Cal Newport on Overload and Jerry Seinfeld on Doing Nothing

My work break is going gangbusters. I’m firmly embedded in the pro-leisure circuit, the aim of which is to be like Jerry Seinfeld and do nothing. Seinfeld is right though, doing nothing isn’t as easy as it looks. I’ve filled my time with plenty of stuff: family activities, running and gym, gardening, meeting folks, and even doing stuff with computers. There hasn’t actually been a lot of actual nothing. Seinfeld puts it like this:

The idea of doing anything which could easily lead to doing something that would cut into your nothing and that would force me to have to drop everything.

I’ve been repeating that quote to a few folks recently and I was reminded of it again while listening to the latest Deep Questions podcast from Cal Newport.

In the deep dive section Cal talks about workplace overload and the causes of it. He cites the overheads of modern work - handoffs, coordination, context switching, etc as the major cause of overload and burnout. It’s not the writing of the strategy document, it’s the meetings and emails and IMs to discuss it that wear you down. Like Seinfeld with doing nothing, people find it hard to do their actual jobs because the idea of taking about doing the work could easily lead to having a meeting to discuss doing the work that would cut into actually doing the work and that would force you to just do more stuff.

Yeah, ok, I need to workshop that.

As you might imagine, I don’t miss coordination convos, nor do I miss planning meetings for the upcoming quarterly planning and I especially do not miss those Slack messages that just start with “Hello…”

Here’s the Seinfeld bit:

And here’s Cal Newport on overload:

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About Joe Mahoney

Joe is a software engineering leader, programmer, surf life guard, and runner who writes about and curates links covering links covering software engineering and management, career growth, continuous improvement, creativity, and productivity.

Wellington, New Zealand