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

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A New York Times and Wall Street Journal 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, anxious chatter in which nobody can disconnect, and so nobody has the cognitive bandwidth to perform substantive work. There was a time when tools like email felt cutting edge, but a thorough review of current evidence reveals that the "hyperactive hive mind" workflow they helped create has become a productivity disaster, reducing profitability and perhaps even slowing overall economic growth. Equally worrisome, it makes us miserable. Humans are simply not wired for constant digital communication.

We have become so used to an inbox-driven workday that it's hard to imagine alternatives. But they do exist. Drawing on years of investigative reporting, author and computer science professor Cal Newport makes the case that our current approach to work is broken, then lays out a series of principles and concrete instructions for fixing it. In A World without Email , he argues for a workplace in which clear processes--not haphazard messaging--define how tasks are identified, assigned and reviewed. Each person works on fewer things (but does them better), and aggressive investment in support reduces the ever-increasing burden of administrative tasks. Above all else, important communication is streamlined, and inboxes and chat channels are no longer central to how work unfolds.

The knowledge sector's evolution beyond the hyperactive hive mind is inevitable. The question is not whether a world without email is coming (it is), but whether you'll be ahead of this trend. If you're a CEO seeking a competitive edge, an entrepreneur convinced your productivity could be higher, or an employee exhausted by your inbox, A World Without Email will convince you that the time has come for bold changes, and will walk you through exactly how to make them happen.

320 pages, Hardcover

First published March 2, 2021

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About the author

Cal Newport

115 books7,462 followers
Cal Newport is Provost’s Distinguished Professor of Computer Science at Georgetown University, and the author of seven books. His ideas and writing are frequently featured in major publications and on TV and radio.

From his website: "I write about the intersection of digital technology and culture. I’m particularly interested in our struggle to deploy these tools in ways that support instead of subvert the things we care about in both our personal and professional lives."

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 582 reviews
Profile Image for Sebastian Gebski.
952 reviews841 followers
March 20, 2021
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-mail starts in a totally ridiculous way: the author pities that people use this asynchronous communication method in a synchronous way (because they feel the pressing urge to respond immediately). It's not an issue of an e-mail (as a tool), but of org's culture and wrong expectations set. To fairly judge e-mail, one should classify it properly and understand its features: that it's asynchronous, written, persistent, can be fanned-out to many people, can be easily turned into a pub-sub distribution, etc. There are certain limitations, but also certain advantages because of those characteristics, but the author fails to pin them down

3. It gets even funnier when the author admits he had problems with proposing the better alternative for e-mail (when asked by the publisher). In the book his first proposal was ... Trello. That was the moment when I've nearly thrown the book out of the window. But it got even worse since then: the author started compulsively jumping between topics - mixing Theory of Constraints (he didn't name it though), flow-related concepts (Kanban way), Scrum, Extreme Programming, status meetings (!), office hours, and what-not else. There was very little about communication, far more about orchestration. Which is NOT the same. Communication can be one way (spreading the info to interested parties) and two way (e.g. conflict resolution, agreeing on the approach, etc.) - that's something Newport seems not to notice.

4. The book was released very recently, but it completely ignores the pandemic that has (since 2019) changed the world. So one of the highly praised solutions (e-mail alternatives) is just collocation or paying someone a direct visit.

To be honest, I am far from being an e-mail aficionado, I barely use e-mails even in work. But my point is that e-mail is just one of the options in our palette. It's very useful in particular scenarios and completely detrimental in others. So it's essential to understand it in depth and apply the lessons in practice. IMHO this book doesn't help with that.
Profile Image for Nicholas Kotar.
Author 38 books252 followers
March 9, 2021
Cal keeps hitting home runs (the obligatory baseball reference if for you fellow podcast listeners out there). This one might be better than deep work. If you really want to get the most out of this ,read it together with The Shallows by Nicholas Carr, Free to Focus by Michael Hyatt, and anything by Jarod Lanier. I devoured this whole book almost in a single sitting.
Profile Image for Jacob Tjornholm.
34 reviews2 followers
April 6, 2021
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 of careful and deliberate advance planning, more tasks now tend to be coordinated via ad-hoc messages back and forth between team members, managers and other stakeholders.

Apparently this happens over email in many teams. I feel grateful for not having experienced that myself. As a software developer it is second nature to use a kanban board or other project management tools to plan projects and individual tasks. I can’t even imagine working without such tools, but many do, at least in other professions. In fact, on of the major points of the book is that we should be using things like Trello instead of just coordinating our work via email threads.

To me, the choice of Email, Slack, Trello or Jira is not what’s interesting about this book. Much more relevant to me is how we have come to accept starting a work task based on incomplete information, knowing that we can just obtain this information as we go along.

It’s simply too easy to ask when unsure. This is true for any modern communications platform, although they’re certainly not all created equal. Project tools like Trello, Clubhouse or Twist at least keep things organised by topic. Slack and Email invite unstructured back-and-forth with only the channel or subject line to organise the information.

There’s a clear line back to the discussions we had early in my career where Scrum was really gaining traction in the software development world. One of the key points was that nobody should start working on a task until it is Ready. Meaning that it is actually known what needs to be done, start to finish. As I recall, this was one of the most important rules, second only to the rule about not interrupting a team when it is in a Sprint.

This fits perfectly with the message in the book. The terminology is different, but the point remains the same: Plan ahead and make sure the task is ready. And once you start working, don’t let yourself get interrupted. While Scrum focused entirely on teams, Cal Newport makes the point that this principle is equally applicable for individuals.

While reading the book I often thought about how I structure my time, and how we as a team organize our work (I work in the 9-person product team at GoMore, a p2p car sharing platform).

As all other product teams, we have a huge backlog of small and big features we’d like to get done. But as we have matured as a team, we have become increasingly aware that it is not efficient to just pick something and get started. Tempting as it often is.

It is possible for sure, and sometimes it feels easy in the beginning. Assemble a small group (designer, frontend, backend, iOS, Android) and get started after a short kickoff meeting. We know what we want to build, let’s just figure out the details as we go.

Is that a good approach? Let’s say I start working and get stuck with my work after half a day because I’m unsure of how to handle some edge case. What are the costs?

First, I need to disturb someone with my question, usually our CPO. Let’s say I shoot him an email (in honor of the book…in reality I’ll probably be impatient and DM him on Slack instead).

But then what?? I need to figure out what to do now that I’m blocked. So I have to context switch, probably picking up a support ticket or a small task from our “pool” of minor things to work on. If I’m lucky there is something within the same project I can pickup to stay in the same place mentally.

I don’t know when I can get back to the project I should be working on, because I don’t know when I’ll get an answer from my CPO. So I don’t know how much time I have. Maybe I’ll have to tread waters for the rest of the day.

Worst case, I didn’t phrase the question clearly enough and I get a clarifying question in return a few hours later.

It is pretty obvious that this is not a great way to work, but it’s not at all uncommon. Whenever someone is working on a problem and they shoot you a “quick question” on Slack, you should probably both pause and consider how this could have been avoided. It’s not that I want to avoid human interaction, although it may come across that way. But as much as I want to be a helpful team player, I’d much rather spend my time pairing on actually challenging issues or on creating product value myself, rather than answering questions that we should (as a team) have thought of earlier.

So for any project, we should do our best to identify as many unknowns upfront and find answers that everyone working on the project can familiarise themselves with. Knowledge should be spread from a single source of truth, not distributed ad-hoc.

On our team, we try to achieve this by starting any new feature work with a Feature Brief, which is simply a Google doc, usually 1-3 pages long.

It first describes the motivation for the feature in a few sentences. This is just useful as background and may inspire questions and critique.

Then the most important section: The lists of must have and should have changes to the product. This describes exactly what we want to change, divided into a mandatory part that must be completed for the feature to make sense, and an optional part that we can tackle as time permits.

As we think about the new feature (before working on it), we come up with questions and fill in more detailed information on these items. Often, this extra information is about edge cases or conflicts with existing items.

For example: A “must-have” of a new feature is that the renter pays a 25% cancellation fee on late cancellation of a car rental. But what if a 15% coupon discount was applied to the purchase? Is the coupon still spent or do we charge the entire fee from the credit card payment? Also, should loyalty points still be earned from the 25% of the payment we keep? There are tons of details that we just don’t notice until we’ve spent significant time thinking about the project.

Also, very importantly, the Brief contains a section for Unknowns. So we make it explicit what we do not yet know and need to clarify before we can finish the project. We often use comments in the document to keep track of who is working on clarifying these unknowns at any given time.

Finally there’s a Notes section with non-essential background information that is just good to know for anyone working on the project.

We sometimes color code text by status. Orange for in-progress and green for done.

The Feature Brief is the single most important document when working on a new feature. It’s short enough to never be overwhelming, but at the same time it must (by definition) capture everything essential about the new feature. The Brief links to external documents like designs and the project board containing the lower-level “stories” for each technical change we need to make in a codebase.

This turned into more than a book review. Which goes to show why I liked the book so much. It made me realise what we do right on our team, and why. And perhaps what we can do even better.

I highly recommend this book, even if you’re like me and secretly like email. Again, it’s not about email, it’s about how messaging is used in a team. And of course, since I went on a tangent and started writing about software development, I only touched on a single aspect of the book. It contains many more valuable insights and is quite well-written.
Profile Image for H.b. Charles.
77 reviews147 followers
March 25, 2021
Don’t let the title throw you off. This is a good and practical book about how those who do thought work can set up effective workflow systems to maximize the use of time and productivity of work.
Profile Image for Rick Wilson.
647 reviews226 followers
March 9, 2022
The author has one main idea, “the hyperactive hive mind,“ and just kind of beats it back-and-forth like some sort of coked out squash player.

Is it possible that email does exactly what we want it to do? in that it makes us seem and feel busy when in reality we accomplish little. It seems more likely to me that engaging in email as noticeable task is actually optimal in many organizations we have today.

I can’t help but visualize this book as a wonderful representation of the parable of the blind man and an elephant. It’s describing part of the organizational structure that is modern work. And I think Cal does an incredible job talking about this one narrow topic. The problem is that it’s like reading a book from one of those wise men only describing the tail of an elephant. It doesn’t really help you understand the elephant as a whole.

I’d also add that Cal does a phenomenal job as an analyst in the narrow band he examines. Its the conclusions and larger picture that frustrates the reader. It’s daft to consistently hear him talk about hiring a third-party person to deal with more of the same problems as the ‘solution’ to email without contextualizing the whole system of work. Call is kind of like an excellent doctor who can tease out all of your symptoms and deficits, but then comes to the conclusion that you have a rare tropical disease from Borneo tree frogs, despite your never having been to Borneo.

I’d highly recommend reading David Graebers “bullshit jobs” as a chaser to this. Graeber contextualizes a lot of this stuff in a much more robust way. We keep rushing and rushing, attempting to milk more productivity from ourselves without ever asking why? It’s the red queen phenomenon just on a massive scale. We keep having to go faster, “because that’s what we need to do. And while Cal kind of inadvertently bumbles into thinking about “a better way to work“ he mostly misses the forest for the trees.
Profile Image for Paige.
88 reviews3 followers
May 22, 2021
I hate to say it because I know people have found book incredibly insightful, but it bored me to sleep at points. It could easily have been half as long. I don't know if I just have been lucky enough to never be in the dysfunctional work environments described, or if I was just already aware of most of the productivity tools Newport discusses, but I don't think I was the intended audience. The most interesting parts to me were the history behind email and why we use it the way we do, which I found legitimately fascinating. I found the rest hard to take seriously - the language always came off overdramatic for talking about our inboxes, whether it was the "hyperactive hive mind work flow" buzz term (which made me wish there was a mute words function for Kindle) or describing knowledge work as "Hobbesian." Some of the studies mentioned, while interesting, did not necessarily support the author's conclusions as much as he thought. The author surveyed 1500 of his readers, but these are all people who presumably routinely read the work of a man who has written extensively on how email is hurting our productivity - that might provide an interesting analysis about Newport's reader base, but it doesn't provide me with much generalizable data about how the population uses email as a whole. The "honey stick" experiment was way too simplistic and I'm not sure you can jump to receiving more honey sticks = more social standing in the tribe as cleanly as the book lays out. The author also concludes from an experiment that had participants' phones go off across the room while they tried to solve an exercise that their indicators of stress increased because the were agitated being separated from checking their phone. That might be part of it, but who the hell isn't stressed and annoyed when there are loud noises going off while they're trying to work, regardless of the source? I'm sure a tornado siren wouldn't have been good for people's stress levels either.

Aside from stretching the results of studies to be more definitive than they are, this book isn't really addressing problems with email; it's addressing problems with management. The author laid out things like the importance of short meetings where people provide updates and what they need from the rest of their teammates and described the problem where no one wants to take responsibility for scheduling a meeting so everyone just emails back and forth shirking it. Running inefficient meetings and not taking initiative are things shitty management does, and email may well contribute but it is not the source of bad managers. If someone needed the basic concept behind scheduling and running a meeting laid out for them, I don't think their management ability is salvageable at this point. Same with Newport's suggestion for managing your coworkers/teammates' expectations around not replying to emails instantaneously: "Don’t let things fall through the cracks, and if you commit to doing something by a certain time, hit the deadline, or explain why you need to shift it." ...This is just being a competent employee managing the bare minimum of nearly any job without getting fired.

Newport spends a lot of time outlining common productivity tools, like Trello/task boards and scheduling software and Doodle polls. Maybe these are novel tools to some people, but I was already familiar with these things and didn't particularly need the concept of task boards explained in detail. I'm sure there are people in some positions where their work is unstructured and they're just winging it based on their emails, but even in jobs where I received a lot of time sensitive emails, I definitely knew what tasks I needed to get done and could use basic calendar functions. "Just rocking and rolling with your email inbox or Slack channel" is really exaggerating things, and I'm not sure it's how a significant amount of people actually go through their work day. Finally, I found Newport's comments on support staff a bit condescending. Constantly describing how important "knowledge workers" are and saying they have "value," I think was not the most tactful way to talk about admin/support staff. He sort of addresses this saying he doesn't think anyone should be disrespected at their job but immediately follows it with an but oh well, companies aren't democracies. It was a bit ironic to me that the book makes a very strong case for why cutting support staff has been so shortsighted but also manages to paint those same roles as low-value.
Profile Image for Matt.
38 reviews
December 27, 2021
Don't read this book. It is terrible. Email is bad. Use it less. Slack and instant messenger is also bad. Use Trello. Do it with a sprint methodology. There. You read it.
Profile Image for Lance Eaton.
402 reviews30 followers
December 17, 2021
As someone with a good critical grasp of technology, Newport's latest book felt like a great disappointment and a case where he misses the point significantly to a degree that can feel negligent. His argument is that email is one of the primary sources of inefficiency in work and while it served a purpose at one point, it has been a detriment to productivity at work. He spends the first half of the book trying to prove this point that email is the problem. For the second half, he spends a lot of time identifying other tools (Trello, Kanbans, and other project management software) within particular case studies to show how they are doing well without or with little email. In the end, he has a technodeterminist approach that would have us believe that eliminating email will make us much happier and much more productive at work--it's the technology, stupid.

There are many limitations in his thinking and argument. For instance, he keeps telling us that email works against our evolutionary nature (whatever that actually means) but somehow, ignores that all knowledge work, particularly at computers in artificial lighting for 8+ hours a day is also against said nature. But the fundamental flaw is that his primary argument is that email isn't productive and therefore should go. He shows little actual evidence that humans in the age of email have become less productive (some research shows it's actually the reverse, we've become more productive in knowledge work than ever before) and the fact that knowledge-work companies continue to thrive and grow large the economy would seem to indicate otherwise. His points of reference for claiming less productivity are faulty at best (e.g. he claims he's less productive as an academic than his father--yet scholarship productivity is significantly more productive as a field).

In the end, what sours me on this book is that he never questions that it's the ceaseless expectations put upon knowledge workers in the name of productivity and profit that are the actual problems, and trading in emails for Trello boards and the like is largely a meaningless difference. That is, once all companies switch over to Newport's new methods, it does not mean that there will be a break or space for employees to breathe. If actually successful at being more productive, it would only mean fiercer competition and thus, in 20 years, Newport will get to write another book on a world without Trello. This blindness to the mechanisms of industry and capitalism leads me to believe this is a great book for him to get another tour and TED Talk; to be a book recommended to lots of CEOs and given to many employees (this is how you fix your problems that we created), but it is not a book that actually helps the problem that he's looking at. It's not the technology; it's the economy, stupid.
Profile Image for Milan.
276 reviews2 followers
March 18, 2021
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 how they do their jobs than being bogged down by constant flow of emails. His prescription:

1. Using another software to schedule meetings.
2. Having non-personal email addresses for topics or projects that remove the expectation that a particular person is going to respond quickly.
3. Compose shorter emails or make a phone call instead.

So it is difficult to have 'A World Without Email' at present but we can minimize the time we spend on emails.
Profile Image for Dominic Carlin.
238 reviews3 followers
March 26, 2021
If I never read the phrase “hyperactive hive mind” again it’ll be too soon.
Profile Image for Mohammed omran.
1,565 reviews145 followers
April 15, 2022

صباح الإيميلات..
يوما ما اقترح أحدهم أن يدار العمل في المؤسسات الكبري عن طريق الإيميل ..ومن يومها لم ترَ البشرية خيراً قط..

صارت الإيميلات ساحة حرب .. وبورصة للبشر .. ونموذج لظلم الإنسان لأخيه الإنسان..

تدخل المكتب وتفتح الإيميل وتقول الدعاء اليومي ( اللهم اني اعوذ بك من الخبث والخبائث ) .. وتبدأ في استعراض الإيميلات..
عشرة ايميلات من أشخاص مكتوب في توقيعهم( officer)
فتتجاهلها مؤقتا ..

إيميل من المدير الإقليمي.. تفتحه بسرعة .. تجد نفسك في ال CC .. فتحمد الله وتقرأه بهدوء .. وتقوم بحفظه في ملف جانبي مكتوب عليه ( المدير الإقليمي ) ..

إيميل من مدير احدي الإدارات الموازية .. تفتحه بتوجس..
تجده يطلب منك توضيح لأمر ما ..
تنظر لأعلي تتفقد الأسماء التي وضعها شهودا على المعركة القادمة .. فتجد أمة لا إله الا الله..
إذن هي الحرب .. نخوضها دفاعاً عن هيبة إدارتنا وسط الإدارات والأقسام والقبائل النازحة..

تقرأ الإيميل بتركيز .. وتقرأه مرة أخرى بحثاً عما يختبئ خلف السطور ..
هذة المعركة لن تنتهي من أول reply .. يجب أن نحسب نقلات الشطرنج جيداً قبل أن نبدأ الدور ..
يمكننا أن نتبع عدة استراتيجيات.. الأولي هي الرد علي الاستفسار باستفسار.. والثانية هي تصدير المشكلة لمدير آخر وهي طريقة قذرة تنجح دائماً .. أما الثالثة هي الهجوم السريع والضربة القاضية وتلك تستلزم أن يكون معك سلاح فتاك .. إيميل سابق .. وثيقة .. سكرين شوت..

ترتشف أول رشفة من فنجان القهوة وتتأمل الموقف وكأنك فريد الديب وهو يبحث عن الثغرة التي ستبطل التهمة وتهدم القضية من أساسها ..
بعد انتهاء الفنجان تكون قد تحولت لارشميدس .. مهللاً ..وجدتها وجدتها ..
تجهز الرد الأول.. وترسله كما أرسل صلاح الدين قائده عيسي العوام غوصا في بحيرة طبرية ..

يأتيك الرد بعد نصف ساعة.. إذن خصمك ليس مندفعا .. وليس جاهزا أيضا ..
الرد ساذج وليس به أي تطوير للهجوم .. لقد ابتلع الطعم ..
حان وقت سلاح الفرسان .. لقد جئتموني في الممر ..
تجهز الرد الأخير.. وتضع في الCC من لم يجرؤ خصمك أن يضعه منذ البداية ..

أخيراً يظهر كبير المظاريطه مخاطبا الجميع ويعلن إيقاف ضرب النار و انتصار مهاجم الركن الأيمن ..

تجد مكالمة تهنئة من زميل آخر كان شاهدا علي الايميل ..فتدعوه لتدخين سيجارة نخباً لهذا الإنتصار الكبير .. وقبل أن تغلق الكومبيوتر تقوم بحفظ الإيميل في فولدر اسمه ( علينا ده احنا اتهرينا ) ..!
Profile Image for Ramón Nogueras Pérez.
537 reviews245 followers
March 18, 2021
Pues otro pepinaco de libro. Continúa lDeep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted Worlda línea argumental de los anteriores: nuestra atención es el recurso más importante. Y nuestro modo de vida y de trabajo, haciendo que estemos perpetuamente distraídos, nos hace sentir desbordados y sobrepasados, también debido a que la falta de fricción en las tareas hace que asumamos mucho más de lo que se puede.

Al contrario que los dos anteriores Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World y Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World, en este se centra mucho más en las organizaciones y cómo modificar sus flujos de trabajo para reducir la dependencia del email continuo y maximizar el tiempo que las personas pueden pasar trabajando de modo concentrado en lo que sea que tienen que hacer. Y de cómo menos, casi siempre, es más.

Sin embargo, el libro también es útil para el que trabaja por su cuenta, o simplemente para tu vida personal. Es un filón.

Una cosa que me sigue encantando es el cuidado, meticulosidad y rigor con los que Newport construye sus argumentos. Sigue un procedimiento metódico y sólido, revisando los argumentos contrarios, encontrando sus inconsistencias, presentando el suyo y mostrando evidencia de cómo funciona. El libro se lee de una sentada y sin dificultad, con una claridad y concisión envidiables.

No puedo sino recomendarlo fortísimo.
Profile Image for Mike.
59 reviews
April 26, 2021
I enjoyed this much more than I expected to. It talks about productivity workflows (which is a pet hobby of mine) with fun analogies to distributed systems and consensus and information theory.
Profile Image for Laura Noggle.
677 reviews387 followers
August 29, 2021
A world without email is not practical, and Newport admits this. Still, this book is an interesting look at how we don't have to be slaves to connection and communication, there are better ways and processes we can apply.

Not quite as good as *Deep Work* or *Digital Minimalism* yet still interesting. He introduces a framework he calls "attention capital theory" that argues for "creating workflows built around processes specifically designed to help us get the most out of our human brains while minimizing unnecessary miseries."

“Constant communication is not something that gets in the way of real work; it has instead become totally intertwined in how this work actually gets done—preventing easy efforts to reduce distractions through better habits or short-lived management stunts like email-free Fridays. Real improvement, it became clear, would require fundamental change to how we organize our professional efforts. It also became clear that these changes can’t come too soon: whereas email overload emerged as a fashionable annoyance in the early 2000s, it has recently advanced into a much more serious problem, reaching a saturation point for many in which their actual productive output gets squeezed into the early morning, or evenings and weekends, while their workdays devolve into Sisyphean battles against their inboxes—a uniquely misery-inducing approach to getting things done.”
Profile Image for Morrison Cole.
7 reviews
March 19, 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 was a) the length - this could just as well be a medium post, b) treating 'agile' and associated tech industry workflows as inspirational, novel, and something to explain to the reader as if they were 5 years old. Maybe for some audiences, this stuff would be interesting, but as someone in the tech industry for close to 7 years, it just totally fell flat for me. Not only does the author spend an almost comical about of time explaining what Trello boards are and how they work, but he also paints an ideal about 'extreme programming' etc. that (in my experience at least) doesn't really hold up. There are parts of this book that read like a sponsored Instagram post for the author's favourite organization tools.

I wouldn't read this again, and I'm also somewhat bothered by the fact I picked this up in the first place.
315 reviews
March 31, 2021
Newport’s gift is his ability to look at something we take for granted and ask if we have to do it the way we have always done it. This is what I appreciated about “Digital Minimalism” and “Deep Work” and it is what led me to this volume.

“A World Without Email” is mostly relevant to the knowledge work industry, but is still applicable to anyone who uses email. Perhaps the biggest takeaway to consider is to question, in any given situation, if email is the best tool or process for that task? We use email for everything, but its value is not ubiquitous but specific. I appreciated how much Newport drew on Neil Postman’s thought. We have to understand the tool in order to understand how best to use it. Email is abused because we are using it for things that it is not built for.

I’m not sure what specific applications I can make, yet, but the wheels are turning!
4 reviews
June 19, 2021
When Newport finished his manuscript for this book, he wouldn't have known that the 12 months prior to the book's release would have shifted knowledge workers ever deeper into the hyperactive hive mind spiral which he describes in part 1 of the book. That has been true for me and the sneaking suspicion that email begets more email and more busyness than actual productivity validated. My 5-star signifies that this was the right book for me at this moment in time and that it is a part of an ongoing conversation in retooling what work should look like, enabled by the benefits of tech and less encumbered by their unintended consequences.
Profile Image for Aneesa S..
102 reviews3 followers
August 17, 2021
It’s not that I think Cal Newport is wrong.

I just think he’s self-important, out of touch, and at least five years late with the content of this book.

How was this published in 2021 with a long-winded explanation of task boards and somehow zero mention of the pandemic and remote work?
Profile Image for Julio Padilla Mozo.
70 reviews9 followers
August 20, 2021
Que el título no te engañe. No es que dejes de usar tu correo electrónico (CE). No. Es que abras los ojos a la realidad de la sobrecomunicación. Sí. Existe. Y puede que no te hayas percatado de ella.

Este libro tiene como objetivo guiarte a imaginar lo que sería el trabajo sin el CE. Se comienza explicando cómo el CE ha reducido la productividad y ha dirigido a las personas a un estado de insatisfacción con respecto a su trabajo. A este punto te puedes preguntar que no es el CE en sí, sino el uso de él, pero no, el correo tiene su propia moral y, además, crea su propia cultural (para mayor información leer From the Garden to the City: The Redeeming and Corrupting Power of Technology).

En la segunda parte del libro (muy al estilo de Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World y Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World) brinda principios, que se pueden adaptar y contextualizar de acuerdo al tipo de trabajo, que pueden ayudar a lidiar con el problema de la abundante comunicación.

Hay muchas ideas a rescatar, de manera especial para los programadores y profesores. Pero, como ha hecho con sus otros libros, Newport busca abrir los ojos a una realidad que es tomada como lo normal. Aunque te esté costando ser bueno en tu trabajo.

Recomiendo leer este libro a todas las personas que usan CE, canales de Slack y similares, ya que, les permitirá tener una perspectiva nueva sobre la comunicación y sus efectos, en los respectivos roles de su trabajo.
Profile Image for BookLab by Bjorn.
74 reviews70 followers
June 9, 2021
What if time blocks, email free Thursday’s, and turning off notifications is not enough?  What if we need to totally reimagine how we work to reclaim our productivity?
This is the question that Cal Newport, of Deep Work and So Good they Can’t Ignore You fame, tried to answer in his new book.
He argues that email and Slack (or “The bane of my existence”, as I call it.) has not only made communication fast and frictionless, it has also introduced some quite horrible side effects like growing anxiety, frustration, and loss of productivity among knowledgeworkers.
He calls it The Hyperactive Hivemind: workplaces that let the email inbox dictate priorities. You jump between random task and get stuck in never ending email threads that seems to nowhere.
A lot of things play into the feeling of dissatisfaction, frustration and guilt:
🔸A feeling that people are waiting for you to respond to messages.
🔹Uncertainty about when tasks are done.
🔸Scattered attention.
This book reminded me of this interesting expression I found in The Iconist:
📝 Email Apnea:

“I’ve just opened my email and there’s nothing out of the ordinary there. It’s the usual daily flood of schedule, project, travel, information and junk mail. Then i notice... I’m holding my breath.”
- Linda Stone

The book is new, but feels a bit dated— I mean, who is organizing task management though email these days?! or maybe I just working at a company that is ahead of the curve. I have been using Agile frameworks like Kanban and Scrum for a decade, which is what book suggests as an antidote to email chaos.
That’ being said, I’m implementing a few ideas from this book and it feels like they might revolutionize the way I’m working!

If you’re still heavily reliant on email for your daily work, then definitely check out this book! 👌

⁉️What tools and practices makes you productive?⁉️
Profile Image for Sawyer X.
128 reviews
July 17, 2021
As usual, Cal is exhaustive in his research and explanation of ideas as well as how to implement them. Unfortunately, this book suffers from several issues that over time, disappointed me:

* There is a strong disagreement with email being a tool for genuine connection. Along with "Digital Minimalism" (also by Cal), it pushes the idea that you either cannot maintain relationships over email or that they do not count. It's unfortunate, because other than being false, it prompts communication forms that are far more intrusive, especially for introverts. I don't enjoy having numerous phone calls. I don't enjoy having numerous meetings. I wish to maintain some connection via non-ticket-system-yet-asynchronous media, such as email.

* The idea of that using Kanban, Sprints, or other agile methodologies will rescue us is exaggerated. I might be ahead of the curb in many of these, since I already use these practices in my professional work, but I had hoped to Cal would further his research into "assuming you've done this for over ten years now - when does it fail and what can be done about it?" In this way, the book is exceedingly shallow and a major disappointment.

Can't say these were the only issues, but surely the biggest ones.
Profile Image for MIKE.
36 reviews13 followers
July 7, 2022
I liked 'Deep Work' more, I don't think the content is bad but it could have been shortened more to focus on the functional aspects of actively managing our attention, good anecdotes but if you're already familiar with managing projects with boards, agile principles, and the need to manage your attention and focus as a knowledge workers I don't think there is a lot of incremental value to read this.
Profile Image for Vlad.
768 reviews33 followers
April 19, 2021
If you've read Cal Newport's other books, this one feels like it adds 10% more material to the discussion he's been leading these last several years. Fundamentally, the conclusion of this book is that we need a breakthrough in how we structure the days of knowledge workers that's equivalent to the breakthrough Henry Ford and other industrialists made when they reorganized manufacturing operations for greater efficiency. I believe that's right, but I found many of the examples in the book unsatisfactory minor evolutions rather than big steps towards revolutionary change.

Profile Image for Ivan.
671 reviews122 followers
January 6, 2023
Classic Cal Newport. Timely and helpful.
Profile Image for Kitty.
1,130 reviews76 followers
May 25, 2021
lähenesin sellele raamatule üheaegselt uudishimu ja skepsisega - mulle eelmine loetud Newporti raamat (süvenenud töötamisest) tegelikult väga istus ja ma arvan, et põhiosas tasub teda kuulata, aga see emaili-jutt ajas mind segadusse juba eelmine kord. minu elus pole mingi email segavaks faktoriks olnud juba aastaid, kui üldse (ta on muidugi olemas, aga teda võib rahulikult ignoreerida, seal ei ole kunagi midagi olulist ega kiireloomulist).

siiski, esimese asjana täpsustab Newport ise ka, et emaili all mõtleb ta ka muud elektroonilist kommunikatsiooni, kõik need skype'id-slackid-teamsid. kogu see idee, et igaüks võib suvalisel hetkel saata hästi lihtsa vaevaga kellelegi teisele mingi sõnumi, mis jõuab samal hetkel kohale ja millele siis ka samal hetkel vastust ootama hakatakse. jah, noh, okei, see hakkab juba tuttav ette tulema.

ja eks need probleemid, mis siit tekivad, on selged. kõik veedavad oma päevi mingeid sõnumeid edasi-tagasi saates, normaalselt tööd teha ei jäägi eriti aega, keegi ei jõua millelegi keskenduda. samas tundub nagu, et väga teisiti ka ei saa, sest "mu töö ongi inimestega info vahetamine!" ja üldse on see kõik nii... lihtne ja jätab mulje, et efektiivne.

selgub siiski, et efektiivsusest on asi kaugel ja et me oleme endale tekitanud "tragedy of commonsi" variandi, kus ühisvaraks on me kõigi tähelepanu. igaühele isiklikult on kasulik, et alati saab kõigiga kohe ja kiirelt rääkida. tiimi/ettevõtte/ühiskonnana on see meile kahjulik, et igaüks peab kõigile kogu aeg kiirelt vastama. see vist oli selle raamatu suurim väärtus mu jaoks, ma ei olnud osanud enne seda nii vaadata.

kui aga Newporti pakutavate lahendusteni jõudsin, sai jälle selgemaks, miks mul on olnud tunne, et need probleemid ei saa ju NII suured olla. tuleb nimelt välja, et just tarkvaratööstus (kus ma olen suht palju aega veetnud viimasel aastakümnel) on siin esirinnas ja juba teeb õige(ma)id asju. agiilsed metoodikad, backlogid ja kanbanid ja regulaarsed igapäevased lühikesed sünkroniseerimiskoosolekud ja vajadusel eraldi kokkulepitavad tehnilised arutelukoosolekud, projektitiimi kaitsev juht (kes tegeleb välismaailmaga suhtlemisega ja takistuste kõrvaldamisega ja jätab ülejäänud tiimi rahus tööd tegema), Jira või Asana või muu tarkvara kõige selle haldamiseks... see on ju tavaline. Newport lihtsalt soovitab, et ka teised inimesed peale tarkvaraarendajate võiksid sellisel moel töötada.

ei saa siiski öelda, et ma siit ise mõtlemisainet poleks juurde saanud just ses osas, mida ma ise teistelt inimestelt eeldan või kuidas nendega suhtlen. võiks küll olla vähem üherealiste sõnumite ping-pongi ja rohkem seda, et istume pooleks tunniks maha ja räägime asjad korraga läbi. peaaegu mitte millegagi ei ole tegelikult NII kiire, et peaks kohe küsima.
Profile Image for Carolien.
785 reviews143 followers
March 28, 2021
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 telling us excitedly about an email reply he had received from an overseas associate that same day. He would receive ten or so emails a week. Now we receive approximately 126 emails every day plus other messages which require instant responses. Cal’s premise is that this is unsustainable over the long-term and that knowledge work requires better processes to ensure that we can apply our minds to our work. In the second part, he sets out a number of options suitable for companies wishing to make systemic changes as well as individuals aiming to improve their situation. As usual with Cal, I would be much more productive if I consistently implemented some of his recommendations and I'll definitely experiment with one idea to try and manage a monster project to start.
Profile Image for Karen.
579 reviews
April 17, 2021
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's primary goal/work is. That seems obvious, but as a teacher, is my primary work teaching in my area of academic specialization? or being a warm emotional presence/support for students? or being an employee who helps the school function through various administrative tasks? Those three roles often demand different kinds of work and availability. And all three make sense of part of my job; I think the challenge is to decide which role I'm engaged in at any given time and then really DO that role in a focused way.

I also felt personally convicted by Newport's distinction between talking/emailing about work and actually *doing* work; it's far too easy to confuse the former for the latter.
Profile Image for Patina Malinalli.
111 reviews1 follower
March 19, 2022
Loved it! Cal Newport provides a plethora of detail in this book about the dangers of too much time spent with technology... It has awesome suggestions for saving time. It's well worth reading for anyone who wants to move up in the career world.

p.36 - A stress study was conducted and it was found that, "The longer one spends on email in [a given] hour, the higher is one's stress for that hour."

p.245 - "In both field and laboratory studies, the researches found that women are more likely to do [non-promotable tasks] than men, and say yes more often when asked. "This can have serious consequences for women, " the researchers note. "If they are disproportionately saddled with work that has little visibility or impact, it will take them much longer to advance in their careers."
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