Study Hacks Blog Posts from May, 2013 - Study Hacks - Cal Newport

Controlling Your Schedule with Deadline Buffers

May 22nd, 2013 · 16 comments


A Hard Week

Last week was hard. Four large deadlines landed within a four day period. The result was a week (and weekend) where I was forced to violate my fixed-schedule productivity boundaries.

I get upset when I violate these boundaries, so, as I do, I conducted a post-mortem on my schedule to find out what happened.

The high-level explanation was clear: bad luck. I originally had two big deadlines on my calendar, each separated by a week. But then two unfortunate things happened in rapid succession:

  1. One of my two big deadlines was shifted to coincide with the second big deadline. Because I was working with collaborators, I couldn’t just ignore the shift. The new deadline would become the real deadline.
  2. The other issue was due to shadow commitments — work obligations you accept before you know the specific dates the work will be due. I had made two such commitments months earlier. Not long ago, however, their due dates were announced, and they both fell square within this brutal week.

The easy conclusion from this post-mortem is that sometimes you have a hard week. Make sure you recharge afterward and then move on.

This is a valid conclusion And I took it to heart. But it’s not complete…

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Do More By Planning Less: The Power of the Anti-Plan

May 7th, 2013 · 46 comments


Seeking Full Capacity

Since becoming a professor, my productivity (as measured by original publications in quality venues) has improved.

I’m happy about this fact.

But I’m also convinced that I’m still leaving capacity on the table. As my expertise in my area grows, I’m reaching a point where I have more ideas per year than I have time to publish (which can be frustrating). If I could increase my deep to shallow work ratio just a little more, I could, I think, close that gap.

Accomplishing this goal, however, has proved difficult.

According to my Monthly Plan archives, since September 2012 I’ve launched at least six different plans aimed at increasing my research output, with the goal of closing this final gap.

None made a major impact.

With this in mind, I’m taking advantage of the beginning of summer to try, as I like to do every now and again, the most radical of productivity plans — no plan at all.

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