Ep. 211: How To Organize Your Life | Deep Questions With Cal Newport

Transcription for the video titled "Ep. 211: How To Organize Your Life | Deep Questions With Cal Newport".

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Introduction

Cal's intro (00:00)

Some things didn't quite make sense. Some things seemed like it was just too much. I was asking myself, there's too many initiatives I was trying to get going. And it really stressed me out to the point where I had a hard time sleeping. Then yesterday morning, I had an epiphany. And I'm going to put quotation marks around epiphany here because it is the exact same epiphany I have every single fall. Which is that the planning system that I have been perfecting over a decade, I've been using this for a decade, is what works for me. And every time I try to reinvent the wheel or add new components onto this, I get stressed out. And so I say, you know what I need to do? Forget this. Like I do every fall, go back to my standard planning system, get all of the pieces of that standard system up and running, and I feel much better. I'm Cal Newport, and this is Deep Questions, episode 211. Now, if you're new to Deep Questions, this is a show where I offer practical advice about living and working deeply in an increasingly distracted world. If you want to submit questions or case studies for use on the show, go to calnewport.com slash podcast for instructions. If you want to watch past episodes or watch clips of popular segments from past episodes, go to youtube.com slash calnewportmedia. And finally, if you're ready to get serious about the topics you hear today, sign up for my newsletter at calnewport.com where you'll join over 70,000 other subscribers who have an essay written by me about the theory and practice of the deep life delivered to their inbox each week. All right, on to this week's episode. My producer, Jesse, is back from his sojourns in Scotland. Jesse, when you were gone, I told the listeners that Scotland seemed like a place where I would be really happy. I would read books and look at castles and walk to moors and think big thoughts. You were just there. What would you say? Accurate assessment or inaccurate assessment? Very accurate. I took some walks around because you were talking about taking some pictures and stuff. And there was a bookstore that you would love. There's like caves. There's like all these paths along the ocean. I mean, I was playing a lot of golf, but I did see a lot of like and stuff. And there was a bookstore that you would love. There's like caves. There's like all these paths along the ocean. I mean, I was playing a lot of golf, but I did see a lot of like cool stuff. I mean, that'd be the, the one piece that would not work for me would probably be the playing golf. It's hard over there. What's it called? The famous course where- The old course. The old course. Now is that the, you said, you told me earlier, that's the oldest golf course in the world? Yeah, that's basically, I mean, they had golf, but that was where they, you know, That's the oldest golf course in the world. Yeah. Basically, I mean, they had golf, but that was where they first had like a greenskeeper, Tom Morris. That's where the British Open was played this year. Right. I mean, I'm convinced. I think you'd back me up here. If I attempted to play a round of golf on that course, they would probably end up just shutting it down permanently. No, I mean, people play over there, but the cool thing is the ground so hard, you can actually, on some shots, you can putt it from like 95 yards out. Well, that rolls up. Oh, nevermind. I do great. All right. So I can putt from 95 yards away. Oh, then I'd be fine. Depending on the hole. Depending on the hole. First swing, club out of my hands, kills Phil Mickelson, course shut down. There's a lot of bunkers that are very, very steep and hard to get out of. I remember those. You have to go backwards. I used to watch Little Golf. I remember those. So we got a good show. I want to do a quick plug, just a quick plug. Friend of ours, friend of the show, Scott Young. You remember Scott Young. Him and I do these online courses together. The oldest course we've done together is called Top Performer. And we launched this thing in 2014, if you can believe it. It was based off of my book, So Good They Can't Ignore You. It operationalized those ideas about how to systematically engineer a career that's a real source of passion, real source of meaning, as opposed to just simply saying, what's my dream job? Follow my passion. So it was the course that operationalized those ideas. 5,000 people have taken this course since we launched it. And we've updated it. Last year, we did a big revamp. We actually call it Top Performer 2.0. Anyways, the week that this podcast episode is released, the course is open for new signups. So we open it up for signups for one week, usually once, sometimes twice a year. So it's open right now. If you're interested in Top Performer or finding out more, go to top-performer-course.com. Do I have that right, Jesse? You were working on those. Yeah, I think so.


Insights And Reflections On Cal Newport

Deep Dive on How does Cal organizes his life? (04:51)

Top-performer-course.com to find out more about this sort of famous course that Scott and I have created. It's open again this week only. All right, so what type of questions do we have to look forward to this week? We've got a good show today. We've got two sets of questions. The first is some practical questions on working deeply. We've got some questions about task scheduling, open offices, and planning a wedding without going insane. I like that one. And then we have some philosophical deep life questions about comparing yourself to others and regaining ambition after burning out. Sounds good. All right. I'm looking forward to those. Before we get to the questions, though, I want to do a deep dive. The big question I want to address in today's deep dive is the following. How does Cal organize his life? I've talked about this before, but I'm going to get granular today. And let me tell you why. Because of a recent experience I had just a couple days before recording this episode, I got very stressed slash anxious to the point where I actually lost a lot of sleep. So yesterday I was very tired. I was having a hard time sleeping because once my mind got fired up, I had a hard time falling asleep. Here was the thing that was making me stressed and anxious. The fall semester is beginning. I usually go a little bit lax. We'll talk about this. I go a little bit lax on my systems in the summer. I'm a professor slash writer. So in the summer, I have very little to do, but right. I lean into that. I take the foot off the gas pedal a little bit of my organizational systems. And then I have to get things locked back in for the fall because things get more busy. Well, in the summer, I had accreted all of these ancillary new or miscellaneous disciplines and systems and ideas and projects that I wanted to tackle. And I had these notes about all these different things I was working on spread out over many different digital media and many different notebooks. And a couple of days ago, I was like, okay, I have to actually get this stuff all wrangled and get my systems all ready for the fall. And I couldn't make it work. Some of them were redundant with other things. Some things didn't quite make sense. Some things seemed like it was just too much. I was asking myself, there's too many initiatives I was trying to get going. And it really stressed me out to the point where I had a hard time sleeping. Then yesterday morning, I had an epiphany. And I'm going to put quotation marks around epiphany here because it is the exact same epiphany I have every single fall, which is that the planning system that I have been perfecting over a decade, I've been using this for a decade, is what works for me. And every time I try to reinvent the wheel or add new components onto this, I get stressed out. And so I say, you know what I need to do? Forget this. Like I do every fall, go back to my standard planning system, get all of the pieces of that standard system up and running. And I feel much better. I feel much better. This happens to me every summer. I think I'm going to come up with some new exciting thing. That's going to really jumpstart some sort of ambition of mine. And I always go back to my same old tried and true three-part planning system that has performed everything I have done as a professional in the last decade, which is most of my books, most of my academic work happens because of this planning system. So in honor of it and in honor of it being the fall and back to school and work ramping up again for a lot of people, I thought I would go through briefly, but clearly through the planning system I do to organize the stuff in my life and figure out what to do with my time. So I have a document. I call it the root document of the core document where I just described the system. This I think is an important place to start. I call this rooted productivity where you have somewhere a core document from which everything you do actually comes out of it. Because to me, it's important that everything is written down, you know where to find it. So I like to have one core document that just summarizes here's the pieces of your system. So I just have that somewhere. It's not floating in my head. So the start, I actually had Jesse load up here the actual document I use. This is the actual document I use that just summarizes the high level of my planning system, the exact wording I use. You'll notice as we go through this here, it's not perfectly written. It's not perfectly clear. It's for me, but I will go through it. All right, so let's start with this. All right, for those of you who are watching on the YouTube channel, you can see this. For those who are listening, I'll narrate it. At the top of this document is a title, Core Systems. Here's what I say. Below are summaries of the three main categories that contain the elements of my core systems, core documents, productivity, and discipline. So I've broken this document into those three sections. Everything related to my core planning system falls under one of those three categories. All right, so we start with category number one, core documents. There's two. Two types of core documents I maintain for my system. One is values, a document that, I maintain for my system. One is values. A document that, as I say here, describes my roles and values by which I try to live. And you'll see, like, if you're looking this online, it's important. The wording is kind of weird because, again, it's for me. It's not like an essay I'm publishing. It's not polished. It doesn't have to be polished. I know what it means. All right. The other type of documents I keep are my career and personal strategic plans. This is me reading the words here. I have one plan for each of these two parts of my life that lays out my current thoughts, experimental systems, and plans for living true to my values. So what I'm trying to say there, again, because the writing's not perfect here, is just what's my plan for pursuing those parts of my life in a way that is true to my values. I then have a note that says sometimes I'll have extended plans that I'll link to from those documents. So if there's a particular big project or initiative I'm working on, I might describe that in its own document and link to it from, let's say, the professional strategic plan. All right, so those are the three documents at the core of my system. My values, here are my values, the roles in my life, the values by which I live those roles, and then my career and non-career strategic plans. I have this subcategory here called maintenance, and it talks about how I update these documents. And there's three things here, and I'll just summarize this at the high level. Once a week, I look at my values and create what I call a values plan. This is where I emphasize particular values I maybe need to be focusing on or I've fallen off of them. Sometimes I'll have some habits in mind to help emphasize a particular value. Community connection is important. Maybe I need to try for this week calling someone every day, that type of thing. So I put this into a kind of a separate, what I call a value plan. So it's sort of clarifying and calling out what's important to my values for that week. I've noted on here that I also include in my value plan best practices for mental health. So what am I doing to help keep my mind sharp and healthy and away from anxiety? I like to think through my practices, have those written down. So I try to about once a week to update this values plan. All right, for my strategic plans, how do I maintain those? Well, once a week, I review them. We'll get into that more. And then I say here, I can tweak them or change them at any time, but I want to make sure at the very least at the beginning of each new semester, I overhaul it. So they're written for a semester at a time, but I can tweak them at any time I feel like I should. And then finally, I talk about my idea notebook or digital idea storage system. So I use Obsidian as well as Moleskine. And I keep ideas in there. And at the very least, when I do my semester plans or the updates to the strategic plans, I'll go through and check those ideas and see if I need to act on any of them. All right. So that is the core documents and how I maintain them. So quick summary of a document of my values. I have a career and personal strategic plan. I look at the values once a week and pull out this values plan just to help keep that at the center of my life. And I update those strategic plans usually about once a semester. All right, the next category for my core systems is productivity. So how do I actually organize my time in a way where I am happy with what I'm producing? I break this down into weekly and daily planning. So weekly, each week, I build a weekly plan based on a review of my strategic plans my calendar my task list and my value plan so I do a weekly plan you've heard me talk about this I don't get into detail here about what goes into the weekly plan because I play it by ear I'm flexible a very complicated week in the middle of an academic semester might have an intricate Jenga game of how I'm going to make the whole week work a week in July in the middle of the summer might say, write! And that's it. So I don't have a set format for that, but it's how I make sense of what am I working on this week? What do I need to keep in mind? Are there any habits or heuristics I want to have on top of mind? Is there any particular things I need to get done this week I need to remember to get it done. How am I even just attacking this week? All that's in the weekly plan. All right. Then each day I review my weekly plan. I review my value plan. I look at my calendar. And if it's a weekday, I make a time block plan. So my weekly plan, I check it every day. The calendar I check every day. Look at my value plan. I got to remember what am I focusing on? What's important in my values? And then I make my time block plan for the day. If it's not a weekday, then I do something looser. I don't time block plan weekends, but you might sketch a quick plan. What am I working on today? What do I need to remember? That's how my planning works. So you see how these things start to connect together. The strategic plan influences the weekly plan. You look at that weekly plan when you're making your daily plan, your daily plan figures out what you're doing right now. So what you're doing right now in this particular system is influenced by your big picture strategic plans, but you don't have to think about your big picture strategic plans right now. It comes down through these different levels. All right, two other pieces to my productivity system. Clear work shutdowns with a shutdown complete ritual. So you got to have a clear separation between work and non-work. Make a rough but intentional plan for what you want to do with the rest of your day when you shut down. That's my shutdown routine. And then full capture. David Allen right here. Full capture of tasks. Make sure at the very least at the shutdown each day, you process all the tasks that you've captured into the appropriate systems. Again, this is all about, for me, stress management. I don't want open loops. I want to trust if I write something down, it will get seen. It will get processed. It'll get put on the calendar if it's an appointment or reminder. It'll get put on my task list if it's a task. It will update my weekly plan if it's a thought about what I need to change for my plan. And there it will be seen the next day. It'll be seen in when I look at my weekly plan. It'll get reflected in my time block plan. It'll be seen when I look at the calendar to make the plan on the relevant day. The whole game here is trusting. I don't have to keep track of things in my mind. I can have this ambitious schema for how I'm trying to advance these big picture goals that have all these moving parts that are rapidly changing in the moment. I don't want to worry about any of it except for what I'm doing in the moment. And if it's in the evening, then I should just be worried about whatever relaxing thing that I'm trying to do. All right. The third category here is discipline. So I maintained in my strategic plans, an evolving list of core disciplines. This might be things about like exercise. It might be things about the number of deep work hours you're going to do each day. It might be something if you're in sales about the number of calls you make every day, whatever. But the point is, they're disciplines that I try to strictly follow to lay a foundation for a deep life. So I think it's important to have hard disciplines. I do this, I do that, and I do this other thing. And I always do those things, these hard boundaries that you follow to help establish a foundation of a deeper life. And so that's the third part of my system is having this evolving list of disciplines. I talk about here is I often track these with metrics, sometimes I don't. So typically, if it's during an academic semester, I'll have a metric code for each of my disciplines where I can keep track of my time block planner and the metric planning space. Did I do this today? Did I do this today? I like to actually see it. Other times I take a break from it, like in the summer, for example, or over a break, I might, there are periods I'll take a break for it. So that is there, but I'm typically collecting these metrics. That's it. That's the system. That system can support massively complicated ambitions. That system can support an incredibly complicated, fast-moving professional environment where it's very difficult to keep track of all the different things that have to fit together. This system will support that. This system will support a life outside of work that you can be present and intentional and interesting and pursue things that are interesting to you and develop yourself and develop your mind develop your relationships not get lost in work and not get completely overwhelmed with anxiety and stress this system will support your pursuit of living truer to your values living a good life trying to actually practice and implement the things that make a good life good all of these things are important this simple system that I described in these three categories of notes in this one document handles everything. And it has in my life for over a decade. So all this extra type of stuff I was trying to do in the last few weeks, I realized that all fits in here. I know this, I trust this. It's not perfect. Some of this stuff is redundant. Not all of it makes perfect sense. Why is the value plan a separate thing? Shouldn't that be part of the weekly planning? There's all these little legacy incongruities. Did I say that right, Jesse? Incongruities. Yeah, you said it right. Incongruities. Let me write that down in my disciplines. Say words correctly. But it all can be captured here. And it's a system that can flex. When you're doing complicated things, these documents can get big. Your strategic plans get big. Your task lists get really big. Your calendar is full. You have extended plans that you're linking to from your strategic plans. Your weekly plans look like epic essays. And other periods, you're burnt out. You're going through a hard time. The system can contract really just down to the basics. Here's my values. Got to get this core things done in my life. A lot of like trying to get out of the despair, get out of the depths. The system contracts to that as well. So it's really a flexible system. So this is my, my public apology to my system. Sorry for thinking I could do a little better. You've always been what I need in my life. This then is my call to you out there in my audience. If you don't already have a pretty effective system that captures all the parts of your life, the things that matter to you, professional, non-professional, and goes from captures those everything from those big thoughts all the way down to what you're doing today, what you're doing tomorrow. If you don't have a system like that, try this one, try this one for a month. I don't know why it works so well, but it does these parts in the way they mingle and the daily weekly and the flexibility. It's a decade's worth of, of, of experimentation. It does work. Give it a try. At first, it feels like a lot of moving pieces. You get in the rhythm and it actually makes you feel freer and actually makes you feel more relaxed. Hey, trust it. The system's got me. And in the end, it does produce stuff that matters. So that's how I do it. I don't know. You've heard me talk about the system before. Yeah. It's not too complicated, right? I mean, I'm used to it because I've done it for a decade. It's like muscle memory for me, but I don't know when I, when I read it from scratch, I'm like, do these pieces click. I think for people who hear it for the first couple of times, they just got to, you know, watch this video and then hear you say it a couple of times. Cause it does make a lot of sense after, and I've been doing it for like, even a couple of years since you started your podcast. Yeah. It's worked for you, right? Yeah. It's great. And then in terms of the discipline stuff, I was thinking about your buddy, Ryan is writing a new book called discipline. Have you already read it? Not yet. Discipline is something. Yeah. I forgot the word is. Yeah. So because Ryan's doing a book on each of the four cardinal virtues. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. He has a whole book. I'm excited for it. I don't know if he gave you like an advanced copy or something. He will. I mean, we, we share an editor. Yeah. We, we tend to see each other's work. I talk to him quite a bit. That was the last thing, by the way, that was added to my, if you look at a decade, the last thing that was added to my system was being explicit about what are the disciplines? What are the, I do these seven things. And just being clear about that. I was kind of informally doing things like exercise or whatever. But for me, if it's not written down, other people don't have this issue. But for me, if it's not written down, I don't fully trust it. And then I get anxious. So everything, I have to have it written down and it all has to connect back. Uh, it all has to connect back to this root document. So there we go. I was listening to a, um, an interview with Sisson and Rogan and he, um, they were, it was actually from 2021. I listened to that one. Yeah. I just listened to it like yesterday. I just stumbled across it, but he was talking about, they were talking about discipline and then Rogan was talking about his 15, like his 25 minute session in the sauna. And then 15 minutes, like the last 10 minutes, he got this breathing routine. If he thinks about anything else, he adds like an extra breath. But you got, if you ever heard got if you ever heard if you ever heard joe rogan talk to laird hamilton i don't know he was on the show a couple years ago you know laird hamilton yeah laird hamilton fan and rogan i guess was talking about his like i do this like hardcore sauna thing and laird was like hold my beer laird is like insane that guy is so interesting he swims with like dumbbells swims with dumbbells he has a giant sauna in which so rogan's like man i stay in my sauna for like 15 minutes 25 minutes 25 minutes yeah laird hamilton brings an assault bike into the sauna which for people who don't know is like the hardest single piece of right exercise equipment it's like the you you do your arms and your legs and resistance you're like mountain climbing climbing. I don't know. It's impossible, right? It's like one of the hardest, uh, single exercise you can do. He brings one of those into a giant barrel and does, does it. And then, then gets into an ice bath. So, you know, uh, his discipline document is, is more impressive than mine. All right. Well, I want to get to these questions, but first let's quickly mention one of the sponsors that makes the Deep Questions podcast possible.


Cal talks about Grammarly and Wren- (23:51)

And that is our good friends at Grammarly. It's a point I make often. Communicating clearly is like a superpower in the knowledge economy because of all the emails and the text messages and the chats and the proposals and the documents. If you come across really clear and confident in your writing, people will say this person knows what they're doing. They'll get more responsibilities. They'll get more flexibility. You will advance faster. The problem is writing clearly is hard. This is where Grammarly can enter the scene. It is free to download and works where you do. It has multiple features that will impress you. We've come a long way since the old days of simply correcting grammar mistakes. So if you're using the free version of Grammarly, you're going to get comprehensive spelling, grammar, and punctuation suggestions. Okay, that's the foundation you expect for grammar checkers. Grammarly is best in the business for that. If you go to Grammarly Premium, which is what I recommend, you will then get clarity-focused sentence rewrites, where it'll actually say, take this sentence, rewrite it this way. People are going to understand you better. This is like all I do, by the way, when I'm working with my editors at magazines or with my book editors. So much of this work is be clear. How do we fix this? How do we make this more direct? If you don't have a Penguin book editor, New Yorker editor looking over your shoulder, Grammarly can actually help you do this with software. It also has a tone detector. It'll tell you this is the tone that your email has. We're bad. I talk about this in my most recent book. We're bad. I talk about this in my most recent book. We're bad at predicting how people will emotionally receive our written text. Grammarly can help you. So get more time in your day with confidence and more confidence in your work with Grammarly. Go to grammarly.com slash deep to sign up for a free account. And when you're ready to upgrade to Grammarly Premium, you will get 20% off just for being my listener. That's 20% off at g-r-a-m-m-a-r-l-y.com slash deep. All right. I also want to talk briefly about Wren, W-R-E-N, which is a startup that's making it easy for everyone to make a meaningful difference in the climate crisis. So right now, here's what they're offering is monthly subscriptions where you calculate your carbon footprint, then offset it by supporting awesome climate projects that plant trees, protect forests and remove co2 from the sky their goal is to unlock the collective action millions of individuals to drive the systemic change we need to end the climate crisis just so you're not helping i heard and you can correct me if i'm wrong here that for your trip to scotland you took your truck which if I have this right from 1948, one of the most pollution producing trucks in existence, you chartered a private jet to fly your truck to Scotland so that you could drive that truck in Scotland because you felt a little bit more comfortable with it. Do I have, I think that's more or less right. That's right. But it was awkward because everybody else drives on the, you know, the right side. Which you refuse to do. Yeah. Yeah. God bless America. Smoke coming out of it, tarnishing the old course in St. Andrews with soot, Jamie blasting country music out of his pickup truck that he had shipped over there. So he went on RIN. He went on RIN the other day, um, RIN.co and calculate his carbon footprint and, uh, in the site it broke temporarily, but it's up now but anyways we have to compensate for the damage being caused by jesse and this is where rin can help i mean it's a cool idea like how much do i produce let me literally offset exactly that they do the hard work of figuring out how to do those offsets signing up for rin is an easy way to do something meaningful about the climate crisis.


How do I improve my estimates of how long a task will take? (27:47)

So it's going to take all of us to end the climate crisis. Do your part today by signing up for Wren. Go to wren.co slash deep, sign up, and they will plant 10 extra trees in your name. That's w-r-e- C-O slash deep. Start making a difference. All right. Now for that, let us get to some questions. Again, if you're new to the show, this is where I take questions from you, the listeners, about how to put my ideas into action in the specific circumstances of your life. Go to calnewport.com slash podcast to figure out how to submit your own questions for future episodes of the show. All right, Jesse, what do we have for our very first question this week? The first question we have is from Helen, and she has a question on, how do I improve on estimating the time required for a task? It's a good question, especially if you're a time block planner, you have to actually figure out in advance how much time to put aside for a particular task that you're scheduling. The default answer here is most people are very bad at this, and you should take whatever estimate you are sure is right and double it. That's what I recommend, unless you've been doing this for a long time and have been pretty accurate. Most people are off by a factor of two. If we're going to be honest, you should probably also in most days have a open buffer period. So a period of time, that's not assigned to any particular work. It's just there under the assumption that stuff's going to run long and you want a little bit of breathing room. So you should have at least one buffer period. So if you're doubling your time estimates and put a buffer period, you'll be okay. You'll probably still have to drop one thing off your schedule each day. It's just basically impossible. It is so difficult to figure out how long things take, but this is definitely our bias. We, we, we want the, we want our plan to reflect a world in which everything happens in the best possible way because we feel good about it in the moment. It never goes that way. So double your estimate, put in buffers, and psychologically be okay with still having to take things off your plate. I talk about that in the TimeBlock Planner. I sell timeblockplanner.com.


How does Cal feel about open office spaces? (30:01)

There's a whole chapter on productivity in the planner. Just for whatever, there's a long essay on productivity, the planner. I just for whatever. There's a long essay on productivity. I talk, you know, I talk about estimates in that. So there you go. There's a little Easter egg in that planner. And then the thing that I'll finish that is put off to the next day based on the weekly plan, right? Yeah. So then when you do your schedule shutdown routines, if you're using my my core planning system, you're processing your capture as part of processing that capture. You're dealing with the stuff on your plan you didn't get to. Yeah, you figured out. So maybe it goes on your calendar for another day. Maybe it goes into your weekly plan. You update your weekly plan. Maybe you bounce it back to your task list and say, I'll just have to deal with that later. What doesn't happen is it doesn't just go away. It doesn't just disappear. All right, what do we got next? All right, the next question we have from Kimberly. Kimberly's asking, how does Cal feel about open office spaces? And she goes on to elaborate a little bit more. Her office is planning to change to a hybrid and they can either work from home or come to the office. The work environment in the open place is going to have some shared tables and she wants your thoughts on that. Well, I mean, as you can imagine, Kimberly, I'm a big fan of open offices. I think it's great because you know what? How are we going to have serendipity if we don't all sit in the same cacophonous hangar at shared tables to work? And in fact, what I think we should really do is just have giant shared couches we all lounge on, all aimed at a huge flat screen tv in which we're projecting slack channels on which we're all participating and we can just have tubes coming from the ceiling that delivers of soylent so we can just get nutrition as we slack jaw stare at all the rapid communication all next to each other that is a sarcasm, Kimberly. No, I'm not a big fan of open offices. I've written a lot about them. My argument in a nutshell is that open offices hurt 90% of what we think about when we think about knowledge, work, productivity, the actual production of the things that your organization produces to make money or to satisfy its funders. The actual work that your company or organization needs to do to exist, open offices for the most part hurts that actual execution. What they're supposed to be good for is that extra 10% of serendipity, connection, insight. Oh, I run into someone, we have a chat, we figure out something new. That's usually one of the big reasons people use to justify open offices. I think that's a very minor piece of productivity. The big piece is actually doing the work and it actively hurts it. There's data to support this. There's a really good study that was published a few years back in the proceedings of the Royal Society, really good sociometer study where they took an office that was about to switch to an open format, but had not yet. So they could do AB testing. So right before this particular company switched to an open office, they put these meters for people to wear around their necks that could measure face-to-face interaction. Oh, I am talking to Jesse. They could log that. And then they also had logs of what was going on in everyone's computer. Then the exact same team working on the exact same projects, just a few days later, switched to an open office and they gathered data in the open office as well. A-B comparison, good, fair comparison. The only variable that changed was the office. What they found is when they went to the open office, face-to-face interaction, the entire justification of open offices, serendipitous encounters, went down. Email and instant messaging went up. And the metrics they were using as a proxy for production or productivity also went down. So it made people less productive, and it actually had the opposite effect on the practical outcomes that people cared about. The explanation was actually real simple. People talk to each other less because in an open office, it bothers more people. So actually, when they were in the old setup, and I had a quick question for you, I might go to your office and talk to you into that office because we're not bothering other people in the open office. I'm actually going to be more reticent to do that because there's 50 other people at our stupid share table and I don't want to hear anything we're talking about. So people actually had less interaction. So it's really a bad idea. It doesn't make people more productive. It doesn't lead to more face-to-face interaction. It doesn't lead to more serendipity. So why do we have these things? We have them because of Silicon Valley. That is where these ideas were incubated and spread. And I will say this, the Silicon Valley companies that really leaned into open offices were not being stupid, but they also weren't trying to make their employees more productive. My argument has always been that the original innovation of open offices was to signal to potential hires and potential investors that your company was disruptive, that your company was not like normal companies. If you're a Silicon Valley startup, that's critical because getting those hires or getting that investment is what matters. It is one of the most important things. So if signaling, look, we're disruptive. We have an open office and we have ping pong tables and we have these nap pods. You're more likely to get that MIT grad. They're like, yeah, that sounds more interesting than going to work for Procter and Gamble. You're more likely to get that seed investment from Andreessen Horowitz. It's like, yeah, these people are up to something new. We could imagine big innovation coming out of there. So they were invented for a very rational reason, but it was a signaling purpose. Then it spread to other companies where that signaling value goes down. Procter & Gamble can switch to open offices. They're not tricking anybody. They're not tricking anybody. They're not going to see that as an innovative company. So when it spread out of Silicon Valley and the signaling value went away, then it became basically just a net negative. So I think that it's a bit of an accident of management theory that these things actually spread. There is one good reason for them. They're cheaper. That's why I think Kimberly, that was her name. That's why Kimberly might be seeing her company doing it is if you're significantly consolidating space because most employees are remote at most times. And the overhead of keeping an office for every possible employee is too high, then that might make sense. If it's 20% of the time people are here, let's just hot swap some desks. So there is a money saving argument, but for the most part, they don't work. They don't make you more productive. They don't generate more ideas. I don't like them. You know, it's Apple. Jesse is mentioning this. They're having a big fight with their employees. I just saw that. And yeah, I'm doing a thing, writing about it. So I've been kind of going deep on it, but it's one of the things the employees argued about. They want remote work to stay. And Tim Cook is like, we spent $2 billion on this headquarters. Like we want you to come in. Um, one of the big things they argued is you it's, it's too full of open offices. We can't work. I was not annoyed, a little bit annoyed though, that the, the quote was, uh, from the big official letter that the Apple group wrote. That was like, this is why we don't want to go back to remote work. They wrote this in the spring. It's a group called Apple Together. And in their letter, they said, these open offices make it difficult for us to do deep thought. Like, no, deep work. This is what you're thinking about. This could have been free publicity. It's the words you're thinking about. It's not deep thought. Deep thoughts is jack handy. That's not what you're talking about so it's close they were so close i know they're thinking about deep work but they got it's like when people will also say deep focus it's like no it's not deep focus it's not deep focus that's not that's that's not the right way to think about it focus is it's like an it's an adjective something can be focused but work is the actual thing that you're trying to do it's not an, it's an adjective. Something can be focused, but work is the actual thing that you're trying to do. It's not deep focus. It's deep work. So I was close to getting free publicity in that, in that letter. Yeah. One word away. Uh, Cook only wants them to come back like twice a week though, right? It was, I think it's three times. Well, it's shifting so much. The only thing I don't buy. Okay. I don't want to get into too much detail because I'm writing about it, but this is not from that. The one side I noticed is, so they've been doing this since September of 2021. They keep saying, okay, here's when we're doing it. And they postpone. Here's where we're doing it. I think they've done it six times. They postponed it. The big one where he's like, this is it was in April of this year was when Tim Cook was like, no, no, we call it, we're gonna give it a fancy name that no one cared about. We call it the hybrid work pilot. It was just, you come in three days a week. Um, and this is when the letter was written. Also like a key employee quit. It was like, I'm going to go to Google. They'll let me do whatever I want. So then they were like, okay, nevermind. We take it back. Right. Uh, so they took it back in April and now a couple of weeks ago, he was like, forget that we are going to come back. But in back in April, after all that protest, he's like, ah, we take it back. The reason he cited was coronavirus. I don't buy that in April, 2022, that that's why like, oh, it's not at all about this, like pretty worrying labor dispute we're having with our employees. We're worried about coronavirus. I don't see how they make that argument. When every single one of their kids is in school all day long, I looked it up. San Francisco County does not even require masks for their students in schools where the, I looked this up from the labor bureau, their metrics from May. It's been a factor of four drop of knowledge workers reporting that they're working from home. Their company has them working from home due to coronavirus. Basically, no one's doing that anymore. It just seems really hard to make the argument in April of 2022, this somehow is going to be a problem if some Apple employees are in the office. They're the last people not in an office. So anyways, there's just a little aside. like clearly you're delaying it because this is like a major complicated labor dispute and you don't know what to do. Oh, and by the way, the letter from Apple together, no mention of coronavirus. The guy quitting the head of that machine learning head, no mention of coronavirus. Like it was the, the cop out dodge. Yeah. Sure. Tim Cook, not wanting to get address the deeper unrest of his employees like no we just you know uh omicron that's that's why we're uh you would think a lot of the technicians and stuff would have to go on because they have like labs and stuff that they're like testing and prototyping stuff right yeah but i mean a lot of it's digital if you think about apple a lot of that's programming even like the interfaces of like the hardware and stuff they're probably in yeah probably but you know one of those labs not johnny eyes but there's a you know and i i don't know which group this was but there's a group that was run by a super hot shot and i thought it was a design group it might not be but when they were opening that new office uh uh, Cupertino, so if you've seen it like a giant circle, yeah, it's, it's mainly open from what I understand. Uh, he just said, no, he's like, my group's not going there.


Does listening to a podcast count as reading? (40:53)

We're not going to work in that open environment. We don't want to be surrounded by thousands of people. We know how to get work done and we need to, we need to be together and we need to be, um, have offices, be able to work and have a hub and spoke configuration. Like I talk about in my book, deep work. And he just said no. And he was such a big shot. They're like, okay, well he doesn't have to do it. Yeah. So that's interesting. They probably have a pretty sweet gym there. I have a lot of gyms. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I got some rowers there. When you think of like Silicon Valley tech employees, don't you think about, I was about to say, you don't think about people in great shape, but then Bezos, he's a beast. Maybe that's changing. Let's see here. What do we got next, Jesse? Next question we got from Mika. He asked, does listening to a podcast count as reading? No, I don't count it the same. I think these are two different classes to a podcast count as reading? No, I don't count it the same. I think these are two different classes of intellectual substance that you're ingesting. Here's the quick way I discern between the two. So when you're reading the book, you're ingesting a fully formed, carefully thought through thought structure. And we're talking nonfiction here. But you have a writer who has really thought something through. It might be their lifelong expertise or something they researched deeply. They spent a long time trying to organize these thoughts into a structure that is internally coherent and makes sense and has been validated. So when you're reading a good nonfiction book, you can basically take this well-crafted thought structure and just graft it onto your cognitive framework. Oh, now I understand, you know, the influence of cryptocurrency on whatever. Yeah, currency markets. Plug that in. Podcast, it's more conversational. I think of podcast as a source of the type of material with which you could build one of these structured thoughts, right? Or I might learn a bunch of interesting stuff from a podcast, but there's still a lot of work to be done probably to take the various things I heard in this interview or got out of this conversation and mix it with things I've learned elsewhere and build it together into a coherent thought, to build it together into something I could write 10,000 words on or write a book about. So you're getting rarer thought stuff on podcasts than in books. That's why I think about it differently. It's also why it's less cognitively demanding to listen to a podcast. You can zone in and out, be in conversational mode. And when you hear something interesting, then pay attention and sort of collect that for use later. So I see it as being different things. The exception, of course, is this podcast. Nothing about this is raw. This is all finely honed intellectual material. My proposal, and I think this is reasonable, is that listening to this podcast should legally be equivalent to being awarded a doctorate from an accredited university.


How do I plan a wedding without drowning in minutia? (43:37)

And that's just one man's opinion. What's your view on podcasts versus music? Different things. Like music's an aesthetic experience. So, you know, especially if you have music appreciation, I just, either it's like an appreciation experience, like I just really enjoy this musician, or it's kind of like a neurotropic experience. I'm working out and I want to whatever, just get fired up. Or it's just want to get lost or listen to something funny like mood alteration so it's like an aesthetic experience mood alteration um i think it's different than information ingestion yeah so i count them differently all right what we got next all right next question is from nathaniel he asked how do i plan a wedding without drowning in minutiae he goes on to explain that he's getting married in a month partner's amazing but he's getting overloaded with minor details um all right wedding planning i was very young when i got married so i don't remember a lot of this. And our wedding was informal. Based on some of the weddings I've been to recently, I now understand it is a more complicated procedure than it once was. So here's the, I would say the big point I would deliver here, Nathaniel, is that these vendors work for you. You're paying them. So you have a lot of flexibility in setting the standards by which your interactions are going to happen. Most vendors are not productivity gurus, right? So left to their default is going to be like, I don't know, I'm just going to shoot you off a text message or an email. I have a bunch of clients. I'm just like, all day long. And you could get sucked into that. And then you're all day long. It'd be the technical description of what it's like to fall into the hyperactive hive mind. I say, you should figure out, here's how I want to work with you. Here's how I want to communicate, where we want to store information, how we deal with various types of interactions that will happen common in our relationship. Here's how it's going to work. Okay. I'm paying you. So you kind of have to say yes. And you can engineer these interactions to be much less ad hoc, much less haphazard and require much less on-demand attention. So for example, you might use dedicated email addresses, dedicated address for the planning itself, or even multiple dedicated addresses for different aspects of the planning. Wedding planning office hours could be a critical idea. I have 30 minutes put aside every day. Maybe it's during your drive home, right? I don't know when it is. This is the time that you just keep every time one of these vendors is like, okay, we're not sure about like the lilies. We have a different type of purple. We're not sure if like the lilies. We have a different type of purple. We're not sure if it's going to work or we need your, your, your approval and this or that. You always just say until they have it seared into their brain, call me during, you know, four to four to four 30. You can always call me. Don't even bother emailing me about just call me then I'm always here. And you know what? They will love that vendors love just like any type of client. They really do love the clarity. I know exactly how to get an answer. I don't have to send something out there and try to remember it. And is it going to be like all my other jerk clients and forget to respond to this? I can always just call Nathaniel. I always call him at four. He's always there. There's 50 or 60% of your communication. Agree on processes in advance. If like, this is what we're going to do. Okay. We're picking the flowers. Let's talk this through in our initial meeting. Like what's going to happen here? This will happen. We'll have to see these samples. We'll have to give you some approval. You're going to build a sample thing. You'll have these questions. Figure out the whole process in advance and sit there and write it down. Here's how we're going to do it. By this date, you'll put this here. We have a conversation for a half hour here. We'll deal with all of these things. Put the photos up here. You figure out the whole process. It all goes onto your calendar. It's all written down. They see it. You see it. Not a single ounce of planning energy has to be further invested in this particular interaction. You have it all figured out. Again, vendors like clients in general want clarity more than they want like, oh, I can just reach you at any point. Reaching you at any point is not the big deal. The big deal is getting you to actually do stuff and not them have to not worry about it. Clarity trumps accessibility. Finally, wedding planning is actually a good situation in which hiring a part-time assistant is worth it. It's a type of work where a part-time assistant is actually quite useful. It's like very specific. It doesn't require domain knowledge about like what you do for a living you're spending. And this is looking at the, the official estimate of the average wedding budget of 2022. You're spending quote, all of your money anyways. wedding budget of 2022, you're spending, quote, all of your money anyways. So the cost of a few hundred dollars a month for the part-time assistant is nothing. And it could make a really big difference. Pay for a good one. It's worth it. And have them be the point of contact, like three or four of these vendors. You talk to them. So if you can't get your vendors to call you at the same time, you have a half-hour conversation every other day with your assistant. We're like, here's all the things going on. You're like, great. Here's my answer. There's my answer to that. For this one, get me a sample. For this one, get on my calendar, you know, a meeting day. And the very last suggestion I would have, Nathaniel, is have a certain half day where this is when you do the meetings that have to happen. And you just build your work schedule around leaving, whatever, Friday noon to four clear. So it's really easy when people are like, all right, well, we got a call. We got to talk about this. He's like, yeah, just grab a time, use a Calendly, have this time open in the same period. Now, the reason why I'm going into some depth about wedding planning, and I need to qualify this so it doesn't get back to my wife. And she's like, wait a second, what are you up to? Why are you thinking so much about wedding planning? The reason why I'm getting into this is because what I just went through there applies to many different professional relationships you might have in your life. Big conferences you're trying to organize, a new client that you're trying to get on board, a new service you're offering, whatever. There's lots of professional situations in which a lot of haphazard ad hoc interaction is going to have to happen to make it pull off.


I lost my love for work. Should I try to get it back? (50:00)

Do not in those situations just default to, let just rock and roll man here's my text message i have whatsapp going i'll check email all the time and let's just don't do that take the time up front to be like how are we going to structure these interactions and all the different types of things i just talked about in my suggestions for nathaniel for wedding planning can apply to any number of other professional situations in which a complicated thing involving many different vendors or clients and peers, colleagues has to come together. Structure it. Do not just rock and roll. All right, let's do, I think we have time for one more question in this block. What's our final question of the first question block, Jesse? Final question is from Philippe. He lost his love for work and he's trying to get it back. He explains how he's working for a construction company in the railroad, doing railways, and it's been his hobby since he was a child. And he was always fulfilled, but now he's wondering if he should go back to university. So he's trying to get it back. Right. Well, Philip, and I'm thinking about your wording. I'm looking at it here. Clearly, you don't want to go back to your academic job. I mean, look, I'm looking at words you wrote here. I lost my interest. I had no motivation. I felt deprived. It completely sucked motivation and drive out of my brain and soul. You described your new field as your hobby since childhood and a source of fulfillment. So, okay, Philip, clearly you're not trying to set this up. So I say, go back to your PhD program. More importantly, though, you don't need someone to answer that question for you because the stakes here are not that high. And here's what I mean by it. The focus in general of, but is this the right job for me, is premised on the assumption that there is a right job for you. Longtime listeners of the show and readers of my book know I do not subscribe to that notion. I do not believe in that idea that we're each wired with an inborn passion that we were born with. And the key to professional success is to match your job to that passion. That's not the way it works. Passion and meaning and fulfillment are cultivated over time through the very careful crafting of a career in conjunction with a clear vision of your ideal lifestyle. Many different jobs can be deployed like tools in your toolbox to build this life that's deeply meaningful. So, you know, things didn't work out in your academic position. There's a longer elaboration here about what happened there, departmental infighting, et cetera, et cetera. I'm looking at it now. And you found something else that works, has options, matches interests. Great. Good. That step is done. You got the clay. How do we mold this down to something cool? So I don't want you to focus too much. You're in this new job. It's going well. Great. Let's look forward to how you build a life that is deep, a life that is meaningful. Let's stop looking backwards at, should I have done this instead? Is there another job that's going to be better? If you have a job that's working, that's the right job for you. So stay in that job, fine, but put your head forward. Start thinking through what's my ideal lifestyle? How do I shape my career towards it? I will suggest that you go back and listen to, I think it's last week's episode, Jesse, 210. I called it Deep Life something, Deep Life University. Deep Life Academy. Deep Life Academy. I like that. I named the segment Deep Life Academy, but it was basically me going into detail about how to then design ideal lifestyle and come back and let that direct your career. So that's where you are now. And we're going to put that up, or it probably is up as a video clip, or it will be by the time people listen to this, right? Yeah, 100%. YouTube. It came out last Thursday. Oh, it's already out. So youtube.com slash Cal Newport Media. Look for that Deep Life Academy video. But your job's fine. Don't worry too much about the details. All right. So we have a good second block of questions to get to. This was some of the more philosophical questions that Jesse previewed. First one to pay the bills briefly. Talk about another sponsor. That's our friends at 80,000 hours. And when I say friends, I mean that literally I've known the guys working on this since they got started years ago. And that's because of what they focus on. 80,000 hours refers to roughly speaking, the number of hours you have in your career. So 40 hours a week, 50 weeks a year, 40 years, multiply those out, you get the 80,000.


Cal talks about 80,000 hour and Giving what you can (54:37)

So those 80,000 hours are your biggest opportunity to make a positive impact on the world. So it can be pretty hard and stressful to figure out what should I be doing with my working life to build the biggest impact with my 80,000 hours. That's what this nonprofit does. It is dedicated to helping people do that. So they take some of the best strategies, the best research, the best tactical advice out there, and they deliver it to the public for this philanthropic goal of having people be able to make a bigger positive impact with their working life. you might know him because he's been on a lot of podcasts recently. He did Ferris's podcast recently. He did Sam Harris's podcast recently. I think he did maybe Ezra Klein's podcast recently. He has a new book out. He's one of the founders of Effective Altruism, which is all about being quantitative and precise about what altruism is going to have the biggest impacts. You've probably heard of him. He's the founder of 80,000 Hours. So what can you do with them? the founder of 80,000 hours. So what can you do with them? You can join their free newsletter. All right. If you do that, they will send you an in-depth guide to help you do things like figure out problems that are pressing and figuring out how you can personally make the biggest impact. They have a job board with over 800 opportunities to work on important problems and to get one-on-one advice about helping switching career paths, if that's what you end up wanting to do. They have an excellent podcast, the 80,000 Hours podcast that does in-depth conversations with experts about these issues. Check out episode 94 with Ezra Klein. That's a good one. He's always a thoughtful guest. So I love the idea of this nonprofit. To find out more, go to 80,000 hours.org slash deep. That's 8 0 0 0 0 hours. H O U R S.org slash deep. Check it out. I really encourage you to go to that site. Figure out how to make more out of your career. Say it one more time. 80,000hours.org slash deep, 80,000. That's one, two, three, four zeros, 80,000hours.org slash deep. So let me also talk about another sponsor that is in the same vein. I like these sponsors we have before the second block. The second block of questions is more philosophical. These are both philanthropic sponsors. This new sponsor is called Giving What We Can. Most of us want to leave the world a better place. Many of us give the charity to help make that a reality. I, for example, have a charity where what we do is we teach deep work principles to infants so that we can inculcate like the next generation of uh super focused workers so that's my bit that's my charity it's not a non-profit uh 98 of the expenses go to support Jesse and I's lifestyle, mainly shipping his truck to Scotland, but 2% goes to the charity. So have you ever wondered about how much impact your donations are having? So this is why I use my charity as an example. You may have given to that charity and then realized, my God, they are terrible misanthropes. I'm really mad that I gave my money to Cal and Jesse's infant deep work charity. This is why it matters that you have some way of figuring out what will this charity I want to give with actually do with my money? This makes a difference. The best charities out there can have 100 times more impact than an average charity and 100,000 more impacts than Jesse Neist's charity. But what this means is donating $100 to an outstanding charity is as good as giving $10,000 to an average one. So it really helps your money go farther if you actually know who am I giving this money with and how good of stewards will they be? That's where giving what we can enters the picture. It's a community of people dedicated to finding the best donation opportunities, working on some of the world's most important problems, right? So it doesn't matter if we're talking helping people, animals, climate change, pandemic preparedness, giving what we can as recommendations for highly effective charities you can trust. The recommendations are backed by tens of thousands of hours of research from charity evaluators, and over 20,000 donors right now are trusting, giving what We Can to make their decisions. So if you care about using your donation to do as much good as possible, go to givingwhatwecan.org slash deep to start finding charities that can help you maximize your impact.


Does Cal struggle with comparing himself to others? (59:20)

That's givingwhatwecan.org slash deep. Our charity has really taken a hit ever since giving what we can came along. And then people who we're trying to get the work for our charity at lavish salaries, they're not coming anymore because of 80,000 hours. And they're like, Oh, that's not a good job. So we were screwed. Yeah. Because of these altruists of actually doing good in the world. Can't skim off our baby deep work charity. The infants aren't going to be focused. What are we going to do, man? Infants are the future. I think we have time for a couple more questions. What do we have next? All right. Talking about some of these deep life questions. This question is from Joe. It's about, does Cal struggle with comparing himself to others? No, because I'm the best. All right, that's the way I think about it. I did compare myself to others, and I'm better than them. Now, the real answer is yes, and yes. I do compare myself to others, and yes, it can be a problem because think about what I do for a living. Two things. I'm an academic and I'm a writer. Academia, especially in theory, like I'm in, but you can very precisely assess how good you are. I mean, you can tell really fast. Where are you publishing? How much of those results getting cited? How much are you publishing? You can, you can get to that quick. It doesn't take me much time to figure out exactly where you stand in the pecking order of intellectualism. And then if you actually have conversations with people, you can very quickly sort out, Oh, this person is more of a hotshot in this field than I am. I'm more of a hotshot than that person. It's all pecking order. It's like baseball. You just walk around with your OPS. And I got to be careful about that because Jesse, just a quick aside, but you know, we did the survey where we solicited feedback from listeners about what they liked and didn't like about the show. And it was great. And we got 400 responses. I've never seen more unanimity than I saw in people making it clear to us that the thing they most do not want me to talk about on this show is baseball. Get out. They're very clear about that. So I should, I should, but which I will now respond to it and I'm going to come back to the question soon, but let me now respond to with a, with a quick, with a quick sidetrack about baseball. So, you know, uh, I'm a fan of this broadcaster around here in the DC area, Grant Paulson. Yeah. He's an interesting character because he was a sports reporter savant. So as like a kid, he was in the locker room at the Caps. I think he was on, he would go on Letterman because it was like this novelty. It's like 10 year old who was a sports reporter. His whole life has been, has been focused on this. So I mentioned him in an episode, like I got to find an excuse to have on the show so we can talk Nats, right? Get the details. Well, someone sent me an email the other day where I guess someone knows Grant and tweeted at him was like, Hey, the worlds are coming together. Like I always listen to deep questions and, and they're talking about you. And Grant gave it a something, I don't know, a thumbs up emoji. So he's as good as a co-host at this point, which again, according, I can't emphasize this enough, according to our survey of what people like and don't like about our podcast, it would literally be the end of the show. It'd be awesome because we just talked baseball until he realized, wait, what's your audience? Then he just hear footsteps and then his car taken off. All right, anyways, back to your audience? Then he just hear footsteps and then, you know, his car, his car taken off. All right. Anyways, back to the real question for the listeners who remain. Uh, yes. In academia, it's very easy to compare yourself to others. I mean, if anything, I was protected a little bit by the fact that I went to a place where people were so smart. And I'm talking about the theory group at MIT that I didn't even have to see myself as being in the uncanny valley as someone who could compete. I mean, especially the faculty there, they were just so incandescent, smart. I was like, this is just cool. Like, look at that. Look what this guy's doing. So that helped me a little bit, but yes, in academia, it's crystal clear. There's so many milestones you can see. Oh, you got tenure before me. You're at this school is ranked here. And I'm at that school. You published four papers. You only did three. You won the best paper award. You did it crystal clear. So yes, writing is the same thing. Success, number of copies sold. You can't escape the number. It directly influences how much you're paid for your books. It's like, you can't escape it. It's, it's, it's destiny. So I'm in a world, two worlds where I can, I can see exactly where I stand. As my wife will tell me, I tend to look up, not down. So, you know, I mean, I'm happy about where I am, but also I'm always have this like ambitious next level I'm going to. All right. So how do I deal with that? Four pieces of advice that work for me. Number one, be clear about your vision for your life. Get excited about that vision. So know specifically what you are trying to do. What is your vision of a life well lived? We talked about in the last answer that from episode 210, I do a Deep Life Academy segment about lifestyle-centered career planning. That's exactly what I'm talking about here. So know what you have as your definition of success so that you're not going to be pushed around by arbitrary numbers? Is publishing the most papers of anyone in your field your definition? Is that part of your vision? Then you should care about that. But if it's not, then you shouldn't. All right. So that leads us to point number two, which is don't worry about things not related to your vision. And when people do really cool things in your field that aren't directly related to what you are trying to do with your life, be proud of them. Be impressed. Like, that's cool. Look at that, man. Look at this thing this guy wrote. He wrote 10 papers last year. That's awesome. But like, maybe you have a vision for your academic career. I'm just making this up. That involves you also doing a bit of writing and having some breathing room and maybe doing a podcast with Grant Paulson where you talk about baseball for three hours each year. So 10 papers a year was not part of your vision. So you don't have to be upset at yourself for not doing that. That's not part of the plan. All right. Number three, for people who are executing better than you on the things you care about, it's okay to have that light of fire but aim that fire at process not the person no i definitely do this i want to have a fire lit like and this person is they're kind of in the same space as me but selling more books i want i we can do that i want that why am i not there look okay we got to figure this out. Or like, just my academic, I'm not happy where I am. I'm not the respect I'm getting at conference. I'm not where I want to be. It's okay to let that light a fire if it's directly related to your vision of a life well lived, but you aim that fire at your process, not at the person. You don't look at that person and start thinking like, man, what's wrong with them? Or it's not fair. Or I can't, that guy's so awesome. I'm so inferior. You put the fire on your process. You're like, well, I'm on social media a lot. Like I'm messing around with this other junk. Like I got to get my act together. I'm not really reading. I need to simplify my life. I got to refocus on the things that matter. Light the fire, but aim that at what matters. Aim it at process. Number four, never, and just make this a blanket rule never try to take down someone else in the vein of hope it's going to make you feel better about you it is a hundred percent the human instinct especially in conversation with others like this guy's out selling me when i'm talking to Jesse, I'm going to kind of undercut him. Like, yeah, but you know, look, this guy, he's got this weird timing. He really, he's like friends with Joe Rogan and was on the show. Yeah. You sort of tried to like undercut it and your mind's like, this is going to work. They're going to be like, yeah, you're right. I don't, I'm not impressed by him. I'm impressed by you. That's right. He didn't really deserve that. You're awesome. That never, ever works. The other people see it exactly what it is. Man, you are vindictive and jealous. And I now think about you less and you're just, and you're going to realize that and feel worse about yourself. It never works. So instead have the simple rule that whenever you feel the impulse to bring down someone who's doing better at something that you care about, whenever you feel that impulse, that should be a Pavlovian bell that says, okay, it's time for me to say something nice about him. And just force yourself to say something nice about him. That's a cool book. It's impressive what he did with that. Yeah, I wish. I wish. That's great. Oh, here, let me tell you something cool about that guy. This is what I do. This is my rule on podcasts, by the way. Like if someone brings up, I'm the interviewee and someone brings up someone else who I know or is in the field, my rule is almost always find something really, something cool about that person to emphasize, you know? Oh, well, let me tell you, let me, let me tell you something cool about Tim Ferriss that you might not have heard. Like, you know, cool things about him. Here's something you might not have known that I think is also really cool otherwise you just get drowned in pettiness and jealousy and uh you end up I don't know up relate on Twitter and I think that's like most people on Twitter now is people who are just sort of upset at other people for various reasons and uh are in a cave and have the phantom of the opera half mask on.


Ambition Resetting Process

How do I reset my ambitions after buring out? (01:08:10)

And they're deformed because that's what happens. If you use Twitter too much, you get deformed and they're at an organ and then just like tweeting, like you're awful emoji. It's by Twitter simulation. Oh, well, okay. Let's do one more. All right. Final question is from amy she asked how can i reset my ambitions after burning out she's talking about how she's overwhelmed with her career and she's trying to improve at that and she's fresh off a burnout and is lost on where to start it's a good question because i don't think we, we don't get into this enough. Burnout and the sources of burnout. We don't get into that enough when we talk about optimistic forward-looking discussions of productivity and planning, organization, et cetera. So let's be clear here. You need to do, you know, your lifestyle-centric career planning. That's the theme of this episode. Lifestyle-centric career planning is a great way. It's the theme of block two, at least. Know your vision. Work backwards to figure out what to do with your career. Here's the key. Keep the sources of your burnout in mind when you construct that vision. It should be your vision of an ideal life should keep in mind the things that really tax you, the things that tend to accumulate and lead to burnout. Your ideal life should be a life in which you're free from burnout. That has to be part of the vision. I think too often what people do is they invalidate the burnout and the things that lead to burnout. That's malformed and successful people don't have that. And so my vision of what I'm trying to do with my life has to be one that ignores that. And it might be a vision that has all of the stressors, all of the anxiety triggers, all of the things that really don't match well with you and lead to burnout in it. And that's not going to work. So build an ideal vision of a life should be a life without burnout, which means the things that caused a burnout should be largely absent from it. I do this. I do this with my own planning, my vision with which I think about my life because my body has this really clear, and I talk about this a bunch on the show, it has this really clear feedback mechanism on we don't like where you're going, the workload, the type of work, and it's insomnia. I have trouble sleeping when things get out of whack. That feedback mechanism, and that's my burnout. on the vision of my life that I build. I steer away from visions, especially the professional part of my life that are getting after it busy, where it's a startup and it's like, let's go. And we're going to just get after it and have all these different things going on and calls and meetings. And we're going to move and we're going to build this thing big and make $20 million off of it. I have to steer away from that because if I have too much going on and then I might start getting insomnia, it'd be very hard to keep up those hard schedules. It's a governor. So my vision doesn't involve that. Think about the visions that you see playing out in my own life. They're all slow productivity related. It's all based on things that no particular single day matters. What matters is that over time, you're coming back again and again to work on this book. Over time, you're thinking deep thoughts. Hey, tomorrow if you're tired, who cares? But this month, you spent a lot of days thinking about this paper. You spent a lot of days working on this book. So I have constructed an ideal vision that keeps explicitly in mind the specific things that lead to my sources of burnout, my particular definition of burnout. I think that's really important. I mean, if you get drained when you're not feeding off other people, you're very social, your family and friends are important, you better have a vision of your life in which you're not working 80 hours a week. It's got to be a vision of your life where you live near family, where you spend a lot of time with community and friends. I'm going to give a specific example here. There's a writer whose book I read, and I feel bad because I forgot the name of it. I think it's Donald Miller is his name. He had a self-help advice book out. But anyways, the thing that I remember from that book is they bought a bunch of land outside of Nashville and built it. They wanted it to be like a retreat center and a place where writers and musicians and artists they know could always be coming through and having retreats and working. And so they could be outside a lot, work on the land a lot, have a lot of people they found really interesting there. It was a vision of success for this person in the world of business that really focused on what he needed. And probably this would be someone where 90 hours in their office at McKinsey, where you're not seeing anybody and you're just cut off and you and your spreadsheet would be immiserating. So your vision is what I'm trying to say here, has to keep your sources of burnout in mind because your vision needs to be one in which burnout is infrequent and unexpected when it does happen. That's what I'm saying. It means to update your vision and it might require radical change. If the source of your burnout is going to be unavoidable, you're in an academic department where there's acrimony through the roof and it just stresses you out and you can't get more than a semester or two without just it wearing you down you might have to do something radically different you need a vision of your life in which that doesn't happen so i want to validate your burnout and say use that in your planning all right um speaking of burnout we've been at it a lot uh we're recording late today actually right jesse i mean we usually record earlier in the day but i i gave a talk i did a meeting i was closing out a new yorker article then we did this recording so you know i declare myself burnt out the episode really tied itself together know, from the first question to the last question. And even last week with like lifestyle-centric planning. Yeah, I know. The questions seem to be clustered now. Well, and I'm optimistic going forward because we're switching starting with this episode to a brand new question survey. This is Insider Baseball. Up until this point, we would send out periodic surveys to solicit questions to my email list. And then we would use those questions until they were done. And then we would send out a new survey, which meant we're working now on a survey from December, I think, that only went to my email list. So we've switched, started with this episode, that anyone can submit questions at any time at a persistent open collection survey, calnewport.com slash podcast. But I think because we're starting for right now, everyone asking questions are going to be completely up to date with what we talk about the rhythm of the show. And so I think the questions we're going to get going forward are going to be more on point. Also, we're asking for case studies. Now I want to, I want to spend more on point. Also, we're asking for case studies now. I want to, I want to spend more time talking about the details of people's lives, what they've done right ways. They have found depth in their work or life is impressive. So we're going to, we're going to have some more case studies as well. So I'm excited about what we're going to have going forward. So the new format is going to be, we're going to get a quick question out of the way, three hours with grant. So we're going to, because we have to have an hour on like the minor league system update. We got to have an hour on, you know, what's happening with like the vet players and the free agent season. And then just like an hour on, I think, uh, the Watson and the, the development staff. So three hours on that. Um, then we'll do another question and that'll be the show. So I think we got a pretty good, a pretty good show. A pretty, pretty good format. Yeah. I, again, I cannot be more clear about how much people do not want us talking about baseball by far the most common thing cited in don't talk. So I am great. I haven't mentioned the word. I am great at listening to stories. All right. That's enough, enough nonsense. Thank you everyone for listening. Go to cal newport.com slash podcast to submit your own questions. Go to youtube.com slash Cal Newport media to watch this episode or clips. We'll be back next week with a full, I promise baseball free episode. And until then, as always stay deep.


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