Ep. 255: The Failure Of Cybernetic Productivity

Transcription for the video titled "Ep. 255: The Failure Of Cybernetic Productivity".

1970-01-01T03:20:50.000Z

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 that's the deep question I want to tackle today. Why doesn't cybernetic productivity work? I'm Cal Newport, and this is Deep Questions, the show about living and working deeply in a distracted world. All right, once again, I am joining the show from Deep Work HQ North up in Hanover, New Hampshire. My producer, Jesse, is joining us from the original Deep Work HQ in Tacoma Park. Jesse, hopefully Tacoma Park is doing okay without me around. I don't know if you see people wearing black armbands, mourners, mourners in the streets. It's doing great. We're doing okay. You're doing okay. Jesse went to the coffee shop I will say frequent earlier today, and I asked him, did they have to lay some people off? Because with me being gone for two weeks, that's roughly, and I'm just doing the math here, $700 worth of income that they're not getting per day. So it's a big deal when I'm not there. I drink a lot of coffee. What's your coffee shop up there? It's a Keurig machine in my kitchen. Oh, really? There's a Keurig machine in my kitchen. I make a lot of coffee. The other coffee, the actual coffee shop around here that I like is called the Dirt Cowboy, which was around when I was here going to college at Dartmouth. I like flavored coffee because I started drinking coffee in high school. It's a long story, but the short version of the story was I was taking computer science courses at Princeton during my senior year of high school because I ran out of courses to take at my high school, and they had an agreement with Princeton. Somehow that worked out, and I would stop on the way to Princeton and take these courses at the Tiger Mart at the Exxon on Route 31 in Pennington, New Jersey, and I would get in a Styrofoam cup their most flavorful coffee because it was terrible coffee. I developed this habit of associated bad-flavored coffee with thinking. of associated bad flavored coffee with thinking. One of those Dirt Cowboy here in Dartmouth is the only place I've ever found that does fancy flavored coffee. They roast their own beans on site. They flavor their own beans. If you order a ridiculous flavor like chocolate mint, they will grind a fresh batch right there and do a pour over for just that cup of coffee. And yet still has a crazy flavor. So it's the only place I know that has fancy flavored coffee. So that's, that's great, but it's closed on Sunday and Mondays, which is crazy. So I've been drinking some carrot recently. That's the way. Otherwise things are going well and here's the good news if if uh my plans hold up as we suspect i will be back briefly in the dc area so next week's episode jesse might have us both temporarily back in the original deep work hq so everyone can look forward to seeing that sounds good uh one advantage of being up here i have been getting a lot of reading done it is conducive to reading up here uh and i want to talk about a particular book i'm going to hold it up to the camera here for those who are watching i guess i should specify this is episode 255 so if you're watching at youtube.com cal newport media or on the deep life.com look for episode 255 i've been making my way through this beast jesse this is a power and progress by darren as a moglu and simon johnson from mit it's one of these uh techs tech impact on economics and society sort of pseudo-academic book i'm really enjoying it i'm almost done I'm really enjoying it. I'm almost done. I'm really enjoying it. But there was one piece I came across this morning that I partially disagreed with, and I realized in understanding my disagreement, there's actually an interesting point to be made about the type of topics we talk about on the show. So I'm actually going to read something here, Jesse. This comes from Power and Progress. It's a chapter about artificial intelligence, and they're referencing this famous conference that happened at Dartmouth back in the 1950s, so where I am right now, which was a conference organized by Marvin Minsky where the term artificial intelligence was coined. In this section I'm about to read, they're referencing that conference, and here's what the authors say. Even before the Dartmouth conference, MIT polymath Norbert Wiener had articulated a different vision, one that positioned machines as complements to humans. Although Wiener did not use the term MU, which they used to mean machine usefulness, machine usefulness is inspired by his ideas. What we want for machines is not some amorphous notion of intelligence or high-level capabilities, but they're used for human objectives. Focusing on MU rather than AI is more likely to get us there. So what they're referencing here, if you read this whole chapter, what they're referencing is a pushback on what they say is the dominant current model for thinking about artificial intelligence, which according to them, it's being seen as something to automate or replace flawed humans that computers can be more perfect or logical than humans and we can use computers to replace flawed humans to automate human activity and they go back and say we have a different idea which is instead of ai mu machine usefulness we should use tools like artificial intelligence to make individuals more useful to expend their capabilities and the reason why they're referencing norbert wiener is that in the 1940s, he wrote this book on the term cybernetics, which was his term for a symbiosis between humans and machines. He had this argument that machines can help humans but can't replace humans. What we should be thinking about as engineers is how to integrate humans and machines into a cybernetic relationship i actually own a vintage copy of this book back in my house in tacoma tacoma park weiner was inspired a lot if you read that book working in the war efforts for among other things anti-aircraft guns where they are trying to build these systems where the human is aiming the anti-aircraft gun and there's a feedback loop where the anti-aircraft gun is giving feedback to the human to help them be more accurate as they aim it, to extend their capabilities to lead these planes or predict where they're going. And that symbiosis between the person and the anti-aircraft gun was an early example of cybernetics. And so these authors are saying that's what we need. Not replacing people with technology, but using technology to extend their capabilities. Now, here's my critique. When it comes to the specific slice of the economy that we so often talk about on this show, which is knowledge work, a term I actually learned from Derek Thompson the other day was laptop workers. So people who you're on a computer screen and you're doing email and all sorts of back and forth. For knowledge workers, I would say the fundamental thrust of these new technologies like artificial intelligence is exactly the cybernetic vision. I have been studying and thinking a lot about the intersection of artificial intelligence and work recently, because I'm working on an article on this topic. And I can tell you most of the visions out there right now when it comes to these tools and knowledge work is not how do we replace these workers? It is instead how do we give them new capabilities, simplify things, allow them to do things they weren't able to do before. So actually, that mentality is already out there, at least when it comes to knowledge work. And if we really look deeper, we say most of the discussion of productivity, so that the common public discussions of productivity, as it relates to knowledge workers in particular, has this cybernetic flavor to it. How do we use tools to speed up or simplify or expand what humans can do? So I'm going to even introduce a term and say, let's call this cybernetic productivity. This is a huge topic of the last 20 years. This intersection of digital technology and productivity, has led to this notion of cyber productivity, cybernetic productivity, which is all about how do we use tools to make certain tasks easier to extend or speed up the capabilities of human workers. And the thing that I was realizing as I was thinking about today is that cybernetic productivity has failed to live up to its promise. And I think if we understand why it has failed to live up to its promise, we're going to learn something about how we might better organize work. So that's the deep question I want to tackle today. Why doesn't cybernetic productivity work?


Workplace Productivity Discussion

Why doesn’t cybernetic productivity work? (08:59)

All right, so to tackle this question, let's get some good definitions going here. What exactly is meant by cybernetic productivity? I would define it by four principles, three that have been around for the last 20 years and one that's become more popular in recent years. So the first principle of cybernetic productivity is that you should attempt to automate or speed up shallow tasks as much as possible. So anything that is overhead or logistical or administrative that you can make faster, make faster. If you can automate it all together, automate it all together. Have this software tool be able to speak to that software tool so you can directly send your data from your browser over to your Excel spreadsheet without having to waste a bunch of clicks. If there is a more advanced command that can do a few steps for you, let's try to introduce that so that you don't have to keep doing multiple work on its own. If you can, for example, fill in while I'm writing in Gmail, guess what I'm trying to say, then I can just press tab and not have to write the whole thing do that. So any place you can speed up or automate work that's not directly just thinking deeply or producing value, cybernetic productivity says you should. The second principle of cybernetic productivity is to try to keep needed information at your fingertips. So it's all about making it easy for you to organize and get access to the information you need. This particular paradigm of effectiveness sees humans in part as information processing machines. So it says, hey, the more we can have the right information there when you need it, the more effective knowledge workers are going to be. So certainly tools like Google, for example, live out this principle, I can search for a lot of different types of information. As why Gmail has sort of advanced search built right into its emails, you can go back and find information that you needed before. There's all other sorts of information and knowledge management tools that all implement this cybernet productivity principle of let's make sure information is never too far, never too far from the person who needs it. We need to get away from this 1970s era style of knowledge work where you're walking down to the central library in your building and making a request for information that comes back on clippings, you know, two hours later, Information at your fingertips. All right, the third principle of cybernetic productivity is removing friction from communication. So again, this view of humans as individuals doing work is one that is inherently collaborative. And so cybernetic productivity says, we need to make this communication easy. If we take friction out of the process, I can just reach you as quickly and easily as possible. A higher velocity of collaboration is then enabled. So this is why we were able to use digital tools to move past, for example, the slowness of interoffice memos or having to type a code into a telephone to see what voicemail messages we had. Now with email, we could just type in it. It would immediately be sent to you. I would have a copy. I can attach files to it. Slack brought this to a new tempo of speed. Now we can just be going back and forth, not have to wait for messages themselves to arrive and be seen. And then we get things like the advent of smartphones and ubiquitous high-speed wireless internet. So now not only is it low friction to message you, I can do it anywhere. I don't even have to wait till I'm back at an office or at a phone to talk to you. So that's a key cybernetic productivity. Get rid of that friction. Communication should be as easy as possible. This fourth newer principle I alluded to was to simplify the extraction of actionable wisdom from data. So that's another newish aspect of cybernetic productivity. It thinks the information we need to do things is often hidden in data. So we need tools that can find trends. We need tools that can extract wisdom from data. So we also have that on our fingertips to act. All right, so that is the cybernetic productivity vision. It's one where the human is in the center of this network of all of this different information and communication and data. Meanwhile, all of the literal steps and actions needed to access this information, to find it, to analyze it, is automated or sped up as much as possible. That is the cybernetic productivity vision. It has been dominant since I would say the early 2000s. And it also, in my opinion, has proven to be a failure. Cybernetic productivity does not make us feel more productive. Cybernet productivity has not been moving the needle on actual measurable productivity metrics. We are not getting more important work done. And there's a key reason for this. It's what I call the infinite buffer effect. In many knowledge work jobs, the supply of work is essentially infinite. There's always more things you could be doing. And this is because there is a key implicit decision made in many knowledge work organizations, which is that potential tasks should be stored at individuals. You just push things towards people to hold on to until they're ready to work on it. So you have this buffer of work that's always growing. There's always more work in there than you can do. buffer of work that's always growing. There's always more work in there than you can do. Having an infinite buffer connected to CyberNet productivity does not work. Because what CyberNet productivity does is it speeds up all the shallow, the visible shallow tasks, the overhead surrounding deeper work. It makes that go faster. That frees up time. New work comes in from the buffer to fill it. So the faster you're able to do this overhead surrounding your projects, the more projects are going to just fall in from your buffer onto your plate at the same time. And that's because the deep efforts are less visible and those are more autonomous. So we don't imagine those of actually taking up or requiring time. The thing that's very visible is the actual interactive elements, the talking to people, the finding the data, the jumping onto the meeting. So as that gets faster, more work falls out of this buffer to fill in the voids this creates. And so we just actually end up more and more busy. And if we push this to an extreme, we get to a place where we're spending all of our time incredibly efficiently, jumping from project to project, barely hitting keystrokes. Google is finding this information, or maybe if we're more advanced, chat GPT is grabbing the information for us, and we're automatically sending it over between different types of tools, and this data automatically goes over there, and it's the cloud, and it syncs on my thing. We're moving faster and faster and faster, and more and more work comes in to fill that void, and in the end, there's no time left to actually do the important stuff all this overhead's trying to support in the first place. And so we feel tired. We feel exhausted. The context switches are making us dumber. And we're spending less time actually doing the underlying work that creates value, the actual work that is valued in the marketplace. I think a great example of this is to compare me to my grandfather. We were both professors. He was a notable professor. He did not own his first computer until after he retired. I helped him set it up. I remember that. So his overhead, the shallow work that CyberDeck productivity deals with, he was incredibly slow with that as compared to someone like me working 30 years later than him. No computer, no email. He didn't even have a word processor. He would write his books and articles longhand on legal pads. And then someone else, his secretary would take it and a typist would type it up and he would bring it back and he would mark it up. He would write letters by hand and memos. He'd make a lot of phone calls. All of this stuff was way slower than what we could do today. And yet he wrote something like 15 books, endowed chair, eventually a provost of a university. He was an incredibly successful professor. We had the same job. He didn't have any of these high-speed cybernetic productivity tools. And yet at the core things that matter, mentoring students, teaching and research, he did this much at a much higher level than the average professor, at a much higher level than even I am able to do today, because actually speeding up that overhead probably would have just brought more overhead into his life. And as you bring more overhead into your life, you don't write books faster. You don't mentor your students better. You don't teach better. So this is where I think cybernet productivity failed, is this infinite buffer effect. You speed up the overhead of work. We just put more work on our plate. We put more work on our plate. Everything gets worse. This is why I think it's a key explanation for some of the antipathy knowledge workers feel towards notions like productivity, because when they hear that term, they think about cybernet productivity, and they associate this with exhaustion. All right, so now that we've named this a philosophy, we've seen why it's not working well, we can ask what we can do about it. What are some solutions to the shortcomings of cybernetic productivity? I have three quick ideas to mention. Number one would be managing workloads centrally. So cybernetic productivity failed because of the infinite buffer effect. The infinite buffer effect is created because individuals typically are in charge of managing the organization's work. Everything that exists that needs to be done is on somebody's plate, existing in a message in their inbox or a comment that was made after a meeting where someone said, hey, can you handle this? If you want to get rid of the infinite buffers, have an alternative system in which the potential work is not stored by individuals, but is stored centrally. And that the individuals only work on a small number of things at a time. And when they're done, they can then pull new work from this central system. Now, some people who have an optimization mindset say, well, what's the difference if it's on my plate or a central system? You work on what you work on, but it's not how things work. When you have five projects on your plate, you're going to start working on them if you have the time to do it. If, on the other hand, there's four projects in a central system that you'll go back to and get a new one when you're done, you're just going to be stuck with the one. Cybernet productivity is actually quite useful if you're only working on a small number of things. If you have nothing else to fill the time, speeding up the shallow work in the overhead really does just give you more time to work on the main deep meat of the project. So actually having a small buffer works well. If you have cybernet productivity implemented all these tools, we're investing, all these tools that people talk about and talk endlessly about on YouTube actually are pretty useful if your work buffer is not too big. So manage it centrally. This is hard to do in big organizations. It requires a central reorg. But if you work for yourself, you can simulate this. Have a clear distinction. These are things I'm going to work on. I can store information about them. If I have ideas about them i can update them in the system if someone sends a message relevant to a pending project i can put them on there but there's a firewall between those and what i'm working on now and the things i'm actually working on is is limited you can make that clear distinction and psychologically it's going to make a difference because it will get rid of the infinite buffer effect. All right, the second solution here, reintroduce some friction. Sometimes this is what you have to do if you can't get around the infinite buffers is say, actually, I don't want all of this overhead and shallow work to be faster. I want it to be enough of a pain that I'm not going to bring more projects into my active purview because my mental association about what they take up is going to be differing but it's a pain to work on projects I can't move through things very quickly this might mean for example I don't know you can't email me you know here's my office hours we have a weekly meeting here's my you this is how we talk you have to wait to that to talk to me I'm a pain to work with. That slows down how many projects can be going on at the same time. Maybe you use on purpose old tools. You might not go back as far as my grandfather did it and write on yellow legal pads, but maybe you're not trying to get the very latest information organizational tools. You print things and put them in files and it takes time and you might have to spend a whole morning to significantly upgrade your research files. You can't just clip things with plugins that you browser extensions, you click in Chrome that automatically put a copy over an Evernote and syncs it up with your obsidian setup. Maybe you want it to be older and more creaky so that when you think about doing research for something, you're thinking about spending hours and hours or putting days aside to do it. This might seem like you're losing time, but that might stop you from starting another project. It might help keep you focused. So keep these type of things in mind. Don't necessarily make yourself faster. Being too fast might make you work on too much. final solution, which is the big solution we talk about a lot on this show, is to stop caring so much about cybernetic productivity and spend more time caring about the type of attention-centric productivity that we talk about here. So attention-centric productivity, which we also call multi-scale productivity, has nothing to do with how fast you execute things and everything to do with how you allocate your limited time and attention. There's different scales this can execute on. So in the short term, attention-centric productivity might mean you're being careful about how do I decide what to work on next? How do I set things up so once I choose to do something, How do I decide what to work on next? How do I set things up so once I choose to do something, I've made my environment such that I have a, I've made conditions well to actually accomplish it at a high level. I'm not distracted on the deep things. The shallow things are batched, et cetera. On the medium term, a centric, attention centric productivity is about, well, how do you organize and control the things that are on your plate to make sure you're not forgetting about things, that it's simplified for you to make decisions about what should be worked on when. And at the long-term, attention-centric productivity is about how do you decide what comes onto your plate in the first place. Here you might even change your job or how your organization runs or make major changes to make sure that what you're expected to do is reasonable. Attention-centric productivity doesn't particularly care about speed. It's not against it. If you have particular tools that speed up certain things or eliminate certain annoying activities you don't like, great. But it sees that as a personal preference and not critical to actually producing important work in a sustainable way. Attention-centric productivity says what really matters is how you figure out what to do with your time. What's a reasonable load? How to succeed with what you're doing? How to keep tabs on what you're doing? How to make smart decisions about what to work on when? This is typically what I think about when I think about productivity. And it's why there's often a gap between me and say YouTube productivity people who love cybernet productivity. It's why there's often a gap between me and the anti productivity crowd desperately trying to get you to subscribe to their sub stack by while they're writing sub stack articles about why capitalism is bad and you shouldn't try to make money but give me money because I need money and talk about like capitalism is bad because this crowd is thinking about cybernetic productivity I'm thinking about attention centric productivity so we get down to the bottom here, a core distinction between productivity based on using tools to speed us up and productivity based on using our own minds and intuition to be intentional about how we approach our work. This latter is not as interesting or as sexy. AI is not going to have a big impact here. There's no note-taking software that's going to have a big impact here. There's no particular app that's going to have a big impact here. A lot of it's going to be Google Docs and Trello and just careful reflection on the different elements of your jobs, but it tends to work a lot better. So anyways, this is just a riff. Jesse, I just was reading about Norbert Wiener and artificial intelligence. I just had this riff of like, wait a second. This, whatever they call it here, machine usefulness. That's all we do in knowledge work and it's still not working. It's because we don't know what's useful and speed itself is not useful. So there we go. Cybernetic productivity, I shrug my shoulders. I think there's better ways to organize what we need to get done. That there we go. Cybernetic productivity, I shrug my shoulders. I think there's better ways to organize what we need to get done. That's good stuff. I never heard your grandfather wrote 15 books. Well, it's something like that. I mean, I might be making up that particular number, but it's something like that. He was a very productive scholar. He wrote a lot of books. He wrote a lot of articles, multiple doctorates, spent time with a lot of cool people. There's a lot of articles, multiple doctorates. Spent time with a lot of cool people. There's a biography of him, but he spent time. I learned some of this more recently. But he spent time at Union Seminary, and he would walk Central Park with Heschel. He spent a little bit of time out in Switzerland and got to know Carl Jung later in his life. Was a big admirer of Niebuhr when he spent some time at Harvard. He spent a lot of time at a lot of universities, a lot of sabbaticals and off years. But I just remember that notepads. He wrote everything on notepads and had a lot of books. He didn't really understand the internet. He had a lot of books, which is slower than being able to look something up. But I don't know that slow was bad. Slow was not bad. He produced a lot of things and was pretty successful. So anyways, what I've done is I've gathered a collection of questions to do next that all roughly sort of touch on cybernetic productivity or the alternatives to cybernetic productivity. And so I want to get to those in a second. But before we do, I want to talk about a sponsor of this show, Shopify. You hear that sound? That's the sound of another sale on Shopify the moment that another business dream becomes a reality. So I don't know if you know about Shopify, but it is a commerce platform that is revolutionizing millions of businesses worldwide. So whether you are selling a time block planner or an anachronistically old-fashioned yellow pad clip that you can use for writing your books with inspirational slogans on it that says forget cybernetic productivity or go deep or go home, whatever it is that you're selling. These are all great ideas, by the way. These are all e-commerce gold I'm giving you right now. Shopify will simplify selling online and in person so you can focus on successfully growing your business. The way I've always known Shopify, the people I use it is it just makes it easy for you to have an incredibly professional and easy to use e commerce storefront. You don't have to just sort of give in and sell through an existing giant, they allow you, they allow you to cover every sales channel from in person POS systems to all in one e commerce. It even lets you sell across social media marketplaces. If you want like Facebook and Instagram, I don't know how successful my get off social media, get off social media, you dork baseball caps. There's probably not going to sell well on Tik TOK, but Shopify would allow me to try that if I wanted to. Uh, they have all sorts of industry leading tools ready to ignite your growth. So you have complete control of your business and your brand without having to learn new skills, or design and code. You know, I'll tell you back in the late 90s, early 2000s, when I had my teenage.com business, ecommerce, professional ecommerce meant huge amounts of money, whole teams, you would have to hire back in coders, front end internet designers, it was a, whole teams you would have to hire, back-end coders, front-end internet designers. It was a huge pain. I would have killed to have something like Shopify back then because you have a professional, fully-featured storefront that looks great and works great, and you don't have to code, and you don't have to hire the 18-year-old version of me to build you a website. So it's a good service and something you need to know if you sell basically anything. So now it's your turn to get serious about selling and try Shopify today. Sign up for a $1 per month trial period at shopify.com slash deep, all lowercase. Go to shopify.com slash deep to take your business to the next level today. That's shopify.com slash deep. I also want to talk about our friends and longtime sponsor, Grammarly. So as you know, we've been talking about new artificial intelligence technologies on this show often as I've been reporting on this topic. And one of the points I've been making is I'm not very sympathetic to these arguments about new artificial intelligence technologies about to have these mammoth impacts. It's going to be intelligent. It's going to send the Terminators after you. All jobs are about to disappear. I think the really interesting stories are about focused applications. Putting, in particular, generative AI technologies to use in very focused applications where they support something that a tool was already doing. Grammarly is a great example of this because of their new product, Grammarly Go, a communication assistant that is powered by generative AI. Grammarly Go understands your unique context, your preferred voice and goals to help you quickly generate high quality writing with just a few clicks. You can ideate, compose, rewrite, and reply thoughtfully. So for example, one of the things you can use Grammarly Go for is you're whatever app you normally write in, this clicks into the existing places you already write, you might say to Grammarly Go, can you give me some ideas on how to decorate a taco truck? Or what are 10 possible captions for this thing I just wrote. And it uses the power of generative AI to give you things right there to work with. It can also help you adjust your tone or clarity or length. You can write something kind of boring and then say to Grammarly Go, make this more exciting. Or you can write something kind of quickly and say, hey, can you make this sound more professional? It rewrites your text into that tone. So you can get high quality writing, and yet spend less time word smithing. You can even get drafts of paragraphs that you can start working with, such as, hey, compose me a paragraph about how TikTok works. Then you work on that and integrate into what you're doing, but it saved you there some steps. So anyways, I think Grammarly Go is an exciting new step forward for Grammarly. It applies generative AI in a nicely focused way to help solve a very specific problem that is very relevant. If you work in knowledge work in any way, clarity of communication is critical. Grammarly has always helped you communicate more clearly. Grammarly Go takes that to the next level. So you'll be amazed at what you can do with Grammarly Go. So go to grammarly.com slash go to download and learn more. That's g-r-a-m-m-a-r-l-y dot com slash go. All right, Jesse, speaking of go, let us go on to the next segment of the show and answer some questions. Who do we have first? All right. First question's from Jeff from Toronto. Every interview I've ever been in has some question about time management or prioritization.


What should I ask a potential hire about their time management habits? (32:15)

What's the right way for me to ask about this when I'm trying to hire somebody? Should I ask the potential hire about their systems? Well, Jeff, it's an interesting question. As someone who hasn't really done a lot of job interviews, at least not since I interviewed for Microsoft in college, that might've been the last job interview. Well, I guess I interviewed for it to be a professor. So that's like a job interview, but that's different because it takes all day and it's a stylized thing where you're giving talks and you have this CV. But the last sort of corporate job interview I ever did was, was Microsoft and Jesse, I don't know if I've told you this story, but the way they did it back then, this would have been 2004 was kind of brutal, right? So if you made it to the stage where they were going to fly you out to Redmond to interview for this position, you started in a conference room with all of the other people they flew out to be 10 people in the conference room. And you knew you're all interviewing for the same position. In this case, it was this project manager program that Steve Ballmer had created where they took computer scientists and they send you to business school. And it was a competitive position. As the day goes on, you would interview with more and more people. And as the day goes on, they'd move you to more and more senior people. But here was the catch. They started sending people home as the day progressed. Really? Yeah. So as the day progressed, you would come back to the conference room. There'd be less people. And you'd get the lunch. There'd be less people. You'd get to the afternoon. So they were weeding people out, right, because they didn't want to waste the time of the higher-up people. Because they're engineers, and they're being very optimal. And engineers don't always understand things, for example, like how the human emotions work. So in the engineer's mind, they were thinking, well, we don't want, when we get up to a senior vice president, we don't want them talking to 10 people. So they started, so you come back. And I guess they were just telling people like, okay, you're done. You can go home. And so there was less and less of us until, and spoiler alert and not the humble brag, but I was the last one left and got the job offer. By the end of the day, it was like me and one other guy that were left. And then the final people we were interviewing with, the final guy, I don't know who it was, but I remember him talking about, oh, I was just over at Bill's house last night and we were blah, blah, blah. It was going on about how he was like close with Bill Gates. So this must've been someone who was really high up. Anyways, that was my experience with corporate job interviews. It was basically survivor. If you got rid of all the attractive people and replace them with nerds and then put them in a context where no one understood like basic human emotions. So that was it. It was like unattractive nerd survivor, basically. But I don't remember them talking about time management. So that's why I was interested in this question, is Jeff is saying this is common now, which I kind of like. They'll ask you in a job interview about time management. So Jeff's asking what should he ask his potential interviewees? I have some ideas, but let me just preface this with the, my core answer here is I don't care. Almost no one is good at this. And it's not too hard to create a culture or teach people how to have attention-centric productivity. If people don't listen to my show or have read like two or three other similar books, they're going to be terrible at this. And people don't listen to my show or have read like two or three other similar books, they're going to be terrible at this. And I don't think that should be disqualifying to hire them because you're never going to find someone. Or if you do find someone, it's someone who spends too much time listening to productivity podcasts, you don't want to hire them in the first place. So I definitely have a mindset of, it is your job as an employer to create a culture in which good time management, and by that I really do mean this sort of multi-scale or attention-centric productivity, is taught. Here's how we do it here. We respect this. This is what we want you to do. Let me tell you about how I do it. So I think this is more easily taught than it is sought out. That being said, if I was going to ask someone for a high-level position, let's say, and I cared how much do they think about productivity and time management, I would probably get to the key question, on a typical day, how do you decide what to work on next? Because that's really going to sort of cut to the quick a little bit. If they don't think at all about organization or time management, then they'll say, well, they'll just think about, they'll give some answer about, I'll think about in the moment my priorities and try to choose something important. If they're a cybernetic productivity type geek, they'll go on and on about different tech systems, which is also a warning. Like, oh man, this guy is going to be one of those guys who puts complex little code words in their email subject line to try to simplify the time so you don't have to click on the email to read. They have these acronyms and brackets in there. You're like, oh my God, it's going to be annoying. So that's a warning sign too. But if they're actually sort of a Cal Newport type, they might talk about, well, here's how I decide how to spend my time. I time block my day. And the time block for my day is really when doing so, I keep tasks over here and I have a weekly plan. And here's how I keep on track for the vision and how to make sure I have enough time. You'll hear about this sort of attention allocation type decisions. You'll hear them talking about, well, if I schedule a meeting, I make sure to schedule other time to process the meeting. I want to give myself time to think. So if they're using the lingo of attention as a commodity to be deployed carefully and to be used with respect, if they have some awareness of human psychology and human neurology about how slow the mind is to shift context and how it burns out, that would be a really good sign. If you really want to try to find that in someone, I guess you could ask them that. Or just make a veiled Cal Newport reference, like one of the geeky things we talk about and if they know what that is then they're good then they then they definitely then they definitely know this stuff i would say jesse i'm trying to think what the code word would be um i think here's the question here's the question you say well let me just one more question let me ask you before we complete this interview do you agree that name of the wind is brandon sanderson's best book and if they say yes that is sanderson's best book then you know they know us and they've listened to us way too long and uh they're on the ball so that would be my suggestion it's so good right, what do we got next? All right. Next question is from Marie from New York City. I work in leadership development for a large healthcare institution.


How do I teach leaders how to work more deeply? (38:38)

I think your ideas on work processes are potentially game-changing for many of the leaders I work with, but I'm struggling with how to share it with them. changing for many of the leaders I work with, but I'm struggling with how to share it with them. This is difficult. It is difficult. I have done some of these events before. I have worked with C-suite types. I've worked with boards of directors. I've worked with the executive cores of Fortune 50 companies. It's not always my favorite thing because the corporate world is complicated. It's more complicated than I understand is often more complicated than my ideas fully appreciate because in addition to just producing work, there's all these other constraints, these social and political constraints of, you know, this division traditionally has had this power and they gave it up and this executive VP and it is a really complicated, it is a complicated world. But I will say what seems to help, Mary, more so than particular examples, more so than particular tactics, which might seem at first what you need. Can I be more specific? Can you give me more specifics? You don't really want to be specific when talking with leaders because leaders will hear specifics. Oh, I used office hours plus shared documents plus whatever, docket clearing meetings. You give specifics, and what they hear is, where is there a problem with this? Where is there a potential danger with this? Where might this ruffle someone's feathers or get me in trouble? It is always easier not to do something new. Something new introduces the possibility of problems. So I always say with leaders, we're very aware of, I don't want to do something that's going to create new problems. You want to get the core principles. And I think the core principles you want to get to when you're talking to a leader is to push them away from a cybernetic definition of productivity, get them away from what IT system can we buy that's going to generate more analytic insights from our data and ensure that we get data sharing at a higher velocity of, you know, information accessibility, get them away from that. They love that world because there's vendors and you spend money and they have slick slideshows, you feel like you're doing something you got to say that doesn't really matter. Yeah, you can speed stuff up, have more information. Great. But this is who cares. What matters is the brain. The human brain can only focus on one thing at a time and needs relatively long refactory periods to switch from one target to another. This is what we should care about. We have a bunch of human brains. We want to think about things and produce value. They need time to do it. They need the ability to do things one at a time. And once we realize that, I would say, we then realize that context shifts are like productivity poison. That's the thing we're trying to minimize. We don't need IT systems that makes the velocity of information transfer higher or the depth of analytical insights sharper. We need less context shifts. You want these leaders to be going through their day after talking to you mentally in their mind, keeping a counter of, well, how many times do I have to switch my attention to something else and back to something else. You want them to slowly become sort of disgusted with the reality that they discover. My God, every time I'm doing this, I can feel it now. I can almost feel the cerebral sludge that's building up as I keep switching back and forth. I can see my concentration fading. I can see my energy dissipating. And then they start to think, okay, so when we think about productivity, what we think about is minimizing doses of this poison. Even if this slows us down, even if it introduces friction, even if that executive VP over there that has bad blood with me is going to get mad about it, even if it is a pain in the moment, now I realize this is what we have to do is stop the context shift so we have to think rethink everything how do we allocate work how do we talk about work how do we collaborate what are our processes for moving information around we are ready to go through the pain of building a a tantric an attention centric productivity environment a workplace that actually respects how the human brain functions. And then they can come up with the very specific things that make sense for their work, for their tools, for the people they work with. Then they can figure that out. So anyways, Murray, that's what I've increasingly come to realize. Forget examples and get the principles. Because if they're a leader at a big company or a large healthcare institution, they're smart. They're very smart. They notice the issues. They know what's not working. They can understand deep principles. They can generate tactics out of it. So anyways, I've been big about that recently. The weeds are too messy in corporate America. It's why I don't go around and try to consult for companies and say, let me help you rebuild your communication protocols or something like this, because the weeds are so thick and bespoke and every company has their own very specific issues and it's very difficult for an outsider to move through and an outsider can only do so much anyways you need the people right there that are stuck in these weeds to recognize that a better plant needs to grow there you need them to realize what the problem is and then they can generate the solutions they know more about their company than i do they know more about their company than I do. They know more about their group than a leadership development executive does. So the best thing we can do is teach them what the issue is and then let them actually come up with problems. That was a good analogy with the plant. Plants and weeds, yeah. I could do that, Jesse. I could be. This is my problem, is I'll write about all the stuff I write about since 2015, basically. Everything I write about it, in some way, is about technology intersecting with different parts of our life. So technology intersecting with work, of course, is a big thing. All this productivity talk is about work in an age of digital distraction and high-velocity cybernetic productivity notions. It's all about technology intersecting work. Digital minimalism is about technology intersecting our personal lives. This is what I care about, right? But the issue is I'll deal with a particular topic, and I'll think about it deeply and produce some big ideas, and then I move on. But the problem is the ideas are still out there. So deep work had a bunch of ideas that I thought were very important, but then I went on and wrote a bunch of other books. Uh, and yet there's a lot of people are saying, well, can't you just come and help us do deep work? That's the issue. It's not my instinct of, let me just stick with a topic and really keep pushing it and promoting it. I like the idea. I want to understand. I get the pleasure out of understanding something new. And by the time people are catching on with something, a lot of times I've moved on to sort of the next topic I'm trying to understand. So this is why I don't travel the world, you know, running workshops. This would probably be pretty lucrative actually, but running workshops about, you know, how to make your team deeper, building processes. I don't know, just just actually we could probably make a lot of money maybe you and i should just fly around the world and uh have people cancel their slack accounts and do office hours and clearing meetings we can wear suits well then you wouldn't be able to read books in the woods like you're doing right now so that's the problem yeah that's the problem yeah well here's what we'll do like in uh goodwill hunting when ben affleck went to the meeting with the nsa instead of matt damon i'm gonna send you and you're gonna give like very bombastic speeches on my behalf that like involve for for whatever reason like a lot of sort of onstage flexing and weightlifting uh i don't know why i think this would be great. Just just to mystify people. Just just have you run out and be like, focus is like deadlift is this. Exactly. Now I don't know why I would want you having doing deadlifts. I just have this vision of you in like gym pants, and like a muscle shirt. Like, okay, deep work is like lifting heavy weights every rep i can't even lift that heavy weights no i know it's not like this is something you do i just thought it'd be funny i'm just thinking like what the opposite would be and then and then to flip it around um then you should have me take over some of your coaching sports coaching responsibilities and then i would just be terrible yeah that i'd be like well the lacrosse, we have to think about it like an idea that is evolving through a network of competing ideas. And then so is it really, are you catching the ball or is it an idea that we're formulating? And so that's what we'll do. I'm actually going to an event right after this. This is why I'm wearing a nicer shirt is right after we get off the air here, I'm going over to the Rockefeller center, which is the school of public policy and social sciences here at Dartmouth. And I'm doing a, doing a fireside chat where I'm going to go and I'm going to sit in a chair and be interviewed by another professor in theory for an audience. We'll see. That's cool. You had the fireside chats in your courses back in the day. I took those before I even knew you. Didn't I? I know exactly what you're talking about. Scott Young and I had fireside chats. Yeah. Did you hear the fire crackling in the background? Yeah. So did VAT put in the fire crackling sound? Yeah. That's great. I love it. I love it. Yeah. Yeah, we here? The fire crackling in the background. Yeah. So the VAT put in the fire crackling sound. Yeah. That's great. I love it. I love it. Yeah. Yeah. We did these fireside chats. So this would have been for, was it life of focus? Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So we did these fireside chats, uh, where we would talk about what had happened in that week of the course. And then, yeah. Uh, shout out the VAT Scott's longtime producer, I think added fire sounds. I'm actually talking to Scott, I think tomorrow. So how much that Alright, anyway, speaking of I have to do an event. Let's keep rolling here, because I'm about to go on stage. Alright, so let's, let's get to another question. Next question is from Ben, you seem to have a strong ability to break down phenomena around you into systems and processes.


How did Cal become good at breaking things down into systems and processes? (48:25)

How much of this is a systematic approach on your part versus intuition? Well, Ben, that's all training. You know, I, I have been thinking about things in terms of systems. So breaking down behaviors or goals or hidden processes, breaking down and clarifying them and then using that clarification to either better understand or direct your decisions in life. I was doing this at a very unusually young age. I mean, I guess college is when I did my first sort of early in college, my first paid writing. There's a piece I did, and God, I don't know where this is, but I remember including this piece as a writing sample when I, for my agent, when at the time I was trying to convince her to represent me for my first book, how to win a college. And you know, I was 20. She's like, okay, I need writing samples. Like, I don't know if you can even write. And I remember one of the articles I had written when I was 19 or 18, I forgot where I published it, but I just, I remember the title was the ABCs of something productivity. And, you know, I've broken it down into ABC or whatever. So I always thought that way because as a teenager, I read a lot of self-help. I read a lot of time management. I read a lot of pragmatic nonfiction and business advice books. I read all these books because I had my.com company back then. And so during that formative part of my brain's development, it developed listening to David Allen recordings, listening to business books, listening to the the 1990s era of New York based big idea writers like Malcolm Gladwell, and Steven Johnson and Clive Thompson. And so I just I grew up my brain developed around that and I spent my entire life doing it. So that also, that comes easier for me. I like to think of myself as the Bryce Harper of coming up with systems in the sense that, you know, Bryce Harper was a precociously young hitter. He spent his entire childhood hitting. I spent my entire childhood doing something that turned out to be multiple orders of magnitude less lucrative, which was coming up, coming up with ideas and there's no $330 million contract for idea writing. But anyway, so Ben does practice. If you do more of it, you get better, but it's sort of a parlor trick. And it's good to recognize this type of writing when you see it. I don't know how important it is for other people to develop it though. It's I don't know. type of writing when you see it. I don't know how important it is for other people to develop it, though. It's, I don't know. It's its own. It's its own thing, Jesse, I can, in any situation, I can come up with a theory, or system about what's happening about some sort of dynamic that's kind of interesting. And 90% of the time, it's empty underneath. But I can come up with something in the moment that sounds that sounds good. Yeah, you give everything really good names too. I know. It's what I do. Again, it's like Bryce Harper, but a lot less lucrative. All right. Let's do one more question. All right. Next question is from Clemens from Vancouver. I'm a big fan of the philosophy behind your productivity system, especially time blocking. Where I'm struggling is to incorporate your role-based task boards into my approach. As a manager, what's important to me is often time sensitive of something. How should I build my task boards? All right. So, I mean, Clemens, I know that time sensitivity is this urgent or is it not urgent?


How do I build task boards if I have many roles? (51:43)

I know that that is important and you can capture that in your task boards, but you can tackle that at a smaller scope. So my argument with my various attention centric productivity ideas, one of the ideas about tasks are that you should organize like tasks in the same place. And I think role is the right way to organize it, not sensitivity. So you should have a task board for different roles or major projects, for example. Now, what this means can be different depending on your job, but it's content specific. The content is similar of the tasks on the same board. The reason why that's similar is because when we think about a particular role of this type, where all the tasks you're seeing all sort of are involving the same type of activities or information or the same type of project, that means everything you're looking at is pulling from the same semantic context inside your brain. And that is much more easy to work with. It's much easier to work with. So if I confront, okay, here's a board of all the stuff related to my teaching, I can now have my mind load up the teaching networks, thinking about courses and my students and what needs to be done. And once it's loaded up that network, I can now work with all the stuff on this board and think about it and organize it and work on it and tackle some things. That's all going to come relatively easily because I have the right, I mean, the same cognitive context as I move from task to task. If I instead tried to organize my task by, let's say, time sensitivity, so now I have a board of here's everything that is due in a week versus due in a month, the content of these tasks could vary wildly. the content of these tasks could vary wildly. So now it's much harder for my brain to deal with because here is a task about teaching. Here's a task about research. Here's a task about an upcoming trip. Those are all completely semantically separate context. And it's going to be much harder for my brain to make use of that. So what I suggest is organizing your tasks by similar content. Then within each of these boards, you can organize by time sensitivity. And you can say this is due this week, what I'm working on this week, what I need to think about coming up for the next week, you can organize them that way. And so when you're trying to figure out then you're doing weekly planning, and you're looking at your task boards, what do I need to make time on? Okay, so you're gonna have multiple boards that maybe each have urgent stuff on it. That's fine. All right, you have multiple boards of urgent stuff on it, you can look at them all and figure out right there. Here's the things I'm working on this week. That's not that big of a deal. But if that's why I organize my main level of organization is content, and then I organize within the content. It's all about setting up a context that your brain can work with more easily. You know, Jesse, we have one more question here. I'm gonna answer fast. Let's just do it. Let's answer. Let's do the last question. I'm feeling fast. Yeah, I'm actually excited because I wanted to hear your riff on this. It's from Jeremy. I'm a legislative consultant, so deep work and distractions are both key elements of my job. My time is consumed by entertaining, attending, and preparing for meetings, tracking legislation and current events, and conducting borderline admin tasks. I currently am finding it difficult to find time for deep work, such as learning and writing about policy ideas, studying legislative history. How would you go about balancing distractions and deep work?


How do I find time to think in my busy job? (54:59)

Well, Jeremy, I would say you're a consultant. I think you're probably a solo entrepreneur here based on the context of this question. It's just you run your own consultancy. You don't work for a big firm. First two hours of everyday deep work. That's it. Work backwards from that. Not that hard to work backwards from. It means, okay, I don't schedule meetings before noon because I want to make sure that I have at least an hour to prep for a meeting or travel to a meeting if needed. I might have to move a meeting or opportunity to the next week because I only have so many slots when the morning's not free. Whatever. That'll take you a month to get used to. You'll have maybe 10% of the people you deal with will have some friction because of this, and then they'll get over it. And you don't even have to think about it again. Two hours every morning, focused on learning new skills, developing your business. It's that simple. I think sometimes what happens is we get worried about some of the small issues that will arise, most of those being temporary. And we let the fear of those small issues keep us in a state that is incredibly worse. We're willing to trade. This client might be annoyed and I might not be able to work with that person because they only like to work in the meetings. That might happen in the next three weeks. You're willing to trade that for over the next few years, my business stagnates. My ability to master this new piece of legislation, which could bring in hundreds of thousands of new business goes away. And And when you actually see those trade-offs, you're like, this is crazy. I annoy this person. I don't work with that person anymore. Of course I'll make that trade for all these benefits of being able to systematically work deeply on what matters. But in the moment, we just see the short-term pain. So I'm going to suggest something like that. It doesn't have to be exactly that, but honestly, that's the easiest thing. Start your workday a little early. Do 8.30 to 10.30. Deep work with a ritual. You get the right coffee. 30 to 10 30 deep work in a, with a ritual, you get the right coffee, you go to a place, there's no email until that's done. And I'm telling you, it'll take about a month for you to adjust your habits, make that trackable tractable. It'll take about a month before your clients get used to that. And then everyone will be fine with it. And your trajectory, the compound is interest of what you're going to be able to grow to and accomplish is just going to exponentially turn upwards two hours every morning all right all right so that's it for questions uh i want to move on to the final segment of the show it's where we talk about something interesting that you my listeners sent in to my interesting at calnewport.com email address before we do let me briefly talk about another one of the sponsors that makes this show possible. That's our good friends at Blinkist. The Blinkist app allows you to understand the most important points from over 5,500 nonfiction books and podcasts. It offers you these short summaries called Blinks that you can either read or listen to while you do other things. They take about 15 minutes. So in about 15 minutes you can get the main points from thousands of popular nonfiction books. Now, the way that I recommend using this the way I use it, the way Jesse uses it, is as a triage service for your reading habit. You hear about a book. You're thinking, should I buy this and add it to my list? Go listen or read the Blink first. That almost always will tell you, oh, yes, yes, yes, this will be great. I really want to learn more about these points. Or this isn't what I thought it was. Or it is what I thought it was. But honestly, the Blink was all I needed to know. I don't think I want to spend 250 pages with this. So it's a triage service that makes sure that the books you actually buy and try to read are books that you know you're really going to like. This, in turn, not only makes the most of your reading time, but helps you become a more serious reader because your experience with these books is positive. You're able to figure out ahead what you want to read. The side benefit of this is as you're reading blinks for books that you don't end up buying, you are still getting useful information. So let's say your hit rate is one book out of every four. One book out of every four that you read or listen to the blink to, you buy that book. You're still getting four books worth of ideas. And one of those books, you're getting a really deep understanding, but you can draw from the summaries of those other three books to help add context to your understanding. So it really also helps your grasp of complex ideas. It's again like an accelerant for how quickly you can master fields because you're not only reading good books, but you're at an even higher rate getting key summaries of related books so if you're a serious reader and most of my listeners are or aspire to be blinkus is a great sidekick for that endeavor i also want to mention that there is a temporary service going on right now a temporary i guess we'd call it offer called blinkus connect that will allow you to share your premium accounts. In a sense, to get two premium accounts for the price of one, you can share one with a friend. So I think that's cool. So anyways, right now, Blinkist has a special offer just for our audience. Go to Blinkist.com slash deep to start your seven-day free trial and get 25% off a Blinkist premium membership. That's Blinkist spelled B-L-I-N-K-I-S-T, Blinkist Premium Membership. That's Blinkist spelled B-L-I-N-K-I-S-T. Blinkist.com slash deep to get 25% off and a seven-day free trial. Blinkist.com slash deep. And for a limited time, you can use Blinkist Connect to share your premium account and you will get two premium subscriptions for the price of one. I also want to talk about our friends at ExpressVPN. You need to be using a VPN. And if you're going to use a VPN, it should be ExpressVPN. Let me explain what I mean by this. What does a VPN do? Well, typically, if you connect to the internet, people can see what websites or services you're talking to. So if you're connected to a wireless access point, let's say at a Starbucks, anyone nearby with the right software can read your packets out of the air and say, oh, I see what website Cal is talking to. Even if you're at home, connected to the internet through your home, your internet service provider sees which websites you're talking to, and they can sell that data. And guess what? They often do. They use it to profile you and say what types of products that should be served in your direction. A VPN allows you to avoid that. Here's the way a VPN works. If I want to access a website or a service, I don't directly talk to that website or service. I instead talk to a VPN server. And I tell that VPN server with an encrypted message that no one listening to me at Starbucks, no one at my internet service provider can read. I tell it with an encrypted message, here's who I really want to talk to. And the VPN server talks to that site or service on my behalf, encrypts the response and sends it back to me. Right? So now all anyone can see, whether they're sniffing your packets or that you're internet service providers, that you're talking to a VPN. They don't know who that VPN is helping you talk to. Now ExpressVPN is an industry leader in this technology. You install it on your devices, you turn it on with a click, and then you use your web browser, your apps, just like you normally would. All of this stuff with the encryption and talking to the server, all of that happens in the background. You don't even have to worry about it. I like ExpressVPN because the software works well. It's seamless. I like ExpressVPN because they have servers all around the world. So wherever you are in the country or the world, there's probably a VPN server nearby you can select to connect to, which means you'll have a very fast connection. They have good bandwidth for these servers as well, so you're not even going to know you're using a VPN, but you get all those privacy advantages. So stop allowing anyone who wants to to monitor your internet use. Secure your internet today with the VPN I trust for online protection, which is ExpressVPN. So visit expressvpn.com deep and they will give you three extra months free so that's expressvpn.com deep expressvpn.com deep don't forget the slash deep to get that three extra months free all right let us uh let's do something interesting jesse. Now, typically in the studio, I'd be able to pull this up on a screen. I can't do that from here. Though I'll figure out how to do that going forward.


Interesting Facts

Something Interesting Taylor Sheridan’s “writing bunker” (01:03:12)

We're tricking out the HQ North for the rest of the summer, so don't worry. Soon I'll be able to pull up an article. But for now, I'm just going to read the article. I have it here in front of me. I will say I was telling Jesse about this earlier offline. There is some studios at Dartmouth that I can rent. Now they're not really, the one I have in mind is not for podcasting. It's really for doing like book on tape audio recording. It's a room where every surface is sound baffles. But what I'm thinking about doing is bringing in a ring light and a nice camera and just setting it up on there and uh using that for podcasts completely soundproof darkened room could be really cool so i'm going to check that out when i i'm going to check that out soon it'd be great they also have a podcast studio but it's not for video podcast it has all the equipment you need for normal podcasting but that might look okay in there so i'm going to check that out too. So anyways, I have a lot of ideas for our tech is going to grow as I get increasingly bored up North. Anyways, this is all to say, I can't show you the article I'm reading today. Um, but I will tell you about it. And there's a link in the show notes. Uh, this is an article from the Hollywood reporter from June. It's a recent article. The title is Taylor Sheridan does whatever he wants. All right. So Taylor Sheridan, if you don't know, was the broke actor turned screenwriter turned television hit maker. He is the showrunner and head writer behind a lot of hit shows, including most notably Yellowstone. He's also written uh he has this great trilogy uh sicario wind river i forgot the other one is a good movie trilogy of these sort of modern gritty uh westerns um kings of providence 1923 a yellowstone prequel 1883 a yellowstone prequel he's83, a Yellowstone prequel. He's doing all these sorts of shows. And so there's this big profile about Taylor Sheridan that's in the Hollywood Reporter. Now, I'll tell you an interesting thing. Before I get to the quote I want to read, an interesting thing I learned in this profile is this giant ranch in Texas came up for sale. So this is how we understand Taylor Sheridan's work habits. A giant ranch, the Four Sixes Ranch in Texas. As a native Texan myself, I have heard of the Four Sixes. It's over kind of west near the Panhandle. It's roughly the size of Los Angeles. It's 300,000 acres or something like that. Some huge amount, some huge amount of land. Anyways, it came up for sale. It came up for sale it came for sale and uh taylor just he lived on a ranch a small ranch of you know a thousand acres it came for sale and taylor really wanted to buy this ranch so he said it's famous right he's like this would be great it's the most famous ranch in texas well the king ranch is more famous was his famous old ranch. He said, how much is it going to be? And they said $350 million. And so Taylor was like, I'm $330 million short, but hold on, hold on. Just like, don't, don't sell it yet. And he goes around because his shows are very successful and he signs a $200 million deal with Paramount for like doing all these sorts of shows. And basically, between that deal and bringing in a couple of minority investors, they bought this ranch. So he's now writing out of his mind, just writing out of his mind, because he wanted this ranch. So he's writing four shows or something crazy. Not very slow productivity of him anyways how is he doing this so this brings us up to the quote i liked this is from the article sheridan often writes in a one-room cabinet he built in wyoming he's always a fast writer he says but after building this script generating isolation bunker he was suddenly able to grind out episodes of hit tv shows at a phenomenal speed. I've written many episodes in eight to 10 hours, he claims. So I like this idea that like, okay, so now he has to write four shows or something so he can afford this ranch. And so he built a bunker and built his whole life around just writing shows and it really worked. And so when we, when we hear Taylor's story, we say, well, that's exhausting. All the different, he's so busy that he has to do this to even keep up with the work. But the takeaway I had is, you know, imagine if you had the isolation bunker and you didn't have to pay off a $350 million ranch, and you were just doing a normal type of, you're writing a book a year or like one television show, you spend two weeks and you'd be done. I mean, I'm just thinking about the degree to which we often let time scarcity and busyness push us into the way we work, but we never think about taking the things that really help us work, to help us deep, the sort of emergency measures. And if we made that sort of core, we could actually have a lot more time. So anyways, I just love this thought experiment of Taylor Sheridan without the $350 million ranch, but with the isolation riding bunker in Wyoming, could go up there for a month and finish an episode of a show and then spend the other 11 months on his much smaller but still serviceable ranch. So anyways, we see in extreme situations the ability to produce great work through extreme concentration. And I just wish we had more examples of that in non-extreme situations, more examples of that in a slow productivity context of I just do this thing all out. And then when I'm done, I'm done and I rest. And so there's some inspiration to pull out of there. There's a lot of stress coming out of this article and so there's some inspiration to pull out of there there's a lot of stress coming out of this article but there's some inspiration to pull out of there pull out of there as well jesse i think we need a deep work ranch by the way this is my new you're pretty much in one right now well okay this is a good point so so the house i'm in now is you know it's it's in town in Hanover. It's on the pond up here. But my brother-in-law, who's staying up in Vermont this summer, sent me a link for a property nearby. It's in Vermont, near here. I don't know. I don't know the geography well. 120 acres and a couple outbuildings, some barns, some agricultural land. And there's a creek and a bond the whole thing kind of at the end of it i i think there's the property goes all the way down has frontage on fairly lake fairly lake or whatever and he was like yeah this could be like a pizza restaurant because there's this big pizza oven there and like we could build a deep work cabin it's like yes that's what we need we need our we need this deep work north. I guess it's not a ranch in New England. I don't know what you would call it, a ramble or something like that. That's what we need. 120 acres is a lot of upkeep. Well, I didn't want to broach the topic now, but I was assuming you could take care of that. Run the tractor. I'd be more inclined to like rent, rent a, you know, rent something from somebody who has $120 acre ranch. See, this is smarter. This is smarter. Okay. So what we need is a deep work fan with 120 acres. He was like, not often there. Okay. That's going to be, that's going to be the new idea. All right. But you pretty much have that scenario right now, this summer. So you should, you know, that's going to be sweet. No, it's true. We do because down the road from here is uh the golf course but they they canceled the golf team and closed the golf course at dartmouth but the golf course is still there so they've just temporarily just call it a park and they're still mowing it and everything so there's uh right down the street is 18 holes worth of golf course that you can just, it's just a giant park. And then it's surrounded by woods that have kilometers and kilometers of cross country and running trails. So yeah, you're kind of right. It's like I have the deep work ranch, but I don't have to upkeep it. And also a lot of random people invest or walking their dogs on it, but that's okay. I think it's a fair trade. It's like St. Andrews on a Sunday. Yep. The old course, they fair trade. It's like St. Andrews on a Sunday. Yep. Of course they all walk their dogs on that course. All right. Well, anyway, speaking of, uh, speaking of, um, I don't know, walking places. I, I'm about to be on stage. I'm supposed to be on stage in like 10 minutes. So I got to go. Uh, thank you everyone for listening. We'll be back next week. Uh, probably in the standard deep work HQ as I temporarily am coming back to visit DC. So hopefully, uh, I will be seeing you all sort probably in the standard deep work hq as i temporarily am coming back to visit dc so hopefully uh i will be seeing you all sort of in the old studio next week and 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.