point to point connections between everyone in the world, meaning that you can put together any type of communication graph topologies that you want, small groups of people, interesting connections that you surf to find people you've never known before. But to go to this broadcast topology, you say, no, no, no, everyone's going to talk to the same server banks at the same companies and everyone's going to read the same information being posted on the same three websites completely gets into way and obviates all the advantage of the internet in the first place and it's completely impossible. And this is really what we're seeing here in that Twitter thread. You're never going to make a platform work where you want it to be the platform everyone uses. What an impossible task. You want everyone in the country to use the same platform with the same interface and the same content moderation rules. Of course, that's going to explode. And it should. And it's why I'm obviously much more in favor of social media being, and by social media I mean social interaction on the internet being much more niche, much more smaller scale. Do what you want to do in your particular community, let community standards emerge that grassroots fashion from the small number of users that are using each of these particular networks or groups or however you want to work. And that is where the internet really works. The people who are into X have a place to go and hang out with people that are into X. And the standards for how they talk about things might be really different than people that are in the Y. And the people that are in the Y don't have to know what the people that are in the X are talking about. And we don't have to have some sort of common set of rules that the people from X and Y both have to follow. And so I think the folly here, this experience tragedy underlying all this is this push towards we need a digital town square. We need one service that everyone uses. So look, I don't think Musk doesn't know what's going on. I don't think he's Kevin Kelly reincarnated and is being too techno optimistic. He knows what he's doing. I don't think it's going to be super successful because I think this whole project of having giant platforms everyone uses makes no sense and is destroying the internet. But I don't think it's complicated what he's doing. He likes Twitter. He doesn't like some of the politics behind how it's being implemented. He has money. So he's like, I'm going to try to change it. All right, let's do one more quick article.


Obamas Model? (26:48)

So today my theme is social media, future social media, social media regulation. I mean, I'm always going to talk about this, but just seems to be in the air these days. So this final one also comes from the times from a couple of days ago. The title of the article is Obama calls for more regulatory oversight of social media giants. This is from a talk that Obama gave last week at the Stanford Cyber Policy Center. Okay, so the article says for President Barack Obama on Thursday called for greater regulatory oversight of the country's social media giant, saying their power to curate the information that people consume has turbocharged political polarization and threatened the pillars of democracy. Waining on the debate over how to address the spread of disinformation, he said the companies needed to subject their proprietary algorithms to the same kind of regulatory oversight to ensure the safety of cars, food, and other consumer products. Tech companies need to be more transparent about how they operate, Mr. Obama said. Well, I mean, there's a lot of things I agree with the former president on. I think this take, however, is a little bit out of touch with the underlying technology. Social media quote unquote algorithms are not like food safety or car safety, where okay, we have data from crash tests that need to be shared or whatever needs to happen here. They're very complicated, but they're not just complicated. They are fundamentally doing something that's ineffable. So what's actually happening underneath the coverage of these social media companies, how let's say items are selected to add to the stream in the timeline that you consume and the feed that you can consume. This is a collection, a complex collection of complex neural networks that have been trained in complex ways, usually with reinforcement mechanisms, and then they're connected together in some sort of dynamic way. You can't look at a complex connections of neural networks and say, what does this do? It doesn't work that way. These networks have learned on their own through hundreds of millions of trials of training and back propagation reinforcement. They have learned patterns, instructions, information, what information is more likely to get engagement from this person versus that person that cannot be easily reduced to a human understandable format. A lot of what's happening here is that the information, let's say a particular post on Twitter, it's going to exist as a multi-dimensional vector of data points. Any one of these neural networks in the quote unquote algorithm is actually creating a multi-dimensional hyperplane through which they can actually categorize a multi-dimensional location for this point. Then the user themselves are going to show this to exist as their own multi-dimensional point and they can see if they've been segmented into the same place by this hyperplane, meaning they're more likely to have an affinity. All of which I'm trying to say here is that this is complicated abstract multi-dimensional work that is happening with these systems. It is not an algorithm like we would think about it. It is not a bunch of turbo basic code that says, you know, if about cats and reader is over 60, show them this post. It's not that. It is vectors of numbers going through complex linear algebra convolutions and scores coming out of the other side. What happens in between is not understandable by people. I think this is an old fashioned view that like, oh, I think what's happening here is that like someone who was mustache-twishing, you know, mustache-twisting and was like, hmm, we will get to more views. I'm looking at this here. These people like hearing why vaccines are bad. So let me just type into here, show articles about vaccines being bad because then we will get more money. Oh, the regulator is here and he says, don't put that in your algorithm. So, okay, I'm going to take that out of my algorithm here. That's not how it works. Again, it's incredibly complex and abstract and you can't break it down into what's really happening. Now, furthermore, even if you could, it would be disastrous for these companies if you could somehow make this algorithm interrogatable. Right? So maybe you want to apply an explainable AI approach here and say, well, let's just interrogate the algorithms. See what it says is, you know, is put in different things and see which it prefers. And if you did that, then everyone would start scamming the system. Everyone trying to get people to look at their dubious diet pill site or whatever would figure out exactly what to put in their tech so that it would dominate everything else. It would be like showing spammers, the spam filter that Gmail used. Everything would then slip through the filter because they could just sit there and work with it to figure it out. So you can't really make it clear. Anyways, again, I respect the former president. I'm just saying this is out of date with what's going on with this technology. It's not so simple. It's not you're going in there and turning knobs. This knob is turned towards bad information. Let's just turn that down. And this knob is turned towards good information. Let's turn it up. The reality, I think, is much more complicated.


The dangers of On Social Opinion (32:00)

But there's a bigger point here I want to make, which is, again, in a lot of discourse, especially again, discourse coming out of more elite circles about social media, there's a real focus on the problem is the wrong information is being amplified. That this is the problem. It's all about content amplification. This is bad information. This platform is sending out this bad information to a lot of people. And from the elite perspective, most people are dumb. So then they get tricked and then they believe this bad information. So let's just stop it from spreading out the bad information. I am more in line right now with John Heitz latest take that we talked about last week on the show, his take from his big Atlantic article, which I increasingly think is right. And I think it gives us a more nuanced understanding of the issues with social media than simply saying it pushes the bad information more than the quote unquote good information. Because if you'll remember from our discussion of John Heitz Atlantic article, what he was arguing is the problem is not what it does to information. It's what social media does to the people, what it does to the people who are interacting on social media. The whole point was once these platforms shifted towards viral dynamics, where something could get a huge amount of attention right away, you could, things could blow up really quickly. He said does really change the way that people use social media. Three things happened. One, there became immediate, there could be immediate consequences. If you sort of say the wrong thing, your team could swarm in a way that was breathtaking. And it became, he called it a vigilante culture. We're out of nowhere. You could have people just piled on and destroyed. Two, it created a culture then where you became very wary of letting the other team, depending on how you define another team, gaining any ground. Can't let the other team gain any ground. We got to quickly tamp down our attack, don't give, we give in on anything that might get amplified. So it created this really tense, anxious type of environment. And three, that drove out almost everyone but the extremes. So as height documents, you're left with the extremes on the left and the extremes on the right, basically fighting back and forth, desperate to avoid being attacked by their own team, desperate not to give any ground to the other team. It became a spectacle of the elite extremists. That is what is happening on a platform like Twitter right now. And it's great entertainment for those groups and a larger group of adjacent people that quietly like to watch it. But it's a terrible environment. So the incentives there are incentives where really walking information, really weird bad information can really spread and take hold because the point there is not, hey, let's try to spread interesting information is we're going to win and I don't want to get hung by my own team. And we'll grasp on to something crazy if that gives us a little advantage. And we will ignore refuting evidence about something with a diligence, with diligent blinders if that might lead to an attack if I acknowledge it or if I might give the other team room. So heights argument is the problem is not what is the social media algorithms, how do they amplify or choose what information they amplify. So what do they do to the people? And the viral dynamics turn people into these weird obsessive extreme tribal warriors. And that is an environment where really wonky or bad information can spread, can take hold, can be really difficult to dislodge.


The Roman Colosseum (35:26)

I mean, I think if there was somehow a way to really dunk on, you know, Trump by believing in flat Earthism, you would see a lot of flat Earthism other way around if there's some way to really really get at Biden. If I believe in lizard people, lizard people stories are going to spread really strong and people are really going to grasp them. It's not the information that matters here. It's the human dynamic social media warps the people. The a mode in which all sorts of crazy stuff is going to spread. So again, so I think the solution is we got to get away from platform universalism. We got to get away from this idea that everyone needs to be on the same platform that we need these quote unquote what we call digital town halls, which aren't digital town halls at all. It's the digital Roman Colosseum. It's a spectacle for elite extremists doing combat and the small group of people who like to watch the blood. But it's a spectacle that has a trickle down impact on everyone. Most people don't use Twitter. Most people, the vast majority people never post anything on Twitter. But there's huge impacts about what happens in their life because of what's going on in that elite Colosseum. And I think height is absolutely right about that. And the problem is not just again, we have to go in there and turn some content knobs. Don't promote this content, promote that content. We're way past that. We got to stop the impact it has on people. And I think the way we do that is we de-emphasize the importance of these platforms. Once we recognize it's an elite, a spectacle, maybe we'll spend less time paying attention to it. We'll reduce its impact. So Obama goes on to say one of his proposals was to look at section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects social media platforms from liability for content that the user's post. So he is supporting proposals to get rid of that. That makes companies more liable for what's posted. And again, I think that's interesting. 230 is complicated. Like technically 230 is what would give me protection if commenters on my blog said something damaging or illegal.


Social Media And Sponsors

What is Twitters Crematory gain a Following? (37:33)

230 would say, well, I'm not going to be held responsible for what other people posted on my platform. The social media companies are really leaning the 230. I'm not opposed to the idea of getting rid of 230 to some degree.


Because I think, again, anything that might lead to fracturing social media is probably going to be better for everyone involved. I mean, I like a world if like, OK, we drop 230 and maybe I have to turn comment threads off because I don't be liable, sure. But it means that it's no longer legally viable via massive universal platform. What you get instead is more of a Reddit type culture of smaller communities where things are there's community moderation and people are responsible for what's posted on there.


Balim Reality (38:09)

And there's care to how the community interacts. And the people who are really into this are not talking to the people who are really into that. That's probably a better world. So probably from a legal principle, there's problems with just saying drop 230. But I like anything that might fracture social media away from this form it is now where we have the spectacle of the elites and though most of us don't want to pay attention to it, it ends up really affecting our life. So I don't know. You probably know Twitter rather than I do, Jesse. I don't think so. I never know either. Yeah, see, that's the thing. Most people don't. And yet it has a big impact on all of our lately. You could have a big impact on how our employers operate, the news we receive, the legislation taken up or not taken up what politicians pay attention to. It's like the Roman Colosseum and the only people going there are like the elite landowners because they really like it. But what's happening in the Colosseum is completely affecting what happens to the rest of the Roman citizens who are just like out there trying to run their farms. It's a great analogy. Yeah. And I give height. I think height actually mentioned the Roman Colosseum and his Atlantic article. So I'm sort of taking and running with his perspective.


But it's elite capture. And I think that's all this stuff is that's what keeps capturing me about all of this. It's, you know, we're in 1750 France. And there's like huge arguments going on about the the hall of mirrors at Versailles. It's like it's not what most people in France cared about right then. And so I think there's more of that going on with social media than other people are willing to let on. So there we go. That's what I think about that. Let's take a quick break here. Talk about a couple sponsors that make my rants possible. And see our sponsors here are oh no it's Twitter and Tesla. See we did it again Jesse. We didn't check. We didn't check who it was. And President Obama let's oh no we're one of our sponsors was the response from President Obama speech at the Young Innovators Club or whatever. We got to check these things. Now we actually those are not our sponsors. We do have a great sponsor however. ZOC Doc ZOC DOC which is a free app that shows you doctors who are patient reviews take your insurance and are available when you need them. So ZOC Doc is the way when you need a new doctor. I need a dentist. I need a new primary care physician. How do I figure out who to go and sign up for? This is actually a really hard problem. I mean what I've done in the past is just randomly ask people I know. ZOC Doc makes it easy. Says okay here's dentist. Here's doctors. Here's primary care physicians. Here's dermatologists. Whoever you're looking for. Here they are in your area. I'll tell you which ones already take your insurance and are looking for new patients. ZOC Doc also makes it easy to do that patient intake forms. You can do it right from the app. I use ZOC Doc with my dentist. That's really great. I can schedule things really easily. I do my paperwork on my computer ahead of time. It has my information saved so I don't have to sit there with the clipboard and feel things out. It's one of these ideas that once you hear it you say of course. Finding doctors, the right doctors, my area takes my insurance. Patient reviews, I also like that about it. What do other real patients say about it? It's an app that just makes a lot of sense.


Sponsors: Zocdoc.com/deep (41:50)

So go to ZOC Doc.com. Say that four times fast. ZOC Doc.com/deep and download the ZOC Doc app for free then start your search for a top rated doctor today. Many of whom will be available in only 24 hours. That's z-o-c-d-o-c.com/deep. ZOC Doc.com/deep.


Magic Mind (42:21)

We are also sponsored by Magic Mind. I've told you about Magic Mind because I did the experiment with it. A product I needed because I had been known to drink what scientists would call an absurd amount of coffee. I think absurd is the official unit of measure. When you use Magic Mind which is an elixir that makes you focus better, be more creative and rely less on caffeine, comes in a shot like container so it's not much. You drink it first thing in the morning before your first cup of coffee. You don't need as much coffee throughout the day to get that focus to fall into your flow state especially if this is the key thing you stick with it. You need to stick with it for at least five days to get the full effect. But once you've stuck with it for about five days you are going to find that you are able to focus better and fall in that flow faster without having to keep slamming the caffeine. So it was actually just what I needed. Drink less coffee, be more creative, fight off procrastination, fight off brain fat. It has all sorts of natural ingredients, all natural ingredients. Adaptogens, newotropics, energy boosters, inflammation, decreases. I don't even know how to say all the scientific names but it's all good stuff, all natural ingredients. It was created by James Bachera who I spoke with who was a Silicon Valley investor and entrepreneur who was working on this stuff on his own. He was mixing his own brews to help him be more productive and focus in his kitchen. That's how he got the idea for magic. Mind, so if like me you want to avoid drinking all the coffee in the world in order to be creative, in order to be focused, try taking magic mind with your morning coffee. I think you will enjoy it. So I actually have a special offer for my listeners from the guys at Magic Mind. All you have to do is go to magicmind.co/deep. That's magicmind.co/deep and then use the discount code deep20 at checkout. That will give you 20% off your first order. I should magicmind before each episode. Not just in the morning. Just put into my veins. You just have like a magic mind dispenser. It's like a good idea. Time to go especially before these like these long epic episodes. So when I have like a particularly long and coherent ranch of like, oh, it's a magic mind day. Magic mind day. All right, Jesse, I think we should do some questions. Let's begin a coffee. All right, we got a question here about reading. I combined two. Actually, we had two questions about reading. So let's just read both and I'll answer them together. So the first of these two combined questions came from RID who said, how do I get back into reading fiction?


Reading Habits And Tools

Reading Fiction (45:29)

I'm a lawyer and read a lot of cases and briefs all day. Maybe any more when I'm off the clock just feels like more work. How do I revive my love for reading fiction books without feeling the need to highlight every other sentence and markup follow up questions in the margins? Similar question from Tom who says, I have too many books. I want to read. Where do I start? I don't make time to read with a busy work schedule and small children any ideas on how to fix this first world problem. Well, first of all, let me motivate what you both want to do, which is cultivating a reading habit. So definitely this is worth it. I'm going to give you some advice here in a second, but I just want to start by saying definitely this is worth it. The reading life is a deep life. I think it's absolutely fundamental in so many ways. There's the pragmatic benefits of just what happens to your ability to focus and think and make connections. When you spend time in books, it's calisthenics for the brain, but there is also these more almost spiritual advantages of being able to get lost in different worlds, be it a world of fiction or a world of ideas or a world of history to transport your mind to these other places. It's stress relieving. It's invigorating. It allows you to empathetically connect with other people with other experiences. It's like a magic machine or just becoming a better person. I am a huge reading booster. And so I'm glad, read, and Tom that you're trying to focus on this. And again, that's why I really push this on the show. Read, read, read. All right. So how do I do it? How do I read five books a month? I'll mention four things here. One, so morning and meals. I'm often up early. I'm often up before my kids wake up, so I'll have a little bit of time in the morning before the rush begins. Reading is my activity then. I've just built an appreciation for, ooh, it's quiet. What do I do if I have extra time in the morning? That's what I go to. Reading. Meals are the other time, especially breakfast and lunch. This is the default activity. Ooh, it's eating time. What do I do? I read. I want to read one another. That's a lot of time you build up. Breakfast, lunch, reading. I make it a default high quality leisure activity. This is number two. So if I have time, so if it's a night where we have some time, okay, we've got everyone home, dinner's in an hour, kids are doing their homework. I'll be like, ooh, what do I want to do? I get to read. I see that as a treat that I'm looking for. I don't always get to do it, but when I have time in the evening or the weekends, that's the high quality goal that I'm looking for. Ooh, I can actually sit down and read. I have a good chair and I breach tea or whatever you need to do. You make it a default leisure activity. Three audiobooks play a big role. Walking, commuting, chores, kids sports games. It's a lot of time. A lot of time. If you listen to audiobooks, you can actually get through quite a bit doing that as well. When you put those together, you get closer to how I read five books a month. But the biggest factor of all, and I really want to emphasize this, is that I do not use my phone for entertainment. I do not have a habit of if I'm bored looking at this thing is how I become less bored. I do not have a habit of if I am tired, this is where I'm going to put my attention or if I'm anxious, this is what I'm going to fall into. I just don't use my phone in that way. I use my phone in a Steve Jobs 2007 mode, which is what a great Swiss Army knife collection of tools that are all really useful to me. If I need to look up the weather, it's right here. If I need to look up directions to where we're going, it's right here. If I need to see what the hours are for this restaurant, I can pull it up right here. If I need to listen to the Music or a Podcast, it's just right here. I can jump right over to it and listen to it. I use my phone like this fantastic Swiss Army knife that has all these cool features in a beautiful interface all in one package and I'm so glad that exists. Makes life easier than before before I did it, but it's not a source of entertainment for me. It's not a force of distraction for me. This makes a huge difference. I do not think people understand how much time in their day goes towards looking at their phone. It's one of the big points I make in my book, Digital Minimalism. This is what was driving people for change is when they realized just how much time that was taking. I'm busy, I have work, I have my kids, I don't seem to have any other time. Say, "Well, wait a second." I went back and checked and you spent three hours looking at Twitter and Instagram today. It was not time working, it was not time with your kids. That's three hours. Hey, if you were reading in that time, you'd get through a lot more than just five books a month. That's probably the biggest thing I can suggest.


Swiss Army Knife, Great Features (50:12)

Put your phone back to 2007 mode. Swiss Army knife, great features when I need it. It's not a source of entertainment. If you want to be entertained, you can read, you can talk to people, you can do something productive around the house. High quality leisure is what is left. In the mornings, how much you usually read for before breakfast? It depends how early I'm up, but it is my default. I see it as, "Oh, this is great. There's some reading time." I'll say the habit builds. I probably should have mentioned this to, I forgot their names. Tom and Red. Tom and Red. Start with when you're restarting a reading habit, stuff that you love. Don't try to go back and buy the 1948 version of Thomas Merton, which, by the way, I finished and it took forever. That's a long book. It took forever. Then I picked up another book. We're recording this on April, what's this 24th? There's something like this. I hit my five books for April a couple of days ago, but I was a little touched and go for a little bit because then another book I found in a little free library near the field where my son plays Little League. This looks fun. It was 450 pages, too. 450 page books are like two normal sized books. They take a long time to read. I had some pretty mammoth books. I had the work on this month. You don't have to grab a 450 page book. You don't have to have Thomas Merton getting into Catholic theology or hundreds of pages.


Habit of Reading (51:42)

Just get the Project Hail Mary from Andy Weir. That's a really fun book to read. I'm going back now and rereading Born Standing Up. That's like candy to me. Steve Martin's memoir. Just get a sports book about a sports. Just get into advice book that's just put it in my veins, aspirational, not that hard to read. Just get back in the habit of reading. Then you begin to have the default. I want to do that. Then me, if I have time tomorrow, I'm like, "This is great. I can read. This morning I'm reading this Daniel Boone book." I read a bunch of books at the same time. That's what I did this morning before my kids woke up. This is great. I'm going to read this book. You get in that habit by reading stuff you love and you're like, "This is much better than my phone." Then it's not so hard to have to convince yourself to do it. I'm a big reading fan. I'm a terrible marketer. I should have told them the secret. The only way you're going to get a reading habit is to read through all of my books. You've got to buy them all. You need fresh copies of all my books. Then you'll-- Hardcover. You've got to give them a hardcover. All of my books since my student books are in hardcover still, it's kind of rare. So good they can't ignore you. Deep work, digital minimalism, and a world without email are all only in hardcover. In the US, in the UK, there are no hard covers. Everything is paperback. If you see any of those books advertised as paperback on Amazon, that's the UK version. When you see deep work with the lamp on the front, that's not the US version. That's the UK and the British Commonwealth version. It's like what you'll get in Australia, it's what you'll get in Britain. It's also the cover that most of the European versions use. The US does hard covers. All of those books are still in hardcover because they keep selling. I think it's a good thing. Typically, when sales start to fall off, then you're like, "Okay, now we're going to do a paperback release because A, it gives you a reason to re-promote a book and B, they're smaller, so bookstores are more likely to keep a copy on this shelf." We haven't had to do that yet, which I think is a good sign. If you look at a book in this space that you can't find in paperback, like 4-hour workweek, it's a reason why you can't find a paperback because it's twice as much royalty. They make twice as much on the hard covers and they're still selling. Well, like Greg McEwen's essentialism, "Why can't you get that in paperback?" The thing is selling. A lot of Bernay Brown still is in, I mean some of that's in paperback now, but it's still in hardcover because that thing is selling. You're not going to find Ryan Holiday's books in paperback, they're selling. So a little insider baseball there. So it's a good sign if your book stay in hardcover. Alright Ryan, we're only at where are we? We're really leaning into this longer episode. We're going a little bit too far. We're on question number two, Jesse. We're 55 minutes into the show, but I have good news for you.


How Much Does Cal Read? TV (54:32)

The second question, we're doing rapid fire. So this was one of Jesse's ideas. I have three questions, quick answers to each, let's do this rapid fire. Question number one comes from Freddie. On average, how much does CalWatchTV, including TV shows, given the fact that reading is his default activity? Okay, this is quite relevant, given what we were just talking about. Freddie, I don't watch a lot of TV. I would say a normal day, maybe 30 to 45 minutes. The only time I really watch TV is in the brief window between my kids, once I put my kids to bed and before I go to bed, which is not much later because I've just exhausted dealing with them by the end of the day. If we have a show, my wife and I will try to watch it in that little window. And so we do our best. Like right now we've been watching slow horses on Apple TV Plus. It took us a little while to get into it, but now it's kind of picking up and we're enjoying it. We like shows where it's weekly releases instead of binging. We tried that new show, Open Range. I didn't think, I don't know, I had high hopes. I liked Jeff Brolin and it was like supernatural and a ranch, but it wasn't quite working for me. Last night we tried, we started The Batman and then realized it's like, and I think this is the official running length, seven hours long. I think. - 230, right? - Yeah. Here's the problem about The Batman. If I was the mayor, well, I guess the mayor got killed in the beginning, but if I was the mayor of Gotham City, I would say by far, number one problem is every single light bulb in this city is flickering about to go out. Like let's solve that problem. Let's solve that problem and then solve the problem of we have like a lot of villains. The other thing about, okay, we got 15 minutes in and kind of gave up because I'm not great with superhero movies. And it was literally just very dark, but right off the bat, Cedric Digory and his full Batman outfit is just like straight face just standing around with normal people like with detectives having conversations like again and again. And like people would just say, I'm sorry, this is just crazy.


When Should We Answer Emails And Messages? (56:33)

Like you're wearing a costume, like a really like elaborate costume and you're just sitting here like with the detectives kind of like commenting on evidence and like talking in a growling voice and it's just ridiculous. And I think people would call it out. People would call it out as ridiculous. So anyways, Freddie, we don't watch much TV. All right, Anna asks, when should I answer emails and messages? Most day I start working at eight, cover my job as a doctor consumes all the time I have it work, sometimes up to eight.


Ana: Tool for taking emails at a time. (56:57)

Anna in your situation, there's two things I would suggest. One, you need to schedule admin time, including email checks using your appointment system. So it needs to take the slot of an appointment. I know there's pressure within medical practices to say, well, in theory, we could have whatever it is 17 appointments per day because we go back to back that these long, we could fit that many in. And then you adjust to that level and say, well, that's what we need to do. And I'm saying adjust to a lower level and do 14 appointments with three blocks that would be appointment blocks to keep up with your communication. Yes, that's a little bit less money going to the practice, but it keeps the whole thing tractable and the dollar amounts are arbitrary anyways. The second thing I would say is find ways then to reduce the number of messages until it's enough. So schedule time like appointments to handle your messages. But there's still way more messages you can handle than you need to change something. More processes may be different ways you interact. You mentioned in the elaboration you had a secretary helping with a lot of things. You can have more careful processes that allow his or her to take more of that off your plate. But your time is your time. If you've taken a reasonable amount of your time out to managing your admin, which is good to do, and you still can't manage it, then you have to reduce the admin. And that might require some work. Finally, Amadeus asks in a rapid fire challenge here, do you practice journaling? I don't. Not in the classical sense of taking notes on my thoughts the day on some sort of consistent time basis. However, of course, as I talked about a lot in the show, I do collect ideas and note strategies and plans about living a deeper life in my moleskin journal that I keep with me most places I go. And I see that as a form of journaling. Not as structured or consistent as I write every morning. But it is a place where I do end up working out some thoughts about what's important to me or what's not. It's where I have self observations. It helps me focus my energies on what matters and what doesn't. So I don't formally journal, but having a notebook about deep life thoughts, I think for me actually satisfies a lot of the same function. Alright, Jesse, well, I think we should try to mix some calls into what we're doing here. Look at my script. I think we do have a call queued up that we can jump over to. Yep, we do. We got a question about a specific question about weekly planning and how that interacts with your travel boards. Let's get in the weeds. Hey, Cal, I have a question about doing weekly planning. So when I go into my travel board, I'm adding cards to a this week column for each of my functional areas. But what I'm struggling with is what's the information that lives in your weekly planning doc, your weekly planning summary that you're writing out that doesn't live in that travel board looking for some clarity about this and also whether the written document is really a necessary artifact if your travel board is really well organized and has clear goals for the week. Thanks. Alright, well, Phillip, this is a good question.


Productivity Strategies And Work Enhancers

Weekly planning doc vs. Trello. (01:00:05)

It's one that I get a fair amount. I think weekly plans is probably the piece of my productivity thinking that it gives people the most room for confusion. And of course, I now tell people if you want the crash course in time management, I'm trying to be careful these days, by the way, to separate time management from productivity. I think of time management about how do you keep track of what you have to do and figure out when you're going to execute it. I separate that from productivity, which I feel like is more teleological. Like what are you trying to do with your work? How do you measure that? How do you reshape your work to get towards those goals? So time management is what I want to call what we're talking about here. We have a video on the YouTube page called Core Ideas Time Management where I talk about my multi-scale time management systems. That's the primer for everything we're about to say. Alright, Trello versus weekly plans. Trello is the software I happen to use to keep track of tasks. So obligations, things that I am committed to accomplish is where I keep track of those things. I keep track of their status based on what column I put them in. I keep track of what role they are related to by what board I put them on. So I might have a separate board for my life as a teacher versus my life as a researcher versus my life as a writer. That's also where I can keep information related to these tasks. That's why I like Trello because it's a card metaphor. And on the back of these virtual cards, you can attach files or take copious notes. I do like consolidating information. So Trello is what I use to keep track of the tasks on my plate. You can use other software. But that's the goal I use it for. A weekly plan by contrast is going to contain potentially many more things. So here's a list here. I was thinking about it. Of three main things you will often see on a weekly plan. One is assignment of specific work to specific days. So that's something that will happen in your weekly plan. Now sometimes these are small things that exist on your Trello board. So like discrete obligations like I need to submit my conflict of interest form. So sometimes you're saying, yeah, I'm doing that on Wednesday morning. I'm doing this on Thursday morning. It also can assign ongoing efforts to days. Big ongoing efforts typically wouldn't live in Trello. Those would live in your strategic or quarterly plan. So like let's say for example, this month I'm trying to get two chapters written in my book. I would not have a task in my Trello board that said write two chapters. I would see that in my quarterly or semester plan. And then when I was making my weekly plan, say, okay, when am I going to have time to work on my book chapter writing? And that's what I might say, look, Tuesday morning is open. I'm going to write then. I'm going to write one hour every morning. So again, work gets assigned to specific days in your weekly plan. And some of that work might not exist on your Trello board, but might be coming from your semester or quarterly plan. Another thing that will often find its way into a weekly plan are schedule highlights. So I might point out, for example, Thursday is an early morning. We got an 8 a.m. medium. So we have to get up and going or look, we're ending early on Friday. Let's try to end by three on Friday or there's a visitor in town Monday through Wednesday. So keep in mind, we're going to be escorting that person. So just highlights about what's happening in your schedule. Those are largely coming out of your calendar or you looking at your calendar and making some ideas. Let's end early on this day, et cetera. So schedule highlights going your weekly plan. And then finally reminders about habits or heuristics that you're executing. So maybe you're trying out something where you write one hour every morning. Weekly plan is where you would remind yourself about it. Maybe you're thinking that your shutdown rituals have been lacking. So you have a reminder in your weekly plan. We're going to do really hard shutdowns. Check it off at our time block planner. Let's not be lazy about it. All of that goes into a weekly plan. And a lot of that has nothing to do with what you would have stored just in a Trello board. So good question. So just task storage weekly plans can be so much more.


The Weekly Plan or Habit Tracker for Exercise (01:04:22)

Do you put any of your exercise stuff into your weekly plan or is that just kind of just on autopilot? It depends like what's going on with my schedule. So yeah, it definitely can. If I have a complicated schedule, a weekly plan would be a good place to work out where exercise is going to happen that week. And so I was definitely doing some of that this spring. You know, keeping in mind like on teaching days, we're pretty complicated. Like where was I going to fit exercise in? And so then I would use weekly plan. Sometimes it's another part of the year is just very autopilot. You know, this is just this is just what I do. Like I've been doing recently, I call them happy hour workouts where it's like my happy hour is that time right before dinner is when I exercise. Like that's a pretty consistently open time. And for me, it's also a good transition from work mindset to okay family mindset. And so when I'm doing that, it's just automatic. Like that's when I work out and everyone can be on the same page. And so I probably wouldn't have to remind myself of that after a while.


Habit Tune Up (01:05:22)

All right. So Jesse, I was thinking about trying a new segment. It's named I mean, it's an old name. We used to call Thursday episodes this, but I was thinking about calling the segment habit tune up. And the idea was I just take a piece of advice from the types of advice I give and just get into it a little bit. So let's just take a piece of take of advice out of my toolkit and get into it a little bit, even without a question to prompt it. So we're going to give that a try. Today's habit tune up is going to be about one of my longest running productivity strategies. So in terms of strategies that I have run in my own life, this is pretty high up on the list of things I've been doing for the longest amount of time. And that is fixed schedule productivity. All right. So what is fixed schedule productivity? It's a simple idea where it says you fix the hours that you want to work. It's like on a typical day, here's the length I want for my work day. And then you work backwards and do what you have to do to make the work actually fit. So that's primary fixed schedule productivity. I work 830 to 430. I work 9 to 5. I work 8 to 6. You fix the hours and say, that is my line in the sand. Now I have to do what I can to make that fit. There's then secondary fixed-hilde productivity, which is where you take specific types of work you do on a recurring basis and give that an even smaller boundary. In our life, my biggest example of that is probably this podcast, it exists for me in a half day. It gets a half day per week. And as Jesse knows, we will work backwards to fit whatever it takes. We will work backwards and sometimes it takes some scrambling. But we work backwards to make things fit. I mean, that's why, for example, now that we're going down to one episode, we have to go down to one episode to spend more time thinking about the show because the fixed-hilde productivity is secondary fixed-hilde productivity I'm running here says half day for the show. So if we want to spend more time prepping and record two shows, we would break that boundary. So we had to change something else so it forced a change. So one of my oldest ideas, I wrote about this way early in my blog. I'm thinking back 2007, 2008. I was writing about this, writing about this idea. Now this works for a few reasons. One is you can consider it a meta-productivity strategy because it is a high-level commitment that's going to induce a lot of low-level specific changes. When you have the boundary, you have to hit that boundary. You end up having to do lots of evidence-based custom-fit tactics that are custom-fit to your particular life. You quickly sort out the stuff that works that doesn't work. It really is a great way of inducing a lot of small changes. If instead you try to come up with a lot of ideas from scratch of what you think will help you manage your timer, be more productive, you're just throwing darts. So fixed-hilde productivity is a meta-productivity habit and it helps lead to good low-level tactics.


Fixed-Schedule Productivity (01:08:38)

It's also a forcing function to help keep your load sustainable. So it'll enforce better productivity ideas and the low-level it'll also lead you to say no to more and get a better sense of what your load is when you have these limits that pushes back and it keeps you or makes it harder for you to overload yourself, which is likely to lead to burnout. It also helps you better take advantage of seasonality. So you go through a period where maybe things are lighter, you're in between jobs, you're in a quiet season of the job. With fixed-hilde productivity, if you're used to this, you can take advantage of that situation by collapsing in your fixed schedule. Now that you can fit your work in less time and you get used to fitting in less time and you can take advantage of the new time that frees up. It's like me in the summer. I have less demands because I don't work for Georgetown in the summer, I'm on my own dime. So I can bring in my working schedule and I do to be much smaller. Because I'm used to fixed-hilde productivity, I do what I need to fit it in there and I'm able to take advantage of the extra flexibility in the summer. It is so easy without that to just fill in your time because there's always more things possible for you to do than you have time to accomplish. But without these boundaries, it is going to fill up. So here are some innovations that have come out of my own commitment to fixed-hilde productivity. It's where all of my multi-scale planning ideas were formed. semester planning, weekly planning, daily time block planning. All of that was forged in the fires of fixed-hilde productivity. How do I make my 75 jobs fit in the small time I work? For me, it's roughly 9 to 5, 9 to 5, 30 and Sunday mornings is roughly my main work. That's where that came out of is because that's what allowed me to actually fit a reasonable amount of work in there. Ruthless quotas and reduction in what's on my plate. Fixed-hilde productivity pushes that for me and I think it helps keep me away from burnout. I can't make it fit even if my good productivity systems I have to quit. I can't do this, I need to step away from this, I need to take a break from that. I'm much more likely to have a sustainable load of work because I have this forcing function of it has to fit during these hours. It also helped me lead to more efficient processes, the type of things I talk about in my book. A world without email come from the demands of I can't just be going back and forth with you all day on email because my time is really precious. I have to get a lot in here because I have to stop work at 5.30. So we got to figure out a better way to collaborate. And this back pressure from these boundaries really causes a lot of good. So I'm a big fan and working backwards from the hours, the secondary and tertiary positive effects it has on your life can be quite big.


Casual Criticism of My Work (01:11:22)

You know, Jesse, I'll have to say, fixed-hilde productivity is at the source of the amusement and confusion I often get. We talk about this sometimes on the show, but there's a very common critique of me. People hear about the work I do and the type of things I talk about. There's a very common critique where they're like, "Well, you can do that probably because of your wife." There must be some sort of unusual support, maybe someone else having to sacrifice in order for you to work on these different things and do this deep work. This comes up a lot. Shout out to my friend Scott who likes to collect these references. There's one this week, I forgot who it was, but someone on a podcast, he collected a new example of someone saying, "Yeah, I like this stuff, but you know, I think the real hero is probably his wife." The reason why it always baffles me in the moment is because I've since I've been a working adult, practiced fixed-hilde productivity, my work hours are just normal standard on a government worker nine to five style work hours. I just work the same work hours as any other normal job. It's not like there's some weird Herculean support I need from other people beyond just the standard thing that everyone who works has to do. My kids need to be in school and that type of thing. I'm always baffled. It's like, "Well, what do you mean?" I work actually probably less hours than most people I know. What does the fact that during my normal working hours I'm very focused, I don't see what that has to do with needing external support, but the reason why I think people fall back on that critique is that most people don't do fixed-hilde productivity. When you don't do fixed-hilde productivity, the assumption is because it's what you're used to. It's more things, means more time. If you're doing kind of like an impressive thing or an impressive number of things, there must be some impressive time commitment. You must be Einstein in the 1920s, disappearing till your office till three in the morning but the thing is with fixed-hilde productivity, it does work. You can actually get a lot of interesting stuff happening in a very normal, reasonable amount of time that does not require unusual support, does not require unusually long working hours. Fixed-hilde productivity does really work because that back pressure gets you to focus, it gets you to structure, it gets you to organize, it gets you to essentialize. It really is like a tonic for productivity. Do you remember what the podcast replaced before you did the podcast? Like that half day? Was it just writing? It's a good question because I started it during the early days of the pandemic. So you weren't going to Georgetown stuff? I wasn't going to Georgetown. It's a good point because I didn't have the fixed-hilde around the podcast at first because I started it during the summer of 2020. I had a lot of time. We went into the fall, still a lot of time, Georgetown was remote and so I wasn't going in and then I was on leave that spring. The link I went back to my book came out. I had a lot of time. The half day came in once we got back to the normal schedule, which was like this fall. I got to go in, I got to teach, I'm on committees again and that was like, "Okay, I have to corral this more." So yeah, it's a half day of time. There's a lot of things I could easily spend a half day of time on. I think it honestly is I went on after my last book launch, as you know, I'm not doing a bunch of interviews right now. I'm thinking about all the time, I would be doing podcast interviews or radio interviews. I do a little bit. I was on when you were away last week in Canada, their main morning radio show on CBC, the current. So I did 30 minutes. So I do a few things. I do a few things. But that's probably where a lot of the time comes from is I focused in my writing life to the podcast as a half day and then I'm my book and article writing.


How I do Fixed-Heddle Productivity (01:15:16)

Yep. Yep. All right, so fixed sale productivity, I do recommend it. Speaking of recommendations, I also recommend our sponsor, again, like I like to say, Jesse, professional transitions. That's what I'm about. Novo. Now, this is actually relevant to relevant to us. I'm going through a lot of professionalization of our business here. I don't know if I've told you about this, Jesse, but I'm finally forming a company with a name and et cetera. There's a lot of professionalizing that's actually happening around our little writing business here. So I'm exactly a type of person who will be interested in Novo, which provides powerfully simple business checking accounts. So unlike a traditional banking model, Novo has no minimum balance. There's no transaction limits, no hidden fees, but more importantly, just customized to the modern business, especially small businesses of the digital age. It has seamless integrations, for example, and just straw stripe or Shopify or QuickBooks. So it's a future focused online business checking made for the type of business. It's like the business we are forming here that I still need a name for thinking about Jesse Scarecrow Incorporated. We'll see if that's been taken. But it makes a lot of sense. I think it's a company that makes a lot of sense. So it's a service that gives you simple business checking. The type of businesses that people work with today. So if you sign up for NOVA for free, you will join a community of over 150,000 fearless small businesses who have found the customizable business checking solution that admires and supports the brave. So sign up for your free business checking account right now at novo.co/deep. If you do that as a listener of deep questions, you will get access to over $5,000 in perks and discounts. So go to NOVO.co/deep. Sign up for free. NOVA.co/deep.


Structural Approach To Teaching And Education

Become a Hittmonized Business with Novo (01:17:49)

NOVA platform incorporated is a FinTech, not a bank banking services provided by Middlesex Federal Savings, FA member FDIC terms and conditions apply. I got to work on my terms and conditions voice. This is my first time getting to do the radio style, legally required disclaimer in the commercial. I think I need a quicker, deeper voice. I also want to talk briefly about Blinkist, longtime friend of the show. If you listen to deep questions, you know Blinkist, you know I am a fan. It is a subscription service that gives you access to short 15 minute summaries of thousands of most important best selling nonfiction books. You can read the summaries or listen to them. They're called Blinkist and quickly figure out the big ideas from the books. I think it's a great way to figure out what books to buy and which books aren't worth it. Let's say you're curious in Homodeos or 21 Lessons from the 21st Century, but you've all heard, you want to know which of those to read. Listen to or read the Blink. Big ideas 15 minutes to make it real clear which one you're going to prefer. So it is a great tool for anyone who embraces the reading life. Blinkist helps you figure out what's going on in these books. Right now Blinkist has a special offer just for our audience. Go to Blinkist.com/deep. Start your free seven day trial and get 25% off a Blinkist premium membership. That's Blinkist spelled B-L-I-N-K-I-S-T. Blinkist.com/deep to get 25% off an eight seven day free trial.


How to structure the ideal world to teach in a university without admin work. (01:19:25)

Blinkist.com/deep. All right, I'm thinking, Jesse, we should try another call. Yep. So we've got a call about your thoughts on how to structure the ideal world to teach in a university without all the admin work. Ooh, I like it. Hello, call. Greetings from Brussels. My name is Erat and I'm doing a postdoc in computer science.


How universities can improve. (01:19:58)

In your podcast, you sometimes mention that a modern professor has to do a lot of work not related to the main job. Things like participating in different committees related to teaching, administration of the university and more. But someone has to do these things, right? So what are your thoughts on how university could be structured? What is the role of professor there and other professors specializing in teaching and those specializing more in research? Who should develop educational programs? Shall a professor write and compete for grants or funding money shall be more available? And who should evaluate those grant proposals? Professors, professors again? Eager to know your thoughts on things how to optimize our university system. Thank you. Well, good question. It's something I think about a lot. It's on my mind now as the 2021-2022 academic year comes to a close, definitely a busy one for me. I think people will say I'm a reasonable guy. My proposals for improving the university I think are straightforward and practical. Number one, we need a $2 million a year minimum salary. That's just reasonable practical advice here. Number two, I'm thinking one class per two-year period is probably about right. We should probably do like a one semester on, four semester sabbatical, one semester on, four semester sabbatical. I think we do those three reasonable things and we can all agree that that would be good for everyone involved. I'm not quite sure why people aren't doing this. I'm going to get yelled at by the dean again, Jesse, if I'm not careful. I'm not careful. No, okay. I do have some more serious thoughts about it. There's a lot you had in there. I'm going to pick it apart a little bit and focus on the areas of academic life that I have thought about. There's two things I think for sure. A, I'm a big believer in service budgets. This idea I proposed in that article I wrote years ago for the Chronicle of Higher Education was called, is email making professors stupid. In that, I argued that we need to be less haphazard about service. Service is important. For those who don't know, professors spend some of their time in what's called service, either to the department or to the university or the broader academic community. It's important for universities to run. We need professors to sit on tenure committees. We need professors to be part of the faculty governance. We need professors to work on, let's say, overhauling the curriculum for an apartment. Part of what professors have to do is service outside of their core activities, but it shouldn't be haphazard. We should figure out, here's how many hours you should be doing. It should be negotiated. It should be tracked. And you can't go beyond it. People can't put work on your plate beyond it. They want to. There has to be a special sign off by your dean. Let's get more transparent about service so we can keep it both more equitable so you don't have nice people doing a lot more than jerks. We can be more reasonable about how much levels people can actually hold. I think that would create back pressure that would then maybe call out the amount of service demands pulling attention from people when the time is actually a scarce resource. I think the service commitments that survive will be of more importance. Also we need to focus more on intellectual specialization. That's actually a term of art from people that study productivity in the business sector.


Intellectual specialization (01:24:06)

So intellectual specialization says that people you hire, you want them to spend more time focusing on the specific skills for which you hired them, the specific skills that create value for your organization and less time on skills that don't. So in the life of professors, what matters is service teaching and research. So we just talked about service. Then you have teaching and research. The thing that pulls a lot of professors time away is administrative details. And so there needs to be a real focus I believe in the university to minimize the amount of time professors need to spend on administrative work. Now you just said, well, someone has to do the work and that's true, but that's true about everything at the university. Someone has to fix the pipes when they leak. Someone has to fix the HVAC when it doesn't work. Someone has to actually do the landscaping in the spring. Someone has to actually run the computer system that allows the students to register for those courses. In other words, most of the stuff that happens on the university, there's non professors who do it. It's just a matter of where we want to draw that line. I think a lot of what happened at some point is computer systems meant that professors could technically actually accomplish things that before would have been too hard or cumbersome for them to do. So more work got put on the professors because in the moment it seemed like it was cheaper and we could have less support staff. We have this nice weird intranet that the professors can go through these weird arcane interfaces to enter the reimbursement request. That allows us to not have this full time person that helps actually process reimbursement request or what have you. So it's short-sighted. In the short term like, "Hey, we can fire this person. Yeah, we've saved money." But in the long term, your professors are miserable and half is productive. So is that really what you're looking for? So I think we have to focus on intellectual specialization. Most of that is more admin support. I think universities do invest much more in administrative support. That is what enables professors to do what you actually have hired professors to do. Now I have some more far out ideas I've talked about before. I'll dismiss them real quick. These are blue sky ideas that I don't think all happen, but it would be kind of cool if they did. One, I like the idea of broadcast digest. I can't tell you how much information arrives in my inbox at Georgetown from various organizations and administrators, announcements for this and for that and this event and this new policy and this is what's happening now with COVID. A big university just has dozens and dozens and dozens of different organizations that might want to actually send information to, let's say, faculty. They all can just on their own just send out messages. I would love a broadcast digest model. All the information you need for the week comes to editors who put it together into basically a broad sheet newspaper. Here's news and different types of categories and here's the things that require request and here's all the links for the information and this thing gets delivered to you once a week and you can sit there and you can browse it.


A broadcast digest for universities. (01:27:04)

What's relevant? What's not? What do I need to follow up on? It seems small, but it really changes the cognitive footprint of all those requests. Another far out idea I had was all interactive admin, so administrative tasks that require professors to sort of give information or fill something out or answer questions. They have a two-hour session once a week for each professor. A bunch of professors can do this at the same time. Whatever admin is working with you or that particular research group comes in and just like a chief of staff for the president says, "All right, I have a stack of things we need to get through that's going to require some interaction from you. I'm just going to ask you questions and get from you the information so it's human to human interaction." All right. I just felt this form, so I'm just going to ask you some questions. What about this? What about that?


How to Manage Tech (01:28:02)

Okay, I'll submit that on your behalf. I need a yes or no on the following five things. You as the professor are not, "Okay, these are full obligations on my plate where I have to navigate ambiguity, maybe follow up, ask follow up questions, figure out how to do these interfaces in two hours." That's where all the admin work happens. If there's more administrative requests for the professors that can fit into that two hours, then it'll have to get spread out to a future week. Again, this would stop so much contact shifting. Now there's no administrative requests coming in your email. There's no information broadcast coming in your email. Think about it. How much you'll be able to focus. The final thing, and this is only half serious, is get rid of email. I've said before and I think it's true. If you had an upstart university and you wanted to hire some of the top people in the world, the only sales pitch you would have to make is come to this university, we will not assign you an email address. Workout the way, how's it going to work? Figure everything else out. You could do these admin things, they get rid of admin work, broadcast could happen in these digest that would help. There's just other ways of interacting. Office hours would obviously be much more important. You might have multi-typed office hours, your student office hours, your colleague office hours. It's daily. I don't know, but you could figure it out. But if you work backwards from the challenge of no email addresses here, you get Nobel Prize winners. By the dozens, it feels mental winners, turn award winners. I'm, day would be game. Working on my class, I'm working on my research.


Bobby & James On Social Media

Thoughts on social media (01:29:28)

Here's my admin block. Here's when I get the broadcast digest. Here's my office hours. Everything else, there's literally nothing for me to look at. That would be the dream. So there you go. Those are my thoughts on university. All right, we're at the 130 mark. We're going a little long. The voice is getting a little weak. But let's try to fit in one other quick question here before we wrap up this episode. Comes from Voss Ilke. Who says, "Do you think a college student showed a abstain from social media completely? Many students communicate with social media. Completely abstaining has made me feel like I'm missing out on opportunities to discuss homework. When I miss a class, I can ask a friend over messenger for notes. Even if I use only email, other people may feel discouraged. I send you over email notes because they find Facebook or Discord more easy to scan with their phones. I don't live near the campus. I can't interact with other students. What do you advise to give a student to communicate to their peers that need to abstain from social media but to remain in the community?" Well short answer, long answer, short answer. Separate communication tools from social media. What do I mean by social media here? I mean things where you post information to people you don't know or consume information posted by people you don't know. Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, Facebook. Don't do that. I mean you can but I would say yeah abstain from that. I think you have other things that are more important in college that's a distraction. It's not giving you any benefit. But separate that from the fact that you use WhatsApp for your study group. Separate communication tools from the social media. The key thing to keep in mind is that latter context that the tools where you post information and people you don't know or read information people you don't know, that's engineered to be distracting. That's what you want to stay away from. Having a study group on WhatsApp or having a Facebook group that your whatever club uses. If you've configured Facebook like I talk about digital minimalisms and go straight to the groups and have no newsfeed, that's fine. I don't care about communication tools. But don't use social media tools that are engaged or engineered to distract. That's what I would recommend. In fact in general I think college students, there's so much intellectually, socially, just spiritually philosophically to enjoy during that period of life that gets leached away if you're looking at TikTok videos as just the default when you're bored. I mean just life is really interesting and vibrant at that point. If you take that out of your life as a college student, what's left is in technicolor. It's just like a much more interesting period of time. My long answer is be wary of the justification game you're playing. I get this type of thing all the time. There's a little bait and switch. You find this corner case of technology that there's no debate you need to use. Then allow that to justify chaos. I hear this from students a lot. Like look, Cal, my math teacher post our homework on the internet. So I need to use the internet to download my math homework. So that's why I'm playing Fortnite till 3am. These are two really separate things.


Concluding Remarks

Final comments (01:32:50)

I'm seeing this in your answer here. You're like, maybe a friend doesn't want to share notes with me over email. So I'm going to be on TikTok all day. I'm a main specific and I think that's at the core of my philosophy of digital minimalism. Figure out the life you want, what's important to you. Figure out what technology will support that and what rules you want to use it to get the benefits and avoid the cost. And outside of those decisions, be comfortable missing out on everything else. So be specific. Don't just use the term social media and lump the fact that you ask a question over WhatsApp with the fact that you're on Instagram all day. Be specific, work backwards from values. And yes, if your main question, should you abstain from the social media that you can? Almost certainly the answer is probably yes. I think for almost any college student that is going to make their college life richer. All right, Jesse, 135. Got some good legs on this episode. It's got to last people a whole week. So I'm glad we got there. Thank you everyone who sent in their questions or calls. If you like what you heard, you will like what you see video of the full episode as well as individual clips can be found at youtube.com/calnewportmedia soon to be Jesse Scarecrow Incorporated. I will be back next week, a whole week from now with a new episode of the Deep Questions podcast. And until then, as always, stay deep.


Great! You’ve successfully signed up.

Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.

You've successfully subscribed to Wisdom In a Nutshell.

Success! Check your email for magic link to sign-in.

Success! Your billing info has been updated.

Your billing was not updated.