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The Way We're Working Isn't Working

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Stephen Phillips
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“A World Without Email," says author Cal Newport, "is a place where you spend most your day actually working on hard things instead of talking about this work, or endlessly bouncing small tasks back and forth in messages.”

Dubbed “the Marie Kondo of technology” by Ezra Klein, Georgetown professor and New York Times bestselling author Cal Newport has dedicated his career to helping people develop healthier, more balanced relationships with modern technology.

His 2016 surprise hit "Deep Work" sparked a movement around the value of unbroken concentration in our increasingly frenetic workplaces, and his 2019 bestseller "Digital Minimalism" offered a simple philosophy to help people spend less time mindlessly tethered to their personal tech devices.

Now, Newport turns his attention to our inboxes. Email has long been heralded as having rescued modern work life from the inefficiencies of memo pads and fax machines. But Newport argues that email has actually created a productivity disaster, reducing profitability and perhaps even slowing overall economic growth. Equally worrisome, email makes us miserable, creating a background hum of anxiety that we simply accept as a necessary part of our professional lives.

And in the wake of COVID-19, these inefficiencies have only intensified with many workers shifting to remote work, left to juggle their exploding inboxes with endless Zoom calls and Slack messages.

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer speaks to Newport about his latest book, "A World Without Email: Reimagining Work in an Age of Communication Overload."

Guest:

  • Cal Newport, author, associate professor of computer science, Georgetown University
Ben Kieffer is the host of IPR's River to River
Rick Brewer is a producer for IPR's Talk of Iowa and River to River