Ep. 219: The Deep Reset And Intentionally Reconfiguring Your Life
Transcription for the video titled "Ep. 219: The Deep Reset And Intentionally Reconfiguring Your Life".
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Cal's intro (00:00)
So to understand the Deep Reset, I want to talk about three different forces that exist in the world today that I think are going to converge together to create this new phenomenon. I'm Cal Newport and this is Deep Questions, episode 219. If you're new to this program is to show where I answer questions from my audience about the theory and practice of living and working deeply in a increasingly distracted world, I'm here in my Deep Work HQ joined by my producer Jesse. Jesse, I have a long list of news items relevant to the show that I want to share, which makes me excited because this tells me we're actually doing things. The change is afoot. It's nice to have several different things to share with our audience here that they can be excited about. Yeah, for sure. Number one, we've long talked about doing a live event, some sort of live recording of the Deep Questions podcast and now we actually have an opportunity to do more or less that. On Monday, November 14th at 7 p.m. at the East City Bookshop down by capital here in Washington, D.C. I will be doing an event with my friend, the author David Sacks. You might know David because of his book, The Revenge of Analog. That's something I talked about in depth in my book, Digital Minimalism. David has a new book out called The Future is Analog. He's doing a book event at East City Bookshop. He asked if I would moderate the event. So if I would interview him essentially at the bookshop and I said yes, so this will be essentially a live episode of the Deep Questions podcast. It will be me, Jesse, you'll be there. I'll be interviewing David Sacks on stage. So it'd be great to see people who are in the D.C. area who only know our voice or have only seen our videos come to the East City Bookshop Monday, November 14th at 7 p.m. That should be fun. I also want to talk about our new weekly update videos. So as we mentioned last week, we're trying an experiment with recording each week, and episode that looks a little bit closer inside my life as a writer, professor, and podcaster talks about what I'm up to, my struggles, have a few sort of show-and-tells and they're a long way. So last week, we posted the first weekly update video where I gave a tour of the Deep Work HQ. So if you've been wondering what the HQ looks like, that long-promised tour is now available, youtube.com/cal Newport Media, you'll find that weekly update number one. By the time this episode airs, our second weekly update video will be available on our YouTube page. I'm going to get into some more details about my writing schedule, some of the struggles I'm having to keep that writing schedule, and there's also a special surprise I have in store that I think deep questions listeners will appreciate. So go check out those videos. Finally, live calls, these are continuing to progress on track. Last week, Jesse predicted that by the end of October, we would have at least one live caller in these episodes where a listener actually calls and I can talk to them back and forth, and we can get into it with their issue or hear their case study. We're still on track, I think, right, Jesse? Would you say? Yeah, we're good. By the end of October, we should start hearing live calls. I'm excited about that. We also have some interviews lined up. I'm still trying to figure out exactly how I want to integrate interviews into the show. I don't know if I want full episodes dedicated to long interviews. I don't know if I want guests to essentially call in and just talk about one topic for a little bit of time. I don't know if I want interview episodes to replace the normal Q&A episodes or be separate episodes released each week. All this is up in the air. So for now, I'm just lining up a bunch of stuff, talking to a bunch of people, we'll see what works and what doesn't. A couple of expert interviews on the books I'm pretty excited about. So just to give you a preview, a friend of mine who is a New York Times bestselling thriller writer, she's going to come on the show and talk to us about the reality of being a professional genre writer, how you do that, what's it like, how she got there. I think that should be fun. I also have a psychologist from Brown University lined up who is an expert on work with family, the impact of having a family being a parent on your ability to do work and how to balance out that issue. The fact that having a family reduces notably the time available to actually work on things is something that not only do I struggle a lot with this actually one of the key motivators for my book, slow productivity, slow productivity. In part is a philosophy that will be very applicable for parents to help us sort of make sense of this reality that we don't have as much time as we used to and not feel bad about it. It's something I hear about a lot from listeners. I get a lot of notes from this, people who are also struggling with parenting, how that drags on their time. Women talk about how they have this much worse than the men, how that drags on their psyche. So we have this Brown psychologist going to come on in a few weeks and she's going to help straighten us all out. I also have Ginny Blake, friend of the show. She sent me a note a little while ago about her Zettl Castin set up for capturing notes. She heard me talk about me needing a better note capturing system. She's going to call in an upcoming episode and walk me through setting up a more sophisticated setup. So a lot's coming up. A lot of this is fun. And to me, this is all good news. You know, I mean, Jesse, I liked that we're experimenting. The way I see it is we have breathing room this fall because I'm not teaching. I'm on teaching leave. When we get to the winter and spring, my schedule's locking in. Yeah. The podcast has got to be we do it when we do it. It's going to be very locked in kind of getting out of the way of Georgetown. So I want to be at a new steady state by the winter where we have the new segments really rocking rolling or structure really rocking rolling. I think things are only going to get better from here. Yeah. You know, one other quick thing, you sent out the Dracula article to your newsletter about Aberdeen. Oh, I did. Yes. Yeah. I golf there over the summer in Aberdeen. Oh, interesting. So I sent it to my golfing buddies and they thought it was really cool because it's right on the front on the water. So I knew exactly like the walk that he was doing. So did it feel Transylvania Gothic sort of spooky kind of did because I was playing from the backtees and I was getting beat up that day. So you felt as if your golf play and ability was getting sucked out like a vampire suck. Yeah. I love that. I think this gives me a new goal. I want to be perched on a rock like a bat near the golf course in Aberdeen. Oh, there are so many cool places over there. You could like think and get inspiration. Yeah. All the courses are pretty much on the, they're all like Pebble Beach. This is great. So if you didn't, did I talk about that on the show? Yeah. I did, right? Yeah. Okay. So if you don't know what we're talking about, go back to the mailbag segment of episode 218 where I talked about an article from The Guardian about how Bram Stoker retreated with his family up to the remote coast of Scotland and Aberdeen to be motivated or inspired to write Dracula. I also wrote in more detail about this in my newsletter. Hey, that's another plug. If you don't subscribe to my newsletter, you should just do so at Cal Newport dot com and roughly once a week, I send out essays on these type of topics. So I went deep on the Stoker story recently in my newsletter. All right. I think we're out of things to update or promote at this point, Jesse. So let's look ahead at the show that we have today. It's a good one. Here's the plan. Three segments segment number one, a deep dive. I'm going to revisit a topic that is from the very early days of this show. And I have a more pragmatic thought through take on it. Segment number two questions. We have a good collection of questions and including at least one voicemail call from listeners, some nuts and bolts topics, some deep life topics, at least one technology topic segment number three. The mailbag returns. I open up my interesting at Cal Newport dot com inbox and go through a selection of some of the more interesting things people have sent me articles, videos, thoughts, pointers, etc.
Detailed Discussions And Personal Perspectives
Deep Dive - The Deep Reset (08:58)
over the past week. So that's our plan. So let's get started with the deep dive. So the topic of the deep dive today is the deep reset. Now the deep reset is a term I introduced in my email newsletter and talked about briefly on this podcast back in the early months of the coronavirus pandemic. I want to revisit it today and make it more structured, make it more pragmatic. So to understand the deep reset, I want to talk about three different forces that exist in the world today that I think are going to converge together to create this new phenomenon. So if you're watching instead of listening, so if you're watching the video of this segment at youtube.com/calnewportmedia, you'll see I have the tablet up here where I've listed three different forces and I'm going to write right in the middle here, deep reset, because these all hand blades, beautiful, these all are feeding into the deep reset. All right, so what are the forces that I think are going to feed into this thing I'm going to call the deep reset. First, the fact that millennials are approaching middle age, so let's be precise about demographics here. People use these generation descriptions, I believe, to vaguely, like we're in the bad habit, for example, of using the word millennial to mean young person, but let's be very demographically specific here. The millennials by most accounts are more or less people born between 1981 and 1996. So that puts Jesse and I at the older end of the millennials, you know, so we're 40, the youngest millennials are in the late 20s, the bulk of this generation is in their 30s right now. So these are more or less the children of the baby boomers. All right, so the millennials are approaching middle age, Jesse and I are older, but the rest of them are going through their 30s. This is a very important cultural shift because the millennials is a very large population boom. The baby boomers was a very large population boom, so their children is itself going to be a very large boom. That's why our demographic was originally called the echo boom because it was an echo of the baby boom. So we have this very large group population demographic that are now approaching middle age, which means those that are going to end up, let's say getting married or starting a family, they're doing that right now. All right, number two, second of three forces relevant in the world right now is the philosophy of work as a means to an end that the millennials have developed over the past, let's say 20 years. So we got into this briefly in my deep dive from episode two 18. So just to give you the short summary here, when the millennials were growing up, so this was the 1990s into the early 2000s, when the first millennials were growing up, their parents, the baby boomers, wanted to offer them advice about what to do with their career. Now, the baby boomers had these two extreme experiences. When they were little, they had seen their parents had had this sort of corporate conformist experience. This was the era of the organization man. This was the 1950s in which you've moved to the suburbs and you dedicated your life to IBM and they would give you lifetime employment in return as people left this urban cores of cities and small villages. These corporate loyalties became a substitute for civic engagement. So it was a time of conformity, but it also sort of made sense. These are the same people who had subordinated themselves to the larger cause of fighting fascism during World War II. So they were used to this idea, subordinate yourself to the larger cause as a source of meaning. The baby boomers didn't buy that because by the time you get to the 60s, you have all these social disruptions happening. You have the civil rights movement, you have Vietnam, you have the women's liberation movement, all of these social forces, these social disruptions are happening. And suddenly, their parents ethos seemed stifling conformist. And so the baby boomers created the counter cultural movement, which went hard the other way. So now we had, let's get rid of work altogether. It's an obstacle to self-actualization. Let's go back to land, let's move the communes. You're going to find yourself outside of work. That fell apart too. So by the time the baby boomers were having kids, like how do we balance these two forces? And they came up with, I think, at the time, a clever innovation. We'll tell our kids to follow their passion. See, this is a tightrope act right here. The idea, the counterculture idea of forget work, just go move to a commune and self-actualize. That didn't work, but they also still distrusted pure corporate conformity so that they had this compromise. All right, you still need to get a job and pay your mortgage payments and make a living, but make it a job you love. So now the job itself can be a source of meaning and fulfillment. So this is what we saw as millennials. We were taught this idea, follow your passion. That then fell apart. And again, I talked about this last week, but that then fell apart in the early 2000s. We had 9/11, the financial crash after 9/11. We barely got back on our feet before the 2008 financial crash happened. This was the period when the bulk of the millennial generation was leaving college and entering the workforce. This idea that you should just follow your passion. That idea began to lose steam. Employment seemed much more precarious. The instrumental value of money to stave off hardship and support things that are meaningful became much more clear when people were going through hard times. And so the millennials in general moved past to follow your passion notion and began to work on an alternative philosophy of work as a means to an end. This is the hack work culture. This is what's captured in the minimalism movement. This is what's captured in Tim Ferriss' lifestyle design. This is what's captured in the fire movement. This is what's captured in early influencer videos on Instagram and YouTube where you see millennials focusing on lifestyle. It's the moms and the white linen dresses walking through the fields with their kids. It's the sort of impossibly ripped dads doing feats of endurance and YouTube videos. The lifestyles being pushed to the millennials by millennials, it was not about work. It was meaning in life. Work was a funding source for running endurance races and having only white dishes on white shelves in your walls at your house. So that's this big shift. The millennials are very attuned to this idea that follow your passion. Forget that. Work supports other things that are important. It's a source of money. We can take it. Maybe you'll get some mean out of it. Maybe you don't like your job, but it's a financial backing for the systematic construction of a life that's meaningful. So we've adopted that. And this is very generational. Gen Z, for example, the generation born after 1996, who was just now entering the workforce. As we talked about last week, they have their own ideas. They're right now, they're stuck on this notion of quiet quitting. They're just taking the first basic steps of saying what is work going to mean to us. But for the millennials, we've been through this work as a means to an end. All right, so millennials approaching middle age, millennials adopting a work as a means to the end philosophy. And then we add the third element, the catalyst to this particular metaphorical biochemical mixture. And that is pandemic disruptions. So the pandemic comes along. Disrupts work. Everything goes remote. Depain points that people feel with their jobs are amplified. At the same time, the idea that you have more freedom and flexibility in configuring your work and your life was also amplified. People were moving. They were doing different schooling configurations with their kids. They were pushing back on things. People were leaving jobs. There's this spirit of, hey, anything can go. Things are so bad that there's really nothing off the table now and it inculcated this idea of change as possible. So I think those three things are going to come together for this particular generation to lead to a lot of people to engage in what I call a deep reset. So I have a definition for this. I'm scrolling up if you're watching this online. Here's the definition of a deep reset. It's an intentional reconfiguration of your life to amplify the small number of things you've learned through experience that you value and minimize those things that get in their way. So a deep reset is saying, wait a second, let's step back and reconfigure our whole life. And I think at this moment, the millennials in particular, because of those three forces coming together, have begun doing these deep resets. And this is going to be a very important work trend in the next handful of years that are coming up ahead. Now, I want to point out, this is different than a midlife crisis, which is a phenomenon that afflicted our parents. The midlife crisis came at a similar point in people's lives. So as their thirties went into their forties, but it was much more haphazard, self-focused, and less intentional. The midlife crisis was famously characterized by people realizing, oh my God, my life is halfway done. What am I doing? Let me respond haphazardly. I'll buy a sports car. I'll get the varsity and married a 25 year old. I'll do a dramatic sort of visible, narcissistic lifestyle changes to try to distract or stave off or avoid the inevitable conclusion that I'm getting older. That's very different than a deep reset, which is much more intentional, much more focused on your whole life, your whole family, much more focused on amplifying meaning, not avoiding things that are distressing. So what might go into a deep reset? Well, here are some things I've seen. Work simplification is a big part of that. So people really rethinking the role of work. So we get a lot of, for example, ledge stepping. That's a term for where you've been going up the ladder at your organization. And you say, you know what, I'm fine where I am right now for a while. Let me step off the ladder onto a ledge where I can just hang out. So without the need to strive to get to the next level, it reduces the pressure and the amount of work on your plate. So as you approach middle age as a millennial, you may already have a lot of career capital, have a really a job that's at that right balance. You have a lot of leverage, a lot of autonomy. It's probably a reasonable place where you could ledge step for a while, without it being boring or as it would be if you tried when you're 22 and you're still in an entry level position. So we definitely see work simplification. People also going all remote could be a work simplification move reduced hours as a work simplification move. Freelancers are people running small businesses eliminating streams of income. The focus on just a smaller number of things is work simplification. So it's all about reducing that work volume that's coming at you from your job. That's common in deep resets. A term that I just made up, but I'm trying to popularize candle fire capital F.I.R.E. goes along with this. So so fire is this millennial movement financial independence retire early that we've talked about on the show before and it was a movement that came out of the tech world about super aggressively saving while living aggressively cheaply so that you could achieve financial independence at a relatively young age. What I think we're seeing a lot more of now is what I call candle fire, the candle being referenced to a small flame in which the idea is not oh I need to be financially independent. That is I can live entirely off of my saved assets, but instead let's bring down our cost of living substantially so that with a simplified work portfolio we can still support ourselves. So it's not leaving work and living entirely off your investments. It's moving to the cheaper location. Getting rid of one of the cars, moving to the cheaper location. We're homeschooling instead of private school. Our expenses are lower so now I don't have to work as much, but I'm going to leverage the fact that I have a lot of career capital. I'm 35. I know what I'm doing. I'm in demand. It's not that hard for me to negotiate a part-time contractor position. It's half the money. We live on half the expenses and there we go. We have a nice life with a lot less work. So candle fire, we're going to see a lot of that that's going to go alongside work simplification. Relocation is big. We saw a lot of this during the pandemic. I call it intentional relocation because it's moving for intentional value-based reasons. Two examples for my own life. We have friends who were kind of overwhelmed by the crowdedness and the stress of the Washington DC suburbs. Both their jobs were remote for the most part. They really like outdoor activities. They really like skiing. You know, God help them. They were trying to get their skiing in each year in West Virginia. There's only so many mountains around here. They're not that great. And so they moved to Colorado right outside Boulder, half hour from a great ski slope, mount the bike all the time, intentional relocation. Another friend of mine worked for the government, was a lawyer for the government. They're enjoying life here, but his family was from Santa Fe. And they're like a long running Santa Fe family. Sort of like his family runs the town. They've been there since you were fighting off Indian raid type things. And they were all there. So he negotiated like, hey, in the height of the pandemic when anything went, he negotiated a permanent remote work and they moved to Santa Fe. He sends me photos. He has a cool adobe style house with a hill in the backyard. There's a gazebo at the top of it. He goes up there to watch the sunset. All of his families there, it's all thickly connected connections, intentional relocation. You're going to see a lot more of that. We will also see deep community involvement. This is something else that happens in deep resets, where people get deeply involved in communities that are meaningful for them. This could be family communities. Like my friend who moved back to Santa Fe is now deeply connected to all sorts of different relatives. They're in each other's lives. There's pluses and minuses. But generally we're a familial tribal species. So that's usually positive. Sometimes it'll be, let's say, like a faith-based community. I'm going to get really seriously involved in my temple, right? In my whatever, my mosque. Maybe it's a more like an activist community. This is a cause that's important to me and I'm going to get deeply involved in it. So we'll see more of investment of amplifying time spent and things like that. They're useful. And then finally, deep play and self-development. People dedicating serious time to it might be leisure activities. I mean, I think my brother is an example of this. Outdoor activities in particular mountain-based activities are really important to them. And they've really built a lifestyle that involves lots of trips to the mountains. Hiking, Alpine Mike, skiing, mountain biking, trail running. And he's built the way his life works, his schedule to do a lot of that. But you might see this with other types of self-development as well. Someone, you know, I'm really going to invest in philosophy. I want to become an expert on this type of philosophy, health and fitness. I'm going to spend a lot of time outside. I'll give you one more example. There's a writer who wrote the book. His name's Christopher McDougall. He wrote the book Born to Run, which was a surprise bestseller that started the barefoot or vibram shoe running craze. And it's a cool book about a New York-based reporter who runs a lot and just was trashing his knees. And he goes and spends time with this native tribe in Mexico that do these long endurance runs. It's a tradition. And they do it barefoot. And he goes down this rabbit hole and finds out that, okay, actually barefoot movements, what we're meant to do. And you put in these big cushioned shoes, you get hurt, et cetera. Anyways, he writes this book, New York-based reporter, ends up really getting into this type of stuff, relocates to a farm. I believe he's in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. So an Amish country has this farm with his barn. And there's these videos of him that outside magazine did you can find where he's out there now barefoot doing these rocky four style physical training activities, climbing ropes in his barn and throwing hay bales around. And he built this life that has a huge amount of physical activity in it outside interesting physical activity. All these are examples of the same point. Investment, almost a radical investment in this case in deep play or self development. These are the type of things that you're going to see when people conduct a deep reset. Simplification, amplification, usually with a couple of these changes made more radical. You can have some radical moves in here, typically as part of a deep reset. Now, how does this connect to our discussion of the deep life and the systematic pursuit of the deep life? The pursuit of a deep life will probably lead you to something like a deep reset. A lot of people are coming to this more haphazardly. It's Christopher McDougall moving to that bar and my friends moving to the Colorado. People are coming at this a little bit more haphazardly. We try to be more systematic about it here on the show. But my point is regardless of what we talk about here, I think deep resets or something we're going to see as a defining characteristic of the millennials in their 30s and early 40s. And I for one think it's a positive trend. I think it's a nuanced and sophisticated approach to thinking about life, the relationship between work and other elements of life. I think our parents generation struggled more with this. We got more of this. Oh my God, what happened to the first half of my life? Let's buy a Corvette type reaction. Because this new generation had this long period of developing a work as a means to an end ethic, they were ready for the disruptions of the pandemic. They were ready for the distress and wake up call of middle age. So we have a bit of perfect storm of forces coming together to create a phenomenon that I think is going to be quite positive actually when we look back at it for my particular cohort. There you go, Jesse. I wrote an essay on the deep reset in my newsletter. It's also you can find it at cal Newport calm real early on in the pandemic, but it was way more sort of poetic and emotional. So it was just feeling it's an interesting document to go back and read because it was projecting this feeling that was in the era of I think changes are coming. People are going to make big changes, but it was clearly not really worked out yet. And I think two years or whatever has been now since then two and a half years starting to see this shake out and there's something that's a little bit more clear, a little bit more systematic. So yeah, I'm a big fan of the deep reset. I think a lot of people want to do this. So hopefully having some terminology helps this will probably be a chapter in the next book, right? Yeah, I mean, the deep life book is all kind of about this. Yeah, in fact, the deep reset was one of the early titles for the book. So it was going to be more prescriptive. Like here's how to do a deep reset. And then we change the deep life. I'm not quite sure exactly how I'm going to tackle that book and I like that. Like I'm not I'm just letting ideas flow as I work on slow productivity and then a slow productivity finishes, I'm going to laser lock and say like, what do I really want to do here? So with the definition, an intentional recon reconfiguration of one's life to amplify the small number of things that you've learned. Is that to benefit your work? So when I say, okay, I have it up here, amplify the small number of things you've learned through experience that you value. So, what I'm trying to emphasize there is that the millennials are old enough now to have a experience based answer to the question of what's important to me outside of work, outside of work, in work, in life in general, whereas I think if you're 23, and you're trying to say, what's important to me, you're basically making some guesses. You don't really know. You haven't gone through the ups and downs. You haven't gone through the various challenges. So really, by the time you get to, let's say 35, you're you're probably pretty well equipped to make a good deep reset because you have a pretty stable understanding at this point. You're far enough along in your career that you know what works with you, what doesn't, what you like about work, what you don't, you have leverage, you have career capital. So it's a it is kind of a critical age. You'll have to get your friend Mr. Money Moustache and tell him about your new term candle fire. Yes, we should have Pete on. I like him. Yeah. Let's do that. I'll talk to him. Yeah. Yeah, be cool to see what he's. So from what I understand, I was just talking to someone yesterday whose friends with him and some of the other fire characters, a lot of them live in Longmont, Colorado. It's probably building. They're building. Yeah. They have that co-working space there. We should, yeah, we should get an update on what's going on. And then tell him about your new term candle fire. Yep. I don't know if that's going to stick. There's a lot of fire terms, by the way, fat fire, light fire, thin fire. Oh man. Okay. Anyways, moving on. We've got a great block of questions coming up. I'm looking at them now. We've got some nuts and bolts about tasks. We've got some stuff about metrics. We've got something about Facebook, kids and video games. We got something about, ooh, a case study I'm particularly exciting about because it involves the melding of knitting and time blocking. You thought there was no connection? There is. Before we get to all that, I want to talk briefly about one of the sponsors that makes this show possible. And that is eight sleep. Now, the eight sleep pod is a cover. It's like a mattress pad cover. You put it under your sheets and it hooks up to the eight sleep machine. And it allows you to control the temperature of your mattress. I am a big believer of eight sleep. I use eight sleep. I want to give you an endorsement now that comes from my actual use of this product. I am a big believer now. And here's how I know I'm a big believer and not just a user. It's a true story. This was probably two weeks ago now. I'm in bed, you know, I'm trying to sleep and it doesn't feel right. Like, man, I'm kind of uncomfortable. I don't know about this. And so I asked my wife, I was like, what's going on with my eight sleep setup? Because you can set each side differently. So she gets the app out. It's on the phone. You can control it. I had accidentally had my side turned off. And I know I'm an eight sleep zealot now because when that side of my mattress is actually turned off, I was unhappy. I immediately noticed it. I was immediately uncomfortable. So I'm a big believer that this really is helping me sleep. And so what is it like? Well, I'm a minus one or if you're an eight sleeper, you'll know there's a minus five, the plus five scale. I'm a minus one or on the scale. So it's slightly cool. It feels slightly cool when you lay down, which is nice, but not cold. But the real magic of the eight sleep is not that, oh, I'm sleeping on something cold, it's that all these capillaries with all this liquid going through it, pull the heat out of you that you're generating and get it out of your bed. So it's less about it's making you cold than it is is preventing you from getting hot. This is why I sleep better with this thing. And I become a big fan is because you never get hot throughout the whole night. You feel like you feel when you first get into bed, you know, it's like a little bit cold. You haven't generated the body yet. You get that all night long. So I'm a big, I'm a big believer of it. I mean, they gave me a lot of notes here, but I'm just giving you my anecdote here, which is I 100% use this eight sleep pod. I'm a fan of it. So if you want some details, there's clinical data. All right, 19% increase in recovery, 32% improvement sleep quality, 34% more deep sleep. I believe all of that. They have a new generation of this, the pod three, it tracks stuff. I don't really know how this works. My wife shows me. It'll tell you like how much you slept. I guess there's sensors in the pad. I don't know the features now. But let me tell you this. If you're hot sleeper, get the eight sleep pod. You will sleep better. I use it every night. So go to eight sleep.com/deep to save $150 on the pod. So remember, it's eight sleep.com/deep. Don't forget the slash deep. If you want to get that $150 savings, eight sleep currently ships within the US, Canada, the UK, select countries in the EU and Australia. Another product I want to quickly mention, because it is one that I use every single week. And that is our friends at RON, R-H-O-N-E. As I mentioned before, I've long been a fan of the RON moisture wicking exercise t-shirts, a very nice looking high quality, but do a really good job of keeping you cool. This is why I was so excited to find that they now produce a dress shirt. The commuter shirt from RON is a very nice looking button up shirt, but made with the same magic material as the other shirts I like from them. It's cool. It's flexible. It's moisture wicking and key. It does not wrinkle. I have a white RON commuter shirt, which I can wear with jeans that looks really nice. I can wear with nicer pants and a jacket and it looks really nice. I use this when I have to speak in front of people because it's lightweight and it's flexible. And you generate a lot of heat when you're up there speaking and you're not going to feel hot and you're not going to have sweat build up on your shirt. So it looks great. You can wear it all day. And with that magic fabric, it RON does. So well, a couple other things they've told me here, they call their odor-free technology gold fusion. So there's something in this magic fabric to make sure even if you're at it all day long, the shirt is not going to smell bad. Also, let me just mention this. It's 100% machine washable. You throw this thing in the washing machine, put it on a hanger to dry. You don't have to go to the dry cleaner. Very convenient. So I've long been a fan of RON and I am now a fan of the RON commuter shirt. So the commuter shirt can get you through any workday and straight into whatever comes next. Head to RON.com/Cal and use the promo code CAL to save 20% off of your entire order. That's 20% off your entire order when you head to R-H-O-N-E.com/Cal and then use the code CAL. It's time to find your corner office comfort. It's a good tagline. Corner office comfort. Maybe one day we'll get a replacement for the famous blue shirt made by RON. Yeah. It'd be a great shirt for podcasting. Because I mean, it's hard. We do like an hour and a half of just like rock and rolling in here. It's not a... You get hot. Maybe I need a RON podcasting shirt. Maybe we should get logos. You already have a large TDL. No, I mean like a sponsored logos. NASCAR drivers all over my shirt. All over my shirt. Yeah. Eat sleep. You could go across here. I'm going to wear a visor. This is RON across it. And then for enough money, I'll also eat... What's that? Magic spoon. I'll tell you, if I've learned anything about audio and audio production, nothing pleases a listener more than a carefully mic sound of someone eating cereal.
Should I use Seinfeld’s “Don’t Break the Chain” method? (37:48)
You would just be a wash in the listeners. All right. Let's do some questions. We got a good block here. Jesse, what is our first question of the episode? Okay. It's from Maria. She says, "I'm about to start a professorship and I'm thinking of implying the don't break the chain method to my research. For example, resolving to always do two or three hours every day. Do you think this is a good solution?" So for those who don't know, don't break the chain is a piece of productivity advice that's often attributed to Jerry Seinfeld. It was his advice about joke writing. Do it every day. Have a calendar. Every day that you do it, mark that day with a big X. And he says, "This is effective because you don't want to break the chain of day after day marked with the X's," which means even when it's hard or you don't feel like doing the work, you'll do the work because you don't want to blink spot on your calendar, a break in that chain of X's. So does that apply for something like doing research as a professor? But we can think of other similar obligations for non-academic positions. Writing a book, maybe you're writing a book on the side while you have another job. Maybe you need to do business strategy thinking even as you move into another type of more managerial role in your company. Some sort of important demanding work that requires the aggregation of a lot of time. Well, my advice for Maria would be actually don't use that method. I don't think you have a enough control enough of the year as a professor to succeed with the don't break the chain method. And that's going to be frustrating. I think this is true with a lot of higher-end professional positions. There's just going to be unavoidably periods and within those periods days where your two-hour or three-hour research block or writing block or business strategy block can't occur. I can look at my calendar right now and find these type of days pretty easily. I think about this Friday. That's Wednesday today. So two days from now, I have to go to campus relatively early. I'm helping start up this new technology ethics major and there's a fair and I'm actually going to be at the fair talking about this major and then I have a phone call and then I got to get back in time to pick up my kids. I'm looking at that day. My normal writing is not going to happen. My normal two to three hours are right in the morning. It's not going to happen. These type of days just happen. We had another day like this coming up where there was a reporter was going to come at the same day that we were recording a podcast and the prep had to happen. You do the math and the time disappears for writing. This happens a lot. So what I recommend for these type of jobs when you have a lot of these uncertain demands on your time, much more so than a comedian has, is instead rely on a season-specific autopilot schedule. So autopilot scheduling is a strategy we talk about often on this show. It's where work you know has to happen on a regular basis. You schedule to happen at the same times on the same days every week. So you get in the habit. So Wednesday morning, this is when I go do whatever work. So when I say season-specific autopilot schedule, you look at what you're in this case semester and if you don't have an academic job quarter, season looks like and you figure out an autopilot schedule that makes sense for that particular period of time. So Maria, you probably want to factor in your teaching schedule. If on Monday and Wednesday, you're teaching multiple classes, you might just say, "Look, I don't do research on those days, but on Tuesday and Thursday, I protect up to noon and I do a really big block and on Friday, I move my child care later and do from two to the five or five thirty is another research block. You're building a autopilot schedule. This is when I do the work that is attuned to when the demands fall or don't fall in the particular upcoming season. So that's what I would do. Build an autopilot schedule for your research that makes sense for your semester, finding the times that are much less likely to get disrupted than others and then that's the chain you don't want to break is stick into your autopilot schedule, not working every day. I mean, some sense just think about that as one possible autopilot schedule that probably isn't going to work for your schedule.
Does Cal have a separate task board and weekly plan for his personal life? (42:07)
All right, what do we have as question number two? Okay, next question is from Kyle. Do you have a task board and a weekly plan for your personal life? Yes and no. So task board, yes. So I keep my tasks as I've talked about on Trello boards. I have different boards for different roles. I like the column paradigm because I can have task under different categories, to different columns, you know, waiting to do back burner, waiting to hear back specific project specific, and I like the ability to attach file and information to the cards. So one of my multiple Trello boards is labeled literally personal. That's what, yes, I keep track of stuff that's non work related. I don't want it in my head. So I have a task board for that. If you're a taskless person, you can have a taskless for it. I do not, however, have a distinct weekly plan for my personal life. I have one weekly plan for my week. In that weekly plan, I talk about professional things I need to do. In that weekly plan, I talk about relevant things to my personal life as well. So I have one weekly plan. And then when I time block each day, I'm usually time blocking the working hours in detail. And then in that time block plan, have a less structured plan or strategy for the time after work. So like, remember tonight, we got to do this, I want to get a workout in, need to catch up on this reading. It's not gonna structure every minute of my evening, but my daily time block plan is going to have notes for what's going to happen in the evening ahead. So I have a weekly plan that covers everything. My time block schedule I make each day is going to have time blocks for the professional part of my day and notes for the personal part of my day. So that gets handled. I'm not winging it in my personal life. The only thing that's different and what we've talked about before on the show is again, I don't time block every minute of my personal life because then every minute of your life will be time blocked. And that's too much. So I'm a little bit more informal, a little bit looser with my personal scheduling, but it's the same ideas are applying to both parts of my life. So then when you go to the task board, you just pull out some things and stick them in your weekly plan every week. Yeah, or daily. So when I look at my task boards, when I'm doing my daily plan each day, I'll say, okay, what can I knock off for my personal list today? Now the nuance here is if there's a personal task I'm going to do during the work day, then it will be included in my time block schedule because I time block my work day. So I might say, hey, after lunch and before this phone call, I'm going to do a 30 minute task block because that's a good time. I can't really do anything else. I have 30 minutes. And then I might list a few things there, you know, go mail this, go refill the car with gas. So then personal things can make into a time block plan if they're happening during the work day. But if it's the evening, if it's like, okay, I need to remember to go, you know, talk to talk to Julie about this and go pick some things up from the office, I'll just list them for the evening on my plan. I won't necessarily say, oh, at 645, I'm going to go do this. And then if you exercise, it's usually before after work, right? Yeah. Yeah, I usually do what I usually for me is like right after work, or maybe like right before, right after I pick up like my kids from the bus stop. And like that'll, that'll mark. I mean, often like my plan will kind of go through there, like in by here to go get the kids from the bus stop workout, and then evening notes. Yeah, we'll see. Tonight, however, I'm trying to, I'm gonna have to do a late night workout with time, not late night, but after seven. Because I'm going from here, my oldest has a makeup baseball game. It's gonna start at five. And my time that's done, those things last two hours, because kid pitch. And so, you know, it's the first, the first season of kid pitch. So there's a lot of walks. So they usually take up the full two hours that they that they allot to it. So that's seven. Yeah, it'll be like seven 30 plus when I get home. But I don't want to break the chain on that. So I'll do a light workout. I could just do like jump rope, hold time on the sideline. I could. We're just running around the field. I'm gonna bring weights. Yeah. Okay, that's what I'll do. I'll be the dad who's doing concentration curls. I always thought about that. Like, I mean, there's a lot of tracks behind us. I'm surprised more parents don't do that. I coach all the time. I should. So I'm just not a bad idea. Yeah, not a bad idea. You jump a ton of rope. You jump a ton of rope. Yeah, I probably should. I probably should. Instead, I just kind of like chill with the other dads. I know. And we watch. Yeah. I'm a baseball fan. Even though it's nine year olds playing baseball, you get kind of into it. Yeah. Well, you could still do that. I mean, jump rope doesn't take much space. Yeah, I may bring the jump rope. But you're saying not the dumbbells, not the concentration curls. You could too. I mean, you could still talk to them and do curls and they'd probably join in. Yeah. Definitely went out weird people out. Don't mind me. If you don't polish the guns, you don't know if they're going to fire a lot of that.
How do I track my metrics over the long term? (47:18)
A lot of kissing on my biceps. All right. What do we got next? Next question is from Cam. How do you track your metrics over the long term? Do you record them in a digital spreadsheet? You can review throughout the year. I don't, Cam, I don't track my metrics long term. So I track them daily. You know, I use my own time block planner, timeblockplanner.com. That has a metric tracking space. I do daily tracking of my metrics. When I do my weekly plan, I tend to sort of look over how things went. And that kind of influences what goes into the week ahead. So for example, if I notice, hey, I'm not doing this that often. I'm supposed to be doing this every day. I'm looking at my metrics. I didn't. Then I might in my weekly plan for the next week have an extra reminder. Like, hey, look, we're falling behind on this discipline. You got to focus on that. And then I'll see that every day when I look at my weekly plan, it'll help keep me on track. I don't really look at the metrics at any larger scale than that. And it's not that I am ignoring that information or that I think that information is not important. It's instead that I don't need to review it because humans are pretty good at integrating observations about their life, if they're accurate observations, if they're observations on relevant things, we're pretty good at integrating that into a narrative about how things are going. So when I get to, for example, my next semester plan, I have a pretty nuanced understanding of how things were going that this aggressive metric I had for exercise was rarely being met. That this was going really well. I remember that. I know that. I've lived it every day. I've written those metrics down every night. I've reviewed them every week. The information is there. I have a just stalt of how my life is unfolding that I can then use to make future decisions. I don't have to look at a spreadsheet. I do some sort of analysis over the last 95 days and then to learn how my life went. And I found this with a lot of self-improvement or self-tracking is that more tech-focused people have this big data paradigm that says insights are hidden in data until analysis extracts them. This is the defining idea of the big data revolution is that there is additional intelligence to be gained beyond what you have through your own experience through data analysis. And this is true in many domains. I don't find it to be that useful for the domain of self-improvement. Now if you're not tracking anything this information is essentially hidden to your brain. But if you're tracking things every day and you're writing it down every day and maybe reviewing every week those data points are being integrated by your brain. It is adding them into a relatively sophisticated model of how things are going. So I don't bother, Cam. I think it's too fiddly to try to do tracking beyond that level. So that's my advice. Track every day metrics that matters. Look at them when you're doing your weekly plan that matters. Beyond that I think you're good. I think you're good. I don't think you need a few additional tools to really gain bigger insights. And this was big Jesse when we were, God, when was the first decade of the 2000s, when we were in our 20s, the whole quantified self was like an offshoot of the productivity prong movement where it was we're going to quantify every element of our life and algorithmically we will gain all these insights and become superhuman. In the end it was like a fun hobby to do all these tools and do all these tracking, but it didn't necessarily make a huge difference. Surfacing realities of your life and the numbers of metrics in the moment is very useful. How much weight did I lift? How much do I weigh today? That is very useful. But I'm finding higher order trends. I feel like our brains are really good at analyzing ourselves. Well, a lot of people have those tracking instrument that they weather. Yeah, but if you have a Fitbit, for example, like say step tracking, what's really important there is that you know it's being tracked and you see each day how many steps you took. That's the important information. You don't necessarily need to see a graph of how these steps move over time. You kind of know like in my hitting my goal I haven't been now I am usually. And I don't really need the graph over time. It's just the seeing that number every day, knowing that number is coming changes your relationship to movement. Obviously there's places where data is important if you're weight training. Okay, here's where my numbers are and I want to try to push those up. I mean that could be important. But also even there people typically know like I know where my bench has been and I think I'm ready to go for higher like you don't necessarily have to see some chart of how things move over time. So that's always been my my compromise position. So you know the trends. Yeah, like quantification is important in the moment. Complicated analysis of what was quantified is less important.
Are Facebook and Instagram doomed? (52:25)
I'm sure there's exceptions though. All right, let us keep rolling. Who do we have next? All right, next question is from Allison, 30 year old lawyer. This year Facebook and Instagram have started flooding their users fees with suggested posts from accounts they don't follow. Many users are frustrated and angry about these changes. What impact do you think these changes are going to have on the future of Facebook and Instagram? All right, well, Allison, I've talked about this before. So I'll be short but add a new twist to it. The source document to look at here is the article I wrote for the New Yorker on TikTok. This probably came out. God, I'm in this one. The summer really fall. I don't know when that was Jesse but you look it up. Okay. Anyways, and I talked about it on the show. I believe at some point. In fact, it was an article that came out of ideas we first introduced on the show. And basically my premise was Facebook and Instagram following TikTok's lead to having more and more information selected algorithmically and having no connection to people that you follow or to the things that people you follow shared. I said, ultimately, this is going to be the doom of those services. So I'll briefly recapitulate my argument. Why? The way I think about TikTok now, my shorthand for TikTok right now is that it's blues clues for adults. So blues clues is a children's program that became really popular in the 1990s. And I know about it because Malcolm Gladwell wrote a chapter about blues clues in his seminal book, The Tipping Point. And what he argued in the tipping point is compare blues clues to Sesame Street. And you see something very different. I mean, Sesame Street is legible to adults. You see what they're trying to do. It's educational content. It has these interesting puppets. There's some in-jokes for the adults. It's funny. There's some good writing in it. And so they're trying to help children learn. But it's a kind of an interestingly crafted thing. You can have it on as a grownup and not hate it. And it's a well done show. Blues clues, if you've ever seen this, baffles adults. It's repetitive. It makes no sense. The characters will just look to camera and repeat themselves four or five times. They'll just pause for a while. It seems insipid. It seems arbitrary. It seems almost nihilistic and it's incoherence. And it was incredibly popular. And what Malcolm Gladwell wrote about in The Tipping Point is what they did for that show was they basically studied kids and worked entirely off the metric of what grabs their attention and what doesn't. And so they built the whole TV show around just the simple goal of how do I keep kids' attention on here. And the result was this incoherent to adults' audio visual assault mishmash. And there was actually a lot of this that arose in the '90s. Barney's gave way to teletubbies. These shows that were so weird to adults. So that's my street was funny. And be like, "Hey, here comes, you know, Stalker Channing is going to come on and do a skit with garbage, whatever his name is, Oscar the Grouch." And it's about letters and it's also kind of funny and there's some good writing and it's kind of winking at the audience. And then it's teletubbies, your eyes are melting. It's blues clues like, "What's going on? Why is it just staring at the screen, waiting for the kids to repeat a word or whatever?" And it's because it was engineered to a simple metric. What's going to keep kids looking? In the world of social media, Facebook and Instagram is Sesame Street. TikTok is blues clues. They got rid of any of the potentially good stuff, the connection to other people, the scene, what people you know are up to, the expression, the discovery of interesting things, and made it just what gets your eyes affixed to this as long as possible. And the result is this format that, again, to a non-TikTok user is incoherent, is mind-melting, is these weird short videos with cuts and movements. And all it is is blues clues. It is what happens when you push a content to its logical extreme in the context of attention maximization. And so just like adults looked at blues clues, or like, "This feels just ugh." I think a lot of adults look at TikTok. We're not even pretending anymore that this is unlocking the power of the web. It's just the logical terminal space of when you're saying, "Let's just maximize eyes, eyes, eyes." Okay, so TikTok is blues clues for adults. If Facebook and Instagram follow that path, they're getting rid of all the stuff that's quality. They're getting rid of all the potential value proposition of connecting the people you know, discovering things from people like you. And it just becomes what's going to keep my toddler slack-jawed at the screen while I'm trying to get something done. Once they move into that arena, they have lost their main competitive advantage, which is their social graphs. As I argued in that New Yorker piece, it is too hard at this point to build a social graph of the same size and of the same value as a Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook. So any surface whose service that's mainly based on one of those social graphs is not going to be able to compete with those. But as soon as they move away from their social graph, here's friends and links, and just to algorithmically select a content, they're just in the competitive mosh pit with everything else is trying to grab your attention. And blues clues isn't on TV anymore because there's other cartoons that came along or even more in SipEd and even more attention capturing. So that's why I think, Alison, the move of Facebook and Instagram towards a blues-clues TikTok model maybe is trying to stave off some user loss in the short term, but it's going to expose them to competition that they can't hope to win at long term. When they left the advantage of their social graph, they left their protection. And I think that's going to be the end of them, ultimately, of them as some sort of giant culture shaping monopolistic platform that everyone uses. Your article came out July 28th. July 28th. Okay, so that's the TikTok. What's it called?
CALL - Children and video games (58:47)
Let me pull it up one more time. July 28th. TikTok and the fall of social media giants. TikTok and the fall of the social media giants. All right, so you will hear more about there. All right, let's do a call. Sounds good. Hi, Cal. My name is John and my job for this question is being a father. I have four kids, ages nine, seven, four, and ten months old. The question I have is regarding the productivity of children. We are an unschooling family, a form of homeschooling, and therefore video games do not interfere with school hours or homework. I know you are against social media, but I am curious what your thoughts are on video game benefits and problems in general. My wife and I are originally deciding to keep screens from our kids. Our list didn't use screens until she was five. Strangely enough, after allowing screen use, her emotional expression previously very cool suddenly warmed up. She began to dance and sing and talk about her feelings more than she had in the last five years. After reading several articles and books, including several by Jane McGonagall and multiple articles by Dr. Peter Gray, we decided to let our children use screens. We've gone back and forth over the last few years, sometimes letting them use screens as much as they wish and other times limiting their use or banning them completely. They are not doing social media and we are not playing a let them anytime soon. Though each child is different, what are your general thoughts on video games for children? Are they useful learning tools Dr. Gray would argue, do they teach skills quickly as Jane McGonagall has stated? Are there benefits that are difficult to comprehend or do they interfere with children's development as well as depleting the dopamine in children's brains? Or I could restate that in a less negative way and ask if they simply take up time that would be better spent elsewhere. Many gamers are successful in many different industries and many gamers are seemingly addicted and cannot function in a healthy way in the real world. There are surely hidden benefits and hidden dangers we are still learning about. There are definitely two strong posing views when it comes to gaming, especially in children. I would love to hear your views. Well, all right John, there's a lot going on in that question. We're talking about video games, we're talking about social media, we're talking about screens and trying to navigate all of that with kids. My three kids are the same age of your three older kids, so all this is familiar, all this is relevant. There's a narrow path, a complicated path to try to navigate here. I'll tell you where I currently stand based on what I've seen and read that this is a tentative proposal this can change over time. All right, so video games, there I believe the danger is multiplayer online games, massively multiplayer online games. This could be things like Roblox, this could be things like Fortnite, this could be things like World of Warcraft. Those I would steer clear of, these massively online games are the primary vectors of addictive behavior. They're massively time consuming, especially with things like World of Warcraft. They play with your brain in a way that can be very discouraging. In fact, some of the strongest examples of digital addictions that exist over all digital technologies come from massively online video games. So no multiplayer, single player video games, playing Minecraft, I'm playing the new Legends of Zelda on a switch, I'm playing Mario Party or whatever. I don't think that's inherently bad, and I think it's fine for kids that have video games have access to play them. The time should be controlled. This is when you get a play them. It's not a default, it's not every day, but you can do an hour here, hour there. It's a completely fine activity. I think modern video games are beautiful, they're fun, and as long as it's not a default activity, something the kids can just do whenever they want in their room, why not? Now, the final thing I'll say about video games is, no, I don't fully buy McGonagall's argument. I'm saying McGonagall from Harry Potter. I know exactly who you're talking about, the gamification McGonagall, I believe, which is different to Harry Potter. That'd be interesting. She does research with the chimpanzees and stuff, right? Yeah, so she does the gamification of life work, are we thinking about the... I'm thinking of... You're thinking of Goodall. Yeah. Yeah. Jane Goodall wrote a book about being interesting. If Professor McGonagall from Harry Potter wrote a book on video games, that I would read. I don't fully buy McGonagall's view of this being beneficial. Stephen Johnson wrote a book like this in the early 2000s. Everything bad is good for you. It was trying to make the argument of, you're going to get great hand-eye coordination. Okay, I mean, sure. So I'd know, I'm not like, oh, these games are giving you these secret life skills. I also don't think single-playing video game, single-player video game playing or in-person multiplayer. So two people in the same room. I have no problem with that. I think of it as like TV. It's like a... How much do you want your kids to watch TV? Some, not all the time. So you meet her out that time. What about other types of screens? YouTube, I would treat like television. So YouTube is another danger. If YouTube is just something that the kids, especially a nine-year-old or a seven-year-old, or even like a 11 or 12-year-old, if it's something that kids just have unrestricted access to. So it's like their video game time. They can just be on YouTube. That's hard for their developing brain. That can bring them into weird places via the recommendation algorithm. Also the content, it can get kind of weird there, right? This sort of just playing at what the algorithm likes can bring you to sort of weird places. So I think YouTube should be thought of as like a TV channel. Oh, we're going to watch TV now. There are certain channels that we know about as parents that we say, "Yeah, let's go watch." You can watch some videos of that or we'll put some of those videos on. I mean, that's how we handle it in our household. There are certain channels we know about that we're like, "Okay, if you want to put on one of those videos instead of watching a show during TV time, that's fine." So if you want to play like a Mark Rober video, fine. Go ahead. If you want to watch like Adam Savage, we'll allow Mr. Beast. They like, "Well, I'm like a Mr. Beast." So there's a kind of, "Mm-hmm, they're fine." Right? Yeah. So YouTube though, think about it like TV. You don't let the kids of that age have a TV in their room and you say, "Hey, just rock and roll. We don't know what you're up to." You're like, "Yeah, you can have TV time, but we want to know what you're watching." So treat YouTube like TV where you have a say and complete visibility on what they're watching. Do not let YouTube rabbit hole falling be something that you allow your kids to do at a young age. Social media at least 16, at least, I mean no earlier than that, especially with if you have girls. The data there I just believe is very, very worrisome. Unrestricted internet access on a phone, so like a smartphone with unrestricted internet access, I think that needs to be late high school at the earliest. People think that's wildly unrealistic. I think people are wildly wrong about that. It's just not good. Half of the kids you're going to give a smartphone to at 14 are going to have problems with it. So I'm just a believer. You can have a dumb phone, you can text your friends, it takes you and you need to get picked up. If that's taking you out of some social stuff and let's make sure that you're involved in at least one or two groups or activities, be it a sport or theater or a robotics team, it's a team of people you really like and you're really involved in and you have ways to connect to people that don't require you to be involved in like TikTok or something like this, but I am just a believer. Smartphones and a 15 year old, smartphones and a 14 year old, it's no bueno. It doesn't mean you were good. So that's where I fall now. No massively online video games. YouTube is treated like a TV channel. It's only done where you are around and you control what they're watching. Single player video games are fine. Just control the time like you would TV watching. Social media or unrestricted smartphone access really has to come as late as you can possibly push it. Even if they say, you know, we won't have any friends and everyone else is doing it. Teenagers have been saying that ever since there were teenagers. Yeah, works. Our video games are so primitive, Jesse. Yeah. My kids were playing at the other day. Their friend has a Nintendo Switch and they got 64 classic 8-bit NES games on it and they're not impressed. They're not impressed. I don't know if you've seen these modern video games. My son plays Legends of Zelda. Something something something. I don't know. Some Switch game. It's a beautiful world. It's done in like a, it's not photorealistic. It's almost like it's a hand drawn. Yeah. And it's a, you just explore this world and go on adventures and it looks better than like most TV shows look 10 years ago. Mm-hmm. So I was like, all right, you can do an hour of that. But they have no, yeah. He's when they see the Super Mario Brothers. Like, come on. Yeah. What is this thing? All right. Let's do a, we have a cool case that here. Let's do one more question and then I have a cool case study I want to read.
When do I add a task to my list versus straight into my weekly plan? (01:07:50)
Sounds good. This question is from Adam, a 40 year old, 40 old from New York. Can you describe your decision rule for entering a task either onto a travel board versus directly into a weekly plan? I'm finding it tempting, easier to put time sensitive items and links directly into my weekly plan. But then it gets a little cluttered. Well, Adam, I'll tell you my best practice on this issue, which is not something I always follow, but I'm always happier when I do. And that best practice is the following. So you have a, you know, something pops up, a task and obligation. You jot it down and you're whatever you use for capture in the moment. So for me, it'll probably be my time block planner on the daily pages. There's a section for capturing these things. And then you get to the end of the day, you need to process it. My best practice is there's two places where that new task can go onto an appropriate task border list or onto your calendar. All right. So task border list onto your calendar. What would qualify it for going onto your calendar if it's connected to a specific day in which you've decided it needs to be executed? So the calendar is for time specific tasks. So let's say I need to do a book blurb. And it's due on Thursday, I might put an all day event on that calendar day, you know, book blurb is due for whatever. Oftentimes I'll actually find the specific time for one of these time sensitive activities and put it on my calendar like an appointment. Give you a real world example. Friday of this week, department merit reviews are due. It's a administrative task where you have to go through a spreadsheet and sort of fill in all the academic activities you did during the year and it helps generate your raise for the year. I have the specific time when I'm going to do that on my calendar for Friday. So if a task is associated with a particular day, you can go on your calendar. It doesn't have to be on your task list because your calendar is obviously a productivity tool that you trust when you get to each day, you see what your appointments are and you do those things. So I trust my calendar is a productivity tool. If it's not tied to a specific day, it goes to a task list. In my case, those lists are kept on Trello boards. Now, I look at my Trello boards each morning when I build my daily time block plan. So if you're actually following this system, if I actually am in the groove of looking at my task board every day when I do my weekly plan, I can trust that stuff that's important will get done because when I look at the relevant task board, I'll see those tasks and I'm not going to be dumber tomorrow than I am today. So if I know today this thing is important, when I see it tomorrow, I will remember, oh, this is important and see if I can fit it into my time block plan for the day. So that is my best practice. I sometimes don't follow it when I feel like my schedule is disrupted enough that I don't trust myself, look at my task list every day. And that's when I begin adding an extra reminder to my weekly plan, emailing myself an email where it's a reminder in the subject line. But that is all a, that's all an artifact of lack of trust. I don't trust that I'm going to see this in my list and make sure it gets done. That makes me nervous. So I'm going to add these extra reminders. But when I am on my, on the, on track, executing my system properly, that's why I like to do it. If it needs to be done a particular day, put it on that day, otherwise put on the list, even if I know it needs to get done this week, I don't really need to write that down somewhere because when I see that task in my list every single morning, I will remember this is something that needs to get done this week. Like I'm not going to forget tomorrow what I know today. So that's my best practice calendar or task list, check the task list every day. That moves smoothly. And that's how I know that I'm out of, out of sorts by the way is when I start emailing myself reminders, that's when I step back and say, I'm off my system. I need to get back to my system. And I always feel better when I do. Do you do that process in like the same spot every day or is it very? I do now. So in my study at home, which we'll have to add a, in an upcoming weekly update video, just going to bring the camera over to my study at home, I go to my study at home each morning and I have a desk, my custom built desk that's made to fit the car in a weird space of the study. And it has a one drawer, I had it built in this one drawer, and I open up that drawer and here's my time block planner. I take that out, I put it on the desk, I turn on my laptop, and it's the first thing I do is I'll make that daily plan for the day. And I try to do this if I can before I walk my kids to the bus stop, if not, immediately after I get back from the bus stop, I'll do this. But I load up my computer and so my weekly plan will be, and I was looking to see if I, I don't have my back back back in here, my weekly plan will be printed and in my time block planner. So I open this thing, I read the weekly plan, I open my computer, I read my calendar, I read my task list in Trello, and sketch out that time block plan for the day. So when I'm on the ball, that's what I do. And so having the set location that I come to every morning at the same time to do this, that really has helped keep me in it. So during the period when we were renovating that study, and I didn't have a set location, I might work outside, I might work at the kitchen table, I might work upstairs, I fell off the system more. So it's a good question. Having a great location, or this is where I do, that's how I start my day, has really made a big difference to me. So we'll get that. We'll do a weekly update video, I'll show you that whole setup sometime soon.
CASE STUDY - Implementing Deep Work advice (01:13:18)
All right, I want to do a quick case study here. One of the things I like when people send in the question survey, which by the way, Jesse, make sure that link is in the show notes, but to submit questions or case studies, you have to go to a SurveyMonkey survey and enter it. And that link is right in the show notes. Here's a case study that someone sent in. This came from Anna, who is an anthropologist in her mid 40s. So here's what Anna says. In January 2021, I started to document my time for each day in a knitted scarf. I broke up each day into how much time I spent writing emails, grant proposals, teaching documents, social media, admin, and research related writing. And I knitted a proportional number of rows in my scarf using different colors for each of these activities. My days used to be all over the place. Then I started listening to your podcast in June of 2021, and really put some of your systems into place, time blocking, getting off Twitter and Instagram, working out, working on my values and priorities, et cetera. So she saw on her scarf. The social media stitches disappeared. There were fewer email stitches and the research and proposal writing stitches lengthened as the scarf grew through the end of the year. The result of this shift was research papers got submitted, two books got completed, and a grant of almost five million euros got submitted and went through to the final round. The scarf is both knitted data of the effects of your deep work interventions, as well as a relaxing way to unwind. So thanks for sharing with us all your systems and inspiring us to find more time for the things we enjoy about our work. Keep it coming and I will continue to listen to you as I knit. That was really cool. So she elaborated. Basically at the end of the day is when she would do this, she would look at how she spent her time for the day, and that would be her pattern for the knitting she did in the evening. And so the scarf is a colorful data visualization of not only how she spent her time, but how that shifted after she got into the deep questions podcast. So I sent her a note and I said we need a picture. So that's coming. She's going to send us a picture of the scarf. I'm kind of excited about that. So Jesse, we'll put that on the show. Yeah, we'll put that on the show and get that. But I love that idea of knitting a record of your time and the idea of having a relaxing activity you do at the end of each day to help reset your mind as sort of a good shutdown ritual activity. So Anna, thanks for that. I look forward to seeing a picture of the scarf and keep knitting. All right, so coming up, we have the mailbag segment. Look at some stuff that people have sent to my interesting at Cal Newport dot com address recently that have caught my attention. First, I want to briefly mention our good friends at ladder. Ladder is a place to get insurance. Now, if you're anything like me, you probably put off things like getting insurance until the last minute. But when it comes to something like life insurance, you can't really afford to delay. If something happens to you, it is not going to be something you're expecting. If God forbid, you leave this earth a little bit earlier than planned, those that you love, those that you care for will be left in the lurch unless you have life insurance. So you need life insurance, but you probably, if you don't have it, it's because it's complicated. How do I do this? I'm going to tell you how to do it. Go to ladder. Ladder is 100% digital. No doctors, no needles, no paperwork. When you apply for three million dollars, no doctors, needles are paperwork. When you apply for three million dollars in coverage or less, I should say, you just answer a few questions about your health in an application. They then come back and give you quotes that you can evaluate right there. No hidden fees, cancel any time, get a full refund if you change your mind in the first 30 days. All these policies are issued by insurers with long proven histories of paying claims. They're rated A and A plus by A and B. So if you need life insurance, just do this right now. Go to ladderlife.com/deep and you can put in your information and instantly discover if you're approved on how much it's going to cost. That's L-A-D-D-E-R life.com/deep ladderlife.com/deep. So if you have a family you don't have enough life insurance, just go do that right now. Put that on your to-do list, do it and then get on with the rest of your day. Also want to talk about our friends at stamps.com. The holiday season is coming up. I'm already stressed even just imagining waiting in the interminable lines at the Coma Park Post Office. It's right down the street from us here at our deep work HQ. This is why I am happy that stamps.com exist. Stamps.com is your one-stop shop for all your shipping and mailing needs. For more than 20 years, stamps.com has been indispensable for over one million businesses. It allows you access to the USPS and UPS services you need right from your computer. No need to go to the Post Office. It also gives you major discounts on shipping rates. So you can use stamps.com to print postage. Wherever you do your business, all you need is a computer and a printer. If you need a package pickup, you schedule it right there through the stamps.com dashboard. You print the postage right on your home computer. You just tape it right on there. It's the way to do all of your mailing needs without having to go to the Post Office. This is useful even if you're doing a small amount of mailing your company or running a big online business that sends a lot. Stamps.com is what you need. So this holiday season trade late nights for silent nights and get started with stamps.com today. If you sign up with promo code DEEP, you'll get a special offer that includes a four-week trial plus free postage and a free digital scale. No long-term commitments. No contracts. Just go to stamps.com, click the microphone at the top of the page and enter the code DEEP to get those special offers.
Addressing Audience Queries
Cal's Mailbag (01:19:40)
All right. Final segment of the show is the mail bag segment. So for over a decade now, I've maintained this email address firstname.lastname@example.org where I've solicited my readers and listeners to send me interesting things they think I might like. I feel bad that there's so much cool stuff that comes in so much more than I have time to actually write about or turn into articles or book chapters. So we introduced this segment so we could walk through a selection of some of the cooler things that have come into my interesting inbox in recent weeks. All right. Let's get started with item number one. Now again, if you're watching this on YouTube, youtube.com/calnewportmedia, you will see what I'm talking about. If you're listening to this, links to everything I'm talking about are in the show notes. The first thing I want to talk about was sent to me by Chris and it has to do with augmented reality. So on this show, I made this prediction that the major upcoming technology revolution that not enough people are talking about is going to be the elimination of physical screens in our life. Augmented reality tools are going to put digital screens into our world. The computation behind what we're seeing on those screens is going to happen in the cloud. The entire consumer electronics industry, as we know it, is going to be drastically reduced. We don't need laptops, phones, televisions, desktops. When all of that can be done with a single augmented reality device, you're going to have a small number of companies become more valuable than anything in the history, probably of the economy and huge companies go out of business. All right. So Chris sent me an example from Twitter. So this is a screenshot from a video that was on Twitter of some of the next steps towards this reality coming true. So if you're looking at this online, watching the video, the picture you'll see on the screen is of a laptop, but surrounding the laptop is three very large monitor screens. And this is all in a sort of standard office environment with fluorescent lights or what have you. In this scene, those giant monitor screens do not exist in the real world. They're added there through augmented reality. Now what this is, is a demo of the new Oculus product, the Quest 2 Pro. And this is a early form of augmented reality, which is not directly adding these screens into your field of vision in the way that a Microsoft HoloLens or a Magic Leap Goggle would do. This is actually using the Quest 2's pass through real time pass through camera feature. So actually the user here has a full virtual reality helmet on. There's a camera in front of this virtual reality helmet. They are seeing what's in front of them filmed by this camera. So there's a there's a helmet that's blocking their view of what's in front of them, but the camera is showing what's in front of them virtually on the virtual reality screen. So it's as if they're not wearing the helmet itself. And then the Quest is adding these virtual screens onto that real time video feed. So of course, it's not practical, right? We're not in the office or walking around going to put on a full virtual reality helmet when we want to add screens to the world around us. But as Mark Zuckerberg has explained in recent interviews, there is a lot of logic behind what they're doing here. It is much, much easier to add virtual elements to a video stream than to actually literally add them using a waveguide into what you're seeing right now through transparent glasses. So they're mastering this technology in this much easier context of their virtual reality helmets. But their goal and he's very clear about this is to move from this into actual glasses where these elements are being added to what you see. So you're seeing the world and these are being added to what you see. Facebook has a big collaboration with Ray Ban right now as they're working on the physical form of these glasses. So don't sleep on what Zuckerberg is up to over there. They talk a lot about the metaverse, but this is where the real money is going to be. And he knows it. And I think the strategy of using virtual reality as a way to master augmented reality while waiting for the augmented reality hardware to get viably usable by most people is a smart strategy that will probably give them a link up. So as this picture captures that future is coming. Alright item number two, let me switch over. This comes from STIN. So we talk a lot on the show like with the Bram Stroker piece from a couple of weeks ago about the impact of environment on cognition. Environment can affect your cognition. This is why we shouldn't be so casual for example about just saying, Hey everyone, work from home now. Like great, my laptop technically has access to all the features I have at work. And so I can just sit in the laundry room or at my kitchen table and do my job. It's not so simple. Environment matters, setting matters. It's why my New Yorker piece from 2021 about work from near home. I talked about all of these writers who technically were working from home but found really eccentric locations near their home to actually do their work because setting matters. So STIN showed me or what he sent me here was an article by Andrew Huberman, Stanford neuroscientist Andrew Huberman, who's often cited on this show. He wrote an article that included a short paragraph on the cathedral effect, which is a scientific notion that captures some of what I'm talking about with setting affecting cognition. I'm going to read here part of this excerpt which I have up on the screen. So here's from Andrew. There is an interesting effect, a workplace optimization called the cathedral effect in which thinking becomes smaller, more focused on analytic processing. When we are in small visual fields, the opposite is also true. In short, working in high ceiling spaces elicits abstract thoughts and creativity, whereas working in low ceiling spaces promotes detailed work. Even relatively small differences like a two foot discrepancy in ceiling height had been shown to elicit such differences. The takeaway, consider using different rooms, our buildings, indoors and outdoors to help access specific brain states and the types of work they favor. Cool effect. A couple of takeaways. Maybe this is why when I brainstorm, I'm trying to find the new angle of solve approved for a new idea for an article or book, I tend to do it on foot outside. Now I often attribute that to the motion, the locomotion helps me clarify, reduce the noise to get to original thought to recognize the signal of original thought. Huberman would say yeah, but also the sky is high. You are in a better physical environment for brainstorming. When it comes time to write, I write in my study, which is dark colored in books all around me, that's better for trying to get the details just right. It's a cathedral effect. I like that. All right, one more. We can't do an interesting mailbag feature without some obligatory focus porn. It's my term for finding examples of beautifully aesthetic, deeply aspirational examples of people going to radical means to find concentration and peace and quiet to actually focus and do work. So today's example of focus porn was sent to me. Look, I was named here from Andrew. I feel bad. I forgot the name of, I think it's Alistair Humphreys is I think who these examples are from. There's a link, there's a link in the description of where this comes from. These are some stills I took from a video, a beautifully shot video that this writer produced and the video starts with him in his home office, overwhelmed and distracted. You know, it's edited so he has phone calls coming in. He's being real distracted and he's writing a book. And so he goes and retreats to this, I guess you would call it a shed in the middle of nowhere mountains. The video follows him hiking. And the picture you see now on the screen is of a man leaning against a house. It's a rock fall on a deserted mountain and the rocks have been stacked to make a rock house or shed or whatever you would call it in the middle of nowhere with one window. And he's out there writing. And then the second picture I have is him inside this rock house and it's dark except for the light from the one window illuminating him. He has a coffee mug and a notebook on what she's doing his writing. Anyways, I recommend watching the video because it's beautifully shot. I don't know what type of cameras he's using. It's beautifully shot and it's going to make you want to go to Iceland before you write that next report or try to write that next algorithm. So check out these pictures or that video if you want just a weekly burst of that nice feeling you get when you see people, at least for a little while, escaping from all the noise that sit in the rocks with coffee and a notebook, as we all want to do from time to time. Jesse Park studio was in a rock shed like that. I think that would be that would be the big move right there. That'd be the big time move is if we we hiked up to a mountain like that and that's where we recorded from. I think we that's what would make this show, I think really sink in for the eyes. I think these guys are for real. I mean, it'd be inconvenient because we'd have to hike for hours every day. Yeah, bring up firewood during the winter time. Just a fire going. I have a fire in my study. You mentioned that. Yeah, I got a gas fireplace. I can like turn on flames when I want to be in winter mode. But this guy is big time to me with his rock. It is Alastar Humphreys. Alastar Humphreys. Excellent. All right, everyone. Well, that's enough for today. That's the end of our episode. I think everyone who sent your questions go to the survey link in the in the show notes. If you want to submit your questions for consideration on the show, youtube.com/calnuportmedia to watch videos of full episodes and select segments like the mailbag we just did. We'll be back next week with a new episode of the show and until then, as always, stay deep.