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Deep Questions with Cal Newport

Cal Newport

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Cal Newport is a computer science professor and a New York Times bestselling author who writes about the impact of technology on society, and the struggle to work and live deeply in a world increasingly mired in digital distractions. On this podcast, he answers questions from his readers and offers advice about cultivating focus, productivity, and meaning amidst the noise that pervades our lives.
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In this episode, the proverbial tables are turned, with Cal being interviewed by Jordan Harbinger about time, focus, and the quest for a slower notion of productivity. (This interview originally aired as episode 975 Jordan's can’t-miss podcast, The Jordan Harbinger Show). Below are the questions covered in today's episode (with their timestamps). G…
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There has been a lot of attention paid recently to the impact of technology like social media on the mental health of young people. But this is not the only technology trap lurking for this generation. In this episode, Cal talks about three subtle but significant ways in which our current technology culture is setting up young people for profession…
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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 fr…
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We think of information as something neutral; a spotlight that helps illuminate the reality of the outside world. Accordingly, more information is better than less. In this episode, Cal pushes back on this model, arguing that the form in which information arrives can strongly impact the understanding we extract. We must therefore be more intentiona…
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Why do you struggle with your grand attempts to escape distraction and aimlessness to make your life deeper? In this episode, Cal draws on an unexpected metaphor – Charles Babbage, Ada Lovelace, and the Analytical Engine – to help identify the subtle obstacle on your path to increase depth. With this new understanding in hand, he then details a spe…
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In the first ever live episode of Deep Questions, recorded at People’s Book in Takoma Park, MD, Cal extracts a modern productivity lesson from the tale of Jane Austen’s frustrated ambitions, before taking questions from the audience. Below are the questions covered in today's episode (with their timestamps). Get your questions answered by Cal! Here…
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In this episode Cal takes a closer look at a growing trend of artists quitting social media and instead reverting to old-fashioned websites. Are these acts of principled sacrifice or a sustainable way to be creative online? Cal argues for the latter, showing how the internet without social media curation algorithms can be a place of rich discovery …
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One of the biggest problems afflicting knowledge workers in the digital age is frantic busyness; days filled with emails, chats, and meetings, without much to show for all the effort. In today’s episode, Cal dives into one of the most-discussed ideas from his new book, Slow Productivity, which offers a simple, tactical assault on this state of pers…
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Imagine a world in which AI could handle your email inbox on your behalf. No more checking for new messages every five minutes. No more worries that people need you. No more exhausting cognitive context shifts. In this episode, Cal explores how close cutting-edge AI models are to achieving this goal, including using ChatGPT to help him answer some …
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On his recent book tour, Cal found great success using a small notebook dedicated to developing a single idea. In this episode, he explores this “single-purpose notebook” strategy, identifying when it makes sense and why it works. He also takes listener questions about his new book, “Slow Productivity,” and reacts to a recent article about TikTok’s…
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What does the story of the rise of the singing superstar Jewel teach us about escaping busyness in our knowledge work jobs? In this episode, Cal makes the connection, extracting a key lesson about quality as an engine for slowness, and then providing concrete advice and examples for applying this lesson to your own professional life. Also: listener…
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One of the most common strategies for achieving a powerful ideal lifestyle vision is to leverage entrepreneurial activities to find a stable source of income that allows autonomy and flexibility. To help understand how to succeed in such ventures, Cal interviews the entrepreneur and author Noah Kagan about his new book, "The Million Dollar Weekend.…
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How did we end up tyrannized by our inboxes? How is this related to Tyrannosaurus? What was it like working at a high-tech company at the exact moment email was introduced? In this episode, Cal weaves together all these questions into a story about the unexpected ways technology impacts our lives and what we can do after the fact to make things bet…
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We’ve become so used to our phones in our lives that we’ve stopped realizing how arbitrary and unusual the content we’re watching really has become. In this episode, Cal looks closer at what we’re really spending time doing on our phones, then provides step-by-step instructions for healing this relationship. Below are the questions covered in today…
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A deep life requires that you encounter and make sense of a large amount of incoming information, from narrow data relevant to a professional project, to broad insights into your purpose. How do you keep track of all of this? In this episode, Cal proposes a minimalist approach aimed at minimizing the friction required to keep tabs on what matters. …
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A key step in cultivating a deep life is reflecting on what matters to you and the best strategies for pursuing it. This, in turn, requires that you engage in the consumption of some manner of self help. It’s here that many people sell themselves short, limiting this intake to short videos and the occasional advice guide. In today’s episode, Cal ta…
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One of the more interesting realities of people who live remarkable lives is that they are often much less busy than the rest of us. In this episode, Cal explores three ideas that help explain why this is true, then explains how we can use these ideas to reduce our own workloads. Below are the questions covered in today's episode (with their timest…
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Call talks with Ali Abdaal about his journey from doctor to YouTube sensation, and then dives deep into Ali’s new book, “Feel-Good Productivity,” and the possibilities of making accomplishment something enjoyable. Below are the questions covered in today's episode (with their timestamps). Get your questions answered by Cal! Here’s the link: bit.ly/…
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What is the correct first step in transforming your life into something deeper? Traditional advice says to start with a clear vision of what you value. Cal has been arguing that it’s instead more important to develop a foundation of discipline. In this episode, he explores a more specific variation of this idea: perhaps the best way to prepare to p…
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During the New Year season it is common to talk about how to be more productive. But what about the downtime between your major pursuits? In this episode, Cal argues for rewiring your brain to crave slow distractions over their faster (often digital) alternatives. The goal here is not to get more done but to transform your life into something slowe…
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One of the more important abilities to cultivate for the year ahead is comfort learning complicated (and therefore valuable) new things. In this episode, Cal tackles the myths surrounding mastery and presents a new mental model for internalizing non-trivial information. As he elaborates, there is both good news and bad news when it comes to this to…
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The mega-bestselling writer Arthur Brooks is one of the rare individuals to have both lived a carefully cultivated deep life and written a book on the topic (co-authored with Oprah!). In today’s episode, Cal interviews Brooks, going deep into the details of his unusual and inspiring career and extracting proven rules from his experience. Below are …
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We talk a lot on this show about getting more done, but what’s the best way to handle the inevitable situation in which you have too much to do? Cal walks through a sensible response to the crazy-making reality of overload. Below are the questions covered in today's episode (with their timestamps). Get your questions answered by Cal! Here’s the lin…
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One of the most important skills for cultivating a satisfying and high impact life is one we rarely discuss: the art of serious thinking. In this episode, Cal makes the case for serious thinking as an ability to specifically cultivate, then describes five specific practices you can put into place to launch a crash course in developing an effective …
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We talk a lot on this show about remaining organized in a digital workplace that drowns us with incoming obligations. In this episode, Cal focuses on the key question of how you get *started* toward this goal. What do you do, in other words, on day one of your quest to find depth amidst the shallows. Below are the questions covered in today's episo…
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One of the most common types of messages sent in from listeners of this podcast are self-recriminations about laziness. But what does “laziness” actually mean? In this episode, Cal takes a deeper look at the common terms and sees that it’s often used to describe two unrelated phenomena. He then gives a big idea for overcoming each. Below are the qu…
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How you accomplish important goals: The type that can transform your life in remarkable ways? In this episode, Cal breaks down the common mistakes we make in pursuing hard goals and then details the reverse goal setting strategy he has found to work much more consistently. Below are the questions covered in today's episode (with their timestamps). …
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Based on extensive feedback from listeners and new research, Cal is ready to unveil his new and improved version of the Deep Life Stack, his foundational approach for transforming your life from shallow and distracted to deep and remarkable. Below are the questions covered in today's episode (with their timestamps). Get your questions answered by C…
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A viral video making the rounds recently argues that the key to promoting learning is to deliver education in apps that are equally addictive as social media. Cal takes a closer look at the brain science behind this claim and argues why it is fundamentally impossible to beat attention engineered apps at their own game. We shouldn’t, however, give u…
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In this episode, Cal reviews what he believes to be the four essential tools for feeling on top of everything you need to do. If you’re missing one of these, you might struggle. If you use all four, you’re probably safe never thinking about “productivity” again. Cal is then joined by friend of the show, New York Times bestselling author David Epste…
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Much of the advice we discuss is about how to improve things right now. But what are the right strategies for ensuring that we’re happy about where we are five or even ten years in the future. How do we ensure, in other words, that we won’t look back at major swaths of our lives with regret? In this episode, Cal discusses three big ideas for playin…
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An increasing number of people are suffering from “super distractions” that rise above the level of harmless diversion and instead start to actively hold them back in their life. Some of the common culprits cited include social media, online pornography, and alcohol. In this episode, Cal takes a closer look at what creates super distractions and us…
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After an episode in which Cal reviewed ancient wisdom on cultivating a deeper life, he turns his attention back to more recent advice. Focusing on three of the more unconventional but unambiguously effective ideas that he has proposed in his twenty years of professional writing on these topics. Below are the questions covered in today's episode (wi…
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Stoicism seems to be all the rage at the moment. In what ways is it relevant to our question to live deeply in a distracted world? And in what ways is it not? Cal takes a closer look at Meditations by Marcus Aurelius and discusses his relationship with the philosophy more generally. Below are the questions covered in today's episode (with their tim…
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Knowledge workers increasingly describe themselves as exhausted and burnt out. Why is this happening? In this episode, Cal argues that some of the obvious answers aren’t enough to explain the phenomenon. The real answer is both less expected and perhaps more fixable than we expect. Below are the questions covered in today's episode (with their time…
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Do we need to move to a ranch in the middle of nowhere to take control of our technology habits? Cal argues that these types of extreme examples are counter-productive, making it seem like real changes are close to impossible. He offers instead an alternative approach based on zero-based budgeting your technological life. Below are the questions co…
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In this episode, Cal visits eight of the most influential books in personal productivity, identifying for each a single idea that ended up most resonating both with his own work and the culture more generally. Below are the questions covered in today's episode (with their timestamps). Get your questions answered by Cal! Here’s the link: bit.ly/3U3s…
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Change is unavoidable. You can either fear it or learn to master it. In this interview episode, Cal talks with longtime friend of the show, Brad Stulberg, about his new book, “Master of Change.” Below are the questions covered in today's episode (with their timestamps). Get your questions answered by Cal! Here’s the link: bit.ly/3U3sTvo Video from …
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Too many people believe that the New Year is the right time to undertake major improvements to your life. In this episode, Cal argues that it is instead right now, at the beginning of fall, that is the best time to turn over a new page. He lays out a detailed 4-month journey through the deep stack that will have you done with a major overhaul by th…
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When it comes to generating fantastic ideas – the type that can make your career – you don’t have to passively wait for inspiration to strike. You can, instead, *hack* the creative process to increase the odds of coming up with something great. In this episode, Cal explores one of the more powerful forms of “creativity hacking”: making use of stran…
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In celebration of the newly released *second* edition of the Time Block Planner, Cal provides some additional expert tips for getting the most out of a time blocking discipline before answering listener questions on the general topic of time management. He closes by discussing the recent claim that phones are ruining peoples’ ability to watch movie…
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One of the most popular (and widely forgotten) slogans of the ancient world was Festina Lente, or, “Make Haste Slowly.” In this episode, Cal looks deeper at what this phrase meant, and in doing so uncovers an ancient version of slow productivity. Below are the questions covered in today's episode (with their timestamps). Get your questions answered…
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Do you ever feel completely overwhelmed by everything you have to do? The writer Oliver Burkeman recently experimented with an unexpected response to this common sensation: he decided to work much less. In more detail, he wanted to see what would happen if he reacted to overload by restricting his work to only four hours per day. In this episode, C…
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Do history’s greatest thinkers care about time management? In today’s episode, Cal analyzes the system that the mathematician and philosopher, Kurt Godel, used to structure his days, weeks, and years to produce meaningful work over a long period of time. Below are the questions covered in today's episode (with their timestamps). Get your questions …
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Sometimes the most effective way to contain your workload is to simply declare how long you’re willing to work and then refuse to violate your pledge. In this episode, Cal revisits this “fixed-schedule productivity” strategy, which he first introduced way back in 2008. Below are the questions covered in today's episode (with their timestamps). Get …
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In Cal’s new “deep life stack” the first layer toward finding more meaning is to develop discipline. Why does this come first? In this episode, Cal dives deeper into the importance of starting with discipline. Below are the questions covered in today's episode (with their timestamps). Get your questions answered by Cal! Here’s the link: bit.ly/3U3s…
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Over the past twenty years, “productivity” has come to be synonymous with using digital tools to speed up non-essential parts of knowledge work. As cal argues in this episode, this “cybernetic” approach has proven to be a complete failure. He explores why speeding up isn’t working and what this teaches us about what we need to do instead. Below are…
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Some of the most interesting and impactful people in the world build their work around a commitment to doing only a few things very well. No one remembers that it took Newton decades to finish The Principia, they just know that he wrote a book that changed science forever. In this episode, Cal defines some concrete laws for successfully implementin…
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In this episode, Cal is joined by Laura Vanderkam (author of Tranquility by Tuesday and co-host of the Best of Both Worlds podcast). Cal and Laura tackle a collection of your questions about the struggle to make time for the various things that matter most, from your career to your family to your hobbies. Below are the questions covered in today's …
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How do you leave a life of superficial distraction and cultivate something deeper? In today’s episode, Cal describes “The Deep Life Stack,” an approach to cultivating a deep life that starts with overhauling the person before making the big decisions. Below are the questions covered in today's episode (with their timestamps). Get your questions ans…
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