Study Hacks Blog Posts from February, 2017 - Study Hacks - Cal Newport

The Rise of the Monk Mode Morning

February 24th, 2017 · 48 comments

Productive Conversations

In my role as someone who writes about productivity, I enjoy the opportunity to discuss this topic with a variety of different people. Recently, something caught my attention about these conversations.

Several different accomplished people, all in distinct occasions, mentioned to me their adoption of the same bold deep work hack: the monk mode morning.

The execution of the monk mode morning is straightforward. Between when you wake up and noon: no meetings, no calls, no texts, no email, no Slack, no Internet. You instead work deeply on something (or some things) that matter.

What makes this hack particularly effective is its simple regularity. If someone wants to schedule something with you, it becomes reflexive to respond “anytime after noon.” Similarly, your colleagues soon learn not to expect you to see something they send until after lunch.

There’s no guesswork or inconsistency: everyone’s on the same page, and you make 3 to 4 hours of deep progress on valuable goals, every day.

From Theory to Practice

Clearly, spending the a.m. in monk mode is the type of hack that makes me swoon. But it’s also the type of hack that I would usually assume is not feasible for those in “normal” jobs with clients and employees and deadlines.

Which explains why it caught my attention when, as mentioned in the opening to this post, multiple different people in “normal” jobs told me that they employ the monk mode morning to great effect.

Earlier this week, for example, I was talking with a media personality who runs his own company and swears by the monk mode morning. He said: “if someone gets really upset that they can’t reach me in the morning, my first thought is that this guy is a [pejorative deleted]…not the type of person I want to work with.”

Not everyone is in a position to execute the monk mode morning (indeed, most of the people who mentioned this to me in recent months run their own companies). But the growing popularity of this bold hack is yet another indication that my long predicted shift away from the cult of connectivity, and toward depth, is perhaps beginning to pick up speed.

(Photo by Hanoi Mark)

Facebook Phreaks and the Fight to Reclaim Time and Attention

February 13th, 2017 · 53 comments

A Minimalist Trend

Last week, I sent a note to my email list asking readers about their personal digital minimalism strategies. I’ve only just begun wading through the more than 250 responses, but I’m already noticing an interesting trend: there seems to be a non-trivial subgroup made up of individuals who use Facebook in very narrow ways, and are very worried about this service’s attempt to manipulate their time and attention to bolster profit.

To accommodate both these realities, this group deploys aggressive tactics and tools to reshape Facebook into something that provides them exactly what they need, without all the other frustrating noise.

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From Tools to Tool Uses

February 1st, 2017 · 27 comments

Rethinking How We Think About Tools

In thinking about digital tools we naturally draw analogies to the physical world. In this latter context, tools are often engineered for a specific and clear purpose. A 3/4 inch ratchet wrench is used to secure bolts of that size, and so on.

The translation of this single use understanding of tools to the digital world, however, is creating havoc in our digital lives.

Many modern digital tools, especially those in the social media sector, are engineered to offer dozens of different features, and can be used in a wide variety of different ways. We lose significant control over our time and attention when we settle for thinking about these tools only in the binary sense of: “I use it,” or “I don’t use it.”

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