Ep. 209: Reducing Your Email 10X | Deep Questions With Cal Newport

Transcription for the video titled "Ep. 209: Reducing Your Email 10X | Deep Questions With Cal Newport".

1970-01-01T02:01:42.000Z

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Introduction

Cal's intro (00:00)

Alright, so I promised ITs to have it tune up for a new piece of advice that if you work in an organization with other people, I said it would be one of the single most effective things you could do to reduce emails in your inbox. So here it is. I call it "Docket Clearing Meetings." I'm Cal Newport and this is Deep Questions, Episode 209. I'm here in my Deep Work HQ, joined by my producer, Jesse. Before we get at all into today's episode, a quick bit of house cleaning. Jesse and I want to hear from you about what's working with this show, what's not, what you want to hear more of, what you want to hear less of. We're doing a version 2.0 we're planning for the podcast. It's to tighten up what works and maybe batten down what's not. So with that in mind, we created a quick online survey. Just go to the description of this podcast episode. There's a link, you click on it, answer a few questions. If you get a chance, it would be very useful for us. It's a way to help influence the future of this show. So we're serious about improving. So go to the description, click on that survey link, answer a few questions, and you will have our great appreciation. I think Jesse, what I'm going to do is have two text boxes on there. One will be complaints about Jesse and it'll be like this really big box or whatever. And then there'll be complaints about Cal and it'll be a really small box and then when you click on it, it'll be inactivated. Like it. Yeah, it'll just make me feel better. Sounds good. Yeah, forget the audience, forget the numbers. We know what this is all about. Making Cal feel good. Speaking of good, we have a good episode. So what I'm doing here, Jesse, I'm theming both parts of the show today. So we have part one, part two, part one of the show. We're focusing on work, but in particular, we're going to focus on email. I have a collection of questions about email. So all in the same theme, I will end part one with a habit tune up where I will be presenting a brand new piece of advice. It's something I began working on a little while ago. I've been testing it out, bouncing it off people, but I've never publicly revealed it before. I would argue it is one of the single most effective things you could do to reduce the number of emails in your inbox if you work in an organization with other people. One thing you could start doing tomorrow that will greatly reduce the number of emails I'm looking forward to that. Then part two of the episode, we will get philosophical. I have a call and a collection of questions all about how do I live a more meaningful, deliberate, deep life? People who are struggling with the question of being adrift, being unfocused, and looking to have a more steady and clear direction to what they're trying to do with their life. Up front, part one, pragmatic email, ending with a brand new piece of advice I'm excited about.


Recognizing Social Media Influence And Improving Productivity

Cal Reacts - TikTok and the Fall of the Social Media Giants (03:08)

Part two, we get philosophical. Before we get into those two parts, though, I'd like to start the shows when possible, reacting to what's going on in the news. In particular, I have an article I want to talk about that we didn't really get around the talking on the last episode, but we should have because it's by me. When I publish new things, especially new things in The New Yorker, I like to try to discuss them on the show in a little bit more depth. Let you know what I'm thinking, maybe give you some more angles on it. A couple of weeks ago, I published my latest for The New Yorker. It's titled Tick Tock and the fall of the social media giants. If you are watching this episode instead of just listening, so if you're at youtube.com/countingportmedia, you'll see the article on your screen as well. Why I thought it was important to talk about this topic is not that I haven't talked about it before on the show, but because of the opposite of that, I've talked about this topic a lot on the show. That's what makes this cool for us. This is one of the first instances I would say of an idea whose birth was this podcast. I began bouncing these ideas around here with you, my listeners, and it evolved into a more polished form The New Yorker. Here we are. Deep Questions Podcast impacting the world of news. You've heard these ideas before, but they're a lot more polished now. Let's go through it quickly. I begin the article quoting Blake Chanley, Tick Tock's president of Global Business Solutions, talking about competition from Facebook. This is where he said, "Look, we're not worried." Facebook is a social platform built on a social graph. Tick Tock is an entertainment platform. These are two different things. Zuckerberg needs to stay in his lane. We have our own lane. That name should sound familiar. Blake Chanley, I talked about him on the show because I discovered this interview from one of you, my listeners sent it to me at my interesting at Cal Newport.com email address. Then I went deeper into this. Here's the next point I want to make. The article, I make this point that Facebook is trying to shift to be more like Tick Tock. Instagram owned by the same company, shifting to be more like Tick Tock. The way they are doing this is by moving towards video, moving towards short video, but most importantly, as I'll soon elaborate, moving towards recommendations that have nothing to do with the social graph, moving towards feeds that are generated purely by algorithms, not by who you follow, not by people you know, sharing it. Here's the quote from the article. This shift is not surprising given Tick Tock's phenomenal popularity, and it has been very successful, but it's also short-sighted. The whole thesis of the article is the following, I say, platforms like Facebook could be doomed if they fail to maintain the social graphs upon which they built their kingdoms. This is the setup to this whole article. Tick Tock's really popular. Companies like platforms like Facebook, I should say, are trying to be more tick-tock-like to stave off the competition and try to have faster user growth. The original take on this point is there's real advantages to having an online company like Facebook or Instagram, or as you'll see Twitter, that relies on a social graph. To be clear by social graph, I mean all of these individual friend requests, all these individual follow clicks, this topology of connections that human users built up, click by click, decision by decision over months and months and years and years have used these really rich networks. These give a real advantage to the early mover platforms who have built them up. One is a network-affected advantage, so I'm highlighting these here. I mentioned, for example, once Facebook had 100 million followers, active users, which it got by 2006, it became hard for anyone else to compete on a model of the people you know are here, and so you can see what the people you know are up to. Once you have 100 million users on one platform, how do you start from scratch and say, well, we only have 10,000, but we're growing. So that's a huge network-fect advantage. There are also other advantages to these topologies. I talk a little bit in this article about the introduction of the retweet button to Twitter. I think people don't understand the degree to which the introduction of the retweet button not only made Twitter into a lasting company of cultural influence, but also really transformed social media. So here's what happened when they introduced the retweet button. The friction required to send a link or tweet to your entire follower base went down to almost nothing. Before we had the retweet button, people in Twitter would have to copy tweets and they would put RT. So you remember this? If you're old enough, you would put RT in caps colon, and then you would quote, just copy and paste, quote, the tweet that you're retweeting, and then you would put at the original person who retweeted it below it. That's a pain. Retweet button, you see something you like, click a button, and it spreads. That reduction in friction made all of the difference. It unlocked what I call a fierce viral dynamic. So now a tweet that was catching the attention of the zeitgeist in the right way could spread through the power law topology of the Twitter social graph at frightening speed. Tens of millions, hundreds of millions of people could see something within an hour or two. And this always based off these individual user decisions to retweet or not retweet. They see it from a few people, they retweet it. This turned out to have two hugely powerful effects. One, it attracted more interesting people to platforms like Twitter, because there's potential here. You have the potential of reaching millions of people if what you wrote caught on just right. So now more interesting people came to Twitter. That's another big network effect advantage. If all of the interesting people are on Twitter, when a competitor came along like Parler or GAB, they didn't do as well because there wasn't as many interesting people on there saying interesting things. Perhaps more important, these fierce viral dynamics also gave way to a frighteningly effective distributed curation mechanism. So what happened is all these individual decisions that are tweet and retweeted created this human powered curation algorithm that was really, really good at figuring out what's the most interesting controversial outrageous, funny, off the wall, but perfect meme, whatever it was, it did a really good job of selecting for these things and amplifying it so millions of people could see. So that was very effective. So suddenly, Twitter not only had interesting people on there, but it had this really good human powered curation, distributed curation algorithm that meant when you went on Twitter, you were going to see interesting things or funny things or outrageous things. Again, this is not sophisticated machine learning algorithms at play here. This is just the epiphenomenon of a lot of individuals clicking retweet or not. That's very powerful. So then as I get into it, Facebook noticed this retweet thing is working. So then by 2012, we get a share button added to the mobile app of Facebook. It's exactly retweet. They too wanted to take advantage of that distributed curation. All right. So here's my summary. Both Facebook and Twitter are built on the same general model of leveraging hard to replicate large social graphs to generate a never-ending stream of engaging content, a strategy that proved to be robust in the face of new competition and incredibly lucrative. So it's the social graphs and those three advantages I just summarized, the people you know are on there, the interesting people are on there, and you have the distributed curation effect of the share and retweets. That made the small number of companies who got there first, Facebook, Instagram, Instagram. I took this out of the article, but I had a piece in there before about how Instagram basically, they were able to make a run at the castle that Facebook was building because Facebook didn't understand image. And Instagram made it much easier to have these beautiful images filtered perfectly sized for iPhones. That was so powerful that media that they were able to build a new audience from scratch before Facebook squashed that by buying them. So yeah, Facebook, you have Instagram, you have Twitter, these big social graphs that can produce a non-strups stream of engaging content of a style that no one else can compete with. So if I want to go start my own social network tomorrow to compete with those giants, doing their same game as many pretenders to the throne have encountered in the past five to 10 years, good luck because until I can get 100 million people, including a lot of people you know and a lot of really interesting people with all these intricate friend and follower connections that allow retweets and shares to become a really effective distributed curation mechanism. Until that's all there, this is useless. It's not that interesting. I'd rather just go on Twitter. I'd rather go on Facebook. I'd rather go on Instagram. So they had this this readout, this digital readout that was almost impossible for anyone to raid. And so that's why these pseudo monopolies grew bigger. It's why their influence on our culture became stronger. It's why we began to get really worried starting around 2016, 2017 about just how much power these small number of companies had because they were immune to competition. And in my opinion, we're strangling the potential of the interactive web 2.0 by taking the democratic weirdness of the internet, the distributed homespun, that's in tricities of the internet and capturing it all into a small number of walled gardens. All right. Then you get TikTok. TikTok is the weird knight that came out of the bog that suddenly threatening all the castles. It's the, I don't know Game of Thrones well, but the woman with the dragons who comes out of nowhere and suddenly the Lannisters. Do I have that right? Yes, I don't know. I don't know Game of Thrones. I don't know. But there's these people in charge and then there's this woman who had dragons and kind of came out of nowhere. And TikTok is that. Okay. So why? This is the second part of my article. So what I, the case I make is the effectiveness of the TikTok experience is found in what it doesn't require. So TikTok's brilliance is it, it's the same sort of user generated content, distraction experience, but it does not leverage a social graph. And this was the point that Blake Shanley was making in that very important interview. It, TikTok does not care if people you know are on TikTok. TikTok does not care if famous people are on TikTok. TikTok does not care who you follow or what you can share. There are some social features in TikTok. No one uses them. It is purely algorithmic. It looks at the total pool of available videos. And by day, I mean this brutally effective machine learning loop and says, what should I show you next? What should I show you next? And as far as I can tell, I really went deep into this. I tried to understand what was happening with this algorithm. It's all proprietary. But there is some hints. I think the best hints probably come from the Wall Street Journal, which did a big study where they created hundreds. Well, I should say the New York, New York, or fact checker corrected on this. More than a hundred fake accounts, which they tweaked very carefully and observed to try to understand how the recommendations were happening. And what seems to be happening with the TikTok algorithm is that it's a, for the statistical optimization people, it's essentially a stochastic multi arm bandit reinforcement optimization machine learning loop. So go look that up if you want to bore yourself. But what it does is it's showing you a lot of different things at first, somewhat randomly. And the main thing it looks at is how long did you watch the video before you swiped up to the next one? That is its best indication of the rewards you got from that video. It then uses statistically, shows you statistically similar videos to that one. And again, it's trying to optimize, hey, this one that's in the same universe, you watched even longer. So let's focus in on this as a constellation of type of videos you like. That's basically it. Plus I'm careful tuning about novelty to make sure that you're being exposed to different things. You have a chance for your interest to wander. It's not super complicated, but within as short as 40 minutes, this is what the Wall Street Journal found. It took about 40 minutes until the experience was almost eerie. How well this machine learning loop had honed in on a small number of types of videos that really push your proverbial buttons. So it's not evil genius, you know, how from the movie 2001 is sitting in a hollowed out volcano somewhere where we're light years ahead. It's actually a pretty simple machine learning loop, but no social graph. We need a bunch of videos. Anyone can create videos. It doesn't matter if they're famous. It doesn't matter if you know them. Just good enough people creating videos that our algorithm can go to work. And so TikTok can make a move at Facebook and Twitter because their castle walls are built around their social graph. And everyone who was trying to attack their castle with a similar strategy couldn't get over those walls. TikTok was the woman with the dragons and they flew over. They didn't use the social graph. Okay. So what's going to happen? Well, here's the key, I think the key thing going on in social media digital news is that TikTok's success, these developments put traditional social media companies like Facebook in a perilous bind. They're losing users right now to TikTok because TikTok again is in the same cognitive space as far as your users concerned. User created content. I want distraction on my phone and they're doing a better job of it. So people are going over to TikTok. And what happened? Meta found that their new user growth slowed and they lost over $200 billion in market capitalization in a single day when they released that report. So this is public companies. There's huge investor pressure. We can't lose. We can't have our revenue go down. We can't lose this many users. The TikTok which got to a billion users in just a couple of years is just really exploding. So they have to do something. So what are they doing? They're trying to be more like TikTok which maybe in the short term makes sense. They're like, okay, if this is what people like, we need to do the same thing. But this is where I think they accidentally destabilize their entire foundation of all of their protection. So here's what I wrote. If companies like Facebook, so they instead move away from their social graph foundations to concentrate on optimizing in the moment engagement, they'll enter a competitive landscape that pits them directly against the many other existing sources of mobile distraction, not just TikTok, but also more bespoke and specialized social networks, streaming services, et cetera, et cetera. So as soon as you are offering entertainment that's not based on the social graph, you are competing with every other source of entertainment and distraction on the phone. I don't think that's a battle that Facebook or Instagram or Twitter can win long term. Once they leave the protection of their social graph, they will be chipped away from by this other competition until eventually their role of dominance is going to wane. That's my conclusion. This all points to a possible future in which social media giants like Facebook may soon be past their long stretch of dominance. They'll continue to chase new engagement models, leaving behind the protection of their social graphs and in doing so, eventually succumb to the new competitive pressures this introduces. Now, last time I talked about this idea on this show, some of you, some of my listeners, some of you came, wrote back to me and said, "Oh, so you're saying like, TikTok is better or like, it's somehow we're in a better world of TikTok, just dominates everything? Isn't that just as bad?" So here's the key nuance, which by the way, based on your feedback as listeners, I knew to really hit this point in my New Yorker piece. TikTok, of course, is subject to the same pressure so in this future it too will eventually fade. So no, I do not think TikTok is going to be some 20-year-long cultural force. I don't think TikTok is going to be a four-year from now, be a cultural force. It's entirely shallow in the sense that it has no network effect foundation. It's just purified distraction. It's incredibly shallow foundation. The zeitgeist can change on TikTok like that in a way that it couldn't on Facebook and it couldn't on Twitter because all your friends are already on Facebook and all the interesting people were on Twitter and all of these connections and the social graphs were there. And even if you soured on Facebook because you didn't like their role in the presidential election or even if you soured on Twitter because you don't like Elon Musk, there really was no other game in town that could offer you that. TikTok has none of those advantages. It's just me look pretty screen, me like, me swipe. Other things can serve that purpose. So if the zeitgeist changes against TikTok, it could just fall out of people's favor almost immediately. TikTok's going to last as some replacement force of dominance. I think it's coming in hot Twitter maybe, but definitely Facebook, definitely Instagram chases it, destabilizes their competitive advantage, leads to their downfall. The only reason why I say maybe with Twitter is it has investor pressure, but as we saw with the Elon Musk bid, they're small enough they could be taken private. So if Musk had taken them private and you got rid of that investor pressure, he could have just said, and someone else could still do this, let's just lean into what we do well. I don't care if we lose users in the short term, no one else can do what we do. At this distributed curation of interesting things said by interesting people. So let's just keep doing that. We're not going to disappear. Let's just fire a bunch of people, focus, become profitable. Maybe that's a way to stick around. Facebook, Instagram, way too big. When you're a $600 billion company, you can't go private. They can't let users fall. So I think they're essentially doomed. So that's the future I see. And that's how I summarize this article. I think the social media giants, their dominance is going to wane. I think TikTok is going to come and go. Its main point will be it help to stabilize those. And all of this could be good because it opens up the territory. You get rid of the warlords who were keeping everyone else down. It opens up the territory for more innovation, more interesting services, bespoke services, more fragmented services, more distributed or nonprofit services, crazy services that are home-spun and eccentric and only so many people use them, but they love them. There's more room for all of this when you get rid of these giant $100 billion BMS that have these pseudo monopolies. And so that is to conclude how I conclude the article. In the end, TikTok's biggest legacy might be less about its current moment of world conquering success, which will pass and more about how by forcing social media giants like Facebook to chase its model, it will end up liberating the social internet. So that is the polished form of my thoughts about TikTok and its impact on the internet. I think I've now talked about this enough so we can retire the topic. For more read the article at the New Yorker, you can just find my contributor page. You'll find it's called TikTok in the fall of the social media giants. If you don't subscribe to the New Yorker, well, you should. But if you don't, I also wrote about the article and added some extra points in my newsletter. So go to calnewport.com/blog and you can see the article I wrote about this. And while there you should sign up for that newsletter so you can get sent straight to your inbox this type of thinking. So there we go. Good summary. I'm going to be a podcast man. Without the podcast, this idea might not have existed. It was riffing on the news stuff that listeners sent me that I would not have seen. I would not have seen that article about Blake, Chanley and CNBC, et cetera, if a listener had a sentence to us. And then since I wouldn't have seen it and we are riffing on it, you and I on the show and that sort of set the wheels in motion. So that's cool. Yeah. It's podcast. There was some vocabulary in there that I didn't even know. So I learned something for sure. Welcome to the New Yorker world. Yeah. You got to have the source handy. By the way, speaking of New Yorker, and then we'll move on, but I read the, you told me about the article from last week, Tad Frin's article about the door to door salesman. Oh yeah, I haven't finished that yet. That's really good. Yeah. Yeah. So Jesse told me, I always, if people ask me, how do I read, what's my New Yorker reading habits with the magazine? Because it's hard. It's long and it comes every week. Here it is. So here's my New Yorker reading habits so you can, you can follow suit if you subscribe. So you get the daily email and that points out like what's going on, what was posted on the web that day, what's interesting. So I would say 50% of the daily emails will point out an article that I end up reading on the web because they publish like a new article every day on the web. For the magazine, my rule is like you always have to read one. And if there's, sometimes it'll read more than one, but you always have to read one. And so that forces you even if it's a day where the five articles, none of them are right in your sweet spot. You read about door to door salesmen or something else. It's really interesting. And so that's my role. Read the daily email to see what catches your attention. That's where a lot of my stuff is featured. So definitely read that. And then you got to read one, one per week at least. I have a similar rule too. Yes. Just look at the table of contents and then circle two and then if there's two, I like then I read them and otherwise. And then it breaks a seal and then you end up reading more a lot of times, but like you always have to read at least one. And then the third rule is you have to leave the magazine out kind of prominently in your house or apartment. And like, oh, when people come over, oh, sorry, let me just clean this up over here. I just was, you got to put it next to your copy of the harpers and the Paris. You recycle them a lot quickly thereafter. Yeah, it was when the pile grows. All right. So anyways, as mentioned, two parts to the show of the fall, part one, email part two, a bunch of questions about living the deep life before we get to that first part.


Cal talks about 8000 hours and My Body Tutor (25:48)

So let me talk briefly about a brand new sponsor of this show, which is 80,000 hours. Where's that come from? Where's that number come from? Well, if you do the math, you have roughly 80,000 hours in your career. So that's 40 hours a week, 50 weeks a year for 40 years. You have about 80,000 hours to work in your career. So that adds up. They're one of your biggest opportunities. What you do with your work is one of your biggest opportunities to make a positive impact on the world, but where should you start? This is where 80,000 hours comes in. It is a nonprofit co-founded by Will McCaskill, a philosopher at Oxford. Will is probably known best as being a co-founder of the effective altruism movement. He does all of the major podcasts. You've probably heard him on Tim Ferrish's show among other shows. It's about doing evidence-based numbers-driven altruism. That's the effective altruism movement. How do I make the most difference with what I have to give? He helped found this nonprofit 80,000 hours that helps people make the most out of their careers. I've known them for a long time. I've known the guys involved with this since they were just getting off the ground because obviously I wrote a book about career advice so good they can't ignore you. They like those ideas and elaborated them into their own ideas. I've known these guys and talked about them for a long time. I think it's so cool that it's a nonprofit that's just focused on evidence-based approaches to figure out how to make the most of your career. If you like my style of advice, you're going to like what they offer over at 80,000 hours. What do they offer? Well, you can join the free newsletter. If you do, they will send you an in-depth guide that helps you identify the problems that are most pressing where you personally can have the biggest impact of those problems and help you get ideas, new ideas for high impact careers or directions that will help you tackle those issues. They have this really well-known job board that has over 800 plus and counting opportunities to work on problems or offer one-on-one advice to help you switch past. The job board is great for people who want to make more out of their working life. Also check out their excellent 80,000 hours podcast, which has in-depth conversations with experts about how best to tackle pressing global problems. The one I heard I really liked was episode number 94 with my friend Ezra Klein. That was a good episode. You can sign up at 80,000 hours.org/deep. Check it out. I really encourage you to check out the site. I've known them forever. It's cool. I really want to emphasize again, it's a nonprofit. Everything you provide is free. They are out there just trying to improve the world, help more and more people make a difference with their career. That's 80,000 hours.org/deep. 80,000 hours.org/deep. We'll tell you something else. You're going to have a hard time changing the world if you're exhausted and out of shape and have no energy. That brings us to our next sponsor, which is My Body Tutor. My Body Tutor was founded by Adam Gilbert, who I've known for a long time. He used to be the fitness advice guru for my newsletter. This company by My Body Tutor is a 100% online coaching program that solves the biggest problem in health and fitness, which is lack of consistency. You get assigned an online coach who comes up with a plan for you about eating, movement and fitness. Then you check in with that coach with the app digitally every day. Every day that coach will then send you feedback to help keep you motivated, but also to help you answer your questions or tweak your program as needed. Having someone you're working with every day is the key to success. By doing it all 100% online, it is finally affordable for those of us who cannot have a live-in personal trainer. If you're serious about getting fit, Adam is giving deep questions listeners $50 off their first month. All you have to do is mention this podcast when you join. Go to My Body Tutor, T-U-T-O-R.com. You mentioned deep questions when you join to get $50 off. You know what I heard, Jesse speaking to My Body Tutor.


How long should I wait for someone to respond to my email? (30:35)

I went to see Top Gun Maverick. It's Julie the other night. A lot of fun. Yeah, people like that. Do you see it? No. You know the original though? Yeah, yeah. They have one of these shortlist beach sports scenes. The original was beach volleyball. I implore people just to ponder this reality. The original movie, Tom Cruise, San Diego, Hot Sunny Day, shirtless volleyball, wearing blue jeans. Wearing blue jeans. The most random worst thing you could possibly wear to play beach volleyball in the sand on a sunny day. Well, it's because he's on his motorcycle, right? Yeah. And he goes to a date. Anyways, so they do a new scene in this one. They're playing football on the beach or whatever. One's shirtless and Tom Cruise looks crazily yoked for someone who was like 57 when he filmed it. But what I heard on a "rewatchables" episode about Top Gun Maverick is that the Tom Cruise, like a couple of weeks after they filmed that, it's like I don't like the footage. We need to go back and refilm it. And it pissed off everybody on the crew because they had tapered. They had built out these whole programs. So this is like a little peek behind the curtain. These whole fitness and eating programs to peek right at they filmed this because you have the whole point of those scenes is to be like doing, pretending like you're not flexing, but you're flexing as hard as you can. And they had all like let themselves go. And two weeks is enough time. So they were all having to like desperately go back and try to like start, cut, wait, and dehydrate themselves and get, you know, anyways, I thought it was funny. That's a peek behind the curtain. So when you see the shirtless guys on whatever these movies, it's like there's a lot of work that goes into that. So maybe they got their, my body tutor accounts going to get. All right, let's use some questions. Got a bunch of questions here in a row go through quick all in the same topic. Email, let's get our email going here. The first comes from Zach. Zach says, although my reliance on email is slowly dwindling, it is still rampant in my organization. So I remain reliant on it to a decent extent. How long do you give someone in 2022 to respond to a non emergency email before you ping them again? All right, Zach, here's my tough love contrarian take on this question. If someone's not responding to your email, it's because you wrote a bad email. So I am less interested and etiquette for pinging people and more interested in getting you to a place where you don't have to ping people at all. Why don't people respond to emails? It's typically because what you sent arrived in their inbox like an ambiguous obligation grenade. They're just like, I don't know what to do with this thing. You threw it off the top of your mind. You're playing obligation hot potato where this was an open loop for you. And if you send it to someone else, it's off your mind at least for now. And it's, hey, what's your thoughts on the clients coming next week or something? Like just like weird and vague and ambiguous. And what you're really doing is just saying tag your it. You have the hot potato. You have to keep track of this for now. I get a moment to a moment of relief when those obligation hand grenades arrived. Like I don't even know exactly how to answer this. There's a piece to it that doesn't make sense to me. I don't want to do that work. I'm going to ignore it if I all at all can. And that's mainly why emails get ignored. They freeze people. So what you need to do, Zach, is provide structure in your email about exactly what you need for them to answer. They need to see exactly what is required in them to respond. And if you can't pin that down, you're not ready to send them that email. You either need to get more clear. Just thinking about it yourself. Okay, if I really think about this, there's three options here. These two options, I don't need your help. This option, I would need this piece of information from you. So I'm going to ask you for this. So either you have to think about this more yourself or you need to talk to that person. You need to real time, so be it on the phone or in their office or at the tail end of a Zoom meeting be like, "Look, I can't quite get my arms around this, but we've got to figure out what to do about this client meeting. What's going on? What do you think?" And just give it a couple of minutes. And in that quick back and forth, you can actually take this ambiguous thing and figure out a couple of concrete things that need to happen. So the emails, if an email leaves your inbox and arrives in someone else's, there has to be absolute clarity for that person about what you need from them. And they know what to do. You need this answer, you need this question, you need to decide between these three things. You need to send me this document. You need me to choose from this list of things. Make that crystal clear and they'll love to answer it. Say, "Thoughts question mark." And they're going to run away from that grenade so that the resulting productivity shrapnel doesn't shred their schedule. All right. Ricardo, email question number two.


Do you recommend having multiple email accounts? (35:32)

Ricardo says, "Do you recommend having multiple email accounts for someone who works at different institutions but does more or less the same work?" Ricardo, the answer is yes. And the idea you need to really digest here is that the cost of context shifting far outweighs any of the advantages of having minor technologically enhanced efficiencies by whatever thing's in the same inbox. So I can just log in, wants and everything's there and I can type really fast. Technological efficiencies like saving keystrokes, saving clicking on things, saving having to log in the places. I call those technological efficiencies. Those are minor, minor advantages and they are swamped by the advantage of not switching the cognitive context in which you're operating from one to another, one to another. So imagine you work for two organizations and in scenario A, you have an email account for this organization. There's five messages in there and you have a separate account. You have to log out and log into this other one for the other organization. You have five messages in there. So you log into the first one, you go through those messages, you log out, you load up the website, the Google workspace for the other one, you log into that one, you answer those five messages. That's scenario A. Scenario B is you have these all come in the one inbox. You can see them all together. It's open, you don't have to log in and log out. Scenario A is sufficiently better. You will get those emails answered significantly faster and with much less cognitive friction. Why? Because when you're in the first institution's inbox, that's your cognitive context. You load up everything relevant to that institution. So now you can rock and roll as you move to those emails. Then you spend a minute to log into the other one and you get into the cognitive context that other institution, then you get a rock and roll and go faster. And back and forth between those two contexts in scenario B where they're all in the same inbox, that switching back and forth is going to slow you and slow you and slow you, increase the friction, increase your quality of thought, make the task more difficult. So yes, keep separate inboxes. I have four or five inboxes. I'm trying to think of a Georgetown, Georgetown address with its own inbox. I have a personal Gmail inbox, address with its own inbox. I have the Cal Newport.com addresses go into their own inbox of which there's a few. There's the interesting and there's authors, a few. And then I have a New Yorker email address that goes into its own inbox. So I have four distinct inboxes, four distinct logins. And I won't do it any other way. There's multiple email addresses.


Is there a place for “Inbox Zero” in Cal’s productivity system? (38:30)

All right, Chris, moving on, Chris asks, do you think there's a place for inbox zero in your productivity system? If yes, how do you manage to keep up with your inbox without spending hours on reading classifying answering mails, even if you only spend that time in specific time blocks? So I think Chris, yes, inbox zero by which I mean an inbox that on a regular basis goes down to having no messages in it. Yes is a good goal. And two, this should not require hours of reading classifying and answering emails. Now, I don't mean to say it doesn't require that right now. I think for most people, the way they use their email, the way they use their inboxes, to get it down to zero would require hours of them going through this. It would be a Herculean task. But if you update and improve your relationship with this tool, getting down to inbox zero becomes much more tractable. And it's what you want to do because getting down to inbox zero means you have a pipeline of incoming and outcoming information that you're keeping up with. I mean, the only thing it means if your inbox is getting bigger and bigger is that the pipeline of stuff coming in, you can't keep up with it. You don't have other systems for it. And you have this default spillover. Let's just keep stuff in our inbox. So let me give you four things you can do, Chris. Four things you can do to improve your relationship with inbox with your inbox that will make inbox zero much more tractable. All right. Number one, don't use email for back and forth conversation. Don't I got to figure something out. We got to go back and forth about it. Don't do that with email. That generates a huge amount of email. It's a huge pain. Back and forth conversation should be synchronous. There's a lot of ways to do this. There's office hours. There's calls. They're tacking on conversations to the end of pre-existing meetings. However you want to do it, if it requires back and forth, you should be talking to a person. Two minutes can accomplish what 20 back and forth emails would otherwise be required to do. Number two, don't store information in your inbox. This is a child's way of doing knowledge work, information management. You're a grown up. You need something more sophisticated. You have to have places where you store relevant information. You have to have places where you keep track of what you're working on, what you're waiting for and what you know about it. I personally recommend something like a Trello board, one for each of your different professional roles, where you can keep track of what's in progress, what you know about it, what you're waiting to hear back on. So if in one of your roles as a professor, you are the head of the faculty advisory committee. I say this from experience, I'm about to take on that role as the head of the faculty advisory committee in September. Have a board for that. If there's things you're waiting to hear back from, you're trying to talk to your committee members about when to meet or you're waiting to hear someone is taking a stab at writing up the report that you're going to bring to the faculty meeting, you should have a column in your Trello board for that role that says waiting to hear back from and that's where those are. Not an email in your inbox that you hope you just see and say, "Oh yeah, that's right. I'm waiting for someone to respond to that email." Say you're working on something in one of your roles. Have a project's column and there's a card for it on your Trello board and you're attaching the relevant files to it and right at the top of the card you say capital letters, status, colon, quick update on that status. You look at the board for that role, you get the hold just stalt of what's going on in five minutes. None of this needs to be in your inbox. So again, keeping track of what's going on in your inbox is a child's way of managing information. Be an adult, be more sophisticated. Three, use process centric emails. Now I talked about this in a habit to tune up. I think, Jesse, we'd have to go back to the archives. But I think in the last couple of months, I did a habit to tune up on process centric emails. There's probably a YouTube video on that at youtube.com/countingformedia. But here's the brief summary. When you send an email to someone to initiate something that needs to get done, just meeting has to get set up. This client visit needs to be arranged. First figure out the entire process for how you're going to get to completion. I will put up some ideas. By this date, you will look at those ideas and mark the ones that work best. I'll then send a complete list once you've marked that on Wednesday morning to the client. And then I'll update you on our staff meeting on Friday, what we're going to do. Come up with the process for how you're going to get from here to completion and explain that process in the very first email you send about that obligation significantly reduces the number of back and forth messages that follow because you have a clear process about what you guys are going to do. Number four, things that are informational newsletters like MyNewsLetter, calnieport.com, broadcast of deals, whatever it is that you get just information through your inbox where you never know which ones are going to be interesting, what won't. You might want to save things for a while to see if you want to read it. Have a separate account for that. And if it's too late to have a separate account, then set up a filter to a separate label or folder and you can update what gets filtered and treat that differently. Oh, here's my informational account. Here's my informational label or folder and that's different. That's outside of your inbox, your worldview because there's no stress captured by those messages. None of them make any demands of you or your time. It's a digital library for you to browse at your leisure. So separate that from the rest of your inbox. And then you can inbox zero what remains. All right, Chris. So there you go. The Backstore in inbox zero, I wrote about this, that term and a piece I wrote a few years ago from the New Yorker called the rise and fall of getting things done. Merlin Mann, the productivity guru Merlin Mann, it was his book contract to write a book titled inbox zero that essentially broke him and his interest in productivity. He struggled so philosophically about what's the point of getting super fiddly about processing emails in your inbox. It's actually what broke him and he just couldn't write the book. He was on the contract, couldn't do it. And so it was like the inbox zero book was what broke inbox zero broke Merlin Mann's productivity standing or interest in his interesting little tidbit from the history of productivity. All right, so I promised ITs to have it tune up for a new piece of advice that if you work in an organization with other people, I said would be one of the single most effective things you could do to reduce emails in your inbox.


Habit Tune-Up: Docket Clearing Meetings (45:01)

So here it is. I call it docket clearing meetings. This is a phrase I'm stealing shamelessly from the judge, John Hodgeman podcast. I have the docket clearing episodes where they go through a bunch of cases. It's a judicial term or a judge has a bunch of cases on their docket that they want to get through real quick. Your team, whatever team you work with in your knowledge work office organization, consider once or twice a week having a regularly scheduled docket clearing meeting. Here is how this meeting works. At all times there is a shared document accessible by everyone in your team. Does tasks or questions come up that's relevant for the team? Someone here needs to work on this. We need to look into updating the website. We have a client visit coming up. We need to start the process for getting our next quarterly report running. Anything that comes up here is a new obligation or question that someone or some subset of people on the team have to work on. You put it on the shared doc. When you get to the docket clearing meeting, you go through that shared doc altogether. You're all there in the same room or on the same zoom conference if it's a distributed remote company. You go through the things one by one. This thing here is this important? Who's going to do it? What do we need? Can we just do it right now? Is it quick? Someone just do it. You're going to handle it. What information do you need from who? When are they going to get that to you? What form? Let me just write this down in the shared docs. We have a record of it. Great. Next. Next. Next. You go through each of these things and resolve the questions assigned to work. Do the small things right away. People come out of the doc. Clearing meeting, you've cleared a lot of this work off your team's plate and the stuff that remains has been clarified. That discussion, couple minutes of discussion that each task gets, gets rid of the need to have all these ambiguous back and forth emails. You're playing an obligation. Hot potato for a while until it gets urgent. You're not quite sure what's going to happen. It allows you to just execute the work. If you have a docket clearing meeting for 30 minutes twice a week, small footprint, 30 minutes twice a week, same time your whole team. You will reduce the number of emails each team member receives in their inbox by a factor of three or four. Not only you reduce the number of emails by a big factor, but the type of email you're taking out of their inbox by having these meetings are the type that are the worst. The ambiguous back and forth, the conversations, the like, "Uh, can you deal with this?" You don't even know what that means. The stuff that really gives you the indigestion. The stuff that causes the anxiety. It is an incredibly effective tool. If you work in any sort of team, you should have docket clearing meetings. There is my new piece of advice. I like it. That's actually in the slow productivity. I'm working on the book. I have these principles. Then the principles underneath the principles are propositions, which are where we get concrete. Do work on this, work on that. Give some more concrete ideas. The propositions have, they come with some actual pieces of advice. Some of the book is philosophical and manifesto style. Some is idea writing. Some is, "Let's get concrete." That came out of me working on a proposition about containing the small things. The footprints, they small in your work life. I was just working out the docket clearing meeting idea. I presented that in the book as the team counterpart to office hours for the individual. As you know, I'm a huge believer. You should have office hours three times a week. Everyone knows when they are. Almost anything small or conversational or back and forth conversation requiring you to say, "Great, grab me at my office hours. Grab me at my office hours." You're just defending people off. You have a shield of your office hours. You're just defending yourself as all these ambiguous obligation hand grenades come near you. You just knock them all away and just make everyone come. Every day there's 30 minutes. They can always come and find you. That's a huge inbox saver, but team stuff requires his own type of strategy. There we go. Docket clearing meetings. I've been thinking about slow-bark activity a lot. Just on different things I work on, whether it's work or even getting better at sports. I think about it all the time. I finished the chapter. Well, the first draft of the chapter on doing fewer things, principle one. It was a beast. It was 25,000 words. I got it down to 18,000 words. My editor has it. It took me a long time because I was trying to figure out the voice. I think I found the voice for the book, but we'll knock on what we'll see. I've started now. I'm working on a part one chapter. Part one is more like ideas. Part one chapter that's... I'm not going to give too many details because it might also be a New Yorker piece, so I like to keep that kind of secret. I'm beginning the background research for the next principle, which is work at a natural pace. This idea of constant, you just work five days a week, eight hours straight, just again and again and again, just going after, getting after, it's intense. It's very unnatural. It doesn't really match the way that really interesting stuff is produced. I'm just getting the weeds there. I won't give too many details yet, but yesterday I was spending a lot of time reading about the timelines of famous scientists from the early Renaissance period. Let's just say the pace at which they developed and published their ideas is anything but fast. A year will go by. They're not working on it. Then a summer they work on it, and then they have to send a letter and it's 1567, so it's going to take three months before they hear back. It's going to slow our pace. They're very productive. They invented gravity. That's coming along. Speaking of, I'm going to make this transition land. We've had a lot of really good analogies today. Yeah, I'm trying to transition to sponsors. I'm still thinking about the dragon going over the wall. Yeah. It'd be better if I knew the name of that character from Game of Thrones. I wish I knew it too. But Cersei Lannister is the person in power, the wife of the Joffrey. They're the people in power. The queen of the dragons. I don't know. I don't know the show. The only thing I know about the show is someone sent me a clip which I really enjoyed. I guess there was an episode in the last season where it's this dragon woman and they're in a tavern and it's dwarves and swords and stuff. Someone left the Starbucks cup in there and it made it into the show. It's fantastic. The tavern and they're all in there and there's just a Starbucks cup sitting on the table. I appreciated that. All right. There's a transition.


Cal talks about Blinkist and Eightsleep (51:58)

So speaking of Starbucks, which is a commercial company, I want to tell you about one of the sponsors that makes this show possible. And that is our good friends at a sleep. I've been thinking about a sleep a lot recently because again, and this is a scientific measurement, the temperature outside here in DC today is 175 degrees Fahrenheit. I think I'm reading that correct. When it is hot, you're uncomfortable when it's hot and you're trying to sleep. Good luck. This is where the eight sleep pod enters the scene. It is the ultimate sleep machine because it helps you control the temperature of your sleep. It dynamically cools or heats each side of your bed. You can set each side of your bed separately to maintain an optimal sleeping temperature. You can start sleeping as cool as 55 degrees or as hot as 110 degrees Fahrenheit. The stuff matters. Clinical data shows that eight sleep users experience up to 19 percent increase in recovery, up to 32 percent improvement in sleep quality and up to 34 percent more deep sleep. So eight sleep just launched the next generation of their pod. They call it the pod three, which enables more accurate sleep and health tracking and double the amount of sensors delivering you the best sleep experience on Earth. Man when it is warm, I can't sleep. You got to have a pod. So go to a sleep.com/deep to start sleeping cool this summer and save $150 on the pod. Eight sleep currently ships with the USA, Canada, and the UK, select countries in the EU and Australia. I also want to talk about our good friends at Blinkist. Blinkist has been sponsoring us so long, Jesse, that I feel like we should have a branded studio. It's Callen, Jesse, coming to you from the Blinkist, what do you call Blinkist studio? Yeah. Blinkist, big idea studio. And they're right up our alley. You know the drill. You've heard me talk about them. Blinkist is a subscription service that offers you these 15 minute summaries. You can read or listen to called blinks of thousands of nonfiction titles spread over 27 categories. It is the best way to quickly see what a book is about. What are the main ideas? Why do you want to do that? So that if there's a topic you care about, you can get a quick summary. If there's a topic you want to know more about, you can figure out which book to buy. I always blink a potential nonfiction book before I make the decision to buy it or not. Figure out what's going on here. The main ideas, if I heard this before, is this sound original? Is this going to increase what I understand or not? Blinkist is essential for anyone who embraces the reading life. And I'm hoping most of the listeners of this show do. All right. So that's 5,000 titles, 27 categories, bestsellers and you know, more technical books. I was looking at the Blink not long ago of blockchain revolution. Blockchain is a complicated technology. Is this book technical? Is it big ideas? Is it crypto bros or more computer science? See, how do you find out? Give me 15 minutes. I'll put the audio blink on. I'll listen to it as I clean the dishes. Information acquired. So it is a fantastic tool for those who live the reading life. So right now Blinkist has a special offer just for our audience. Go to Blinkist.com/deep to start your free seven day trial and get 25% off a Blinkist premium membership that's Blinkist spelled D-L-I-N-K-I-S-T. Blinkist.com/deep to get 25% off and a seven day free trial. Blinkist.com/deep. All right. Part two of the show. We do some questions about living a deeper life. We haven't had a call yet. So we'll start. We'll start with a call. We'll kick things off with a call from Michael. All right. Here we go. Hey, Cal and Jesse. First off, thanks for all that you guys do.


How do I balance my many interests after quitting my job? (56:01)

Thanks, Ann, for your work. I recently quit my job as a product manager and tech to find more meaning in my work and really just become self-employed. I have a few main areas that I want to grow in and would like to know how you suggest balancing efforts on a macro and micro scale. Just for context, the three areas are, first off, my main project is a website for runners training plants and such. I have one business partner and we plan to launch it soon. I've been working on that for about a year. Secondly, I'm taking the course to build out a skill set as a UI designer. I want to do UI design for my own projects and perhaps freelance someday. And then thirdly, I just want to create more online blogging videos using social to connect with others and really just make useful content around my interests. Taking a by interest of just a super curious person, have a lot of hobbies as it is, so guitar, action sports, music making, photo video, and all of these interests pull from my time and attention as well. I have tried to do day theming and use systematic time blocking really to attack all these different areas and interests, but it just felt too rigid and formulaic to me. So yeah, my key question is how do you suggest I focus on a macro and micro scale to have progress in these multiple areas, which all feel important to me? Thanks guys. Well, the issue is if you're trying to make progress on all of those things at the same time, you will make meaningful progress on almost none of them. This is a principle that's on my mind because I write about this. Actually, in the slow productivity book we were talking about before, in my chapter on doing fewer things, and not to give away too much, but I have a whole section in that chapter about this reality, that the function that mediates the relationship between effort and reward, we often incorrectly think about that as a linear function no matter what we spend our time on. So you sort of spend 10 hours working on things, you get 10 hours worth of reward, but that's not actually how it works. It tends to be more nonlinear. So if you spend a lot of time on one thing, the reward you begin to get for that time takes off and gets bigger, bigger, bigger, bigger. So you kind of have these moments, these discontinuities where the rewards you get after you've really focused on something for a while really jumps up, that reward curve really jumps up. So the reality of this is it is not the same to take a set pool of hours and split it among multiple things or put all that time on the one thing. You do not end up with the same reward in the end. If this function was simply linear, then spending one hour on 10 separate projects would give you the same reward as 10 hours on one project, so you might as well do the 10 separate projects because it's interesting and it keeps your options open, etc. But if it's not linear, which is what I argue is true, then putting 10 hours on one project could give you a massive reward. We're putting one hour in each project might not get you much at all. Alright, so that's kind of technical here, but it all leads to I think the obvious conclusion, which is you need to do less. Now that's scary because you're thinking, well, these things are important to me. There's different aspects of my life. There's different options I want to pursue. I can't just stop everything. So I'm going to give you a two step process here. One I do think you need to simplify, especially in that world of hobbies, etc. This is what you're going for in your professional life and maybe outside your professional life if you cut this down to two things, maybe three. Next you want to have one point of major focus that is getting most of your time and everything else you want to baseline. Baseline means you have some sort of maintenance ritual or habit, so it's not forgotten, but it's not getting much of your time. And most of your time is on one thing. It's like professionally maybe most of that time is going into the new website, though I might recommend that sounds like this UX, you need a job, right? If you quit your job, so if UX is going to be your career, that might be the thing you're really putting your time into and you're just basing the website, let's put that on hold for now or just make very small progress. I'm going all in on the UX design. Choose one thing I go all in on. You might again, with your hobbies have something similar. You have a background fitness routines you stay in shape for various action sports you're interested in, but you're not doing any training for those sports and all of your hobby time is going into guitar. Like you baseline almost everything and a very small number of things you put time into because again, you put enough time into something that's when you get these discontinuities, these big jumps and the rewards you get. And then once you focus on something for a while and have had a big jump in reward, then you can turn your attention to something else and do something similar for the next six months, next year, the next two years, whatever it takes. So you have to you have to simplify. And then even once you're simplified, only one or two things should be getting any sort of serious attention at a time. But in the end is going to unlock way more reward than trying to keep switching back and forth really quickly. So that's what I recommend. What I'm saying here is pretty similar to my deep life buckets, Keystone habit type advice. We'll get to that in a second. That's sort of more, I want to say more philosophical thinking, which covers not just work, but your whole life. We'll get into that more in a future question, but it is similar and that's on purpose because I think this idea of baselineing what's important, but putting huge energy into a small number of things at a time, that's the right formula. All right. So speaking of which, this next question, we'll let us get into that.


Why am I stuck in my pursuit of depth? (01:01:41)

It comes from beyond hope. Beyond hope says, I'm in a situation right now where I have no responsibility. I'm living alone, not with my family. I have no obligations and a good job. Yet I find in myself no motivation to be productive. I know desperately I want to be productive, but in spite of knowing everything about it, I don't know how to get my life in order, stop procrastinating and begin living a deliberate life. Do you have any advice for a person who seems to be beyond hope? So for longtime listeners, I'm going to be a broken record here. They know what I'm going to say and is the philosophical elaboration of the advice I just gave to that caller. Work the deep life buckets. The reason why you're probably stuck is that you are all over the place with your efforts to quote unquote be more productive. I don't know what that means. You're quote, they're living more deliberate life. I don't really know what that means. So it sounds like you're trying things in the elaboration. You sent me to your question. You're talking about lots of in the weeds type of organizational habits like time blocking and planning and all these type of things, how you keep track of your notes. So the good news is you have this core ambition that you want something more meaningful or deeper out of your life. The bad news is you don't know what to do with that ambition. You try lots of things and they kind of fizzle and you feel like you're getting no traction. The deep life buckets will give you traction. So let's be brief because we talk about this a lot. You first identified the major areas of your life that are important to you. We call these the deep life buckets. This might be craft, your work, community, the people you care about or the people you're trying to lead, constitution, which is your health, contemplation, which can cover both theology, ethics, philosophy, that role in your life, etc. So you have these different areas. Great. So now we have a starting point to work from. Next, and I'm going to add an update here. So for people who know the bucket system, I'm adding a little bit of an update here. So breaking news. Next, have a crystal clear vision for each of these buckets for what you want that part of your life to be like and this should not be entirely high level. Shouldn't it just be, I am a leader in my community. Have some concrete markers of what it would mean to be successful with that vision. Right? So like when I'm thinking about writing, it's really important to me that my writing is high impact and respected and really impacts the world. When I was going through this exercise recently updating my thoughts about my buckets, here's the concrete instantiation of achieving that goal. When I have a new book come out, you will find it on a table in most bookstores in the country. Right? That's a concrete instantiation of this big ambition of like you're known as a writer. You have an impact on the culture. People know you. They know your books. Your books have cultural valence. How do you capture that in something concrete? Well for me, it's, hey, I want to be one of those authors that if they have a new book come out, like bookstores like a course, we're going to put this out. We know Cal Newport, people know that author, his book so well. So that's what I mean by having a crystal clear vision that has a concrete instantiation of, this would be an example of something, if I had done this, I'm living out that vision. All right. Number two, now I get back to familiar territory for longtime listeners. Keystone habit for each bucket. One thing you do on a daily basis, you track it. It's not trivial, but it is tractable. Just to help convince yourself that these buckets are important and you're willing to do work towards those buckets every day to give a rhythm of discipline in your life. That's the foundation. If you try to do everything at once, nothing fits through the door, you're stuck. Let's start with just, we have one habit going for each of the buckets. Then you rotate bucket by bucket, dedicating four to eight weeks to each. And that's where you do the more serious work of how do I overhaul this part of my life, really change my routine and habits, my goals, make big moves and just focus on just that. You have the Keystone habits as the backdrop for all your other buckets, but for the next two months, all I'm thinking about is constitution, my health, my fitness, how I eat. Even with a trainer, I joined the gym. Let me give myself two months to really understand this thing, this part of my life is important. What works, what doesn't, what I really want. Let me get new grooves, new habits, new routines. I don't drink in the week anymore. I give up junk food. It takes time and focus to finally get there. And only after that settles, you say, "Okay, let me take a breather." I'm going to spend two months thinking about overhauling my work life craft. You give things time to give it a lot of focus. You're doing this at least two months per bucket is probably important. Going forward every couple of years, you probably want to go through this exercise again. As you get better at it, three, four weeks, you can probably tune up areas of your life, "Hey, where am I lagging? Where could I improve? What's not working anymore?" It gets a little bit quicker after you get more knowledge, more self-knowledge about these parts of your life. Work the bucket systems. Identify the buckets, crystal clear visions with concrete instantiation, keystone habits, and rotate one by one, giving each bucket sole focus as you upgrade that part of your life. Beyond hope, that is a systematic way of building up to a deeper life. It's better than just throwing a lot of energy at it. You're not beyond hope because you've already done the hardest and most important step, which is knowing you want more. The rest is just details. All right, let's do one more question here.


Promoting Inner Personal Growth

How can we convince the masses to live deeper? (01:07:05)

This one comes from Colin, who says, "As an advocate of the deep life, I live the principles from Deep Work, digital minimalism, and a world without email. To me, this is about living a life focusing deeply on the things that matter and doing so with intention. That said, we live in a world that's not conducive to the deep life. What would you say would have to happen at a systems level that changes the cultural norms of many individuals that steer them towards the deep life and away from the shallow hyperactive hive mind?" All right, well, Karan, I think your summer of the deep life is good, focusing deeply and with intention on things that matter. I would add the corollary and not wasting time or energy on things that don't really matter. It's the avoiding the distraction in addition to really focusing on the things that matter. How do I make culture-wide changes there? I think it's a two-part process, and I see myself as being involved in the first part, but I can't do the second part. I think the first part is just clarity. I'm a big believer in the power of vocabulary, just having a way of actually describing what you don't like, what you do like, what you're going after, what you're trying to avoid. Vocabulary makes a big difference. Just a simple term like deep work versus shallow work. Clarified for a lot of people, these otherwise ambiguous feelings of unease, they had about their frenetic knowledge, work lifestyle, but they couldn't really put their finger on. I just feel like busy, and I'm spending my wheels, and things aren't happening. I don't know, am I just like, am I being exploited? Am I just not like work? Is it my boss bad? Is capitalism bad? They couldn't really put their fingers on what this source of this unease was, but deep work shallower, the idea that the mind focusing on one thing at the time that matters is a very different activity than going back and forth between lots of things. That vocabulary provided a cognitive scaffolding that clarified a lot of what they're feeling. Digital minimalism, same thing, to hyperactive hive mind, trying to capture what's going on with email and slack. We know email is better than a memo, it's convenient, but why do I hate it? Hyperactive hive mind, we're trying to put a label on the issue. That's a lot of what I do, is trying to bring clarity to these issues at the intersection of technology, work, and culture, and how that all surrounds meaning. I like to add clarity. Here's what's going on. Here's the forces at play. Here's a term for what's pure that you might be seeking over here. Here's a term for what's giving us unease. Clarify the issues. It's like, heart attacks go up in the 20th century in the West. We don't know why or what that means or what causes us. We can't really do anything until science comes along and tries to tell us about arterial plaque. Same thing for these other types of issues. Step two, you then need influential people to actually go out there and personify the alternative. Once we understand the issues, what we don't like and what we want, you need people who are using that clear vocabulary or public and people care and respect about demonstrating publicly. All right, I'm living in this different way. You have to actually see the change you want in the world. I'm not influential enough to make a huge difference that way, but if very influential people have these clear stands, here's why I don't use social media in this way. I just use this tool and I don't like TikTok. Here's what I am not on Twitter and I have a wood shop and I focus or whatever. The Nick Offerman, the Bernadie Brown, the Anthony Bourdain, the Elizabeth Gilbert, they're living different, deeper focused lives. You need the people out there showing the alternative. If we really crave it, we can understand what we crave, we can understand what we're getting away from and we see people actually doing what we want, that's how you get wide-scale change. I'm just defining words and hoping that the type of people that can define culture pick up on those words and by doing so, change a lot of minds. That is what we have. We did part one email, part two, the deep life, kept it clean, kept it simple. Remember, we need your feedback. Go to the survey in the description of the show and whatever podcast player you use. Go to that survey, give us your feedback about what you like and what you don't like. We're going to keep improving the show. Make it more useful to you. That's how we're going to do it is by getting your feedback and with that, we'll wrap up. This week's episode will be back next week. I think I'm solo casting next week. This is a way, so be ready for that. If you like what you saw, you will like what you see. Go to youtube.com/countnewportmedia for videos of the full episodes and highlighted questions. I also like what you read. Sign up for my newsletter at countnewport.com to get depth sent to your inbox weekly. Until next week, as always, stay deep.


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