Ep. 257: Refusing Overwork

Transcription for the video titled "Ep. 257: Refusing Overwork".


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Cal's intro (00:00)

Alright, so let's get started then. With today's deep question, I'll word it this way. How does fixed schedule productivity work and how has Cal's thoughts on it changed over the years? I'm Cal Newport and this is Deep Questions, the show about living and working deeply in a distracted world. I am here in the Summer HQ up in Hanover, New Hampshire. I am joined down in the Southern Deep Work HQ in Washington, DC by my producer Jesse. Do you think I've done a pretty good job setting up my Northern HQ to look not unlike our studio down in DC itself actually looks? I never had a doubt. I knew you were going to pull it off. It looks great. Now we still have some Kings for working out. You might hear a small hiss that should be gone by the next episode. I'm still playing with the lights, but there's nothing more fun than messing around with AV equipment when what you really should be doing is actual deep work. So I think there's irony there. Working on a podcast about avoiding distraction has been in recent days a wonderful source of distraction for me. By am happy to be up here. I'm happy that we are still rolling with the show even as I'm up north. I'll tell you what I wanted to talk about today came from you, my listeners. Someone sent me a question about an article that I had published back in 2008. That's one of my classic articles. I think one of my most cited articles on hardcore productivity. Let me read the title. I have it here. Of that 2008 article I wrote is as follows. Fixed schedule productivity. How I accomplish a large amount of work in a small number of work hours. I thought it would be fun to revisit this article. The talk through some of the main ideas. Discuss what I still agree with and what I have evolved or changed in the many years that have passed since I first wrote that. Just to calibrate where this falls on the deep life stack we use to roughly keep track of efforts to find more depth in our life. This would be really a core, calm layer strategy. Fixed schedule productivity that I write about in this article will discuss really is all about how do you keep a control of your obligation so that you have breathing room and time to actually push other things towards the remarkable reflect, etc. That's going to be the plan. We're going to talk about that topic. Let me just add a little bit. Then I've pulled some questions that are all relevant. Some of the questions we're going to answer in the second segment are specifically related to fixed scale productivity. Some are related to the type of more smaller or finer tuned tactics you would need to succeed with fixed schedule productivity. We'll do that in the second segment. For the third segment we'll talk books.

Insights And Discussions On Time Management

Today's Deep Question (03:15)

This is coming to you right now at mid-July so we might as well go back and talk about what books I read back in June. Let's get started then. With today's deep question I'll word it this way. How does fixed schedule productivity work and how has Cal's thoughts on it changed over the years? I'm going to start by reading the introduction of my original article here. Here's the introduction. Remember this is February of 2008 when I wrote this. I was a PhD student at MIT at the time. Here's what I wrote. I should have an overwhelming, malox-guzzling, stress-saturated schedule. Here's why. I am a graduate student in a demanding program. I'm working on several research papers while also attempting to nail down some key ideas for my dissertation. I'm TAing and taking courses. I maintain this blog. I'm a staff writer for Flack Magazine. I keep things interesting. I'm working on background research for a potential new book project. You would be reasonable to assume that I must get on average seven to eight minutes of sleep at night. It would also be wrong. Let me explain. First of all, let me just react to that before we get into the guts of what I talked about in that article. It's very nostalgic how naive I was to think that a grad student schedule was somehow demanding or malox-guzzling or whatever I said there. Here's what I didn't say. Here's the thing of being a grad program. I'm working on several research papers and TAing. That doesn't take that much time. You TA a class twice a week. You can work on the research paper some days. I'm also interested to see Flack Magazine reference. I do not believe that magazine is still around. It was, however, a key part of my development as a writer. After I wrote the book, "How to Become a Straight A Student," I began, as I've talked about on the show before, to systematically train my writing ability so I could do more general journalism, general idea nonfiction writing like I do today. Flack Magazine was a big part of that training. It was a kind of M+1 style clones or hipster bookland style publication online only. Pretty competitive. They had a good editor. It was hard to get them to accept an article. I used Flack Magazine commissions to push my writing away from pure pragmatic nonfiction and to be a little bit more journalistic or general nonfiction. It's cool to see that Flack Magazine reference. How did I explain how I avoided stress in that situation? I go on to write in the article, "Here is my actual schedule. I work from nine to five on weekdays in the morning on Sunday." That's it. Unless I'm bored, I have no need to ever turn on a computer after five during the week or any time on Saturday. I feel these times instead doing, "Well, whatever I want." How do I balance an ambitious workload with an ambitious sparse schedule? It's a simple idea I call fixed schedule productivity. The system works as follows. One, choose a schedule of work hours that you think provides the ideal balance of effort and relaxation. Two, do whatever it takes to avoid violating this schedule. All right. So there it is. I'm using for the first time back in 2008 my now fabled fixed schedule productivity system. You fix the hours and then you say, "That's what I'm going to work." Then you figure out how to make that happen. It's in that second part figuring out how am I going to satisfy this commitment to myself. It's in that second part that the productivity innovation, the workload management innovation, all that will then emerge as a natural consequence. Now again, a little bit of backstory here. This idea of fixing the schedule to nine to five was quite novel for a grad student. So for me, this seemed really very novel. Grad students usually roll into work 10, 11 a.m. and they often will stay there till late at night, especially if something is due the next day because I got married early. I had always just fixed my graduate student hours to my wife's work hours. So I had this unusual structure early on in my grad student career. I'm going to stick to normal work hours. I want to be done work when she gets done with work. This is the backstory of what led me to experimenting with fixed hours and working backwards to satisfy it. Now again, as I say, this is not hard to satisfy for most graduate student positions, but it was great training wheels for me to get used to this idea of working backwards from limits and letting that induce innovations. So as I go on to say in the original article, here is a simple truth. To stick to your ideal schedule, you will require some drastic actions. For example, you may have to dramatically cut back on the number of projects you are working on. Ruthlessly call inefficient habits from your daily schedule, risk mildly annoying or upsetting some people in exchange for large gains in time freedom and stop procrastinating. In the abstract, these all seem like hard things to do, but when you have the focus of a specific goal such as I do not want to work past five on weekdays, you'd be surprised by how much easier it becomes to deploy these strategies in your daily life. I then go on to talk about what in 2008, what strategies I put in place to satisfy what specific strategies I was using to satisfy my fixed schedule. I mention serializing projects. I keep two project cues, one for my student projects and one for my writing projects. At any one moment, I'm only working on the top project from each cue. When I finish, I move on to the next. A bit of an aside, that wasn't really true. I was often working on multiple research papers at the same time, but I think that sounded better. All right, number two, ultra clear about when to expect results for me, and it's not always soon. Number three, I refuse. If my cue is too crowded for a potential project to get done in time, I turn it down. Number four, I drop projects and quit. If a project is out of control and starts to set too much time for my schedule, I drop it. If something demonstrably more important comes along and it conflicts with something else in my cue, I drop the less important project. If an obligation is taken up too much time, I quit. Here's a secret. No one really cares what you do on the small scale. In the in your judge on your large scale list of important completions. Again, a back story there. I remember very specifically a student organization I joined because I thought it would be interesting about the dialogue between science and religion. Then I soon realized I don't have time to do this. This is going to have to add extra work hours. I'm already at roughly my capacity and I quickly back back out of it. I'm sure that's what I had in mind when I wrote that there. It was this number one, two, three, number five. I'm not available. I often work in hidden nooks at the various libraries on campus. It's quite relevant in grad school. If you're in your office, people can find you. Number six, I batch and habitize. Habitatize, I think I made up that word. Any regularly occurring work is turned to a habit and number was a seven. I start early, sometimes real early. On certain products that I know are important, I don't tolerate procrastination. It doesn't interest me. If I need to start something two or three weeks in advance so that my cue proceeds as needed, I do so. All right, so we get a little bit of chest beating there. All right, so let's react to this. That was 2008 Cal explaining not just what fixed schedule productivity is, but how I actually implemented it. What I'd point out is I was surprised by how similar a lot of that is to what I still do today. I probably had forgotten that that particular schedule, nine to five in the mornings on Sundays, was something that I was doing in 2008. I mean, I was doing in my 20s. I didn't realize that went back that far. A lot of those ideas about being very careful about what I say yes to spreading things out over time so that I don't have project deadlines piling up and requiring really long days or weeks. That's something I still do quite a bit working in different locations where I'm hard to find yes. Risking mildly annoying people in the short term to get long term bigger gains. Yes, that is something else I do as well. A lot about this article holds up, but I did want to look back and say what is it that's new? What's my new take or my new additions to this thinking? Well, the first thing I want to add to it, 2023 Cal wants to add to this article is I don't think I fully understood back then why fixed schedule productivity was so effective. The way I talk about it in that article is that it is just a source of innovation. If you have a simple goal that you can commit to, I don't want to work past five, that will lead you to innovate lots of smaller productivity habits. You're going to track your time better. You're going to be more careful about managing your project queues. You're going to have systems to automate certain things that can be automated. I saw it back in 2008. This strategy was really about innovation. I used to call it a meta productivity strategy because it induced many different concrete productivity innovations. 2023 Cal sees, okay, part of why this is so effective is actually not just that it induces you to come up with good ideas, but because it is substituting for something that is missing in modern knowledge work, which is workload management and modern knowledge work. This is an idea I've been writing about, let's say, in the New Yorker in recent years. One of the big issues is that we don't have clear ways to actually manage individual workloads. We allow workloads to be distributed in an ad hoc fashion. People send you emails, grab you on Slack or in the hallway, "Hey, what about this? Can you help me with this? Can you join this?" It is up to you to figure out how much to bring on your plate. It's up to you to figure out when to push back. This is a very difficult burden to place onto an individual knowledge worker. What do we tend to do? We fall back on what I talk about all the time on the show as the 20% rule. We wait until we have about 20% too much work on our plate. At that point, we are so stressed out and anxious about our work that our psychological distress gives us emotional cover to say no. We're feeling so bad that we finally feel justified to start limiting new stuff on our schedule. What this really looks like in practice is oscillation. Things get way out of control from a place of anxiety and burnout. We begin pushing back on new work. Eventually we crest the other direction. Now we have too little on our plate. We've been saying no for a while. We've finished the things. They're stressing us out. Now we have too little on our plate. We start saying yes again. Then we go right up to the peak again before we fall back down to the valley. Fixxular productivity though I did not know it at the time when I introduced it is a workload management strategy. By saying my work has to fit into these hours, you have a better metric to use to control your workload than stress and anxiety. Your metric is I'm not going to be able to easily fit this within nine to five so now I have too much on my plate. I have to say no or improve how I'm working on what's already there. That is a much more reasonable metric than waiting until you're 20% more stressed. Trying to fit your work into nine to five. That's actually a reasonable amount of work. So what you're implicitly doing with fixxular productivity is saying here is a reasonable workload. I can do a lot of good work with this workload but it is sustainable and it can fit into a broader deeper life that has other concerns than just work. I'm going to work backwards now and make sure what do I need to do to keep my workload to fit within those limits. So it's replacing the 20% rule with something much more humane and sustainable. I did not have that vocabulary in 2008. In part because life is a grad student and a writer is very autonomous. Most of the work you do, you bring on into your own life. So workload management, it just wasn't something I was thinking about. I had full control over my workload. 2023, that's really one of the key elements for why fixxular productivity I think has persevered. All right, so what about the details? What has changed since 2008 in terms of how I actually implement fixxular productivity? Because I still do. That's still roughly, I talk about all the time on the show. Work hours, nine to five-ish, usually a focus block on Sunday morning. So what has changed? A lot of the things I talk about in the article I still do but what else has changed? A couple things. First of all, as you know, I now have a much more sophisticated multi-scale planning philosophy to organize my obligations and find time to actually execute them. My time management was not so sophisticated as a grad student because it didn't need to be. As someone who today has seven jobs and yet still is trying to satisfy fixxular productivity, strategic planning, weekly planning, daily time block planning, all working together and coordinating with a good task management capture system is critical. I have to have that type of control today in a way that maybe I didn't back then. So my time management to make my nine to five goal work is much more complicated. Process centric communication has also become more complicated in my life. This is what I talk about in a world without email. Really thinking through collaboration, really thinking through how are we going to communicate to get something done. This wasn't very relevant in 2008 for me. In 2023, this very much matters that I cannot just be going back and forth ad hoc, unscheduled communication and slack and email for all of my different ongoing projects that would require me to check my inbox all the time. The cost of the resulting contact shifts would in turn really make it difficult for me to keep my same workload within nine to five. That's another thing I think a lot about today that I did not back then. How do I communicate and collaborate in a way that minimizes contact shifts that moves away from the hyperactive hive mind and towards something that's much more psychologically and neurologically sustainable. Those are two things that have developed. They're much more sophisticated takes on time and attention. That has allowed me to really increase the number of things I am still juggling within that same window of time that I set back when I was, whatever this would have been, 25 or 26. Interesting aside I want to add here before we wrap this up is I recognized, I was remembering this the other day. I recognized as I was finishing up grad school that I had things easy from a workload management perspective. The fix-huddle productivity wasn't too hard to implement and that it would get harder and that if I became a professor and I kept writing books, I was looking ahead to my life today and I knew that would be much harder. I actually did during my postdoc years, I spent two years as a postdoc after grad school to train for my life right now, to train specifically for satisfying fixed-schedule productivity with a busier professional demands. I added artificial constraints to my schedule as a postdoc. I took two hours out of every day in the middle of the day that I took away from work. It's where I would bring my dog to the office and then midday we would go for a run. It didn't matter how cold it was, I had all the gear to run in Boston even when it was really cold. We'd go for a run. I would do a Navy Seal style calisthenics workout on a floating dock out there in the Charles River off the Esplanade and I would just swipe away, shovel away the snow to make room for sit-ups. Then I would go home, bring the dog home, I would eat lunch, I'd watch a show, I'd take a shower, I'd go down, maybe get a coffee at the Starbucks on Charles Street and take the tea one stop to Kindle MIT. I'd eat up two hours every day. I'd relax. I was going to ask you about that actually. Yeah, so you probably remember me talking about that. Oh, 100% I was going to one of the questions I was going to ask you about because I was thinking really nine to five you even have like six. That was the point. I did that on purpose because my work was too easy. I said, "Okay, let me take two hours away because now if I take two hours away to fit my work as a post-doc into nine to five is going to be harder, I'll innovate more rules because when I become a professor I'm going to have a lot more work to do and so I want to be used to being much more efficient." I actually just worried I was out of shape from a productivity standpoint. My life was too easy. I took two hours out of every day as a post-doc just to make my life from an organizational perspective harder so that when I became a professor I would be ready. I think it worked and I was ready for the initial obligations as a professor. It was fine. Kids were much more I would say of a bigger challenge than becoming a professor but this was all training. Anyways, I fixed the productivity. That's sort of the story. That's where it came from. That's how I used to think about it. This is what I attitude over the years. This is where it is in my life right now. So my summary here is I think it is very effective. If you have a normal knowledge work job you need some way of managing your workload. This is much better than the default of just waiting till you're too stressed out. I know it's scary. I know you worry like what if I say no to people. You have to figure out how to do it well. It takes experimentation but I do not give up. Do not say look my work just requires me to work all the time. Do the effort required to try to make this work? Get organized. Get systematic about your collaboration. Get clear about your workload queue so that you can be much more clear when you say no and say well I would love to say yes but I have too many things on here right now and my queue is full and I keep track of this really carefully. Earn people's respect that you're an organized person. It does what you say you're going to do when you say you're going to do it so they will grant you the ability to have more flexibility in your workload management because they trust that you know what you're doing. They trust that you're on top of things. All this is hard work but the single commitment. These are the hours I work and I will do whatever I can to make this happen. That will drive all of that effort. That will drive all of that improvement and after all of that your job still makes it impossible. Then it's a very good signal to say maybe it's not the right job. If your lifestyle vision is not completely centered on your professional aspirations and you can't make fixed-scale productivity work even when you're on top of all the different things that might work here then I think that's just a big red flag. This life is not compatible with the deep life where it large it's a perfectly useful signal to say maybe I need to make a change. I continue to embrace this and I continue to want to spread the word. I would say my final assessment I think the article holds up. I would write it differently today. I would add a much more sophistication to it but I'm still happy about it. I'll say, Jesse, we'll keep that in our pantheon of Cal Newport classics, ideas that we keep coming back to. Yeah, I have one follow-up question. Do you ever wish you had more time like in a given day to work? No, I often wish I had less to do. I think that's much more common because I want to fit my time into my work hours. I don't like when that's always very crowded. It's okay for me if there are certain points, certain days where my nine to five is very crowded but what I always pine for is having less to do more flexibility in those hours, not more time so I can do more things. I still have a fundamental aversion to overload. I still have a fundamental aversion to having too much on my plate. I don't like it. My dream remains, the guy who lives on the farm and writes one book a year, six months out of the year and takes a break in between. I don't know if I really have the attention span for that. Maybe I'd get antsy but that still remains in my lifestyle vision. I'm basing off of that still remains strong. I hate having too much to do so I don't want more time. I want to have too much time for a very small list of obligations. We talked about in episode 256 as well about how that's such a similar theme to your student advice with telling students to not do all the extracurricular activities and focus on their classes and have time to do that. It's a weird, there's probably an evolutionary argument to be made here or anthropological argument to be made here about the physiological rareness of having this overload of different things that need to be done. More things than you can imagine getting done easily in your mind. That's very rare probably for humans. That's an unusual, uncomfortable state for us to be in. In knowledge work, we push ourselves into that state all the time. But I think there's an argument to be made that that's not good. In some sense, my new book, Slow Productivity, which is coming out in March, for which, by the way, we'll have a cover to release soon, which I'm excited about, is getting at that. It's getting at a much more human notion of productivity. By human, I mean actually aligned with the way we're wired, a way of doing good work. It gets us away from this man. I am just buzzing with activity as I scramble to try to keep on top of everything I need to keep on top of.

Cal talks about Mint Mobile and Blinkist (25:17)

We got some questions that are relevant to this. Before we get there, I do want to talk about one of the sponsors that makes this show possible. That is going to be our friends at Mint Mobile. From the gas pump to the grocery store, your utility bills and favorite streaming services. You've been noticing that inflation is everywhere. Everything is more expensive than it used to be. Thankfully, there's one company out there that's giving you a much needed break, and that is Mint Mobile. As the first company to sell premium wireless service online only, Mint Mobile lets you order from home and save a ton with phone plans starting at just $15 a month. If you're looking for extra savings this year, Mint Mobile has premium wireless that you can get for just $15 a month. I have worked with Mint Mobile. I don't have it with me up here in New Hampshire, but at some point I bought a highly rated flip phone or feature phone. A phone that does not have any smartphone features. I wanted to have it as an emergency backup phone so I could go places without the distraction on my smartphone while preserving the ability to text my wife or call the police. I was figuring how am I going to do this? Am I going to add this to my AT&T plan? How am I going to make this happen? Mint Mobile is how I did this. Oh, for $15 a month I can get a SIM card sent to me for a basic premium wireless service, stick it in the back of the phone when I just bought on Amazon. The phone was like $70 or something. Now I have a fully functional phone and it barely cost me that much money. That's how I've used it. Other people have used it in a lot of other ways, but the key thing about Mint Mobile is the savings come from the fact that they are online only. They get rid of all of the overhead associated with retail, with all the TV advertising, those stores you go into and there's no one there to ever help you and you end up leaving in frustration. By getting rid of all that they can offer you service cheaper. You can use your own phone with any Mint Mobile plan. You can keep your same phone number along with all your existing contacts, switch to Mint Mobile and get premium wireless service starting at just $15 a month. So to get your new wireless plan for just $15 a month and to get that plan shipped to your door for free, go to mintmobile.com/deep. That's mintmobile.com/deep. Cut your wireless bill to $15 a month at mintmobile.com/deep. Also want to talk about our longtime friends at Blinkist. As I always say, ideas are power and the best source of ideas is books. The problem is figuring out which books you should actually bother buying and trying to read. This is where Blinkist enters the scene. It is a subscription service that gives you short summaries of thousands of best-selling nonfiction books. These short summaries called blinks you can either read or listen to using the Blinkist app. It takes about 15 minutes to read or listen to and you get all the big ideas of all of the big new nonfiction books. The way that Jesse and I use Blinkist is as a triage service for our lives as readers. If we're interested in a particular book we've heard about, we download, I usually read the blinks Jesse likes to listen to them or maybe I have that backwards. Jesse reads them. I usually read them. I sometimes listen to them. I read them more than I read them. You read them. Yeah, that's right. You read them. I sometimes listen to them. I sometimes read them. I think I probably read them more than I listen as well. Anyways, the point is what we do is in that 15 minutes you get the main ideas of the book almost always tells you, "Oh yes, I want to buy this." Or, "Oh no, that'd be a waste." It's not what I thought it was. It is what I thought it was but honestly this 15 minutes tells me, "I know all I need to know about this book." It is a great accompaniment to the reading life and reading, of course, is so critical to the deep life. A couple of other things to point out about it. They have these collections online which I appreciate. Well-known writers, including writers who are friends of the show like Adam Grant or Dan Pink, will have collections where they curate a collection of books they like. Then you can just go listen to the blinks and figure out which of those you want to actually purchase. They also have a for a limited time a service called Blinkis Connect, a feature called Blinkis Connect that allows you to share your premium account with a friend. You get two accounts for the price of one. Listen, if you read, you need Blinkist. Right now Blinkist has a special offer just for our audience. Go to blinkis.com/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.com/deep to get 25% off on a seven day free trial.

What activities can fall outside fixed schedules? (30:12)

Blinkist.com/deep. Remember, now for a limited time you can even use Blinkis Connect to share your premium account, you will get two premium subscriptions for the price of one. Alright let's move on some questions Jesse. What do we got here today? Sounds good. First question is from Alex. Limiting your workload to a fixed amount of time each day makes sense to me. But how do you decide what kinds of activities fall within your fixed schedule? For example, does reading have to happen inside your fixed schedule deadline? That is a good question Alex. What needs to be within the nine to five if you're an FSP or Fiskittle productivity aficionado? What doesn't? A couple points I want to make here. Personal and leisure activities, community activities, family activities. So basically anything that's non-professional does not have to of course fall within your fixed schedule. However it can. So I think this is an important point I want to make. You can put non-work activities during your fixed schedule. In fact that's often kind of a nice way to do it. I go out to the gym during my lunch hour. It might actually be the right way to do that. Especially if you have kids coming home after work. So non-professional activities do not have to be within the fixed schedule but they can be in there. Alright so they can be in there if you want them to be. It's okay to also have some exceptions to the fixed schedule. So I want to be clear about this. I call them autopilot exceptions. A small number of things that happen outside your fixed schedule that are professional. But they happen at the same times on the same days in the same place in a heavily ritualized fashion. So it's not haphazard. It's not I just need to spend more time on email. I'm working and I didn't get as much done today as I wanted to. So I'm just going to work some more after my fixed schedule is over. It is not that. It is autopilot exceptions. It's the same work, same place, same time, same ritual every week. So for example for a long time I would write my weekly blog post in the evening. I had a ritual around where I would do it and I would write it in the big leather chair which old time Cal Newport fans know about and I put on a record. On the record player there's a whole particular ritual. I also have this Sunday morning writing ritual. Now I was actually surprised to see in my 2008 post I just said Sunday morning is part of the fixed schedule. I often think about that as just an exception but I only do writing during that time. So the key for these autopilot exceptions to your fixed schedule is that it has to be a specific work. It has to be a focused work and it cannot be general purpose. You cannot just say yeah on Sunday morning I just do more email and just generic work. On a weekday night I just do email and generic work. That's going to throw you out of your leisure mode. It's going to ruin your shutdown. It's going to open up a lot of loops and then it's going to be pretty dangerous. You can have these exceptions that happen at the same time on the same days but it should be for the same work and that work should be focused and it should not be general purpose. It should not induce generic highly varied contact shifts as well.

How do you manage a workload determined by other people? (33:25)

What do we got next? Next question is from Katherine. How do you keep your work hours reasonable when people are constantly asking to do things and it's hard to say no without creating negative impacts on your career? This is often the big issue I hear, the most common issue I hear about fixed schedule productivity is I'm going to have to say no to things. The amount of things coming onto my plate is so furious that the fit 9 to 5 I'm going to have to say no to more things than I currently do today. Now I have a couple points I want to make about this because I think no as a skill is something we don't discuss with enough nuance. First I want to make the point, it was just Katherine, right? Yeah, so Katherine, first I want to make the point, you're already saying no. You're already saying no. It is highly unlikely that if you're like the standard knowledge worker who is roughly 9 to 5 or 9 to 6 but kind of does second shifts a lot of night as well for an hour or two extra to try to keep up with things. So maybe you're working, you have sort of 55 hours a week, 55 to 60 hours a week that you're actually working. It's highly unlikely that the incoming volume of work towards you, all the requests and emails and slack and meetings exactly requires 55 to 60 hours a week. Highly unlikely. What's really happening is again you're following the 20% rule. Once you get the intuition that your workload is no longer going to fit into this like 55 to 60 hours stretch week, you are saying no, whether it's explicit or not. You're pulling back from things, you're pushing things off your plate. You're already saying no. It's just you fixed where you're saying no at a place that I guess generates enough psychic pain that feels like you're justifying it. So all we're talking about is fixed with productivity. You're still saying no, you're just saying it a little bit earlier in your workload. So really this is the fundamental psychological Rubicon people have to pass. What is the reasonable amount of work to have on my plate before I say no, most knowledge workers set that to be too big. 60 hours, which again is 50 to 60 hours, about 20 to 30% more than a 40 hour work week, it's too much for most people. But for most people they feel like it's hard enough that they're justified still saying no, you pull that back to something like 40 hours, it becomes much more sustainable for you. From the perspective of the outside world, the difference is small. You're doing a lot of work, you're saying no to a lot of work. They don't know the difference. They don't know if it's 40 hours or if it's 60 hours, that difference can't be small. So that's the first point I want to make Catherine, you're already saying no. We're just talking about exactly where that boundary, that phase transition from acceptance to rejection happens in your career. The second thing I'm going to say and let's get tactical here is how do you say no, this really matters. But people often struggle with what I call the naked no, where technically you do have more time and you're just saying no, I don't want to do that. Silence. That is very difficult. People have a hard time with that that can be interpreted as aggressive or it can be interpreted as you are non-cooperative or not a team player. It is very difficult to give the naked no. So what's much more effective is to have workload systems that help dictate when you say no so that you can fall back on the logic of those systems to help justify your answers. So one thing you could do, I'm going to give you two ideas here. One thing you could do is quote us. This is something I talked about briefly in my 2008 article. It's a common strategy among professors for certain types of work that you know you're going to have a lot of incoming. You set your quotas per whatever quarter per month per year, whatever the scale that makes sense to say this is how much I do during each time period. This is a reasonable amount. It allows me very useful to other people in my community but prevents this from getting out of control. When you have filled your quota for that time period, you then say no to new work and you justify it by saying I have a quota where I do this many types of projects, this many journal reviews, travel to this many conferences, do this many client meetings per week. I have this quota of what's optimal. I do three of those, four of those, 20 of those. I've already filled it for this time period. So I got to say no now but you know keep me in mind for future time periods because I do a lot of this. Quotas work well because they're hard to say push back against. If I push back against you having a quota what I'm pushing back against is your quota size. And that makes me feel like a jerk. If you say I can't do this review, look I have a quota of five per semester, sort of the right balance and I already have five on my plate. I'm not going to say no, six is to write down to you, dumb. Should be six, take this on. Because that's weird and specific and sort of aggressive. So quotas give, they're very useful because it has a very specific workload management system that you can cite hard to argue with. The other thing you can try is pre-planning non-trivial work on your calendar. This is again something I get in the more detail in my new book coming out of March, Slow Productivity. I get into this idea of thinking more about it. But when a project comes in you say I'm actually going to find time on my calendar for when I'm going to do this project. And you know maybe it's five different long sessions I'm going to have to find. And you go and you have to find it and block off that time before you accept it. But the reason why this is a really useful strategy is that it actually gives you a concrete understanding of how much available time you have outside of just the immediate future. So if you struggle to find time, okay, I need five two hour sessions to write this report. I can't find five two hour sessions I can fit on the schedule for another three months. That is really useful feedback. That then allows you to say to the person basically I'm looking for this time, I track my time very carefully. I don't really have time. I'm assuming this will be about ten hours. I can't see myself really doing that until March. And they might say, well, okay, you know, whatever that's too late, I'll ask someone else to do it or they'll say, yeah, great, do it then. But what you're getting here is a concrete feedback signal about how much time you actually have. This is much better than just saying in the moment, could I imagine myself in the abstract writing this report? Yeah, I've written these before. I don't want to disappoint this guy. Yeah, I'll do it. And then you don't really have time. So now it's going to have to happen at night. Now it's going to have to happen early in the morning or on the weekends. So actually planning non-trivial work on your calendar, it's a pain. But it gives you a really concrete feedback signal about how much time you actually have available, then you can make much more reasonable decisions about what you say yes or no to siding this careful tracking when you say no. So again, what's the pushback here? You did it wrong. You do have time. You're dumb, right? They're not going to say that. Or they'll say you should just make more time available. You should work late at night or in the morning. People want you to do that, but they're not going to specifically ask you to do that at most jobs. So again, that becomes really effective. Now one of the ideas I have elaborated in slow productivity is this is a pain that try to schedule everything on your calendar is a pain, especially because things take longer than you think. It's like time block planning on a massive scale. It's not something you want to do all the time. But what I do suggest is if you do this for a few months, for example, you learn. You learn and internalize a much more accurate understanding of how long things take and how full your schedule really is. And then you can go forward after two or three months of this exercise, stop doing that detail planning, but still possess that much more finely honed intuition about your workload capacities. And so you're able to then just more intuitively say yes or no, because you've taught yourself the reality of your schedule. All right. So anyways, I like this. To make any of this work, to move past the naked know, to instead reference particular workload management systems as the logic for you saying no, you have to have a reputation as an organized, reliable person. You have to have a reputation as someone who's very careful about keeping track of their time that talks about Cal Newport to an uncomfortable degree. People are kind of tired of hearing about it. It has a time block planner on your desk and spends way too much time with Trello. You have pinup posters of the Atlantean who owns Trello's CEO on your wall. You got to be that person. You got to be that person. And if you are that person, they're like, okay, they probably know what they're talking about. They're really organized, they get things done, they deliver when they say, so if they say I'm very careful about my workload, I can't fit this till March. I don't think this is appropriate for me. You get the benefit of the doubt. If you're unreliable, if you let things drop, you're probably just making excuses. I don't like this. Just do the thing I'm telling you to do. Do it right away. I don't trust you. So you got to be reliable, you got to be organized to get away with this stuff. But replacing the naked know with references to workload management logics, this, I think Catherine is a good way to go. I've met that CEO actually, Jesse. He's Australian. Yeah, you've mentioned that on the podcast a few times. An accent makes everyone seem more interesting. Yeah. So what I'm trying to say here, Jesse, is can you do the rest of the show with an Australian accent? I mate. So what you're saying is yes, as long as every question comes back to you saying, I mate, it won't be okay. I'm just saying if we had accents, I think people would. If you had an Australian accent and I had a really good Oxford refined English accent, I think we would get. Well, you have the good pipe smoking French accent that we use. That accent is perfectly accurate. Exactly as the French man speak. Unfortunately, that's not what people want to hear to think that you're very, very smart. They want to hear a really refined English accent. So then they'll think I'm very smart. And if you do an Australian accent, they'll think you're exciting and fun. So I think that's our key. Much more accents. All right. In the meantime, let's move on.

Why doesn’t Cal build his weekly plan on his calendar? (43:40)

What's our next question? All right. Next question is from Andy. Why don't you put your weekly plan in your calendar? In my workplace, we use Outlook calendars heavily. So if I plan to use two hours on Thursday to write a memo, I need to block that time anyway. And a calendar is a very visual way of planning your week. So why don't you write your plan out instead of blocking it on your calendar? So why do you write your plan out instead of blocking it on your calendar? My calendar does get heavy use as I go through my weekly planning discipline. So I will lay this as the foundation for my answer. Weekly planning itself is, think about it as the discipline of reviewing everything that's on your plate, reviewing your quarterly or strategic plans. What am I working on? Reviewing your calendar, reviewing your task systems, and trying to pull that all together to figure out a reasonable plan for what you want to do for the week ahead. That's the core of weekly planning. What you then do with that information can vary. It can vary between individuals. It can vary within different periods for the same individual. So that's what I want to talk about is my own weekly planning approach. There are periods of my year in which I will translate a lot of the results of my weekly planning session to calendar events. This is particularly the case in academic busy periods. I'm teaching, I'm on some committees, there's some deadline coming up, and there's a lot of moving pieces that I have to find time for. In those periods, I will often put quite a lot of things that I identify I need to do during my weekly planning session onto my calendar. There are other periods, however, let's say during the typical summer when I'm not teaching or anything, where my schedule is much more deep work focused. In those situations, I'm not going to load up everything I'm going to work on, all the thinking or writing I'm going to do. I'm not going to put that on my calendar. I'm going to leave my calendar to just have appointments and meetings. I've got to call this person, I have to go to this doctor's appointment. The rest, I'm going to just time block each day based off of a fully written weekly plan. This week, I'm working on this book chapter. Work on it most days. This is a very common weekly plan for me, by the way, in the summer. Work on this book chapter every day. Try to get a good 30-minute admin block in there somewhere just to keep track of small things. Here's a couple admin things to make sure you get done. That's a very typical weekly plan for me in July. When I time block plan, I look at my calendar, my calendar, my calendar, I might have one meeting on it, I have to do that day. I time block out a plan based off of that. If you look at my weekly plan in October, it might be very different. It might actually be most of the stuff I need to get done. It's so complicated how it's all going to fit together. I've worked it all out on my calendar, just like Andy actually does during his work. You'll see it both ways. The other thing I want to point out, however, is that a weekly plan can contain information beyond simply what you're going to work on and when you are going to work on it. I have a list here of other things that will sometimes make it on to my written weekly plan. It's about disciplines or behaviors. We'll go on there. Remember we're doing this thing with our diet this week. Remember we're trying to do a really clean shutout every day because you look at your weekly plan every morning. It's useful for more just for more than simply pointing out or allocating time for what you want to get done. Sometimes I have more elaborated descriptions of work. Even if that work has an appointment on my calendar, I might have a more detailed description of what that means in my weekly plan. The calendar might just say mega conference task block. My weekly plans are I unfold what that means in a way that wouldn't fit just into my calendar description. Well, I've got to get on top of all the planning for this conference that I'm organizing. What I really want to get done in these three hours are like these things. The weekly plan might contain an elaboration for an event that does also show up on your calendar. Heuristics show up. A lot of times weekly plans are good for heuristics. Every day at lunch go for a 20 minute walk. I don't necessarily want to write that on my calendar every day. I might just say do a 20 minute walk or in my summer where I say do 30 minutes of tasks, look in your inbox, do three or four things to your task list. Just do this every weekday. That's a really useful heuristic. I look at that every day. When I time block plan, I'll add a block for it. I might not want to actually figure out all those times in advance because maybe I don't know how long my deep work is going to take that day. I just want to make sure I remember to do it every day. Also highlighting task for admin blocks. This is really common. In a busy period, I might actually block out time for admin. Email tasks, making sure that I preserve that time every day so I don't start drowning or don't start having to break my fixed schedule and try to do small things late at night or in the morning. What I'll often do is maybe even have admin on my calendar. In my weekly plan, say, "Here's six things I saw when I was looking through my task list." These really have to get done this week. Really prioritize these whenever you get to an admin block in your daily plan. Make sure we're taking a few things from this list. A weekly plan really can capture a lot of information beyond just the raw things you're going to work on and what times you're going to work on it. There you go. If you have a really busy schedule, if you want to work out a lot of pieces on your calendar, go for it. If you don't have a busy schedule and you want to leave your calendar just for appointments or meetings, go for that as well. If you want to do something in between, go for that as well. The key is to sit down each week and confront what you have to do and make sure you have captured somewhere some sort of plan you can reference every day. There's got to be some written component to that. Even if most of it's on your calendar, there's going to be some written component. Sometimes that'll be larger than others. I will say in the new time block planner that's coming out in August, and I'm getting my advance copy soon, I have a blank version of the calendar from the planner where you have to exactly approve all of the materials and exactly the spiral. I know exactly what it's going to look like, but a full featured version of my new time block planner is coming to me up here in New Hampshire soon. I'm excited for that. I've actually condensed the weekly planning pages in the new time block planner. There's a two page spread. One page is notes for the weekend. The other page is one page for written notes on the weekly plan for the week ahead. I've actually reduced the space, recognizing in part a lot of stuff will go on your calendar but there is a place there in the planner that have some notes for your week every time. Anyways, weekly planning to, man, what an art. There's so many different ways to do this. I always appreciate a chance to actually talk about it. Jesse, I'm excited for that planner by the way. I actually have a list of disciplines. I'm temporarily not tracking my daily disciplines because I'm waiting for the new planner to arrive. I get it next week and it has great metric tracking points. I'll show it on the show once I get it. The release date is still August 15th. You should consider pre-ordering. Again, they told me you should consider pre-ordering because if we sell out, it might take a minute to replace because of some supply chain issues. These printers supply chains are their own thing. If you're worried about it, you could consider pre-ordering but we'll talk more about that as we get closer to that coming out. Even though you're not tracking your daily metrics, are you still doing them? Yeah. I haven't written down what their supposed to be. I see them every day. It's not quite the same. I can't write it down.

How do I deal with having too much work piled up? (51:30)

I need that planner to get here sooner rather than later. Let's do one more question. I have a short case study I want to do in a second. Let's do one more question and then I'll do my short case study. Sounds good. Next question is from Benjamin. What immediate actions would you suggest to do when too much work has been piling up? All right. That's a good question. You're at the peak of you pile up too much work and now you need to pull back. Short term, quit, back out, upset people. If you're overloaded and it's impossible to get this work done even with using the time that's available, you have to actually feel the pain of needing to say, "I'm sorry. I need to back out of this." I know I said I could help with this but I have too much on how much my plate. That's better than just doing all these things bad. I think people are more upset that you were on the team and didn't do anything. They are that you said, "Look, when I do something, I want to do it well. I miss calibrating my schedule. I have too much on my plate." Once you gain back that breathing room, then I think your focus has to be, "How do I prevent this from happening again?" We do not want the oscillations. There's only so many times you can go to this and over my head I need to pull back well before people think of the boy who cried productivity wolf. You're going to have to do some drastic stuff now if you're completely drowning. That has to motivate you to put the systems in place to prevent that from happening again. This is where everything we've talked about on the show and in the deep dive today, the fixed schedule productivity and all of these small habits of innovation this induces, this would be the time to do it. You pull back, you make your new commitment to a reasonable workload, and you begin using all the different things we talked about to manage your workload, to get away from the naked nose, to be much more organized with your time and your weekly plan. All of that, this has to be your motivation to get all of that up and running properly so that you do not end up in this place again and again.

Case Study (53:28)

All right, so I have a real, a short but relevant case study to share here about someone who has succeeded with getting these FSP inspired strategies and systems in place. All right, so here, here I'm reading this down. This was sent to us. I am head of a large humanities department and it is busy. Reading your book, A World Without Email and listening to your podcast has revolutionized my performance. My calendar is half filled with autopilot appointments and I have office hours every day after lunch. With this, my performance is much better. I feel less stressed and I leave my office at 4 p.m. most every day. All of the academics in the audience are very impressed by this idea of a department chair leaving the office at 4 every day. I think this helps emphasize the power of fixed schedule productivity because he has this, I want to leave work at a reasonable hour and he's working backwards from that and willing to be innovative and aggressive and how he builds his work around that goal, he was able to accomplish something pretty cool. Let me just pull out the two things he mentioned in particular. One is autopilot appointments. What that means is work he knows he has to do on a regular basis. It's a department chair, things he has to do every week or every month or every semester. He finds the time to do them, gets it on his calendar that time, that day, every week, every month, every semester so he doesn't have to think about it. He's protecting the time for the things he knows he has to do in advance and that really makes a difference. That work will get done within his work hours and it will be properly taken into account when he's trying to schedule other optional things. If Friday is time has been put aside for whatever he has to do for the budgeting process, when he sees that he won't schedule two long meetings for that day because that time has already been put aside. He'll defer those meetings or push them to a later date or take them off of his plate. Autopilot appointments not only relieves you from having to think on the fly, what do I want to work on today, it also makes sure that you properly respect and account for the time that this work is going to take. In advance, it gets protected and you don't overfill those days. The other thing mentioned here is everyday office hours, oh how critical that is for a managerial position like department chair. That means every day there is a set time where you could call him, come to his office, or I assume, load on Zoom or Slack or whatever tools to use, and you know he'll be there for synchronous interaction. I can tell you as a chair, he could probably defer 90% of the emails that are coming in from the administration and his faculty to those office hours. We're talking dozens and dozens of emails each week that would normally require an ad hoc back and forth conversation, seven messages over two days, each of which that requires 10 inbox checks, so 70 inbox checks per interaction, multiplied by 10 interactions, that's 700 inbox checks, huge amounts of context switching and pain, that all can get erased with daily office hours. All those interactions, they can say great, just grab me at my office hours, call me, jump on Zoom, we'll talk about it. And in two minutes back and forth, we figure out a plan, no ad hoc messaging required. So those two simple strategies, scheduling in advance all regular work, and then deferring as much interaction as possible to in person office hours, those two strategies give us a chair of a humanities department, a large humanities department working only until four. I think that just emphasizes the potential of fixed childhood productivity. When you fix a limit and are serious about it, you can get seriously inventive about how you satisfy it and much more sustainable work can come out of it. So I appreciate that. I appreciate that case study. That's one of my goals, Jesse, is I want at some point office hours to be just a common thing in most companies. Come to my office hours. Ask me then. We'll talk about it then. Next office hours. I just don't think people realize how much pain that's actually alleviating. And even today when like a lot of work has gone remote, it's pretty easy to do just on you know, zoom or whatever. Yeah, you have zoom with waiting rooms. Professors figure this out two days into the pandemic. You have a zoom room open because we did all of our actual academic office hours on zoom during the early pandemic. You create a zoom room that has a waiting room. And so people can just stop by whenever they log in and they sit in the waiting room until you're ready to talk to them and you click the button, you bring them in. You're not overhearing, you know, conversations people are having with other people. It works fine. It works fine. Mm hmm. All right. I want to get to the books.

Cal talks about Ladder and ExpressVPN (58:25)

I want to get to the june books. First, let's just talk about another sponsor that makes this show possible. And that is our friends at ladder. Look, you need life insurance if there's anyone who depends on you. If you're like, I've been in prior parts of my life, you might be putting off that very basic task because you don't know how to do it. I need life insurance. This is this big amorphous thing. How do I actually make that happen? Do I go to an office or are they going to take my blood? Do I have to go to a doctor? Is this seems impossible? I'm just going to procrastinate on it. This is where ladder enters the scene. It gets rid of all of your sources of procrastination when it comes to this very vital protection because it makes it so easy. Ladder is 100% digital and there is no doctors, no needles and no paperwork if you were applying for $3 million in coverage or less. You just answer a few questions about your health and an application. You need just a few minutes and a phone or laptop to apply. Ladder smart algorithms work in real time, so you'll find out if you're instantly approved. No hidden fees cancel any time. You'll find a full refund if you change your mind in the first 30 days. All of ladder's policies are insured by insurers with long proven histories of paying claims, insurers that are rated A or A plus by A and Bess. Look, life insurance costs more the older you get. When's the right time to get life insurance as soon as possible? Ladder will make that easy. Go to ladderlife.com/deep today to see if you are instantly approved. That is L-A-D-D-E-R life.com/deep. Ladderlife.com/deep. Now as long as we're talking about protection, let's talk about digital protection and how our friends at ExpressVPN can help you maintain your digital privacy. Here's the thing, when you are using the internet, there are people who are watching what sites and services you use. They are harvesting that information. They are selling that information to advertisers or other people who want to know more about you. If you're logged into a wireless access point, for example, at a Starbucks, anyone can see the packets you're sending through the air. Even if the contents of your packets are protected, they can see what website you're talking to. What about if you're at home plugged into the wall at your private internet cable service you get to the cable company? The cable company can look at who are you talking to, gather that information, sell it to people who want to know more about you. They do do this as well. How do you avoid people watching what you're doing on the internet? This is where VPN enters the scene. What you do is, instead of directly connecting to a site or service, you connect instead to a VPN server. You then send the VPN server an encrypted note that says, "Here's who I really want to talk to." The server talks to that site or service on your behalf, encrypts the answer, and sends it back to you. What is your cable company or the guy next to the Starbucks Wi-Fi access point learn about you? Nothing. Only that you're talking to a VPN server. They can gain no useful information about your actual internet activity. So VPNs are great. The key is you need one that is easy to use and has fast connection speeds. That's ExpressVPN. That's why I use ExpressVPN. Their software is fantastic. You turn it on with a click of a button. You use your web browsers or apps as normal. You don't even realize this complicated dance with the VPN service that's happening in the background, but you get all of those benefits. ExpressVPN has VPN servers all around the country and the world. So wherever you are, there's probably a nearby server to connect to, which is important because nearby means fast. They also have great amounts of bandwidth, so you don't even notice any slowdown. So you use the internet in the modern age. You need a VPN. If you're going to use a VPN, I suggest ExpressVPN. If you don't like big tech tracking you and selling your data for profit, it's time to fight back.

Book Reviews

The 5 Books Cal Read in June 2023 (01:02:29)

Visit expressvpn.com/deep right now to protect your online freedom and privacy. It's expressvpn.com/deep. Don't forget the /deep so they know you came from me. That's expressvpn.com/deep. All right. So Jesse, like I like to do, let's talk about the books I read during the previous month. So we're in July now. So we should talk about June 2023. Let me go through the five books I read in June 2023. The first was The Wager by David Gran. I think this might have been mandated by law that everyone had to read this book. I think I maybe had a legal obligation to read this book. Certainly everyone has seemed to have read this book. It's great. I love David Gran, epic famous New Yorker writer who does these really long, deeply researched type adventure books. His book, The Killers of the Flower Moon is being made into a movie, was made into a movie. It's coming out soon with Leonardo DiCaprio. It's directed by Scorsese. Scorsese and DiCaprio already bought the rights to The Wager. The Wager is about a shipwreck back in the 18th century off the west coast of Patagonia, not a great place to have a shipwreck in the 18th century. And he recreates that story in vivid detail. Interesting tidbit about The Wager. I mean, Gran's a great writer. His MO with a lot of these books was he puts himself into the narrative. So if you read, for example, The Lost City of Z, you'll see he puts himself into the narrative. Well, he did the research to do that for this book. He went to this island, Wager Island off the desolate coast of Patagonia, but he didn't like the way that the writing was working. And so he cut himself out in the book. So he's actually not in this book, even though that was the original plan. He spent the whole year just learning enough nautical terminology to understand the record so he could start doing research for this book. This is a classic, classic deep research, but Gran writes with a narrative momentum and a sense of adventure that's fantastic. It's a great book selling and I looked us up here on BookScan all of the copies. So you know, good for David Gran. Do you know? I've never met him. I've never met him. Epic. Do you associate with a lot of the other writers at The New Yorker? Do you ever talk to them? I know some of them. Yeah. I mean, it's not just New Yorker. I mean, I just know it's more likely to associate with writers, magazine writers, nonfiction writers who are local. It's like who also live in DC, more so than sorting them out by like we happened to write for the same magazine. It's like DC has a bunch of Atlantic writers, for example, because the Atlantic is headquartered there. There are some New Yorker writers in DC, Evan Osnossa's in DC, there's a few others. So I should spend time. David Gran, that was a cool, he's kind of a famous figure because he writes, he'll write these epic stories. There's another one, it's a New Yorker piece, sort of famous for where he's hunting a giant squid. That's a great one. The best David Gran, New Yorker collection is the devil in Sherlock Holmes. It's just a collection of his epic New Yorker pieces. Really cool writer. Only so many people can get away with that. He says really good. That's how he gets away with it. But cool book. Then I read a book called Can Science Explain Everything by John Linux. This was part of the Oxford apologetics series. So it was talking about what science can and can explain in the role of religion in a world of scientific worldview. This was pretty good. It was much more of a Christian apologia than I realized. I thought it was going to be more philosophical about epistemology, what science can and can't teach us about the realm or the place for the spiritual. It's actually much more specific about Christianity than I thought it was going to be. But I like these Oxford series are cool. They're basically like extended lectures, smart people write provocative books and it was fine. This next book. I don't know what scoundrel got me this one. I read a book called Welcome to the Circus of Baseball by Ryan McGee. This was actually a gift from our illustrious producer, Jesse, to myself. Jesse, I enjoyed this book. I enjoyed it. This is pure... Yeah, Mad Dog had them on. Yeah, Ryan McGee. Well, this is just pure nostalgia. I mean, a book about minor league baseball in the 1990s when I was a kid. It's great. It makes you want to be like 23 again and just like hanging out and going to ball games and living cheaply. So I enjoyed it. It was definitely good choice. Yeah. Yeah. Bold Durham. I mean, this was the field, I guess, they used for Bold Durham or they filmed some of it here. Oh, really? Yeah. There's definitely connections. They might have filmed Bold Durham here. I might have that wrong. This is an Asheville. This is a minor league team in Asheville, the tourist. It's a famous old field where Babe Ruth played a school. The cool book. I recommend it. I also read I love movie books a long time ago in a cutting room far, far away by Oscar-winning film editor Paul Hirsch. I actually listened to this one. Perfect audible book. He's just a very famous film editor. He's known for editing Star Wars and the Empire Strikes Back, but has edited so many famous movies. Starting back with, I did a lot of early, De Palma's early stuff, Carrie, but also his early experimental movies and I don't know, keep working till today or until recently. Anyways, the book is great because it's broken up by movie. Now let me talk about editing this movie. Now let me talk about editing that movie. It's a great audible format because each new chapter, it's like, "Okay, we're starting fresh." If you're a movie nerd like I am, you get a lot of cool backstory about what the directors or the talent or the producers were like. I don't know. I loved it. I love episodic media books like this. Interesting guy. You learn a lot about editing. Cool book. All right, final book I read. Drowning by TJ Newman. I had read, I think it was called Falling, which was her previous book. She's a thriller. It's an interesting story. I love these type of stories where people write thrillers based off of their specific non-writing related career. TJ Newman, I don't know if that's a pin name or not, she was a flight attendant. She wrote this book called Falling about a plane being taken hostage and they were going to. They snapped the pilot's family so if the pilot didn't crash the plane into a building, they're going to kill his family. A lot of it's from the perspective of the flight attendants and how they deal with it. I had a lot of real details because she understands how airlines work. This also takes place in a plane drowning. A plane crashes into the ocean outside of Hawaii. This fuel spills everywhere and the engine's still running. People are going out in the life rafts and a few people on board realize, "Wait a second, this fuel's going to catch on fire. The safest place to be is we've got to stay inside this floating fuselage because the fuel's catching its fire everywhere outside of it." Long story short, it sinks to the bottom of the ocean, but they're alive. It has maintained an air pocket. Now they're trapped at the bottom of the ocean in the fuselage of a plane and there's a rescue attempt to come now and try to save them. It turns out that the ex-wife of the main guy is an underwater welding deep sea construction expert. It's all about how they're going to try to save them in time. Great premise. I love that it has all these details about flying. Not a super great thriller. If I'm going to be honest, I'm an aficionado of this genre. It was pretty good, but I would say they didn't have to work hard to earn it. They found it pretty quickly and they were down there pretty quickly. It wasn't really until the last 30 pages that they got any real serious stakes going. The other thing that wasn't quite working is that the main character, the emotional core of the main character is his youngest kid had died. So now that's why he had divorced his wife, who was now in charge of the rescue operation. He was on this flight with their older daughter. They're both trapped down here underwater. So this was supposed to be the emotional motivational core. The whole core to this person was dealing with the fact that he had to deal with the death in his family. The problem with that as a core emotional driver is that everyone else on the plane had literally just witnessed hundreds of people die. Everyone else on the plane like, "Oh, my wife just burned up and died. Everyone has just died." So it was no longer a distinguishing emotional motivator because everyone had that exact same motivation. But if anything, the people who just had seen next to them their fiance die and their parents, like they in theory, this was way worse and way more fresh than someone who had lost a child to an accident years earlier. So I think that motivation doesn't hold up if you then put that person in a situation where everyone is facing just surrounded by death and everyone's dying and everyone just lost someone. And so I don't know. It was okay. It's okay. I'm a thriller nerd. But I like falling a little bit better. All right, Jesse, I think that's it. I think we semi-siccecfully completed our first episode from the new temporary summary HQ up in Hanover, New Hampshire. I will continue to improve on the audio and the visual here just because it's something to do, but I'm glad that we're back in action. So thank you everyone for listening or watching today's episode. We'll be back next week with another normal episode of the show and until then, as always, stay deep.

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