Ep. 229: Developing Discipline

Transcription for the video titled "Ep. 229: Developing Discipline".

1970-01-01T09:52:41.000Z

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


Introduction

Cal's intro (00:00)

So let's start with craft. Without changing your job yet, because you're not ready to change your job. We're just beginning this process of instilling or developing discipline. So what I want you to do with your job is to see the following challenge. How do you build systems that are going to ensure that two things happen? A, work gets delivered consistently ahead of deadlines. And B, the quality of the work you turn in is slightly above expectations. I'm Cal Newport, and this is Deep Questions, episode 229. This is the show where I answer questions and give advice to my audience about the quest to live and work deeply in an increasingly distracted world. I should start by saying happy holidays to everybody. So last episode, last week's episode, came out the day after Christmas. But Jesse and I recorded it a week earlier. So we sort of forgot that that was going to be a holiday episode. So this episode here is coming out early in the new year, but we're recording it just a few days after Christmas. So as we're recording this, we are still in the middle of the holiday break. So last week, I said, shoot, Jesse, we should have dressed up for the holiday episode. So I figured today we would rectify that. So if you're watching the YouTube version of this show, which you can find at youtube.com/Cal Newport Media, you will see, for example, I am wearing a festive red shirt. Now my normal blue shirt, but a festive red shirt in honor of Christmas. Jesse also dressed up once again, I would say, not unlike with his Halloween costume. I'm not fully pleased. I think Jesse maybe took it too far, but Jesse, why don't you explain your costume to us? Skeleton. Well, Jesse, I appreciate that you have a Christmas hat on. That's kind of festive. I don't know why you're reprising your skeleton costume from Halloween. That seems a little bit out of sync with the holiday. Can I tell you a Christmas joke? I don't think so. I'm really not interested in that. What do we call when Santa's elves have a dance party? Skeleton. Hold on one second. Yeah. Look, we got to just burn the HQ to the ground. Yeah, just completely demolish it. I'm thinking maybe even salt the earth where the building once stood. OK? All right, see you in a bit. Oh my. All right, that's enough nonsense. No, it is Jesse's on vacation because it's just a few days after Christmas. He's somewhere warm. So I am solo casting today, which meant, yes, I did have to carry a skeleton across downtown Tacoma Park to bring it to my studio today. My son, my oldest son, is here with me as well in the studio. He's hanging out with me today. So he walked over with me with the skeleton. Here's the best way to explain his reaction to this morning, watching me come to my man cave studio with the skeleton. You know that look you might see a little boy have like Tom Brady's son when they see their dad throw the touchdown pass that wins the Super Bowl, that look of just pure pride. All right, take that look in your mind, OK? You have it in your mind's eye? Now think about the exact opposite of that. That's the way my son was looking at me as I carried a skeleton in a Christmas hat to my quote unquote work. All right, well, anyways, let's get rolling with today's episode. Here's what I was thinking. Like I did this summer because I'm by myself, I was thinking, why don't I do just straight up old fashioned question extravaganza, question after question after question, no other segment. It's New Years. This is the time when we're thinking about changing our lives. Let's just get into advice. My original idea was to do 23 questions for 2023. That turned out to be too many. So I took off 10. So what we're going to do today is 10-- no, 13. 13, that's right. 23 minus 10 is 13. 13 questions for kicking off 2023. That's checking everything. My big fear here when I'm solo casting is that I accidentally leave it on Jesse Christmas skeleton for the entire episode. And the people on YouTube are just going insane.


Addressing Personal And Professional Dilemmas

How do I find time to study for a better job? (05:14)

But no, it's on me, the audio is working. So we got 13 questions for 2023. You'll notice that at least half of these questions are about big picture, what should I do with my life type issues? Because I felt like that is an appropriate theme for the New Year period when we step back and think big thoughts. So we have a high concentration of these questions around big think about changing their life. All right, we got a lot of questions to get through. Let's start with question number one. This comes from Constructor K, who's writing to us from Zambia of all places. Constructor K says the following. "I'm a civil engineer who works on high-end residential buildings, hotels, and office complexes. Your piece on lifestyle such a career planning changed how I see work in my life. I am marrying my long-term girlfriend next year, and we're both looking forward to starting a family of our own. I currently have an ever busy job as an on-site construction project manager, but my lifestyle vision includes a less intense job. Perhaps one that focuses on the client side of the project management team, where I can start it as an inspector who only needs to be on site once or twice a week. Now, my question is, how do I carve out a structured program to effectively study design and construction? Technology. So Constructor K, my main concern here is not so much how you find the time to do a program of self-study designed to help you shift to a different job that better suits your lifestyle. My concern here is you doing the right self-study for this shift. The biggest issue I see for people in this general situation, which again, I'm going to summarize this situation in which you're trying to change your career. And you're building up the appropriate career capital to change your career to match a lifestyle. The biggest issue I come across with this is people inventing their own storyline about what they want to be important. They like the idea of self-study. They like the idea of getting textbooks, or taking online courses, and putting aside an hour every day, even though what they're learning may not be that relevant for the specific shift they want to make. So what I want you to focus on first is getting the right information. If you want to be an on-site inspector instead of project manager, go spend some time with those inspectors. AI I want you to confirm, is the reality of their work what I think? Don't paint the picture in your head. Get evidence. What is the actual reality of their work? How often are they on site? What are their other responsibilities? Do I have concrete evidence that this is going to be the right position, the right position to support my lifestyle? Once you've done that, then I want you to study very carefully what is important for obtaining this job. What is the number one criteria or credential? And you want to get real evidence here, not what you think should be important, what actually is important. And if you have those two things, evidence that this new position is what you're looking for. And a really specific understanding of x, y, and z. These are the three things I need in place in order to have a good chance of getting this position. Then you can put together a schedule of self-study. Here's what I'm going to tell you. That will not be hard. When your mind really trusts, I know what I'm doing. I want to get this, and I see how to get it.


How do I find rare and valuable skills to develop? (08:35)

Then it's not so hard to put aside time for self-study. You have all sorts of options. You're a product manager, so you have a lot of work to do, but flexibility in how it's done. It's lunch hour, it's first thing in the morning. It's Saturday afternoon, plus Tuesdays, you go in late. It's not that hard to figure out and stick with a plan once you trust what you're doing. So constructor K, that's where I'm going to have you put your energy. What really matters for this position? Do I really want this position? Figuring out how to get there, then, will become easier. All right, here's a related question. This comes from Matt, who's writing to us from Atlanta. Matt says, we've often heard you talk about the importance of developing rare and valuable skills. How would you coach us to conduct an inventory of our skills and those we're developing? All right, I wanted to do this question right after that from constructor K, because it gets at the same point. Do not make up your own story about what skills you think should be important in your field. If you do that, you are going to find yourself falling back on whatever is going to be fun, a little bit challenging, not too challenging, tractable, entertaining, interesting to develop. You'll fall back on what you want to be true. You want to spend a half hour every morning before you go to work, taking a Coursera course or whatever. You need to get to the reality of what skill actually matters in my industry. So what I'm going to tell you to do, Matt is exactly what I told constructor K. Treat this career development process like you are an investigative journalist. Find specific people who have the specific job that resonates with you. This position resonates. The properties of this position, the autonomy, the mastery, the power, the compensation, the prestige, whatever it is. This is resonating with me. This is not something I've made up that I think should exist. This person, this person has it. And they need to study that person. Now, if they're well known, you can do this from afar. You can read profiles of them, read their resume. If they're not well known, you take them out for coffee. Let me walk through how you got to this position. And when you do this, what you're looking for is what in the online course top performer that I design and run with my friend Scott Young, we talked about this. We call this differential analysis. You want to figure out, OK, of the multiple people in a similar space who also wanted a similar position, what did this person do differently than everyone else that allowed them to get it? Was this particular skill? They had exhibited a contract flow that was this high. They had this credential the other people didn't have. What is the difference? That's what you want to get at. What this person did, that other people who did not get a similar position did not do. So it's a differential analysis. You don't want to just grab random things that seems appealing or useful about this person you're studying. You want to figure out the things that actually mattered. So concrete evidence is what I keep coming back to. It's the very best way to not only transition to a new job or new position. It also is what gives you the motivation to do it. Your mind is smart. If it knows you're making things up, you are going to find procrastination rearing its head. You're going to find motivation hard to muster. If on the other hand, you have ironclad evidence from investigative reporting of real people, the real positions of what they did and what they did differently than other people who didn't get the job. And by the way, feel free to ask people exactly that question. As you stepped from here to here, what did you do that other people didn't? When you have that concrete evidence, your brain says, I'm on board. I've evaluated this plan. I'm in my neocortex looking at reference frames. This sounds sound. I think this is going to work. Procrastination, non-factor. Motivation, easy to find.


How do I develop discipline if I have an easy job? (12:33)

So that's the theme I'm going to come back to you for some of these career questions. Treat the transition like an investigative journalist, not like a novelist wanting to write what you think is going to be a pleasing story. I do have to say, as I was answering that question, skeleton Christmas Jesse shifted. His hand shifted off the table. So I actually saw him move out of the corner of my eyes. I was terrified. Just so you know what's happening here in the very professional Deep Work HQ studio. All right, let's do another question here. This one comes from lazyengineer. A lazy engineer says, I'm an engineer who works remotely at a company where I have a lot of freedom and little pressure to complete work quickly. I basically wait until the pressure of missing a deadline kicks in to kick it in the high gear and finish something. I just don't care to do work most days. I end up having a ton of unearned leisure in the form of YouTube and web surfing. You have any advice on developing discipline and raining and procrastination when I have little external pressure to get things done. All right, so what I'm going to recommend lazyengineer, and this is a good time for my advice because the New Year's. We're thinking about transformation. So it's really good timing for this question. What I'm going to recommend first is an overhaul of all aspects of your life. This is not just a work problem. I want all aspects of your life to have intention and discipline baked into it. And I'm going to start by walking you through what I mean by this without making any major changes to your job. And it's only after you have done this to all aspects of your life. And this is going to take you, I would say, six months. So we're talking about summer 2023 before you're going to then come back and then think, do I want to make a change in my job? So let's start with this discipline question. Let's work with the deep life buckets. So as long time listeners of the show know, when I talk about this idea of living a deep life in a distracted world, I typically break your life up into different categories. We call these the deep life buckets. So we have craft that's going to include your work. We'll start there. But it also includes things like community constitution that is like your health. It's also going to include things like contemplation is going to be ethics and theology and so on. So let's start with craft without changing your job yet because you're not ready to change your job. We're just beginning this process of instilling or developing discipline. So what I want you to do with your job is to see the following challenge. How do you build systems that are going to ensure that two things happen? A, work gets delivered consistently ahead of deadlines and B, the quality of the work you turn in is slightly above expectations. So this would be good enough. I do 20% more. This is what I want your goal to be in work. Now this is not going to be that hard to accomplish if you use, let's say my multi-scale planning philosophy, maybe do a little bit of autopilot systems. That'll be enough. Your job sounds easy. So I think if you're multi-scale planning so you see what's coming up, you're planning out your weeks, each day your time block planning, you're taking control of your time, you're giving every minute of your day a job. So if you don't have work to do, you can clearly say I'm not working. If you do have work to do, you get after it early. You're not waiting until deadlines. I don't care about deadlines. You figure out what's the best use of the hours I have this week. Multi-scale planning, maybe a little autopilot scheduling. So there's certain things that happen again and again in your job. You do it at set times and set days. Maybe a little process engineering. I don't know the details of your job, but there might be some process engineering you do to also take out some of the sort of more reaction back and forth ad hoc coordination aspects of your work. This project comes in, it goes into this notion workspace or shared directory. I send a report to the person so they know when to expect it back. I think a little bit of process engineering here. What you really think through how work enters your system is tracked and executed, how people keep up the date on it. That's also going to help you get a little bit more discipline around this work. So do some combination of that. Multi-scale planning, autopilot, scheduling and process engineering. You can read my book A World Without Email for more on that last piece. You're going to have control of this job. Stuff done before deadline above expectations. This alone is going to start changing your self perception. In the professional sphere, this alone will change your perception as a quote lazy engineer end quote and in the someone who has discipline. You are a disciplined person. You're intentional about how you organize your time. You get after it. You're impressed by how early you get things done. People are impressed by the quality of what you produce. This is going to just by itself have a profound impact on your self perception. You're going to feel better. You're going to feel a sense of efficacy. You're going to feel a sense of self esteem and possibility. It's critical. That's what I want you to do with craft. But I don't want you just to stop with craft. The fact that you are using all of this free time because your job is easy on YouTube and on social media tells me the other aspects of your life need structure as well. I want you to start going through those. Let's start with constitution. Get healthy, man. Let's get you got time. You're young. I know it from your elaboration. You're young. You have time. Let's get you in really good shape. We're talking about dialing in that diet, getting into a hardcore fitness routine, maybe picking up, building towards picking up some sort of hobby, some sort of endurance racing or mountain biking or surfing, like picking up a new practical skill. You're going to join an ultimate Frisbee team that plays on the beach, Mark Sisson style. I don't know what it is, but I want that to become a major aspect of your life. The discipline of fitness is going to carry over into other aspects. I want you to start getting in good shape. I want you to move the community. Get involved in communities with real people that you're sacrificing non-trivial time and attention on behalf of. If you have a religious background, re-engage in that right now. If you don't find another place where you can be useful to other people, you can be involved being around other people. What you want to be looking for here is opportunities to serve on behalf of people. This is partially what I want you to be doing when you have free time. Hey, so and so for my group is sick. I'm going to organize to get them some meals. I don't have to worry about that. See if it needs to go to the hospital. Start getting out of yourself, serving others. Now your time is beginning to be more structured, more filled. You're exercising. You're getting stronger. You're helping other people. You're organizing events. You're spending time with other people. Move on to contemplation. Let's get that reading habit going. Let's start studying philosophy or theology. Maybe if you have a Jewish background, you say I'm actually going to really read and study the Torah portion every week. Maybe you have the Christian background. I'm going to finally read Aquinas. I'll get secondary sources to help me understand it, but we're going to go through it. Maybe you want to look at Nietzsche. You've heard so much. You've heard the critiques. You want to develop your own reaction to it, but you start feeding your mind. You start feeding your soul. What is your ethical framework, lazy engineer? This is the time to start figuring that out. I want your values written down. I want your rules for how you live written down. Version 1.0, you can keep upgrading these versions as you learn more in life, but let's start getting that down. Let's start looking for examples of people who inspire us. Seek out that residence and try to extract pieces of character from them. Maybe read the road to character by David Brooks, etc. Documentaries, profiles. Feed that part of your soul. Feed the moral intuition. Now we're really starting the rock and roll. You're in shape. You're serving communities. You're starting to feed your mind. You're starting to build out a framework for your soul. Let's add in another bucket here. Celebration. Hobbies. Let's get in a real hobby that allows you to actually build enjoyment and appreciate some of the things in the world that have nothing to do with work or you. It's just that it's things you really love. Become a cinephile. Become really good at appreciating the subtleties of beer. Invest real energy into those hobbies. This is what I want you to do over the next six months. We get to late summer. Then you can step back. Now you're not only going to be richer, you're not going to have this problem of just sitting there doing YouTube and social media because you have so many things going on in your life and you're in such control of your time. You're like, "I'm working here and as soon as this is done, I'm going to the gym. I'm starting to work late because I'm meeting my philosophy group as meeting this morning that I'm working for exactly these hours in time that I'm then heading over to a group meeting. You're going to be controlling your time and have more than enough to put into it. You're not just going to be going lazily along. This is the point when you can then say, "I'm an intentional person. I'm a disciplined person. I'm in control of my life. I'm shaping it towards the depth." Then you can look at your job and say, "Do I want something different? Does this match my vision of a life well lived? Now I'm ready to change if I want to change." I've built up career capital by nailing this for the last six months. I can crush it wherever I go. Then you can decide if you want to make a change. But this is the time you're at the perfect stage in your life and the perfect time of the year for a transformation towards a disciplined depth. I'll tell you what, ladies and gentlemen, I'm actually excited on your behalf because I think there's really exciting and cool things that's going to happen in your immediate future. The final thing I want to say is, "How do you structure something like that?" That's a big order. I gave you five areas I want you to overhaul in your life. While we talk about this often on the show, you can't do five major overhauls at once. It's too many things. You're going to run out of energy or attention. Do what I always recommend. Start by placing a Keystone habit in each of those buckets we talked about, Craft Constitution Community and Celebration and Contemplations. That's five. Craft Community Constitution, Celebration, Contemplation. Put a Keystone habit right away in each of those. Something that's tractable but not trivial so that you signal to yourself you take each of those seriously. Then go one by one and give each three to five weeks of doing that overhaul, trying the new habits, tweaking things, getting a new enhanced way of life going before you move on to the next. I would start with Craft and then maybe Constitution. Then between Community Celebration and Contemplation, whichever order you think is right. If you spend about a month with each of those, that gets you to about the summer. You're probably going to have to go back and tweak and change and update. Really starting with the Keystone habit, then giving three to five weeks for each of those areas to really put major changes into place. They give yourself enough time to actually learn and get used to these new ways of working and living to adjust when needed. Just give yourself the breathing room to really focus on each of these one by one. You will end up by the summer in a much better place. All right. Well, Jesse Christmas Skeleton, how do you think things are going so far? Skeleton. Well said. Well said. Let's talk about a sponsor real quick before we keep going on. We have three questions done. We have ten more to go. I am excited to talk about a new sponsor of this show and that is Notion. Let me tell you what Notion is and then I want to tell you why I wanted Notion as one of our sponsors, how I use it, why I think it is good. Probably the best way to scribe Notion, this is their official text here, is the following. Whether you're starting a new gym routine, organizing a trip with friends or planning your company's goals, Notion is a flexible collaborative workspace that helps you make meaningful progress in every part of your life. Get started in seconds by choosing from thousands of templates for every task and make it your own from to-do list to OKR trackers and so much more. Notion lets you build the exact system you want so you can work the way you work best. All right. That's their official copy. What you have to understand is Notion is an information and collaboration management system. It's online. You can do it in a browser or on an app. And it's incredibly flexible. So there's two major ways I encounter Notion in my life and the way I see people in my orbit use it. One is for organization of personal information. You can build these fantastic linked databases of information that you can then organize, display, and sort in really powerful ways. So for example, we have a segment coming up in a upcoming episode where friend of the show Jenny Blake is going to walk me through exactly how she set up a Zettelkasten style idea capture system in Notion. She's already showed this to me. I use Notion so I've seen it but she's going to walk us through how to build one on the show. So stay tuned for that in an upcoming week but it's fantastic for organizing information in your life. It is also great for collaboration. If you want to build those type of engineered processes I talk about all the time, like in my book A World Without Email, to get away from ad hoc back and forth unscheduled email or slack interaction, Notion is the number one tool. It's incredibly flexible for building bespoke collaboration systems easily. So if you want to move away in your small business or team from the hyperactive hive mind, you've got to be using Notion. So for example, with my ad agency, my podcast ad agency, they built a tool or a collaboration workspace in Notion for us dealing with advertisers. So now every ad read I'm going to do has its own element in this database that points to the copy for the ad and other details, like what time stamps do this ad show up in what episode. They then have a very powerful, easy to build display where I can see a calendar. And on each day where I have a podcast coming out I can see exactly a link to the ads they're supposed to be read that day. And so I can click on that, get the information for the ad, update it with information about when it read. But then I can organize it. And another way, click on another link, they've set it up to show me, oh here's all of the ad reads from this company. So you can see when they're showing up. Here's all the ad reads that happened. So that's these flexible ways of storing and displaying information. Notion makes that possible. So now me, Jesse, and my whole ad agency can all share this tool and it makes it fantastically easy for us to work back and forth without a lot of emails that will last slack on getting ads read, getting numbers put in place, getting download numbers, getting time stamps, getting copy, all of that probably took Brielle, shout out to Brielle 30 minutes to build this tool. So Notion is so powerful and so flexible. I'm just a user of it. I'm a believer in it. This is why I was excited to get them as a sponsor. So start your year off right and get organized now with a free Notion account at notion.com/cal. That's all lowercase letters, notion.com/cal to learn more and to get started for free right now. Using that link/cal supports the show. So go right now to notion.com/cal. I also want to briefly mention a another new sponsor I am excited about. Cozy Earth. Let me tell you what it is and then I'll tell you why I wanted them as one of our sponsors. Cozy Earth provides the softest, most luxurious and best temperature regulating sheets on the planet. It's like sleeping on a cloud. Don't believe me? Cozy Earth products have been featured on Oprah's favorite things five years in a row. The sheets are made out of 100% premium Vscos from Bamboo. Cozy Earth sheets breathe. So you sleep at that perfect temperature all year round. Has thousands of five star reviews. It's become the bedding of choice for interior designers and celebrities. This is really good stuff guys. These are popular sheets. They also have a 100 night sleep trial which means you have up to 100 nights to sleep on it. Wash it to try it out. If you're not completely in love. Back, full refund. So why did I want Cozy Earth as one of our sponsors? Because I talk about on the show all the time that I am a hot sleeper. I really care about temperature when I'm sleeping. These sheets are incredibly comfortable without being hot. They're the most comfortable sheets I own. We have the light gray. I like the light gray. Most comfortable sheets I own. They do better than any other sheets I know and not getting that sort of hot stickiness on me. It feels really soft and it breathes. These will be the best sheets you own. You owe it to yourself to sleep better. So go to cozy Earth.com that's C-O-Z-Y Earth.com right now.


CASE STUDY - A graduate student with 5 kids takes control of his life (29:54)

Be sure to enter my promo code DEEP at checkout and you will save 35%. So you've got to type in DEEP at checkout to get that full 35% off. Here's their best sign luxury sheets, ultra comfortable lounge wear or premium waffle bath collection. You'll absolutely love shopping at Cozy Earth. And don't forget to check out their limited edition Linen Vembu Bending Collection 2. That's cozy Earth.com. Use the promo code DEEP to save 35%. All right. Jesse Christmas Skeleton. I'm a little worried that we're only three questions in and the show has been going for a half hour. Skeleton. Again, well said. Very useful. So we're going to pick up the pace here. I thought we would start off this nest segment with a case study. All right. So this is a listener, Danny, who's a postdoc in Texas, sent in a case study, which I will now read a case study of putting the ideas we talked about here in the show into practice. All right. Here's Danny's case study. I just graduated with my PhD a couple months ago. I am married and have five young kids. Three of our kids were born while I was working on my PhD. When I started my graduate degree, all I heard was that it was so much work and that my wife should assume I would be gone a lot. When I started, I was at school from seven in the morning to about six at night each day. For research, I even traveled to the South Pacific for seven weeks. Simply stated, I was away from my family a lot. Many times I questioned whether it was worth it, but I knew what I wanted to do. So I worked harder and longer. When COVID-19 hit, I, along with many other people, struggled with all the disruption and didn't do anything school related for several months. However, during this time, I happened to find the book Atomic Habits. This was a cry for help, which eventually led me to your books, Deep Work and Digital Minimalism. These books and ideas eventually changed my life. It took me about a year of messing around with theories and practices such as time, block planning, digital decluttering and finding time for what was truly important to me when I worked. But when I worked, I was way smarter and it took about half as much time as it did during my first two years of the program. In my last year and a half of my PhD, I submitted six manuscripts for publication. One has been published, two have been accepted and three are currently under review. All of this was done by me getting to work at about 8.30 AM and leaving between 4.30 and 5 PM every day. Some days I even left earlier if I felt the need to go home. I've also read more books in the past two years than I did in my earlier life. I have been a more present father and spouse, which has truly helped my marriage. Whether you use this or not is fine. I just want to say thank you for making me a better person, researcher and teacher. Dandy, I appreciate the case study for those who are listening. This is a common tale. When you actually get organized about the allocation of your time, when you actually get organized by how you were going to expend your energy, it can be astonishing how little time it actually takes to produce good, impressive, productive work. This is the biggest issue I think with our epidemic of overload and busyness right now is that we take as a given that how we approach work is just what work means. This sort of frenzied long hour email slack back and forth on Zoom. When we think about productivity or producing, we think about just we have to do more and more of this. We think of it as a game of who can actually tolerate the pain of longer and longer hours of this frantic frenzy. What Dandy discovered is that do not assume the way most people work is what work means. If you're careful about what matters and what does it, if you focus on the important and either downplay the shallow or consolidate and relentlessly or ruthlessly batch it, so it gets done with the amount of energy, the total energy minutes it gets is shrunk. We take the unnecessary out of our life. We get more relentless but more patient in how we approach the important. Not there's a deadline next week. I'll see you seven days from now, but I've been working a little bit towards this every day for the last seven months. When we get more patient, suddenly you find yourself in a situation like Dandy where I'm not working from six to six or seven thirty to six. I'm working eight to five, eight thirty to four thirty and I'm killing it and I have energy. I'm doing clean shutdowns. I'm home. I'm with my kids. I'm with my wife. I'm reading books. This I think is the key to a deep life is this slower productivity. It is not easy to achieve but it is absolutely achievable and is what you should have in your sights if it isn't all possible for you. Throwing more energy at a problem, good luck, not sustainable. Throwing smarter approaches to your work, deeper approaches to your work really can make a difference. This is why by the way, you know, when people say, "I wish I could do deep work, I wish I could, you know, prioritize depth more." But I can't because, you know, I don't have a staff supporting me. I don't have a spouse supporting me. So I just have to do it the way I'm doing it now. When we actually break it down, that doesn't make sense. Look at Dandy. Dandy not prioritizing depth. Dandy not thinking about deep to shallow work ratios. Dandy not being structured and organized in his work was a Dandy who was a worst husband and a worst father. He was home a lot less and when he was home, he was more stressed out. He was more anxious. He needed more support. His spouse had to do more. Dandy who actually started to care about depth over shallowness, intention over frenzy, was a Dandy whose hour shrunk, whose work got more corralled, whose attention to the rest of his life expanded, whose need for support was reduced.


Should I work or spend all my time with my son? (35:49)

A slower approach to productivity, a priority of depth, actually helps you corral work in a way where you're in control of it. It makes you a better citizen of the world, a better family member, a better friend. So I think that's a great case study, Dandy, and I appreciate it. All right, moving on. We have another sort of deep, what should I do with my life question? This comes from Valeria, a lawyer from Italy. Valeria says the following, "I'm a 43-year-old Italian lawyer who three years ago also became a mom. After my son's birth, I immediately understood I didn't want to go on working as a lawyer because his job absorbed all of my energies. I thought about quitting the study psychology, which I really enjoy, but at the end of the day, most of the time I should devote to studying this time, I wouldn't be able to devote to my son. And this looks to me like an impossible choice. My son will never be three again. Is studying without a clear plan worthwhile? If I choose my son and choose to live fully with what I already have, if I choose psychology, I'll choose to subtract some of my present time so as to get ready for a hypothetical future." All right, so let me try to just condense and clarify this question because there's three different things going on. There's multiple things going on here. So you don't want to be a lawyer and you have this other idea. Your word that idea is not very clearly thought through, that you like psychology, but just going to study psychology, that's not really a clear plan. And your word that any sort of work or any sort of study is time away from your son at a critical point and you're worried about that as well. Like, should I do anything that's going to take away from my son? How do I choose between work and family? There's a lot going on here, Valeria, but I appreciate the question because these are all real issues that people feel in different ways. And also I think this is a good follow up to the case study we just read, which really was about depth and organization and family life and how that all works together. So I had to think about this Valeria because again, there's a lot going on. I wrote down three points. Here's three observations that seem clear to me from your story. Number one, you really dislike your corporate lawyer job. This comes through, I read an edited version of the question. Valeria sent me a lot more details. She's done with that job. This seems unambiguous. It's not surprising to me. Those jobs are huge, energy sucks. It sounds like from your letter also that you're a single mom. It's very difficult to do. If it's not, if you're not one of the few for which the engagement, you know, you're Juliann Margulies from the Good Wife where like it really hits a button for you being involved in corporate law and it's really engaging and energizing. If it's not hitting that button, you're not going to be able to force it. If it feels like a drag now, based on my experience talking to a lot of corporate lawyers, it will continue to feel like a drag. So I think this is unambiguous. We want to get you away from law. All right, number two, the other thing clear to me, number two, thing that's clear to me. The idea that any moment you're away from your son is somehow a problem, I think that is exaggerated. Your son needs a loving presence in his life. He doesn't need you in every minute of his life though to develop in a normal, fulfilled way. Most kids do not get full one-on-one attention from their parents for their entire toddler -- either that parent is working or that parent has multiple kids, so you're sharing that attention with other things going on. So I think you've set a standard too high. Your son needs to know that you're in his life, he needs to be a big part of his life, he needs to be a loving, stable president of his life. He doesn't need to see you every hour. So I don't want you to be so worried about that. You're not the first parent to think about studying or having a job. Your son will be fine. All right, number three, here's the third clear point that occurred to me as I read your question. Your lifestyle vision right now is haphazard and unclear. This is okay. I understand why this is the case because there's a lot of frenzy going on right now. You're dealing with a complicated situation. You have this corporate job that was fulfilling these ideas you had about productive employment and you don't like it and you have a kid and your kids at this important age and you don't know what to do. That's a hard complicated time and I understand that. I think as a result of it being hard and complicated, you don't have a lot of clarity on your lifestyle since your career planning vision. It comes through in the question where you're taking some psychology courses and you stop and you're thinking, "Should I just go do that?" You are going to get, I believe, a lot of relief and clarity in how to move forward if you take the time to do some systematic lifestyle since your career planning. We need to fix the area of this image of your lifestyle year from now, five years from now, 10 years from now. Something that has all the different attributes, not just professional, where you live, what your day is like, what is your son, what type of school is your son at, are you home when you come home from school or you living in the countryside on the weekends? You have this palpable image of your lifestyle that you can see, feel, and touch. It's palpable. It resonates. Is it under the Tuscan Sun image or is it you're in Rome and he's on the Vespa with you as you go to the market, as you are now realizing Valeria, all of my thoughts about Italian lifestyles come from movies. I might get this image really clear. And then you can work backwards and say, okay, what is the most efficient, practical path to this lifestyle? And that's when you start thinking through work opportunities. You're leaving law where you're going. Can you bring your career capital with you? How much money do you actually need for this lifestyle to be supported if you're living here? You start to work through these details and find a pragmatic path forward. That's the way you want to do it. So like what you're doing here is just working forward from activities and hoping that it leads to a lifestyle. Like just studying psychology. Why are you studying psychology? Is it because you want to be a counselor or a therapist and maybe you see a vision of life or therapy because of the flexibility and the type of work matches things you're looking for maybe, but it's getting a undergraduate, a college psychology degree, the right way to do that. Or is there other types of training you do? Like you don't have this information right now. So you want to get that lifestyle fixed clearly and then very clear-eyed work backwards and say here's my path to achieving this. Here's a practical pragmatic path. It'll take two years. I have the evidence. I have the plan.


How do I manage a strategic plan with lots of unpredictable projects? (42:55)

I'm on board. Let's roll. So I think you're going to find Valeria that lifestyle's career planning done right is going to be a savior. It's going to give you the clarity you seek. And I'm just guessing that once you do this, that law job is gone and I'm trying to give you a little bit of reassurance here that your son is going to be fine even if you're not there 24 hours a day. All right. Let's do some strategic. We've been doing some big picture questions. I have a pair of questions here that are a little bit more in the weeds. Let's kind of catch our breath here with some strategic questions. I'm not quite sure how far we've gone. We have one, two, three, four, five, six. We have quite a few questions left, but some of them are short. All right. So let's get rolling here with some more strategic questions. This next one comes from Kevin and attorney in Philadelphia. Kevin says, I'm a litigator. My big projects often come in the form of motions or briefs, which can take several days to finish and sometimes arrive unpredictably causing deadline pilots. How do you manage a strategic plan when your work consists of a large number of somewhat unpredictable, medium-ish sized projects with deadlines? Well, so Kevin, just a quick reminder for everyone, strategic plans, what we sometimes also call quarterly plans is what we sometimes also call semester plans. Jesse, what do you call them? Skeleton plans. So it's a key aspect of our multi-scale planning philosophy that we talked about here on the show because you have these plans that cover three to four months. You use those to inform your weekly plan each week, your weekly plan informs then your daily time-block plan. So Kevin is saying, I have a hard time. Most of the work I do, I have a hard time accounting for it in a plan that covers three or four months because the work arrives often unpredictably. It requires three or four days to complete. I'm not quite sure. Sometimes it piles up, it's just hard to predict. I'm a litigator. Kevin, my response is that type of work doesn't need to be specified in your strategic plan. Your strategic plan should recognize most of my cycles will be handling these briefs that are going to show up. Okay? So I want to recognize that in my strategic plan and not have a huge load of other things that you're thinking you're somehow going to get done. What should be your strategic plan though is anything that you do want to make progress on that is not part of this ongoing flow of briefs. That's going to be well served by a strategic plan. So you're like, maybe I'm working on this initiative, I'm trying to master this new whatever, this new piece of some sort of penal code or whatever that will then help my practice. And so your strategic plan is to say, okay, this fall, this winter, I want to master this information. That means I'm going to have to read these things, then take this course and then go spend the day, sign up to do a day long training. And your strategic plan might say, let's evaluate each week as we get to it to see if it's a busy week or non-busy week. The busy weeks are where we have more than four briefs that have piled up. We do nothing on those weeks.


How does role-based communication work? (46:10)

The non-busy weeks I want to do Monday, Wednesday, Friday mornings, 90 minutes in the law library at the office. Like that's a great use of the strategic plan. You have a strategy laid out for how to make progress over a longer period of time on a non-urgent but ultimately important projects. Kevin, that's what should be in your strategic plan. These type of work that you're not just going to do in the moment, you don't have your briefs in this strategic plan, but your plan recognizes that those exist. I have another question here. This one's from Bartholomew who says, I'm involved in the establishment of a new academic research society, which involves creating a website, starting a bulletin and hosting a conference. I'm trying to get my team to adopt a new portian strategy with role-based rather than person-based communication. I need some help getting started. Good use of new portian. I do like the idea of that becoming a term of art. All right, role-based communication, for those who don't know, this is an idea from my book, A World Without Email. The idea is if you have a team or an organization. Instead of having all communication be associated with individuals, Jesse Skeleton at CalNewPort.com, you have communication channels associated with roles or different types of work. This is where you get support, for example, at CalNewPort.com. You can extend that idea to all sorts of different types of roles. Client queries could be an email address. You could have, and I've seen this before, an email address set up for each of your clients where the address is specific to them. If you have a Skeleton Polish company as one of your clients, instead of them just having the email address of someone who works at your company, they have a Skeleton Polish at client.companyname.com. They send to that address. That address is just for their communication. This allows you to break the connection of communication with individuals. It's not just email addresses, by the way. You can use other types of tools. We talked about our sponsor Notion. You have a Notion workspace that you communicate in. You can have a shared document. You can have a ticketing system. You can have a chat bot. I don't really care about the technology. The point here is that you have incoming channels tied with roles or specific type of work, not with individuals in your company. Why is that important? Because when a communication channel is associated with an individual, we implicitly associate with that channel the conventions that we're hardwired for when it comes to interpersonal interaction. We're a social species. We're wired to be social. We have a lot of expectations, a lot of instincts around sociality. One of those instincts, for example, is if like I ask you something, you answer me. We're wired to think if someone in my tribe, 70,000 years ago, ignores me when I'm asking them a question, this is a problem. Maybe we have a beef going here. Maybe I'm going to get a mastodon thigh to the back of the head if I'm not careful. We really worry about it. We expect really quick communication. That carries over to our current world. We have Paleolithic brains in a modern world. Then I send an email as a client. I want a response right away. I'm like, why is this specific person not responding to me? I read in the responses, why is this person always have this tone with me? When you're instead using a role or work specific channel, all that goes away. When I'm sending a query to my client name at client.calnewport.com, I have completely different expectations that if I'm sending that to Cal, or if I'm seeing that to Jesse. On the flip side, you as your organization can have different, you can now very clear rules for how this happens. You covered this on this day. You covered it on that day. We take shifts. Multiple people look at it. We have a daily, this is an example from my book. Roll with that email. This is daily quick client stand up. We look at all the incoming communication from the last day and we translate it into task. We answer the quick things and we figure out our responses for the other things. We farm out that work to specific individuals. This means that in between those daily stand ups, there's no incoming messages you have to monitor and respond to. A big fan of role based communication as opposed to person based communication if you can. I gave a lot of examples there. Email addresses are a domain that aren't tied to people. That's a big one. Non-email based channels is another big one. Again, they can be simple. Here is a shared Google Doc.


How do I plan projects with unpredictable time demands? (50:56)

We have our upcoming client checking meeting dates and bold. Just right in here. Anything you want to talk about, any questions, put in notes, whatever. You get to that at the upcoming meeting. I think that's really good. Office hours is really good. We have a client office hours for these issues. Different people might be there, but you know when that time is and you come to those office hours. Anything that depersonalizes interaction between you and the outside world, I think is a good way forward if at all possible. We got one more strategic question here. Then we got another big picture query. There's another strategic question. This comes from local optimizer, an AI researcher from New York City. Local optimizer asks, "How do you plan for research projects that have a large variance in how long they could take when you're building out your strategic plan?" Again, strategic plan, quarterly plan, semester plan, all the same. It covers roughly a three to four month period of your life. Here's the thing. Every plan, you might be identifying, "This is a big project I'm working on." You're not being super specific about exactly how much time you're dedicating to this and when. That really happens more at the weekly plan scale if you're doing multi-scale planning. You might say, "I'm working on this research project this semester. I want to try to get to a result by whatever," February. It's in your weekly plan that you say, "Where am I on this project? How much time do we need?" "Oh, man, I'm really behind. I'm going to put aside the first half of Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, all day, Friday, I'm dedicating to this. We really got to make progress." Or on the flip side, it's in your weekly plan where you might say, "We're waiting to hear back on something, so I'm not going to spend any time on it this week." Or, "Hey, this is done. Let's just clean it up on Monday and this project is done." Great. I'll use the rest of my week for other things.


Should I move my family across the country to accept my dream job? (52:56)

It's really in the weekly plan where big picture endeavors gets translated to actual effort, plans for the extenature of actual effort. So when you make the weekly plan, you just assess, "Where am I?" And you allocate time appropriately. So you will naturally titrate back and forth how much time you need based on how the product unfolds. If it finishes early, great. You either have breathing room or you can say, "There's two months left. Let's go back and update our quarterly plan and add another project into it." So no big deal. We have a question here from Brian Mark. Brian Mark says, "I am a high school art teacher, an adjunct professor of digital media, and an MFA candidate in animation from a top program. I've had multiple interviews with major animation studios in Los Angeles, but I live in Florida. My wife and I just had a baby and bought a new house in a nice neighborhood. Our support system is here. Working in animation is a long-standing goal of mine. Should I stay or should I go?" And Brian Mark, "Lives us to career planning works here. But here's the caveat I want to give. Be very wary about the concept of a dream job skewing your planning process." This is a real issue, especially in American culture, especially for millennials. Millennials, we were really the generation that was raised with this idea that matching your job to preexisting passion is the right path towards self-actualization. I actually have an article out where I talk about this generational shift in how we think about careers. The New Yorker piece that came out on December 29th, and it's about quiet quitting. It's a search for Cal Newport, New Yorker, quiet quitting. I actually talk about this. It's just a little bit of a plug for that piece. We have this issue where we put too much power into the notion of a dream job and it skews our otherwise systematic lifestyle center career planning. What I want you to do is put aside the notion of dream job and get much more specific about the properties that that specific job has that makes it attractive. When you're doing your lifestyle center career planning, this is going to include many different aspects of your life where you live, the neighborhood, family, what your pace is like, what the environment is like, what you're involved in. It's also of course going to involve your career. I want you to have attributes of that career that are appealing to you. Forget the label of dream job. What is it about animation in LA that was appealing to you? Just pull that out into attributes and maybe it's prestige. Maybe there's an excitement or a magic to being working on something in the film industry and movie stars come in to do the voice recording. Maybe there's just something about the artistic expression and that type of animation. I don't know. But get rid of the dream job label and let's just get clear about attributes. You do your lifestyle center career planning. Here's all the different things in my lifestyle vision including the attributes of your job ideally. Then you do the standard calculus. What are my different paths forward to try to acquire as many of these properties as possible? There might not be an option that gives you all of them. You're sort of waiting. I can see a path here that gets me all of these things but not that. This path gets me those but not this. Then you're making judgments about different combinations of different lifestyle attributes to figure out which of these packages I think is the highest or most appealing. Then you execute that plan. Your job gets reduced in this vision to appealing properties that are there being judged right along other appealing properties like the type of house I can live in, proximity to friends and family, the lifestyle pace, etc. It puts everything on the playing field. When you do that, I don't know what you'll find. Maybe you'll find for example, this is just hypothesizing just to give you a sense of how this type of planning goes. Maybe you find, okay. There's no movie studio animation jobs in Florida but I can have a career vision. It'll take me a few years to get there where I have 75% of those attributes. Maybe I'm more seriously teaching animation and on the side, I'm doing these creative animation projects especially in the summer and that really scratches the itch of creative expression. Maybe even I want to put things on the awards circuit. I don't have some of the prestige of the LA animation studio but hey, I got two out of three things I care about. Or maybe you find, if I move to LA, it's not as bad as I thought. My friends aren't there but I'm looking instead of at the dreamworks job in LA where I'd have to live in the valley somewhere. I'm looking at the Emeryville Pixar headquarters and I haven't offered there. There's this quirky, I could live in Marin and this quirky community and you've worked this through. You can build a really cool lifestyle there and be a cool place for the kids to grow up. We can be outside and there's a bunch of the animators, families live there. I can get 80% of what I like about the lifestyle location and communication arc in Florida. I can actually get that in California and get all the job attributes. Let me do that. These are the type of decisions you might make. Once you start comparing apples to apples, packages of possible lifestyle attributes to other packages of possible lifestyle attributes. What do you think about it? Where people get tripped up again is they give too much energy to... No, no. My dream job is like bonus plus 10.


How do you make time for Quality time with your wife with such a busy schedule? (58:43)

You see that somehow is different than just this job has these attributes which I like which I can compare to this job has some of those attributes. It's like this is dream job, this isn't. That has a way of pulling people in the situations where all of these other aspects of their life you lose that they like, you lose from your lifestyle and net everyone's unhappy. Forget about the dream job. Change things to properties, lifestyle properties and start making some objective comparisons. A couple short questions here. Brian Mark had another question. How do you make time for quality time with your life with such a busy schedule? Well, Brian Mark, I don't know why you assume I have such a busy schedule. I work during the busiest parts of my life, standard 40 hour work week hours. There's long periods of my life where I work. I'm home much more such as the summer, semesters where I'm on teaching release are extensive breaks that we have. This I think is a common misnomer that comes up and often when you see practitioners of what I now call slow productivity. Those who do slow productivity, we're always working at a reasonable pace but constantly sort of patiently putting in time towards things that are important to us. Over time, a lot of different types of accomplishments pile up. Here's these books, here's these New Yorker articles, here's these academic articles, here's this show you do. The human instinct is to take all of the supporting effort for all of these different accomplishments that were patiently developed over time, flexibly, slowly and collapse them and imagine someone working on all those things at the same time. A man, you must be writing books at the same time you write New Yorker articles at the same time that you're doing academic articles at the same time you're doing this show, you must work all the time. This is the illusion that slow productivity creates because if you zoom out to larger time scales, even a very reasonable, flexible pace can aggregate a lot of interesting work. And to the outside world, it'll seem like you must be really busy. I am not a very busy person. So I'm done work by five. I don't work on weekends except where I sometimes do Sunday morning writing sessions. I'm not a particularly busy person compared to just about any other job out there. So Brian Mark, that's not an issue. But I do appreciate this moment to talk about a theme that's gone through this episode. One of the themes that's gone through this episode, we saw this in the case study, we saw this other places. Working intentionally, slowly, the natural pace but obsessing over quality on stuff that really matters, being wary about the distraction, batching that or dismissing it when possible, allows you to live a very reasonable, very flexible, very sustainable lifestyle that if you add up the years, looks like to the outside world to be very impressive.


Does Cal write reports on the books he reads? (01:01:20)

So I'd say that's one theme we've talked about today. The other theme that comes up again and again is lifestyle center career planning, lifestyle center career planning, lifestyle center career planning. That's the second theme. The third theme, I think, has to do with skeletons. All right, let's do one more short question here. Ahmed says, "I heard you mention once that you write book reports on the book you read in order to conceptualize the information better. Can you talk a little bit more about this process? Ahmed, I do not do that. I don't write book reports. I mark books. I think there's a video of me doing this. I've talked about on the show. I mark books as I go. My whole thing is I don't want the friction to be too high because that'll slow down the pace at which I read books. A well-marked book you can go back to in about five or ten minutes, replicate most of the main points by just skimming to the pages that are marked and reading the highlighted lines. I'm not a big believer in really high friction systems for consuming books because I just don't have enough time. I want that to seem easy. Pick it up, rock and roll." All right, let me talk briefly about another longtime sponsor of this show that is our friends at Blinkist. You know I'm a big Blinkist fan. Let me tell you what it does and then I'll tell you why I'm proud to have them as a sponsor. I'm also going to mention a new feature they have, which I think is cool. So Blinkist is a app that provides you short, roughly 15-minute summaries, both text or audio form, your choice on over 5,500 non-fiction books and many different long-form podcasts. So you can say I heard about this book by Cal Newport. Once it about click the app, you could be listening to a 15-minute summary or reading a quick summary, get all of the main points or you see, "Hey, this podcast interview, it's a long episode. Let me get the summary they call those short casts and figure out what was actually said here. Is it worth me listening?" The way I recommend using Blinkist is as your sidekick in trying to figure out what books to buy or not or what podcasts to listen to or not. If you're interested in a book, read or listen to the Blink, the 15-minute summary. You may say, "You know what? That's enough. I got the main ideas. This is not really what I thought. Good." Or you might say, "Oh my God, this is exactly what I was looking for." And then you go and buy and read the book. So it is like your personal book buying assistant. If you're serious about the reading life, which is a key component of the deep life, you should be a Blinkist subscriber. For example, I just got the Blink for Turning Pro by Steven Pressfield. I've always meant to read that book. I'd read the War of Art. But I don't know if I want to buy it or not. Boom, 15-minute Blink. I'll know by the end of the day if I'm going to buy it or if I have all the information I need. Here's the new feature I wanted to briefly mention. Blinkist Connect. This allows you to get two premium subscriptions for the price as one. So it allows premium users to share your account with another person of your choice. So this is effectively two premium accounts for the price of one. So if you're already a Blinkist user or you become a Blinkist user and you know someone else who might like this, you can use Blinkist Connect to share Blinkist account with another person. I think that's a great feature. So right now Blinkist has a special offer just for our audience. Go to Blinkist.com/deep to start your seven day free trial and get 25% off a Blinkist premium membership. That's Blinkist spelled the BLINKIST. Blinkist.com/deep to get 25% off any seven day free trial. Blinkist.com/deep. And remember that now for a limited time you can use Blinkist Connect to share your premium account. You'll get two premium subscriptions for the price of one. Let's also talk about ExpressVPN. A VPN is a way for you to gain privacy and security in your internet usage. Here's how a VPN works. Instead of directly connecting to a service like Netflix or a website. You instead create a encrypted secure connection to a VPN server. So anyone who's watching your traffic. So looking at your wireless packets in the coffee shop or your internet service provider. Which by the way watches what websites you're talking to and services you're talking to and is allowed to and probably does sell that data to advertisers. All they see if you use VPN is that Cal is connected to a VPN server. These connections encrypted I have no idea what they're saying. You then tell that server hey what I really want to do is go to a website about how do I fire my assistant for dressing like a skeleton in a way that doesn't expose me to lawsuits. Alright. If your assistant is sniffing your packets or talking to your web provider they have no idea that's what you're doing. Your VPN talks to that website on your behalf. The website then talks to your VPN. It packages up that response and encrypted packets and sends it back to you or your machine. No one knows who you're talking to privacy and it is security. So you need a VPN especially if you're using the internet away from home. Express VPN is the best service to use. Here's a here's a three key things it has and what makes a good VPN service good and why I use Express VPN. A lot of bandwidth to get quick connections servers all over the world. There's almost always going to be a server near where you are to connect to. So you want a nearby VPN service you get that really fast back and forth latency and three the software is simple when you install the VPN software you just turn it on boom and you use everything on your phone or on your tablet or on your laptop just like normal.


Does slow productivity apply only to knowledge workers? (01:07:17)

You don't even realize you're going to it through a VPN but you are. So you need really easy use software. Express VPN has all three of those things so you should have a VPN. Express VPN is the service you should use. Here's a good news you can get an extra three months of Express VPN free at ExpressVPN.com/deep. Remember you have to do the slash deep to get the extra months free. That's Express VPN.com/deep ExpressVPN.com/deep. All right skeleton Christmas Jesse or is it Jesse Christmas skeleton what are we calling this year? Jesse Christmas skeleton. All right Jesse Christmas skeleton. Let's do two more quick questions here. The first one comes from Alessandro a professor from Brazil. Alessandro says does slow productivity principles apply only to knowledge workers? That's a good question. Those principles are still being developed. I'm actually probably less than a week away of submitting my manuscript for my slow productivity book. Some kind of excited about that. That means my thinking on slow productivity has now evolved to its next phase. For those who are interested at this early point we're looking now for probably a February 2024 release. So about a year from now this book should be coming out. So the principles of slow productivity to discuss in that book do fewer things working at a natural pace, obsessing over quality are targeted roughly speaking at knowledge workers. If I want to be a little bit more general the philosophy that I'm developing applies to those who autonomously apply skill to create new artifacts that have enhanced value. So this covers what we can think of as traditional knowledge workers like artists or artisans or writers or scientists as well as what we might think of as more modern knowledge workers. You're a computer programmer, you're a copywriter. You run a freelance business that sells an informational product. So we have this broad notion of people who have skill and some autonomy in how they apply that skill. This is who I'm thinking about when I'm thinking about slow productivity. This is the group for which I think doing fewer things working at a natural pace, obsessing over quality is a path forward that is incredibly sustainable. It doesn't burn you out but it also can produce really important meaningful high impact work. It's that sweet spot. It's how I think most knowledge works should actually be organized. This doesn't apply for example to those who work in highly rote or non-skilled jobs. It also doesn't work for those who have highly structured jobs. So you're an ER doctor. There's a very little autonomy in sense of how you manage your day or apply your skill. It's here's the board, here's who's next. It's hair on fire, go, go, go until your shift is over. So it doesn't apply to everybody. But those who have some autonomy and applying skill to create new artifacts with value, be them informational or physical, I think slow productivity can play a role. So I'll of course talk more about this book as we get closer. But basically part one of this book I explain how the notion of productivity and knowledge work has just spiraled into out of control. It's not a senseical definition.


Addressing Side Hustle Failures

Why do my side hustles fail? (01:10:35)

It's not a definition that produces a lot of value. It's almost accidental. I'm really getting that history. And then I argue what we need then is an alternative that's way more intentional. Slow productivity is that alternative, it builds on some of the foundational ideas of other slow movements and applies it to the notion of slow productivity. And then we really get deep on those principles. It's going to be a cool book, but we still have a year. So let's we'll sort of temper our excitement for this book for now. There's a lot of time until it's really ready to come out. All right, one last question. This comes from Diamond Michael, a writer from Denver. So question 13, 13 questions for 2023. This is question 13. Diamond Michael says, "Over the years I have had numerous situations where I've tried to launch a freelance business idea with little or no capital. At the point in which the resulting financial scarcity becomes too much to bear, I resort to a regular full time or part time job in order to yield a steady income. The problem is it seems like the more well-paying my job, the greater the expectation in terms of work hours and energy investment, this in turn reduces my time and energy bandwidth to devote to the deep work tied to what I quote unquote want to be doing. So I'm curious as to whether what your advice is in resolving this dilemma, where my energy and attention are directed into different directions." All right, so Diamond Michael, we have to get way more systematic about what you're doing here, two pieces of advice to offer. First is going to be the piece of advice we've been saying throughout this entire episode. Lifestyle Center Career Planning. You are throwing energetic darts at the wall here. You're like, "I don't like my job. Let me just quit and do the side hustle. Oh, the side hustle's not working. I need a job. What's the highest paying job? I guess I'll take that job." You're just bouncing back and forth. Sort of instinctual grab from one thing to another. Let's get more systematic. Develop a clear vision of what you think a life well lived. Looks like all the different aspects of your lifestyle, the properties of your work, but the properties of where you live, your community, the different types of things you're involved in, all of the attributes of a lifestyle vision that really resonates. Get this really clear. Then figure out pragmatic paths to get there. This will inform what you need out of your job, where you're going to live, what your lifestyle is like, how much that cost, what type of properties you get out of your work. This will help inform what type of job you need. That's where you might figure out, "Wait a second. I can use my expertise to get a freelance position in the same industry, allows me to move here, ski 50 weeks a year, not 50 weeks a year, 50 days a year, I don't know, 50 days a year, and have flexibility. Great. This is the right path forward to my lifestyle. I need a whole other, I need to leave my industry altogether and start my own business. This is what's going to help you answer that question. I think what's happening now is you're just fetishizing the idea of a side hustle as being drastically different than what you don't like about your job. If it's drastically different than what you don't like, then maybe you'll drastically like it. This syllogism is flawed. You need to be working backwards from a specific lifestyle detailed in terms of properties of your life, attributes of your life, and then figure out a career strategy that matches that. If it turns out after you do this calculus that's starting your own business or having a side hustle that allows you to really pull back on your current work and it makes the ends meet, "Oh, I could be freelance twice a week. That's not quite enough money, but if I had a side hustle generating $30,000 a year, now the numbers work fine." If you need some sort of side hustle or full-time business to make this vision work, then we're going to get to my second piece of advice, which comes from my book So Good They Can't Ignore You, which is the notion of using money as a neutral indicator of value. You don't quit your job until the new thing is making enough money that you don't have to worry about money when you quit your job. Now, I could still grow more when you give it more attention, but it has to prove itself. Your side hustle or business idea has to prove itself by generating money. People will always tell you, "What a great idea, Diamond Michael." Great. Do it. Follow your passion. You be you. It's easy to give compliments. What's hard is to give people people to give you money. They will not give you money unless they ask you to like what you're offering. So use money as your neutral indicator of value. When your business or side hustle idea is generating sufficient money to support you, then you make the change in your other job. If it's not, that means it's not a good business. It's not a successful side hustle. Don't flee that feedback. That's the most realistic feedback you're going to get on the viability of your option. All right. Those are my two pieces of advice. Do lifestyle center career planning instead of action based career planning? Quitting will be exciting. Disruption will be exciting. My own job is better than one where I work. That's action based career planning. That's just giving into your gut and fleeting emotions in the moment. Be more systematic. And if that plan does point towards the need for you doing something on the side or something on your own, let money be your neutral indicator of value. People aren't paying you for it. It's not a good idea. No matter how much you think it is your dream. All right. Jesse, Chris, with skeleton. I think that's all the time we have for today. Any closing words of wisdom. Skeleton. All right. I promise everyone before you not only delete this podcast from your phone, but actually smash your phone and have the pieces dissolved in a bat of acid. Jesse, we'll be back next week. There will be no skeleton. We'll get away from this nonsense. We'll get back to a normal episode. But until then, as always, stay deep.


Great! You’ve successfully signed up.

Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.

You've successfully subscribed to Wisdom In a Nutshell.

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

Success! Your billing info has been updated.

Your billing was not updated.