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A Pastor Embraces Slowness

I recently received an interesting email from a Lutheran pastor named Amy. She had read some of my recent essays on slow productivity (e.g., 1 2 3), and heard me talk about this embryonic concept on my podcast, so she decided to send me her own story about slowing down. “A few years ago, I realized I was on the verge of burnout with my job,” she began....

On the Source of Our Drive to Get Things Done

In a recent essay for the New Yorker, I take a closer look at the growing popular dissatisfaction with the concept of “productivity,” a trend I underscore, in part, by citing some of the comments from readers of this newsletter. In my piece, I focus on the precise economic definition of this term, which measures the output produced from a fixed amount...

What Would Happen If We Slowed Down?

In my recent New Yorker essay on overload, I noted that many knowledge workers end up toiling roughly 20% more than they have time to comfortably handle. This is, in some sense, the worst possible configuration, as it creates a background hum of stress, but is just sustainable enough that you can keep it up for years. My explanation for the universality...

Revisiting Parkinson’s Law

I first came across Parkinson’s Law in Tim Ferriss’s 2007 book, The 4 Hour Workweek. Ferriss summarized it as follows: “Parkinson’s Law dictates that a task will swell in (perceived) importance and complexity in relation to the time allotted for its completion. It is the magic of the imminent deadline. If I give you 24 hours to complete a project,...

On the Pandemic and Career Downsizing

Earlier this summer, the Labor Department released a report that included a shocking statistic: close to 4 million people had quit or resigned in April. These numbers remained high in the spring months that followed. The business press began calling this workplace exodus the “Great Resignation.” In my latest essay for the New Yorker, published earlier...

A $5.5 Billion Reminder that Email is Not Work

Last winter, a risk analyst at Credit Suisse noticed that one of their clients, a hedge fund named Archegos, was light on collateral. As is common in this world of high finance, Credit Suisse had loaned Archegos money to buy stock. The value of Archegos’s position had come down and the bank’s models were saying that the bank either needed more collateral...

On Pace and Productivity

One of the books I’m reading on vacation at the moment is John Gribbin’s magisterial tome, The Scientists. I’m only up to page 190 (which is to say, only up to Isaac Newton), but even early on I’ve become intrigued by a repeated observation: though the scientists profiled in Gribbin’s book are highly “productive” by any intuitive definition of this...

On the Myth of Big Ideas

I recently came across an article in the New Yorker archives that I greatly enjoyed. It was written by a Dartmouth mathematics professor named Dan Rockmore, and is titled: “The Myth and Magic of Generating New Ideas.” The essay tackles a topic that’s both central to my professional academic life, and wildly misunderstood: what it takes to solve a proof....

On Twitter Addiction and its Discontents

Earlier this week, Caitlin Flanagan published a provocative essay in the Atlantic titled: “You Really Need to Quit Twitter.” In this instance, the label of “provocative” seems obligatory, even though an objective read of the piece reveals mainly common sense. Which serves to underline the whole point Flanagan is attempting to make. The article reports...

Notes on Quentin Tarantino’s Writing Routine

About an hour into his recent interview on Joe Rogan’s podcast, Quentin Tarantino was asked about his writing habits. “It all changed,” he revealed, “more or less around the writing of Inglorious Basterds.” Before starting work on the 2009 film, Tarantino described himself as “an amateur, mad little writer” who would work late at night, or by going...

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