Does the Most Popular Productivity Advice Apply to Women?

May 8, 2024

I was listening to the latest Deep Questions episode in which Cal goes through a brief history of (recent) perspectives on productivity, and then Scott Young joins him to discuss the topic.

And I just started thinking about the productivity leaders he discussed: Stephen Covey. David Allen. Merlin Mann. Tim Ferriss. Leo Babauta. Greg McKeown. There was a brief mention of Jenny Odell’s influence and the backlash against capitalism-driven productivity, but for the most part?

I have read this 3x and would totally go for #4

It was movement after movement — all with broad sweeping ideas about how to essentially DO LIFE< and all dominated by men. I don’t think Cal is wrong — these really have been the top voices dominating these conversations.

To be clear, I respect many of these productivity-focused thought leaders, I really do!! I have read Getting Things Done at least three times and used to pore over everything Leo Babauta put out. I loved getting to interview Greg McKeown on BLP! I listen to Tim’s podcast frequently and almost never miss a Deep Questions episode – I think these people have a lot to contribute.


Sometimes it just feels like something is missing. Like a core part of what shapes my day and perhaps even provides limits to my actual productivity IRL is just . . . not in the conversations I hear about or books I read.

I’m trying to dissect the things that make productivity different (generally more challenging) for many women (and mothers especially). Disclaimer: this is an INCOMPLETE list and a total draft, and it is also a generalization – I know there are women out there that might feel entirely included in the aforementioned literature/conversations. But I also suspect I am not the only one who feels a little bit left out. There was one mention in the podcast about a “6 hour time block to write.” I could be wrong, but suspect there are very few women that regularly get anything close to this.

Things women face that might make male-perspective productivity advice feel lacking:

“Effortless perfection” pressures. I feel like women are not supposed to appear to be trying as hard. It’s not seen as feminine to push and strive. (The whole “soft” movement – where are the soft dudes? PS, I personally reject soft.)

Physical burden of childbearing. No, pregnancy (in most cases) is not a disability. But pregnancy and lactation are still hard for many (myself included) and often come at a pivotal moment in career-building. Choices made during these years sometimes have effects that reverberate for decades.

Societal expectations. Many women are assumed to be the primary child caregiver and household manager, and judged more harshly for anything negative that might happen within that sphere. Thus, there are a lot of balls many women feel pressured to keep spinning perfectly (and preferably without breaking a sweat, see #1 above)

RELATED: 100x more likely to get interrupted, and judged 100x more when we try to create silos of un-interruptibility. (These are . . . unscientific estimates.)

Less likely to have a partner who is serving a traditional “wife” type role. OF COURSE there are exceptions!! But on average, this is probably true. I also think a high proportion of these very successful productivity experts seem to have some degree of this.

Hormonal swings. I personally find myself to be a more naturally productive (also: possibly nicer) person during my follicular phase. PMS sucks. Periods are annoying. I guess this does eventually come to an end but I’m not sure perimenopause/menopause is a picnic either.

Burden of expectations to appear physically a certain way. It takes time, energy, and mental labor to look “decent” in our society’s eyes (at least for me and I’m not sure I’m even hitting that bar many days!). And I’m pretty sure these expectations become even more frustrating and time consuming with age.

I’m sure there are many many more. What am I missing?

Huge shout out to women out there writing productivity/time management books that DO feel more relevant, from Laura to Tiffany Dufu to Lisa Woodruff, and many more.

Interested in your thoughts on this, and oh! Share your favorite voice on productivity below, if not already mentioned.


  • Reply Josie Schrodek May 8, 2024 at 1:02 pm

    I’m so relieved to read this. I listed to the same episode and had similar feelings. There is a very famous habits book that is often referenced when talking about productivity called “Daily Rituals” by Mason Curry that I found hard to stomach. While some famous artists and thinkers had to care for family and many women are included in the book – the vast majority are men who had their lunches brought to them, laundry done for them and generally free to leave the house whenever.

    However! In looking up the book to find the author’s name, I see that he has published a additional reference called “Daily Rituals: Women at Work”. Very excited to jump into that now!!

    • Reply Caitlin May 8, 2024 at 7:38 pm

      I had the same thought about Daily Rituals and I loved Women at Work follow up!

  • Reply Ruth Cuddyer May 8, 2024 at 1:09 pm

    Thank you so much for this post. Your voice in this productivity space is one of the reasons I started paying any attention to ‘productivity’ as a theme or capability. The men in the space never resonated enough for me to see how to apply the ideas to my life.

    • Reply Anne Sjobeck May 8, 2024 at 10:56 pm

      When are you going to write the book, Sarah? I nominate you to shake up this male-dominating arena! 🙂

      Favorite female author in this space? Hands down Laura Vanderkam, 168 hours changed my life. Once I had a handle on how my time was being used and made some changes, my productivity sky rocketed. There is something to be said for the physical tracking of what you are doing that personally makes me more productive. Almost like I’m competing with time to see what I can get done!

      • Reply Kate May 9, 2024 at 10:54 pm

        +1 – I enjoy reading productivity books, but they don’t stick and it’s mostly because they don’t acknowledge my reality. Laura’s books have actually made a difference to my productivity and especially my attitude to the time I work (Sat, Sun, evenings, mornings, all fine). As I write this, instead of being at work I’m home with 2 of my kids sick with gastro… but it’s ok, I’ve got a backup slot!

  • Reply LN May 8, 2024 at 1:11 pm

    I think you’re right AND I think the gendering acts to funnel productivity and planning-style books and resources geared towards women to the self-help section instead of the business section. And that affects the tone of those books and other resources too! The amount of planning and organization around parenting is definitely harder than several jobs I have had, but if I look for resources around managing that load concurrent with work I’m probably looking at a book with a pink cover that more than once refers to me as “mama.” There’s a lack of seriousness there.

    I also think this gendered binary hurts men who are working parents because they don’t take into consideration how THEIR roles in the household can also shift after birth. In a FB group I’m in (I know) a woman was doing some light market research for a course she was offering related to how “moms” can “have it all,” and when I asked semi-in jest whether she would consider developing similar materials for male parents she said, “I would, but they don’t buy things like that.”

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger May 8, 2024 at 1:25 pm

      Oh that’s fascinating!

      • Reply Nina May 8, 2024 at 2:45 pm

        I think your book proposal might have been waiting for this post and these comments. So many ideas to explore!

        • Reply Allison Cunningham May 8, 2024 at 4:33 pm

          ^This we can make it a new york times best seller!

    • Reply rachelinwales May 10, 2024 at 12:34 am

      This is an amazing point – especially “self-help” vs productivity!

  • Reply Jenn N May 8, 2024 at 1:22 pm

    100%. Also, the mental load disparity! (Shoutout to Eve Rodsky!) I am in a household where my husband works very part time and looks after our son during the day and I work full time, and yet I still do the majority of the mental load/heavy lifting. All the planning, reminders, meal planning, etc – he will absolutely crank the widgets and shop for groceries or do dishes but I still have to do the planning if that makes sense, and then he executes.

    • Reply Rebecca H May 8, 2024 at 1:44 pm

      “I do the planning and then he executes.”

      OMG. Yes. My husband does almost 100% of the cooking in our household – like, the actual standing-over-a-stove-with-a-pan part of getting food on the table – and my parents, whom we see regularly, are clearly always SO impressed by the fact that the MAN is doing the cooking, like, aren’t I lucky! And I am, but the part they don’t see is me doing 100% of the meal planning and grocery shopping. All he has to do is wander into the kitchen when he’s ready to start making dinner, and I’ll have a recipe link ready to text him and all the ingredients waiting in the fridge and pantry. That invisible “mental load” labor can be such a constant drain, and one that you’re rarely appreciated for!

      • Reply Jenn N May 8, 2024 at 2:59 pm

        Exactly! Omg the lack of appreciation because it is unseen! I feel seen by you though Rebecca, haha.

  • Reply Amanda May 8, 2024 at 1:31 pm

    As someone who’s had 3 babies in the last 5.5 years I think the physical stuff around being pregnant, recovering from childbirth, and breastfeeding if you choose to are such major factors that men just truly cannot comprehend. I go back from my current maternity leave in ~6 weeks and have been thinking through some scheduling logistics. Since I’m breastfeeding I simply will be getting less sleep than my husband, even though he’d be more than happy to feed the baby bottles of breast milk or formula (not doing this is 100% my choice). I also don’t think I’m likely to get much time in for workouts. My husband is happy to let me hit the gym on the way home, but I imagine I’ll want to get home asap to nurse the baby so I don’t have to pump more. We have home equipment, but I think morning workouts are unlikely since I’ll be so tired. I also don’t think I want to go to any work conferences over the next 6-12 months, whereas he’s going to one in 2 weeks. I’m honestly fine with this reality and am mostly choosing it, but it means that getting back to my ideal level of productivity is going to take longer than it will him. Or if I wanted to stop breastfeeding I could get back to it sooner, but that would be a trade off that falls completely on me. And if you do this multiple times, like you said it can have long-lasting effects.

    • Reply Nicole May 8, 2024 at 2:56 pm

      This resonates so much as I am also on parental leave and breastfeeding and actively contemplating logistics of going back to work and the effect this is having on my career!! In a way I’m trying to look at this time at home as a “reset” of sorts as I know I will need to be even more efficient at work/life once I’m back… I am so grateful to be able to have a family and a fulfilling job, but I can’t help but resent that the next several years of parenting two small humans means that I will have to just do less in terms of my own career development… or just do enough to stay relevant so that once I’m able to reengage in my passions/bigger projects, I won’t be totally lost. I totally feel you about this being of my own choosing, but it’s still tough recognizing the sacrifices that are being made. I was speaking to a male colleague involved in some interesting work in my field, and his biggest piece of advice that he said helped him in his early career was to “say yes to everything until you can’t say yes anymore,” And without even thinking, my response to him was YUCK.

    • Reply Natka May 8, 2024 at 10:18 pm

      Oh, Amanda – your post brings back so many memories!

      I have 3 kids and for a while life was all about babies, breastfeeding, pumping, getting up multiple times a night to feed/comfort a baby. And even though it was 100% what I wanted – it can be hard, hard, hard on one’s body (and mind). Months (years?) of interrupted sleep were especially tough. I chose to skip conferences. I chose to not go to the gym, or go on solo walks, or… multiple other things – because like you wrote above – of wanting to get back home ASAP to nurse the baby.

      The youngest is now 10 🙂 Life has changed so much! I go to conferences, and on business trips, and out with friends.

      So… just wanted to let you know – it will all work out.
      There always will be challenges – no matter how old the kids are. And we learn how to adapt and how to make career, family, and other aspects of our lives all fit together… And it works out, and life is not ideal or perfect, but meaningful and real and beautiful.

      • Reply Amanda May 9, 2024 at 2:57 pm

        Thank you I appreciate the encouragement!

  • Reply Allison May 8, 2024 at 1:36 pm

    This is all so real!! Also…I have read most of Cal Newport’s published work on productivity (not a regular podcast listener) and it’s always driven me nuts that 95% of his examples are about men. I think he has a lot of important and valid things to say, but dang, could you give an illustrative example with a woman every once in a while (or at least acknowledge the omission)??? I know it’s possible because I’ve also read most of Laura Vanderkam’s published work on productivity, which is explicit in providing almost entirely female anecdotes in her books.

  • Reply Allison Cunningham May 8, 2024 at 1:39 pm

    There are a hand full of NYT best sellers that I have stopped reading mid-book because they make me mad. Mad that no matter how many systems and routines I put in place that I will never have what they are selling. At best I might get three structured days per week and they will definitely have mom interruptions.

    This week my husband “lost track of time” and was an hour late to meet us at soccer practice. I was literally raging in my head about the luxury of losing track of time. Clearly you hit a nerve with this post.

    One of the reasons I like Laura’s work so much is that she reminds you to put in redundancies, and that a habit can be just one day a week. I also just found Kelly Nolan and really appreciate some of her practices around working from home.

  • Reply Rebecca H May 8, 2024 at 1:40 pm

    (Look at me actually commenting for worse instead of just lurking!) The item on your list about hormones really hit me in the feels this morning. As I enter my late thirties, I’ve REALLY been feeling the effects of those hormonal swings on my ability to regulate my mood, much harder than I used to. (I’m beginning to suspect it may even be early perimenopause symptoms – I’m a cancer survivor and did six rounds of chemo a few years ago, and while I’m fortunate that it didn’t send me straight into early menopause, it seems possible that there could be some lingering effects that could bring on perimenopause sooner than might have happened otherwise?) Anyway, every time I have one of these days where I’m just struggling with emotional overwhelm due to hormones, I remember jokes about how a woman could never be president because what if there was a nuclear crisis while she was on her period, and I feel like a bad feminist for letting it impact me so much. Ugh!

    Not sure where I’m going with this other than just to say thank you for talking openly about it despite the stigma. Your work motivates me to try to set goals for myself AND to try to be gentle with myself when I struggle to live up to my own expectations.

    • Reply Rebecca H May 8, 2024 at 1:46 pm

      Commenting for ONCE, not for worse. WFT, brain.

      • Reply Rebecca H May 8, 2024 at 1:47 pm

        WTF, not WFT. I give up!

    • Reply RWS May 8, 2024 at 2:23 pm

      Plus one to all of these comments! And on the shout out to Eve Rodsky.
      Some of the work I see directed to women just says “hire people to do things” without acknowledging the mental work and time involved in doing that, too. I think Eve does a better job of that than many others.

      • Reply Terri May 8, 2024 at 10:26 pm

        Ahhh… I feel seen! I can relate to so much of what is in the comments. I think I may be a bit older than many of the commenters, so I’ll just add to the list the additional burden later in life of caring for aging parents. It’s a labor of love, but it often arrives right after getting the kids launched. I have 2 kids around 30 who call me almost daily about landlords, buying a house, how to fix the sink, and adulting generally. This happens often when pressures of careers are at a demanding level. I’m exhausted just writing about it. Thanks Sarah for bringing the female experience in to the spotlight. Great discussion!

        • Reply Katherine B May 9, 2024 at 2:38 pm

          Yes, I’m 60, had kids later so they are 24 and 20 and still need a lot of financial and emotional support while parents, both 85 also need me more and more, with mum dealing with dementia and dad bravely and brilliantly dealing with mum having dementia after 63 years of marriage. It is tough often, and luckily for me work is the easy bit. Having leant in I now have a well paid and pretty flexible job, that allows me to WFH a lot, so I have some time and energy for the rest. Husband is very good, but just when I thought maybe it would get easier, it isn’t. Women of the world unite and write that book Sarah, to add to Laura’s brilliant take on everything from a female perspective. Thank you both.

  • Reply Bryce May 8, 2024 at 1:57 pm

    I totally agree with this. I am an academic and I like a lot of Cal Newport’s material, but I found it so telling when he was on BOBW and you asked him about a “day in the life” and he didn’t start with “well my youngest gets up at 6, so usually I am up making breakfast, the nanny comes at 8, etc” like nearly every other (female) guest does. He talked about his work days– just 9-5. I know he has kids and I’m sure he does some parenting outside of that 9-5, but just that it didn’t occur to him, on a podcast called “best of both worlds” that you were asking him how he juggles parenting, work, and all of the other aspects of a full life. It struck me that he may not be the parent who is carrying the mental load of kid sick days and birthday party presents at home.

    • Reply Amanda May 8, 2024 at 2:33 pm

      I had this exact same thought. He also said that “whoever is able to” goes to meet the bus for their kids in the afternoon each day, but, I mean someone must have arranged their schedule to make sure that they would be able to meet the kids. This makes me think his wife is probably available every day, and whenever he’s able to he gets them. Even if he technically gets them half of the time, that’s not really equal (obviously making assumptions here but it seems like you wouldn’t just be able to wing this every day).

    • Reply Seppie May 9, 2024 at 7:57 am

      Agreed! Even when he was explicitly asked about home life, he didn’t answer. Contrast that with the way that Laura Mae Martin answered the same question a few weeks later, and his evasion seems even more obvious. I would respect him way more if he would just openly acknowledge that he doesn’t do much at home and everything else he does is made possible by his wife.

      On his own podcast, he was once asked how to maintain a sense of privacy if you outsource most of your household tasks. He was like, having someone come and clean your gutters once a quarter isn’t really going to affect your privacy.

      It never crossed his mind that cooking, laundry, making beds, etc. are household tasks that could be outsourced, and might involve having someone in your house on a daily basis.

      To this day, the best, most relevant time management/productivity book I’ve ever read is 168 Hours.

      • Reply Christina B May 10, 2024 at 12:41 pm

        Heartily agree on the 168 Hours.

  • Reply Megan May 8, 2024 at 2:01 pm

    Agree about the lack of professional-focused content for women, that acknowledges our POV/experience of life alongside work. It is one of the reasons BOBW is my favorite podcast. As a marketer/business person I always think it is an untapped, attractive market with money to spend if you can crack it so keep at it!

    My thoughts are 1) societal expectations and choices are so intertwined and fraught. How much of decisions on childcare, BFing and doing extra kid stuff is because I/we want to vs. because I’ve been conditioned from a young age that is what good moms do. Examples being I reschedule work to go on a field trip or have lunch with my kids at school 1x/ year and my husband hasn’t done that and likely hasn’t thought of doing it. 2) My husband has shifted to a SAHP and I still manage a ton of mental load even if he does the physical work (laundry, cooking, groceries, home with kids, sick days, etc.) and talking to other moms in my situation, this is common. So I’m not sure there are many women, even if they have at-home partner, that don’t manage that piece, which is a lot.

  • Reply Jami May 8, 2024 at 2:03 pm

    Yes, this!
    1. Things I think are missing, not just the interrupted work time, but interrupted sleep and workouts, and person time that affect our ability to be productive/focused. Also, not always, but a lot of the time how women are expected to carry the mental load in the workplace too (celebrations, sympathy cards, etc).
    2. The idea of 6 hours of writing time… I don’t think I would know what to do! Personally I’ve gotten really good at utilizing 30 minutes of focus time.

    Thank you for giving voice to this conversation!

  • Reply Alyssa May 8, 2024 at 2:17 pm

    Omg YES! I will add my thoughts a mom of 2 and doc:
    – SO. MANY. INPUTS: 3 work inboxes (email, EMR messages and EMR labs), Slack, personal email, texts, whatsapp (and as a mom of kids in daycare it’s so hard to just “opt out” of the whatsapp because it’s how parents share bday invites, tips/tricks, general heads ups etc), the actual daycare app where teachers communicate, phone/voicemail… I could go on.
    – along the same lines.. the “intrusiveness” of some of the inputs (for lack of a better word). Example: I ran into another Mom at daycare pickup. She says oh would be great to schedule playdate. I say yup sure. Later that eve she texts me. BUT – I am working an after hours clinic from 5-8 PM, then charting from 8-10, then back to work at 9 next am (after doing daycare dropoff and morning routine). Run into her again at pickup (me frazzled and rushed always) and she says “hey I texted you! Why didn’t you text back” (yes, she is v confrontational). I literally stared at her and said “it’s been 24h and I was really busy”. BUT – is that the expectation? I HAVE to text back whenever you text me?! Are my kids going to start missing out on things bc I don’t have a perfect turnaround time? Why is my brain even wasting energy thinking about this!?
    – kid preference – my kids generally want me in this phase and even though their dad (my husband) is wonderful about trying to give me space, it’s hard to create that if I’m attempting to get things done in our house while they’re also around
    – fatigue/mental fog, which I think is my interpretation of the physicality and sleep deprivation of early motherhood. I’m curious re the research on this but I really feel like 2 babies in 2 years (a few years after a residency!) and the associated sleep deprivation changed my brain and its processing speed forever
    – kid sick days – if my kids prefer me anyway AND I’m the one with the MD I usually default to being the one who is either home with them while sick or frequently checking in /managing this. With a 1 and 3 year old this happens.. not infrequently.

    I will disclose that I have not read GTD. However, when I read Digital Minimalism and sometimes when I listen to Cal in general, a few things strike me:
    1. Privilege – you need to have a job/role where you can create a lot of space and act with a lot of autonomy to implement many of the suggestions.
    2. A strong focus on work rather than on life in general. In Cal’s house who is actually moving things forward? Planning vacations, updating kids’ clothes, organizing meals, executing family celebrations – etc.

    Whew. Not super organized and I would like to think more about all this but clearly I have THOUGHTS. Many thanks as always for getting the discussion started.
    Ultimately I am not sure there is a good answer here. I have found some solace during these last few years in reminding myself that my opinion is that I CAN have it all, just not at the same time.

    • Reply Christina B May 10, 2024 at 12:49 pm

      Organizing the kids’ social schedule is one thing that my husband just simply does not do. It’s a PITA for me to do it but if not me, then it’d be no one?!? Spouse does not really respond to texts at all because he has such an inundation of inputs with this work, but texting is how people tend to communicate to organize things.

  • Reply Lisa's Yarns May 8, 2024 at 2:17 pm

    The Lazy Genius/Kendra Adachi has talked about how time management/planning is so dominated by men so she has a book coming out soonish about the topic as well. She had some really good marketing visuals showing how male dominated the industry is. Like an above-commenter mentioned, it was telling that Cal’s DITL did not factor his family really at all. I know that is a choice he’s making but it’s acceptable and he doesn’t get push back on it because of course there is a woman behind the scenes giving him the ability to do his deep work… Or that is how it comes off when you are so black and white about work v family time. I think the early childhood years are particularly challenging for women because of pumping, sleep disruptions from nursing, etc etc. And from what I’ve read, our brains literally change after having children…

  • Reply Selin May 8, 2024 at 2:17 pm

    Sarah when you look at the comments you definitely hit a nerve! I am a huge fan of Cal Newport, I have read all his books and listen to his podcasts. He changed my life for the better. I think he is the most nuanced and self aware one of all the productivity thought leaders. However; let’s be real: This is a very male world that is obsessively focused on self optimization because they have outsourced the household chores, and childcare to other people. They “deprioritized” it in their terms. Let’s not be too judgmental about this because inevitably productivity culture is an extension of the work culture and success culture we all live in. Success is still measured prestige, power and money and men have more of that. Claudia Goldin won the NOBEL Prize for Economics last year on her work on this and quoting Wikipedia on “history of college-educated women dealing with the problem of balancing career and family throughout the twentieth century in the United States.” I think we just need more voices like yours to be louder in this productivity world.

  • Reply Coree May 8, 2024 at 3:40 pm

    Yes, yes, yes to everything. I’m an academic and mom of 1. Year long mat leaves are standard in the UK but I came back at 5 months because I was on a precarious contract, and my goodness, between the baby who didn’t sleep or take a bottle, the hormonal shifts and looking back, some PPA, and the post PhD inertia, I really didn’t start getting things done until a year or 18 months postpartum.

    Now I think I’ve got things mostly figured out and don’t feel a ton of mom guilt. my husband is very much an equal partner (working a 30% travel job means he got up to speed quick – I didn’t do any prep for my trips) but I still feel a mental toll.

    But sometimes, I get inspiration at 4pm, and would love to spend the next 4 hours writing but pick up is at 5:15.

    Also, sometimes people don’t ask you to do things because you have a young kid bwhich is another form of motherhood penalty.

  • Reply Megan May 8, 2024 at 3:52 pm

    Yes to all of the above and thank you for opening this forum for these insights! I also think it’s interesting to consider the extent to which whiteness dominates the productivity industry. Not just that it’s primarily white thinkers and authors but that the very concept of productivity and the ways we measure and value it are informed by U.S. white culture and history. As you mention, there’s been some backlash recently in how capitalism informs productivity, and I’d love to see ethnicity considered as part of that.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger May 8, 2024 at 4:01 pm

      Yes very true!!

  • Reply Sophie May 8, 2024 at 4:25 pm

    THIS! I listened to this episode and got more and more disappointed by the fact there were almost no women’s voices. I was thinking of some of my favourite female productivity writers and how they do often get categorised as “advice for women” rather than everyone.
    Love your list. I think the difference between Cal’s DITL example and typical female academic with a flexible job (like me!) is that he says he works 9-5 every day, so he’s not using his flexibility to do more family obligations, where mothers (me included), often use our flexibility to do both the mental load stuff and parenting related activities, and then work extra at other times outside of 9-5. I really value Cal’s writing and loved slow productivity (which I note had far more female examples! Yay!), however there are considerations missing from his books, which you’ve captured in the above list Sarah!

    • Reply coreebrownswan May 9, 2024 at 9:08 am

      Yep, definitely! In recent weeks, I’ve used my flexibility to do a lesson at my son’s perilously understaffed school (they “do a language” but without teachers who actually speak the language), run the uniform bank, and host a playdate for a friend’s kid when they needed to knock out a task without a kid in tow.

      My job is miles more flexible than my husband’s and I really appreciate my ability to be involved in my kid’s school but unlike his, no one does my work when I’m not there, so I’m grading on a Sunday. He’s also super involved, but has the luxury of flex time which builds up and he can take a half day to go help at the school or deal with a sick kid.

  • Reply Jennifer Marik May 8, 2024 at 4:41 pm

    YES! YES! YES! The mental load aspect is undeniable.

  • Reply Canuck May 8, 2024 at 4:48 pm

    100% this! I think one major thing I would add is the entirely different job expectations and experiences women have at work.
    I think it was on your blog where I first read about the stat of how many more EMR messages and phone calls women physicians get than men – I’m an NP in primary care and feel like this is incredibly visible in my day to day.
    Who do the front desk staff and nurses come to with questions? Who are patients most like to tell about sexual problems, mood problems, body image issues etc? Such important issue but ones that really require a lot of time and energy. I so often will see one of my male colleagues patients and all their last notes are about their blood pressure (or some other basic medical issue) but when I walk in the room they open up about domestic violence, a history of sexual assault, years of pelvic pain or some other much more involved issue. And they often just tell me they have not brought it up with their male provider since they didn’t feel comfortable.
    My husband and a lot of my friends are in academia and it is pretty stark the completely different asks/expectations they get from students and admin not to mention the content – like students come to my husband to ask about grad school and summer internships, they come to my female professor friends for that and bring up major family/economic/mental health issues so they’re also handing them tissues and connecting them to the counselling office etc.
    There’s both the clearly documented – like how students review classes or how many EMR messages a person gets but also I feel like several more layers.
    (I would add also of course both of these are so much more for BIPOC women.)

    • Reply coreebrownswan May 9, 2024 at 9:10 am

      I’m an academic and joked to a male officemate “gosh, I hate it when they cry!” and he was so surprised I had students crying, divulging mental health issues, asking for emotional support, etc. We were the same career stage, both nice, approachable people, but I nearly triggered my husband calling the police because I spent 2 hours with a student in crisis, when I would normally be getting the train home.

  • Reply Ali May 8, 2024 at 4:52 pm

    100% agree. Personally, I am still frustrated with Cal about some comments he made during the Covid lockdowns around it being a period of great productivity and focus for him. Great for him! (As I was juggling kids out of school while WFH.) I can’t remember the exact comments, but whatever it was still gets under my skin to this day. Agggghhh.

    • Reply Marthe Renders May 10, 2024 at 12:49 pm

      Yes….. this period at home led to a big burnout for me. Great, working full time and homeschooling and the mental load from the kids at home. Guess who they asked for endless snacks.

      • Reply Marthe Renders May 10, 2024 at 12:59 pm

        Two years after, I’m still kind of done with it all. I work, “do” the kids (but not all of it); my husband is great and does more in the house but it feels like he resents me for dropping the housework ball. So the house is a mess but I cannot even anymore.

  • Reply Allison Cunningham May 8, 2024 at 6:36 pm

    I totally agree, I still have PTSD from that time period (March-June).

  • Reply Laura May 8, 2024 at 7:08 pm

    Shu, you’ve clearly hit a nerve with this post (in the best way possible!!) a few years ago my husband took a less intense job on the school schedule and I stepped into a leadership role at work. He had always been a “doer” around the house (laundry, cooking, etc) but it took a few tries for us to finally reassign much of the mental load. This looked like: changing him to be the contact at our kids’ school (for all emails, teachers, group chats etc)—I should say that I’ve added myself back on to them after a couple of years since I just missed having those conversation starters with my kids. Shifting the mental load also meant actively telling parents who would text me about play dates “I’m at work or unavailable, my husband handles all kids social engagements., here’s his number” and then not responding to texts about social stuff addressed to both of us. It’s also looked like being okay with whatever he makes for dinner even if it’s not what I would plan, though he now asks me for meal/ grocery requests so he can get what I may be craving (many weeks I’m too busy to add anything to our shared Apple note and I go with whatever he buys). Other changes: he coordinates all of his family’s celebrations and gifts (why is it always the woman who coordinates family gifts?) and coordinates most of my sons sports schedule / oversees instrument practice, homework, etc.

    I heard on a podcast this morning: “your husband/spouse can be your glass ceiling.” The sentiment really struck me because I’ve seen this in friends and/or the undesired opting out that comes from simply not being able to do all the things. I hate that we have to attack these issues on a personal level before any societal / top down changes can be made, but I remind myself that every activity/responsibility I can shift to my husband or have him outsource buys me more time for my work, passions, etc., and is a good example for our kids.

    PS: I say all of this but it literally is a constant negotiation / reassessment in each new season. Oftentimes I have to remind myself that it’s okay for me to not control all the things.:)

  • Reply Erica May 8, 2024 at 8:55 pm

    The Kendra Adachi time management book coming out this fall is quite good, with a strong emphasis on compassion toward oneself and one’s people. If Laura Vanderkam inspires readers to see past the limitations of their time, Kendra Adachi encourages readers to accept those limitations and plan fulfilling lives around them. Complementary approaches!

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger May 9, 2024 at 4:47 am

      you got to read it already? I’m jealous! Looking forward to reading it!

    • Reply Elisabeth May 9, 2024 at 12:51 pm

      I am so excited for this book to release!!

  • Reply Morgan May 8, 2024 at 10:40 pm

    Have not read all the comments to see if this is already covered, but I want to loudly state that my “protected time” looks much different than my husband’s “protected time.” I have four kids ages six and under, and my babies have not taken bottles well (self-fulfilling prophecy, perhaps). When my husband needs a few hours to power through something (we both work from home), he heads to a Starbucks for the day and turns on his Do Not Disturb settings. Largely, any distraction from that point on is his own doing. When I need a few hours to power through something, I hunker down in our bedroom and everyone gets orders not to bother me “unless there is a true emergency or the baby needs to eat.” And babies eat so, so often. And a good portion of the time that everyone THINKS the baby needs to eat, the baby does NOT need to eat, they are just going to fuss for me or for someone else.

    This seems like it would be a short-lived problem, but with four kids tightly spaced I have been either pregnant (and very, very sick) or breastfeeding (with the aforementioned permission structure for interruption).

    Also, I have a whole lot of low-priority maintenance items on my radar that my husband does not — this is partly by design (he is working many more hours than I am) but I think we can’t ignore that women are more often the ones keeping the garden weeded to avoid HOA harassment (and receiving and acting on HOA emails generally), or keeping track of the special lunch that needs to be packed for the field trip this week. Division of labor has been addressed ad nauseam in other forums, but seems to not come up often in productivity conversations led by men.

  • Reply Sarah May 8, 2024 at 11:12 pm

    YEP. Love this so much.

  • Reply KB May 8, 2024 at 11:16 pm

    This! My husband and I both work full time in big jobs. We have two teenagers – one who just finished her first year of college and another who is in high school and is a pretty high level athlete. We’ve been married more than 20 years. No matter how many discussions we have had, I still carry the majority of the mental load. I manage all the doctor appointments, right now my son is facing a sports injury which means he has frequent physical therapy appointments, and it is so crazy trying to manage it all. I always feel guilty leaving work for my kids appointments and even though my boss is understanding, it doesn’t feel good. I love to work out and spend time with friends but that often falls by the wayside. You would think I would have the working mom figured out by now (my kids are almost grown) but it is still tough for me to balance it all. You and Laura Vanderkam have inspired me so much. I’ve found most of the “planning experts” are men with wives that stay at home. It’s just not relevant to our situation. On a side note, my 19 year old daughter is super motivated and holds down a part time job and lot of activities while still managing her social life and good grades at college. She seems to be good at managing her time, and I wonder if it from watching her mom try to fit everything in all these years. 🙂

  • Reply Wizard of Aus May 9, 2024 at 12:53 am

    Long time lurker, first time poster… Wanted to make sure you don’t forget all the Non-Promotable Tasks (ala NPTs, see: previous BOBW guest Laurie Weingart and her book ‘The No Club’) that weigh even very senior women down at work and at home… Sorting the birthday cake for a colleague’s bday; preparing a slide deck; setting up before a meeting; writing minutes; dealing with a colleague’s personal life crisis / distress; on-boarding; recruiting and interviewing; writing policy and process documents; arranging work social events… Blah blah blah. All of which fall heavily on female shoulders while the men get to lean into the promotable / billable work. Hard to be efficient while you’re wading through the quicksand of all those NPTs!

    • Reply Megan May 9, 2024 at 5:25 pm

      Yes! I lead a 60 person division and yet I am the person collecting donations and organizing everything for a team member (multiple levels below me) who lost her husband because no one else did it in her male reporting structure!?!

  • Reply coco May 9, 2024 at 2:59 am

    This is a really interesting topic. I have many thoughts
    1) yes, we are in a male dominated world, so it’s “natural” that productivity space is dominated by male, just like as economics, hard science, are still dominated by male. It’s not just one topic/area, but overall.
    2) women have more responsibilities, physical or mental, and the child raising fall into women naturally for years.
    3) women are taught to be less outspoken, less innovative, less visible in general. We’ve progressed a lot but still not equal to men in these areas.
    4) statistically speaking, men dominates the high level positions, in government and in private sectors.
    While the outcomes seem favorable to men, I wonder if some portion of the outcomes comes from choices we make as women. I see “successful career women” in my organization, climbing the ladder faster than I do, and I don’t envy them a bit because I know what’s the opportunity cost of that and I chose not take that path.
    So maybe… some of the outcomes could be also our preferences. We chose to spend time with our kids, thus we can’t be working 20 hrs a day. We chose not to have 6 hrs of uninterrupted time because we choose to attend our kids needs.
    Culturally speaking, the metric to measure a man’s success is either power/money/fame. So since they are a baby they are conditioned to want those things… thus they make choices to get them more than we do. Men probably feel pressured to perform and seek more success, thus productivity, optimization is more attractive topic for them to research on.
    Yet, as a friend of mine said, women are naturally productive and can multi-task because the nature of our lives require those skills. Maybe being productive and efficient comes more naturally to woman, so we don’t need to look for answers as much as men?
    sorry for the long rambling… will probably write about this topic soon too.

  • Reply Bridget May 9, 2024 at 4:27 am

    A theme I feel in this space is the self vs community focus, and many women operating in response to society expectations are wildly productive at the community level, in contrast to how productivity has been defined in the literature Cal is pointing to. Coordination of efforts and raising the well being/output of the whole family/community has tremendous impact in creating the world and society we want to live in, but it’s undervalued. It feels like the literature is super zoomed in one piece of the puzzle and treating the piece like it is not connected to anything else, and like pulling a whole puzzle together isn’t an incredibly valuable activity. Before kids I could pull off amazing feats at work, then I had kids and I couldn’t do what I used to do and have spent years with the feeling of failing everything just a little, but my actual capacity as a human is light years ahead of what it was when I was just an amazing worker. I do think a 6 hour block of focus to forward one’s priority is valuable, but why is a 6 hour evening of balancing and responding to the needs of a full community, from clients to aging parents to neighbors to kids to spouses to self, and improving the quality of life across all of them not also valuable. Being proactive, living highest values, and setting/meeting community AND individual goals as a driver in our community and addressing needs and challenges across all the people at the same time, that’s a magic trick worth reading about. What does a mind like water look like when we zoom out? What a privilege to focus only on one’s own priorities and set everything else to background noise; what a loss to make that choice every day for decades and miss the chance to meet the priorities of one’s community.

    • Reply Amelia May 9, 2024 at 7:47 am

      Could not agree more! Thanks for articulating so clearly something that has been on my mind – the mix of feeling less than professionally since having kids at the same time as being exponentially more capable overall and feeling like I’m putting my efforts into really worthwhile things outside of work

    • Reply Sarah May 9, 2024 at 7:49 am

      Completely agree-society would literally crumble without the productivity of women.

    • Reply RWS May 9, 2024 at 8:49 am

      So well said and spot on!

    • Reply anandar May 9, 2024 at 10:10 am

      100% agree w Bridget. It reminds me of this NYT article on “kinkeeping”: — I can just imagine a stereotypically “male” productivity expert looking at that whole category of labor intensive, not-that-tangible work and saying “let’s just cut this out” and what would (is?) happening to families and society as a result.

    • Reply Marthe Renders May 10, 2024 at 1:04 pm


  • Reply jennystancampiano May 9, 2024 at 8:11 am

    WOW- look at all these comments! This is obviously something people feel strongly about, and while I was reading your post I was thinking “There is definitely a need for a book by Sarah Hart Unger!” Apparently a lot of people agree. And that’s why your podcast, and BOWB are so great- FINALLY, productivity and life advice given by women.

  • Reply JC May 9, 2024 at 9:45 am

    YES, all of this. We want the book, Sarah!!!

  • Reply Emily May 9, 2024 at 9:49 am

    You and LagLiv need to tag team this!! Between this post and her Tortured Poet one this week – you are both so spot on.

  • Reply Kersti May 9, 2024 at 11:13 am

    I will say I don’t think it should be assumed that being a woman is equated to childbearing and the productivity issues that may flow from that. I wish I could have children but probably can’t. I guess I feel left out when “productivity for women” revolves around balancing kids and work. But I guess that’s my own problem!

    • Reply ewernecke May 9, 2024 at 11:21 am

      No, that’s a legitimate point and you should say it. Just because women tend to have more family responsibilities doesn’t mean that’s the case for every woman. Do you feel like you have productivity challenges that are specific to you as a woman, that don’t have to do with family?

      • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger May 9, 2024 at 11:58 am

        A bunch of the things I listed in the post are not family specific and I am sure there are more! Agree it’s a very valid point!

      • Reply Kersti May 9, 2024 at 1:12 pm

        I’d agree with Sarah’s points above! In addition for people without kids who want them, I’d say one big challenge to productivity is finding a motivation for why you are doing something. You don’t have the motivation to make a better life for your kids so you have to figure out another reason for getting up in the morning and being a productive human.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger May 9, 2024 at 11:21 am

      Very valid! Applies to some women but not all. (And struggling with not being able to conceive when one wants to of course comes with its own incredibly hard challenges)

      • Reply Kersti May 9, 2024 at 11:46 am

        You are so right. Infertility is like a second job sometimes.

    • Reply Kersti May 9, 2024 at 11:42 am

      And I guess I think you don’t have to 100% relate to someone to find something valuable in their work. Sometimes I feel bad listening to Cal because he does have three sweet babies and I have zero. That being said, I can still find value in his work. Same with reading work by women with children (like Sarah’s). Everyone has unique life challenges but I think we can all learn from each other.

      • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger May 9, 2024 at 12:00 pm

        I LOVE Cal’s work and ideas! I hope that came through. I just wish there were more examples and leaders in the high end productivity space that were women.

        • Reply Kersti May 9, 2024 at 1:13 pm

          I think you are that woman!!

    • Reply Marthe Renders May 10, 2024 at 1:06 pm

      Very valid. Take care!

    • Reply Marcia Francois May 12, 2024 at 3:45 pm

      100% agree. I’m no longer a listener of the podcast (both) since the pandemic but now and again I do download an episode I’m interested in and I cringe when I hear the opener “where real women manage work, family and (?)”. The phrase “real women” feels like you are not a real woman unless you have a big job and children. I battled infertility so i could have been a not real woman…

      • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger May 12, 2024 at 4:01 pm

        Definitely don’t think our intention was to suggest anyone in particular is unreal – more that we are not celebs or anyone super recognizable. But will reflect on this.

  • Reply Elisabeth May 9, 2024 at 12:43 pm

    Not sure what to add here, but it’s too relevant a topic not to weigh in and I ditto so many of the wise things mentioned in the comments above.

    My voice is a bit different from many of your readers in the sense I don’t have a “big” job. My role has changed over the years and I am now in a more traditional “wife” position. I work part-time from home, but in highly flexible roles. My husband has an intense career that involves regular (~2x/month) overseas travel; while he is a loving and attentive father, the bulk of all house management, appointments, and general life organization fall to me. I struggle to assign value to those activities. I am efficient and manage innumerable things (objectively well, I think) but since there is no salary or outside validation, I can feel unproductive, lazy, and like my work – and it very much is work – is meaningless.

    I guess the biggest aspect of productivity literature I struggle with is not feeling seen as someone whose productivity primarily happens on the home front. Doing things that, as someone above called it, make the world go-round. Cal Newport isn’t telling me how to find purpose in doing loads of laundry each week. Yet things of that ilk fill the majority of my time.

    Strangely enough, what I really want is a book by Cal Newport’s wife. No, really! I want to know how she manages things on the home front. How does she implement her own husband’s productivity principles? How does she extract value and a sense of flow doing bus pickup, packing lunchboxes and doing laundry? How does Cal believe his advice applies to his wife? Can she benefit from his wisdom being the behind-the-scenes supporter to his own productivity?

    • Reply Kat R May 9, 2024 at 12:50 pm

      Totally Elisabeth! I would love to hear from Cal Newport’s wife too! Is she rolling her eyes as much as I do when he speaks/writes about how productive he is??

    • Reply Kersti May 9, 2024 at 1:18 pm

      I like hearing your point of view as it’s the inverse of mine – I have the big job but no kids! My work can also feel meaningless because I’m not using my earnings to support children. Maybe we feel we don’t have as much value in comparison to women with “big” jobs AND kids. We see that it can be done but are not pulling it off ourselves and feel less than for it.

      • Reply Elisabeth May 9, 2024 at 1:31 pm

        @Kersti: Yes, yes, and yes.
        To an extent it feels like there is no outlet for those who don’t fit that traditional mold (big career + kids)?
        Women without kids feel like they are less-than for not playing in to the assumed role of motherhood.
        Women without a big career feel less-than because isn’t the ultimate aspiration of high-achieving, independent, intelligent women to be in a lucrative and/or publicly esteemed role?

        I also think so many of our productivity discussions – and the broader narrative around gender roles, purpose, value – are displayed in black and white. “This” is the norm or “this” is the goal or “this” is the solution. In reality (and especially for women) our individual circumstances see us dotted along an incredibly diverse spectrum. Maybe it’s a bit like off-the-rack clothing – a one-size-fits all approach end up fitting no one well?

        • Reply Kersti May 9, 2024 at 1:48 pm


        • Reply Vanessa May 10, 2024 at 8:26 am

          I really loved Kathleen Norris’ The Quotidian Mysteries on finding meaning in the mundane tasks. As much as I enjoy the productivity genre, I think there’s a spiritual dimension of work that gets lost.

          • Sarah Hart-Unger May 10, 2024 at 9:44 am

            Ooh that sounds awesome

          • Elisabeth May 15, 2024 at 1:19 pm

            Reading this now (there are free PDF versions online). It’s been great for reflection on the aspect of the spiritual nature of repetitive tasks.

    • Reply Grateful Kae May 9, 2024 at 1:41 pm

      I hear you Elisabeth- I feel like it’s such a huge topic and I want to weigh in (now that I finished the podcast episode this morning finally) but it’s just so big I don’t even know where to start. Haha.

      I both 100% agree with that the productivity space needs more female perspectives and voices and yet ALSO I have mixed feelings about sort of speaking down on these male productivity gurus. Because I personally don’t feel like ANY productivity advice, male or female, can always apply to me, or anyone else- and I don’t think that makes it less valuable. For example, both SHU and LVK often suggest outsourcing many things that I personally cannot- but that doesn’t mean I still don’t learn sooooo much from both of them. Just because that particular part doesn’t apply to my situation, many many other parts do and I still LOVE their advice.

      Additionally, I do sometimes feel like Cal gets a bad rap for all his deep work talk as being unrealistic for working moms, but I’m not totally sure it’s being interpreted correctly. He has been pretty clear a number of times that he has full time childcare for his children, and basically all of his work gets done during that ~9-5 time. So I guess I’m not sure he’s exactly getting a huge productivity “boost” during the work day just because he’s a guy not dealing with house/kids during the day – like, when I worked at the hospital and my kids were at daycare and/or with my husband, I was also just working that whole time with no interruptions, often for 12+ hours! I literally could not be interrupted. Yeah, I was doing patient care, but if I had been holed up in a cabin writing a book during that time, or in a courtroom, or whatever, I’m not sure there’s much difference. Either way I’d be just working and not available at all to my family. Cal does talk a lot about being very involved with his kids/ family during his non-working hours, though I still would bet money that his wife handles a lot of mental load things that he doesn’t. Just seems to be the way it still is in most marriages today…

      I do think it gets trickier when it’s a flexible/ remote job, more like what I have now, and what he has, because then, yes, other to-do items like calling the doctor or picking up a sick kid can bleed into maybe my work time now more than my husband’s (who works in person in an office/ and is more truly “unavailable”- more how I USED to be.). But I feel like that’s more related to the nature of the job than anything else.

      I absolutely think women carry a heavier mental load overall- myself included, definitely!!! And this is problematic. That being said, someone has to do all of that stuff… and in our particular case, my husband does have the “heavier” paid job probably right now, so it kind of makes sense that some of that falls to me. I suspect SHU it’s similar with you and J- you both work fulltime, but his work seems just maybe more INTENSE much of the time/less flexible (though yours is still definitely hard too!). But even still, I think the assumption that women will handle so much is unfair and there is so much “privilege” that comes with not being the one who has to “know all the stuff” like I do. I guess it’s just complicated and I don’t really know what the answer is.

      Anyway, that’s a long winded way of saying- I do love many of those male productivity gurus AND I also badly want SHU’s female perspective in the mix, too!!!

  • Reply Kat R May 9, 2024 at 12:48 pm

    AMEN SARAH!!! I cannot listen to any of those male productivity experts…they are totally unrelatable. I completely agree that they are missing a huge part of the population and benefit greatly from white male privilege. Yet they don’t discuss this at all.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger May 9, 2024 at 1:19 pm

      Truly, I don’t mind what they have to say!! I love Deep Questions. And I read GTD x3. AND, I want to see more women in the upper spheres of influence talking about these things, too.

  • Reply Lauren May 9, 2024 at 2:17 pm

    If you haven’t listened to Struggle Care’s episode 89: Why Women MUST Do Habits Differently with Monica Parker you should. They had a really good discussion on this topic.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger May 9, 2024 at 3:07 pm

      I love Monica!!

  • Reply Alyce May 9, 2024 at 7:56 pm

    I can’t help but think as I read through the comments (which I absolutely agree with), is that of course male productivity experts fail to speak to women – they aren’t women and don’t live our lives. Like how would they ever know how (and how much) hormones or childbearing or dealing with societal expectations placed on women can impact our productivity? I think you (and other women) have to write productivity books because it’s not reasonable to ask men to write about our issues, and there’s no amount of public criticism that I think will change whether they’re capable and qualified to cover these topics. Plus, even if they did write about those topics, do I really want to be mansplained to? If there’s anything I learned from attending a women’s college – if we want these topics to be discussed, we have to jump in and lead the discussion ourselves. (And you could certainly insert class and ethnicity in lieu of women and the same principles apply.)

  • Reply hannahviolin May 10, 2024 at 7:24 am

    I don’t have kids (nor a “big job”), but I have a lot of thoughts about this! I deal with parents in my job–I teach private music lessons so I am always communicating with families, and 90 percent of the time, I’m communicating with the mother exclusively (and that is the family’s choice, even when the mother also works most of the time), 5 percent is communicating exclusively with the father, and the other 5 percent is communicating with both parents. So that means in most of the families I deal with, even though the mother often also works full time and often the father will be seen dropping off/picking up the kids, the mental load of scheduling is obviously on the woman. (A big part of why I listen to BOBW is to understand what is going on with my students and their families.) And then in my own relationship, I end up being the one meal planning, social planning, planning fun activities like concerts and dinner reservations, all of that. Part of that is due to my work schedule being more erratic so “he doesn’t know when I’ll be free” but the other part is, that if I don’t plan it, it doesn’t happen. Plus I still deal with society’s judging ME if I have a dirty house, if I have gray roots, if I am out of shape, if I am not dressing well, and I get paid less because I work in a world with children and the arts so I am undervalued, plus while being judged for NOT having children! Not to mention that his mother will call me if she can’t get ahold of him, but my mother would never think to call him…

    • Reply Kersti May 10, 2024 at 10:49 am

      The vet often calls me when the dog is ready for pick up even when my husband does the drop off! I haven’t been to the vet in prob 5 years.

  • Reply Daniela May 10, 2024 at 7:33 am

    I don’t always listen to Cal Newport anymore because of his almost exclusively male focus. I may be wrong, but aren’t you and Laura the only female guests? Those episodes were fantastic and highlighted a glaring empty space in his work. For the record, I like Cal Newport, but he has blind spots. What I find interesting is that most male productivity experts focus almost exclusively on work. If they have a family, we don’t hear much about it, as if it somehow takes care of itself. I hazard to guess that married productivity experts have someone take care of their home life, so that they can think deep thoughts. Female productivity experts such as you and Laura, on the other hand write about the entire life both at work and at home. That is why your book Sarah, will fill an enormous gap in productivity literature.

    • Reply Jen May 11, 2024 at 10:00 am

      I felt the same when listening to Cal and even when looking at other productivity info. When I started reading Deep Work I was hoping for more insights on how to manage all of life so that i could actually focus more at work but did not find that. He does talk about family but it occurs to me that he’s not on the family group chat planning the summer barbecue get together. These things are still important to me and won’t get done if people aren’t planning it.
      I think there’s so much about productivity that is tied to work only and i really like my job but I want to learn more about how it all goes together and how we make things like time blocks work so that when I am at work, I work and when I am at home I at home. I love the BoBW and LOVED LV’s Tranquility by Tuesday for thinking about life outside of work. Life is so much more than work. Maybe i am more interested in overall life satisfaction (not happiness necessarily) where the parts of life go together.
      Again, I am happy in my work but a career is long and a life can be lived while working – that work, family, hobbies, travel. I would love it if we really talked more about that.

      • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger May 11, 2024 at 11:05 am

        I love this Jen!!!

  • Reply Teresa May 10, 2024 at 11:56 am

    I often think of the ease my life would have and sometimes does have (both with my kids and at work) when there is an extra set of hands to help me out so I don’t need to be in multiple places at the same time. #outsourcing. I often am in multiple places though in my mind. For example, a routine on my computer needs to run, so I use that time to add some items to my grocery order. Or before I leave for work, I start the laundry, dishwasher, roomba, and crock pot. In the pick up line for school, I’ll start brainstorming date night ideas, schedule doctors appointments, or finish that grocery order. And then to do this less of this type of “multitasking”, I create algorithms for each season, by stage of the kids and task to be done so that things done fall through the cracks. If these challenges/ processes are mentioned in productivity books, I’m not sure they are used for the types of activities that cover my set of responsibilities to the family, finances, and home.

  • Reply Maya Gudka May 10, 2024 at 2:02 pm

    This is so true and why I follow you and LVK so diligently! Thanks for putting the case forward much more diplomatically than I would have.

  • Reply Marcia Francois May 12, 2024 at 3:35 pm

    I love what a previous commenter said – that there are a lot of women writing books but they’re in the self-help section not business and therefore the tone is different. 100% correct.

    My first thought when I read your post was a list of all the women who have written books on time management – of course, Laura, but I also loved Brigit Schulte’s book Overwhelmed. It is fabulous if you haven’t read it yet and she coins a lovely phrase, time confetti, that I LOVE. She is releasing Overwork in September this year.

    Also, Kendra Adachi has written a book called The Plan, also out in September. She wrote the Lazy Genius Way which I loved (I did not love The Lazy Genius Kitchen so much).

    There are many more but these are my favourites. Elise Joy Cripe (she of Get to work book fame) also wrote a goals book called Big Dreams Daily Joys which is goals and time and getting over procrastination and a lot of AWESOMEness. Read it if you haven’t – solid 5*.

  • Reply Stephany May 12, 2024 at 9:41 pm

    So many great thoughts in these comments! I want to echo what another commenter said about not equating womanhood with children. I recognize that mothers are very much left out of the productivity space and having a book that centers their struggles could be so, so useful. But there’s also the real productivity struggle for women who aren’t mothers, and for whom the male-centered productivity literature isn’t useful. For example, I know I will be my mom’s main caretaker when she’s older (my brother will help, sure, but the majority of the tasks/emotional load will fall to me).

  • Reply Catherine May 13, 2024 at 6:21 pm

    I love this because this is one of my biggest frustrations with Cal Newport and other dude productivity experts. It’s great that he can focus on “deep work” exclusively, but allllll of that other stuff is still important and still must be taken care of by somebody. Somebody is taking care of the details, and I doubt it’s ever those dudes doing it. And I bet they don’t truly understand how important those things ARE and how much of the world runs on things that they consider time-wasting unimportant details. I do not even have children, but my time is extremely different than my husband’s time, social expectations are different, etc. We both work professional jobs, but somehow mine is always considered more flexible when in reality, it’s not really any more flexible than his. I’m just expected to be available in a way that he is not. I very much want to hear a long, detailed interview of Cal Newport’s wife- perhaps Eve Rodskey could conduct it. (I know I’m picking on Cal Newport here- but I’ve read his book and like it overall! I just always think, ‘and HOW did that so-called shallow work GET DONE, CAL!??! Or “and where were your kids while this was happening, and who planned and got them there?” every time I hear him on a podcast.)

    I’ve already pre-ordered Kendra Adachi’s new book, The Plan.

  • Reply Claire May 15, 2024 at 6:07 am

    I love this post and all its comments. First time poster and long-time reader and listening. Really heartening to hear that so many women had the same reaction to Cal–great ideas, but the perspective and proposals (especially in some of the earlier work) do not translate to working mom reality.

    As for these ideas–you have a unique and valuable perspective to bring to this space! So much of women’s productivity literature falls into categories: “the system is awful and unfair”; “here are my mama hacks to do it all”; and “let it go.” I think why Laura’s work has been so useful to me is that she explores the issues with the system and then proposes real ideas to allow someone to reframe their conception (and use) of available time.

    While some exposition in these books is necessary to set up the proposals, generally the most useful parts are the suggestions for real-life changes. As some readers have pointed out, there’s a significant undervaluing of the “productivity” involved in planning dinners multiple nights a week, tracking all childcare, handling “kinkeeping,” and managing the magic of birthdays and holidays. Reframing the idea that that isn’t work and isn’t productive is important. And while I do think there are male voices dominating the popular productivity space, I also wonder if the pleasure I derive from planning and goal-setting (and the reason I consume planning-related media) are in some way gendered. That is, do I enjoy these tasks because they were rewarded when I was a young girl (be organized, be on top of things)? Is there something we’re doing now to teach our daughters the same thing, and a way we could be communicating differently to our sons?

    I think there’s room in this space for more discussion of goal-setting and tracking (something in between weight and streak tracking and big goal setting at work). The idea of developing a “whole” self, with goals in multiple categories, is very appealing and gets at some of the deep inequities in the system between working mothers and fathers. Even for couples who have worked out sharing many of the day-to-day childcare and household tasks, I feel there are inequities where the women spends most of her “free” time getting in additional work hours or with kids, not developing hobbies, community, or serving in other capacities. Your “planning retreat” with your partner is extremely valuable. Both people in a partnership should be goal-setting.

    I also think the development of community is a topic that is undertreated in this space. Personally, I have found that as I advance in the workplace, I am serving a role as mentor to many women, with relatively few women around me on a daily basis who are actually in my role. And the ones who are are busy working! The few minutes of connection I can carve out with other women in my role (at conferences, at a monthly book club) are extremely valuable and validating. But I also feel like I could do more to develop community around me, with women who are doing other things (working at home, working part time, serving on boards, volunteering). Many of the “other” roles I’d like to have in the next 5 to 10 years are held by women who work less in the workplace and more in the home and community. Carving out time to develop “productivity channels” that involve the mentorship and community of women working in other spaces seems undertreated.

    Really excited for your project!

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger May 15, 2024 at 12:49 pm

      WOW so much value in this one comment, not to mention ideas for directions to take my proposal. THANK YOU!!!

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger May 15, 2024 at 12:50 pm

      also I feel like this paragraph summarizes what we do in BLPA: “I think there’s room in this space for more discussion of goal-setting and tracking (something in between weight and streak tracking and big goal setting at work). The idea of developing a “whole” self, with goals in multiple categories, is very appealing and gets at some of the deep inequities in the system between working mothers and fathers. Even for couples who have worked out sharing many of the day-to-day childcare and household tasks, I feel there are inequities where the women spends most of her “free” time getting in additional work hours or with kids, not developing hobbies, community, or serving in other capacities. Your “planning retreat” with your partner is extremely valuable. Both people in a partnership should be goal-setting.”

      So yes, you make me think I am on the right track!!

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