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In today’s fast-paced world, the chase for more—more output, more success, more everything—often leads to burnout and dissatisfaction. 

What if there was a better way? 

In this episode, I interview Cal Newport, who offers a refreshing perspective on the productivity conversation. 

Specifically, he introduces the concept of slow productivity, a method that prioritizes deep, meaningful work over the constant hustle that’s become the norm.

It’s not just about doing less for the sake of it, either. Slow productivity is about focusing on what truly matters and doing it well, which, counterintuitively, produces better work and a more balanced life. 

There’s no question that overload and constant context switching from “busyness” and pseudo-productivity are detrimental to not only our work, but our lives. With his slow productivity approach, Cal is challenging all of us to redefine our concepts of productivity and success, and offers actionable advice on leading more intentional lives.

In case you’re not familiar with Cal, he’s an MIT-trained computer science professor at Georgetown University and the bestselling author of many books, including Deep Work and Digital Minimalism, which explore the benefits of focused work and the importance of minimizing digital distractions in our lives. 

In other words, Cal’s writing career has consistently aimed at helping individuals craft more productive, meaningful, and balanced lives in an increasingly digital world.

In this interview, you’ll learn:

  • What pseudo-productivity is, why it’s problematic, and how doing fewer things can lead to better productivity and higher quality work.
  • How slowing down, with variation in intensity and rest, can boost both wellbeing and outcomes
  • Why obsessing over the right things and mastering your craft provides meaning and direction
  • How AI will expose what activities really drive value
  • Why real-world accomplishments satisfy deeper than digital ones (like video games or social media)
  • How to prepare for the potential impact of AI on information work
  • And more . . .

So if you’ve ever felt overwhelmed by your to-do list, questioned the relentless pursuit of busyness, or are just feeling the tension between ambition and burnout, press play and give this interview a listen for practical tips on an alternative.


0:00 – Please leave a review of the show wherever you listen to podcasts and make sure to subscribe!

1:59 – What Inspired Cal Newport’s Concept of Slow Productivity?

3:00 – Why Do We Often Believe More is Always Better?

23:43 – Shop Legion Supplements Here: and use coupon code MUSCLE to save 20% or get double reward points!

26:53 – Balancing Life and Work: Cal Newport’s Personal Journey

36:51 – Finding Your Productive Rhythm: Cal on Periodization

39:37 – Unsure of Priorities? How to Find What Truly Matters

53:31 – Will AI Change Our Approach to Quality vs. Quantity in Work?

01:02:59 – Where can people find you and your work?

Mentioned on the Show:

Shop Legion Supplements Here: and use coupon code MUSCLE to save 20% or get double reward points!

Cal’s Website

Slow Productivity:

Cal’s Podcast Deep Questions:


Mike: Hey there and welcome to another episode of muscle for life. I am your host, Mike Matthews. Thank you for joining me today for an interview with Cal Newport about his new book, slow productivity, which offers a refreshing perspective on productivity, especially in today’s hustle culture, which is a never ending chase for more, more output, more success, more.

More work, more busyness, more everything, which of course can lead to burnout, can lead to dissatisfaction, disillusionment, and as you will hear in today’s episode, Cal wants us to consider countering all of that with what he calls slow productivity, which is about focusing on what really matters, focusing on deep, meaningful work, and on doing it really well.

And if we can do this, Cal argues, we can also redefine our concepts of productivity, of success, and produce better work and a more balanced and sustainable lifestyle. And in case you are not familiar with Cal, he is an MIT trained computer science professor at Georgetown University. He’s also the bestselling author of I have multiple books including Deep Work and Digital Minimalism which explore the benefits of focused work and the importance of minimizing digital distractions in our lives.

And if you like today’s interview, you should definitely pick up Deep Work in addition to Slow Productivity. Read both of them because I think they complement each other nicely. Hey, Cal, it’s nice to meet you. And, uh, as, as I said, offline, I’m, I’m a fan. I’ve been a long time Cal Newport enjoyer. So I’ve been looking forward to this interview.

Cal: Yeah, Mike, I was looking for this as well. This, this should be fun.

Mike: So we’re here to talk about your new book, uh, which is slow productivity. And as you might expect, I thought we should start the interview there just because, uh, the title is, is I ramp is ironic in a good way because, because productivity is, I’ll say that, uh, it’s, it’s a it’s a genre. I’ve read a fair amount in over the years, and I mostly stopped reading in it because I felt like the next book that I would read was just derivative of the last five that I read. So with this title of slow productivity, I like the. Apparent contradiction there, because with productivity usually comes the connotation of fast.

How do we get more things done in less time? So what, what is this concept of slow productivity? What, what inspired you to, to write this book and explore this idea?

Cal: Well, I mean, I think the fact. That slow productivity sounds ironic is the whole problem sort of encapsulated in the way we’ve been thinking about productivity.

So the way I came to this, it was really two forces. So there was internal things that were happening in my own life, mainly around my family. So I have three boys and they were getting to a certain age, which was roughly elementary school age, where I began to realize they need basically every minute I can give them.

Like the dose function here was entirely linear, you know, the more time I can give them the healthier and better they are. So I had this internal pressure going on because I’m, you know, the peak of my creative and professional abilities. And yet there’s this other important thing in my life that. Really needed a lot of time.

Then the pandemic hit and a lot of my podcast listeners and book readers started writing into me and they were expressing similar discomforts and in particular, just comforts with the word productivity, they had discomforts with what they were calling productivity discourse. I mean, they were just upset, burnt out and upset and saying, look, these, these, these other things in my life, they’re important. What’s going on here? Those came together. And I said, okay, let me look into this deeper. What’s going on here? Like, why am I struggling with the idea of productivity? Why are all these other people struggling?

And one of the first things that became clear is because we don’t really know what that word means. So, so I did a survey. 700 people. Mainly knowledge workers ask them define productivity. Like what is productivity in your job? Almost no one could do it. I mean, most people would just basically summarize what they did for a job.

You know, productivity is producing. Client reports that are good or something, right? But there was no actual technical definition of this is what I’m trying to do. This is how I measure this. This is what makes productivity good versus bad. It was more a vibe or a feeling. And so I peeled back these layers more.

So, so what are we really doing when we talk about being productive? And essentially the answer was, is we have this old industrial age definition that we implicitly take on that I called pseudo productivity, which basically said. Activity is better than non activity. More is better than less. And we just, we took that on starting about the 1950s.

We didn’t really discuss it. And that has been without us knowing it really, I think, guiding or driving the way we’ve thought about productivity ever since more is better than less. Activity is better than non activity. And it puts us into this constant state of tension between our work and everything else.

Because every minute you’re not doing work is a minute in which you are violating the spirit of pseudo productivity. So you’re constantly having to negotiate between your professional possibilities and everything else that matters when you’re in a pseudo productivity regime. So I basically said, that’s the problem.

Let’s blow up that definition. Let’s come up with a brand new definition of productivity. Here’s my standard. It should allow you to produce stuff that you’re really proud of and matters. It should do so without burning you out or letting your life, uh, be completely taken over. By work, those were the starting principles I had and slow productivity is what I came up with the satisfied them.

Mike: And what do you think, um, is, is alluring about this idea of more is better and staying busy doing things is, is better than not because, because there does seem to be some truth. It’s not maybe not that those propositions are completely false. Would you agree?

Cal: Well, they’re too simplistic. I think it’s the problem.

I mean, the appeal is simplicity where that idea came from was actually industrial manufacturing. So, you know, productivity as a concept and economic concept is really well defined. It starts with agriculture, where it was a measure of units of agricultural output per unit of land. So bushels per acre, it was a number you could measure.

And you can say, okay, I’m using a new system for rotating my crops. My bushels per acre have increased. So I objectively know this is a better system. And then when we went to industrial manufacturing, after the industrial revolution, we could measure units of product produced. Her labor hour input it as input, right?

So we could say I built an assembly line and now the labor hours per model T has dropped by a factor of 10. This is a better way to produce automobiles. The problem with knowledge work, which is what emerged as a major sector, like roughly in the mid century, mid 20th century, is that we don’t just do one thing.

We have all sorts of different types of activities. There is no clear unified system we all use to execute our activities. So we’re not measuring how well does. Technique A work versus technique B. It’s more ad hoc and individualized. The key word is autonomy. It’s up to you to manage your own workload, to manage your own processes for organizing your work.

In that environment, when you keep the same attitude of more widgets is better than less, it doesn’t necessarily build the better results. I mean, what it builds to is a lot of busyness. But one of my big arguments in the book. Is just maximizing activity can actually drastically reduce the quality, the total quality and the total quantity of stuff you produce.

It doesn’t necessarily produce more stuff, especially if you have a quality threshold.

Mike: Could you explain more on that point in particular and maybe give a couple of examples that people can relate to?

Cal: So let’s talk about overload, right? So, so like the first principle in the book says do fewer things, which I think people when they hear that at first, they think of this as a wellness suggestion.

You know, like I’m saying. This is a zero sum game. Yes, this will be worse for your boss or your clients or your company, but you need to take care of yourself. I actually think doing fewer things is a move to be more profitable. It’s, it’s a move to be more valuable to your boss or to your clients, uh, or, or to your own business.

Here’s why. So what happens when you put something on your plate? Like I agree to do something. Well, typically that commitment is going to bring with it what I call an overhead tax, which is administrative overhead that is going to constantly call it your attention. So I, you know, I have to answer emails about this thing I’ve agreed to do.

I got to do meetings about this thing that I agreed to do, I have to just let some cognitive real estate be dedicated to this thing that I have to do. So what happens as you put more and more commitments on your plate is the total quantity of this overhead tax that begins to increase. Now, more and more of your day is actually spent servicing the logistical overhead of task as opposed to actually making quality or progress, quality progress on these underlying things you committed to do.

So now, 50, 60, 70 percent of your day is servicing important work as opposed to actually doing the work. Now, this feels very, very busy because it is. I mean, you’re jumping from call to email to call the email. You’re not being lazy. But you’re not making very much progress on the actual core task. So if you compare that to someone who says, I’m going to do very few things at a time, I’m going to do those things well, they have more of their day available to actually work on what matters, which means not only do they produce better work because they’re not being interrupted, they’ll be able to put more hours into it each day.

And if you zoom out to a month or a year. They’re probably turning through more actual completed objectives than the person that overloads their plate because they’re spending a much smaller percentage of their day in overhead and much more of their day uninterrupted working on what matters. So slowing down your workload is like one key way.

That you can actually not only just gain sustainability and avoid burnout, but I mean, you’re gonna produce better work that that’s the key to actually doing stuff that matters on. It shows this difference. Busyness doesn’t mean productive action forward, especially if that business is you just trying to juggle.

The overhead tax of 10 things you committed to do none of that activity is really making much of a difference writing the report makes the difference emailing people being in meetings about the report. That’s just eating up time so so doing fewer things slowing down your workload is one way that you’re actually I think going to get more stuff done in the long run.

Mike: I found that the general quality of my work as I agree with everything you just said even addition to that even if I look at the time, uh, that I’ve allotted to various things in the past when I would say I probably was objectively trying to do a bit too much, even though I could make that work, I still feel like if I compare that to more recent in the last couple of years, I’ve, I’ve, uh, taken on fewer projects and I’ve found that I think the quality of my work, if I look at it on a, just like a per unit of time basis has also increased and maybe that’s because I, I, we only have so much mental bandwidth. I mean, we talk about that. You talk about this overhead tax. I feel like though, that it’s like a, it’s like a process that’s always running in the background.

And you can’t always, you can’t just fully shut it off. Even if you’re good at focusing and controlling your attention and doing what you’re doing when you’re doing it. I have personally found that fewer things just, especially when it comes to creative type projects, just seems to produce better work, uh, for the time that, that I have to give it.

Cal: Well, you see this in an extreme example in literary novelists, right? So if you look at the work habits of novelists, and I do a bunch of this in the book, they spend three, maybe four hours a day. Max on a typical day working on a novel. It’s very hard, right? Writing novels is very hard. Most of these famous novelists, the ones that win the awards, they don’t do much else.

Right. They don’t have podcasts. They’re not, uh, jumping back and forth with subsidiary businesses. Here’s my online course to learn how to write. Uh, I also started up like a teaching program at such and such college. They write and they do nothing else. And it’s not that surprising. I think the athletes, because they see the analogy to rest and physical, physical activity, but for the novelist, they have exactly the issue you’re talking about.

I need to just shut down when I’m done writing. I don’t care if it’s 1 p. m. I mean, my brain, I just need to shut down. This is hard. It needs to rest and recuperate. Right? So it’s, it’s not that they don’t have the physical time, but you’re absolutely right. Commitments take up mental real estate. They sit there, there’s a cognitive tax, even if you’re not physically doing something relevant to that commitment.

So it sits there eating away. Then there’s another subtle effect here that I think is really insidious, which is the tax of context switching. Now, this is something more I got into in an earlier book I wrote, I really got into the neuroscience of this. But the human brain is very slow to turn its target of attention from one thing to another.

It’s just the way we’re evolved, especially if we’re dealing with abstract symbolic things like you would do in a job as opposed to concrete physical things like you might encounter as a hunter gatherer a hundred thousand years ago. For me to switch my attention from a project, something I’m writing, to a completely unrelated, you know, business email takes a long time.

I have to inhibit certain neural networks that are related to the writing, and I have to excite other networks that are related to the email about the right, uh, it could take 10, 20 minutes. So there’s a cost, right? What happens is when you have a lot of overhead tax is that it doesn’t consolidate. So it’s not like I have four hours of logistics I have to do today and four hours of work.

Let me work for four hours. And then let me spend four hours doing logistics. It doesn’t work that way because what are the logistics? Well, part of it is back and forth email or slack exchanges. Those can’t be consolidated because I have to send you a response that you have to send back to me and then I have to send back to you.

And we’re trying to reach a decision maybe before the day is out. So I have to keep checking my inbox constantly so that we can finish this back and forth exchange before too much time has passed. Or if it’s meetings. Your schedule might not be the same as mine. We’re trying to find whenever we’re both free.

So those meetings aren’t all going to be consolidated, let’s say in the second half of the day. So what happens is. You are context shifting throughout the time you’re trying to do the hard work. So you’re trying to do the creative project really well. And you even feel like you’ve set aside that time, but you have to check that email inbox once every four or five minutes because, well, look, I mean, I have a, I’m trying to figure, uh, figuring something out with someone and I have to answer their email seven or eight times today before we get to a decision.

Every time you do that context switch, your brain completely shifts its target of attention. Before it can finish refocusing on the new target, you shift it back to what you’re working on before it can entirely refocus on what you’re working on. You shift it back to the email inbox. And so part of that trade is we make ourselves in a very literal sense.

Significantly dumber, there is a real depression in cognitive ability that occurs when you have to keep switching your attention back and forth. So this, this hidden productivity poison is lurking behind having too many things to do part of that trade off. It’s not just that we’re busier and have to do more overhead, but when we’re not.

Working on the overhead, we’re like IQ points dumber. So it really stacks the deck against producing stuff. That’s really going to move the needle. The more stuff we have on our plate, but the demands of pseudo productivity obfuscate all that because pseudo productivity says busy is better than non busy and there’s nothing busier than having 15 projects.

You always have something to jump to. You always can be getting after it. There’s always like something you can like frantically email and hop on calls. So the, the, the logics of pseudo productivity hide the fact that it is really a terrible way to do work that involves your brain.

Mike: Something else I like about this concept of slow productivity is, uh, how it forces you to prioritize better with the time that you do have, and that could still be a lot of time for people who are working a lot and maybe even want to work a lot. And I’ve, I’ve found that to be beneficial in my own work, whereas in the past. I just was more, I was more inclined to, uh, continue doing things that objectively I probably should have stopped like there was a, there was a reason to start doing it.

I was trying something out and see how it goes. Or I started something that made sense in a certain context. And now that context has shifted enough to where. Really should just stop doing this thing or delegate it. Uh, but it was easier to just keep doing it and by doing fewer things though, and by forcing yourself to do fewer things, then hopefully that would lead you to reflect some more on what those things are and try to get at maybe the very important things versus just the urgent things, or to use a concept from, uh, the book, the one thing, which I’m sure you’ve read on a lot of people have read that book, right?

Like what, what’s the one thing that you can do that makes everything else unnecessary? Or inapplicable or whatever the exact wording is. And even though you can do more than one thing, I think it’s still a good concept.

Cal: Yeah. Well, and I think this brings up a hidden difficulty of slowing down. And I think an implicit driver of being busy is sometimes people don’t want to confront that choice.

Mike: It’s easier to just be frantic.

Cal: Exactly, exactly. And in an office context, it can also be safer. Like in an office context, it’s, hey, I am more comfortable with my worth being evaluated in this amorphous sort of, uh, gut feel of like, I’m on email exchanges all the time, you know, he answers quickly.

Mike: Yep. You see me replying at it’s 10 35 PM and my reply came through. You see that?

Cal: Yeah, because that’s controllable. You’re like, I can always do that. Where if on the other hand, if you’re like, no, no, no, uh, I’m not doing that, but I’m going to, I’m going to do this thing. That’s important. Hold me to it. You know, if I’m not bringing in clients, if this doesn’t do well, hold me accountable, right?

That is much scarier because the thing might not do well. And I think a lot of people have this concern, too, with like picking their one thing, prioritizing. It’s like, well, what if that thing doesn’t go well? You know, I mean, what or what if I picked the wrong thing? And it’s why the, uh, of the three principles in my book, probably the most important because it’s foundational to the other two ones is the third one, which I call obsess over quality, which is about Learning how to do something really well, appreciate doing something really well, trust yourself to do something really well, without that, none of this other slow stuff works, because you don’t know what to do with your time when you start doing fewer things, or my second principle is about working at a natural pace when Slow, slow and drag out the timelines of accomplishment to be more reasonable.

If you don’t know what you’re doing or love what the quality have an appreciation for the craft, that timeline will just stretch out to never procrastination sets in. Uh, you, you have more of an antagonistic relationship to your work. You see it through the lens of people want me to do too much. I want to get away from it and I’m mad at my work.

Learning to obsess over the quality of what you do best becomes the glue that makes everything else possible. And I think this is often missed a lot of the current anti productivity literature that emerged in the pandemic. And I review a lot of this in my book, a lot of it just focuses on the do less part.

Mike: What was it? I think 4000 weeks was the last book I read on it. And I thought some of the ideas were interesting, but on the whole, it didn’t really resonate with me.

Cal: Yeah, that’s Oliver’s book. Yeah. Um.

Mike: I mean, it was well, well written. I did appreciate that. I’m not, I don’t, I don’t, I don’t want to unfairly criticize the book.

And again, I did like some of that. Do you think he made some good points, but on the whole, I would say the crux of the message didn’t, didn’t exactly align with my positions on productivity.

Cal: Rich, it was chill out basically. And, and you had other versions of this, I think Jenny Odell’s book, which, which is just literally called how to do nothing, you know, it’s a, uh, yeah, that, that was a New York times bestseller that came out.

Um, and there’s been a bunch of other ones like this and the thing is, um. They all have truth in them, right? Like, I mean, they’re, they’re pointing out Celeste Hedley had a book before that called do nothing. So there’s how to do nothing and do nothing. Um, there’s another one called, uh, laziness doesn’t exist.

Um, there’s a whole bunch of these, right? They all actually have, I mean, it’s, it’s not like they’re bad books because they’re, they’re aiming at a real issue, which is that people are burnt out. And it got a lot worse during the pandemic, but there is this other piece of it that I think for a lot of people was missing, which is I like doing things.

You know, like I want to do good things.

Mike: Yeah. What about people with ambitions and goals and people who like being productive?

Cal: And of course, you know, who had ambitions and goals is the people spending a year and a half to write these books and to market them. And, you know, ambition is good, right? Wanting to, I want to support my family.

I want to, I want to make a positive impact on the world. That’s good. And so, so I think that the other half was missing was like, how do I not get completely burnt out and antagonistic towards my work and disconnected from other things that are important to me? How do I avoid all of that while also still producing stuff?

I’m really proud of making a difference, being able to gain autonomy. I wrote this book a decade ago called so good. They can’t ignore you. And it was a career book. And the whole idea was. Get really good at something, and then you can gain complete control over your career, and you can make it be whatever you want.

Forget just following your passion or trying to figure out what you were meant to do. Get good, you know, and then you have you have the keys to the car. This is how I want to do it. Here’s where I want to live. Here’s what I’m going to work. I’m going to take one month off. You could do anything you want if you get good.

So how do we preserve that? And that’s why my standard for slow productivity was produce stuff I’m super proud of while also not burning out. Or having work take over my life because I’m proud of what I do. And I mean, this was my problem is, is I’m kind of reaching my, I’m hitting my peak in some sense, right?

As a writer and a thinker. Um, my books are consistently hitting the New York times bestseller list. I’ve been writing for almost a half decade now for the New Yorker. I’m a 10 year faculty member with a pretty decent citation rate and age index. Like my brain can do stuff right now that’s valuable. And that’s the whole tension that I cared about is.

I still want to do stuff that’s really valuable. I mean, I can do things with this and I want to do it, but my boys need a lot of time with me too. So now how do we make those two things work? You know, it’s got to have both sides of the equation, like the learning to love what you produce and get great at it while also not allowing your work to just destroy you or make you burnt out.

It’s not easy, you know. But it has to be figuring out that’s the balance, not just the reason why we want to work too much is because late stage capitalism has corrupted our sense of morals and it’s all exploitative. And so just do less than it’s an act of resistance. And you can be proud of yourself like that doesn’t do it because I still actually want to produce things.

So it’s, it’s interesting. It’s an interesting tension out there.

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Has it been? Hard for you to reconcile just in yourself the, and I’m asking this, uh, it may just be a, Oh, no, not, not at all. I’m just curious, just, just from what I observe, um, you have, I’m sure many ideas of all the. Work related things that you want to do and that you can do. And you know, though, that you’re, you’re never going to do all of those things and you have a family and you have other obligations and hasn’t been, hasn’t been difficult for you to, to find a balance that you yourself are okay with regardless of how it appears to other people. I’m just curious.

Cal: Uh, yes. And actually working on this book helped, uh, you can, you can see the whole second principle of this book is me doing therapy on myself. So, so it’s like, okay, I want to figure this out, you know, this, this, uh, idea I have more to do than I have time to do. Can I be okay with not doing everything that’s possible?

And that’s what led to this idea of working at a natural pace. And you’ll see, if you read that part of the book, the, the initial stories I tell, I open that with stories of people that we look back on and say, that is. Yeah. A famously productive person, like they changed the universe. And in some cases, literally, right?

Like Isaac Newton was one of these examples. Galileo was one of these examples. Marie Curie was one of these examples changed the way we understood universe. You zoom in on how they work, though. They didn’t do. A lot at the same time and the things they did took them a really long time. Like Isaac Newton spent most of his adult life working on the Principia, his, his masterwork.

I mean, he got these ideas earlier in life and then came back to it, did other things, came back to it, took 20 to 30 years. Before he published that, no one knows that they just say, Oh my God, Newton. Like he, he had these great ideas that changed the world overnight success. So for a more contemporary example, I went down a Lin Manuel Miranda rabbit hole.

I was like, okay, uh, let’s look at his first place. So before Hamilton, he did in the heights, which, which. People forget, but one, like a bunch of Tony awards, you know, and so I got into what was the process for him to do that play. And so he, he first writes a version of it in college, you know, he’s a theater major and he performs a version of it in college as a sophomore.

And it’s not very good, right? You can go back and talk to people about it. It wasn’t very good because, you know, he’s 19 years old. It’s seven years after that until this thing gets on a professional stage. And if you look at his story, I mean, it’s a, he’s working on it, but not just working on it, you know?

So he, he, uh, he leaves college. His dad’s like, you should go to law school. He gets a substitute teaching role at a high school. He’s writing newspaper columns. He gets really into a freestyle rap group. It was called love Supreme. Like they would go and do freestyle rap is like performance art or whatever.

And he was working on this play. And he would work on it and then do these other things to come back and work on it some more. And then it kind of stagnated. Uh, and then someone came on to the project who like really invigorated it some more. And it was seven years, right? So you zoom in on one day, like three years after Lin Manuel Miranda first wrote in the heights, you’re like, my God, this guy’s.

Procrastinating, you know, and lazy. Look at this. He’s he’s a, he’s writing a restaurant review. And then this whole next week, he’s going on a freestyle rap tour or whatever, but you zoom out. You’re like, Oh, look at this precocious talent. He wrote this like fantastic play that won all these Tony awards, you know?

Uh, and so things, people who produce stuff that matters, it takes a really long time and they’re not. 100%. It’s just like a different timescale. They think about productivity at a different timescale than we do today. We think about our day being productive, but Isaac Newton or Lin Manuel Miranda thought about, I want this decade to be productive.

And it completely changes the way you think about the rhythm of any particular moment.

Mike: Could you not say though, that maybe a lot of the procrastination was unnecessary That these, these people could have gotten their masterworks done sooner than they did. And maybe that would have then allowed them to, to pursue an even greater masterwork.

Cal: Well, I think there’s two different answers. If we look at Newton and Miranda, let’s keep them as our example. Newton, yes, he could have done it earlier. Uh, but part of the reason why he didn’t is he had all these other interests and it sort of made for an interesting life. Miranda needed the time. 21 year old Miranda, 19 year old Miranda wasn’t creatively sophisticated enough to produce a Tony award caliber play.

So what he was doing during this time was basically he was getting more creatively mature. Uh, he had this group of graduates alumni from a school that they had a theater company in New York and they would do these readings of it. And then he would work on the script and they would come back and, and he wasn’t a good, like part of the problem was he wasn’t a good dialogue writer.

Right, so the actual book of the play that the story of the play was not very good, it focused more on this love triangle that was cliched, right? But what he was really good at was the music. He was doing something new with bringing in this hip hop inflection into theater production in these more traditional musical style productions.

And so they kind of knew he had something there, but he wasn’t good enough yet to really. Write the play around it. Uh, eventually they brought in this really good playwright who went on to win her own Pulitzer later on, and eventually it started to get better and come together, but he needed that time.

You know, I use my own story, right? Like I’m doing now what I wanted to do in the world of writing, uh, when I was, I knew when I was 23, I was like, I want big, I want to write big idea books that can make a difference. I want to write for the New Yorker. This was my plan when I was about 23, I started writing early.

I sold my first book as a, as a college. It was like a Lin Manuel Miranda story. I sold my first book as a, uh, right after my junior year of college. Right? And so I was precocious in writing. It took a decade. You know, it took, I worked on it just steadily, you know, writing books, making each book better than the last doing magazine work, just sort of honing my craft, staying really focused on what I was doing.

It really took about a decade until deep work finally started catching on and I began to get some traction as a writer. And then another few years after that, before I really, I think emerged into a fully mature writer, uh, it just took time. Yeah, it just took time. It took me over a decade of just sort of working on it, but you know, coming back to it, okay, I’m going to take a break.

They’re going to write another book. And, and so you don’t want to leave it, but also it’s not. Every day, this is what I was doing all day long. When you think about productivity at these bigger time scales, it’s just different.

Mike: And so I guess all that just speaks to this idea of working at a natural pace and that if I’m hearing you right, it sounds like it’s natural to to you or to whoever that.

We’re talking about and that is going to look different for different people. There may be some, some common commonalities. There may be some kind of universal components to this, but, uh, natural, your natural pace is going to be different in certain ways than, than mine and, uh, than the Newton’s or anybody else’s.

Cal: Yeah. Or it could also involve, for example, seasonality. That’s a piece of natural pace. So, okay, I’m going to work pretty hard for eight months and then I’m going to pull it back for three months and then go hard for a month. Or what I really want to do is do two months sort of sprints and then take one month off.

There’s a lot of variety in that as well. So on the timescale of months and weeks, you see a lot of variation and people use that really productively as well. Um, the most unnatural thing, and this was something that wasn’t invented until factories. What’s the idea of I’m going to work at steady intensity, unvarying intensity all day long, five days a week, 50 weeks a year.

I mean, that was never the human experience, right? I mean, when you’re a hunter and gatherers, it’s very what’s happening today with the weather, what’s happening, you know, with the hunt? Are we in a stock? Are we not finding someone? Agriculture was quite literally seasonal. You know, the harvesting season was incredibly busy, but in January you had nothing to do.

It wasn’t until we invented the factory that we even for the first time in our species, 300, 000 year history. Had any experience with what if I just worked at a steady intensity, just every day, never tried to change it. That’s not a great way to use your mind to create value.

Mike: And usually a high intensity, just a steady high.

Yeah, I’m just going to do a high intensity interval work, uh, but, but there’s going to be no rest intervals.

Cal: Yeah. So that’s fine for producing widgets. Right? Like that was what was, we don’t, I think we, we use the factory as our analogy because it created the modern Western economy was built on industrialism, but it’s a really unusual sort of foreign to the human experience type activity.

Yeah. In a factory, the more you run it, the better. Like I want to run it full out as much as I can. Like that’s, what’s going to make you the most money. If every model team makes you 10 profit, then I want to produce as many damn model teas as I can. Um, it doesn’t work though. When you try to do that as an individual, who’s using their brain to create value.

It’s just not the way the human individual humans are meant to work. I mean, we knew this from factory labor. It was incredibly. Uh, the drudgery of it was depressing and we had to invent all these labor laws and reform laws because it was so unnatural to just have people work all day long without any breaks, you know, month after month.

But when we get control of our schedules, that’s what we do. It’s really unnatural. So that’s another way to work at a natural pace is intense. Unin intense at different timescales, uh, intense days in the week, less intense days, intense weeks in the month. Less intense months. Intense seasons. Less than 10 seasons.

And that’s really individualistic to your point, like different people, uh, have different rhythms, but what I think most people share who are slow productivity exemplars is variation, it is not. I clock into the Model T factory, I clock out 10 hours later, repeat without variation. It’s not a great way to produce real value.

Mike: What is that periodization, so to speak, to use a training analogy? How does that look for you? What, what rhythm have you found? Maybe even in a micro sense or macro sense or both?

Cal: Well, so I do it and I think it’s a good way of thinking about it. I do it at different time scales. So on the daily time scale.

I’m a big believer in time block planning. This is when I work. This is when I’m done working. So I have a very clear distinction, including a shutdown ritual that separates working from non working, right? So I don’t let work just sort of bleed through all part of my day. Let me just check emails while I’m watching, you know, TV with the kids on the scale of weeks.

My family is very serious about a Shabbat ritual, you know, Friday night, sun’s down till Sunday morning. I don’t work, you know, we don’t work. This is time. You can count on it. You can bank on it. Even if it’s a problem, you can bank on it that like you’re completely going to shut down starting getting close to the sundown on Friday.

Obviously, an ancient idea goes all the way back to the Hebrew Bible. There’s a reason why that idea has been around. For a really long time, then on the scale of seasons, I lean into the fact that I’m a college professor, right? That’s a, that’s my sort of my core job and I really change gear in the summers.

You know, I, I figured out people don’t always know this, but if you’re a, a professor at a big research institution, you know, I’m a professor at Georgetown, they pay you for 10 months out of the year for your summer months. The way this typically works is you get your salary out of research grants. You get a grant from the National Science Foundation.

Part of the budget is give me my salary for July and August and I’ll work on research in the summer. I figured out at some point you don’t actually have to do that. So if you don’t take what they call summer salary. You basically don’t have a job in those months of the university. You don’t do anything.

They’re not paying you in the summer, right? That’s your time, right? You don’t, there’s no meetings. There’s no expectations. And so I figured out at some point, I can really take the summers off, like really just right and have almost nothing scheduled. So on the scale of seasons. The summers to me are very different than say, um, the falls.

I also have a rhythm in my teaching semesters. I’m where I try to set up my schedule so that on one semester I teach all my courses and the other semester I teach none. So it’s, you know, we’re trying to go back and forth, back and forth, right? So there’s, there’s rest times I could just write and think and times I’m working hard.

And then on the scale of years, this is about, you know. I might get after it, write a couple of books and then take a whole year or two off like, okay, no more book writing. Let’s just, let’s go easy for a year or two. And then I get after it again. Okay, I just, you know, let me do a two book deal and like really, really get in writing.

So on every time scale, I try to have variety.

Mike: I want to come back to this idea of obsessing, obsessing over quality. And I have a couple questions I want to, I want to ask. But the first one is what would you say to people who they like how that sounds, but they don’t know, what they should be obsessing over.

You, you, you mentioned one of your previous books, so good. They can’t ignore you, which is how I actually found your work. And this idea of, of following, finding and following passions. That isn’t a great strategy. And I mean, yeah, you, you had, uh, implied, I mean, in the book, you go into this, into this more, but it’s, it’s hard to be passionate about something you’re not good at.

You can start there. So, so maybe you have a curiosity or an interest, or you, maybe you have the, the beginnings. Of a talent that you can that you can develop, but if you don’t go through the work of developing, you’re never gonna get passionate. I think that’s absolutely correct. But for people who like this idea of okay, instead of trying to just do a bunch of things and maybe not even do them very well.

What if I did fewer things and I did them really well and this would apply to people working for themselves, working for others. We can stick to the realm of commercial viability if you’d like. But for people, though, who don’t know what, what is that thing that I can obsess over? And ideally is something that draws you in, right?

It’s going to be hard to get good enough at anything to produce something of outstanding quality. If you have to push yourself into it 100 percent of the time, if it’s just a matter of, you know, grit your teeth, it’s discipline. What are your thoughts on that discussion.

Cal: Well, I mean, the easiest place to start is look at your current job.

What’s the thing I do right now in this job or in my company that’s, that produces the most value. Great. I want to get really, really good at that. I think that’s a really good place to start. It’s surprising that most people don’t think that way. People don’t think about training their job, but like they absolutely should.

There’s such advantage here. Like, okay, whatever I’m in marketing and I write white papers for a tech company, like marketing, you know, white papers or whatever. I want to do that better than almost anyone else. Like, how do I, I don’t want to just do it. I don’t want to just be like, oh, I get stuff done and I’m organized.

Like I want to be, you know, the Jiro of Jiro dreams of sushi of white papers. Like, how do I do, like, what’s going on here? Do I need to be a better writer? Do I need to do better research? What’s the, what’s the best in the industry right now? All right. So now how can I start designing projects to push myself further?

How can I surround myself by people in this world that do this stuff really well? Um, I think sometimes we get crippled by thinking we need something new and exotic. Like, okay, I’m going to write fantasy novels. And then, and then that’s going to come save me from what I’m, what I’m already doing. Where for most people, it’s taking what you’re already doing.

Like, what’s the thing that moves the needle? Right. I mean, in the day, my clients don’t pay me for answering emails or being accessible on slack. It’s, you know, how effective is the consulting services I give them. Let’s make that really, really good. Like, let me get obsessed about, you know, doing that better and better.

So, so it doesn’t have to be exotic. And in fact, if it’s more prosaic in the sense that, like, I’m already doing this, I already know this is valuable. It’s just so much easier The jump in like, great, why don’t I stop just doing this thing and start thinking about how I can master this thing? It really makes a difference.

And it frees you from the procrastination issue. It’s like, this is what I’m trying to do. I do this. Well, I get a lot of self respect out of this. I get a lot of value out of this. Then all those concerns about what if I do too little or what if I take too much time when I’m trying to work on a natural pace, those go away.

Because those ideas begin to service your underlying goal of like, I want to do this one thing really well. And so it all starts to fit together.

Mike: And I found personally that when, uh, I do spend most of my time working on things that, uh, align with talents, I have an interest that I have in mission elements that I have purpose, you know, elements of purpose that I, I.

Instinctively want to do them. I instinct instinctively want to spend time on them. And in some cases, I have to kind of force myself to stop. Okay. You know, I would like to go for another hour on this, but I have to take my son to his flag football practice, or I have to help my wife with dinner because she’s tied up in house construction things.

Or I do have to go to email, unfortunately. And so whereas If in the past, if I’ve had work that just had to get done, maybe commitments that I even sometimes regretted, like, why did I say I was going to do this? But I said, I was going to, I said it, so I’m going to do, I’m going to keep my word that the, the, the experience was, was very different.

It was again, something I had to push myself into and just push through it. And there’s always a satisfaction of completing something. So at least there’s that it’s like doing a workout. Sometimes the workout sucks, but. It’s always great when you are walking out of the gym. You always feel good after having done the workout.

And so, um, just sharing my experience with that. That’s that’s always a sign for me that I’ve found something that, uh, does align is when I, I, most of the time. I want to do it. I find myself thinking about it, maybe, you know, outside of work. And, uh, it’s not, it’s not a chore. The chores, they have to get done, but it’s, I’ve just never, never gotten to where I, I can trick myself into enjoying mopping the floor for the hundredth day in a row.

Cal: But I, but I think it’s important your, your analogy to working out, right? Because it’s a good analogy because, uh, like if, if you have a meaningful workout routine, it does feel really good when you’re done and it’s a big part of yourself and your identity doesn’t mean that like, you’re really jazzed to go do it.

You know, before it actually starts, right? Uh, and so this is a trap, another trap people get sometimes. It’s like, well, if I really love something, I should just feel a sense of excitement to do it all the time. Where often the stuff that you’re really getting good at, you maybe have to get going before that feeling starts to rise.

It’s like me with writing. I love writing. It’s what I want to do more than anything else. Doesn’t mean that I’m rushing to the keyboard. When a writing session is about to start because like working out, it’s hard, right? Like, to be hard? And I have to clear that takes 20 minutes. So your mind is completely locked into what you’re doing in that first 20 minutes is just, you know, this is just hard.

It’s pulling teeth. So similar, like, I don’t want to go to the go to the gym and it’s cold outside. It probably takes whatever 10, 50 minutes. Everything’s warmed up and you kind of get into that, get into that groove. And so that’s the subtlety. Is it shouldn’t, it doesn’t have to be an activity that, uh, you always feel in the mood to do it should instead be an activity that when you do it, it puts you in a better mood, uh, an activity that you get fulfillment and pride out of it.

You’re like, yeah, I definitely, I definitely want to come back to this, even if like anything else is hard. It’s hard to get started. Um, that was a big issue with the whole passion culture is that people thought if I’m not excited every day about every aspect of my job, then it’s not, it’s not really my passion.

I was like, who told you that this is what work was like? And this meaningful work is often really hard. I mean, you know, it’s great to be an NFL player, but it’s also like pretty tedious to be, you know, doing all the drills that are involved and trying to keep your flexibility up, you know, I mean. Meaning in work, uh, alchemizes through hard activity.

Um, it doesn’t just give you this constant sense of, I can’t wait to do this. I’m always having fun when I’m doing this. Every aspect of this is good. It’s, it’s more sophisticated than that.

Mike: Uh, that makes me think of, uh, research that, that shows that rewards that are obtained through hard effort are not only just subjectively more rewarding than rewards that are obtained through.

No effort, but the neurochemistry is actually different that your brain gets a much larger hit of feel good neurochemicals when you have to work hard at something to obtain the reward.

Cal: Yeah, no, I think that’s absolutely true. It’s evolutionary. Uh, so then we get a strong, positive connection. So we’re more willing to do hard work in the future.

Why? Because doing hard work is what you have to do to survive. It’s what you have to do to pass on your genes. And so, you know, yeah, it’s one of these instances. Trust your instincts. That feeling you get after you hit that objective and it was, you know, hard as hell to get there and it took you a year of hard work.

That’s a special feeling, you know, and that’s really different than whatever, winning the 100 prize in the lottery or whatever the smaller.

Mike: Getting to level 99 on Candy Crush or something.

Cal: And this is a problem like a lot of young men are having with video games. It’s interesting. I always say, like, where are we getting the problems?

I write a lot about technology. Where you get in the problems with technology is where, um, You’re scratching the itch of a deep human instinct, but not fully satisfying what you need, right? So like, Oh, I feel hungry, like junk food in the moment will satisfy that, but it’s not really what my body needs.

Video games do this with exactly that sensation you were talking about. We want to go. Make a plan, execute it, do it, be recognized. That feels good. Video games lets you do that so much easier. There’s the friction is all gone. It’s, you know, it’s made for you to make progress at a steady pace. And you get this like really lightweight version of the feeling that, you know, someone gets when they really go out there and accomplish something, but it like scratches that it’s just enough.

That you’re like, I’ll just stay down here and do this. Like, those are the things to be worried about. Right? I mean, the things that aren’t completely, you know, it’s not the just like, I’m straight up doing drugs. It’s the things that are like, you have this deep human urge to do this, and this is just barely satisfying it.

Social media had the same issue for a lot of people, you know, oh, this makes me feel connected. Humans are incredibly social. But it wasn’t really social. And so you saw these graphs where social media time would go up and loneliness would go up with it because this wasn’t really enough to make you feel connected, but it was scratching that itch of I need to connect to people just enough that you weren’t motivated to get up and actually go, go see people.

So it’s like, be wary, be wary of technology. That’s like pressing a button. I mean, pornography is an obvious version of this as well. Anything that presses a button that’s important, but does it in a very lightweight way, that’s where we get into trouble.

Mike: And, and those types of things also seem to, um, they can be the proverbial slippery slope that leads into other dark behaviors that, um, I, I don’t know enough about psychology to, to speak about it too intelligently, but it does just seem that if I think of maybe some of young stuff that I’ve read and, uh, concepts of, of kind of dark and light archetypes of.

Um, masculine or feminine behaviors. And I think about think about porn and that that that obviously would be a kind of a dark masculine that that relates not to love and connection. It relates to sexual conquest. And if you tap into that, um, to. Frequently, or if you become too engrossed in that, it seems to open the door to other dark traits expressing in an unconscious way where, again, you feel like it’s part of your identity and you feel it’s fully justified and, uh, it makes perfect sense to you why.

You’re doing these things. And so that’s just something that I personally try to keep in mind with some of these things that, that you’re bringing up, uh, in that I think that there’s a greater danger than just that domain of, well, I’m playing video games and that has kind of conditioned me to be kind of lazy and, uh, work averse.

Yes, that’s certainly true, but it would seem to me that. If you do too much of that, that can start to warp you in other ways, if that makes sense.

Cal: I agree. Yeah. And I think the inverse is true as well. That when you have, uh, the disciplined pursuit of something truly hard in your life, these other things, especially the things that are simulating accomplishment become, uh, unbearable.

So that’s why it’s so important that, you know, I, I’m doing something that’s disciplined and hard because once you have the, the feeling of the real thing, oh, this is what it feels like. It’s more complicated that it’s, it’s a richer feeling. It kind of sticks with me more because I earned it, but it was really hard to get there.

It’s much harder than to be like, oh, I’m so jazzed that in, you know, Red Dead Redemption that I got to the next level. Well, it’s like, it’s engineered for me to do anyways. Or that on my online multiplayer game on my headset on that, like, I’m, I’m really, I’m getting my squads doing well or whatever. You’re like, wait a second.

That doesn’t feel the same, so I’m, I’m with you on that. So, so it takes you somewhere. The simulacrum of real human needs, the digital simulacrums can take you somewhere dangerous, leaning into the real human things can make the digital simulacrum seem, uh, trivial when you have like a rich social life built around your physical community.

For example, how much time are you spending just like communicating like on social media? You’re like, this is just not as good. You know, um, if you have a rich cognitive life, you’ve, you’ve developed, this is a skill to develop. I always talk about this way, but you’ve developed an interest in, in, in books and arts and film, and you can really appreciate, uh, artistic and intellectual quality.

And you’re having this rich relationship with the world of ideas. Then when you turn on tick tock, it’s like, you know, this. Doesn’t taste good. I’ve learned French cooking and McDonald’s is now gross to me, you know? So it’s, it’s, yeah.

Mike: Yeah. It’s, it’s like a difference of oxygen or like a picture of oxygen.

Cal: Yeah. You can look at that picture all day, but eventually you really do need the real thing.

Mike: Uh, I know we’re coming up on time. I wanted to ask one more question regarding, uh, The this this point of quality and just that, um, looking at that in the context of A. I. These L. L. M. S. and where they’re at now and where they are going to be in the near future and how that is.

I do think it has the potential to revolutionize information work, and I do think that there, there very well could be a scenario in the future where you have people who really, who, if they do anything, anything with their minds, if their work requires using their minds at all, that if, if they have integrated it.

A. I. Into their work. They’re gonna be able to outproduce people who have not. It’s gonna be by an order of magnitude in both quantity and quality. And so I just thought of that when you’re talking about this importance of obsessing over quality, because I think that you can make an argument that that mindset is going to be very important in the information economy in the near future, because there is going to be no need for humans who only produce mediocre content.

Thank you. Ideas or information thing products, uh, because a I already now does a pretty good job producing mediocre information products.

Cal: Well, yeah, I mean, AI, I should say is something I could go on for go on for a while. The back story for listeners who don’t know is I’m also a computer science professor and, um, in my capacity as a writer for the New Yorker, I cover the technology beat.

So I think a lot about AI. I write a lot about AI. I sort of cover a lot of things. Um, I, I think you’re right about that. Uh, I, I think one of the big shocks we’re going to see in knowledge work in particular is that. People do not realize how much of their day is actually spent doing these support efforts.

How much of their day is sending communication back and forth about projects, gathering information, talking to people about what they’re doing, how much of their day is jumping in and out of meetings to gather information they need to do their work, how much they can go days and days at a time without really having to produce something that’s objectively measured or valuable, but yet be really busy.

A. I. Now is on a trajectory where it could drastically automate or simplify almost all that support work, and it’s like good news or bad news. If you’re someone who obsesses over quality, it’s good news. Get that out of my way. This is like for someone like me, the bane of my existence, having to deal with back and forth emails and having to jump on calls, which is really what are calls.

Often they’re just a really inefficient way of, um, Switching information around. Well, you know this that I need to know, and you need to know this AI agents are gonna be able to do more and more of this, leaving you just to do your work. So it’s good news if you obsess over value. It’s bad news if you obsess over busyness.

Because what happens when we don’t need you sending 150 emails a day? We don’t need you doing 15 zoom meetings a week anymore. We’re not impressed by how active you are on slack. Where’s the thing you produce this week? You know, we all will have the equivalent of baseball cards. Well, what is your batting average?

Like no hiding, right? That’s going to be an economy. That’s interesting. It’s going to be the sort of knowledge economy stripped largely of support and logistical work is going to look very different. And those who are able to come at it from the mindset of I want to produce stuff too good to be ignored, I obsess over quality, I want you to measure me by the best things I do because I’m going to produce good stuff and I’m going to get better are going to love it and they’re going to thrive.

There’s going to be a lot of people where there’s not going to be as much space for them. You know, it turns out we don’t need 10 people in this group that produce what we produce because we’re spending 80 percent of our time on email when we get rid of that. We only need 3. So it could be a.

Potentially drastic shake up of our economy. There’s a lot of that that’s scary, but the best insurance policy you have, I think, is right now moving away from pseudo productivity in your own psyche, moving towards something like slow productivity built on a foundation of obsessing over quality. That’s going to be the definition of productivity in the future.

I mean, that’s what’s going to really matter. So I think AI, you’re absolutely right, has made a lot of these ideas a lot more relevant. And they would have been even 10 years ago where people said impossible, like we’re just going to email all day. How is that ever going to change? You know, I can’t even imagine, I can’t imagine how would my work work if I wasn’t just talking to people email all day that’s going to change not next year.

But maybe not five years from now, maybe quicker than that. So, so there’s some, so big shakeups coming and these type of ideas I think will help.

Mike: I think AI to not, not to go off on an AI tangent, um, but just last comment, we’ll also be able to help with reskilling. And this is something, you know, a lot more about and have thought a lot more about than, than I have.

I use the tools in my work and I read the things here and there. So I haven’t, um, I haven’t given this. Too much mind space, but another area that I’m personally very excited about with A. I. S. Education and how I mean, even where it’s at right now and I find it when I’m wanting to learn things, it’s it’s it is very, very useful as a as a tutor really, um, that that knows everything about everything.

And I think there are gonna be some very exciting applications in in that. Area which can help with reskilling or help people who even want to go. Let’s say you want to go right now from good to great. Well, that’s going to take a lot of learning as well as doing. You can try to skip learning and just do a lot, but it takes forever to get great.

If it’s even possible without at least a balance of theory and practical, I think. And so even currently people listening, if, um, if you haven’t started to play around with, I like GPT the most Claude. I did like until they just, they’ve, they’ve nerfed it so hard now that it won’t even answer. A significant portion of questions for safety concerns.

I just canceled my subscription. I just use I use GPT now and I’ve been playing around perplexity. I find that as an interesting alternative to Google, but for having it as a tutor already, I think it’s extremely useful and saves so much time. You know, think about reading a book and all the questions that you have and your marginalia and be able to take that to a.

To, to a tutor who just knows everything basically, and who can answer a lot of your questions, point you to other resources to, to learn more, I’m really finding it helpful.

Cal: Yep. I mean, it’s going to even be in that way, a threat to things like YouTube, because more and more of people’s interactions with their downtime is going to be, I could, uh, watch an interesting person talk about something I care about, but also I have this digital persona implemented by generative AI where I could just talk to it.

Like, okay, well, tell me about, you know, um, I’m interested in this topic. Like teach me more about it. Well, can you show me things about it? Uh, there’s definitely the social media companies have that fear that it’s more interesting to talk to the smartest person you’ve ever known and they’re your personal friend might be more interesting than having like algorithmically curated.

So that’s also going to be, yeah, it’s, it’s going to be interesting. It’s, it’s going to be an interesting time. Um, and for those who are intimidated by this technology, you don’t have to worry too much. The history of these technologies are, they’re going to be made. Incredibly accessible because they’re so powerful, right?

So, um, I don’t think the current form that we interact with these models, which is like a chat interface, that’s not fundamental. I don’t think we’ve really seen the way, uh, the final form factors in which these type of models are going to enter our lives. That was just sort of the, the opening entry into it.

So if that seems sterile or unusual to you, that’s not all this is going to be. Any more than like the 1994 internet experience where you’re on a linked text browser trying to get HTML one files is not our experience of the internet today. It’s going to keep evolving into something that can bring in more and more people.

But man, Mike, we could do a whole podcast on AI. I’ll get a I spent all day today. I’m working on an article, an AI article. So I’m like up to my up to my ears thinking about the planning capabilities of language models versus reasoning engines. And my God. We could, uh, together, I think we could bore 90 percent of your audience.

If we set our mind to it, we could, we could really, I have a feeling we could really get into the weeds if we wanted to.

Mike: Uh, I would love to have a discussion with you at some point, if you’re open to it, uh, again, it’s something that I’m, uh, I am more interested than informed in, but obviously something that everybody’s talking about.

And I think that, uh, most people listening probably can benefit from in some way and should start thinking about how they are going to integrate it minimally into their work.

Cal: I agree. I agree. Yeah. And that’s happening. It’s coming.

Mike: Anyways, to shift back to our main discussion, um, those are all the major points I wanted to, to speak with you about, and I know we’re up, we’re up on time.

And so again, I wanted to thank you for, for taking the time to do this. I really appreciate it. So the book is slow productivity and I believe we’re going to be, it’s not, it’s coming out in about a month and a half. Is that right? Yeah, early March. March 5th. Yeah. Early March. Yeah. So people, if you’re, uh, if you’re listening now, you can get, go get the book and I look forward to reading it myself.

I’ve already, I’ve already preordered it actually. So, um, thanks again, Cal, for taking time to do this. And is there anything else that you want my. Uh, listeners to know about any other projects you’re working on or just where they can find you and your other work.

Cal: Yeah, well, so I, I don’t use social media, but I do have a podcast.

Yeah, that’s a whole other story. I wrote a book about that too. So that’s a whole other story too. Um, I do have a podcast though. It’s called Deep Questions. And, you know, every week it’s just like getting to the weeds about. How we take these big ideas about slowing down, dealing with technology, all this stuff we talked about.

And I take questions from my listeners and we get into it and get practical. Um, so you check that out, deep questions. Also, we set up a website, calnewport. com slash slow. If you want to read a big excerpt from the book, if you’re like, Oh, I’m interested in this, but I’m not quite sure. Cal Newport dot com slash slow and you can, you can really dive more into it.

Find out a lot more, uh, get all the main ideas, et cetera. So hopefully you’ll check that out as well.

Mike: Great. And also if people listening, don’t know if you read, I read on my phone, I read on a Kindle and I just, I find it too efficient to, to get away from, because of the immediate access to a dictionary, a good dictionary, like the Oxford dictionary, and then also being able to search, okay, if I want more clarity on something, but If you read, if anybody listening, if you read on a Kindle, if you buy a Kindle book and you don’t like it, there’s a period, I’ve done this before, but it’s been a long time.

You can refund the book if you don’t like it. So if you’re, if you get 50 or 100 pages into the book and you don’t like it, you have, I believe it’s not, I think, I think it’s a time based refund window. So if you don’t, if you don’t like a book, you can just refund it.

Cal: Yeah. Audio too, I found out. Like on Audible, you can refund Audible.

It’s interesting. As long as it’s not, my wife just did it. She started a book and was like, not what I thought. Yeah. So there you go. I, Hey, I read this audio book myself. So there, if you, if you want to hear the, uh, the dulcet tones of Cal Newport, that was, uh, that was three long days in the studio, but, but it’s, uh, yeah author led. That was a lot of fun to revisit every single word I wrote again and again, but it’s, it’s good. So the, uh, the other book is good.

Mike: And then, and not, not be able to change anything though. Cause at that point, I’m assuming the manuscript is locked. Like you’re finding things you just have to move on.

Cal: Yeah. Yeah. That’s a, that’s definitely a fun experience. Giant quotes around fun, but if you’re an audio fan, I read it myself. So it’s cool. It’s a good, it’s a good audio book.

Mike: Awesome. Well, thanks again, Cal. I really appreciate this.

Cal: Great. Thanks Mike.

Mike: Well, I hope you liked this episode. I hope you found it helpful.

And if you did subscribe to the show, because it makes sure that you don’t miss new episodes and it also helps me. because it increases the rankings of the show a little bit which of course then makes it a little bit more easily found by other people who may like it just as much as you and if you didn’t like something about this episode or about the show in general or if you have Uh, ideas or suggestions or just feedback to share, shoot me an email, Mike at muscle for life.

com muscle F O R life. com and let me know what I could do better or just, uh, what your thoughts are about maybe what you’d like to see me do in the future. I read everything myself. I’m always looking for new ideas and constructive feedback. So thanks again for listening to this episode and I hope to hear from you soon.

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