Cal Newport Interview on the Ezra Klein Show: Stop. Breathe. We Can’t Keep Working Like This

We were promised, with the internet, a productivity revolution. We were told that we’d get more done, in less time, with less stress. Instead, we got always-on communication, the dissolution of the boundaries between work and home, the feeling of constantly being behind, lackluster productivity numbers, and, to be fair, reaction GIFs. What went wrong?

Newport’s Deep Work is a book I frequently recommend to others, as it discusses that true creative work needs periods of solitude, because you need to hold a lot of thoughts in your head and think critically about them. Constant distraction from coworkers will cost you tremendously in switching costs. The title of an essay from another influential book, Rework from Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson encapsulates this succinctly, “Interruption is the enemy of productivity”

The interview with Klein discusses Newport’s latest, A World Without Email where he suggests knowledge work has not yet reached the stage the car industry was when Henry Ford decided to invest a tremendous amount of effort and resources into developing what would become the process known today as the assembly line. At the moment, the knowledge work industry is just doing the easiest thing, Slack, email and meetings, instead of doing experiments to find the most sustainable, productive thing. As a result, our work/life balance is out of whack as people respond to email and Slack messages at all hours. Unsustainable work practices burn out your teams such that they erode productivity and eventually seek to leave for calmer environs, or leave the field altogether.

Podcast and transcript are available for Cal Newport on the Ezra Klein Show: Stop. Breathe. We Can’t Keep Working Like This — 56mins.