The lack of an inbox to check between these meetings opened up cognitive downtime—what Acharya took to calling “whitespace”—to dive more deeply into the research literature and legislation relevant to the topics handled by his office.

email overload emerged as a fashionable annoyance in the early 2000s, it has recently advanced into a much more serious problem, reaching a saturation point for many in which their actual productive output gets squeezed into the early morning, or evenings and weekends, while their workdays devolve into Sisyphean battles against their inboxes—a uniquely misery-inducing approach to getting things done.

as I’ll argue in part 1 of this book, the hyperactive hive mind workflow enabled by email—although natural—has turned out to be spectacularly ineffective.

Beyond the very small scale (say, two or three people), this style of unstructured collaboration simply doesn’t mesh well with the way the human brain has evolved to operate.

pioneering research in psychology and neuroscience reveals that these context switches, even if brief, induce a heavy cost in terms of mental energy—reducing cognitive performance and creating a sense of exhaustion and reduced efficacy.

a deeper part of your brain, evolved to tend the careful dance of social dynamics that has allowed our species to thrive so spectacularly since the Paleolithic, remains concerned by what it perceives to be neglected social obligations.

As far as these social circuits are concerned, members of your tribe are trying to get your attention and you’re ignoring them: an event that registers as an emergency.

an artifact of this unfortunate mismatch between our modern tools and ancient brains.

This book, therefore, should not be understood as reactionary or anti-technology. To the contrary, its message is profoundly future-oriented. It recognizes that if we want to extract the full potential of digital networks in professional settings, we must continually and aggressively try to optimize how we use them.


“A Mathematical Theory of Communication,” established a framework called information theory that fixed the flaws of earlier attempts to study this topic formally and provided the tools that ended up making the modern digital communication revolution possible. (Location 2667)

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Take the time to build the protocol that has the best average cost, even if it’s not the most natural option in the moment, as the long-term performance gains can be substantial. (Location 2766)

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(1) What did you do since the last scrum meeting? (2) Do you have any obstacles? (3) What will you do before the next scrum? (Location 3112)

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