Study Hacks Blog Posts from January, 2019 - Study Hacks - Cal Newport

Adam Savage and the IRL Digital Revolution

January 29th, 2019 · 19 comments

Myth Confirmed

I recently started re-watching old Mythbusters episodes with my two oldest boys — and we’re having a blast.

The original series, which ran on the Discovery Channel from 2006 to 2016, was hosted by special effects engineers Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage. Curious about what happened to Jamie and Adam after the series ended, I did a little poking around and discovered that among many other things, Adam became involved in the maker website, which was rebranded as “Adam Savage’s Tested.”

This site hosts videos which are primarily a mix of high tech product reviews and instructions for maker projects. My oldest son and I, for example, got a kick out of watching a tutorial where Adam modified an off-the-shelf Nerf gun into a 1000-shot blaster (see above).

The reason I’m bringing this up is because I’ve recently begun reading the questions submitted by members of the Digital Minimalist Book Club.

An issue that arises frequently in these queries is the ambiguous tension between the digital and the analog. I’ve been writing recently about the damage caused when low quality digital distraction push more meaningful and satisfying analog activities out of your life.

As I detail in Digital Minimalism, for example, one of the most commonly reported experiences from last year’s 1,600 person digital declutter experiment was the surprising joy of rediscovering leisure activities that used to be unexceptional, like reading random library books, knitting, or building something with your hands. Participants were often shocked to realize the degree to which these simple but fulfilling pasttimes had been pushed aside by mindless streaming and outraged commenting.

These observations seems to pit the analog against the digital. So how, then, do we think about Adam Savage’s Tested?

My conclusion: with great appreciation.

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Why You Should Pre-Order Digital Minimalism

January 12th, 2019 · 137 comments
A copy of my new book, hot off the presses, on the custom-built minimalist library table I use to find focus in an otherwise noisy world.

My new book, Digital Minimalism, which comes out on February 5th, is available for pre-order.

If you live in the US, you can pre-order from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or a local bookstore (as well as many other retailers).

If you live in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, India or Africa, you can pre-order the UK edition at Amazon UK. (The book is also being translated into over a dozen different languages, but these will come later.)

For multiple reasons, pre-orders are much more useful than normal sales, so if you were already thinking about buying my new book, I want to humbly nudge toward considering a pre-order, and if you already pre-ordered, I want to underscore my gratitude.

To demonstrate my sincere thanks to those who take the time to help my book in this manner, I’ve put together the following incentive packages:

If you pre-order 1 copy of the book before February 5th, you’ll receive:

If you pre-order 2+ copies of the book (one for you and one for a friend) before February 5th, you’ll receive:

  • All of the above bonuses.
  • Access to the private Digital Minimalist Book Club. For one month after the book releases in February, I’ll be be posting a weekly private video for book club members where I answer their questions about the book (or any related topics), submitted through a special email address provided only to book club members.
  • Claim your 2+ copy bonuses here…


  • Pre-order Digital Minimalism from any retailer and in any format. If you have already pre-ordered (thank you!), you just need to find your invoice number from the digital receipt.
  • Fill out THIS FORM with your invoice number(s) and contact details. (Note: If you ordered 2+ copies using multiple different orders, that’s no problem: the form can accept multiple invoice numbers.)
  • Gain immediate access to the bonuses. Once you’ve filled out the above form, links for downloading the bonuses will appear on the form’s confirmation page.  For those of you who order 2+ copies, you’ll also be provided the special email address for submitting questions for the book club. The instructions for how to access the book club videos will then be emailed to you in February.

Are Smartphones Necessary Anymore?

January 8th, 2019 · 78 comments

When I was researching Digital Minimalism, I came across an interesting article written by Vlad Savov for The Verge. It was titled: “It’s time to bring back the dumb phone.”

I’ve both read and written numerous articles about the negative aspects of the modern smartphone, and have interviewed many people who have returned to a simpler alternative with few regrets.

But what caught my attention about Savov’s piece was the following new (to me) argument he made in favor of stepping back from these devices:

“This is not as drastic a regression as you might think — or as it might have been a few years ago. In the age before paper-thin tablets and laptops, your smartphone truly was the only viable connected device you could carry around everywhere.

But nowadays? I have paper pads thicker and heavier than the Apple MacBook…[y]ou can tuck a tablet discreetly into a large jacket pocket, and it can connect to LTE networks.”

Like Proust’s Madeleine, this comment sparked in me memories of the early smartphone era; a time when laptops were large, bulky affairs and accessible WiFi connections scarce. In this context, a “smart” phone that might allow you to send an email or perform rudimentary document edits could significantly improve your productivity when away from the office.

But as Savov notes, there are now many other affordable, portable, connected devices that offer much better productivity experiences than even the largest phone.

So why do smartphones persist in a world where their original rationale has dissipated?

My current theory: Steve Jobs.

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