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A World Without Email: Reimagining Work in an Age of Communication Overload

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  798 ratings  ·  112 reviews
New York Times bestseller!

From New York Times bestselling author Cal Newport comes a bold vision for liberating workers from the tyranny of the inbox--and unleashing a new era of productivity.

Modern knowledge workers communicate constantly. Their days are defined by a relentless barrage of incoming messages and back-and-forth digital conversations--a state of constant, an
...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published March 2nd 2021 by Portfolio
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Milan
Mar 14, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
In “A World Without Email,” Cal Newport provides a fascinating history of email and how it changed the way organizations worked. He calls the corporate environment as a "hyperactive hive mind" which keeps switching from one task to another briskly. And the most important one seems to be is responding to one's emails. According to him, email makes us miserable. He provides examples of a few small companies that use project boards to manage workflow instead. Knowledge workers need autonomy over ho ...more
Kristen
Apr 03, 2021 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars. A LOT of food for thought here and I loved all of his higher Ed examples. The thing is- I buy his premise. Email is inefficient and leads to communication overload. This has been made so acutely obvious to me during my year working remotely. And Newport gives some great alternatives. But none of his suggestions will take care of what I see as the main problem- “hyperactive hive mind.” So, soon enough, Slack/trello (etc) will go by way of email. However, I do plan to enact some of the ...more
Ivan
Feb 10, 2021 rated it really liked it
Classic Cal Newport. Timely and helpful.
Jacob Tjornholm
Mar 27, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was surprised to enjoy this book so much, because I actually like email a lot. Certainly, I much prefer it to instant messaging or text messages.

The thing is, the title of this book is really misleading. It is not actually about email. Instead, it is about a dysfunctional process (or an absence of process) in the modern workplace, and how email has helped cultivate it and continues to enable it.

Cal Newport uses the term The Hyperactive Hive Mind to describe this. What it means is that instead
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Taylor Ahlstrom
Mar 15, 2021 rated it liked it
Cal Newport’s A World Without Email is a detailed, well-researched, and thorough approach to the dilemma of email in the modern knowledge workforce. It is clear from the very beginning that this is something Newport has been both thinking about and studying for many years, and he makes a compelling case.

The concept of limiting distractions and doing “deep work” isn’t a new one for Newport. In fact, he coined the term. Many of his previous books have been on variations of the topic, including hi
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David
Apr 16, 2021 rated it liked it
more interesting than the usual "productivity hacks" listicle advising you to set aside time for deep thought, tell people you'll only check email once a day, or whatever. Describes the history of this tool (my students look at me slack-jawed when i describe being a young faculty member and hearing from a colleague that someone i knew from another university had contacted him to ask whether i was "on email" yet) and how drastically it has changed office work life.

Makes the reasonable case that
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Pranav Joshi
Mar 09, 2021 rated it really liked it
First half of the book, pages is a bunch of interesting case studies and a description of the problems with email. The author also quotes from academic papers and research, given his background as a Professor. The basic problem is that we tend to keep checking mail throughout the day, which keeps us distracted from actual deep work.
Interesting quotes:
“Those who retained access to Marshall were provided a clear structure for their interactions, turning briefing the general into an exercise in co
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Jack Reid
Mar 22, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I've seen explosive growth in narratives on social media's consequences, where we've also adopted new technology without considering the consequences beyond immediate gratification. After internalizing enough of these stories, I quit social media around a year ago (except LinkedIn for business ).

Since quitting, I've found myself more attached to my email than ever. I often refresh it and feel baseline anxiety levels, despite needing email less than ever as a graduate student. What's going on h
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Ron
Mar 23, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: work
This book is written in two parts. The first part discusses the hyperactive hive mind (a workflow centered around ongoing conversation fueled by unstructured and unscheduled messages delivered through digital communication tools like email and instant messenger services) that has been created by email and how unproductive and inefficient it is. The chapters in this part:

-Email reduces productivity
-Email makes us miserable
-Email has a mind of its own
The second part of the book gives alternatives
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Andrew
Mar 13, 2021 rated it liked it
The future of work is increasingly cognitive.
-p.xxii

“Trust one person to make that decision, stop cc’ing everone on emails, and get to work!”
-p.229


It is likely that Cal Newport’s “A World Without Email” has something for you.

That also suggests that much of the text might be inapt to your situation.

I found the first ½ quite interesting, as it laid out an intellectual and evolutionary foundation for why the so-called hyperactive hive mind is bad for our productivity, given that we have primitive
...more
Sebastian Gebski
Mar 20, 2021 rated it it was ok
Annoyingly chaotic, imprecise, mixes many different concepts w/o getting down deep enough.

1. It's not a book about e-mail, but something the author calls "hyperactive hive mind", which in short is just a way of managing and coordinating the way - primarily by e-mails circulating in the organization. That's one very specific and hardly representative case for e-mail. But on the other hand, Newport puts communicators (message-based) in the very same bag. Utter chaos.

2. The overall criticism of e-m
...more
Melanie
Apr 04, 2021 rated it liked it
I'm giving this book three stars because I like the concept and Cal Newport's continued determination to push back against the "busyness" culture. We are kindred spirits. However, the title is misleading. I understand it's provocative and catchy, but what Newport is really writing about is why the "hyperactive hive mind," as he calls it, is hurting companies and employees. He uses email as the example throughout. And he's not just talking about email, but email-like systems like Slack too, which ...more
Snorki
Apr 11, 2021 rated it really liked it
I read and enjoyed Deep Work a few years’ ago - one of Newport’s previous books - and agreed with many of the ideas about distraction, and the need to block out time to focus on important work. This is something that I’d been doing anyway even before I read the book, and was interested to see that someone else had spent a great deal of time thinking and researching this type of activity. So when this book came out, I was interested in reading it. Newport puts forward a hypothesis that our curren ...more
Matt Davis
Apr 13, 2021 rated it liked it
A World Without Email is the functional sequel to Cal Newport’s very popular “Deep Wok” - it’s an attempt to answer the question of how organizations themselves can promote deep work. In this sense, it half succeeds - while it does an extremely good job of identifying the problem, the solutions it offers (several from personal experience!) often fall short
That being said the book is worth reading for part 1. Newport coins the term “hyperactive hive mind” to describe a modern working environment.
...more
Gwen
Mar 07, 2021 rated it liked it
"Hyperactive hive mind" is how Newport describes the workflow environment typical of many organizations. I encounter it regularly in the work I do challenging organizational leaders to adopt different ways of working together that transcend the reactive, low value activity that passes for "work". I'll bet you're living it as well.

Time management, attention management, priority management are all strategies aimed at helping the individual be "more productive". Newport shows why they fail. He put
...more
Eric
Mar 10, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Cal Newport has done it again! After Deep Work changed my life, I suspect this book accomplish a similar goal, although perhaps not in as extreme a fashion. This book follows a similar format as Deep Work: a) Present the evidence, b) Suggest a solution. Newport postulates that the constant barrage of email has resulted in an "interactive hive mind" that is distracting us from the goal of accomplishing deep, fulfilling work. He presents the theoretical and scientific (neuropsychological) reasons ...more
Pete
Apr 01, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: self-help, nonfiction
A World Without Email (2021) by Cal Newport is another book from Newport about doing the most valuable work we can at work. Newport is an MIT graduate and associate professor at Georgetown in Computer Science.

In the book Newport describes how many knowledge workers now exist in a storm of meetings and email and are constantly being interrupted by email in particular. He calls this the ‘hyperactive hive mind’ and says that when in this state people don’t have time to really focus on what is impor
...more
Barnabas
Mar 22, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Cal Newport's books are really practical.
There's always some takeaway that I could take and include in my daily practice:
- From So Good, They Can't Ignore You it was the deliberate practice (and the Tally Hour Routine),
- From Deep Work it is the scheduled undistracted work segments I put in my calendar - when I actually switch my phone off,
- From Digital Minimalism the importance of Solitude (which I implemented as going on Solitude Walks - no inputs, no phonecalls, no audiobooks allowed)
From
...more
Jared Wong
Mar 23, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Lots to think about. Nothing too heretical, but a good overview capturing the problems we presently have with our default workflow.

(view spoiler)
...more
Michiel
Apr 18, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: self-improvement
This vintage Cal Newport book is not so much about email specifically as the book is about the more general 'hyperactive hive mind', a workflow centred around unscheduled messages to keep knowledge workers constantly informed. The first part of the book argues why this way of working is defective; it is unproductive and makes us miserable, and influences us in ways nobody has anticipated. The second part of the book presents a collection of principles as an alternative to mail and Slack. These i ...more
Carolien
Mar 28, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2021, non-fiction, science
I’ve appreciated Cal Newport’s work on the intersection between technology and social transformation since I first encountered his 2016 book Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World. In his latest book, he sets out to pull together everything we know about how we ended up in a culture of constant communication and the effect of rapid task switching on both our productivity and our mental health. I’m old enough to remember my stepfather who was a researcher coming home and telli ...more
Ben Fridge

"Email isn't additive, it's ecological."


It reshaped the way we work in ways we don't even realize and haven't stopped to examine.

Cal Newport corrects this error. A picture of a world that functions with office hours, project management boards, agile mindsets, and no email is framed in these pages. It's a clear world that can confidently be stepped into by any organization or individual given the case studies, practitioner advice, and historical survey Newport leans upon to create this manife
...more
Morrison Cole
Mar 18, 2021 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2021
I feel the need to justify my 2 stars here since I rarely rate a book so poorly.

First off, it's not a bad book. There are some interesting tidbits about the history of workflows, the writing is engaging, and for what it's worth the Audible narration is excellent. The systematic (read: bigger picture) approaches to thinking taken here are also valuable. If nothing else, this book had me pausing to reflect on my own workflows from time to time, which I always appreciate.

Where it fell down for me w
...more
Eric Rath
Mar 27, 2021 rated it it was ok
As an educator, there wasn’t much past the first couple of chapters I could really use. I allowed myself the opportunity to dismiss that because I know full well that this book is geared to the standard cubicle/Dilbert/Office Space environment. However, it irritates me that Newport is an educator, his grandfather was an educator and he didn’t dive into email in the educational space. Even an aside comment here or there about possible alternative applications of his approach for educators would h ...more
Brian
Apr 13, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Long on diagnosis, short on prescription

No doubt about it, email sucks. It’s full of false urgency and the sort of endless interruptions that make modern knowledge work such a drag. While computer science professor and productivity guru Cal Newport does an excellent job diagnosing and explaining how email became central to our “hyperactive hive mind” affliction, he prescriptions for change are largely theoretical. At their most concrete, their most applicable to software development shops motiva
...more
Adibah Hakim
Apr 14, 2021 rated it liked it
<>

A World Without Email is something very thorough and well researched by Cal Newport. However, this book isn't actually about email, it is about a hyperactive hive mind. Newport uses email as an example throughout the book. As he said, emails are hurting many employees. Do you agree? For me, it is true because most employees spend their time to reply each email. Newport is against email because, for him, it just reacting and reacting, not working.

In this book, Newport is not actually asking to
...more
Alex  Hoffer
Apr 16, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: next-up
The amount of information in this book is overwhelming, and I have not drawn any conclusions yet. My beliefs coming into this book, and this book has reinforced them, were the following:

1. The never-ending workflow brought on by email is unhealthy and not sustainable.
2. Email is not an effective form of most kinds of communication
3. I suspected we lose productivity because people are switching from “work” to “email” etc. I had no idea the cost was as much as Newport outlines however.
4. Final
...more
Matthew
Mar 16, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I heard about this author (and the book) on one of Michael Gervais’ Finding Mastery podcasts and decided to give it a go.

I am glad I did.

I think the book is outstanding. It describes the current world of email and electronics as part of the “Hyperactive Hive Mind” and that the constant task-switching required in many environments is costly in terms of “cognitive cycles” and ultimately address to stress/anxiety as well as subtracting from overall productivity.

The concept is that in a knowledge ec
...more
Henry Suryawirawan
Apr 05, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned
Another great book from Cal Newport! I was intrigued by the title of the book as I have been questioning myself a lot at work related to the insurmountable amount of emails, unstructured messages and chats that seem to create lots of noises and anxiety in my daily life. I even wondered whether this is just a new norm in the current fast-pace technology landscape, and that I would just need to find a way to adjust to the new norm.

Having read the book, Cal explained in great details on why the hyp
...more
Karen
Apr 17, 2021 rated it really liked it
I'm not the target audience for this book -- I don't work in an office and am not a "knowledge worker" as it seems to be defined -- but I found it interesting as the latest iteration of Cal Newport's argument about the value of focused attention. I am fortunate enough not to work in a climate that relies on what Newport calls "the hyperactive hive mind," but I certainly have come to accept interrupted attention as somehow natural.

My big takeaway here is the importance of knowing what exactly one
...more
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Cal Newport is an Associate Professor of Computer Science at Georgetown University, and the author most recently of Deep Work, a book which argues that focus is the new I.Q. in the modern workplace, and So Good They Can’t Ignore You, a book which debunks the long-held belief that “follow your passion” is good advice. He has also written three popular books of unconventional advice for students. Hi ...more

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“The relevant research literature also helps clarify this sense of overload. In their original 2004 study on attention fragmentation, Victor M. González and Gloria Mark partitioned the efforts of the employees they observed into distinct working spheres, each representing a different project or objective. They found that on average their subjects worked on ten different spheres per day, spending less than twelve minutes on one before switching to another.36 A follow-up study in 2005 found the observed employees touching on eleven to twelve different working spheres per day on average.37 The large number of different spheres these subjects tackled in a given day, combined with the reality that each sphere demands the accomplishment of many smaller tasks and presumably dozens of emails, provides a harried portrayal of modern knowledge work. “At night, I often wake in a panic about all the things I need to do or didn’t get done,” writes journalist Brigid Schulte in Overwhelmed, her 2014 book on this busyness epidemic. “I worry that I’ll face my death and realize that my life got lost in this frantic flotsam of daily stuff.”38” 0 likes
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