Slow Productivity, Saying No, and Opinions that Don’t Matter


Slow Productivity, Saying No, and Opinions That Don’t Matter

“Slow Productivity” is a nice concept. Do less and achieve more. But for doctors and scientists, it doesn’t work this way. Sorry, Cal Newport. Friday’s Digest #94

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Table of contents

  1. Preface
  2. Main Article
  3. Readers’ Favorite
  4. Stuff


Preface

This week, I listened to Cal Newport's latest audiobook. It’s called "Slow Productivity".

In essence, Cal tells us we should do less.

We shouldn't stress out so much.

We can work at a "natural" pace and avoid burnout.

Can it be that simple?

If you're asking me, no.

Absolutely not.

Don’t get me wrong. I really like Cal’s work.

But I think that this time, he’s missing a point.

You see, most people don't have the luxury to do less.

He can afford to take a two-month summer vacation from his job.

He can say no when organizations are offering him money to give public talks.

People will buy his books as soon as they come out. Myself included 😃.

But the risks Cal takes aren't as significant anymore.

He can afford to do less.

Even if he does less, his calendar will remain filled with enjoyable and profitable activities.

People will continue to offer him opportunities, allowing him to be selective.

His risk of failure is minimal.

So today I want to talk about taking risks, “slow productivity”, and saying “no”.

Number 94!


Main Article

🔵 Are You in the Arena?

Let’s start with a speech by Theodore Roosevelt that I really like.

If you don’t feel like reading it (you’re missing out!), skip it. I’m summarizing it right after.

“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better.

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself in a worthy cause;

who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”

—Theodore Roosevelt Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910

In short, Theodore Roosevelt is saying he has more respect for those who are "in the arena".

Who are the people “in the arena”, you ask?

These are the people who are playing on the field.

Those who have much to lose but keep trying to achieve great things.

And there are the people who are sitting on the bench. They’re not playing in the arena.

So, they do not deserve the same respect.

My take on this?

If you want good advice, get it from people who are out there, trying new things. Those who fail greatly.

🔵 Slow Productivity

I really like the slow productivity concept that Cal Newport discusses in his book.

“Slow Productivity” means eliminating tasks that don’t contribute much and focusing on those that truly matter.

Who wouldn't want to work less, earn the same (or higher) income, and enjoy their job?

But you have to walk the walk before you talk the talk.

In other words, you need to say a lot of “yes” on your way there.

🔵 Can I Say No?

This is the main point I'm getting to here.

When you're starting out, you can't say "No".

It’s true for Doctors and Scientists, and for every profession out there.

You need the experience.

You need to carry the load for the people who carried it for you in the past.

You need to do the administrative tasks. As a doctor or a scientist, you need to treat patients and stay up-to-date. You need to publish. You need to give talks.

If you don't, medicine and science will no longer be effective.

So, you can't say "No" for the first few years. Sometimes, these "first few years" last many years.

Cal Newport can say "no". Cal Newport can take his time, and do things slowly.

But he's not in the arena anymore.

I'll continue supporting his work and will definitely read (or listen to) his next book.

But I'll pay more attention to (and have more respect for) the people in the arena.

What about you?


Readers’ Favorite

What do I think about quitting?

You can read all about it in “Friday’s Digest #74 - About Quitting”.


Stuff

🖱️Logitech MX Master 3S. The best mouse out there. Period. (If you’re reading this years later, look for the newer version).

🖊️ Zebra Pen F-701. There are fancy pens, there are really cheap pens, and there are the “just right” pens. The Zebra F-701 is not too expensive but offers great value for the money. The price for one pen drops if you buy 2.


Epilogue

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That’s it for this issue.

Hope for better times.

Shay



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For two decades, I've been developing tools that have improved my practice in medicine, dentistry, and scientific research. Join me every Friday to discover a new tool you can integrate into your workflow as a doctor, a scientist, or both. I believe in sharing knowledge, embracing automation, boosting productivity, and finding joy in the process.

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