Ep. 299: Our Love/Hate Relationship with Personal Productivity

Cal has been writing professionally about issues related to personal productivity for two decades. In today’s episode, he provides a short history of what he’s observed during this period about out constantly shifting relationship with this topic, from the quiet optimism of the 1990s, to the techno-mania of the early 2000s, to the whiplash shift from anti-distraction to anti-work sentiments in the 2010s. He ends with a summary of where we are today and what he currently thinks matters in thinking about getting things done. During the Q&A session, Cal is joined by special guest host Scott Young (whose new book is GET BETTER AT ANYTHING) to help answer your questions. We conclude with a list of the books Cal read in April.

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– The 20 year history with personal productivity [4:18]

Books Discussed in Deep Dive:

7 Habits of Highly Effective People
How To Become CEO
Getting Things Done
The Four Hour Work Week
How To Do Nothing


– How does Cal organize his files as a technical researcher? [1:04:55]
– How slow is too slow? [1:18:48]
– Does “Monk Mode” actually work? [1:27:25]
– How do I adapt my organizational systems to do more complicated work? [1:36:07]
– What are the most underrated habits for living a great life? [1:49:46]


– Unconventional slow productivity [1:55:56]


– The 5 Books Cal Read in April 2024 [2:04:51]

An Empire of Their Own by Neal Gabler
Co-intelligence by Ethan Mollick
Dragons of Eden by Carl Sagan
The Perfect Mile by Neal Bascomb
To Heal a Fractured World by Jonathan Sacks


– Productivity Fatigue: Is Striving To “Get Things Done” Causing Burnout? | Cal Newport


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Thanks to Jesse Miller for production, Jay Kerstens for the intro music, and Mark Miles for mastering.