Okay, so now let's talk about that counterintuitive thing that I mentioned earlier, which is that, like most modern lawyers, you don't seem to have enough time to do the work that really matters most. That is the problem that you're not efficient enough. No, that's not it. Is it that you're not using technology enough? Or properly? No, that's not it either. Is it that you have poor productivity habits? Well, that might hamper your efficiency some, but it's not the reason that you're not effective enough, in doing the work that really matters most. The problem is, like most modern knowledge workers, your way of working is not suitable for the modern world, the world of bombards you with a stream of distractions and interruptions. Email is one way you're interrupted or distracted. But email is just one problem. If you switch to using slack or Microsoft Teams, is that going to make the real problem go away? No, it's not. So let's talk about exactly what the real problem is, and then see if we can formulate a good plan to solve that real problem. So I mentioned that we are doing knowledge work. And you may have heard this phrase knowledge workers. And it is in fact, knowledge work. That is what we do, right? The Old World was an industrial world, the mechanical world, a world where there was an assembly line, and people gathered together and they built cars. And that is still going on. We still have industrial manufacturing, but the new world is more prevalent with knowledge work. So you know, this assembly line model, you know, we're familiar with it. And that was an innovation, that's, you know, it's something we need to take stock of. It's something that Henry Ford was known for, because he had the insight, and then he developed the innovation. Now, we take it for granted. But the thing to understand about this is that Henry Ford achieved massive efficiency by trying a bunch of things that failed before he perfected the assembly line, it wasn't just a question of saying, oh, let's get some people together, and put them in a factory and, you know, move stuff through. I mean, he that was, you know, the first insight, then he had to work out the kinks. But he did, and we developed, you know, great efficiency in the industrial age. But now we've got the information age. And the question is, how can we achieve a similar type of efficiency? Where's the innovation, and we'll talk about that. But we are in the information age, and we are knowledge workers. And there are currently over 230 million knowledge workers worldwide, according to a McKinsey report. More than 1/3 of the US workforce, are knowledge workers. And these are statistics from a book called The world without email by Cal Newport, which I'll say more about as we go along. But, you know, these are facts, they're easily discernible that we are knowledge workers knowledge workings growing. And one of the first people to talk about knowledge work and knowledge workers was Peter Drucker, he is a well known Austrian consultant, who was hired by big American companies and Japanese companies to help them become more efficient. And he was one of the first people to kind of sit down and think about what is knowledge work? How is it done better? You know, how is this going to change the workforce. And one of the things that he said, distinguished knowledge workers from other types of workers, specifically factory workers, was that knowledge, workers need autonomy, they need a lot of autonomy. And so they're not in a rigid work situation like assembly line workers, they have to have autonomy to decide how to work. And this was an insight that he had. And then he had to convince a lot of people who were trying to, you know, get the most out of their managers, that you can't be telling people exactly how they're supposed to do their jobs. You need to give them the objective, and let them figure out how to do it for themselves. So this was in the early stages of knowledge, work transition, but now we're well into it. And one of the best books by Peter Drucker, of which he wrote many is called the effective executive. And I'll put a link to that in the show notes. Definitely worth reading because it gives you an insight into all these, you know, these thoughts that he had at the beginning of the beginning stage of this transition into the information age and knowledge. But the thing to understand, and this is coming from Cal newports recent book, called a world without email is that this proposal by Drucker
the knowledge workers have autonomy was a radical idea. It's now taken as gospel but back then when he first proposed it, it was considered radical this idea that you would just let Workers figure out how to do their jobs. So let's flash forward to the world we live in today where we have these amazing tools for knowledge workers to communicate with each other email being one of the big ones. And the problem, the knowledge workers, these people like us who have this autonomy and our thinking for a living and selling our knowledge, we're not able to be as productive as we're supposed to be because of all these distractions and interruptions. And what's ironic and troublesome, is that many of these distractions and interruptions are coming from tools that were designed to make us more productive, theoretically, like email. Email is an interruption, right? But it's useful. And it kind of started to evolve in about 1980, or in the 1980s. And back then email was considered to be extremely useful. And, you know, amazing because it was a low friction communication tool that scaled well. And so the beginning when not that many people were using it, it was considered amazing. But now we're at a stage where the average knowledge worker gets 126 business emails per day, which is about one message every four minutes, the average worker checks their email 77 times a day. And the company Adobe says its workers spend about three hours per day on email, these are all statistics from a world without email by Cal Newport, which I will put a link in the show notes too. So we know that email, this tool that's supposed to be a productivity tool actually has a dark side. And we all have this experience. We know this, right? So Cal Newport has written this book, it just came out recently called a world without email. And the premise of it seems preposterous that we could even get by and do business without email. And yet, he examines companies that are shifting to different ways of communicating without email. Now, the book is really about more than just work without email. That's a catchy title. Because of course, you know, everybody has email, and they want to get rid of it or figure out how there could possibly be a world in which they wouldn't be using it to get their work done. And Newport lays out the case and explains why email has been a problem and all kinds of other interesting things. But in this book, one of the concepts he talks about is the hyperactive hive mind. And he defines that as the big problem that what email has done is it has facilitated a hyperactive hive mind in which people swarm around trying to communicate back and forth back and forth, talking about this and that, supposedly trying to solve a problem. And going about it using this tool that was designed to allow people to convey information, asynchronously, meaning, you know, they don't have to both be in the room talking to each other, like on a phone on a phone call, you have to both people, or whoever's on the phone call all has to be there together at the same time. But email allows for the communication to happen asynchronously. And at first, that was a good idea like, Oh, that's great. Well, we can communicate with each other. And we don't have to both be on the phone at the same time. This is a good thing, theoretically, right? The problem is that now, people default to using email and not using the phone and not having synchronous communications or in person communications, but rather, they just fire off emails. And these emails, you know, are engendering the hyperactive hive mind and the hive mind means groups of people that work together, they're hyperactive, they're easily distracted. And so the problem is, you know, this workflow of the hive mind is centered on an ongoing conversation, a synchronous conversation that's fueled by unstructured unscheduled meetings, meaning to say synchronous communication. And it's all set up via email or instant messaging. Now, the hyperactive hive mind has become the norm today. This is what people deal with in their work environment. And even if you work as a solo, lawyer or anybody who works in any kind of solo business, they are still dealing with this because this is how information is transmitted. So most of our days are now structured around tending to this ongoing hive mind conversation. Email is part of this, but email is not the root cause it's the hive mind conversation, which email is enabling or helping to enable. So the thing that we need to understand is that unstructured conversations can be good and they can be helpful,
but not all the time, not everywhere. I mean, they're good for some things, but not most things. So this hive mind activity contributes to stress it contributes to fatigue and to cognitive impairment, all of this has been studied and, and established and you can read about the studies and Cal newports book. He's not the only one that cites them. And this cognitive impairment is, you know, one thing that we haven't focused on as much up until recently, but you know, cognitive impairment means you're making bad decisions. So it's more than just that email stresses you out. Or that, you know, it's overwhelming, it's that it's causing people to make poor decisions, and they would make otherwise. Now, as I said earlier, the title of the book, you know, World Without email is slightly misleading, for a couple of different reasons. One, he's not advocating the complete elimination of email. But he does propose some radical changes in how knowledge workers like us lawyers work. And you know, at one point in the book, he says, quote, the future of work is increasingly cognitive, meaning it's increasingly about thinking about making decisions through thinking. So we depend more on knowledge, and, and the value that we create. and the value that we create is based more on the knowledge, right, and so we need to improve our knowledge output. So back to Henry Ford, he revolutionized the industrial age with the assembly line. But we can't use that tool, because we're not assembling parts in a widget. Factory. And we can't even really use that metaphor. I mean, we really need a new revolution in how we work in the information age. So that's why we're looking at Henry Ford. That's why Cal Newport looks to Henry Ford is not to say he used the assembly line. So let's do something like that for knowledge work. He saying that Henry Ford solved a big new problem in the industrial age, that allowed the output efficiency of workers to jump by 30, you know, 30 times. And we need to figure out how to do what he did in the industrial age in the information age. So that's what Newport is looking for, not about getting rid of email, so that again, the title of the book is somewhat misleading. But that's okay. Now that you know, it's misleading, you can understand what it's really about. And if you want to read it, you can and I definitely recommend it. Alright, so the reality of information age knowledge work, is that it's fragmented. That's, you know, the disruptions. Great that. And then, the other thing is, we have this willingness, for some reason to assume that these disruptions are necessary. But they're really not. Now that there are a lot of interesting statistics cited in this book, and one of them is that from 1965 to 1984, when email started to kick in, workers spent about 20% of their time in doing desk work, and 40% of their time in scheduled meetings. Now, those two numbers don't add up to 100. But that's, you know, the rough breakdown of desk work versus scheduled meetings. Since 2002, those ratios have swapped, and that we now spend half of that time. So instead of 40% of our time, in meetings, we only spend 20% of our time in meetings. And we spent 40%, spend 40% of our time doing desk work, which is twice as much as before and does work obviously means we're sitting there with a computer. And a lot of that is involved in doing email. So email is kind of what made this possible, because email allowed us to stop having so many meetings to get people coordinated.
Like I said, email was frictionless communication at scale. So at first, it was a good thing. The problem is being frictionless and being scalable. It kind of you know, Pandora's Box went wild took over. And now we're trying to figure out how to manage it. So the reality of this situation is that we are not engaging with people one to one as much. Not even virtually, although during the pandemic, maybe more so. But we were our default setting is really to asynchronous back and forth communication, email, Slack, instant messaging. And this is the source of fragmentation, disruption, inefficiency, and stress. And most importantly, it's the source of diminished effectiveness in getting the really valuable work that we need to get done, done. I mean, knowledge workers need to use their knowledge not get involved in pesky administrative busy work tasks, which is what is going on. So the thing is, we're really good at putting out fires getting trapped in distractions, but we're not so good at doing deep work, which is another book by Cal Newport, where he talks about deep work and what that is deep, thoughtful work, the kind of work that takes you know, a couple hours of uninterrupted time to get done. Very few people are doing that now, right? Studies show that the average Which workers longest uninterrupted interval is 40 minutes at best. And more than two thirds of workers, knowledge workers never experienced more than one hour of uninterrupted time. So that's like two thirds of the workforce can't just does not experience more than an hour of uninterrupted time. So of course, you're not doing deep work. And of course, we're not getting things done right? that matter. So the thing is, our brain processing was built for sequential thinking, like, you know, assembly line thinking, Okay, we do this, we do this, we do this, and we do this, okay. And then the world we live in, has this parallel structure where things are going on all the time, multiple thought here, things happening at once. And we're trying to switch our attention between these things. And it's just not working well. Right. That's the reality. And the thing is, we kind of don't really pay attention to how much of our attention matters, like we take for granted, what the limits of our ability to pay attention are, we think we can just pay attention to things and there's no limit, or we think we can multitask, when we really can't. And this thing of you know, focusing on one thing, and excluding everything else, is not really even, you know, so much a new aspiration. And, you know, in the knowledge work world, it's rare. But it's always been somewhat rare in some ways. I mean, there's a story in the book about George Marshall, the famous five star General, who, you know, World War Two, he was Eisenhower's boss, everything else. And Marshall had all these peculiar ways of doing things, you know, are uncommon ways of getting things done. And, you know, he had little things, but they made a big difference. Like one was, you know, when people come in, to talk to him about something, he had a rule said, Don't salute, why, cuz it save time to sit down, tell me what you got to do. So he's like, signaling, we're getting things done, we're moving the ball, get to the point, he would listen, and then he would tell the person what needs to be done. So it was like, decide, and act, that's that was his focus, let's get the job done, decide act. So he eliminated reactiveness, wherever possible. So this was, you know, reactiveness was an issue in World War Two people would react and stuff and then go off the rails. But if it was a problem, and World War Two era with George Marshall, I mean, imagine how much more reactive we are now, and how much harder it would be for somebody like him to learn to do this, and, you know, start to do it well, and everything else. So you know, we're, we're way behind the curve, on catching up to where we need to be in terms of not being reactive and focusing. So there are some things that we want to talk about with, you know, with the solutions to this problem that I've spent some time talking about. But I don't want to get into the solutions right now. Because I want to really spend some time delving into those. But I do want to say that one of the solutions that he talks about in the book that these companies that he looked at who are getting rid of email, or using it to the least amount possible, what are they swapping in? That's going to get stuff done better? That is an email. And the answer is meetings, actual people meeting each other, which can happen virtually. But you know, everybody's in the same place. At the same time, the thing, that email was supposed to eliminate the need for that we've diminished and using meetings are actually really useful. Now, the trick to the emails I've been to.
So the trick to the meetings, is that they need to have a structure, you can't just have rambling meetings, they have to be focused. So one of the tools that these companies use is something like the 15 minute stand up meeting. So people come in, there's no chairs, everybody's standing up. If it's an physical space, or perhaps if they're on zoom, they're also standing up, but it's 15 minutes. And some companies do this every day. But at a minimum, they do it once a week. And the 15 minute meeting is probably more than the daily meeting. And there's three questions everybody goes round. And you Okay, what did you do yesterday, people quickly recap what they worked on day before they go, what are you going to do today? And then they tell their co workers what they're going to work on? And then the one other question is kind of a question that, you know, might not need to be answered. But you say, Well, what is it? What's blocking your progress right now, if anything, have an idea behind that question is to say, let's have a conversation about whatever's blocking your progress, because that's the kind of thing that would there would be a lot of back and forth emails about. But if we can just talk through it, especially when everybody's here together, we can use our collective wisdom and knowledge to solve this problem more effectively. And then there's accountability, because when you tell people what you're going to do today, then when you come to me tomorrow, people gonna say, what did you do yesterday? If what you did yesterday wasn't what you said you were going to do, it's going to be clear, you aren't able to stay focused. So this is also accountability. That's really important. And that's one of the things we'll talk about in the future. Because, you know, I've learned how this works. And I'll get to that in a second. But, you know, this is a small example, this thing about the 15 minute, stand up meeting. And we will have further episodes devoted to the solutions. But this is counterintuitive in some ways. And one of the big takeaways, for me from the book about things that are counterintuitive, is that email, which is frictionless, is causing us problems. And the solution is to do things that are more friction, like, like to try to meet everybody in the morning every day. That's like a form of friction, right? Like, it takes more effort to do that. But this is actually beneficial, right? Anything that motivates the development of more intelligent processes, is a good thing. And so friction constraints, this is another there's a whole thing called the Theory of Constraints that you can google and look up and productivity experts talk about that. And they're mostly talked about in software development these days, because that's the number one industry, but it applies to other things. And the idea is that constraints, things that, you know, put guard rails around things are like support beams that will help you build a better work system. So constraints are probably a part of the solution that we need to figure out how to use in our work, just like Henry Ford had to figure out how to optimize the assembly line once he had the general idea that Oh, yeah, there's an assembly line that could work. Okay, well, how can we tweak it to make it work better? And, you know, what, am I not doing exactly the way I should these concepts, constraints, friction, you know, stand up meetings, we're gonna have to figure out how to make these work for us in our business, right? It's not it's not copy and paste, what Joe down the street, in his knowledge work business is doing, you know, this is knowledge work, we're going to have to use our brains. And presumably, if we can do it to, you know, develop our knowledge and monetize it, then presumably, we can use that same thinking capacity to figure out how to do our work better, once we understand what the principles are. So one of the constraints that Newport talks about is making it harder for people to bother you, even if it's supposedly beneficial. Like he talked about an example of a guy who was working in a company and people were bothering him all the time. And he went to his boss and said, Hey, listen, you know, I need to have at least two hours a day of uninterrupted time. And then the boss said, Okay, I'm gonna put the word out. And he told everybody, listen, you know, Frank here needs to have two hours. He'll have an hour in the morning, an hour in the afternoon, every day, he kept bothering during that time. And at first people didn't like it, because they wanted to ask Frank questions, because Frank knew everything. And then every time they settled into it, and all worked smoothly, and they solve a lot of their own problems, and the questions that they couldn't solve immediately, they would just hold on to until they could talk to Frank. So you have to force people to behave differently, is part of this equation. And what you'll discover, as you do things is some people will figure out their own solutions, right? And things will fall into place. But people don't believe that this is possible,
right? They're used to this broken system, perhaps you are as well. And the tendency is to suit to assume Well, that's just the way it has to be. But it does not have to be that way. Plenty of companies are shifting gears. But it's about more than doing little productivity tweaks and, you know, little efficiency tweaks, you're going to have to radically rethink the way that you work from top to bottom and change some things, maybe some things you can leave in place, but some things you're going to have to change and change is unsettling and change. You know, it's uncertain. Well, you know, is it going to be perfect the first time we do these things? No, not necessarily. But over time, it will work out. So the next time we'll talk more about the solutions. But I'll tell you that one of the things that I've really, that's really opened my eyes is working with Melissa Shanahan of velocity work. She was on episode 127 of this podcast, and I'll put a link in the show notes to that. And if you didn't listen to that episode, and don't know who Melissa is she basically helps lawyers get traction in their work by working in a better way. And as I was reading this book, by Cal Newport, this new book, I was thinking about Melissa and how everything she's teaching and helping people with is essentially helping them recalibrate the way that they work. You know, she, she talks about setting up your work habits so that you do Find one important thing they're going to work on at a time over a period of time, like, let's say 30 days. Because this important work that we need to do isn't just like, let's have four hours or two hours. These are big projects. These are things that are important to take time and 30 days is a good, you know, a good time about a time. The phrase turtle steps in the title of this podcast episode comes from Melissa Shanahan. counter-intuitively taking turtle steps, as long as you're staying focused on that one important thing, and doing a little bit to move you closer to that one important thing every day, every work day, you'll get there faster. So the the counterintuitive, maybe seemingly impossible thing is that turtle steps could help you work faster, it's not gonna help you work faster in the abstract. Because the goal here isn't to see how many plates you can spin, the goal is to get meaningful work done. So the work that you want to have velocity on is the important work. And the name of Melissa's company is velocity work. That's why I put that in there. So she hasn't read the Cal Newport book yet. But she's going to and once she does, probably, that's when I should have her on again. And we can talk about how those principles that he's discussing in the book come into play when she works with lawyers the way she does, and I. I am in her sprint. So she's got this, this program called 30 day sprints. And she starts on the first of every new month. And I've been in the one since March, along with five of the lawyers in the group that she's coaching. And it's been really fascinating to see how these principles that she's helping us to adopt increased productivity, lower stress, increased confidence, increased clarity, they produce really amazing benefits, not just for me, but for everybody, we can collectively see that this is the case, because we meet every day for a half hour. In my case, I meet from 930 to 10, with five of the lawyers, Melissa and her assistant, and Melissa asks questions, and Melissa helps us understand each day where we're getting hung up. So essentially, when we say Well, what's the thing that's holding you up, you know, she will help us address it, and we help each other. And so there's accountability, there's coaching, there's clarity, there's, you know, all kinds of good things happen when you have these meetings. And so you can learn to have these meetings, by working with somebody like Melissa, and she does more than just these 30 day sprints, she also does retreats for lawyers and helps them you know, figure other things out too. So if you want to take action right now, I would check out Melissa's next 30 day sprint for April, I will definitely be in it, I'm going to do it again, I might be in your group if you decide to sign up. And if you do, I will look forward to getting your insights about how this is going to change the way that you work. Because it will change the way you work. We need radical new ways of doing things. And
you know, another way to do this is to create systems. And that's what I'm doing in my systems workshop, which just started up if you want to be in the next one, which will probably start up again in May, maybe mid May, then you can apply. And I'll let you know when it comes up. But the systems workshop, creating systems, learning how to collaborate with people, all of these things are really important. And Cal newports book does not really explain all all of this how to do it, I was able to see and understand, because I'm using, you know, the work I do with Melissa and understanding what she does as a frame of reference. And also understanding the work that I do in the systems workshop. And that is one of the things that Newport says in the book, he said that people are trying to improve the way people work by making people more efficient. When he said what you need to focus on is the processes and make the processes better. That's what systems building is. That's what having better meetings is that's what having better collaboration is. And is it exciting? No, not necessarily. Not always. Is there an app for it? Nope. Can technology take care of it? No. It's going to require human thinking. Actual using that part of your brain that people pay you for but using it to figure out a better way for you to do work. You don't have to figure it out on your own. You can get help. You can read lots of books. And there are lots of books out there, I suppose. But me personally, I think the best way to do these things is to make the actual motions and the best way for me to learn how to do this was me creating my own systems, but then when it comes to learning how had to be accountable and to set, you know, weekly goals and all those stuff. That's where I am leaning on Melissa. So I will be having her on the podcast soon. And we will be talking about Cal newports book. But we will be talking about the real ways to get this done and why the thing she does with lawyers, why are those effective? And you know, I have a lot of questions for now that I've been working for. She's really good at what she does. And I want to understand as much as I can about the methodology behind it. So I hope that this gives you a good start to understanding the importance of rethinking how you work, if you want to make big improvements, you know, that you've been trying things. Things like you know, being more efficient with email, using automation, these things are only going to get you so far, the things that are going to make the biggest difference are the ones that are going to take more time and thoughtfulness to implement. And so you need to be able to do that you need to understand what to do, how to set that up. And that's what we're going to be talking about in future episodes. So I appreciate you listening to this one. I think this is one of the most important episodes I've done. So I hope you appreciate it. And if you have questions, or you want to recommend topics for me to talk about, I will be doing an episode in the future to answer questions and there's a link in the show notes where you can shoot me your questions by audio or writing it out or however you want to do it. And I will have an episode where I answer your questions. So there you go. Alright, thanks for joining me. Until next time.