Study Hacks Blog Posts from September, 2015 - Study Hacks - Cal Newport

Deep Habits: Three Recent Daily Plans

September 29th, 2015 · 49 comments


A Blocking Believer

Longtime Study Hacks readers know I’m a proponent of planning in advance how you’re going to spend your time. To this end, each morning I block out the hours of my work day in one of my trusted Black n’ Red notebooks (see above), and assign specific efforts to these blocks.

My goal, of course, is not to make a rigid plan I must follow no matter what. Like most people, my schedule often shifts as the day unfolds. The key, instead, is to make sure that I am intentional about what I do with my time, and don’t allow myself to drift along in a haze of reactive, inbox-driven busyness tempered with mindless surfing.

Though the basic idea behind daily planning is simple — block out the hours of the day and assign work to these blocks — many readers ask me good questions about the details of its implementation. In response to these queries, I thought it might be useful to show you a few of my actual daily plans from recent days during this past month…

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Alexandra Pelosi is Not Buying What Silicon Valley is Selling

September 16th, 2015 · 19 comments

Pelosi’s Anti-Social Confession

Alexandra Pelosi falls within a prime professional demographic for social media use.

She makes documentary films on topical issues, dabbles in activism, and is a frequent TV commentator.

She lives in New York and grew up in San Francisco (which her mom, Nancy Pelosi, famously represents in Congress).

She wears ironic, black-framed nerd glasses.

But if you want to friend her on Facebook or browse her tweets you’re out of luck. Here’s Pelosi talking last Friday on the Overtime segment of Bill Maher’s HBO show (10:35 in the above clip):

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How Louis C. K. Became Funny and Why it Matters

September 7th, 2015 · 20 comments

Louis C. K.’s Plateau

A reader recently sent me the above video of comedian Louis C. K. speaking at a 2010 memorial to George Carlin. His brief remarks provide interesting insight into the reality of how people reach elite levels in their fields — and why it’s so rare.

As C. K. begins, when he first attempted comedy, he was, like most new comedians, terrible. But he wasn’t deterred:

“I wanted it so bad, that I kept trying, and I learned how to write jokes.”

This early burst of effort helped C. K. become a professional, with a full hour’s worth of reasonable material.

It was here, however, that he stalled. For a long time…

“About fifteen years later, I had been going in a circle that didn’t take me anywhere. Nobody gave a shit who I was, and I didn’t either, I honestly didn’t. I used to hear my act, and go, ‘this is shit and I hate it.'”

This is the lesser told story about the quest for elite accomplishment. It’s common to hear about the exciting initial phase where you’re terrible but motivated and therefore see quick returns.

But so many people, like C. K., soon hit a plateau. They’re no longer bad. But they’re also not improving; stuck in a circle that doesn’t take them anywhere.

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Digital Sabbaticals Don’t Make Sense

September 3rd, 2015 · 27 comments


The Digital Sabbatical

The idea of a “digital sabbatical” is relatively recent: the earliest traces I can find date to 2008 (e.g., this dated gem from CNN). Its popularity, however, has skyrocketed since then.

The mechanics of a digital sabbatical are simple: you set aside a period of time — typically on the scale of days — where you refrain from using some subset of your standard digital network tools.

Many reasons are given for these sabbaticals. Some seem contrived, like boosting creativity or losing weight, but most people understand the real appeal of this behavior: their digital lives consume and ultimately exhaust them, and they crave a break.

As Pico Iyer put it: “It’s only by having some distance from the world that you can see it whole.”

To me, however, this idea never quite made sense.

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