Full Length Episode | #181 | March 14, 2022 | Deep Questions Podcast with Cal Newport

Transcription for the video titled "Full Length Episode | #181 | March 14, 2022 | Deep Questions Podcast with Cal Newport".

1970-01-01T01:19:00.000Z

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Introduction

Cal's intro (00:00)

I'm Cal Newport and this is Deep Questions, episode 181. I'm here as always in my deep work HQ joined by my professor, professor. That's the second time I've done that. My producer, Jesse. So I keep trying to promote the professor. Jesse, we made a mistake last week that we've been hearing about, haven't we? Oh yeah, yeah. We both have been getting emails. He's been getting emails at his address mine at mine. Here's what happened. I mixed up fantasy writer Brandon Sanderson with writer Pat Ruthus. And I know the difference. I read a bunch of Pat Ruthus. I know Brandon Sanderson. It's just sometimes when you're recording, your mind is going to a bunch of different places at once to try to set up what's coming next. And you can fall into these weird traps like me calling Jesse a professor. And so I was mixing up Pat with Brandon and Deep Questions, listeners were not happy about that. We got some emails. You would think, Jesse, you would think based on the number of emails we got and their upsetness that we had announced that we were starting a new podcast in which me and Vladimir Putin would try to encourage parents not to vaccinate their children. You would think that's what we announced based on the volume and negativity of the feedback for messing up those two authors. So my apologies to Brandon, my apologies to Pat for mixing you up. I don't think Brandon cares. I think the $21 million Kickstarter that he just did is probably more on his mind than Deep Questions mixing up his name. I like the passion of your fan base though. It's great. Yeah, well, okay, here's the telling thing about my fan base. So a few weeks ago when I didn't know the name of the starting quarterback of the Bengals, crickets. No one cares. When I mess up the author of the King Killer series and Chronicles and the author who finished the Wheel of Time hundreds of emails. So I think that tells us something about our fans. Let's not lean into sports commentary and like ultimate fighting minutia. I think sticking carefully in the realm of fantasy. This is probably more our people. So I think we learned a lot this week, Jesse. Yeah, that's good.


Cal'S Insights And Questions Discussion

CORE IDEA: The Case Against Email (02:42)

So what I wanna do is a core idea. I think the series has been going well. These the core idea of videos, which we have been releasing as standalone videos at youtube.com/countnewportmedia have been some of the most popular videos we've been releasing. When Jesse and I had the original idea for doing a series of core idea segments, I made a list. Well, here at top of mind, the core ideas I come back to again and again in my writing and on this podcast, we have almost gotten through that entire list, but there is one topic left on that original list. And that is the topic I want to cover today, which is the case against email. Now, this is the ideas that I fully articulated in my most recent book, A World Without Email. I also explored a lot of these ideas in my New Yorker writing. So if you look back at my New Yorker archive from before and even after the publication of A World Without Email, I also explored a lot of these ideas in the pages of the New Yorker as well. I want to capture them all now in one core idea segment. Well, there's four parts here that I want to tackle. One, I'm going to introduce the notion of the hyperactive hive mind. It's the most important piece of vocabulary that you will come away from the segment having learned. If you listen to one thing, know this term. Two, I want to get into why the hyperactive hive mind is such a villain in the context of modern knowledge work. Three, I'm going to tackle, if it's so bad, why is it so common? And then four, we will briefly touch on, so what should we do about it? All right, so that's my goal. So let's start with this first point, the hyperactive hive mind. So the name of my book was A World Without Email and I got any number of seemingly clever notes from people, often in response to, let's say, a mailing list, mailing from my mailing list where they would say, "Ha, I'm reading an email from you and you are saying we should have no email in the world." Gotcha, right? They're joking, but I would get that comment a lot, like how ironic is this? And this is where I need to clarify that the issue that I come after in that book is not email by itself. No particular beef with email as a technology. The actual villain of that book, the thing I think we should have banished more from our world is what I dub the hyperactive hive mind workflow. Now, this is not an elegant title, I couldn't call the book A World Without the Hyperactive Hive Mind Workflow, but that's probably what I should have named it because that is accurately what the book is really about. So what is this thing the hyperactive hive mind workflow? It is a means of collaboration in which the bulk of your collaboration occurs with ad hoc, unscheduled digital messages. So we're trying to figure something out. I'll send you a message, you'll send me one back, I'll bounce it back to you. So maybe it's Jesse and I scrambling over the fear created when we mixed up Brandon Sanderson with Pat Rufus and maybe I sent him an email, "Hey, what should we do about this?" He sends one back, like, "Well, maybe we should meet about it." He's like, "Well, what about these times?" You're just sending messages back and forth, they're ad hoc. So it's not like you had a particular plan, it's just in the moment, let me send this message, and they're unscheduled. So there's not like a particular time when this communication is going to happen. Email made the hyperactive hive mind workflow possible, but two key points here, it doesn't make it inevitable. So having email around makes it possible for you to do ad hoc back and forth messaging as the main way that you coordinate, but doesn't mean that's the way you have to. And two, once that became dominant, other tools came along that made it even easier to engage in the hyperactive hive mind workflow. So you got, for example, instant messenger tools, like Slack, like WhatsApp, they all are enabling the same workflow. And it's this hyperactive hive mind workflow that I want to put our attention on. So this brings us to the second point, what's wrong with the hyperactive hive mind workflow? Well, let me start by saying, in the abstract, nothing. It's actually a very natural way to coordinate. It is in a pre-digital age, the primary way that human beings work together. If there was three of you out hunting a mastodon, it's a hundred thousand years ago, you would coordinate using the hyperactive hive mind workflow and be ad hoc back and forth unscheduled messages. Hey, you come over here, stop there. I think he's over here, you go around that way. It's a natural way to human beings collaborate. So there's nothing fundamentally wrong with it. It's very natural. It's also quite flexible, right? You have one tool, one communication tool, you figure things out on the fly, there's very little overhead, very little pre-determination required to figure out how to get things done. We sort of rock and roll and get things done. So abstractly speaking, there's nothing particularly wrong with this mode of collaboration. The issue is that it doesn't scale. So email, the arrival of email made it possible, made it possible for very large groups of people to coordinate with each other on a large number of things, all using this hyperactive hive mind. Because now with almost no friction, I can shoot off a message to almost any one in my organization, almost any of our clients, any of our contractors. We have this very low friction simplified way of communicating. It is in the scaling that the hyperactive hive mind began to weave its web of negative implications in the modern office. And here's why. Let's walk through this thought experiment. If I work with one other person, and we're working on one thing, and we're not in the same room, going back and forth with unscheduled email messages is a perfectly reasonable way for us to coordinate. All right, well, did you get this? Should we meet? Well, when can you meet? What do you think about this? We could go back and forth. It's a perfectly reasonable way for us to coordinate. So let's say a typical thing, just so we can use round numbers. So we want to coordinate about, it's going to require about 10 back and forth messages. That's fine. With 10 back and forth messages over the course of a day or two, no big deal. Now imagine like the typical knowledge worker, we've now scaled up the number of people we work with and the number of things we work on. And now we have 10 different things that are going on. A big project over here, a report that has to get to a client, trying to reschedule a visit with a candidate that's coming into interview. We're trying to figure out a problem working back and forth with facilities because there's something that has to be repaired. So we have like 10 different things going on. Each of them are being worked out with the hyperactive hive mind workflow. Each of them on average, maybe is going to require about 10 back and forth messages to figure out. Each of them on average is relatively time sensitive. We need to get a resolution in the next day or two. So we have 10 messages for each of these things, each of which needs to be seen, processed and replied to within the next day or two. Let's multiply these numbers through. 10 things, 10 messages, that's a hundred total messages that have to be seen, received and replied to, all within a day or two. This is where we begin to get into trouble in the modern workplace because now if there's going to be a hundred messages I'm going to have to get through. Each of them in a relatively timely fashion in the next day or so, there is no alternative for me, but to constantly check whatever communication channel we're using. If it's an email firm, I'm off always in my inbox. If we're a slack firm, I have to keep checking slack. And the reason why I have to do this is not because I'm lazy, not because I'm bad at tools, but because there's a hundred messages that are going to have to be hit back over that virtual ping pong net pretty quickly after they arrive. I have to check constantly. And the data on this shows this is exactly what we do. In my book, I talk about a really good comprehensive data set from the software company Rescue Time. They studied tens of thousands of knowledge workers and found that they were checking inboxes on average once every six minutes. It's required. If you have hundreds of messages that are going to have to be seen, each of which is going to have to be responded to relatively quickly, just so progress can be made on the various projects you're working on. All right, so now we have a situation where we have to check an inbox or a chat channel once every six minutes, because this is the only way now work is going to unfold. Every one of those checks induces a cognitive contact shift. You see an inbox full of information different than what you're primarily working on, a lot of which is urgent, all of which is tied to specific individuals that need things from you. That is a arresting contact shift. Your brain begins to immediately shift over its context to those things you see in your inbox. Now, the issue is you're just checking your inbox real quick because you're seeing, hey, did the reply come back yet from Jesse about when we're going to set up our next meeting? So you pretty quickly try to bring your attention back to what you're doing, but you've already induced that contact shift. That has a cost. Your cognitive capacity is going to be reduced and for a while after that check, 10, 15 minutes after that check, you're still going to have a reduced cognitive capacity as your brain is now in this intermediate state between what you were focusing on before and what you just saw and then you stopped looking at that. You tried to go back to the main thing. You have what's called attention residue, cognitive capacity is reduced. Not only that, but you're going to get a low grade sense of anxiety because you see all of these unresolved tasks in that inbox all tied to people and we take seriously requests from people and you get an overall fatigue. This is this burnout affected office workers feel whereby two in the afternoon, they're just done trying to do anything hard because they burnt out their brain shifting those contexts back and forth. It's the shifts that kill you, the shifts that kill you. So we've created a hyperactive hive mind scaled up, creates this need to have to check inboxes or channels all the time because you have 100 messages a day that you have to hit back over the ping pong fence and you can't wait four hours to do that and all those context shifts completely fry our brain. And so it's misery making, it's fatiguing, it's anxiety producing and we get a lot less done. So it's a huge problem that we try to coordinate so much work with the hyperactive hive mind workflow, not because it doesn't make sense, it's very flexible, but because it doesn't scale. At scale it requires constant shifts and our brains simply can't do that. So if the hyperactive hive mind is so bad, this brings us to a third point, why is it so common? Well, I looked into this in my book and in my New Yorker reporting and here's the story I uncovered. It is largely accidental. No one ever said coordinating all of our work with these rapid back and forth unscheduled messages is gonna make us more productive. No one ever said, look, there's gonna be some sacrifices to this, but it's gonna be the right way to work. It's gonna unlock new levels of production. No one ever thought that or said that. We stumbled into this way of work and here is how it largely unfolded. In the 1990s, email made a rapid move through the front office. That is when most businesses that have standard computer cubicle style knowledge work adopted email and began to use it extensively. And the reason they did, again, I went back to the archives, was looking at the New York Times business section, I was looking at articles and other technology magazines trying to document, look at the documents of how people were talking about email when it first spread in the 90s. The reason why email spread is not because they said, we will have this utopia where we can communicate with each other all the time. It was because it was replacing three existing tools, fax machines, voicemails and interoffice memos. It was a better version of those three tools, which were very popularly used in the decades leading up to the arrival of email. An email was unquestionably a better way of implementing that communication. Attaching a file is much better than faxing. Sending an email is almost always much better than leaving a voicemail that requires someone to type in a code and listen to you actually talking. Sending a CC'd message about the new parking policy to the whole office is clearly much more efficient than having to print that out and put it in everyone's mailboxes. So it was solving a real problem, which was there was asynchronous communication that existed, those three tools implemented it. Email was cheaper, had more features and was faster. That's why it spread. Once it was in people's offices though, once people had those addresses, once the friction was removed for any interpersonal communication, the hyperactive hive mind workflow emerged naturally, not by choice, but naturally. And why did it emerge? Well, this gets complicated, but here's just a summary of it. It emerged because we had an ethic of autonomy in the context of knowledge work. We had an ethic that in knowledge work, it's up to individuals to figure out how to organize their work. Productivity is personal, we said. How you keep track of things, how you choose what you say yes to no to, how you manage your time during the day, how you manage your tasks. That's up to you as the individual. Buy a Cal Newport book, buy a Stephen Covey book, buy a David Allen book, that's none of our business. We give you objectives and we motivate you, but you figure out how to do your work. That is the dominant ethic and knowledge work for various reasons. In that context, where we leave the organization and execution of work up to the individuals, it is not surprising that when this new tool emerged, we began to use it in the most flexible, easiest way possible. The hyperactive hive mind was convenient and flexible. So we all sort of fell into it because there was no one looking down at the organization as a whole and seeing what's the best way to do this work. When we make our own decisions, we end up with whatever is easiest in the moment. And so we stumble backwards in the swamp of autonomy towards a world in which the hyperactive hive mind was dominant. And we look up by the early 2000s, found ourselves context shifting every five to six minutes, miserable, barely able to get any real work done. So that brings us to the final point, which is what should we do about this situation? Well, now that we know that it's largely accidental that we arrived here, now that we know that there's more damage that we may have expected occurring because of all these context shifts, this should embolden us to seek solutions. And in seeking these solutions, I think the first point we have to make is that this is not a game that is going to be won with individual habits. This has been up until most recently, the most common way we've tried to deal with the email problem, which is say, well, people are just using email wrong. Don't check it so much. You're addicted to it. We introduced that terminology of addiction. Remember when the hyperactive hive mind first began to emerge, and we first noticed it when people were using early generation blackberries all the time, they keep up with the hyperactive hive mind. We introduced the term crackberries and tried to make it seem like these people had some sort of weird addiction to this thing. They need to get rid of that addiction, it's orthogonal to their actual work, but it wasn't. They're checking the blackberries all the time because there was more work being worked through with ad hoc unscheduled messages and they had to respond to those messages for work to unfold. It was required, not a flaw. So we're not gonna solve this problem by saying just check your email less often or write better subject lines or have better filters or if you move from Gmail to superhuman or from superhuman to hey, that if you just have enough automatic filters and features, you can tame this problem. You're just not handling email well, but when we recognize that the problem is actually the hyperactive hive mind, we know none of these individual habit fixes will be enough. The reason why we have to keep checking our email, we have to keep checking slack is not because we have bad habits or bad setups, but because we have 10 different things that are being organized with unscheduled messages and we can't ignore those messages. Each of these things has 10 messages that has to get sent back and forth today because we need to finish this by the end of the day. So I have to keep checking, 'cause if I wait four hours before I answer message number two, we're not gonna get the message number 10 before the day is done and it's a problem. We check email all the time because the hyperactive hive mind demands it. If that is the way we coordinate our work, there is no alternative to constantly checking in on these channels and keeping these messages bouncing back and forth. Can't solve it by checking email less often, we can't solve it with better inboxes, we can't solve it by changing norms, we can't solve it with response time expectations changing. You can say what you want about response time expectations. We have 10 messages that have to get back and forth to schedule this visit tomorrow. That has to happen. Don't tell me our norm is don't expect an answer within 24 hours. These 10 messages have to finish today because that person's coming tomorrow and we have to tell them what time their meeting is. So how do we solve this problem? You replace the hyperactive hive mind. We need alternative ways of collaborating that do not depend on unscheduled messages that require a response relatively quickly after they arrive in your inbox. And that is the only way to solve this problem. And that is gonna require hard work. It means we're gonna have to identify what are the different things we do again and again in my job in our office. And for each of those things, actually work out together. Alternative systems for collaboration that don't require unscheduled messages. And each different type of thing you do might require a different system. And each system might require polishing and optimization over time to get right. And it's all a pain, but we have to do it because the hyperactive hive mind, the flexible, though convenient, though cheap, is not scaling and it's killing us from a cognitive perspective. And so that is the main argument I make in the end of that book, A World Without Email, is we have to start building from the ground up, bespoke, clearly specified systems of collaboration to talk about when and how we communicate to get things done. Unscheduled messages have to play a decreasing role in coordinating work. So when I talk about A World Without Email, I mean, a world in which the hyperactive hive mind is rarely used. Regularly occurring work has clear systems for how we collaborate that don't depend on unscheduled messages. I could care less, by the way, about other uses for email, your broadcasting information, great. I don't want you to mail it to me, that's fine. You have a non-urgent request or question I can answer in a sentence or two. Yeah, email that to me and let me get to it when I want to get to it. That's a great use of email. I'm happy with all of that. The thing that's gonna kill us is we're going back and forth about something. We gotta get that out of email, we gotta get that out of slack, we gotta get that out of WhatsApp and we have to put in place bespoke systems that say here's when and how we communicate. Now we're not context shifting, now we're not exhausted, now we're not reducing our cognitive capacity, now we can actually produce work without burning out and be proud of what we produce. So when I'm making my case against email, I'm making my case against the hyperactive hive mind. And when we know that's the villain, we know the solution, we have to vanquish that particular enemy and yes, it's a pain 'cause we have to replace him with alternative ways of getting things done, but work is not supposed to be about friction reduction, work is not supposed to be about what's easiest, it's about what works. My definition work is resistance against objects at rest, it's supposed to be hard. So yeah, it's a pain to figure out, for this client memo we produce every month instead of just rocking, rolling on email, let's have a system where drafts go to these shared folders at these times and we use the comments and the designer knows that at this point, he can grab what's in this shared document and design it and I'll sign off on it virtually and I have office hours every day and if you have questions, you come to my office hours, that's when we discuss it. You have to do stuff like that. More overhead, more annoying, more delays, but it gets rid of the need to have to check an inbox or check a chat channel, look for an unscheduled message and reply. That is the key, that is the world we need. We have to get past this world where we just rock and roll with communication tools, we have to get more bespoke and more structured, but if we do, we're all gonna be much happier and we're gonna get a lot more done. All right, so that is my core idea, the last core idea for my original list of ideas I wanted to tackle, there's other core ideas I'll do and feel free to send them suggestions to me. You can send that into interesting@calnewport.com. Other things you've heard me talk about, you think we should do a core ideas video and I'm happy to hear it, but that was the original list.


Cal talks about My Body Tutor and Blinkist (23:29)

So our playlist will soon be completely up to date. All right, well, we got a lot of good questions to get through today. Before we do, talk about a couple of the sponsors that make this show possible. First is my body tutor. And my body tutor was founded by Adam Gilbert, who I have known for a long time. As I've mentioned before, he used to be the fitness advice guy back in the early days of my study hacks blog. His company by body tutor, a brilliant idea, especially for our current moment, is a 100% online coaching program that solves the biggest problem in health and fitness, which is the lack of consistency. They do this by giving you an online coach who helps come up with your plans around eating and exercising. It makes sense for you and what you're trying to do and what's going to be sustainable. And then you check in with that coach daily. See, that is the issue in health and fitness. It's not figuring out what to do. It is consistently doing it day after day and having a coach is the way to do that. Now, of course, if you had to actually hire a trainer or nutritionist to come to your house, it'd be really expensive, but in the age of the internet, why do that these coaches are online. So now almost anyone has access to that type of consistency. Sorry, I didn't think it was a good idea. I know he's been killing it, especially during the pandemic when people stopped using gyms. Adam and his coaches are the best in the world at delivering highly personal accounting and coaching. So here's the good news, 'cause I know Adam and he's a good guy, he is going to give deep questions, listeners, $50 off their first month. All you have to do is mention this podcast when you join. If you have any questions, Adam wants you to call their text. You can actually find his personal cell phone number at the top of every page of mybodytutor.com. This is a highly personalized service. I think that emphasizes it. So go to mybodytutor, T-U-T-O-R, and mention deep questions when you sign up to get $50 off your first month. But I also want to talk about Blinkist, longtime sponsor of the show. Now, Jesse, when we were last doing an ad for Blinkist, I had asked you to look up something on the Blinkist website and an all hell broke loose, like from what I did, your computer restarted, some weird capture thing happened, your browser overloaded, your smoke started coming out of the disk drive. But the moral of that story is that, the reason why that all started was, you couldn't, you weren't seeing the Blinkist homepage 'cause you were already logged in because you are a Blinkist user. - Yeah, I am. - And so let me ask you, I'll tell you how I use Blinkist. How do you use, what's your Blinkist strategy these days? - Well, just this morning, I tried something new. I went on to check out one of their audio books. So for the sports gene with David Epstein. - So interesting. - Before that, I was reading some of the blanks on the Ukraine crisis. So I get a lot of those now. - Well, so you're a more advanced user than I've been. So like I mainly read blanks of books. But 15 minutes, you listen to it. I like that you can listen to it now. I think that's critical. You can read them, of course, but you listen to these 10 to 15 minute summaries and I use it the, whenever I hear of a book where I think, "Huh, should I read that?" I go to the Blink first and it actually really helps. You can really get a sense. I mean, it's not a good sign for the authors when I say no, but you can really get a sense from these short blinks of, "Oh, I see what this is about." "Okay, I get the idea, good enough." And sometimes it's, no, no, no. I really wanna go deeper on this. I mean, we should probably explain for the listener what are we talking about here? Blink is a subscription service. What it gives you access to is these brief 10 to 15 minute summaries of some of the best selling, most important nonfiction books of all time, but also other things as well. They have Blink summarizing podcasts. They have blinks you're talking about now, dealing with some breaking news even. So I mean, it's more than just nonfiction books, but that's how they got started. These high quality 10 to 15 minute summaries of important information. So right now Blinkist has a special offer just for our audience. If you go to blinkist.com/deep, the start a free seven day trial, you will 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 and a seven day free trial, blinkist.com/deep. All right, let's do some questions. Now I've gotten a couple emails where people are asking how to submit questions. So I'll briefly review and all this information is at calendarpore.com/podcast. For the written questions like we're gonna answer today, I send out every few months a survey to my email newsletter subscriber saying submit your questions. You can submit as many questions as you want. So if you wanna contribute written questions, you have to sign up for my email newsletter at calendarpore.com and wait until the next time I send out that survey. We probably have one coming up pretty soon, right? Jesse, you look at the questions. We're probably getting to that point where we're gonna ask for a new question soon. - Yeah, be good time to ask for some more. In springtime. - So now's a good time to sign up for that newsletter if you wanna contribute. The reason why I do that by the way is I figure people who subscribe to my newsletter and get my weekly, they're getting my weekly essay, they know what I'm all about. They know my big ideas. They know my take on things. They know the common vocabulary that I use. So the questions they ask are way more on point for me and the show than if I just had a link for anyone in the world to send questions, we're gonna have, I don't know, a lot of questions about, I don't know what's popular these days, but K-pop bands. - Crypto. - Crypto, yeah. NFTs of K-pop bands. So we do it that way. The audio questions uses a completely different service called SpeakPipe, but again, there's an easy link to it. You can get it at calnewport.com/podcast. It allows you to record those audio questions straight from your browser. All right, so speaking of which, let's get to some questions. Our first one here is from K-pop CryptoLover.


How do I balance writing and marketing? (30:14)

Oh no, I think we spoke too soon, Jesse. We spoke too soon. No, none of that. These are newsletter subscribers. They know what we're all about. Our first question comes from Ryan. Ryan says, "I'm a university professor and a comic artist. I'm getting ready to launch my upcoming book on Kickstarter on New Year's Day." All right, so that's a little bit of a reveal that this question was submitted a little while ago because we were recording this in March and he's talking about New Year's Day. Moving on though, Ryan says, "In an effort to get the word out, I'm planning a big online tour in which I'm talking with a different media outlet every day of my month-long campaign. My question is, I fear that I may be devoting too much time to promoting the release rather than finishing the book. My comic is almost complete, only two more pages to go, but I'd really like to have it done by the launch. Any tips for prioritizing that deep cartooning work in the face of trying to make a big noise about my upcoming project?" Well, Ryan, it's a good question because I want you to be very wary of the publicity marketing. It is an easy trap, a seductive trap for those that are producing commercial creative products to allow your energy to be increasingly drawn towards strategies for getting the word out. Now, the reason why it's so seductive is because it presents a completely different type of challenge than actually producing creative output. It's a challenge that is not trivial, but it's very tractable. It's what I used to call checklist productivity, where you can go online and take an internet marketing course and follow some podcast of internet marketers and figure out a checklist, do this, this, this, and this, and feel like you have some insider knowledge that the normal person won't do, but it's also consistently executable steps. Make these calls, do this with your website, set up a funnel this way, so it's very fulfilling. It takes effort and it feels like it's insider information, but you know for a fact you can get it done. Checklist productivity is incredibly seductive because there's never this moment of, "I'm just stuck, I'm trying to produce something new, I don't know if it's good or not, I could fail, I could produce something in as bad, I couldn't have an idea, checklist productivity you can always get through." Writers, cartoonists, artists get very seduced by this because man that's so much more appealing than actually producing writing or producing cartoons or producing art because it's tractable. Check, check, check, you check off the check boxes as you go. So I want you to be careful Ryan, that you're not allowing your time to be increasingly consumed by these marketing publicity plans because it's fun, because it's better, it's easier, more fulfilling in the moment than actually trying to draw cartoons. Now it's not to say that stuff doesn't matter, but what I typically talk about is that when it comes to creative output, the number one thing you have to do is be so good you can't be ignored, you have to produce stuff that is of really high quality. You gotta do that, that's the core. Without that, with a few exceptions of internet influencer weirdness, you're never gonna get somewhere that far, that's where your attention has to be. And then you want some sort of reasonable publicity marketing plan based on what you have available that helps try to spread the word, but if you don't have something to spread the word about it, it doesn't matter. So you almost wanna confine the marketing publicity to like here reasonable tested things to do, here's when I'm gonna do this work, I put it in a box, I'll execute that, it's a three week period, but what I really care about is the production. So in your case, I would say you need some cartoonish equivalent of the John McPhee method. And by the John McPhee method, I'm referring to an essay I published on my blog and newsletter recently, where I talked about on the occasion of John McPhee's birthday, his method of writing, which is 500 words a day. And that's not a lot of words for a particular day, but as he says, you keep doing that, and over time you're gonna produce quite a bit of work. And he has 29 books, a Pulitzer, two National Book Awards nominations. So you need whatever your equivalent is as a cartoonist, is what I'd recommend of 500 words a day. And the reason why I'm going for that tractable amount of words is because you're a university professor, this is not the only thing you're doing. And I would do it first thing in the morning. And I don't know what that's gonna take for cartooning is it a panel a day, three panels a day, I don't know the pacing, but basically like 60 to 90 minutes of work. And I would just make that an unviolatable core of your day, you just do that every single day. The marketing publicity stuff, that has to compete with all of your other university responsibilities, you try to fit it in where you can and you have to use some weekend and evenings maybe. Like that has to compete with your syllabuses and faculty meetings and everything else you're doing. But the core is my 500 words a day. My creative production at my creative peak, not a ton every day, but enough that you look back over a month, hey, I've produced a good amount. You look back over a year, you say I'm very impressed by what I did. You look back over a career and you say I've been a pretty productive artist. So that's what I would recommend. Go to this core of deep creative work that you don't violate. The publicity marketing stuff, get that done as you can, have a plan but keep it reasonable. No one ever made themselves a long-term, sustainable career as a respected creative, do solely or primarily to publicity. It's always, always come down to producing stuff that people can't ignore. The publicity marketing is all just about a delta on how long it takes people to actually discover it.


How do I find time to hire with an overwhelming work load? (35:52)

All right, so we have another question here from Mel. Mel says, how do I get out of the urgent quadrant for long enough to hire or outsource work and implement productivity systems? All right, so she elaborates, I manage my husband's medical practice. I am burnt out and cognitively depleted by the volume, time, sensitivity, and unrelenting nature of incoming work. I spend all my time in the urgent quadrant and in hyperactive hive mind, I don't have the option to leave the job. I can hire an outsourced to some extent when I'm able to make time for it, but how do I get out of the urgent quadrant for long enough to recruit and train staff and to implement sustainable productivity systems? Mel, I talk about exactly this problem in my book, a world without email. It is, I describe as a insidious, negative feedback loop. And here's what happens, and here's what's happening to you, but it's very common. When you become too hyperactive with the hyperactive hive mind, so that the sheer quantity of work that you're trying to organize in this very inefficient way with ad hoc unscheduled back and forth messaging, when that gets to a certain point, you have so little breathing room, just trying to keep up with all these unscheduled back and forth messages, that there's no free timer energy to actually put in place the alternative systems that could reduce all of these unscheduled messages, these unscheduled ad hoc messages. So when it gets too bad, you strip yourself of the time and energy required to make it better. So it's an insidious, negative feedback cycle. And Mel, that's what you're in right now. So what's the solution here? You have to temporarily but drastically give yourself from breathing room by dramatically reducing the amount of things that you're trying to coordinate in this inefficient manner. So you do these drastic emergency reductions of what's on your plate. That gives you breathing room to look at what remains and figure out sustainable systems that don't require you just constantly being on email, constantly being on Slack, constantly checking your phone. And then once these systems are in place, then your breathing room gets much bigger because the things that remain have now been from a cognitive perspective made much more tractable, you're able to add stuff back. 'Cause now the systems are there. But you have to pull things away and it's gonna feel painful, it's gonna feel weird, it's gonna feel like you're leaving money on the table. You have to do that. And then things come back once you have the actual systems in place. Now the added benefit of this approach is when you add things back, you maybe don't add back everything. Maybe when you're trying to add things back, you say this one type of business we do is not easily tameable by systems to get rid of unscheduled messages. It's this particular client or type of work that requires and demands this berating constant communication. And now it's really clear. Well, that type of work is not compatible with the type of way we wanna work. Let's not add it back. Let's get rid of that type of business. So it also gives you a chance to clean house as you're thinking about all the different type of business you do. So what this means for your husband's medical practice, for example, is cut back on clients, cut back on surgeries. Like there's gonna be a period where you say, we're cutting back. You're not stepping away from existing things, but you're gonna put a hold on bringing on new things for a while. You're gonna have a six month period where you fall back towards a baseline and make less money and miss out opportunities. But allows you to actually build in better systems, hire new staff, train that staff, figure out how to make sure that you're not context shifting every two to three minutes, that you're not constantly in email, that you're not constantly on text messaging. And here's the thing, who cares about six months worth of money? What's the point? What's the miserable existence you're talking about? And your husband's probably burnt out too, because his bleeds over, he has too much work, it bleeds over to his practice. That's the way you have to do it. You have to make a dramatic temporary reduction if you're gonna get the breathing room required to build up systems that will be sustainable going forward. The money will come back, but with much less stress, once those systems are in place. So that's what I recommend. It's time, Mel, to do something radical. All right, moving on here, we have a question from Orpheus.


How do I work even deeper? (40:20)

Appreciate the Greek mythology reference there. How can you increase the intensity of your deep work sessions if you're already focused and free of distractions? Orpheus goes on to say, I'm a music composer. Like can I say, by the way, as an aside, I love, maybe this is why you chose the name, but obviously the character of Orpheus in Greek mythology has this beautiful singing voice and can write this beautiful music with which he woo's Persephone. So I like the fact that the person describing herself as Orpheus is a music composer, so well done, sir. So anyways, Orpheus says, I'm a music composer who finds it takes me far too long to write music. Following your book, Deep Work, I have time blocked, gotten away from distractions, set timers and him focused. Is there a way to continually increase intensity work produced in a certain timeframe? Once all tenants of deep work are in place, or should I just accept that this is a process that will always take a long time? Alright, so Orpheus, I have three things to tell you, three additional things I want you to introduce. One is ritual. Where you do the work, what you do before the work, occurs, especially for highly creative endeavors that require spontaneous creative production like music writing, music composing. This type of stuff matters, and it's probably worth investing money in. Let me build out a space just for my composing, a special office, I just go to an out building, or a really nice looking building. I remember at some point seeing the composing room that the movie composer, I believe it was James Horner used. And it was this over the top decorated, really interesting room. It matters for this type of thing. What's your ritual before you write? When do you write? It's you know, you walk through the forest, you have a certain type of, you know, herbomata tea just before you sit down. There's a certain type of music playing on a vintage record player with a really high end speakers. Like you want to lean on ritual for doing something that is as demanding as spontaneous creative production. Don't think about this as wasting money. Think about this as necessary investments to actually make creative work at this level, have a maximum chance of succeeding. So that's my first suggestion. My second is peers, by which I mean the people you spend time with. Spend more time with people who do high level creative work for their job. Just being around people, artists and writers, other composers, other musicians that really take their work seriously and do it at a really high level, preferably at a level where you want to get. It just affects the way that you approach it. You're more likely to be locked in and focused because your mind adjusts to the norms and habits of those around you. And when the norms and habits of those around you is very much focused and valuing of creative production, your mind's gonna be more on board when you sit down at that piano and say let's go for it. So that could also help too. So those are two things you might not have thought about. The third is acceptance. So after you've done those things the other things, the time blocking and the timers and the training and everything else, then just accept. I'm doing creative work. I've set the conditions to be as good as possible. Where I end up at this point, this might just be what it feels like to do this creative work. We sometimes create storylines about how it should feel. We think like it should be the scene from Amadeus where Salieri has the entrance march and Mozart comes in and it's like, oh, I like that and can I try it? And Salieri is like, do you wanna see the music? And Mozart says, no, I think I got it. And he starts playing it from memory completely. He's like, yeah, that's just it, right? And then he stops for a second and says, why don't you be better if, and he makes some changes and it becomes a beautiful famous piece of Mozart music. And Salieri is cursing the gods, like how can he just do this in his head? Sometimes we think this is what creative work should feel like we have these storylines about, we should sit at the piano and beautiful music just comes out and everyone's really impressed. And the Salieri's in our life are really jealous, but that's often not what it's like. You know, creative production is often painful. So much of it happens in revision. Now, I talked about last week Brandon Sanderson and his process of writing super productively like he does. But one of the things I picked up from the speech I watched at Brandon Sanderson talking about his writing process is how many revision processes go into actually getting one of his novels, right? You know? So that means there's a whole part of his production where he's writing and is painful and it's not very good. But it's laying the foundation that's eventually on which he's gonna build a book that he is proud of. So that's like my final point is acceptance. If you're doing the stuff you're already doing and he added the things I suggested you might be missing, ritual, peer group alterations, doing the whole thing. So now whatever it feels like, that's how it's supposed to feel. And don't tell yourself stories that it should feel different. That's probably what it's supposed to feel like. Keep producing, keep being deep.


Should I read before or after I write? (45:40)

All right, we have a question here from Graham. Graham says, how would you recommend structuring deep work sessions that require both reading and writing? For instance, would you find more value in reading an article or two and then writing or writing first to find out which articles you need to read? Well, Graham, the way I normally do this is right first, read second, the reading is for the next day. So I think the hard thing in writing is the actual writing itself. That's where you should start. You know, the first deep creative endeavor you do is the writing and then the reading can be later in the day because that's more flexible. It can be over lunch break. You can read in the evening. You know, you can sit by the fire. You can sit outside. Like there's all sorts of different places you can read. It's less cognitively demanding. Give yourself more breathing room to have insights and the right things down. So that's what I would suggest other people do a different right first, read second. And when you're reading, you're reading for writing that's going to come in the future, not for the writing you're doing right then.


Cal talks about Grammarly and Workable (46:47)

All right, so we have a few more questions I want to do, but first I want to talk about another sponsor that makes this podcast possible. And that is our good friends at Grammarly. Grammarly being one of the actual very first sponsors of the Deep Questions podcast. And for good reason, I think they align with a lot of what we're thinking here. Now here's the thing about Grammarly. It is not like those old fashioned grammar checkers that you remember from WordPerfect in the early 1990s where it can find a couple common grammar mistakes. Oh, you said it's with an apostrophe and you mean it's without it. Or you used the wrong form of there. Grammarly today is an all-in-one writing tool that allows you to clearly and effectively communicate your ideas. The type of things this tool can now do never fails to amaze me. I mean, it makes us feel like we already live in the world of artificial intelligence and cyberics because the power of the new Grammarly tool is something that I think is quite cool. It can, for example, if you have their premium product, Grammarly Premium, help you adjust your tone. Here is the tone of your writing. Here are some word changes that will adjust your tone to be closer to what you want. It can help you do full sentence rewrites so that you can convey your ideas more clearly. It'll give you clarity suggestions. It'll give you a tone detector. It'll look back at your writing and say, "Here's the tone this writing is coming across as." I've been playing around with Grammarly Premium 'cause you can use it on almost any device, on almost any app where you're gonna do writing. And I am consistently amazed by how perceptive and precise its suggestions are. And this type of thing matters because look, we're in a world of communication, type of communication. It's emails, it's Slack, it's blog post. There's so much that we just write today. We communicate through writing. And all this stuff matters. If your tone is good, your word choice is clear. It makes a huge difference if it's not. And having Grammarly Premium running on your devices and looking at the apps you do your writing is a way to make sure that you are ahead of the pack there. Clear communication with the right tone. It really matters. I have a whole chapter in my book, a roll without email about how easy it is to misinterpret what people are trying to convey in written communication, how that's harder than we think and people think it's easy. Grammarly Premium is a way to make sure that you don't fall into that trap. So get through those emails and your work quicker by keeping it concise, confident and effective with Grammarly, go to Grammarly.com/deep to sign up for a free account. When you're ready to upgrade to Grammarly Premium, you will get 25% off just for being a listener of this show. So that's 25% off at g-r-a-m-m-a-r-l-y.com. I also want to talk about workable, a service that makes it much easier to hire people. Now, Jesse, we've talked about before, the ineffective method I use to hire you, right, which involved me putting a net on the floor in Barnes & Noble near the business advice section and then essentially, sensing it up to capture and kidnap you. Not a scalable solution. If you want a scalable solution, I would suggest going instead to our sponsor workable, which is gonna make that hiring a lot easier. It helps you find the right candidates and hire them fast. So one of the things it does is gonna help you, and this literally is their wording, cast the widest net possible. And again, I have to caveat this, they do not mean literally putting out a net to catch people, they mean it metaphorically here. By posting your job to all of the top job boards, more than 200 total with just one quick. But what makes workable really cool is not only is it make it really easy for you to post your job listing to all these places, is that it then helps you on what happens next. So it helps you evaluate and hire quickly with modern tools like video interviews and e-signatures. It also has tools to help you automate repetitive tasks like scheduling interviews. So you can focus your time on actually talking to candidates and seeing who is right for your business and not on the shallow logistical administrative work that really makes hiring much harder, much harder than what realizes. Like right now, Jesse, you're helping, we're hiring someone to help us some of the audio. It's a pain, right? There's like a lot of, there's a lot more logistical administrative back and forth, right? - Yeah, for sure. - And so if you're trying to do this for a lot of positions and you're hiring a lot of people, your day can get lost to the administrative details. So workable helps make that easy as well. I mean, I have Jesse out there setting net traps all over the place to try to find this audio engineer. I mean, we're hanging out next to like night clubs and at conferences, back by the sound panels. It's a pain to get all those nets set and then go see who we've captured. We need workable, Jesse. I think that's what I've learned. We need to stop spending most of our ad budget on nets and instead get workable. - Yeah, the nets take up a lot of space too. - Yeah, we have a whole room full of nets. So workable is our future. So anyways, start hiring today with a risk-free 15-day trial. And if you hire during this trial, which many do, it won't cost you a thing. So not gonna charge you if during the free trial you end up hiring someone. So go to workable.com/podcast to try it out for free for 15 days starting today. Workable is hiring made easy. I don't know, when they were gonna look up and have no sponsors left, Jesse. We gotta tighten up the ship here. We can't tell them about our nets. Oh well, we tried. I'll show you a few more questions here.


Deep living in retirement? (52:55)

I have one from Katie. Katie says, "I know thinking deep is a thought or work process of younger adults, but how about addressing the older population? Retirees like myself have lots of time on their hands and really if you've worked so long in one profession, you don't know what to do with so much time. I'd like to learn Spanish or be more productive, but who knows in what and how does deep thinking can become a process in our life?" Well, Katie, earlier in this show, we did this question a few times. And what I would often come back to is for people who are later in life who are retiring or have retired, the deep life bucket method becomes very important. Now go watch my video on the deep life core idea, YouTube.com/KelnewportMedia. Watch that video to get brought up the speed on what the deep life bucket method is, but there is fewer circumstances where this method is more effective than for people who are retired. Because what it's gonna force you to do is look at the different elements of your life that are important. And then for each of those, get rid of the noise and boost the signal, get rid of the junk. It's not returning you much and put in place habits and endeavors that are really giving you a high return on time investment. Now when you're retired, you have a lot more time to invest. So this process becomes more exciting. But the bucket method where you're breaking up your life into these different parts prevents you from having capture in just one element of your life, or from getting too lost in minutia gives you some structure to this whole process. So I think it's one of the exciting things about retirement is you can re-engineer your life in this systematic way, and you have so much more levers to pull and knobs to turn than say someone who is up to their ears, midlife at a peak of their career trajectory, which is eating up all their time. And every minute that remains is wrangling kids. I mean, you now have the promised lancadie, which is some room to actually do some cool things with your life. So go listen to that, watch that video, I'd say, not listen, but watch that video on the deep life. The bucket method will help organize your efforts going forward.


Should I quit my lawyer job? (55:11)

All right, so we have another question here, speaking of careers, this one is from Jeff. Jeff says, "Hi Cal, earlier this year, you were talking about how the principles of your book so good they can't ignore you, don't really apply to lawyers because the more career capital they get, the more work they get, which leads to less freedom and less autonomy. My question is, what should we lawyers in the audience do? And he goes on to say that he is a 60 year associate. Well, Jeff, what you can do is leave the big law firm job. And not to be stark about it, but career capital theory is pretty clear. You build leverage by doing rare and valuable things, but that's only really useful if you can then apply that leverage to shape your career towards things, the resonate and away from things that don't. Big city law firm jobs, where you work your way up the associate ladder, you're a 60 year associate, which means you're about to go up for partnership. And then after partnership, you go up for equity partnership, and then you work up a ladder of equity partnership until the very highest you could possibly get is named a partner, and the money goes up with each of those levels. And the money is good if you're in DC, let's say, big city with one of these big firms. These numbers really vary, but we're talking about you're starting as a younger associate, you're already at three or $400,000 a year. As a junior partner, you're probably talking six, seven hundred thousand equity partner, you're going to break at a big firm, get like a Skagen, you're going to break a Wilmer, you'll break seven figures. And then these more senior equity partners at a big city, the big firm, one five, one six, something like that. So like you make a lot of money, but it's incredibly time demanding. And it demands more and more of your time. There's almost nothing you can invest your career capital in other than getting more money, and maybe some influence on what your practice is. You can kind of carve out your own practices, but you're not going to get more autonomy. The other buckets, the non craft buckets of the deep life, you're going to have a really hard time doing much of anything in any of those buckets if you're going to work up that ladder. Now, for some, I don't know, they value the money, they value the prestige. For some, it's this money is going to allow a lifestyle that's good for the rest of my family, and that's my contribution, and that's fine. But if it's not fine for you, if you feel overwhelmed by work, if it's stressing you out, it's making you anxious, you feel hemmed in, you feel miserable. And a lot of lawyers do in those situations. The answer is to leave the big law firm. Do something else with you a lot of agree. And it'll be a lot less money, but so what? You know, I don't know what's the good of the one six if you only have six hours a week that you're seeing your family, right? So I usually am pretty radical about that. You have to go into a big firm law career with your eyes open. This is what it's going to be, and it's not going to get better. And so many people stumble into it because it's just, this is the next step up. This is more prestigious than this. And it's not that there's not value in doing something competitive. There is. It's not that it will make you feel better because it does. And it's not that you don't get pride out of having such a hard, elite job. You should. It's very difficult to give you someone to pay you seven figures for anything, right? That's hard to do. And there is some pride there. But if it is making you miserable, there's no way. There's no way to reconfigure your job in a big law firm that's going to get rid of that misery. So I just like to put that option on the table of the proverbial big city lawyers. Know what you're getting into. And if that's not working, I can't give you a way out that's going to preserve that salary. That's going to preserve the house and Chevy Chase and the private school and the second house on the beach. I can't give you a way out that's going to preserve all of that. It's going to be a pretty radical lifestyle change, a different type of law, something your own firm, something that you can control, how many clients you take on or off. And that's basically what you're going to have to do, Jeff. So look, this is probably the time to think about that before you go up for partnership. I hope I'm not the bearer of bad news, but I just think it's important to be clear. This is the reality of that job. And let's not pretend like it's not or like it's going to be different somehow, different somehow for you. You know, just see, I went down-- the reason why I had those salary numbers on hand is for some reason I went down a rabbit hole of lawyer compensation. Because I know a lot of lawyers who are very stressed out and I was trying to compare, I was like, well, how much do I make as a writer versus what they're doing and how much more flexible is my job? And I went down this rabbit hole. And you can find a lot of these numbers. There's a big topic of discussion in the DC area. But I never know how people think about those jobs. Like when you hear those numbers, those salary numbers, did that surprise you as more than you thought, less than you thought, or about what you would have thought lawyers were making around here? About what I thought, I would say. I find that people who live in the cities like, yes, what I'd expect. And people who don't. Like, what? You get a million dollars a year to be a junior equity partner? What is that? Yeah, it's also a weird perspective for me. Because I have a couple, like a few, like really good friends who kill it on the internet. So then even when I see those numbers, I mean, I'm nothing like any of that. But I see those numbers and I think that's nothing. Yeah, no. Well, here's the hierarchy. The elite job hierarchy in terms of salaries, right? So you have lawyers and like investment bankers, lawyers at big firms and investment bankers for firms like Goldman, right? So lawyers, you hit seven figures when you get to the partner level, again, big firm, big company. If you're at something like Goldman Sachs, when you get to the managing director level, you're going to hit seven figures plus with bonuses, right? So that's-- and the elite jobs, actually, this is going to be at the bottom of our platform. Then the next thing you have above that is-- so then the more elite jobs are-- I'm trying to say how I order this. I guess I would order it next. Maybe like venture capitalists. If you had a really big venture capital firm, we can get a cut of the returns. Now you can jump above that low seven figures and get that good healthy mid-seven figure type payouts. And then you have this big leap where you get to the tech sector, like your friends, and then the tech sector, because you can have businesses that are bought. That's where you start to get eight figure or low nine figure paydays. So now it's OK. I've started a tech company, and I've netted 30 million in the sale. So now we're at that eight figure level. And then the people who lord over it all is the hedge fund managers. Because now when you're a hedge fund manager, they laugh at everyone else because they can do eight or nine figure income every single year, because they're getting their carry cost of these really big hedge funds. And so then they look at the tech people and say, look, you're laughing at the Goldman guy who makes one five a year because you sold your company for 30 million. But that took you five years to sell your company for 30 million. And I pull in 150 million a year every year for my hedge fund. And then the very top hedge fund people will bring in a billion dollars a year plus. So there's your hierarchy of crazy amounts of money at the elite jobs. Notice, nowhere in that hierarchy that I say, author podcasters. We don't land on that hierarchy, unfortunately. Professor podcasters don't land on that hierarchy. But that's a whole interesting world, like the super big money job world. CEOs are in there too. CEOs of big companies land where the tech people are. Seven, eight figure salaries. So have you seen the new show on Showtime, Super Pump to read the book? Is this Uber? Yeah. It's about Travis Kalenek. There's episode two just was released this week. And there's a good scene in there where the VC brings them to the airfield where there's all the private jets. He's like, what do you need to say to me? He goes, are we going somewhere? And then he was like, so and so. And then Travis is pretty brash, pretty confident guy. And he was like, he had a couple of lines about Elon Musk and Bezos and stuff like owning 40 of those planes and like, what do you really want to do? What I really want to do is own all of those planes. Go on, that jets. Yeah. Oh my god. Yeah. We're getting there. We have a couple more steps before we're buying the deep questions private plane. So we are-- You've got to get it before the 200th episode so we can go to South Africa. They go to that, yeah, for that main episode. Yeah, so we're almost there. We want to get like a boom arm for our computer monitor so we can move it. So that's first. I want to get longer cables for our video switcher so that when we have guests, we can bring the video switcher so you can switch video for us. That's two. So boom arm for the computer monitor. That's number one. Longer cables for the video switcher. That's number two. Private jet. That's number three. Number four, I'm thinking we should have our own coffee maker. Because we buy a lot of coffee. And so those are the things we're working on. I think with that sweet workable money and Grammarly money, we'll have that private jet right after we get those longer cables. That's depressing thinking about big money people. But I got to say, those people must all be incredibly stressed out. That's all stressed out. I think the sweet spot I still think is genre novelist. So you produce one thing a year, but you don't have to win book. It doesn't have to be literature. Because there's too much stress if you're a literary novelist because you live and die by the reviews. But no, you're writing like a Jack Reacher book. It doesn't have to be literature. You have your formula. One book a year. No one expects you to do anything else. They don't-- Lee Child doesn't have a big social media presence. He doesn't podcast. You just have to write a book. They don't expect you to do anything else. Because people just used to buy in your book. You make a good amount of money. Like Lee Child, he bought the apartment above their apartment for writing. So he could get there pretty quickly. But it's not Travis was his name money. He's not flying around in private jets. But they have a writing house by the beach. And they're very little expected from them. That's the sweet spot. You have a lot of money, but not a crazy amount of money. But it's the money to anxiety ratio. I think that's got to be the-- if we put the other way, anxiety of the money ratio, that must be the lowest anxiety of the money ratio you can find, in my opinion, is successful genre novelist. It produces one novel a year in a successful series. That's the sweet spot. Like it. Yeah. So I got to start writing. So I'm going to announce my new detective series about a suave computer scientist who, by day, solves theorems and by night, fights international terrorist rings. Well, fighting off the women who fall in love with them. And then when you do the audio version, you need to have some character in there with the voice that you use last week. That was classic. And that French character will be in there. We got a note from Tim Ferriss' chief of staff who runs all this podcast. And he sent us a note saying that he really appreciated the accent. Oh, it was great. I was dying. So that character will be in there. And the character will obviously be me. We'll call him Kevin Newhouse. But it'll clearly be me. But I'm going to have David Goggin's voice him. So he's going to have this really aggressive, deep, awesome voice. And the audio books are going to have a lot of musical interludes, like action, musical interludes while I fight. And then I'll buy the house next to mine to be a writing house. And well, there we go. So it's all mapped out. Oh, man. All right, nonsense. It's all nonsense. All right, let's try to do two quick ones, because I know we're running a little late here. All right, we got one here from Jeff. Jeff says, does context switching affect reading comprehension?


Does context switching reduce reading comprehension? (01:07:25)

Yeah, it does. If you're trying to read a book, but you keep initiating context shifts, like you have to keep checking your text messages because there's a conversation going on, or you keep checking your inboxes, or if you're like me the last few days, you're constantly checking updates on the baseball collective bargaining agreement coming together. You're going to remember much less from the book. Your mind is going to have unrelated networks that are activated and some relevant networks inhibited. You won't understand it as well. So if you're reading something you care about, just read. And if you want to communicate, go off and communicate. Separate those two things. All right, one more question.


Matt says, what do you think of the critique of hyperlinks expressed in the writings of Nicholas Carr? Well, Matt, I think that critique quickly aged. It quickly aged. And the specific content of that critique is not that relevant, but the spirit of that critique is really relevant. So just briefly, I think Matt is talking about the book, The Shallows by Nicholas Carr, which is now pretty old. It's from the first decade of the 2000s. And it was one of the first books to look at the impact of content consumption online, honorability to think deeply or think clearly. And back then, the studies he was citing had to do with the impact of comprehension of reading websites that have hyperlinks because you read for a little bit, and then you follow a hyperlink, and you follow that hyperlink, as opposed to linearly consuming information as carefully structured and written by the author. Now, it's less relevant today because people don't read long articles with hyperlinks anymore. The technology went past that. That's an out of date technology, but things are even worse. So instead of now making it easy for you to escape from a carefully structured piece of long-form content, we just got rid of the carefully structured long-form content. And we just read 250 characters for Twitter or captions on Instagram, or we shortened that down to memes. Let's just have a picture with a couple of sentences on it, or videos that are incredibly tightly edited, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. And so we got rid of the option of even not following rabbit holes by just making everything just quick rabbit holes. And I'm sure that is amplifying the issues Car talked about, reducing attention, reducing the comfort when it does come time to read something like a book, reducing our comfort with doing that, our mind wanders. We can't sustain attention. So yes, the hyperlink critique is quickly got aged, but the underlying spirit of the medium of internet communication pushing us towards a more fragmented mind, those issues have amplified to a point that I think even Car wouldn't have predicted in his most pessimistic moments back when he was writing that book. All right, well, that's all the time we have for today. Thank you, everyone, who sent in their questions. As I always say, if you like what you heard, you will like what you read on my weekly newsletter at Cal Newport.com. You'll also like what you see. Video this full episode in every segment and question answered today can be found at youtube.com/Cal Newport Media. I'll be back on Thursday with a new episode of the podcast and in Telton, as always, stay deep.


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