Chapter 3: Email Has a Mind of Its Own

1. The tale of pneumatic tubes of the CIA and the general drive for practical Asynchrony are adapting

From my from my New Yorker article on the background of email. Cal Newport, “Was email from my 2019 New Yorker article on the history of email

A mistake?” Annals of Technology, New Yorker, August 6 2019

2. In the words of those CIA historians I spoke to in my research, the technology of office networking was

A major factor in the main reason that the tube system wasn’t increased during the headquarters remodel. It

It was apparent by the 1980s that the pneumatic tubes were very old-fashioned when compared with the newer ones.

The capability to transmit electrons’ signals through wires.

3. Erik Sandberg-Diment “Personal computers: refinements to “E-mail,”” New York Times, May

26, 1987.

4. Anne Thompson, “The Executive Life”Forget Lunch, Hollywood’s on E-mail,”” New York

Times, 6 September 1992.

5. John Markoff, “Computer Mail Growing in Market” New York Times, December 26 1989.

6. Stephen C. Miller, “Networking: Today, Software Giants are targeting E-mail,” New York Times,

May 31 the 31st of May, 1992.

7. Peter H. Lewis, “Personal Computers: The Best, the Bad, and the ugliest of Faces of Electronic

Mail,” New York Times 6 September 1994.

8. The significance of email’s ability to be easy to learn should not be undervalued. It’s the same for Gloria Mark

I was able to understand, in the 1980s and 1990s as computers were more prevalent,

there was plenty of research conducted by academics on how to best leverage this technology to help

workplace collaboration. The majority of this research was concentrated on the advanced multiuser networks

applications that were developed for specific functions, like editing in a collaborative manner.

kind of type of. Like Mark explained to me, email was the dominant type of document where the bespoke solutions failed

because it was simple to master and could be used in a variety of kinds of work. One-time

The investment in an email server can make collaboration easier in all areas of your company.

9. The story and quote come from this Quora thread: I also spoke with

Stone to verify and clarify the details of these aspects.

10. For a discussion as well as a synopsis of Brunner’s arguments and the relevant citations, go to Lynn

White Jr., Medieval Technology and Social Change (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1966) 3.

11. White, Medieval Technology, 5.

12. White, Medieval Technology, 13.

13. White, Medieval Technology, 13.

14. In the article, Lynn White Jr. elaborates the details, even though Benedictine monks tried to stop the practice about

During this time during this time, many Frankish warriors were burial with their horses. which allowed for the modern

archaeologists are able to find evidence of the horses’ equipment for battle. Additionally, around

At this point, the language used to describe the process of mounting and dismounting horses changed from verbs which

The action of jumping on a horse. verbs that evoked more of the stepping behaviour.

15. White, Medieval Technology, 2.

16. Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business (New

York: Penguin, 1985), 51.

17. For more information on this story read chapter 1 of my book from earlier: Cal Newport, Digital Minimalism:

Making a Choice to Live a Focused Life in a chaotic World (New York Portfolio/Penguin. 2019).

18. Blake Thorne, “Asynchronous Communication is the future of Work,” I Done This (blog) June

30, 2020,

19. Radicati Group, Inc., Email Statistics Report, 2015-2019, Palo Alto, CA, March 2015.

20. Michael J. Fischer, Nancy A. Lynch, and Michael S. Paterson, “Impossibility of Distributed

Consensus based on One Faulty Process,” Journal of the ACM 32 No. 2 (April 1985): 374-82.

21. If you are a curious reader The most concise description of this impossible proof is in the following manner.

Every consensus algorithm has to at some point make each machine scrutinize the messages it’s received

you have received thus far, and decide what you have learned and decide whether or not to continue. No matter what rule you follow to

If you decide to proceed to make this decision, there should be a limit between proceed and abort to make this decision, and where it is possible to change

A single word can move the user from one option to the next. The reason is that it brings

A lot of machines to this line that then destroy the machine that is sending the key

message halfway through its transmission the message. This means that certain devices receive the message and

Some don’t, resulting in conflicting choices. In addition, you’re allowed to flip coins

If you are happy by an algorithm which solves the issue with a high probability and accuracy, then the problem is solved.

In the same way, if you think you have some kind reasonable time-out as to how long you’ll have to wait to get an item

Before you know for certain that it’s crashed, you may be able to fix the issue.

22. I was present at the award ceremony in Paris in which Lamport was awarded the prize. In typical French style,

The officials of the government who were in attendance were dressed in elegant uniforms. As is the norm for computer scientists

Fashion, Lamport wore shorts and T-shirts.

23. Leslie A. Perlow, Sleeping with Your Smartphone: How to Stop the 24/7 habit and change the way you sleep

How you How You (Boston: Harvard Business Review Press 2012) 2, 2.

24. Perlow to sleep with Your Smartphone, 8.

25. Perlow You’re Sleeping with Your Smartphone, 5.

26. Douglas Rushkoff, Present Shock Present Shock: When All Things Happen Now (New York Current 2013, 2013),


27. Aviad Agam, and Ran Barkai “Elephant and Mammoth Hunting in the Paleolithic: A Review

of the relevant Archaeological, Ethnographic and Ethno-historical Records,” Quaternary 1 of the Relevant Archaeological, Ethnographic and Ethnographic Records.

3 (February 2018): 1-28.

28. “Is your team too big? Too Small? What’s the right number What’s the right number?” Knowledge@Wharton June

14, 2006, This article is also the primary source of information on Ringelmann’s

research is summarized in the review that is followed by.

29. Details about Drucker’s childhood as well as the salons of his parents are available at the Drucker

Institute’s bio of its namesake:

30. One of the many places in which this title is bestowed is: Steve Denning, “The Best of Peter Drucker,”

Forbes, July 29, 2014,

31. Peter F. Drucker, The Future of Industrial Man (Rutgers, NJ: Transaction Publishers in 2011) 13.

32. For more information on the Drucker GM engagement, check out the following report: “How Drucker ‘Invented’

Managerial Management in GM,” Drucker Society of Austria 2009,

33. This quote appears within The Drucker Institute’s chronology of Drucker’s life It is also mentioned on the 14th of April edition of

Peter F. Drucker, The Daily Drucker: 366 Days of Inspiration and Insight to Get the Right

Things Do (New York, NY: Harper Business, 2004).

34. Peter F. Drucker, The Effective Executive: The Ultimate Handbook to Get the Right Things Done

rev. ed. (New York: Harper Business, 2006), 4.

35. Peter F. Drucker, “Knowledge-Worker Productivity: The Biggest Challenge,” California

Management Review 41, no. 2 (Winter 1999): 79-94. Italics on the cover.

36. Lloyd did not use the term “tragedy of commons.” The label was later introduced in a later

famous article that exhaustively examines the story: Garrett Hardin, “The Tragic Tragedy of the

Commons,” Science 162 No. 3859 (December 1968): 1243-48.

Chapter 4 the Attention Capital Principle

1. Joshua B. Freeman, Behemoth: A Story of the Factory and the Creation of the Modern World

(New York: W. W. Norton, 2019), 124.

2. The specifics of the creation of this assembly line including the precise numbers used in this

The discussion comes from two fantastic second-hand sources. Freeman, Behemoth, the 119-26 edition and

Simon Winchester, The Perfectionists: How Precision Engineers Created the Modern World

(New York: Harper, 2018), 159-66.

3. The way Simon Winchester points out in The Perfectionists (see preceding note) The Perfectionists are at the same time it’s the

The rise of the Model T the Henry Royce’s luxurious automobiles, like The Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost,

made by skilled artisans, were sold as the ultimate in quality

engineering. However, in reality the components of the flims Model T were manufactured with

significantly more precise — the high cost of Rolls-Royce gave its maker the ability to achieve greater accuracy.

the effort required to adjust looser components into an exact fitting.

4. Freeman, Behemoth, 123.

5. In the same way, as Simon Winchester points out, American armories had set to mass production lines for years.

earlier. In 1913, sewing machine as well as bicycle and typewriter manufacturers also began to take on

Benefits of interchangeable parts revolution is the ability to play around with rapid-moving assemblies

lines. Ford states that his source of inspiration was the deconstruction of animals.

carcasses he’d seen in close by Chicago meatpacking plant The meatpackers, who were armed with knives, were in place as the animals walked by suspended from chains.

6. Cal Newport, “5-Hour Workdays? 4-Day Workweeks? Yes We’d like to,” New York Times 6 November


7. Winchester, Perfectionists, 160.

8. Peter F. Drucker, “Knowledge-Worker Productivity: The Biggest Challenge,” California

Management Review 41, no. 2 (Winter 1999): 79-94. Italics on the cover.

9. Drucker, “Knowledge-Worker Productivity.”

10. In the field of industrial economics, workers were thought to be more dispensible as a generic force

that will put your primary capital resources to set them in the motion. This is the mindset that was the basis of

worker dehumanization. In the next paragraph, I’ll explain one of the advantages of knowledge work over

industrial alternatives is that workers are no longer disposable in the first place, but are now working at the level of

The core of an organization’s worth which allows to work more human-centered


11. Peter F. Drucker, The Effective Executive: The Complete Handbook to Get the Right Things Done

rev. ed. (New York: Harper Business, 2006), 4.

12. Freeman, Behemoth, 123.

13. Peter F. Drucker, Landmarks of Tomorrow: A Report on the New “Post-Modern” World (New

York: Harper Colophon, 1965), 31.

14. James T. McCay, The Management of Time (Englewood Cliffs NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1959) IX.

15. Freeman, Behemoth, 126.

16. Freeman, Behemoth, 127.

17. These particulars, and the connection between Modern Times to Ford’s plant are derived via David E. Nye,

America’s Assembly Line (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2013) the number 97.

18. To explain the concept to a younger readers born after when these services were more widespread For example:

The telephone answering service served the function of an automated voicemail system. If you required to contact an

For a doctor who is not available during the day such as after hours, could call the answering service, and the doctor will be available.

operator will respond and send your information with the medical professional on the phone. It’s cheaper

for one service to provide this service to many clients rather than having each client manage their own

personal phone lines 24 all hours of the day.

19. Sam Carpenter, Work the System The Easy Mechanics to Make More And Working Fewer 3rd

ed. (Austin, TX: Greenleaf Book Group Press, 2011), chapter 2. I was able to access only one chapter.

This book can be read electronically the book is available on my Kindle and Kindle, therefore I’m not able to reference specific pages for

quotations from the source.

20. Carpenter Carpenter the System, chapter 3.

21. Carpenter Carpenter the System, chapter 4.

22. The quote on income and notes on being one of 1,500 for certain categories comes from the

official site for Work the System: Sam Carpenter, “Synopsis–For Your Business”Breaking

Loose,” July 1, 2015,

23. The quotes in this paragraph come taken from Carpenter, Work the System Chapter 11.

24. The exact variant of this autoresponder that is reproduced here is from this website:

25. Take a look at, for instance, Adam Grant, “In the Company of Givers and Takers,” Harvard Business

Review, April 2013,

Chapter 5 The Process Principle

1. An interesting side note for lovers of David Allen’s Getting Things Done methodology: the “tickler”

Files, the primary component of Allen’s contemporary system, appears as a common tool in early 20th century industrial productivity debates.

2. Joseph Husband, “What a New System of Management Did for Us,”” edited by. John S. Runnells, System:

The Magazine of Business 29 No. 4 (April 1916).

3. Andrew S. Grove, High Output Management (New York: Vintage, 2015) 33.

4. Kent Beck et al., “Manifesto for Agile Software Development”,” 2001.

5. Modus Cooperandi website,, accessed September 22, 2020.

6. Thrive, the official blog of Personal Kanban,

7. Alexie Zheglov and Gerry Kirk, “Lean Coffee or an introduction to Personal Kanban,” Agile Tour

Toronto 2012 session, YouTube video, 1:40,

8. Bradley Miller, “Personal Kanban Scheduling Board,” March 4 2019, Video on YouTube, 7:46.

9. I recently realized that I had to come up with complicated numerical grades for my issue sets–e.g.,

the scoring of a problem on a scale from 1 to 15 wasn’t enough and made it extremely difficult to evaluate

consistently. I’ve since switched to a scale that has three options (check plus zero, check, or check),

which allows myself and my teachers swiftly and accurately assess the degree to that the student

is aware of every concept.

10. In the event that my teachers are students I’ll include an extra procedure in which we hold a an appointment scheduled for 30 minutes to go through the problem sets and revise the notes on grading together. If I

Utilize graduate TAs However, they are able to work this out by themselves, thus thereby avoiding this additional expense.

30 minutes. The Georgetown campus was shut down for thirty minutes due to COVID-19 we made use of a software

Tool known as Canvas tool called Canvas that made all paper handling digital; students made digital copies of

their assignments, and then the TAs evaluated the assignments their assignments online, and the TAs graded them. This process was easily modified to the new technology.

Fully electronic configuration.

11. Rory Vaden, “The 30x Rule: How Great Managers Increase Performance,”” American

Management Association, February 3, 2015,

Chapter 6 The Protocol Principle

1. While working on my master’s dissertation at MIT in computer science and electrical engineering

department (the field that Shannon invented from scratch using his work in 1937) We heard about the department

Shannon’s spectacular student efforts. In retrospective, I’m not sure whether this was the way to go.

inspire us or make us feel demoralized.

2. For a more thorough analysis of Claude Shannon, I recommend Jimmy Soni and Rob Goodman’s

an intriguing biography from 2017, which was the basis for a large portion of the following summary The following summary follows:

Mind at Play Mind at Play: What Claude Shannon Invented the Information Age (New York: Simon &

Schuster, 2017).

3. Information theorists typically utilize the term code in this case, however

in order to be clear for the sake of clarity in the discussion to make it clearer in the discussion we’re having in order to be clear, I’m going use protocol, as in an established set of rules.

of rules of communication agreed on in advance, as it avoids common slang associations people

hold to respect this word.

4. Although he wasn’t equipped with the mathematical framework necessary to define the work he was performing,

Samuel Morse assigned the shortest possible encoder one dot in the form of “e,” the most frequent

Letter written in English written in his renowned Telegraph communication protocol Morse code.

5. Prior to Shannon the communication engineers had to deal with interference from channels like telephone

or telephone wires, trying to strengthen the signal to block out the background noise. Shannon

proved the efficacy of a digital method that encodes one bit with multiple bits.

implemented using a clever algorithm that lets you reconstruct the original part even if a lot of

The data that is transmitted is corrupted due to the information is corrupted with. This is the way that digital storage and communication

Media now function.

6. Further details on the rounds of investment by is available within Kyle Wiggers, “’s AI Meeting

The Scheduler is Now $8 per month.” VentureBeat, October 10 10, 2018.

per-month/. The exact figure of $26 million is based on me having conversations personally with

Mortensen. As detailed in this article Mortensen later realized that he had

Amy is able to communicate using natural language isn’t really all that crucial. The most current version of

the software provides more structured interfaces for planning meetings.

7. Leslie A. Perlow, Constance Noonan Hadley, and Eunice Eun, “Stop the Meeting Madness,””

Harvard Business Review, July-August 2017,

8. To explain my usage of part-time assistants I do not as of yet I have a permanent assistant.

I prefer to employ assistants for a short period to help me during very busy times, like

The events surrounding the book’s launch. This was not feasible in the past, prior to the web-based remote work platforms that allow part-time remote working.

9. Cal Newport, “A Modest Proposal to End Email” Harvard Business Review, February 18,


10. Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson The Workplace Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy to be a craze at work (New York:

Harper Business, 2018).

11. Fried along with Hansson, Crazy at Work 56.

12. Fried as well as Hansson, Crazy at Work Crazy at Work, 56.

13. Scott Kirsner, “I’m Joining the Open Office Hours Movement, 24 November,”,

December 20, 2009


14. Cal Newport, So Good You Can’t Go Unnoticed The Reasons Skills Over Passion in the Race for Work

That You Are Loved (New York, NY: Business Plus, 2012) (73).

15. The first name for the business used to be Princeton Internet Solutions. Michael and I quickly realized that,

however, the acronym was not as good as it could be.

16. Tom Foster, “Tim Ferriss’s 4-Hour Reality Check,” Inc., April 2, 2013,

17. Below are some pertinent history from which the various aspects that comprised the emails story have been drawn:

Samuel Gibbs, “How Did email evolve from messages between Academics to an International

Epidemic?” The Guardian, March 7, 2016; and Ray

Tomlinson “Frequently Answered Questions”

18. C. L. Max Nikias, “Why All My emails are the lengths of text,” Wall Street Journal,

September 19, 2017, It’s interesting to note that one year has passed since the publication of this op-ed referenced in this article,

Nikias has resigned his post as the president of USC. According to subsequent reports, the

the outward success of his presidency were evident in the loss of trust between Nikias

and faculty members and the faculty at the university, which leads to discontent. It’s likely to be safe to conclude that faculty members are also unhappy.

This ouster did not have anything to have to do with his email preferences (faculty don’t have email access).

to the president of to the president at large to the president at large) to the president at large universities, and we can still draw lessons from his strategies to remain

productive when you have an overflowing inbox.

19. Mike Davidson, “A Low-Fi Solution to Overloaded E-Mail:,” July

17, 2007,

20. Michael Hicks and Jeffrey S. Foster, “Adapting Scrum to manage the Work of a Research Group”

(Department of Computer Science ) Technical Report #CSTR-4966, University of Maryland,

College Park, September 18, 2010),

Chapter 7 The Principle of Specialization Principle

1. Edward Tenner, Why Things Bite Back The Technology and the Revolt of Unintended consequences

(New York: Vintage, 1997), 238-39.

2. Tenner The Tenner, What’s the reason things bite back The Tenner, Why Things Bite Back.

3. Peter G. Sassone, “Survey Findings Poor Office Productivity Related to Staffing Issues”

National Productivity Review 11, issue. 2 (Spring 1992): 147-58. This study was also mentioned as well as

written the findings of Edward Tenner in Why Things Bite back (cited in the previous two notes),

This is the way I first discovered it.

4. Cal Newport, “Is Email making Professors dumb?” Chronicle of Higher Education 12 February


5. Greg McKeown, Essentialism: The Disciplined Struggle to Be Less (New York, NY: Crown Business,

2014), 1-3.

6. The readers of my book Deep Work might identify this phenomenon as the whiteboard

effect. In general, you can use the same display or board, you can work together with a

Small groups of students working on a tough task will increase the level of concentration that you can achieve.

when working on your own. Cal Newport, Deep Work The Rules of Concentrated Success in a Busy world

(New York, NY: Grand Central Publishing, 2016).

7. Anne Lamott, “Time Lost and Found,” Sunset, April 5, 2010,

8. Pat Flynn, “SPI 115 9000 unread emails to Inbox Zero Our Executive Assistant Keeps Track of Our Methods of

Have You Ever (and How You Are able to Too! ),” June 28 2014 on the Smart podcast on passive income, with Pat

Flynn, 35:22,

9. Laura Vanderkam, “Can You Really Work 20 Hours per week for Core Production?”, October 15, 2015,

10. For more details on Scrum sprints, and on the exact timing of the methodology’s development read Ken Schwaber

as well as Jeff Sutherland, The Scrum Guide The Ultimate Guide to Scrum and Jeff Sutherland, the Rules of the Game,

November 2017,

11. The timetable and information for Google Ventures cited come from the website of Google Ventures:

12. My overview of the sprint’s method is via Jake Knapp, with John Zeratsky and Braden

Kowitz, Sprint: How to tackle Big Issues and test new ideas in just five days (New York:

Simon & Schuster, 2016).

13. Bruce Janz, “Is Email the reason why email is making Professors stupid? This isn’t the issue,” Department of

Philosophy, University of Central Florida 12 February 2019,

14. Laura Vanderkam recommends that individual professionals begin by looking at ways to make

the time needed to devote to various activities, and return to these goals.

Implementing a self-imposed activity budget: Laura Vanderkam, “How to Craft a Perfect,

The Productive 40-Hour Workweek” Fast Company, October 13, 2015.

15. Linda Babcock, Maria P. Recalde Maria P. Recalde and Lise Vesterlund “Why Women Volunteer to Do jobs that

Do not lead to promotions,” Harvard Business Review 16 July, 2018,

16. At the time I began working on this article, Georgetown began putting into the ground an impressive,

An invisible interface-like service that can help academic researchers conduct their research more efficiently. The

The university is in the process of appointing “research coordinators” for each of the main research areas. If the university has a

If the professor has questions about the administrative structure that surrounds your work (e.g.,

Grant-related issues) If they have any grant issues, they can request the coordinator to identify the correct support units for them to contact.

the required information or fix the problem.

Conclusion The Twenty-First-Century Moonshot

1. Neil Postman, “Five Things We Must Know regarding Technological Change” (talk delivered in

Denver, CO, March 28, 1998),