Study Hacks Blog Posts from November, 2009 - Study Hacks - Cal Newport

Are Passions Serendipitously Discovered or Painstakingly Constructed?

November 24th, 2009 · 101 comments

Note (11/24/09): I’m leaving this afternoon for a Thanksgiving road trip. I’ll be slow to moderate comments and answer e-mail for the next week. I’m up to Nov. 10 in my reader e-mail queue. If you sent me an e-mail after that date, you haven’t been forgotten, and I’ll get to you as soon as I can.

Problems with PassionQuiet Study

My friend Scott Young recently published a blog post with an intriguing title: “What if you have more than one passion?” He reports that several readers admitted that they have “a hard time focusing” because they have “too many passions.”

My readers report their own problems with passion. Here are some excerpts from recent e-mails:

  • “I’m currently feeling great antipathy for physics…I’ve found myself questioning my passion for the subject. “
  • “My only true passion is biology, but it’s a damn big field in which I have no focus other than my general spiritual love for green things.”
  • “Yes, this particular major isn’t my passion. However, my studies are funded by my disciplinarian father…”

My point here is that “passion” seems to be a common source of problems. For some, they have too many passions and don’t know where to focus their energies. For others, it’s the lack of a passion, or maybe a belief that their particular passion won’t bring them somewhere worth going.

In this short post, I want to share a new way of looking at this troublesome concept…

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A Study Hacks Primer

November 20th, 2009 · 32 comments

Fixed-Schedule Redux

My friend Ramit, from the exceptional I Will Teach You To Be Rich blog, just published a guest post I wrote about fixed-schedule productivity (the idea that you should fix your ideal schedule, and then work backwards to meet it). If you’re a fan of this philosophy,  you’ll love the guest post, which extends my original article with a series of in-depth profiles.

If you’ve found Study Hacks through Ramit’s blog,  here are some canonical posts to introduce you to our quirky little world here…

Thoughts on living a remarkable life…

Thoughts on being a successful (and happy) student…

Thoughts on being more productive…

And of course, if you like what you see, click here to subscribe via e-mail or RSS…

How to Study for Non-Technical Science Courses

November 17th, 2009 · 27 comments

A Sinful OmissionPaper Writing

The red book splits academic subjects into two groups: technical and non-technical. The former covers any course with problems to be solved. The latter describes subjects that have you express your knowledge with essay questions and papers.

This taxonomy, however, has a gaping hole: non-technical science courses. These include biology, psychology, or any other subject that requires you to learn lots of technical information, but tests you predominantly with multiple-choice and short-answer questions.

I thought it was time to put together a short, canonical guide to tackling this type of material…

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The Grade Whisperer: How Jay Became a Living Incarnation of the Study Hacks Canon

November 5th, 2009 · 31 comments

The Grade Whisperer is an occasional feature in which I use the Study Hacks philosophy of do less, do better, and know why, to help students overcome their academic problems.

The 25 Year-Old FreshmanAdvice

When Jay graduated high school in 2002, he bypassed college to compete with a professional drum and bugle corps, eventually becoming head of percussion and winning a regional championship.

Over time, Jay sagely realized that “this was not heading toward a long-term career.” So in the fall of 2008, he enrolled in college as a 25 year-old freshman.

Like many new students, he allowed his study habits to coalesce randomly into a half-assed jumble of procrastination and stress.

“My strategy was to earn a 4.0 through losing lots of sleep cramming for exams and saving papers until the last minute,” Jay recalls.

He was earning good grades this first year, but as he reports: “it was killing me both physically and mentally.” Around this time, his daughter was born, straining an already tight schedule.

“It was a disaster waiting to happen.”

His words proved prophetic. This fall, during his first semester as a sophomore, Jay “hit the wall” with a pair of tough upper-level classes.

“Not knowing how to study or manage my time put me behind,” Jay says. He bombed his first exams, earning a D on one of them.

“I realized that I needed to re-learn how to study,” Jay says. This led him to Barnes & Noble, where he stumbled across an intriguing, yellow-colored book. This, in turn, led him to Study Hacks.

Things began to change…

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The Fitness Guru: Focus on How Fast You Recover, Not How Much You Do

November 3rd, 2009 · 12 comments

The Fitness Guru Speaks

I’ve seen a recent uptick in e-mails asking how my strategic approach to academic advice might apply to health goals; most notably, avoiding those inevitable college pounds. As always when it comes to such issues, I turned for guidance to Study Hack’s resident fitness guru, Adam Gilbert of the exceptional My Body Tutor service.

Adam, there’s no real “secret” to staying fit, you need to eat well and exercise. Yet I keep getting e-mails from students who struggle. What’s the issue lurking behind the scenes here?

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