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

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  639 ratings  ·  85 reviews
The New York Times bestselling author of Digital Minimalism and Deep Work proposes 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, anx
Kindle Edition
Published March 2nd 2021
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Mar 14, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 03, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 10, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Classic Cal Newport. Timely and helpful.
Jacob Tjornholm
Mar 27, 2021 rated it it was amazing
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
Taylor Ahlstrom
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
Pranav Joshi
Mar 09, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jack Reid
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
Mar 23, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 13, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The future of work is increasingly cognitive.

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

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
Sebastian Gebski
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
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
Mar 07, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
"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
Mar 10, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 01, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 22, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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)
Jared Wong
Mar 23, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Lots to think about. Nothing too heretical, but a good overview capturing the problems we presently have with our default workflow.

(view spoiler)
Mar 28, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, science, 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 telli ...more
Morrison Cole
Mar 18, 2021 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Eric Rath
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
Mar 16, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Henry Suryawirawan
Apr 05, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Dan Mantena
my rating - overall Score: 3.0/5.0
- quality of writing (5/5)
- quality of the content (5/5)
- impact on my perspective (4/5)
- personal resonance (1/5)
- rereading potential (0/5)

Cal provides a very compelling argument about the drawbacks of relying on email to assign, execute and review knowledge work.

Email is fundamentally flawed due to the way it promotes unstructured ad-hoc work that does not efficiently allocate brain capacity to the most meaningful work. Cal calls this the hyperactive hive mi
Clemens Adolphs
Apr 06, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Not a full summary, just a few notes.

The book has two parts: Part 1 talks about how our use of email and instant messaging has turned our workplace experience into a living hell, where tasks are thrown about in an unstructured, unscheduled, ad hoc fashion and work gets accomplished via the hyperactive hive mind. Cal Newport explains both how we got there and why this is bad. For a teaser on some of these ideas, you can check out his article "Email is making us miserable" in the New Yorker.

Part 2
Gonzalo Cordova
Mar 14, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Cal Newport continues developing his deep work ideas, focusing this time on how email impacts our productivity and well-being. The author makes a case against email to orchestrate knowledge work followed by a thoughtful discussion of how to effectively design workflows that support impactful work execution without relying on email.

This book is packed with meaningful content. However, I found it contributed the most by discussing knowledge work as a combination of both work execution and workflow
Brent Newhall
The subtitle is more accurate than the title. Newport explores the idea that general-purpose digital messaging services -- email, Slack, Facebook Messenger -- are bad at co-ordinating and managing work, and create a constant low-grade anxiety that the worker "should" be checking their messaging service constantly. He doesn't advocate completely banning them; instead he suggests using purpose-built tools to manage and communicate about work (so, task trackers like Trello), with messaging reserved ...more
John Cumming
Mar 27, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book starts with an easy to read analysis of how email has shaped modern working culture and inadvertently created a hyperactive hive mind where constant distraction is the norm and delivering value is becoming increasingly difficult. A reminder that technological determinism is always worth remembering as creators of new technologies. The ideas about how to resolve this started in the territory of agile practices familiar to many in the software world, but perhaps not so much elsewhere. The ...more
Jerry Smith
Mar 28, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2021
3.5 but not good enough to round up to 4.

I'm a fan of Newport. I like his writing style, he's a CS Professor so it's clear and to the point. He does go a little overboard on details occasionally but that's expected when someone lives in Academia.

This is a pretty good read, I'd slot it in at #3 of his 4 professional books. All 4 are pretty gapped to me. "Deep Work" is far and away his best work, even has a podcast dedicated to the topic. Distant 2nd but still good is "So Good They Can't Ignore Yo
Mar 31, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The concept of the hyperactive hive mind workflow makes sense. It gave me some awareness of this workflow and I can probably adopt one or two minor strategies to deal with it. I don't think any of the major strategies, like office hours or having shared boards at work would work for me, it would require an upper management radical shift at my workplace.
Also, it has become clear to me the importance of having clear defined workflows. Cal Newport defines that knowledge work is the combination of
Josh Wilks
Mar 27, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love Cal Newport's writing. I love the ideas that he puts time into fleshing out, and I love how he presents these while writing. This is the fifth book of his that I have read and all have followed the same format: breaking up the philosophical from the practical and providing specific case studies along the way.

This book tackled how work is undertaken and how it is determined who works on what, and how. The biggest thing I got out of this book was how much good processes can add to work sati
Heath Salzman
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
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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
“Acuity, ScheduleOnce, Calendly, and, of course, (to name a few examples among many)” 0 likes
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