Ep. 239: On Time And Stress

Transcription for the video titled "Ep. 239: On Time And Stress".


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Cal's intro (00:00)

get at today's deep question, which is, is our relationship to time broken? I'm Cal Newport, and this is Deep Questions, the show about living and working deeply in an increasingly distracted world. deeply in an increasingly distracted world. I'm here, my deep work HQ, joined as always by my producer, Jesse. Jesse, I'm going to describe to you as my world famous producer, Jesse, now that you've made your international media debut. So for, we've mentioned this before on the show, but for a while last fall, there was a reporter from the Financial Times who was hanging out at the HQ at some of my events and doing some interviews for a profile they wrote, or they were writing about me for the Financial Times. And that came out last weekend. I'll load it on the screen here for those who are watching at youtube.com slash calnewportmedia. It's episode 239. Also, you can find this at thedeeplife.com. So here's me looking heroic for this magazine article, How Cal Newport Rewrote the Productivity Gospel. Did you know, Jesse, this ended up being the cover of the magazine? That's awesome. I mean, it's a sweet picture. That's the parking lot behind the HQ. Yeah, I mean, I was looking around the article and I noticed a lot of the... Yeah, so I've only skimmed this because I can't stand reading about myself. But what's important, what's important is if we... And this is a long article, which is a whole other issue. There's the magazine cover there. All right, so if we scroll down farther in this article, we see that his producer, Jesse, was already there. I think that's a lot is packed into that phrase, Jesse. I think this is with less more is being conveyed. This is cool. This is your international press debut. I mean, I got to say it. I don't know if this is what. This is your international press debut. I mean, I got to say it. I don't know if this is, but self-deprecation or whatever. I really am baffled by the idea that anyone would want to read 5,000 words about my story. Like I get that my ideas are interesting like that. I get, I'm not that interesting of a person. I disagree. I'd, I'd definitely read. I mean, I'd read it even if I didn't know you. Cause I was always a fan before. Here's a short version of my autobiography. I sat and I thought a lot in between reading. Yeah, but you took a lot of, you took a lot of action. The end. Well, anyways, so, uh, Courtney was great and I'm sure the article is great. A very talented writer. I remain humbly baffled by the idea that people would want to spend that much time learning about my story, but there you go. But it is the international press debut of Jesse. So for that, we reached a milestone. I think it's important. One other piece of logistical notes to work on before we get into it, a logistical note before we get into the meat of today's episode. So Jesse, you know, I have this longtime partnership with the writer Scott Young and we have these two online courses. You've taken at least one of them, right? Yeah. You took it. So we have this course top performer based off of so good. They can't ignore you. And we have this newer course life of focus, which is based off of deep work, digital minimalism and Scott's book ultra learning. Well, this week, the week that this episode is coming out, Ultra Learning is open for registration. So maybe once or twice a year, we open it to register a new class. So it's open until Friday. The website is life-of-focus-course.com. So life-of-focus-course.com with dashes in between every word. Anyways, I figured instead of me trying to explain what's going on in this course, I would have Scott call in, join me briefly for a quick conversation about what's going on with this course, where it came from. Also, I make fun of him for that terrible URL.

Discussion On Focus, Productivity And Career Accomplishments

Life of Focus (04:00)

So here is Scott calling in to help explain this course. All right, Scott, thanks for calling in to help me talk about our online course, Life of Focus. Let me first of all, just make sure I'm getting the basic information out to you, my listeners. This course that Scott and I did is called Life of Focus. It's found at the website lifeoffocuscourse.com with dashes in between all those words. So life-of-focus-course.com. That's where you can sign up. It is open this week. So the week this episode came out, it is open for new registrations before we close it back down again on Friday. Now, Scott, when I tell people about this course, I say it's built around three books. So from my library, it's built around deep work and digital minimalism. And from your library, your fantastic book, Ultra Learning. So it's a course that has one month dedicated to ideas from each of those books. That's the high level way I talk about it. You understand the details better. I feel like your hands have gotten more dirty with the underlying coding of this course. And I can tell you guys, it is not easy to build an online course. So I thought I would throw it to you just to explain, first of all, for the listeners who's curious, what happens during each of these months? So during the Deep Work Month, the Minimalism Month, and the Ultra Learning Month, what type of things are happening if you're a student who has signed up for this course? Right. So we've divided the course into these three one-month challenges. So there's a focus work, focus life, and focus mind challenge. And you're right, they draw on the stuff that you've probably already read if you're in the Cal Newport idea space, the ideas are not going to be, you know, radically new, they're going to be things that you're familiar with. But what's going to be different about the course is we're going to go into the real nitty gritty of getting the details right, and provide you with this sort of actionable template for actually making it a part of your life. Because of course, that's the big stumbling block. I mean, it's easy to say, yeah, I need to do more deep work. But how do you actually get that to happen? And what we found from working with students is that there's a lot of these little details that need to be gotten right. It needs to be about tracking how much time you're actually spending doing deep work. It's about figuring out what your rituals are for getting into the deep work, for getting out of the deep work. It's about communicating when you're going to be deep working with other people. And so, you know, this is easy to talk about, but it's something that we actually spend a lot of time implementing in the course. So if you work on the course, the first month is going to be a month entirely dedicated to improving the quality of your deep work. The second month is going to be entirely dedicated to improving your digital online social media usage in your leisure time. So we'll begin with a digital declutter and we'll work on, you know, not just, okay, I'm going to just get rid of everything and then figure it out. We're going to create a new system for you so that you can have something that, you know, not only gets you off of this sort of algorithmic spiral of content, but gives you something better so that you don't feel like you wanna go back to it after three months. And then finally, in the Focus Mind Challenge, we're going to tackle a project to learn or make something new so you can reclaim all of that useful time and have some more interesting hobbies, learn something important, really stretch yourself. So that's the idea of the course. And so if a three month deep dive experience into those kinds of self-improvement goals sounds like something for you, then maybe Life of Focus will be a good course. And this was the big idea we had when we were working on designing this course was the clarity of having each month be built around a singular project or goal. So you have an objective each month that you're focusing on. And in the pursuit of that project or that goal, you are mastering a lot of the ancillary skills that are related to it. So you're going to be overhauling the way you schedule your time and deep work, et cetera, during the deep work month. You have a concrete goal, but in the pursuit of that goal, you get much better at integrating deep work in general. During the digital minimalism month, you are going through a declutter process, really systematically changing your relationship to tools. And as you do that, you pick up all these other ideas around minimalism and the deep mind. You're working on a particular building this intellectual output. But by doing this, I'm learning what it feels like to actually take my mind now that it's on clutter and actually put it to work. So that I think is one of the cool aspects of this. So you're getting regular information every week. You're getting this regular information, some of it directly related to helping you with the big projects you're working on, and some of it just more general about the general theme of that month. And I mean, Scott, I don't think people probably appreciate the amount of time you and I thought about this to get that balance exactly right. I mean, you and I have done another course together, Top Performer. You've done other online courses as well without me. And so there's this big base of experience that was being pulled from when we put this course together to try to get that perfect balance of concrete, regular information plus instruction. And I got to say, I think we really hit it with this one. I'm really proud of this particular course. I think that's why it's been pretty popular ever since we first launched it back in those early pandemic days when it first went live. Well, I think one of the things that is sort of underrated is, you know, you can read a book and you can get lots of ideas. You can listen to this podcast, but it doesn't always translate into action. It doesn't always just spontaneously generate this system that you actually use in your life. And so that's why we're really excited about this course format because it is really trying to guide you through that process. And this is kind of like a masterclass. So if you have, you know, experimented with some of this stuff before, but you don't feel like you're exactly where you'd like to be, then this is something that like really lengthy discussion pages where we have all these people who are weighing in their comments, like, how do I make decisions about whether to count certain things as deep work or not? Or how do I make a decision about like how to deal with this particular kind of challenge? And so it ends up becoming this library of dealing with that nitty gritty, because it is those details, which is whether you succeed or fail with these kinds of attempts. And so the big ideas you're already familiar with, you're probably already sold on the need to have more deep work and have a deeper, more focused life. But it's often the implementation where people get hung up. And that's what I think we're really proud of, of kind of putting together all these little pieces in this course. of kind of putting together all these little pieces in this course. And here's a little secret backstory to this course. We had a lot of time to get the ideas right, because actually a lot of the filming that happened for this course was deep in the early days of the pandemic. So while everyone was at home, Scott and I would be surreptitiously sneaking off to film studios with our crews looking around. You know, everything was empty and we could just sit and film and think. So we actually were able to take advantage of the whole world being shut down to put all of our energy into making this course successful. So let's make sure that you have all the right information. So, again, as Scott said, if you're mastered the basics, you've heard me talk about this. You've heard Scott talk about this. You've read his books. You've read my books. And now you're ready to go to the next level. You should consider this course. This is for working deeper, living deeper, and thinking deeper. If you're ready to do those three things, then you might want to check this out. So go to lifeoffocuscourse.com with dashes, life-of-focus-course.com. And there's a lot of information on there. You can learn a lot more about the course. There's testimonials from people. You can see how it's actually broken up and really consider, okay, is this for me or not? Because we have our students go through this course, roughly speaking, as a cohort, it's timed registration. So it's this week, the week, this podcast episode airs Monday to Friday is the week that the course is open. So if you're interested, go over to life of focus course.com with dashes right now, because we only have a week in which we can actually sign people up. All right. So Scott, I'm excited about this. I hope you and I have some of our, more of our listeners and readers join. I always enjoy following the progress of our students when we have a new cohort coming through. So thanks for jumping on the show. And also thanks for keeping us with, I was going to say, and I don't want to self-deprecate us, our URL game is not as good as it could be. We've got a lot of dashes. Now, I think we're stuck with this because we did the course that we've been running since 2014, Top Performer, I think we had the dashes in it. So now we're following that convention. But man, I bet there's someone out there who's- Well, through the magic of Google and websites, it's pretty easy to find on our website as well. So we did note – we spared the expense on the URL so we could put it into film production value. Exactly. A legal surreptitious early pandemic anti-lockdown film production. No, the thing is we're writers, Scott. You and I are writers. So we don't think about reading the names of URLs. We figure on written out, things look really clear. We're not meant for the- Yeah, too much hypertext. That's too much experience for us. We're not used to pitching it on- No, exactly. Exactly. But anyway, Scott, thanks for calling in and Check out that course. What I want to talk about today in today's episode is motivated by an article from the New York Times that quite a few of you, my alert listeners, sent to me. I'm going to load this article on the screen here so we can mark it up. So again, this is at youtube.com slash counterpart media episode 239 or the deeplife.com. dot com slash Calendipart Media episode 239 or the deep life dot com. I've loaded this up on my screen. The title of this article, which came out on March 4th, so this is recent, is Time Has Been Codified, has been codified and commodified. Ooh, I mixed those together. Time has been codified and commodified. This is a mouthful, Jesse. They should do a ZocDoc ad somehow with this title. ZocDoc.com.cod.com.odell. All right, let me try this again, guys. Time has been codified and commodified. Ginny Odell wants to set it free. So this is an article. It's a profile of Ginny Odell. Ginny Odell is 36 years old. She's an artist who a long time had a digital art, I don't know what it was, I guess, professorship position at Stanford. She does sort of ecologically informed found object style art. She wears complicated glasses. She lives on the West Coast. You know what we're talking about. O'Dell and I's paths have intertwined before. Back in in 2019 she released a book called How to Do Nothing Resisting the Attention Economy this came out the same week as my 2019 book Digital Minimalism there are some similarities in those two books there's a lot of press we ended up being combined together in so there's a lot of coverage where our trajectories were temporarily thrown together so for example back then Gia Tolentino at the New Yorker together in. So there's a lot of coverage where our trajectories were temporarily thrown together. So for example, back then, Gia Tolentino at the New Yorker published a big double review in the magazine of my book and Ginny's book and sort of contrasted them. The New York Times book review did a big thing that talked about both of our books. I think The Ringer did something. So we were sort of on a parallel path for a little while because our books came out at the same time. We're sort of on a parallel path for a little while because our books came out at the same time. Anyway, she has a new book out called Saving Time, sort of a follow-up to How to Do Nothing. This article is about it. I think it generates some interesting, relatively deep points about our relationship with time. And so I wanted to go through in today's deep dive, I was going to go through some big points from this article as a jumping off point to get at today's deep question, which is, is our relationship to time broken? So we're going to do a deep dive based off Jenny's article. Then I have a collection of questions and case studies that are all connected to the same theme about thinking through our relationship to time, work in time, time management, et cetera.

Today’s Deep Question (16:22)

So do we have a broken relationship with time? We'll get into that with the questions. And then the final segment will be something interesting, an interesting article that people sent to me through my interesting account, newport.com email address. This something interesting article also loosely relates to this theme as well. So it's a whole episode about our relationship to time, our troubled relationship to time. All right, before I jump into some quotes from this New York Times article, I'll give a bit of a warning here. Odell is an academic thinker, so the way she talks about things or the way people talk about her work may seem somewhat jargony or a little bit sort of elitist or aloof to sort of the standard person who's thinking about the relationship to time. I guess the response I want to give is Odell should be taken seriously. I would say of that sort of San Francisco, Brooklyn axis of the post-capitalist crowds, the people who are very much in the mood right now of writing about post-capitalism and the way that there's all these forces that are sort of disintegrating the American social fabric due to exploiting of capitalists, extraction, et cetera, et cetera. Odell is by far, I think, one of the more serious voices. So instead of just regurgitating Mad Lib styles, different reconfigurations of ideas she's seen on Twitter that get relikes. Odell's actually a deep thinker on this. She's heavily influenced in particular by the Italian communist philosopher Franco Berardi. A good way of understanding her work is taking Berardi's work, his critique of this would have been like late 20th century capitalism, and she's moving it forward to 21st century digital attention economy capitalism, digital knowledge work capitalism. So there's actually, I think, a more serious intellectual foundation with Odell that's not found in a lot of other sort of very online type commentators on this issue. So she speaks in a different language than you or I, because she's an academic, but let's take it seriously nonetheless. All right, so I'm going to load up the article again here. There's a couple of points I want to highlight, and then we're going to riff off this into my own takes on things. So early on in the article, we hear about her reaction, what happened after her book, How to Do Nothing, became a bestseller back in 2019. So according to the article, Odell said that when she heard from readers, they often told her that they didn't have enough time in the day to reconsider how they approach productivity. So how to do nothing was a challenge to productivity culture. Readers came back to her and said, I like what you're saying, but I can't act on it. I'm too busy. So this is a, think of this as like an origin story of sorts for her new book, Saving Time, where she said, I'm going to look closely then at our relationship with time. All right. So scrolling forward here more in the article is a couple of the quotes I wanted to highlight. All right. So later on, we see this kind of grounding is central to Adele's relationship with time, the one she forged while writing this book. So what precedes this in the article is Adele actually instructing the New York Times reporter who was going to profile her to go to a specific spot in Manhattan. Or in between two row houses, there's this massive ancient rock formation that's maintained. And she said, go there and just be there and marvel in how interesting and unusual this thing is in the middle of the city. So there's grounding that's being referenced here. So Odell argued in her book, Saving Time, that we need to ground our experience of time in actual real things and experiences and noticing. She goes on to elaborate about this notion of grounding. This is Odell speaking here. This is probably something that a lot of people experienced during the pandemic, she said. There was some assurance and seeing, ecologically speaking, big things like migratory birds, seeing the flowers come back, and seeing that this goes on. I think that this was very therapeutic for people. It obviously was for me. Your body also has that kind of time, she continued, you are not, you are in that. You are not just in a calendar box. So this is a key point I want to come back to. Let me just do a little snide aside. I try not to do these things, but a little snide aside. This is probably something a lot of people experienced during the pandemic. Elite knowledge workers working from home experiences during the pandemic. That's about 30% of the population. Majority of the population still had to do their jobs. But let's put that aside. As with my writing, this discussion of the codification and commodification of time is not meant for the entire population writ large, but more for highly autonomous knowledge workers. All right. One other thing before we get into our discussion here. She said ultimately her goal in writing this book was to find a relationship to time that wasn't painful. And while she wasn't isn't living in bliss every moment of the day, she says she thinks she succeeded. I feel better. She said time feels thicker. It's made out of stuff. It's made out of people and things that are in it. It doesn't have as much of that empty grid of minutes kind of feeling. When you start to think of time in more collective ways, trying to leave behind the individual time banks, it opens up the horizon of what's possible in your and others' time together. Okay, so let me decode Odell for you here. My take on what she is saying, in part, is that human beings are not naturally wired to think about time as an abstract substance to which we assign abstract knowledge work tasks. This almost mathematical optimization problem of we have X minutes of time. I have these different tasks and I can do an assignment of time to task. This one needs this much time. This one needs this much time. Can we fit? How many things can we fit in where all the activities are abstract? They're digital. They're occurring on a screen. You're just hitting keys. It's this being lost almost in this world, this world of the abstract signifier and not grounded in a concrete world of things around you. So in other words, an interpretation of Odell would be to live by a time block plan of the type I talk about often on the show is in some degrees to be living at odds with human nature. Time is somehow thicker and richer when you're instead able to focus your experience of time on interactions with people or experiences or a fierce attention to what's going on around you. The migratory birds, the leaves are now out on this tree, the thorough approach to noticing and appreciating. That gives us a human experience of time. As she calls it, the empty grid of minutes. So the time block plan that you're filling in is in some sense, not human. It's something artificial that we've had to impose. All right, so here's my take on that. I think she's right about the unnatural nature of the relationship to time that's required by modern knowledge work. I say this often. Time block planning, for example, is very demanding and stressful. It is why, for example, I'm really clear about only do it to the degree you have to do it. Once you shut down for the day, don't do it at night. Don't do it on the weekends. In the new version of the Time Block Planner that's coming out this summer, by the way, it's spiral bound. I'm very excited about this. I've gotten rid of time blocking grids for the weekends altogether and have a much consolidated weekend. It's called the weekend pages, and it's much more consolidated for much less informal plans because time block planning is hard and it's draining. However, it is the reality of most knowledge work jobs today that it's your best bet for trying to get your arms around everything being thrown at you without completely being overwhelmed, without having to eat up every minute of your day, even outside of normal work hours, trying to keep up with work. So it's the best defense we have against a difficult situation. Where I disagree with Odell is in the discussion of what is causing these problems. I think for the elite online types, even for the very engaged and smarter than me types like Odell, influenced by especially early critical theories and the modernist offshoots of Marxism, it's very tempting to try to understand everything through exploitative forces that are, if you're from a modern perspective, are exploitatively trying to extract value from your latent capital, your latent capital value. So it's capitalists trying to extract value from you and your labor. Or if you're of the more post-modernist set, it's more about exploitative forces trying to maintain power dynamics. Odell's more from that older school, modernist, sort of Marxist type line of thinking. So a lot of what she would talk about pulls from sort of a gussied up version of base superstructure theory moved from the early 20th century to the 21st. The basis capitalism, the superstructure here are cultural forces like, I don't know, she calls them the productivity bros. I guess in this worldview, James Clear and Tim Ferriss, and I suppose myself, is secretly tricking people into working more so that the owners of capital can better exploit labor from the alienated masses, et cetera, et cetera. I think that's from the alienated masses, etc. I think that's intellectually interesting. I think it's why these type of theories have resurged, even though they fell out of favor in the 60s, they've resurged again in the very online types in the modern 21st century. There's something there, but it doesn't match my on-the-ground observations of how we ended up in this place where time block planning is our only defense against these overwhelming onslaught of tasks. I think the actual problem is much more proximate. It's we have too much to do. And I think the reason we have too much to do is to some degree maybe about exploitative relationships with capital, but a lot of it has to do with culture and technology shifted, and we did not shift along with it any sort of meaningful, culturally accepted norms or boundaries for controlling workload. When knowledge work collided with email, digital networks, computer-based productivity tools that meant that the individual worker now became a jack-of-all-trades that could basically do anything. We had no more specialization of labor. Anything could come to you. Any department who needs you can throw something your way, and you can fill out a form and go on the Microsoft PowerPoint and make it happen. I think this collision of knowledge work, which itself was quite new, only really emerging as a major sector in the 1950s or 60s, this collision in the 90s and early 2000s with technology was fast and we weren't prepared for it. And we have no culturally accepted or organizationally accepted ways of understanding, well, how much work should someone be doing? How specialized should they do? How do we control the incoming workloads to keep that reasonable and aligned with how people's brains can actually work. The physical version of this thinking is something we did go through in the industrial sector in the early 20th century. So the physical version of this thinking is, well, how much can a human body do? What's reasonable to ask a human body? How safe is the physical things you're doing in a factory? How many hours can we expect someone to actually work in a factory? How young should we tolerate someone actually being in one of these factories? And the labor rights movements built around unions as well as legislative action could come up with answers. The Fair Labor Standards Act of the 1930s said the workday should be eight hours, 40 hours a week. And if you want someone to work longer, you got to pay them a lot more. And by the way, 12-year- olds should not be working in the factories. Though, as we saw in some recent reporting, we've sort of slipped on that recently, but that's a whole other point. Safety standards, OSHA. So we went through all this with the physical activities of industrial labor. We haven't done it with the intellectual activities of knowledge work. What is a reasonable workload for a human brain to have to be juggling? What is a reasonable rate of switching back and forth between context that is compatible with a sustainable and not mentally deranging and fatiguing mode of work? How do we keep track of who's doing what? How do we assign, like, when should be people working when it's this more highly autonomous energy-based knowledge work? Should it be based off workday hours? Should it be based on results? What's required to do that? All of this thinking basically has not yet been done in knowledge work. And as a result, the system has pushed towards, inevitably and relentlessly, without the need of a secret cabal of capitalists and Tim Ferriss, it has pushed towards we have more and more to do. And everyone is exhausted. And it happens in our life outside of work as well we don't have newly emerged cultural standards for in the modern 21st century dual income knowledge work family with the the specter of whatever competitive college admissions lurking six years in the future like what's the reasonable amount of activities for your kids to be doing or things for you to volunteer to or different tasks to take on in your town we've lost these standards so we all do too much and i think this is where a big source of the exhaustion is coming from now i think this is important because that's more tractable than the mustache twirlers when our issue is the mustache twirlers are secretly trying to exploit us and, you know, through these base superstructure type forces deploying their evil productivity bro minions to try to trick us all into working too much more. What can we do? Bolshevik revolution. All right. Short of that, what are we supposed to do? But when we say instead, no, guys, we just got, we don't have any standards. It's out of control. Things change too fast. This has a response. Let's catch up. And let's start advocating for new ways of thinking about work and when work happens and how much work happens and how much work should be on someone's plate and how work is assigned and how we interact about it and what makes sense for individuals in their lives and how busy their kids need to be and what's actually a reasonable load of activities of volunteering to be on your plate? How do we even define being a good citizen? How do we define being a good mother or father? How do we define being a good student? We need to catch up culturally. And I don't think we have to break through forces trying to hold us back. We just have to break through the inertia of this is difficult to do. So who has some good solutions here? I think Oliver Berkman, his book 4,000 Weeks has caught a lot of attention. I think he makes a really good case for how to change your own personal culture over how much work is a reasonable amount of work as an individual to take on. I think Greg McKeown with Essentialism has a really good take on what it looks like in a workplace to begin to radically reduce the workloads. Laura Vanderkam, I think, does really good work, especially thinking about workload at home, the self-imposed workload you do in your roles, for example, as a parent or a friend or a community member in addition to your work. I think my new book coming out next year, Slow Productivity, is trying to get at this as well. These all have different solutions to this problem that I think Odell is correctly pointing out that we do have a broken relationship with time. So I think our reappraisal of our relationship with time is probably one of the more interesting things going on right now, especially in work culture, but also I think in our culture outside of work. I think the post-capitalist crowd is good at diagnosing this problem, but not necessarily great at solutions. If anything, they're very worried about offering solutions because they're worried that someone will then say you're trying to profit off of the, and you are one of the exploiters. So they've kind of hemmed themselves in a box there. They can point out the issues, but they join the problem if they offer solutions. I do, however, think there is a growing course of us out there looking for more, a more human and humane relationship to workload work and time. So read Jenny's book when it comes out, read Oliver's book, read Laura's books, read my new book when it's out. I think a lot of interesting change is in the air. What I've learned just is I think I just need more interesting glasses. I was just going to ask you that because you made the comment about complicated glasses.

Cal talks about 80,000 Hours and Henson Shaving (32:31)

If you're in Brooklyn or San Francisco sort of doing kind of, uh, art base mixing art with a sort of like Neo Marxist type critique of, of labor forces, you have to wear complicated glasses. So they can be like completely round, is like a big one, like completely round and thick framed or like Seth Godin has these good ones. As a man, you can wear these big, thick plastic frame glasses that are like an interesting color. Yellow. That was my note. I was going to bring that up. Complicated glasses. I need more complicated glasses then i can start talking about exploitative labor forces i mean whatever and again odell actually comes by this honestly it's just an actual academic there's other people whose names i won't mention who i think are just borrowing this lingo because it gives them this like world weary resigned era sophistication and it seems frustrating. All right, we have some questions from you, my listeners, about this general topic of our broken relationship with time. First, I want to mention one of the sponsors, however, that makes this show possible. And that is our friends at 80,000 hours. So we just talked about Oliver Berkman's 4,000 weeks. Let's throw another number at you. 80,000 hours. Where does just talked about Oliver Berkman's 4,000 weeks. Let's throw another number at you, 80,000 hours. Where does this number come from? It is roughly the number of hours you will work in your career, 40 hours a week, 50 weeks a year, 40 years, multiply those, you get the 80,000 hours. Now this is important, especially if you were thinking about how to have a positive impact on the world, because the time you spend in your career is the highest energy, one of the largest chunks of time you're going to spend on anything in your life. So your job is probably the best tool you have to try to make a positive impact on the world. Now, something I know because I've written a whole book about trying to make your way through the complicated path of figuring out your career. It can be really hard, if not, quite frankly, pretty stressful to try to figure out what do I want to do with my life? This is where 80,000 Hours enters the scene. It is a nonprofit co-founded by Will McCaskill, who is a philosopher at Oxford. It is a nonprofit that provides free research and support to help you find a career path for tackling one of the world's most pressing problems. So McCaskill has a connection to the effect of altruism movement. He sort of helped create it. So he definitely has a mindset of where can you get the most bang for your buck in terms of getting positive change in the world and so it's one of the reasons why he helped found this non-profit organization if we can help individuals find careers that are meaningful to the world each of those individuals will then generate 80 000 hours of meaningful work oh and by the way that individual is going to have a more meaningful life. So this is a high leverage idea for improving the world. So this is 80,000 hours. So if you're looking to make a big change to the direction of your career, so maybe your mid-career, or if you're just starting out, or if you want to just change what you're doing in your current job to better address global problems, 80,000 hours can help. There's a couple of ways they can. You can join their free newsletter and they will send you an in-depth guide. They'll help you identify what problems are pressing and where you can have the biggest personal impact. They also have a job board where you can find hundreds of opportunities listed that will help you, jobs that help go after some of the biggest, highest need global issues. They have an excellent 80,000 hours podcast. You get in-depth conversations with experts about how best to tackle global, pressing global problems. Episode 94 with our good friend Ezra Klein is a particularly good one. He's always a very careful thinker. And that's all at 80,000hours.org slash deep. Let's see if I get these number of zeros right, Jesse. 8-0-0-0-0-0-4 zeros. Yeah. Yeah. 8-0-0-0-0-hours, H-O-U O U R S.org slash deep. I really suggest you check out that site. If you're interested in making the most out of your career, using your career to help make the world a better place. I also want to briefly mention our good friends at Henson shaving, the razor. I use the razor. I recommend I like these guys because they're fellow nerds. This company actually originally, and to this day, works on precision manufacturing of parts for the aerospace industry. I'm talking about parts on the Mars rover, parts on the International Space Station. And in order to build these precision parts, they have incredibly precise machinery. They're high precision CNC routers. Well, they realized they could use the same machinery that they use to make these high precision space age parts to build a shaving razor that gives you a much better shave than anything on the market. So it is a beautifully constructed aluminum razor. You put a standard 10 cent safety razor blade into this razor. You screw it in. And because of the precision manufacturing, you have just a hair breadth width of blade sticking out on either side of the housing. Now, this is the key to getting a good shape. You obviously need some blade sticking out the scrape, the hair, but if it's too much blade sticking out, you get the diving board effect. It goes up and down. That gives you nicks. That's more likely to get clogged. So they use their precision manufacturing to build a razor that only needs a single 10 cent blade to give you a great shave. So you pay a little bit more upfront to buy this beautifully engineered aluminum razor, but then year after year, you're just spending a dime on the blades. It does not take long until the cost of your Hinson razor is much cheaper than it would have cost if you were continually buying the new disposables at the pharmacy or getting the subscription boxes sent to you. So I love really well-made things that does a job well and over time saves money. And that is Hinson. So it's time to say no to subscriptions and those expensive drugstore razors and say yes to a razor that will last you a lifetime. Visit hinsonshaving.com slash cal to pick the razor for you and use the code cal and you'll get two years of blades free with your razor. Just make sure you add those two years worth of blades to your cart, type in that promo code cal when you check out, and that price will go down to zero. That's 100 free blades when you head to H-E-N-S-O-N-S-H-A-V-I-N-G.com slash Cal and use the code Cal. All right, Jesse, I resisted the urge to continue my trend of increasingly outlandish stories about people making their way towards me to compliment my trend of increasingly outlandish stories about people making their way towards me to compliment my shave. I figured that was going to get, I was going to get worse before I got better. We're going to be doing 20 minute action sequences. So I pulled back. I pulled back. Let's just say it's a good shave. All right, let's do some questions. What do we got?

Do we need AI-driven time management tools? (Rant alert) (39:42)

All right. First question from Sam. There's a time management popular app that insists that people should automate their time blocking using AI driven apps. They think that it's too hard for people to manually replan and prioritize work. What's your response? Negative. I do not believe we need AI driven time blocking because we have to shave off the moments required to figure out what should be on our plan or to fix our plan when it actually drifts away. Now, Silicon Valley is desperate for knowledge worker productivity, which is this sort of trillion dollar a year business opportunity to be something that can only be fixed by proprietary high-tech tools that only they know how to make. There's huge money on the table there. The unfortunate reality for Silicon Valley, however, is that this is not an issue that needs complicated high technology to solve. Now there's a backstory here. This is a theory I have. I'll share it with you. It's my theory about how Silicon Valley accidentally polluted our understanding of productivity in a way that I think was very detrimental that we're only sort of pulling our way out of now in the last few years. Here's what I think happened. In the early 90s, so the 1990s, let's say, in the 1990s, that whole decade, when Silicon Valley was exploding into prominence and into its sort of economic relevance, this was the same time when the computer processor wars were unfolding. So you remember this, this march from the 286 to the 386 to the 486 to the Pentium, you actually knew how many megahertz your processor was, and this processor has more megahertz than that processor. So there's this age of the processor war. During that age, as Silicon Valley was coming to cultural relevance and economic relevance, I believe they adopted implicitly this computer processor metaphor for understanding human productivity. this computer processor metaphor for understanding human productivity. So when you're trying to make your computer processor better, what does it mean for a computer processor to be more productive? It goes through instructions faster, as fast as possible. Let's reduce the time and friction in between each next instruction that we execute. The other key component to making a computer processor very productive was to make sure that it always has something to do. And so there's a technology called predictive pipelining, where essentially what would happen is you're looking ahead to try to queue up instructions you think are going to come next, because you don't want there to be too much downtime after the processor completes an instruction to go figure out what it should do next. That's all cycles that could have been doing something productive. So there's this mindset of you want a queue always full of things to do, so it always has something to pull in, so that it's always executing something. And every single cycle is executing something, and we want the speed between those cycles to be as fast as possible. That's productivity for a computer processor. Silicon Valley adopted a similar model for their human employees. A notion of human productivity that was built around how do we reduce the friction and time in between actual tasks or things being completed. So the focus went into how do we make networks faster? How do we make email more seamless so you can get to the thing quicker, fewer keystrokes to send that email and have another one come in? How do we make email more seamless so you can get to the thing quicker, fewer keystrokes to send that email and have another one come in? How can we build information management systems to make sure that every bit of information you need is right there at your fingertips? The notion of computer inboxes, email inboxes overflowing was not an issue because like a predictive pipeline, you would want more than enough stuff always ready to go so that that human always has something they can do, an email they can respond to, something they can do an email they can respond to something they can attach something they can drag over into this program and then send that through email to that program that gets loaded here and gets put on the screen and people can see it it's all about reducing friction increasing the velocity of information increasing the velocity of task execution it's a very computer processor type metaphor and because silicon valley became so powerful and economically relevant in the 1990s, what they were doing spread. And we know that happens. I think the clearest example of Silicon Valley nonsense spreading nationwide, the one that we all know is open offices. Silicon Valley started doing these open office plans because in their highly rarefied world, it really mattered to them that they could signal to potential employees and potential investors that they were disruptive and they were doing business in a new way. It didn't really matter how they signaled this. They just had the signal that they were disruptive because they would get better talent and they would get more investment. And that was critical to their survival. I mean, they could have done almost anything here. I mean, they could have done almost anything here. They could have all worn weird, silly hats, whatever, but they just had the signal like we're being disruptive. And then you fast forward 10 years later, and I gave a talk at a major drug manufacturing a few years ago, and they were all shaking their heads about their giant open office. It made no sense why they had open office, right? So stuff comes out of Silicon Valley. So I think this notion of productivity as computer processor style, picking up the speed and reducing the friction required to execute small things that just spread and work and productivity in the knowledge sector became, are we on it? Are we quick? Are you here? Are you responding? Email's not fast enough. Let's do Slack. Let's do meetings and video because we can get onto those faster. How about you just directly have access to my calendar and just start throwing things on there? So it's a speed. Now, of course, this didn't work at all because human beings are not computer processors. We can only focus on one thing at a time. It takes us a while to actually get going on something. And once we're done with something, we need time to wind that back down to rest and recharge and then move our mind into a new context to work on something else. I think there's probably like four different things we could productively give time to wind that back down to rest and recharge and then move our mind into a new context to work on something else. I think there's probably like four different things we could productively give time to in a typical eight hour day with sufficient rest. Our brain can't jump back and forth like a computer processor. It's not agnostic to op codes. The thing we just operated makes a big difference on the thing that comes next. We're not just circuits being driven by a crystal oscillator at a constant speed. So this computer processor notion of productivity, I think was devastating. It's a lot of the exhaustion that people like we talked about earlier in the show, Jenny O'Dell, Berkman, McEwen, me, we're picking up on the exhaustion of this overload. This overload is in part a direct effect of this broken model of productivity that again, it's not mustache twirling exploitation. It's, hey, the cool kids are doing this. Jim Clark just built this giant Hyperion yacht. If you don't know what I'm talking about, read Michael Lewis's book, The New Thing about the excesses of Silicon Valley in the 1990s. They say, so whatever they're doing must make sense. Let's be more like them. And they built the tools that we used. We used their tools. We tried to emulate how they worked. That's what I think is broken. And so, no, we're not going to fix our way out of this by making those tools faster. Using AI to manage our time block schedule is perpetuating the computer processor metaphor of increasing speed and reducing friction of task execution is the key to productivity. That's an entirely broken metaphor. Our issue is not that it takes us too much time to build our plan or that it takes us too much time to change our plan. The issue is that we have 5x too many things in that plan. It takes me five minutes to really think through how to build my plan. The issue is that we have five X too many things in that plan. It takes me five minutes to really think through how to build my plan. It takes me three minutes to fix it. That's not the problem. The problem is checking the inbox once every one minute. The problem is having seven meetings per day where you're trying to scramble in between these meetings to try to answer Slack messages. That's where the real problem is. And the problem for Silicon Valley is that the solutions to that problem have more to do with getting away from their ideas and getting away from their tools than they do about embracing even more. So, nope, I'm not a big believer in an AI-driven time-blocking app. I think my paper planner probably works just fine. Not that I have a rant or anything, Jesse. That was a good rant. Not that I've thought about that. Just a couple thoughts. All right, let's keep rolling here. What do we got next? Okay. Next question's from Amit, a 27 year old PhD student. Is slow productivity a good approach for getting world-class performance in competitive fields, such as being a top professor or chess player?

Is slow productivity compatible with becoming world class in a competitive field? (48:03)

Well, I mean, let's think about this. I mean, I get your concern is, and I'm going to reword your question, but your concern is, wait, slow productivity means I can't be world-class. Well, let's think through. World-class performers, world-class mathematician, world-class chess player, what do they have to do to get there? Number one, they tend to focus on a very small number of things. For really world-class people, they tend to focus on a very small number of things for really world-class people. They typically focus to the almost pathological exclusion of anything else in their life. They are returning to it again and again, uh, with busy periods where they're really locked in and periods of recovery. So there's this sort of these seasonal uneven rhythms to how that work goes. And they're obsessed with getting better and better, increasing the quality of what they do. I mean, those are basically reworded versions of the three principles of slow productivity. Do fewer things, working at a natural pace, obsessing over quality. The people who are best at what they do in the world are slow productivity enthusiasts they just don't know that term and i think what's happening here is there's a semantic shift where you where you you're thinking about slow as slowing down your progress and fast as being moving quicker towards your goals and you have that exactly backwards. Fast productivity is defined by frenetic busyness. More things switching more often. You will produce less work and make less progress at the higher levels of quality in a fast productivity environment than in a slow productivity environment, which means stick to fewer things. Really obsess over doing those things well. Allow your pace to move up and down as dictated by your natural rhythm. So slow productivity is basically the only way towards world-class performance. They've already figured that out. The argument in the book I'm writing now is that we need to bring those ideas to more people and more context, not just for the Magnus Carlsons of the world, but for the vice director of HR, for the computer developer, for the person who works in marketing copywriting, trying to take this idea that we already know in these rarefied fields and make it more generally applicable. All right, let's keep rolling, Jesse. All right, next question is from Joseph. Dear Cal and Jesse, here's my question for you both. When it comes to constructing a deep life what are you most proud of having accomplished where do you still find yourselves struggling no Jesse does that one catch you off guard or do you have do you have a thought they want to know I have a thought well it doesn't really catch me off guard because I saw the question when I was prepping the show you're not supposed to tell them that you're supposed to say oh that's an interesting question well off the top of my, and then you put on your reading glasses and start...

What deep accomplishments are Cal and Jesse most proud about? (50:32)

Put on my complicated glasses. Put on your complicated glasses and start talking about the exploitative mechanics of labor alienation. So what's your answer, Jesse? I think I do a decent job of balance. I have work, and then I coach and, um, got my personal life and then I work out too. So I do that, you know, pretty much every day. So I'm happy with that in some regards, sometimes, you know, working out and stuff does take a lot of time and then that limits some of those things but i kind of just look at what you've been talking about and just take the slow approach for that type of stuff i mean i would say that about you i would say you're you're very intentional in lifestyle design yeah i think you're right like i mean you kind of have it figured out i think you're good at noting like this is important to me. Like the, like the social, the social aspect of my life is important to me. And this physical aspect is important to me. And you figure out configurations and then you tweak the configurations as needed. And what I like about your story, by the way, is, you know, I talk a lot about when you work backwards from the vision of the lifestyle and then figure out, oh, like, what are my ways to it? You end up sometimes with interesting approaches that you wouldn't come across if you were just starting from going the other direction and just be like, oh, what should I do? Um, when you're instead trying to solve for a cool or complicated lifestyle picture, you end up innovating more. And so I think for example, like you figuring out about the, the country club that was working backward because it solves a bunch of things for you. It gives you different types of outdoor sports and social connection with different people. Um, golf and tennis, and you can practice and know people and be involved in the clubhouse and all these types of things, but you probably, you would never have gotten there if you were just doing the normal thing of just working forward from what do I want to do with my time? Because typically a country club, you might think it's, it's, you know, uh, upper middle age lawyers that are networking on the golf course or something like that. But you realize like, actually there's a way to make this reasonable. There's a way, you know, anyways, I think that's like an example of, yeah, no, I agree. Yeah. There's also really cool places to read it. Like country clubs, there's like different places you can sit and stuff. I know you like that. I think I would like that. The problem is i don't like golf or tennis yeah i wasn't saying that i was saying you like no but i i yeah yeah i've always i always noted that i always enjoyed that in curb your enthusiasm i was like you know larry gets a lot of value out of the club because they have lunch there like they do other things yeah um that's very that's very intentional here's my observation about this is if I just am looking at my professional life and you know, the deep aspects of my professional life, the list of things are like, yeah, this is, um, you know, I'm proud of this is very deep and important, it's not super long. I mean, it's my books. There's a subset of my academic and public facing articles that I'm very proud of. They're hard to predict in advance, but like this was a really great mathematical idea that did not exist in the world. And now it does. And it's beautiful. I like it. Or, you know, this article, I think hit a nerve and it's like helping the culture understand some particular thing that's going on. You know, I'm proud of that. And then the individual case studies of either students at Georgetown or readers of mine I meet who've actually made significant changes to their life because of, in part, interactions we've had or my information. I'm very proud of that. And yet I would say most of my activity on most days doesn't directly actually feed to one of those three types of things. And I think that's interesting. And I think that's just a reality of the inevitable creeping busyness of modernity or something like this. But it, but it's, it's, I was just noticing that when I was thinking about this question earlier today, that I might go through a whole day where, you know, I'm like, I did so much activity today and so little of it was actually just trying to write that book or article that's going to change someone's mind or just spending some time with someone whose life was changed. It's no, it's, it's, you know, I'm working on a teaching statement for a promotion packet that probably is not going to be read or I'm in the weeds on technical issues of the website migration as we move to a different, uh, as we move to a different provider than the email whitelisting is not quite working right or getting on zooms to talk about whatever and anyways i don't know i got reflective jesse yeah ferris had a recent episode about this too and he was kind of he had a coach on and they were like going through this same sort of thing that you were talking about you know which episode i need to listen to this which episode was this it was the one right before right after mobison it's like two ago or one ago. Okay. All right. I'm going to look that up. Yeah. I won't give identifying details here because this was not an email for public consumption, though this is someone maybe we're going to have to have on the show later when her book comes out. But I was talking to someone who had crossed paths with us. We were both at MIT at the same time doing our PhDs, different fields. And then she has a new book coming out, which I'm sure we'll cover on the show. A really cool book idea. But I was talking to her and she went a different way than me. She moved to an island, like a remote island off of the Pacific Northwest coast to rebuild a cabin and to just, she was doing consulting work that was, you know, using her MIT brain, but wanted to counterbalance that with, uh, the physicality of trying to refurbish and bring back a cabin and kind of live in the middle of nowhere. And she has this very cool book coming out. I mean, I haven't read it yet. She's sending me a copy, but it's one of these ideas where I'm thinking like, man, that's like right up my alley. Yeah. But I was thinking kind of cold up there right it's probably cold and wet but still i'm just thinking like i bet she's incredibly less busy than i am and so it's you know a different uh fork in the road dante right you go different ways with this like we started from the same place like oh we've got these technical brains that you know we have a few abilities and can. Well, you also have three young kids. Yeah, I don't. That's true. That's like a huge thing. But think about it. They could be repairing my cabin in the Pacific Northwest if I had gone that route. Anyway, so I'm going to have her, I'm going to read her book and maybe when that book comes out, I'll have her on and we can talk about it. Yeah, that'd be cool. Talk about our two varying paths. And I should warn everyone though. I was talking to my coach about this the other day. March and April every year are my worst months. It's, it's just some quirk of the academic calendar and whatever. It's always my, they're always super busy. And always during this period, I go through a phase of just like, I should live on a damn island. I have too much. This is crazy. This, this, I have too much going on. And what am I doing? And then usually by June, I'm like, what an awesome life. Like, what is this like cool academic job? I could just like think all summer. And this is so cool. And I love being around the students, but in March and April, I'm always so close to, you know, I need to go become a wood carver every year my coach pointed this out every year I think everybody in some capacity has their time of year has those sort of feelings of you know like one thing I always think about too is like yeah I've always run out of time I don't I could have done something longer but then I do like the shutdown like you talk about and just be like I'll do it tomorrow yeah As long as I like worked out and did some other things. I'm doing the worst type of work right now. No, you only have to do this a couple of times in your career, but I'm working on statements for a promotion package at Georgetown. You have like research statement, teaching statements. I don't know why it is, but this type of writing, like a research statement, let me explain like what I've been doing as a researcher. It takes me all the time in the world. I do a lot of writing. Like I'm a, I'm a, I'm a adept writer that writes. I wear away the keys on my keyboard. I finished, it took me seven days of making it mainly the only thing I was working on to write this 11 page research statement. It's, it just takes all of my time. I don't know why this type of writing does. It just really does. And it's exhausting. That's why I'm exhausted right now. And it's just a two week period where I'm writing these things and I'll be done with it. But I'm writing books, writing New Yorker pieces, writing academic papers. No problem compared. I don't know what it is about this specific type of writing, but it just takes me forever. Yeah. I hate it. I can't wait. I can't wait to do something easy. Like return to my like incredibly technical 6,000 word New Yorker piece that we're editing right now where we have to like fact check everything with another, with computer scientists walk in the park compared to like talking. Yeah. Compared to talking about the courses I developed. I don't know why that writing gets to me. It's like this weird block I have. Well, in a way it's kind of like bureaucracy, like setting up yourself. Yeah, I don't like talking about myself. And yet it's super precise and it's like a lot of citations and you have to be very careful. And when I say 11 pages, it's 11 pages, but it's small font and single spaced and it's a lot of words. All right, let me do one more thing here. I have a case study. Before we go to the something interesting. I wanted to share a case study here. This was sent in by Marcus, a 32 year old composer from Detroit. So here's what Marcus sent me.

Case Study - A composer embraces slow productivity (59:57)

I am a musician and composer living in Detroit, Michigan. In May of 2022, I was asked to write a large work for a seven-piece ensemble. I took your advice of doing less at a higher quality, and I gave them a quote that reflected what it would cost for me to solely work on the composition and not take on any other work. No performances, no private students, no other commissions for three months. missions for three months. My promise to them was that I would not take on any of the products in that time that I was working on the composition and that by doing this, I would deliver something of very high quality. They agreed and I got the work. A week after I agreed to this, my father, who was put in hospice for a major stroke, was put in the hospice for a major stroke. It was devastating and it made it very hard to stay motivated to do anything. Fortunately, I had been practicing some of the things out of your book, Deep Work, and I applied it to this composition. I knew from previous projects that I can get everything I need done in two to four hours of non-distracted work. So I would wake up early in the morning and work for two hours, and then some days knock out another two hours in the early afternoon. And I would do this five days a week. This allowed me to spend the afternoons and evenings with my father in his final days. The things I learned from your podcast and books not only helped me compose one of my greatest works yet, it also allowed me to spend as much time as I could with my father in his final days. For that, I am forever grateful. Well, you know, what I love about this, Marcus, is it's a case study of slow productivity that gets at, I think, the human core of this philosophy, that this notion of slow productivity as opposed to fast productivity allows for a world in which you produce great things that you're proud of, like this work that you produce, the composition for a seven- piece ensemble that you described as one of your greatest works you've ever composed while at the same time having a life that is rich and present in all the other things that are key to the human experience that in the same time that you could have this very difficult but touching uh final weeks with your father um also we're still producing something of great value. Now extrapolate this forward to other people in all sorts of situations. That's time that would be maybe your relationship with your kids, time that you're getting involved with your community, time in which you are going on a spiritual journey. Imagine having the ability, not when you're on vacation, not during a sabbatical or during a brief break in between jobs, but at all points, to be able to be investing such richness into what makes humanity and the human experience so complicated and special and interesting, at the same time that you're also producing stuff of great value to yourself and to the world. I think that's the promise of slow productivity. And, you know, my hope is the principles will be able to spread beyond specific, highly autonomous fields, like I'm a music composer and into other fields as well. I think much more work could have this rich mix of the quote unquote productive and the human. It's just a matter of rethinking productivity. So that's a great case study, Marcus, and it's a very moving story. And I'm glad you shared that with me. Yeah, it's really powerful stuff because, you know, I've, you've been talking about it for a long time since you started your podcast, but like identifying the beginning of the week where, you know, he was going to need those two hour blocks. He found it, did it non-distractive work and, and did the stuff. I mean, the same thing applies, you know, i took your advice you know for a while too and it works i mean i get the sense that for most people in most jobs two hours every morning occasionally another two hour block in the afternoon five days a week that's that's 80 of like everything important you do everything else else is overhead, overhead and overload and make work. I think that's most jobs. I think you're right. Yeah. I mean, you could take, well, don't get me started. I could rant about almost any field. So my book has to come out. Books take too long, Jesse. You know, we're editing my book now. It's going to be next March before this beast comes out. It feels like it's too long from now. Another stressful period next March. Oh, oh yeah, I know that's right. I'll be doing book publicity during the part of my year. That's the most. And you have to write those things for seven days. I'm going to become a street musician next March. I'm going to surf. That's what I'm going to do. I'm going to move to, I'm going to move to the North shore of Maui and just become a surfer. This is going to break me. All right. I got something interesting I want to share also about the academic world, also about time and overload. But first I want to briefly mention another sponsor that makes this show possible.

Cal talks about Huel and Stamps.com (01:04:41)

It's our friends at Huel, H-U-E-L. Huel, a black edition is a high protein, nutritionally complete meal and a convenient shake. This means it has everything your body needs in two scoops, including 27 essential vitamins and minerals, not to forget also 40 grams of protein. Each scoop has 200 calories. So you do two scoops. That's a normal size, 400 calorie meal. The way I use Huel, and I've talked about this on the show before, is that my incredibly sophisticated, healthy eating strategy is automate breakfast and lunch. Don't think about it. This is just what I do for breakfast and lunch and make whatever those automatic things are, be things that are good and healthy for you. And then let dinner be something where you get more involved in, Hey, what are we cooking? And it's interesting. And you can really appreciate food. That's my hack. And one of the best ways to automate it is like when I'm at Georgetown, for example, for lunch, I know there's a cafeteria right next to my building. It has a hot bar, the cold bar, and it's, it's, I fill the thing, two thirds vegetables, one third protein. And then I throw a bunch of olives in there and I get a big thing of water. I just know that's what I do for lunch. I don't even think about it. I do it. I know exactly when I go there. I don't even want to think about lunch for breakfast. I put in these meal replacement shakes as a regular option. So some days I have eggs. Some days I have these. It's all about automation, reduced to friction. So you don't have to think about food during parts of the day. And now you've taken care of whatever, two thirds of your calories are giving you what you need. And then you can still enjoy food and preparation and ingredients and all that stuff. And you can just enjoy it in dinner. So Huel is a big part of my automation approach to staying healthy. When I have so much else going on, I don't want to spend too much time thinking about it. Huel Black Edition is vegan, naturally gluten-, lactose free, has zero artificial sweeteners, naturally flavored, low GI, has omega-3s and omega-6s, GMO free, palm oil free, has D2 and D3 vitamins in vegan form, available in nine flavors. It's also affordable. Works out to be about $2.50 for each 400 calorie meal hard to beat that at a restaurant so if you want to find out more go to huel.com questions h-u-e-l dot com slash questions don't forget the slash questions because that will give you a free t-shirt and shake shaker with your first order that's huel.com. Also want to mention our friends at stamps.com. 2023 is already well underway, so don't wait any longer to level up your small business and set your year up for success. Get ahead of the competition by using stamps.com to mail and ship. So how it works with stamps.com is you set up a subscription account. This then allows you to print your own postage and shipping labels right on your home printer. It's ready to go in minutes. You just schedule a pickup, done. No trips to the post office, no waiting in line at the post office to weigh the thing and have them put the thing on top of it. You can just do it all from home. You get access to both postal service and UPS shipping services right from your computer anytime, day or night, no lines, no traffic, no waiting. Stamps.com has been doing this for over 25 years and they've helped over 1 million businesses. So set your business up for success today by getting started at stamps.com. businesses. So set your business up for success today by getting started at stamps.com. Sign up with the promo code deep for a special offer that includes a four week trial plus free postage and a free digital scale. No long term commitments or contracts. Just go to stamps.com. Click the microphone at the top of the page and enter that code deep. All right, Jesse, let's wrap up today's episode with something interesting. Sounds good. So what I like to do here is go through my inbox at interesting at calnewport.com and pick something that I thought was interesting that you, my listeners, have sent in.

Topic: Quiet Quitting In Academia

Quiet quitting in academia? (01:08:40)

So what I have to talk about here is an article from Nature. So the journal Nature has these various career columns, which I think are actually quite interesting, especially if you're an academic. Here's one that is from, let me look at it here. It's on the screen, March 3rd. So I have this up on the screen, youtube.com slash Cal Newport Media episode 239 or the deeplife.com. Here's the title of the article. Fed up and burnt out, quiet quitting hits academia. Here's the subhead. Many researchers dislike the term, but the practice of dialing back unrewarded duties is gaining traction. I don't even need to scroll in this article. I'm just going to riff right off of this sub head because the academics who are disliking the term are a hundred percent correct. What this is talking about is not quiet quitting. What this is talking about is the fact that in academia, there's something known as service obligation. So these are things you do to help either your department or the university or your research community. They're non-academic in the sense they're not research and they're not teaching. So it's not the activities that you're directly paid or evaluated on for promotion, but you need to give back for service, run committees and do reviews, et cetera. There is no agreed upon standards for how you triage these type of requests. There's no quotas of here's how many I do per year and here's where my quota is. It's instead just all ad hoc psychological negotiation. This person is asking you to do something. Do you want to say no to this person? And it creates overload very easily because it's hard to say no to people. It also creates personality-based inequities where people who are weird, unshaven physicists who scrawl equations on windows like John Nash from A Beautiful Mind, it's easy for them to be like, me, no, do committee, me, math now. And people like, oh, he's unshaven and draws on the window and it's fine. But if you're a nice social scientist, they're like,, man, she's icy. You see, she does not get along with people. I just ask her if she would just sort of join this commission and spend 50 hours the next two weeks helping me work on this report that no one's going to read. I don't know why she's not. So it creates all sorts of weird personality-based inequities. Figuring out a sensical system for how you say yes or no to those, what's a reasonable load, is not quiet quitting. It's actually doing your job. It's reinserting into your job as an academic what was already missing. Saying yes, not dialing back on unrewarded duties, is being bad at your job. It means you're producing less research. It means you're doing less time mentoring the next generation of researchers. It means you're doing less time teaching the next generation of people in the classroom for expertise on this. Not dialing back on these secondary duties means you're a bad professor. So this idea that it's somehow quitting, quiet quitting to dial back, I think gets at our broken notions of productivity. So I'm tying together everything we've been talking about in today's episode. It's only this sort of Silicon Valley commodified time. More is better than less. Activity means usefulness. Less activity means no. Low friction, high velocity information is somehow what's valuable. It's only in that notion of productivity, would you say doing less unrewarded activity in academia is somehow quiet quitting? I see it to be the exact opposite. Giving in to just the deluge of nonstop incoming service requests is a way to sort of let yourself off the intellectual hook for the work that really matters, the work you trained for, the work that they hired you for. It is hard work to try to build those systems and push back, but in some sense right now that's on the individual to do and it's our jobs. And hopefully going forward, it won't just be our jobs. We'll have organization wide recognitions and solutions for these problems. But I just think this headline plus sub headline, three sentences, neatly captures this issue we have, this misunderstanding we have about productivity. Doing stuff is often irrelevant to doing your job well. And so these academics who are dialing back are actually dialing up the core functions of their job and should be lauded for their extra effort, for their extra focus on being as useful as possible, not derided as quiet quitters. So there we go, Jesse. I tied it all together. I think we kept our thread going about a broken relationship through time throughout the entire episode. I'm now going to go work on my teaching statement some more until my eyeballs bleed. I am miserable. I got to get out of March. We're almost there. We're almost out of March, but I could be happy again, but I better get back to that. So thank you everyone who sent in your questions. We'll be back next week with another episode of the show. And until then, as always, stay deep.

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