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Cal's intro (00:00)
I'm Cal Newport and this is Deep Questions, episode 165. I'm here in my Deep Work HQ.
Deep Work Insights And Practical Applications
Cal's intro to Episode 165 (00:20)
I'm by myself, no Jesse today. It's actually my first time in a while that I have been recording on my own. I gotta say it's a little lonely. It reminds me of those pre-vaccine pandemic days where it was always just me by my lonesome up here in the Deep Work HQ. So I guess it gives me some appreciation for how good things typically are. Now here was my plan. My plan for today and my wife talked me out of this and I think we will all agree once we hear the plan that she was wrong. My plan was that I would get some of my clothes, stuff them with straw. All right, and then position it in Jesse's chair. So I would have a Jesse Scarecrow and then I could cut back and forth with the camera to the Jesse Scarecrow and I could do his voice. I would change my voice to do his voice so we could still have some nice back and forth. I thought it was a good idea. She talked me out of it. All right, well, I thought we'd get started today with something I haven't done in recent weeks, but I miss, which is a deep dive.
Ca'ls Deep Dive (01:27)
The deep dive I want to do today is on the question, why are we burnt out? Now this deep dive is drawing from a New Yorker article that I published a couple weeks ago. It was a New Yorker article where I was introducing to the New Yorker audience. This idea of slow productivity that we have talked about here on this show, but I was also using this article as an excuse to help refine my thinking on that topic. Now I opened that article talking about a bill that has been proposed in the U.S. Congress. It was originally written by a California representative Mark Ticano and it has since been endorsed by the Congressional Progressive Caucus. That's a hundred different congressmen and women. And this was a bill that was arguing that the federal work week. So the federally recognized work week should go down from 40 hours to 32. I opened my article talking about this bill. Now, reducing the federally recognized work week down to roughly four days would most directly impact people who are hourly workers because technically what that means is that if you work beyond the federal work week number of hours, you have to get paid overtime. So salaried workers and most knowledge worker types are salaried. Wouldn't it be directly impacted by this law? But as representative Ticano made clear, he also had overworked computer screen and email types in his mind when he put together this bill. If you change the federally recognized work week, there would be a pressure even on salaried positions to think about reducing the length of the work week. There would be other things to what happened such as many government knowledge or croissant jobs would go to that work week. There would be a lot of pressures and he acknowledged this in quotes he had about the bill that he was keeping these computer screen and email style workers. In mind, we proposed this bill. He actually responded to my New Yorker article and emphasized that point. Yes, he had knowledge workers in mind among other constituencies, of course, when writing that bill. All right. So why? Why does why are we considering potentially a four day work week? Well, the issue is burnout. If you dive into the data on what they're calling the great resignation, something which I've written about before, but if you dive into the data, what you see is, yes, there's a lot of people who are quitting their jobs, but not really among the ranks of knowledge workers. The heavy turnover seems to be happening more in service and hospitality type sectors. What we are seeing in the data is clear about this. In the knowledge work sector, the sector of people who use Zoom all day, what you are seeing there is maybe not a huge rash of quitting, but burnout on the rise. There's many different ways you can measure this that all seem to be coming together to the same point, which is knowledge workers are burning out and this burnout got much worse during the pandemic. So this four hour four day work week was being proposed in part. In response to the burnout that you're seeing among knowledge workers. So I opened my article on that point, but then I gave the kicker, which is, I don't think it's going to help them. I think there are, there are clearly other sectors of the economy where reducing their recognized work week would be useful. Could create good, but it's not going to solve what is burning out knowledge workers. All right. So, well, this brings you to the question of what is burning out knowledge workers? If it's not, they have to work too long. What is it that is burning out knowledge workers? And here my argument was that you need to look past how many hours are you expected to work and instead look at what I call work volume. You take an individual worker. What is the total number of commitments that is currently on their plate, be them big or small, major projects, just need to get back with someone with some information and everything in between? What is the total amount of commitments on their plate? This is the work volume. My argument is that when work volume gets too large, burnout follows. There's two reasons for this. The first reason is neurological. We actually have in our brain, and by we, I mean our species because this is unique to homo sapiens as far as we're concerned. We've studied similar primate cousins like macaque monkeys and cannot find the same brain region. We have a region in our brain that finds what makes humans humans that specializes in looking at what we need to get done and make any long-term plan. You know, it's getting cold. We need our cave to be ready for the winter, whatever that means in 100,000 years ago. Let's make a plan. Let's execute the plan. We're motivated to actually pursue the plan. We feel good when the plan is executed. This is fundamental to human nature. It is why, in some sense, this fundamental neurological productivity, why we were able to leverage our brains to really separate from other species. So we're wired to figure out how to do things, how to get things done, and to execute it. When you have excessive work volume, what happens is you have more on your plate than this region of your brain can reasonably actually consider and plan how to get it done. So we have a short circuit, those planning circuits. When you short circuit it feels really bad. You feel anxious. You feel unnerved. It's just like how we crave sugar. The metabolic processes of our body crave sugar because we have an evolutionary reason to do so. But when we eat seven Snickers bars, it completely over loads our body and bad things happen. Well, the same thing. We crave, give me something to do. Let me make a plan and execute and feel good. But if we put 75 things on our to-do list, we can't even conceive of how we're going to get all of those things done. We feel bad. There's a neurological source of burnout here. My editor at the New Yorker wisely cut that out. I did actually get into some of the actual brain stuff going on in the article, but it got in the way of the narrative. We cut it out, but there is, let me just rest assured, good neurological backing to this point. The second issue with excessive work volume, and maybe even the worst issue, is what I dubbed the overhead spiral. So here's the thing. Most non-trivial commitments that you make in a knowledge work setting, bring with it a fixed amount of overhead, a fixed amount of overhead that involves you needing to collaborate with other people to get that work done. So if there's some project that you're supposed to be doing, there's some number of meetings you probably have to have with people who are involved. And there's some number of phone calls or emails that have to be sent to gather all the information you will need to get that project done. This, of course, is very reasonable. Hey, I work in an organization. I'm trying to do this. I'm going to need help from other people. I'm going to need information from other people. So I will have to send some emails. I'll have to have some meetings. Completely reasonable. The issue is everything you are committed to do, however, brings with it its own, in isolation, a reasonable amount of this overhead. So if you increase the number of things that are on your plate, you are responsible for the amount of this overhead begins to grow until it takes over most of your schedule until most of your work, most of your work time is actually being dedicated to a the meetings that have to happen to touch base on every one of these projects and the back and forth emails and phone calls needed to keep each of these projects moving. And soon you find yourself doing almost nothing but this overhead work and very little actually gets done. We saw this very clearly early in the pandemic where what happened is when we shifted and by we, I'm talking again knowledge workers right now, people who work in offices. And the pandemic began. It created a sudden increase in work volumes because a lot of things had to be figured out and changed when companies went remote. How do we do this now? How do we do that now? Right. So there's a sudden increase in work volume. The metric here is the number of average number of commitments on each worker's plate really went up. So this raised the overhead, the number of meetings that had to happen and the number of emails that had to happen. What was the result? Quite a few office workers reported to me that they ended up having eight hours zoom days. Back to back to back to back to back to back meetings to talk about work. Why? Because each of these things they now have to do requires a meeting each week and they have enough of these things that those meetings all have to happen. And soon all they're doing is meetings and no work actually gets done. Well, this is incredibly frustrating. And it also leads to burnout. So these two things, the short circuiting of our planning circuit and the overhead spiral. These two things that come along with increased work volume. Generates burnout. That's my argument. All right. So now if we look back at this proposition, well, what we need is a four day work week. That's not going to solve burnout because all of those issues of increased work volume are still there. If anything, they're going to get worse. If you take a day off of the count off the week where none of this overhead can happen, then the other days are going to get even more crowded. And the distress you have from having more things on your plate than your brain can plan. Nothing about that stress changes if you're not working on Mondays. You still have all those things. You still can't plan how it's going to get done. So my argument is the issue is not the number of hours we're expected to work. That is an industrial mindset. If we're looking at industrial work in which the worker has very little autonomy, where after the Taylorism revolution in the early 20th century, you have a small number of people who figure out the best way to execute the work, the best way to build the cars, they break it down in the steps, they optimize, and then the workers are just told, here's what you should do. Sit here on this assembly line. Do that bolt. Turn that wrench. In that type of work, where the worker is just doing the same task repetitively, the only knob you have to turn is the number of hours you work. And so if you are exhausted or burnt out from work, you need to do less work. Reduce the hours, pay more for the time. It makes complete sense. This does not translate to knowledge work. We are not stressed because nine to five is too many hours to be working. From a physical toil perspective, knowledge work is easy. You're in an air conditioned box on a $700 chair looking at a computer screen and doing social media on the side. It's not a toil on our body. Our problem is not I need to get away from that. It is the psychological and logistical weight of overload that comes from these work volumes getting too large. So the answer is reduce the work volumes. Not reduce the amount of work a company does. I'm not saying that you say, okay, we're going to we're going to drastically slash the number of clients we service. We're going to drastically decrease the rate at which our software is produced. No, don't get me wrong about that. What I'm saying is the amount of work that's on individuals plates should be reduced down to the point at any one moment that they do not feel their short circuiting of their planning circuits. And the overhead of what is currently on their plate is manageable. That means all of the other work that does still have to get done has to be stored somewhere else. It is an idea. I come back to again and again. It's an idea that is at the core of my most recent book, A World Without Email. Companies and organizations themselves have to do more work towards organizing work. All these different things that may or may not have to get done from the very small to the very big. Don't put them on this person's plate. Have them in a system. And when that person's done with what they're working on, you give them a new thing. They only have one or two things on their plate at a time. You have a lot of admin form, have admin blocks. You can come to them and sign up and take a slot and work with them the fill out forms. You can't just throw things on their plate. We cannot underestimate the toil and hardship that comes from just saying, let's distribute all work to individuals and let them figure it out. Reduce work volume, not the rate at which work is accomplished. If anything, people are going to produce more work at higher quality because there's no overhead spiral and they're not stressed out, but let them do what they do well and then give them the next thing. This is harder for managers. This is harder for organizations. Boo hoo. Everything about work is hard. All right, we got to figure it out because what we're doing now is not working. All right, so that's my argument. So I called this approach reducing the volume of work on people's plates. I called that in the New Yorker piece. Slow productivity. And I contrasted this to strategies that are about more crude approaches. Like, let's just reduce the number of hours you work. Let's give you more vacation days, etc. That by contrast is already has a name that's called slow work. Slow work is an industrial solution. When it comes to computer age knowledge work, those industrial solutions won't work. Slow work won't work. We need slow productivity. We have to actually open up the black box of workplaces. Look inside that black box and say, okay, what is actually happening? What are you actually doing? Oh, it's overhead spirals. It's it's overloading to do list. Let's change how work is assigned. Let's change how much is on your plate. That is the revolution we think we need. Now, let me just add two quick points before I wrap up this deep dive. Reducing work volumes is not the totality of slow work. In my New Yorker piece to keep things simple, I said, that's what I mean. Well, between me and you, we're podcast friends. We can talk honestly. There's more to slow productivity than just that. I see the reducing of work volume as the foundation. A foundational part of slow productivity. But I also see individuals slowing down in the moment. Not trying to fill every minute of their day with work. Slowing out the timelines on which big projects are executed, but compensating. Compensating for the slow, this slowing down with an eye for detail for craft for producing work at a really high level of value. I think these should also be part of the slow productivity mindset. Small number of things at a time. So you're not overloaded at a natural pace, but steady really high attention to craft. That, I think is the sustainable model for doing work with your brain. And that is slow productivity. So that's why we're burnt out and that is at a very high level what I think we should do about it. All right, so that is my deep dive. Let's move on down to some questions. We will start as always with some questions about deep work. Our first question comes from Aaron. Aaron asks, should I exercise before or after deep work. He elaborates, I am a new father and an assistant professor.
Should I exercise before or after Deep Work? (16:45)
My deep work entails research and writing, which I almost always conduct from my home office. I am also highly committed to physical health and lift weights in my home gym, which happens to be in the same space as my office in the basement. My most productive work hours are in the morning, but morning is also the best time to exercise from a behavioral perspective, how should I structure these two crucial activities. Well, it's not like there's a one right answer, Aaron, in general. I do like when possible to get concentrated exercise done during the day. I think it breaks things up nicely. It helps you avoid falling into this highly unnatural state, which is quite common in knowledge work of just sitting and looking at screens all day. I let it float. It really is part of my planning. I actually do this typically at the weekly scale, not the daily scale. When I look at my week, I want to get in there and figure out when I want to do daytime exercise. Now, I can't always do it. I'm on campus all day. It's just not going to happen, but I want to know where it is. I do not want the decision of when do I exercise to be the last thing I figure out that day, because then it's just all going to get pushed into the evening. But that's hard, especially when you have kids and other things are going on. So I like exercise being in the day. I like planning this ahead of time. You can let it move for your particular situation, though. I'm going to get more specific. I'm going to say, work a little bit, a real session exercise back to work. You have a six month old son. So I assume you're not sleeping until nine a.m. and finally rolling into your work at 10 a.m. You're probably up. So you can, if you're doing the hand off right with a child care and I'm sure you have that figured out. I have a session, you have a session before whatever happens with daycare preschool or whatever, what nannies or whatever. However, you, I'm sure you have the morning figured out some sort of back and forth. Get a deep work session and exercise session, then back to deep work. Okay. That's what I would say for you. The other thing I would suggest is maybe interleave more activity throughout your work hours, not okay. I'm going to disappear for 45 minutes again. But every 50 minutes, I'm going to do 15 pull ups or I'm going to do whatever jump on the urge for five minutes. Someone who does this well is my friend Brian Johnson from optimize you've heard optimize be discussed on the show because they're a long time sponsor of the show but Brian does this pretty well. He does not like to sit for more than I don't know the exact amount of time but it's a little less than an hour. So he works exercises like five minutes intense works five minutes intense he does this all day and he swears that it really helps sharpen his focus so Aaron I'm going to suggest that too. All right, so I'll just put these two things together. If you're working from home anyways, a lot of days, put your exercise during the day, plan it out and protect it in advance like you would other things. And then my specific advice for Aaron is take little intense activity breaks throughout the day the weights are right there next to you anyways. You're working in a gym. So you might as well take advantage of that.
Why Quarterly Planning (20:02)
All right, our next question comes from pre to asks, why quarterly planning instead of monthly or annually. So in my philosophy of multi scale planning as you know there's three scales daily planning weekly planning quarterly plan. So the quarterly plan you look at when you build your plan for each week your weekly plan you look at when you build your time blog plan for each day. Why as pre asked did I choose the scale of quarterly for that biggest scale plan. Well, it's because monthly is too small of a scale. It's too similar I think to the weekly plan there's not enough time in a month. To really dig in and accomplish a project of non trivial size for most things. And so it overlaps the weekly plan you're doing I think a little bit too much annual planning is on the other hand too big of a scale. I plan for the whole year I make the plan in January now it's mid February. Am I really going to feel a lot of motivation like I better get to work or do I even know how to break something up over that big of a timeframe. And if I sign a book contract on January one. And just for the sake of this example let's say the book is due on December 31. What should I be doing February 1 I don't know scales too big. So I like quarterly and if you're an academic then call it semester but roughly the same thing. I do it fall winter spring summer usually so I do more like semesters but roughly that scale three to four months. I think it's the right scale you can you can lay in pretty big chunks of work. And it really feels separate in the weekly plan because you're not at that level of granularity of like well there's a meeting in two Fridays from now so let's not work on that day. But it's still tractable you like look I have three or four months to do this so I can be pretty clear about where I should be this month so that's where I came with that it's not set in stone but it tends to be three or four months. The three or four month granularity is about right for most people for that largest scale of multi scale planning.
How do I master a hard technical skill? (22:22)
Alright moving on we have a question from Omar Omar asks how do you study self study technical things well enough to be employable for example programming or data analysis. He elaborates that he currently works in sales but is looking to make the switch over to software engineering. And his sales job he's doing a bunch of just emails and following up with prospects. So Omar I'm going to say I mean I see in your elaboration you say you don't want to spend a ton of money you don't want to go back to school I think that's okay I think you should spend some money. You should spend some money so that you are making yourself accountable. Hey I spent money on this training I'm about to do so I'm going to show up also I'm signaling to myself that I take this seriously I'm not dabbling I really do want to pick up the skill. I would say spend some money. So what do I mean by some money will probably in this case some sort of boot camp. It's going to take place over a fixed amount of time. You're going to master a particular language you're going to get a particular certification. You probably need to do an introductory boot camp and then you're going to do need to do some sort of training at a higher level after that spend some money on that don't do something that's free again you want to signal to yourself you take this seriously. To ultimately you need to produce real things is the best way to learn as the best way to show other people you know what you're doing. So you're going to need some sort of actual projects that you're doing on the side perhaps. The show I can actually program but more importantly that's how you're really going to learn how to do it. I built this project. This took me a long time. It's constantly googling things. It's constantly on stack overflow. Oh but then I did this next project wasn't so hard. And the third one I did on my own I think it's looks pretty nice okay now I think I'm ready. The final thing I'm going to say is be ready to begin at a basic level if you switch jobs. A lot of good coders out there. A lot of people to choose from for these jobs so that you might be actually starting at a pretty low level technically speaking and say that's okay because here's my plan. I'm going to get after it once I have that job. I got to crush the low level stuff they tell me to do the easier programming I can do it really really well with a level of skill and polish that they don't quite expect and then I'm going to use that to leverage up to the next level to the next level so I'm going to leverage myself level to level to level. So in a year I will actually be at a pretty good spot. So you want to be coming into this being like. I want to learn enough to get a technical job that would allow me in one year to be in the job I want. Right so so to be in a job and be working your way up to a higher position is much more productive than just being on your own for that time just trying to on your own polish your skills. Alright so let's summarize the three points here one spin some money. I'm not talking about tuition and to get a you know separate undergrad degree but spend some money for a non trivial bootcamp you probably need to do two levels of training to build things. Build things so you can build things that look pretty good at a pretty high quality and it wasn't like pulling teeth. Googling where does the semi colon go in a you know C++ for loop you have that stuff. You're not praying and compiling compiling and praying something we see a lot in intra computer science classes like I don't know compile errors. Let me just change things randomly still errors like your past that stage fine. Then get hired not for the job you want but for the job that will make it possible for you to get the job you want a year later if you get after it if you deliberately practice if you prove your worth. Alright so Omar I'm glad you're making the shift. I haven't read all the details on air that you sent me here. I'm about your current job but man it sounds like it's just context switching central it's just email all day long. Yeah let's get out of there. Let's get you somewhere better somewhere deeper. I love what love the way you're thinking. I got a question here from John. John asks what does your general knowledge management look like these days. John that's a good question because I've been thinking about this recently. So here's what happened.
What Does Your Knowledge Management System Look Like? (26:30)
A listener mailed me a book. How to take smart notes. Now this book is about four or five years old now but it's already an underground classic because it really helped introduce to a broader and English speaking audience this zettel cast and note taking system. Now I knew a little bit about this I've talked about it on the show. We've had some guests on the show like Trini Rao who swears by and talked a little bit about it but I wasn't really deep into the details so I read this book. Recently this is actually one of my five books I'm one of my five books for January that I'm reading. And it was interesting. It was interesting. So so here's the the foundational premise of this book the narrative motivation for this book is that there was a sociologist he was German. He was lumen. And he came to sociology late. And the idea was you're it's too late for you to like get a dissertation and become a sociologist like it's kind of late in life I don't think it's going to work out and he did he got his dissertation like that. And became incredibly productive as an author. All right. So then there was a team from some German university that studied this guy lumen. How is he so productive? How did he get his dissertation so fast but also how did he publish all of these epic papers this huge quantity of epic papers. Throughout his lifetime. This is the story that's told in this book. What they discovered is he had a crazy note taking system. The Zettelkasten system and it was built around what's called a slip box and I'm not going to get into all the details now but it's a box in which you put these slips of paper on which you have notes. And the way it works is when you're taking notes on a particular topic. You you put that first of all you take the notes kind of stand alone like you think about it before you take the notes a thinking is happening when you take the notes right you're not transcribing you're taking notes. You you try to put it behind. An existing relevant note in your box in this slip box or box full of slips. And then you can also link. So that these are numbered and so you might then that literally just write links on the paper like this is also associated with this this and this. The idea is you give all these ideas you've thought about. They all exist in this big linked system and the what Lumen supposedly did and this is the promise of what we could call pure or hard Zettelkasten is that it made the actual process of writing papers easily because he would just discover. He would just discover by surfing these links and connections in his slip box these interesting new ideas that would emerge and these ideas would become papers all the thinking was was largely done. The ideas were done. It was all there in the slip box. That's how you can just write right right right right and the author of this this book how to take smart notes argues that yeah writing should not be hard note taking should be hard but if you do this right it should just be easy to write with the ideas are all there and you'll just discover like oh here's an article. Here's a paper. All right well here's where I stand on this. First of all that idea that writing can be made easy and all the hard works in the note taking and then you'll just discover articles. I don't buy it. I mean I'm a professional academic professional writer is this not the way it works it's not the way it works I mean if you're writing a New Yorker piece you're not just wandering through your slip box and have this interesting collection of things you make some observations it just doesn't work that way. It's your you're you're looking at what's going on in the world and and what your specialty is and just honed through your instincts of having read a thousand of these articles and written a hundred yourself you come across an idea like I think there's something here. And then you kind of work backwards what do I already know that could support this you have to go out and gather a lot of information on its own that's really how articles come together I don't buy this idea that they're going to emerge from the system. But I am taken by this idea that this is an interesting way to store notes. Then it's not just a hierarchical system of directories and sub directories and sub sub directories and so on. But that there's these connections back and forth you have starting points and then a little cast of system you have an index that that goes to some starting points. Then you can follow starting points have notes all connected to it, but then they jump over to other collections of notes and then from there you can jump over. I think this actually not a bad way to organize ideas. And I do like the the homogeneity of the note taking process that like any thoughts that might be relevant go into a certain format and go into a certain system you put them in a certain place you throw some links to them and it's all in there. All right, so all this background is to say that I am messing around with a more zettle cast and style approach to organizing my notes I'm using Rome research is online tool right now, which I'm really enjoying I think it's fantastic. And I'm trying to do more of this, just get everything that's related mainly right now for like my my writing my non academic writing. My non so so New Yorker articles blog post my books. Podcast or podcast related ideas or things related to this or my newsletter trying to actually file them away in a zettle cast and style I do not think that I will be able to do hard zettle cast and just have book ideas emerge from the system or blog post ideas emerge from the system but I think it will allow me to do more thinking upfront when I take notes and to go back and rediscover more sources already when I'm working on something as opposed to having to find everything from scratch from working on I think it is going to help and I think it is going to feel like a close system. And I think it's really different ideas and thoughts and things have encountered are all in a system where they're accessible and in a way that is interesting. So I'm trying that. And I'll report back actually I mean I'll John who asked this is pretty new for me. I might even write a like a New Yorker piece on this whole the promise of the second brain etc etc it's something I pitched my editor. So I am right now. I am messing around with the peers that will cast and style system. If you want to find out more do the book. How to take smart notes it's a cool weird interesting book. And again I don't buy the theory that writing can be made easy but I do buy the theory of having a consistent approach to taking and storing notes that can handle everything. And I think going on there so we'll see how that goes and I will report back. Alright, looking at the time now let's switch over to some questions about the deep life.
Are Your Online Courses Applicable to People with ADHD (33:21)
Alright, our first question comes from Sufian who says, is a new online course applicable for someone with ADHD. That's a good question. I mean I have two courses so I don't know which one you're talking about. Long time readers of mine listeners of the show more recently know that one of the areas I explore is alternative forms of pedagogy. So you know when it comes to the type of things I write about or podcast about I did a lot of book writing article writing. So obviously I'm messing with audio and video as a way of delivering information and another thing I have an ongoing experiment with is really focused online high in online courses is yet another channel through which you can deliver information. I mean I'm very interested in innovation in this space so I have a long time working relationship with my longtime friend Scott Young who actually has a whole company that does nothing but produce online courses. It's technically incredibly demanding you have to have a support staff and IT staff it's not for the faint of heart. So he has this great company that does it. And we've collaborated on two courses. One which was the first one was called top performer. The course we did before I even wrote deep work and it was about applying deliberate practice. The concepts of deliberate practice to your career. And we re-released that this year I guess or last year recently we did a second version like a 2.0 version where we went back to the studio and we filmed new mini courses and new lessons and we sort of upgraded the course because it had been around for a while we've had 5000 students go through that course we learned a lot. So that might be what you're talking about. But then the first fall of the pandemic we launched our second online course which was called life of focus. And that has three modules to it but it integrates ideas from digital minimalism ideas from deep work and ideas from Scott's book. Ultra learning. So there's something in there about learning things really quick there's something about being better at deep work and something else about the deep life more generally so I don't know if you're talking about a life of focus or top performer 2.0. Either of those courses I don't think ADHD is an obstacle. I mean it gives clarity on here's what you should be working on here's what happens next. But then gives you obviously freedom to figure out when and how you execute that work so I think whatever strategies you already use for organizing and scheduling your attention in time can be applied can be applied here these courses are going to give you plenty of flexibility for. Here's what you're working on this week for the next couple of weeks. But you can figure out how you want to get it done now there's difference in the delivery so life of focus has a method where you're working on one project for a month. So each of the modules has a month dedicated to a project. But then you get these quicker updates throughout the week that give you extra information and give you tips and support for the project you're working on so so that might actually be good if you're worried about your attention. Wandering away from the project you get these quick updates to help keep you on track for working on a longer project. Now from a timing perspective. We launched top top performer 2.0 was open earlier and I'm not sure it might be a little while till it's open again. Life of focus we're going to do we're going to open that soon. I don't have the exact date but I think we're opening that back up again for a new class at the end of January early February so stay tuned for that. If you're interested in learning about when these courses open up or whatever at Cal Newport calm slash blog so on the website for my blog on the sidebar there. I believe there's a link for both courses. If you click on it there's a place you can put in an email address for the waiting list. And then Scott will just send a note when hey. By the way the courses don't mean again I think sometimes also we do waiting list version of the courses where the people who are on the waiting list will say if you're interested we're going to launch a special. Version just for you so anyways. Check that out sign up for those waiting lists if you're interested. These are great courses it's been a really cool experiment we've had thousands of people take these. I think it's you know the future of what we do when pragmatic nonfiction but sign up for those list at countyport.com slash blog if you want to be. Kept up the speed. Right so we have a question here now from Nana. Who says how do I apply deep work to my life.
How do I apply Deep Work to my busy life? (38:01)
I am a student I have a full time job and a business. Well I think it's a good question because it again gets to an issue that I think we come across often which is that. The meaning of deep work can. Metamorphize for some people. Into something bigger into some sort of. Image of life that seems unattainable some sort of image of I spend you know. My winters at my cabin with the wood burning stove going as I sit with my moleskin and a quill. I'm an eagle that was killed on George Washington's property in the colonial period and has been passed out to generations and and and I. I stare into the flames before every 30 or 40 minutes writing one well crafted sentence and then I have a sip of bourbon and and this is what I do. Sometimes deep work. Looking into the fire with a quill from George Washington's property drinking bourbon right okay. But let's get more specific and I think we can start to make some progress here all deep work really is is a particular type of way you can work on something. It's an approach to working on something we don't contact shift. You just focus on the thing you're working on give it your full concentration and you do it for a non trivial amount of time without checking email without looking at your phone without looking at your web browser. The idea is if you get your full attention without contact shift and you get much better results you get the results faster and then therefore this is the main argument of the book deep work is. You should prioritize that and make sure that during your work whatever your work is during your work hours whenever your work hours happen to be don't just call all work work. Say well there's that during these working hours there's a period from focusing on one thing and there's other periods from doing a bunch of things and let me make sure that I have a reasonable amount of those focusing one at a time don't just keep interleaving back and forth. That is way more achievable. That has nothing to do with dizziness etc it's like okay just one thing at times that have interleaving you're going to get better work done. Okay. So for your situation. What this would mean is okay be very careful with your time during the time that you're working on your student stuff when you're working in your job when you're working your business stuff whatever you're doing whatever this block of time is for just be very aware of attention. And maybe try to be more sequential when possible do this and this and then handle all my emails as opposed to do these two things while doing all my emails right just like hey I want to give the stuff that's going to make the most difference the studying for this test the report I'm running for my boss. The new product I'm making for my business. You can then intense concentration boom full concentration intense high quality product move on to the next thing. This will actually give you probably more breathing room in your schedule because when you when you give the core things intense attention they don't take as much time. You can actually give you more breathing room in your schedule then if you say well let me do this work while always having slack open and always doing email and interleave it all together. The things you actually get done take longer you need more hours you get more frazzled so it actually could be a strategy for saving time. One thing at a time laser focus boom done what's next especially when you have a lot of things competing like you have right now. So that's all I want you to think about Nana again. We're not trying to get you to this image of the cabin with the fire and the the quill from George Washington we're just trying to get it so that you're not. Going back and forth between 17 screens at the same time and doubling the amount of hours it takes for you to get your work done we got to be in your situation because you got a lot going on here we got to be super intentional about our time. One thing at a time do that thing with intensity move on to the next. That is that's going to be helpful in almost any situation and it's not only possible. It is actually going to make most people situations less hectic less crowded less overloading. All right moving on now we have a question from way.
How do I balance work, school, and kids? (42:30)
Who says how do I keep balance among a full time job graduate school and teenage kids all right so this is kind of similar to Nana's question from right before. When you have a lot going on we just told Nana. Deep work is something to keep in mind. The things that have to get done that are important do it with intense unbroken concentration do it well but do it fast and then move on. Two if you have a bunch of competing demands you have to give every minute of your day a job you cannot go through your day in the list reactive method. Where you react to things like email and slack and the Internet and you know whatever is going on on Twitter. Right where you discover that Donald Trump has just selected on the crown as his running mate and they're running on a platform that says like your kids have to be you know infected or something. You don't want to just be doing that and then as you get around to it looking at a to do list and saying do I want to do something from it. You have to give every minute of your day a job if you're going to make this possible and you're that's going to be something like time block planning. Here's the hours I have here's the meetings and classes I have. All this time's off limits like whatever I'm doing childcare something like that but here's where I actually have time to work. What do I want to do with that time to get the most out of it I'm working on this here and that there and this here. I'll be very clear about this way. This does not mean that if you time block you'll be able to fit everything in and get everything done. Yes time blocking is going to get you way more out of your time than if you don't but the other thing that's going to give you is a reality check. It forces you to use a phrase from earlier episodes of this show it forces you to face. The productivity dragon. It forces you to actually see. Here's what's on my plate and how long it really takes I like to put down here oh do my email in 15 minutes but it takes me 90. I got to face that reality I got study for my class I give it 30 minutes between lunch and this other meeting I'm frazzled in that 30 minutes I never get it done okay that needs a whole afternoon block. And you see how long things really take for better or for worse. But knowing what you're facing and how long it takes allows you to be realistic. And there might be hard choices you have to face but at least you'll be making those hard choices from a really informed place. You're going to be making those hard choices from like I know what's possible I know what things take I can get this and this done like can't do this at the same time as this or have to put this off can have to quit this. You got to face the productivity dragon and then get as much out of the time that you can. Time block planning is what you're going to have to do. You're doing something hard don't let anyone tell you it's not hard and it might not be possible. But there is no scenario in which. Ignoring that reality avoiding the productivity dragon just doing list reactive and being stressed there's no scenario in which that's going to be the best thing to do. All right we have a question here from. Geriatric millennial. How does that work out. Feel bad about that I'm I'm the oldest. I'm one of the oldest millennials. There is some variation in how you define the age range that actually captures the millennial generation and typically the the beginning of it is usually put around somewhere between 1980 and 1984 with 1982 being about the average that demographers will use when saying here's the beginning of the millennial generation. I'm born in 1982 so I'm one of the oldest millennials. By the way another aside. Millennial does not mean young person. You know this this frustrates me sometimes when I hear it millennial is a very specific demographic. Demographic population boom that is captured by certain years starting around my. Birthday and then ending and then there's another generational demographical labels to capture the group after it so we I think we got used to the baby boomers got used to referring to millennials as young people. And now we use it just generically to talk about like 14 year olds today who are very much not millennials. The youngest millennials are well out of college and in their 20s so that is a little PSA. Millennial doesn't mean young person. Okay, it's a very specific demographic range anyways if this millennial is geriatric that means I'm geriatric. Which I kind of am. Guys two weeks ago. Last week. Last week. I threw out my back shoveling snow. It's like the most dad thing you can do I mean I was out. Couldn't you know. Couldn't walk around for a couple days took me a week. To really recover. I mean I had to do pretty aggressive. I'm very aggressive and recovery on things right so as soon as I could move I was moving as soon as I could walk I was walking as soon as I could stretch I was doing huge amounts of stretches and then I started working in exercises that didn't strain the back and then I finally have worked myself up to you. Yesterday I was able to do my full exercise routine I mean I got after because I hate being immobile but I mean is there anything more speaking of geriatric millennials anything more. Dad then you know throw out your back shoveling snow. All right back to the question how do you think about sleep.
What Are your thoughts on sleep? (47:41)
Set yourself up for success but don't stress about what happens that's what I say about sleep. I have sleep issues not terrible ones but it does not take much for me to get insomnia just you might pick up from my podcast that my mind isn't exactly moving around on a languid pace most days. You know really quick so it doesn't take much for me to fall into a state where I just can't sleep. So I get frustrated when you hear too much about sleep is so important and let me tell you all the things that is wrong if you don't sleep and how everything terrible is going to happen you'll be dead within a week because hey most people who can't sleep. It's not their choice. So I always say set yourself up for success. I have set up the conditions in which I would get what is considered a reasonable amount of sleep if things go well but you know some nights I'm not going to sleep as well and just leave it at that. So no I'm not going to have on a you know a whoop strap and get every minute of my sleep tract or this or that I just try to get in bed at a time that if I fall asleep when I wake up will be a good night sleep and you know what if you do that you're going to get a lot of good night sleep but just don't stress the nights that you don't. All right we got up. So we got here. Let's do one more question this question comes from Raj.
Personal Finance Perspectives
What are your thoughts on personal finance? (49:09)
Raj asks, how do you think about earnings across your various income streams and what's your philosophy of personal finance. Well Raj I'm all in on crypto all my money is in crypto. I think that is the key next question. Now I do not have money in crypto. How do I think about personal finance. I am incredibly wary of lifestyle creep. If you live in a big city like I do in DC you just know a lot of people or if you went to a fancy college like I went to you just know a lot of people that have been snared by lifestyle creep. Make more money. Increase the cost of my lifestyle. Ooh nice stuff. Make even more money. I'm going to increase a little bit further move to this nicer house get this nicer car get that second house and put the you know use it creeps creeps creeps. And then you're spending all your money you're stressed out and you're stuck in your job. So I'm worried about that I also have this mindset of everything can go away. So I nothing scares me more than having a huge outlay I would have to meet every month just to keep our lifestyle rolling and that if that money went away that would be a problem like we couldn't afford a mortgage on our giant house anymore we couldn't make the car payments etc. So I'm a big believer in you fix a lifestyle that you fix a lifestyle that you really enjoy that matches your deep life buckets you know where you live and how you spend your time you know you want to come up with a lifestyle that you really like. And then don't inflate it so if you make end up making more money than you need the support that lifestyle you save it. That's a general philosophy. Now of course, upgrades will happen to this image especially early on. So I do not live today the way I lived when I was a first year grad student. I don't live today even the way I lived when my wife and I first we first moved to DC like so you can you can do some. You do some upgrades to this vision but you're very careful very conservative about it this is just my approach on this telling you how I think about it. And then the money that comes in excess to that for the most part you save. And then I think from a stress perspective it's fantastic because you don't feel like you're right on this line. Right that if like anything goes wrong if someone loses their job if you have to like I might you know hey I don't want to I'm going to take summer salary this summer as a professor like this not going to be that's a huge catastrophic problem so that's the way I think about it. And then what do I do with that savings well I mean in my position I'm a huge believer in investing in yourself so I put a lot of the best investment you can make if you're happy to be in an entrepreneurial type feel like I am is usually in yourself so I invest I am not getting us to invest in let's build out the podcast let's you know I pay for my summer salary now out of my own book earnings so that I can write more because writing more actually then returns a lot more income things like this will invest in a new whatever web presence for your business so I'm really big and investing in myself because those those payments really do that really pays off and beyond that I am boring. I'm a bogglehead passive index you're not going to beat the market your guy you know is not going to beat the market this person that does derivatives for you is not beating the market. You're not rich enough to have access to the people that have access to the things that beat the market so like let's not worry about it. Index funding we have a guy that has custodial access of the accounts and just does that for us it's incredibly boring. Incredibly boring dimension funds indexing because I don't want to think about it. The only other thing I will add is skim a little off of unexpected or extra money to do something fun but that doesn't inflate your lifestyle I'm also a big believer in that I started doing that even when I had no money and then I'd make a little bit of money writing. I always had a philosophy of take a sliver of whatever's extra and just do whatever. Do whatever. As long as it inflate your lifestyle don't you know don't use the down payment on a car that you know have to pay really heavy payments on but like go on a trip or buy something that's nice or like you want to have some reward or fun with it and you know that's great like you want to feel good about something went well I sold a thing I made some money take some of that money and go you know go do something fun with it I think that's fine. All right so Raj that's my philosophy let me summarize this all fix a lifestyle that's really good that you really enjoy but that you can easily afford with your current financial status and then as you make more that's great. Save that money don't inflate your lifestyle do boring I do boring stuff with my saving but if you have a chance to invest in yourself that's always the best investment you can make and always take a sliver of things that are unexpected or extra or nice take a sliver to do something nice for yourself because you have to wait for a short or if all that fails it's all dogecoin I'm telling you I have a system. I have a system you have to go to dogecoin because it's a you have to wait till a day of the week of the month it's a prime number cyclically speaking but actually what you really want to do is take the days of the week and translate them onto a finite field that you can have a system from to the primes and then you want to you want to take a prime of the prime number finite field invest on that day 37 days later sell this is my system that's the other thing I would say so that will also make you a billionaire in about nine days you can do that. Or you can do what I do which is you know try to live reasonably save what you make extra. All right well speaking of saving let's save some time that is all the time we have for today let me by the way just brag on myself that was a one take episode. All right so Jesse listening to this from afar you can be impressed I turned on the camera I turned on my recorder I rock enrolled one take from beginning to end and we have wrapped it up. And with that we'll see you next time.