BOOK REVIEW: A World Without Email by Cal Newport | Lifehack Method

Hi, I’m Carey Bentley from the Lifehack
Today I’m doing a book summary of the newest
book from one of my favorite productivity
authors, Cal Newport.
Before I get started – hit subscribe (and
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Newport has released a book called A World
Without Email.
I love how bold that title is.
In this video, I’m going to share the main
takeaways from the book along with the Lifehack
Method take on how to implement these learnings
into your workflow.
Who this book is for
This book was written for professionals and
knowledge workers, particularly those who
struggle with the volume of emails and messages
they receive and who are looking for a better
way to get things done.
It’s applicable to workers at large companies
and also those who work as freelancers, or
run their own small businesses.
It’s especially applicable to those in positions
of power who actually have the leverage to
make large sweeping changes inside their organizations.
You’ll definitely enjoy this read if you
like in-depth productivity books with lots
of facts, figures, and real-life examples.
It’s not as interesting to read as, say,
a Malcolm

Gladwell book, but given that it
has the potential to completely change your
workflow, it’s definitely a worthwhile read.
And before you freak out at the bold title,
A World Without Email, don’t worry — Newport
doesn’t advocate to banish ALL email, FOREVER.
After all, email is a very convenient way
to communicate, especially with people OUTSIDE
your organization who you contact infrequently.
What he does advocate for is removing email
as the main form of intra-team communication,
since at this point there are MUCH, MUCH better
ways to communicate.
And no, I’m NOT talking about Slack!
Definitely not Slack.
But more on those solutions in a minute.
The thesis of this book is very interesting.
Newport claims that email is the “faster
horse” of productivity, meaning that it
came as the solution to passing hand-written
notes on little carts between colleagues at
large companies.
Basically, it was a faster way of doing exactly
what people were already doing.
It wasn’t a step-change innovation like
the car was to the horse.
It was simply a faster horse.
And because of that, it wasn’t specifically
designed to take on the challenges of modern
office work.
So as a result, email created many unexpected
and unanticipated negative side-effects that
end up making us LESS productive and unhappy
at work.
Newport argues why the “Hive Mind” of
corporate offices these days — the “always
on”, always communicating, never-ending
stream of emails from dawn to dusk — is
a symptom of a greater workflow problem that
has come about simply because the modern professional’s
workflow was never consciously designed by
And he offers 3 principles for redesigning
your workflow so that it functions at a higher
level, with less distraction, more time for
your deep work, and most importantly—so
that you feel happier and less stressed during
your workday.
Overall, I thought Newport’s analysis of
the problem of email was spot on.
So next, I’ll do a summary of the main points
he makes about WHY email has become such a
big problem even though it SEEMS like such
a great way to communicate.
Newport argues that email is making us less
productive for a variety of reasons.
The first is because the overall volume of
communication has ballooned up since introducing
It’s so easy to send off email after email.
There’s very little friction involved.
So what’s happening is, people are communicating
about things that they don’t really NEED
to communicate about, and it’s wasting a
whole lot of time.
When IBM implemented email inside their company
to replace their scribbled notes, they figured
the volume of communication would stay about
the same.
But they were wrong!
Within ONE WEEK, they had skyrocketed to 6x
more communication than before.
People were asking questions they could have
figured out on their own, or pinging off messages
that could have waited until the next meeting.
And of course this applies equally to messenger
platforms and texting, which are also huge
sources of unnecessary communication that
is keeping us stuck in the Hive Mind and from
really moving the ball forward during the
The second reason is that the psychological
effects of email make us unhappy, due to how
we evolved socially as humans.
Because we’re very attuned to the social
bonds between us, we feel uncomfortable “leaving
someone hanging” so to speak when we don’t
respond promptly to their invitation to engage
with us.
So when we see new messages in our inbox,
we naturally feel that we’re doing something
WRONG by not responding to them.
That’s why it feels so bad when you let
your messages pile up.
As a result, you check and respond to your
emails all the time, even late at night and
during meal times.
And THEN, your co-workers learn to EXPECT
a response from you at all moments of the
day, leading to an always-on work culture
where you’re always plugged into the Hive
Mind for fear of missing out or leaving someone
Newport makes a variety of other great points
about the hidden side effects of email that
I won’t get into, because the 2 I mentioned
were the biggest ones for me.
But what should you DO about it?
Newport introduces 4 principles that are supposed
to help you move to a post-email workflow,
or at least dramatically reduce the impact
that email has on your life.
Principle #1: The Attention Capital Principle
The first principle he introduces is called
the Attention Capital principle.
This is my favorite principle of the four.
Newport argues that since human brains are
today’s main source of capital, we need
to do better to tailor how we work to how
human brains operate naturally.
He says if we can do this, you can create
dramatically more value in the economy, or
if done poorly, dramatically less value.
To do this, he advises that you take a closer
look at the workflow you use day in and day
And ask yourself — how can I minimize mid-task
context switches, where you’re changing
what you’re focusing on?
Having longer periods of time without interruptions
is an easy way to improve your workflow.
And also, ask yourself how can I minimize
communication overload?
This is the feeling that you can’t keep
up with everyone, which conflicts with our
hardwiring and leads to unhappiness and burnout.
The main technique he advises here is to make
sure you, your team, and ideally your whole
company, are working out of a task management
platform instead of out of email.
I have a separate video about task managers,
which I’ll link in the description.
These include softwares like Asana, Trello,
Clickup, and
They help you prioritize and execute your
tasks and projects, with MUCH less communication
overhead and absolutely no need for email.
When you use one, you’ll also notice that
you don’t need to have meetings as frequently
as well.
So that’s a huge productivity gain there.
Of course, if you’re new to a task manager,
it will be an inconvenience to get onboarded
and get used to a new way of working.
Newport specifies that Progress doesn’t
always equal Easy, and that we should expect
to suffer short-term inconveniences for long-term
I obviously agree with this Attention Capital
Principle because knowledge workers NEED to
be taught a different sort of workflow, one
that prioritizes focused work, and one that
discourages OVER communicating.
And I definitely agree that all knowledge
workers should be using a task management
Principle #2: The Process Principle
Newport’s second principle is called the
Process Principle.
This one is pretty intuitive, and basically
states that we should design all the processes
inside how we work.
What usually happens is that processes sort
of unfold naturally.
But that means that they aren’t optimized.
Instead, they’re usually based on what Newport
says is Thomas Hobbes’ workflow based on dominant
social hierarchy, rather than the work itself.
Basically, processes can get warped and skewed
depending on the personalities and hierarchies
in your office.
That’s obviously suboptimal.
However, introducing smart processes can increase
performance and make work much less draining.
You can look for processes everywhere.
For example, decide specifically who should
take notes during meetings, and in what way,
to optimize for collaboration.
Rather than saying “well that’s just the
way things are done here,” think about how
you could more optimally design processes
to create the best work product.
Principle #3: The Protocol Principle
The third principle is the protocol principle.
This one states that you should design rules,
or protocols, that optimize when and how coordination
For example, have rules for when meetings
can be scheduled, by whom, and what the agenda
needs to look like.
These can be personal rules or company-wide
Many companies have had success, for example,
by replacing 1:1 meetings with weekly office
There’s a protocol in place that says to
first bring your question to office hours,
and if it can’t get answered there, then
they can explore scheduling an additional
meeting to solve the problem.
Or have a protocol for how long an email can
At Lifehack Method, we are fans of the 5-sentence
email, which we were pleased that Newport
recommended as well.
Principle #4: The Specialization Principle
The fourth and final principle is called the
Specialization Principle.
This one is about working on FEWER things,
but doing each with more quality and more
In other words, become a MASTER at your work.
And not necessarily a master of all your tasks,
but the ones that truly drive value, get you
promoted, and make the world a better place.
At Lifehack Method, we like to say to treat
yourself like a professional athlete.
Imagine the dedication it takes to hone your
craft like Lebron James or Serena Williams.
Then apply that to your own work, because
that’s YOUR sport.
Newport also advises setting time budgets
for specific types of shallow work, to make
sure they don’t overwhelm your schedule.
For example, set a meeting budget, a budget
for volunteer work, or a budget for reviewing
Let’s recap.
A World Without Email makes a great case for
why we shouldn’t be so reliant on email
and messaging platforms, and why they’re
actually making us miserable and less productive.
He didn’t have to convince me, because I
was already convinced of this.
It’s why we have a zero-email business here
at the Lifehack Method, meaning we don’t
communicate with our staff at all via email,
and very minimally via messenger.
It’s why we have just 1 meeting a week,
sometimes zero.
But if you’re new to this idea, and you’d
like to free yourself from the always-on cycle
of emailing and messaging, then Newport’s
book will be a breath of fresh air.
If you liked this video, please give it a
thumbs up!And if you’re obsessed with human
potential and living your best life (like
we are), consider subscribing to this channel
so that you can join our journey to complete
lifestyle freedom.
See you in our next video!

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