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Cal Newport on “A World Without Email”

By March 11, 2021 March 25th, 2021 No Comments

Today Mark is talking to Cal Newport about his new book A World Without Email: Reimagining Work in an Age of Communication Overload. Cal is a well-known digital minimalist and has been known to the Unbeatable Mind tribe since his first appearance on the show talking about his book Deep Work (Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World). Today he is talking about how email can be managed and how it has rewired our brains (not for the better).

Learn about:

  • The hyperactive hive mind—we are not truly collaborating, so we end up getting stuck
  • With emails, we force an interaction without proper facial cues and tone of voice— resulting in unnecessary misery to the recipient
  • How our economy is now more dependant on knowledge work—yet thinking is becoming more difficult to do

Listen to this episode to hear more about how you can limit your email usage and become more productive as a whole.

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Hey folks, this is Mark Divine with the Unbeatable Mind podcast. Thanks so much for joining me today. Super stoked to have you here.

We’re gonna have an incredible conversation with my friend Cal Newport. Before I get into introducing Cal a little bit more in detail, please rate this podcast… if you could take a few moments, it really helps us podcasters if you could go to iTunes or wherever you listen to the podcast and rate it.

I recommend you start on the right star and just click that one, because that’ll save you time – you don’t have to think too much about it – and of course that means I get a five-star review, which would be awesome. We have over a thousand of those.

Like I said – it just helps us stay easy to find and it helps your friends find it. And also referring it to other people is awesome.

And the reason it’s awesome, is because I have guests like Cal. Now Cal’s been a friend for a few years I he I interviewed him early on about his book “deep work.” Which had a profound influence on the way I organized my life for my own writing. Which is the way I do my deep work, or what I use “deep work” for primarily.

And he’s at the forefront of thinking about culture and what the impact of digital media and tools like email, and social media, and everything…

And the impact it has had on our productivity and our ability to concentrate. And our ability to get important things done. And I’m excited to talk to Cal about his newest book, which is “A World Without Email.” Can you imagine that?

A World Without Email.” A place where you spend most of your day actually working on hard things, instead of talking about that work or endlessly bouncing small tasks back and forth in messages.

Cal, it’s good to see you again. Thanks for joining me today, buddy.

Cal: Of course it’s always a pleasure, Mark.

Mark: Yeah, so you are a professor – you mentioned that you’re on leave – but you’re a professor of computer science. How did someone like you get interested in this whole strand of thinking about minimalism, and decluttering, and deep work? Where did that come from?

Cal: Well, there’s two ways to look at it. I mean, one way is these books have a lot to do with technology and their unexpected impacts… and I’m a computer science professor, so I’m a professional technologist. So it does make sense for someone in my position – an academic technologist – to do some theorizing about the impacts of these tech on culture.

The real story is actually more haphazard. I’ve been writing books since I was a college student. And I wrote “deep work” – it was my first book that had some overlap with the world of technology. And the reception of that book, and what I learned after that book came out, really threw me down this path of really trying to understand in particular the way these new tools… the way they help us, but also the way they have these unintended side effects…

Mark: You can say that pretty much about any technology, right? I mean look at nuclear technology and ai… I mean any technology has probably equal positive and equal negative.

And I don’t think anyone really appreciated the negative impact of some of the technologies that you’ve really investigated. Such as email and social media – now social media, of course, people are starting to understand that… especially after this last year and the election and all that kind of stuff…

But with email most people would say it’s a pretty positive thing. It seems to me that we can get a lot more done in a lot less time with email. So what do you say about that? Like, does all technology have a positive and a negative side? Or just some, right? Or what’s your take on this?

Cal: I like the phraseology that the late social critic Neil Postman used – he talked about new technologies have ecological impacts. So you don’t end up – after a new technology comes along – being in your own world plus having that new technology there… it actually changes the whole ecology.

Just like coming in and introducing a new species to a wetlands or something, might really change drastically the way that whole ecology operates. Now some tech does this at a small scale and some does this at a large scale…

Some have overwhelming negative effects… some have overwhelming positive effects… but the key is that they can have these effects, and we’re often not ready for them.

And one of my big arguments is that we don’t actually pay enough attention. We’re too quick to let tech come in, we’d be exuberant about it, we focus on what we like about it… and then we just accept the side effects. Where I think we need to be more critical…

And email’s a great example. I document it’s spread in the book. And you can see email spread happens mainly in the first half of the 1990s, so you have email spread very rapidly throughout offices, because it solved several pragmatic problems very well.

It replaced the fax machine, the voicemail and the inter-office memo – it was clearly a better technology for all three of those different modes of asynchronous communication.

But as Postman said, there’s ecological effects. So after email was present – after everyone got access to low friction, digital communication it also brought with it another side effect – sort of like DDT working on the thickness of eagle shells – and suddenly we find birds of prey dropping out of these wetlands.

It had the side effect of just the presence of these new tools also changed the way we collaborated. And suddenly we said, “you know what? It would just be easier if we just sort of figured things out on the fly with back-and-forth messages. Just like we would figure something out if we’re in the same room.”

“let’s just everyone figure things out on the fly with back-and-forth messages, because now that’s possible.” And it drastically changed the way we collaborated.

Mark: Well, totally agree with that, and now I’m trying to remember back in my mind how we initially used email. It wasn’t on this “on the fly, problem solving, do this, do that…”

Because we didn’t have mobile phones, for one. You had to be sitting at your computer.

But also, the way we were taught to think and write was much more long form and stating an issue… it was different. So what did your research show you how it was different when it was working better versus now?

Cal: Well, I mean originally it was a replacement for things we were already doing – a little known story – I don’t even know if this is in the book – but I just was spending a lot of time looking at the history of email – one of the big things that helped that technology accelerate…

It was a lobbying agency on behalf of a lot of large aerospace industry companies… lobbied to have this standard introduced – this networking standard introduced – so that they could send information back and forth. Different companies that were part of the same… they’re collaborating because there would be a military contract spread over let’s say three or four different companies.

And they basically got AT&T to introduce this now little-known protocol standard – that meant this aerospace defense company could then essentially fax that aerospace company without having to use a fax machine. You could actually send these messages electronically.

Once this standard was in force, companies could talk to each other. We had a common framework for how we could send emails back and forth to each other.

And so this was one of the initial things that got it going… like “this is great. A fax machine’s a pain, you got to feed paper through this machine, and use a phone line. Email is great.”

And within the office people used it as an alternative to voice messages. Because you wanted the asynchrony of “I want to leave you this message when I’m ready. And you can listen to or read it when you’re ready.”

It was seen as a productivity silver bullet. And so to the extent that it was just replacing long established and polished communication behaviors, it was great.

But it also brought in this other behavior of “now that it’s here, let’s just rock and roll.”

And I just really want to emphasize that this way of collaborating – I call it the “hyperactive hive mind” – is something that followed email. We did not used to work that way and it’s largely unintentional, it’s one of these ecological changes.

No one ever said it was a good idea. It was just our emergent response to having these tools available.

Mark: Could you point to any particular reason why that happened? Why that evolution to this high volume of email use happened?

Cal: It’s a fascinating question, because no one had really looked at it. So I uncovered a few different threads that I think are relevant.

Probably one of the biggest threads, is that in knowledge work – unlike other sectors – we have this real obsession with autonomy. And I trace this back to Peter Drucker – the management theorist, Peter Drucker – who coined the term “knowledge work” in the 1950s. Really helped American industry, in particular, understand what knowledge work was.

And he had this message “autonomy, autonomy, autonomy.” You have to leave the knowledge worker to figure out on their own how they get things done.

And this autonomy message really stuck. That’s where we got management by objectives from. It came from Peter Drucker.

But because of that message, we have a mindset in knowledge work of “it’s not up to me to tell you how to organize your work. Productivity is personal. Go buy a David Allen or Cal Newport book if you’re feeling disorganized,” right? “it’s not up to us.”

Well, when you leave it all up to the individuals, you’re much more likely to stay stuck on a lowest common denominator mode of collaboration. Something that’s going to be easy and convenient and fast – and the hyperactive hive mind, it was that. It’s very easy, it’s very flexible, it’s very convenient.

If you’re in charge of your own organization, it’s kind of the thing you’re going to fall back into. And it also matches our natural instinct for how in our deep history – how we would normally interact. I mean, if we were just together on the savannah hunting a tiger it would just be back and forth, unscheduled, let’s just go, let’s just figure it out. You go over there, I’ll come over here.

So it’s very natural. And so I think we’re stuck there, because we’re not used to thinking more systemically about “well, how do we actually want to collaborate?”

We just say “look, that’s not up to me. I just give you objectives.”

Mark: That’s fascinating. Now there are definitely different personalities who use email differently – you’ve got people like me who are zero inbox – I like to leave an important email in there until it’s done, then it’s kind of like checking off a task.

And there’s other people who let thousands of emails build up in their inbox. And they just kind of scroll through and see what they want to respond to. Let’s just assume we don’t get rid of email, or find a new process, is there any best practices around email besides just getting rid of it? Not doing it except for once a day or something like that?

Cal: Well, my big focus is we can’t solve it in the inbox. We can’t solve this problem of the inbox – I think that’s why we’re all frustrated – is that we’ve tried to solve the problem of this hyperactive hive mind…

Mark: Right. Trying to solve it, instead of the paradigm that created it…

Cal: That’s all that we have mainly tried, is like, “let’s have better etiquette. Let’s have better norms, let’s have better hacks. Let’s turn off notifications. Let’s have email free Fridays…”

My big argument is that it’s the underlying workflow this hyperactive hive mind workflow that’s generating all that pressure in the inbox. Because what’s happening here is if informal back and forth messaging is the main way you work things out, you now have a couple dozen of these digital ping pong tables arrayed in front of you. And every time a ball comes back across the net, you got to knock it back again…

So you can’t be that far away from your inbox, or slack channel, or WhatsApp… or whatever tool you use. You can’t be that far away from it, because you have to service these unscheduled, ongoing conversations. I think we get frustrated when we try to solve this problem by saying, “oh, I’ll check my inbox less.” Because those ping pong balls are coming back. And if you don’t check your inbox, they’re going to fall off the table. It’s going to be a problem.

It’s why we can’t solve this problem with just those type of habits. And so the big mindset shift I’ve been trying to pitch is you have to go underneath the inbox. Go process by process, “okay, here’s something I do repeatedly. We answer client questions.”

“here’s something else I do repeatedly. We put out a podcast episode each week…” and for each say “how do we want to do this as not the hyperactive hive mind? How do we actually want to collaborate and get this done that requires many fewer unscheduled back and forth messages?

You do this process by process; you take the pressure out of the inbox. And then it doesn’t really matter what your habits are around the inbox that much, or if you have notifications or what apps you use. Or if you have ai just auto filling in things so you can type faster…

None of that really matters anymore if you don’t have so many ongoing conversations you have to service.

Mark: Isn’t it partially true that even if we did that, the inbox would just get filled up with other things? Isn’t that the nature of the way our life works? We say, “okay, we’re gonna find a better way to do that.” And that opens up some space, and then suddenly something else fills that space.

Cal: It might but I profile teams and companies that when they start moving away from the hive mind to things that are more structured, it just goes well. A good example of this – I think a classical example is computer programmers.

So they’re in the knowledge sector, but for reasons unrelated to this – having to do with the demands of project management – they long ago for the most part got rid of the hyperactive hive mind. They don’t really just work things out on slack or email.

They instead have these agile methodologies like Scrum or Kanban, where it’s really clear about who’s working on what. They have very clear ways to coordinate, with these very structured daily stand-up meetings – okay “what are you working on? What do you need? Here’s the one thing you should be doing. Go do that, we’ll leave you alone.”

And it’s been a huge boon for productivity in the software development space. When you move away from just “let’s rock and roll on the inbox” and let’s get a little bit more specific about how we collaborate, it really opens up a lot of cognitive space. I mean, it makes people happier you can think clearer. You’re not constantly servicing these channels – these alternatives are almost always much better.

Mark: Yeah, it makes sense.

I’d like to talk in a moment about how some people are succeeding in this – with this theory or this practice, but what are the risks of not doing this? Like, what’s happening in our culture as a result of this hive email mentality? What are the downsides?

Cal: Well, the main cost here is context shifting, right? So the villain in this book is the neurological price of changing your attention from one target to another. It’s a complicated process, it’s a neurochemically involved process, and it takes time.

And so what happens is if we are servicing an inbox – let’s say we’re checking an inbox once every six minutes – all these ping pong balls are coming back and forth, we have to keep hitting them.

Every time we look at the inbox, we’re going to initiate one of these context shifts, right? So it’s a neurological change that’s going to take a while. That begins happening – we’re inhibiting some neural networks; we’re amplifying some others – but then we wrench our attention back to the main thing we’re doing. So we put the brakes on that shift and try to switch back to where we were.

Everything piles up. It’s a cognitive catastrophe. We can’t think clearly, and it exhausts us.

So, if you make a living using your brain, there’s fewer things you can do that’s going to make it harder to do the work you need to do, than to keep having to check other things every few minutes. They’re going to drastically change your context, and then drastically change it back again.

So, we’ve made it almost impossible to actually do the work that we’re coordinating using these tools.

Mark: Yeah, and this extends to checking social media, I assume. That’s really no different than going… because a lot of people will respond to their social media posts every “ding” that they get.

Cal: Yeah, well social media is killing us too for exactly the same reason – these context shifts. What’s interesting is the comparison between social media and email. They look the same, in the sense that they cause the same problem. It induces a lot of context shifting, makes it really hard to actually do your work – it can make you unhappy, it can stress you out…

They differ however in terms of the cause and the solution, right? So why do we check social media so much? Well, it’s been engineered to induce that behavior. That makes money for people and the solution is check it less.

Email’s more complicated. The reason why we check email so much is because the fundamental way we collaborate in our organizations is through unscheduled back and forth messaging. So we can’t solve the problem as easy as we do the social media problem. Which is take that phone – while you’re working – and just throw it as far as you can.

You can’t do that with email. You actually have to change the way you collaborate, otherwise you have no recourse but to go back to the channel. So they feel like very similar problems, but the solution for the email problem is more subtle, for sure.

Mark: Yeah, one is you don’t want to miss it, because you get that dopamine hit from responding or seeing what people are saying, good or bad.

And the other is you have this anxiety that you’re missing something important. And you’re going to be out of the workflow, or you’ll stop the workflow by missing the email. That’s fascinating.

The other thing about this is the brain’s tendency to veer toward negative for any communication that isn’t like over the top positive… I think we talked about that – I think it was you and I – but maybe with someone else… like, with email communication – I’ve noticed this – if something comes in that’s super positive, we’ll probably read it and receive it as neutral… if something comes in as neutral, we receive it as negative… and if something comes in as negative… it’s a freaking three alarm fire. It’s total disaster, right?

And so we have this the brain’s tendency with the way we work, the way the brain processes to veer toward negative. And so incessant email use and incessant social media makes us more negative as individuals and as a culture.

Did you touch on that at all? Or see that in your research?

Cal: I do. I got into some of the research about the impoverished nature of linguistic only communication – so just the written word is a very impoverished form of communication. We’re very bad at it. There’s these nice studies I cite where the person about to send an email assesses how confident they are that what they’re about to send is going to be understood, the emotional valence can be understood…

And they vastly, vastly overestimate how well it’s going to be understood on the other end. Because when you strip away facial cues, when you strip away tone of voice, when you strip away pacing of back and forth – you’re losing a lot of information. Now people will say “yeah, but letter writing has this deep history. All these famous thinkers in history… all they had to communicate with each other was letters back and forth.”

But if you ever go back and read letters from the great age of letters, they’re really complicated – they’re pages long – why is this? Because it’s incredibly difficult to try to set the proper emotional context. It takes paragraphs of careful language and flourishes to try to set the right emotional tone, so people understand what you’re trying to say to them.

In the hyperactive hive mind we’re just shooting off emails really quick, hoping that four exclamation points and some emojis can fill in for this deeply evolved ability to read each other’s facial cues. And so people get misunderstood, and then people get upset or they think there’s an issue.

And so, yeah, we caused a lot of unnecessary misery by trying to force human interaction into this entirely text-based medium. Which was another real shortcoming – I think – of this way of collaboration

Mark: That’s fascinating. It reminds me – I think it was Mark twain “sorry, I wrote this book because I really didn’t have time to write a paragraph.”

Cal: Yeah.

Mark: Because it’s hard…

I didn’t have time to write you a shorter letter type thing – it is hard, yeah. And it was a skill I mean you would never… I read a lot of these letters – I look at a lot of colonial history you look at the letters that John Adams would send to his wife, or George Washington would write to one of the other generals and to our ear it’s like “wow, this seems kind of over the top there’s so much this and that and this…”

But they understood back then, because it’s their only means of communication at distance, it’s really hard to make it clear that “I’m a little worried that you did this, I’m not mad at you, but also like I’m here…”

Like, it’s complicated. And they would spend paragraphs of text trying to set it, and now we just throw an exclamation point on every sentence and say, “maybe that’ll work.” I mean, we should just put a disclaimer on every email just that says, “I’m not mad at you.” Because I think you’re right, that’s the initial instinct is like “why is Mark so mad at me? Screw you Mark.”

Mark: Or someone who just happens to have their cap lock on it’s like “why are you shouting at me? Stop it.”

Cal: “why are you shouting at me? What did I do?”

Mark: What are the health risks that we’re dealing with here from this hive mind overload of email and social media?

Cal: Well it makes us unhappy. I mean, for sure. I have a chapter called email makes us miserable where I pulled together a lot of the research and explanations for it. But it’s a real mismatch for how humans are wired to interact. It’s going to make us unhappy.

We have the mismatch of linguistic versus non-linguistic that we just talked about. The other thing that seems to really get to people is the idea that there’s an inbox that’s filling in the background. And it’s filling with messages from people you know, who need something from you.

That presses deep buttons for us, right? We take social interaction very seriously. Our paleolithic history is a tribal history. That’s one in which you need to have very careful one-on-one relationships maintained with your other tribe members, because otherwise when there’s a famine they won’t share their food and you’re going to die. We take it very seriously.

There’s experiments I cite in the book that say even if your rational mind – your frontal cortex – is saying “it’s okay. These emails are not critical. We have norms, I know what they are. They’re not urgent. It doesn’t matter…”

That deeper social network isn’t convinced. And it’s really stressed out. And it’s “people need me, and I’m not responding to them.” We underestimate the degree to which that really makes us as social human beings, it really makes us unhappy.

Mark: That’s fascinating. So let’s talk about – at an organizational level how have some of the organizations you research dealt with this – so that they move beyond the hive mentality?

Cal: It’s all about the workflow, right? We have to ignore the inbox for now and say there’s various processes that make up what we do, there’s various ways to implement each of these processes. If we haven’t talked about it already, we’re probably just using the hive mind, because that’s the default. What do we want to do instead?

And the right metric to think about there is reducing these unscheduled back and forth messages. So how can we get this thing that we do repeatedly done, without just having to have a bunch of unscheduled back and forth messages?

And then you have a huge toolkit depending on what we’re talking about. But like let’s say you produce a podcast, and there’s steps that have to happen every time to get the episode out. That’s a low-hanging fruit example, where we can automate these steps in such a way that it’s not just sending an email.

“like okay, Mark, take a look at this.” You send an email back and like “hey Geoff, like go through and edit this. What about this?” Okay, we could automate that. It goes into this Dropbox by this time… there’s a spreadsheet where we keep track of all the episodes, we change the cell to the next thing when we’re ready for the next status. When I see that, I grab it… whatever, right?

There’s a process there that doesn’t just involve back and forth… or client questions… you might say, “well, right now we just let clients… they have the email address of some of us. They just email us when they need us.”

Is there a way we could resolve client questions without unscheduled messages? Like okay, what we’re going to do instead is, whatever… we have a weekly call, after which they get a written summary of everything we committed to, or we have a client portal where they can sign up… we have a calendar link in there, where they can go in and sign up to get a call within 24 hours with someone on the team. Whatever.

You’re going process by process and saying, “how do we implement this without just needing unscheduled back and forth messages?” And so the companies that have succeeded, have just gone process by process and said, “we don’t want unscheduled messaging if at all possible.”

You do this enough times and people’s inboxes go from this chatter that you have to constantly check into something like a physical mailbox. “check it once a day, because I’m waiting for this file that might be useful or getting an invoice for my accountant,” or something like that… it’s a completely different way of thinking about work.

Mark: Do they find that once these processes are set up, that there’s some retraining… like, cognitive retraining that needs to happen for employees who are just conditioned to constantly check your email every 10 minutes or so?

Cal: It can be hard… I talked about this small company in Germany, and they went to a… was it a five hour a day workday? They would end their workday around one or two. And they wanted it to really be the end of the workday. And so they realized the way this was going to happen is among other things they had the tame the hive mind, right?

So they’re like we’re going to come in and have more specific processes for how we collaborate, so we’re not on email all day, and so that we’re not in meetings all day.

The CEO was telling me, they had to hire a coach at some point to actually work with employees, and like really retrain them. Because it was so built in so it’s not necessarily an easy lift. I mean, I recommend doing it first just for yourself.

It’s the easiest way to get started. Just look at all the processes in your life, and say given just what I can control, how can I implement this in such a way that reduces the back-and-forth messaging?

Once people are used to that, probably teams are the right granularity. Here’s a team within a company. Let’s agree together on what our new processes are going to be. And let’s check in on a regular basis, and let’s have escape valve if something goes wrong, and make sure everyone has a say. That’s probably the right way to do it.

My fear is if you try to hand these down from the top down in a large enough organization you’re just going to get stagnated in bureaucracy, which is just as bad, right?

So if you have a thousand-person company, and the coo is just going to tell everyone “here’s how we do everything,” that’s not going to work either.

So I think start with the individual to get that mindset going. Get some practice.

And then each team can work out internally, “here’s our processes…” and then they can also for external facing communication with other teams… “here’s our protocols for incoming information to us,” right? So that can be facilitated at the organizational level.

But once you get past the individual to the team level, it’s not a super easy lift. But there is massive productivity on the table here… I mean, massive.

In terms of what you could produce, and reducing turnover, and happiness, and sustainability of the role. So it’s one of these things where it’s absolutely worth it – going through that pain.

Mark: It makes sense. The term “massive” begs a statistic, but it’s probably too early, right? For any research on this. Is it?

Cal: I mean, the statistic I like to cite is from the industrial sector. So Peter Drucker again – if we return to talk about Peter Drucker – he looked at the industrial sector in the 20th century. And said they got serious about asking “how do we actually do things?” And “is there a better way to do it?”

They got serious about that in the early 20th century in particular, and he said because of that focus from 1900 to 1999, that sector grew 50 times. Which is an astronomical number. It was such a generation of wealth that he basically says all of the developed economies of the world were built on the back of the wealth generated by that 50x increase in industrial productivity. So astronomically large increase in productivity.

In 1999, Drucker said “knowledge work right now is where industrial work was in 1900.” Like, we haven’t even really started asking the question of what’s the best way to do this. And so, if there’s anything like a 50x growth lurking, then all of our attention should be here. That’s such a large… that compounds so much over the years. It’s such a world-changing number, that it’s really hard to ignore.

Which, by the way, is why it is increasingly not being ignored… I mean, I hear from more c-suite types, I hear from investors more – they’re starting to realize there’s hundreds of billions of dollars of GDP on the table right here. Because we’re so ineffective about how we do knowledge work, because we’re so stuck with this hive mind type mentality.

People are noticing. That’s too much possible growth to ignore. So this is why I’m very optimistic that this world without email I’m talking about, it’s inevitable. For sure. It’s only a matter of whether or not you’re out in front of it, or you’re trailing behind when these transformations happen.

Mark: Is there any emergent tech or tool that can capture the essence of what your vision is for not getting rid of email entirely but using it in the right way at the right times. While there’s some workflow processes that you can plug and play, or that are easy to implement for the rest of the stuff? Or to get mostly most of the stuff done?

Cal: I mean, there’s no killer app, because each different process has its own demands. And some of these implementations that reduce back and forth are entirely analog. Like we just have this weekly meeting – we figure it all out. Or we have a mailbox where you put the forms to sign in this box – and I sign them on Fridays. You pick them up. Like some of this is just completely analog.

Some of it has to do with communication protocols, so communication tools can be useful. Some of it has to do with project management tools.

Something that came up a lot in the book, for example – to give one concrete example – was task boards. So shared task boards make a lot of appearances in these groups moving past the hyperactive hive mind. Where who’s working on what, its status, and all the related information is on a board we all see. It’s not an email spread out among our inboxes.

It’s Trello or Flow or Basecamp… the specific tool might not matter, but here’s a shared board for each project we’re working on. Here’s everything that’s going on in the project, and the status… and the information – who’s working on what – and you put in different columns based on its status. And we have some way of coming in very quickly and saying “okay, you’re doing this now. Let me assign it to you. What do you need from me?”

Those are an example of something that shows up a lot, right? When people start to think a little bit more critically. How do we want to keep track of who’s working on what? And assign it, and check in, and move information… these task boards are a way to do that that’s much, much more effective from a cognitive usage standpoint than just all of us can just send messages back and forth to all of us as we need things. It’s much superior to that.

Mark: Interesting.

Business and Consulting


Mark: Have some of the executives that you’ve talked to gotten rid of email entirely and allowed a staff member to manage their inbox for them? And if so – what worked for them? How did that work?

Because I’ve toyed with that myself. I’ve had this fantasy of having my assistant do it, but every time I’ve tried to go there, it actually creates more work for me.

So I guess I’m not a good process set up kind of guy. I need a little support there.

Cal: Well, it’s a good example of the underlying dynamic. So to get out of your own inbox – if what you try to do is just “here’s my inbox. I do a lot of stuff through the hive mind. Let me give it to someone else.” Say, “hey, you handle this.”

It doesn’t work well. Because they say “well look, I can’t hit all these ping pong balls back over the net for you. You’re in the middle of these informal collaborations, and decisions, and communications with all these people. Me, as your assistant, I don’t know what to tell them,” right?

Where people can get really away from their inboxes where they couple that commitment with “well, let me figure out the different types of interactions or processes I’m involved with. And put something else in place.” Like, “this is how I deal with this – this is how I deal with that – this is how I deal with this.”

And then you’re in a situation where you don’t really need that inbox. You don’t really have to interact with an inbox. And maybe an assistant can then either take care of what remains, or because things are really clearly defined how things work – they’re much more able to be a part of those interactions on your behalf.

But I think the failure of people to just simply say “you handle my inbox,” underscores the degree to which we’re using these inboxes as just this like informal, let’s figure everything out on the fly. So, it’s a good inducement towards we got to figure out better ways of doing this collaboration. Because until we do you can’t outsource that. You can’t hand that off to someone else, because they can’t be you.

But the irony, of course, is once you optimize these processes – so less back and forth unscheduled messaging – your need to have someone else be between you and the inbox really reduces. Because the pressure on that inbox really reduces.

So, it’s one of these interesting things where technology can actually play the role of an assistant for you, if you couple it with real serious thinking about how do we actually want to do all these different things that happen frequently in our organization?

Mark: Right. I’m sure some listeners are thinking what I’m thinking right now – that sounds great, Cal. Has anyone figured out how to turn this into a consulting practice or coaching business, so that I can get some help?

Cal: (laughing) I’m sure they will.

Mark: (laughing) me too. It’s a huge opportunity. I might do it myself.

Cal: Well, I mean the money on the table is so huge because of what’s on the line here in terms of when you do this swapping. So it’s an interesting question. The place where I think this will change… I mean, my book will help change this – that will have more of this process re-engineering mindset to knowledge work in general.

To me that’s the biggest jump we have to get over. We have to get over this autonomy notion. This notion of like, it’s up to the individual. We got to think about process re-engineering, I think there’ll be a big consulting world there.

The one niche in here where there is already a pretty thriving consulting industry is for automation. So of all the different processes that you could handle with back-and-forth messages and replace with something better, one type of process are those that can be automated, right? In the sense of it’s always the same steps in the same order – this information goes here, this person does that, then it goes to this person – been a lot of interesting work with tools like Air Table for example coupled with something like Zapier – which hooks air table into various applications you might have on your computer.

There’s a pretty thriving consultant scene out there for people that come in and automate the things that can be automated. Like, the whole process of – I was just talking to someone recently, a podcaster that has completely automated the whole pipeline of asking someone to be on the show, getting their information, making sure they have the information, getting all the information for the show, doing the recording, the recording getting to the editor with the right stuff…

Like, the whole thing has been bound together with this software glue. So the whole thing requires very little interaction from them. So that’s just one of many ways you can start to move past these backs and forths – but that’s one way where there’s a lot of interesting thinking.

I think it’s gonna be a huge industry, honestly. I think management consulting became a huge industry in the second half of the 20th century in particular. I think in this first half the 21st century this sort of knowledge work process re-engineering could be massive, because you’re going to come into a company, get processes that stick, and everyone’s going to be 3x more productive and your turnover is going to drop.

I mean, that’s a huge ROI. And I so I think it’s inevitable that you’re going to see that being a much bigger industry.

Mark: That’s fascinating. One of my friends I’m doing a podcast with next Friday is the CEO of EY. I’m going to ask him about this – like, what are they thinking and how are they approaching this because I’m sure that they’re involved in some way, you would think, right? These global consultancies are probably being asked to figure this out, somehow.

Cal: Yeah, except for the consultants themselves are famously hive-minded…

Mark: (laughing) right, I know. Maybe they need to start with themselves, right?

Cal: Yeah, I would say let me see your inbox first before I hire you to help us with our hive mind problem.

Mark: The people who are running these organizations, and even you and I, are educated middle-aged professionals. And many of us didn’t grow up with email in our youth, right? And so our minds were already structured and okay with more analog work.

But what about our youth, right? Those born after 2008, after Steve Jobs landed the iPhone on us… how are we going to work with the next wave of professionals? Who are coming into the workforce, who are just like glued… and also are looking forward to having it implanted in their head.

Cal: It’s an issue for sure. I think their brains have become very used to a very fragment fragmented type of attention existence – so jump to this, jump to that, jump to this, jump to that…

Which is – as we talked about before – exactly the opposite of how you want to design a cognitive landscape if you want to actually try to add value to information using your brain. We can’t do that context shifting.

And I think the young generation has told themselves this story that we’ve adapted to that, right? Like “Mark and Cal, they don’t know about this, they didn’t grow up with it – but we did. We’ve adapted to it.”

But you can’t in 20 years change 200 000 years’ worth of neural wiring, right? We have not actually evolved to be able to very quickly context shift or have two parallel tracks of attention going.

We still can’t do that, so what we really have is just a generation that is suppressing their cognitive capabilities. And that itself probably has an economic hit. Because it’s not just they’re very comfortable with slack and email and going back and forth, but obviously they’re doing this more on their own with their phones. They’re doing this more on their own with social media, etc.

And of all the debates we have about things like social media, being online, etc.… the piece of the debate we probably don’t have enough, is the economic impact. Of taking an economy that’s becoming increasingly knowledge based – so it’s up to 50% of our economy and growing now – it’s a sector of our economy that depends on just brains producing value.

And we are getting more and more addicted to behavior – connected to behavior – that makes us worse and worse at that, right? And so we may have talked about the Sparta analogy in a previous conversation – but it would be like if you’re in ancient Sparta where warfare was your business. Like, “this is what our city-state does. We need to be good at it. It’s how we survive.”

If you saw people get into a habit of eating terribly and whatever the ancient Greek equivalent of smoking is, and it was putting them into terrible shape and making him very bad at fighting. We’d say “this is terrible. We have to build our whole society to be in good shape and brave.”

That’s what’s really happening right now. We’re rebuilding our society to be built around our brains and our ability to concentrate, while having a culture concurrent to that in which we get really bad at using our brains, and really bad at concentrating.

So I think it’s more of an issue than people think. We look at the more proximate issues with these with these problems… like, “well what are people saying on social media? And who’s on there? And are the wrong ideas spreading?”

But there’s this step back and say, what’s the impact on a cognitive culture when we spend all of our time doing this back-and-forth attention switching? Which really has a negative effect on our brains?

Mark: That’s fascinating. We touched on this earlier on in the show, but I think one of the biggest challenges that we have as a as a race – or as humans – we don’t really have a collective vision or plan for the future. It’s not how things work. Technology comes – like you said – we just grab onto it and run with it irrespective of what potential negative outcomes there could be.

And we don’t have a mechanism to like pause and slow down and think “is this really a good idea?”

I remember reading recently about the Manhattan project and how some of the researchers on the project started to get really cold feet. And they started saying “slow down. Let’s ask these questions. Let’s ask better questions.”

But by then the cat was out of the bag – the train was in motion, you know?

Cal: Yeah, I agree with you on that. And part of the issue here, and part of the solution we can get from this diagnosis is if we flip things around and say “okay, I’m very intentional about my life. I’m very intentional about the way I run my businesses. I know what I’m about. I know what I’m trying to do and what I’m trying to avoid.”

And from that mindset you then turn around and look at the landscape of new tools and innovations. That works pretty well. “so, I know what I’m all about. So let me let me pull this tool over here, because it helps me do that. I know my company’s really interested in this. If we use this in this way, that seems to really help.”

Where we get into trouble with the new innovations is where we just let them wander into our lives arbitrarily. Like “this seems interesting. I don’t know, everyone’s on clubhouse, I guess I should be on clubhouse. Email – I don’t like my fax machine – let’s just start using email.”

When we don’t actually think about how we’re deploying these tools and why, we keep having these ecological shifts – and one of the interesting things is there’s a whole field of study called the philosophy of technology. All throughout the 20th century we had a lot of “big think” type books and articles from people who were thinking about what was called “technological determinism.” Basically the way in which you introduce a tool for reason x, and then it creates this whole other change that no one expected, right?

And a lot of people were thinking this through. It was really interesting. And there’s like this famous book from the 50s for example – it was called “The Structure of Social Change in Medieval Europe,” where they basically… it’s this very careful scholarship to trace back the introduction of the horse stirrup to medieval Europe… created feudalism.

They connected the whole thing. They brought it in – it came from the steppes, it was like an easier way to ride horses, but it allowed knights to brace themselves when they were doing a lance attack. It was like this whole shock warfare.

And feudalism had to arise as a way to “how do we actually support an armored cavalry? Because it requires a huge amount of land, and the only way we’re gonna have to do this is if we break up the land. And so we have to get the land from the churches, and give it to nobles, so that they can support a certain…”

Blah-blah-blah. It’s a whole book about it, right? But it was an accidental side effect of this one piece of technology.

A lot of that thinking has gone away. It went out of favor in academia right around the time that we were having a lot of these digital revolutions. And so this way of thinking went out of favor in the ‘90s. Other ways of thinking became more popular, because of other currents in academia.

So you got things like the social construction of technology, became much more dominant, which was much more about “I don’t really care about what exactly is this technology doing. I just want to use technology as another lens for us to understand social struggle and the way groups compete with other groups for power.”

And so because of those trends in academia, our big minds stopped thinking as much about what could happen when technologies come in. That happened to be concurrent with the internet revolution, and the smartphone revolution, the email revolution…

And so I think we were kind of caught unaware. We didn’t have the public intellectuals doing that type of thinking nearly as much. And these changes of the last 20 to 25 years – this tech – has had these massive, massive changes. We realize that now.

I mean, people used to think I was eccentric back in 2014 for saying “be careful about the social media stuff. It’s not just some exuberant innovation that’s toppling dictatorships. And getting around gatekeepers and expressing this… like, there’s some issues going on here.”

And people thought I was eccentric. And you fast forward three years, and everyone’s on the same page of “how do we stop these companies?” (laughing) it’s like the scourge of our civilization.

So we need – this is a more general point – but we need more of this technological deterministic type of thinking. You’ve got to be careful about what the tech does, and the best way to be careful about it, is to deploy it for a very specific reason. So that you can see if this is causing other problems not related to the goal I have – I immediately notice it and can start saying “how do I course correct.”

Mark: Right. I’m kind of struck also by how academia and our educational system has moved more and more toward kind of micro-subjects and disconnecting things and going deep on one particular strand, without really looking at the whole. So there’s really less and less meta-analysis both of future history, how things interact… do you see that? Because you’re a meta thinker, and you’re also an academic.

Do you see that shifting at all? Or am I off on that altogether? Is there still a lot of meta thinkers? I haven’t seen much of that, and I was in a doctorate program and I wanted to do more of a meta-study, and I was kind of discouraged from it. They said “nah, that’s not going to contribute really to the knowledge. We want you to go deep on this one little, tiny little area.”

Cal: I mean, I think specialization is a trend that certainly continues. Yeah, meta-thinking is more broadly discouraged. Now part of it is just the complexity… I mean, this is definitely true in the scientific fields where I’m involved – just the complexity of what we do has grown to the part where it’s hard to be a specialist in more than one thing. Just because it’s so hard.

Mark: It’s hard to get data at a meta-level, too. That makes sense.

Cal: Yeah. But even like the math Einstein had to learn to do the theory of relativity is now math that a second-year grad student would have already mastered. And the modern quantum mechanics takes many more years even just to get to the place where you could do that work.

But meta-thinking, I think, is largely discouraged. Public-facing engagement with ideas is always a complicated thing in academia. I mean, I walk a complicated tight-rope by doing public-facing meta-thinking on things like tech and society.

It’s not something that’s often directly rewarded. It’s often seen with suspicion in a lot of universities, sometimes it’s even punished. And then you also have the trend issues in universities where it’s very pack-like. So certain intellectual schemes will come in, and there’ll be a lot of pressure to like just everything has to be done through this lens.

So it’s difficult… in different periods of intellectual history, it can be difficult to say I want to stand back and have an original take, or an original synthesis. It’s hard, right?

Because you have people saying, “that’s not what our team is doing right now.” So that can be difficult as well.

And we don’t emphasize this with kids. I mean, we should study how to actually concentrate. A big part of the university experience should be comfort with the discomfort of grappling with thoughts. We should do that, just like if you’re training to play professional sports, you going to do a lot of wind sprints, right? Because you’ve got to be in good cardiovascular shape.

We got to be in good cognitive shape, but we don’t… it’s this autonomy mindset. Like we shouldn’t tell people how to do their academic work, or this… you just figure it out, we’re just gonna give you the assignments. I think we should think about that.

I think you shouldn’t be able to get out of an institution of higher education without having to do some original big thinking. Like, you need to produce like a new yorker style, long-form article that like has a big idea – that’s synthesized some pieces. And we’re going to keep running you through the ringer of this… let’s push back, how do you collect ideas? How do you synthesize? How do you take in opposing ideas? How do you argue against it? How do you make a good rhetorical case? What’s good rhetoric or bad rhetoric?

And not that not to go on… but rhetoric is a whole other thing. I think the presence of tools like twitter have completely diminished people’s understanding of rhetoric. It used to be something we studied – like how do you actually make arguments? How do you understand? How do you work forward to get to the truth?

And a lot of that has been replaced with a sort of twitter fueled sophism, where it’s this sort of simplistic dunk culture which would make Plato cry. (laughing) “wait a second. Wait, you’re telling me 2 000 years from now, this is how people are arguing? Wait, I thought I was kicking off a golden age of reason.”

So I think anyways it’s all to say there’s a lot of meta-skills, all having to do with thinking, producing thoughts, engaging with ideas… that need to be trained, just as much as learning how to do differential calculus. And we don’t.

Mark: Right, I totally agree. In fact, that’s one of the key tenets of our program Unbeatable Mind is to teach people how to concentrate. How to understand context, separate from the context. How to take multiple perspectives, and to really come to a greater understanding of what’s going on.

That’s really not taught – you’re right – it’s not taught. More teaching or thinking into how to teach people how to think, as opposed to just what to think, right?

Cal: And it’s another place where tech has these unexpected impacts. This was another Neil Postman idea in his book “amusing ourselves to death.” Just the medium through which you communicate affects the way you think and understand the world.

And this came out, I mean, he died before social media… but a lot of people believe, and I agree with this that the form of social media – like twitter for example – it impacts the way you understand the world and think. Like the tools can impact what you think.

If you’re mainly communicating through books, you think in a much more lexigraphic, long-form discursive way. Postman’s argument was the arrival of the printed book changed the way we thought about the world, because you could have long discursive discussions and arguments. And it was this shift in the way we thought – the way our brains actually worked – that made the scientific revolution possible. That made the enlightenment possible.

You had to have the tool first, this is his cool big theory – you had to have the book, and once we were communicating with books, it changed the way we thought about thoughts. And we started thinking in a way that made Galileo possible or made Hume possible.

And so the follow-up to that is like “okay, if we’re spending a lot of time on twitter, it’s going to change the way we understand the world. The way we think.”

But probably – in this case – in a way that’s not great. It’s going to give us a schema for understanding the world that’s very tribal… a very simple rhetorical setup, where there’s people who are obviously wrong, and you’re obviously right and it’s a matter of just getting the right angle to do the dunk and everyone will applaud you.

This stuff matters. The medium actually dictates the way the message itself actually forms in your head.

Cal: Wow, that’s fascinating. As we wrap up here, I’d love to give the listeners some practical tips. And let’s just expand it to just digital minimalism so that we can concentrate and do deep work. And this idea of email processing or setting up email processes being a subset of that.

But maybe approach it from the perspective of how you organize your life to get all the amazing things accomplished that you do. What are some to tips.

Cal: One thing I recommend – especially when it comes to this overload issue – is use your actual in inbox like right now as it exists to figure out what are the processes I keep executing again and again. And the way to do it is just every email that comes in that you’re answering, say, “what larger repeated process is this a part of? Oh, this is part of the answering client emails process, I guess, because I’m getting back to a client.”

“I’m setting up a meeting here. Okay, this is about my meeting setup process.” If you just go through your inbox in a typical day, you can list out, “oh, here’s all the things that I mainly come back to again and again that make up my job.”

I really recommend doing that. Because once you see your job as a collection of these repeated processes – these things you come back to again and again – now you have the option of optimizing. And so do that exercise, have the list, see all the things that make up your normal workday.

And then start asking for each, “how do I actually implement this? Do I just jump on slack or just jump on email? What could I do that might have less of these unscheduled messages?”

“what about this one? What’s the way to do this that would have less of the unscheduled messages?” Switching to that mindset of optimizing processes and away from “I’m optimizing how I interact with an inbox.” That makes all the difference.

And then once you’re in that mindset, and you start making some changes, you will see really big changes. The simplest process to optimize in this way is if you have to set up meetings a lot – shift over to a scheduling software – like Schedule Once or Acuity or – this is a process that most people are involved in, that creates a lot of back-and-forth messages. It’s a real cognitive weight that we kind of overlook.

And that’s a great way to put your toe in the water here. It’s a simple process we all do. You throw some of the software at it, you do one message meeting scheduling – “here’s all my times. Pick what works for you.”

That gives people a real taste, and then they start thinking, “okay, well what are these other processes where I could do something similar? So that’s a good way, I think, to get your feet wet with this whole approach of replacing the hive mind process by process.

Mark: What has worked for you to get your brain disengaged from constantly grasping for email? I mean, what tricks do you use to get just technologicalized in that regard?

Cal: Well, the less demand you have to be in there the better, right? So if just the number of back-and-forth conversations needing your attention is greatly reduced, the attraction or pressure starts to be either checked out or think about that is greatly reduced. So you really have to bleed off a lot of this steam.

And that’s where replacing the processes help. And then once you’ve bled off a lot of this steam, and now your inbox isn’t so demanding, because it’s not so much of this real time back and forth that you have to be a part of, then you can corral it.

And I time block plan – that’s my big thing – so I work out a plan for the hours of my day in advance. And here’s what I want to do then, here’s what I want to do at this point, here’s what I do during this time…

Then when you’re time block planning, you can say, “this is when I’m going to do email. And then I’ll do it again here.”

But to get to that point where you can really corral – “this is the time I work with communication.” Not for everyone, but for most people, you’re going to have to bleed off a lot of steam from within that inbox. Because it’s not going to work.

If you have 35 ongoing back and forth conversations, as much as you want to say “okay, I’ll just check my email once in the morning,” good luck. Like that pressure – that thing’s going to explode. So you got to let off the steam by replacing the underlying processes, until you get to a point where once or twice a day is all the engagement you need with your inbox.

That should be your goal. And again I understand for most people if you just checked your inbox right now twice a day would be a problem, so you have to replace the processes until it’s not a problem. And then you’re going to really start to hit a sweet spot of productivity.

Mark: Yeah, that’s cool. I love that.

So what’s next? Your work it’s like following threads – one leads to another, leads to another, leads to another… what’s next for you? Like, what has this research led you to that is opening up for you? Your next frontier?

Cal: I mean, I’m not quite sure what I want to do next – but one idea that’s emerged out of this that I’m really interested in is overload. And I’ve been really looking into this notion – I started scratching this edge when I was working on this book – that we have a human instinct for action. So there’s this human instinct…

We want to do things… boredom is very distasteful, it feels bad… it’s a very deep drive to get us to do things. So just like we have a deep drive to eat – like, hunger is very important to us – I think we’ve set up an environment of tasks in our – not just in work, but outside of work – we’re probably overloading this instinct and it’s making us really unhappy.

So, just like when we respond to our hunger by eating a bunch of junk – we end up worse. And so I’ve been fascinated recently with trying to really understand from a paleoanthropological view this action instinct. And the context in which it evolved.

Is it possible – like what would work look like, or education look like, or just your life outside of work look like if you tried to actually tailor the amount of work you do to match that instinct? So that you’re not bored, but you don’t feel this chronic overload.

I have the suspicion that we put drastically too much on our plate, and we don’t realize the degree to which this chronic overload is like a chronic disease. It’s playing with this instinct for action and it’s making us miserable in ways we don’t understand.

So, I’m interested in that right now. So, I’ve been going down that alleyway – because I think we do too much. And I think the response to that, that says, “oh, we should just do nothing,” is also misguided. I think there’s some sweet spot in there of okay, if we wanted to have a evolutionarily justified approach to like how much work we should do, and what work should look like. And how much stuff we should be doing with our family. And how many pursuits we should be doing…

I think there’s a lot of instinct there. And a lot of insights to be extracted. But it’s a hard question, because we don’t fully understand that action instinct. So that’s the rabbit hole I’ve been falling down recently.

Mark: Yeah, I love that. I’d love to follow up on that. And that’s been a big drive for me, is to do less things and I think – I can’t remember if this came out of your work or essentialism – do less things better, right? And so part of that is to carve out a massive amount of time to just be. And to think, and to plan, and to meditate. And to train.

So, I don’t do anything before 11 a.m. I know it’s tough for an academic to do that, but I don’t take any meetings before 11 a.m. every day. And I’m done by four. And I have three deep work blocks, and then stuff that fits in between.

So, it forces me to be very, very selective about what I’m going to do every day. And then with that selectivity comes… either it pushes it off way down – weeks out – in which cases a lot of things that – of course you know – that I thought were important, aren’t so urgent, important anymore, and they go away.

Or I find some way for someone else to do it, or I just say no. And I’m still working on saying no.

Cal: Do less. But see I think you’re on to something. And I don’t have all the foundations intellectual for this yet, but we need to name this instinct. This instinct towards action. Because it screws us two ways – I think one, in the moment you take on too much, because there’s a reward in the moment when you say “yes, I’m gonna do this.” There’s this reward for “yeah, we should be doing action.”

And so we say yes way too much. Because in the moment you get the reward for like, “oh, I’m doing something. I like the idea of doing something.” So we take on too much.

The flip side of this action instinct – I’m assuming – is that if you don’t accomplish something that you set out to do, you feel bad. Because it’s trying to drive us to actually complete things. So then we get screwed on the other end, because now we have too much on our plate to really get done well. And that makes us miserable.

And so it’s just like “well, I’m hungry. And I get the reward in the moment for grabbing all the chips and the candy bars.” But then down the line you say, “oh man, I feel terrible and I’m sick.”

Mark: The flip side of that is if you’re just constantly doing things, you’re not taking time to evaluate which are the right things to do, right? So it’s like the idea of tripping over dollars on the way to the pennies from an idea standpoint.

And I find like – even to this day – things that slip through… like I’m going back and forth today with this stupid journal I’ve been trying to create which I just wasn’t getting done. So I tried to outsource it, it’s not getting done and so now I’m going back and forth on this 5,000-dollar project which I shouldn’t have been touching.

So I’m like, “okay, I should have had a better process for that. Or I should have said no.

Cal: Yeah, and I think you mentioned Greg McKeown – I think he’s really smart on this with essentialism, right? That we do too much, and we should do less. I just think that’s an idea we need to keep pushing. I mean, it’s such a crucial idea.

It’s like the very first book that comes out that says “we should probably care about what we eat.” You’re like “yes, that’s right. I think we need to keep looking at this.”

I think there’s a lot to unpack here, and so there’s something going on here with this chronic overload, it’s making us miserable. And there’s been a lot of books that make me a little bit concerned that their response to the chronic overload is like we should do nothing. And that that any drive to want to do something is mainly just like an exploitative relationship with someone who’s trying to exploit you.

And really, you just want to do nothing. That’s not right either.

Mark: That’s not right.

Cal: We want to do things. I mean, let’s talk to Victor Frankel about logotherapy. It’s kind of important to have things to do, but we’ve fallen out of sync with our instinct. Which is a story that happens again and again throughout the history of humans – that as our context changes away from our ancestral environment, we fall out of sync with our instincts all the time.

This is what I think is happening with productivity. We’ve fallen out of sync and six monitors at the same time, jumping from this on email and doing all the social media… 19 projects and building out these teams that are bigger than we need. And jumping on zooms.

And we’re eating a bunch of junk food.

Mark: (laughing) I love it. Fascinating conversation, Cal. Thanks so much for your time, man. I love it, I love to follow your work and I can’t wait to take another look at my inbox and figure out what I can turn into a process. That’s going to be my next project today…

Cal: I love it.

Mark: Yeah. So thanks again. Your book, “The World Without Email” is in the marketplace. Before we go, how else can people find you? What’s your favorite platform for interacting with people?

Cal: Well, I don’t really have any platforms. I do have a podcast – it’s one way – I have a podcast called “Deep Questions” where I twice a week answer questions from my audience on all this type of stuff. From the big ideas to the “how do I get out of this email jam?”

And my newsletters at That’s where I write my weekly essays on these topics as well.

Mark: Awesome. “A World Without Email: Reimagining Work in a World of Communication Overload.” Man, I’m gonna get that book as soon as I hang up here. I usually like to read these before the podcast, so I apologize that I hadn’t.

But what a really important contribution, Cal, thanks so much. And we’ll talk to you soon, I hope.

Cal: Great. Thanks Mark.

Mark: All right. You take care.

All right folks, that’s the Unbeatable Mind podcast. Wow, you’re going to want to forward this one and listen to it twice. And have your whole team listen to it. Super, super important. A lot of important topics covered here. I recommend you go out and get Cal’s book “A World Without Email.”

And when you’re done with that go get “Digital Minimalism” and “Deep Work.” They’re all really, really important contributions. Great stuff.

Thanks so much for supporting the Unbeatable Mind podcast. Really appreciate it. Don’t forget to rate us on iTunes or wherever else you listen to podcasts.

And until next time, stay focused and turn your email into a process. And stop crushing yourself with that anxiety.

Stay focused. Be unbeatable.


Divine out.

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