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

On Digital Minimalism, Loneliness and the Joys of True Connection

October 28th, 2019 · 25 comments
Photo by Markus Meier.

Earlier today, I came across a thoughtful essay written by someone just embarking on the digital declutter suggested in my most recent book. Summarizing the first day of his experience, the essay author was surprised by the sense of isolation he felt during his initial foray into public without his phone.

As he writes:

“Waiting in line for lunch is also usually an excuse for ‘productivity.’…but today I opted to leave it and simply look around the food hall. The first thing I noticed was that everyone was watching me — or I was scared they were, at least. While I generally enjoy being on stage, what I feared was that they were watching me be alone. And who wants to see that?”

He concludes: “And now I understand one potential uptake of embarking on a digital declutter — loneliness.”

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A Piece of Advice I Wish I’d Included in My Book

October 21st, 2019 · 40 comments
Photo by Roman Harak.

One of the questions I’m often asked during interviews for Digital Minimalism is what advice I’ve learned more recently that I wish I had included in the book. There are several candidates for this missing advice, but one I’ve found myself talking about a lot recently is what I call the phone foyer method.

This strategy was innovated by parents who were worried about the negative effects of using their phone too much around their kids, but it applies more broadly.

The idea is simple…

The Phone Foyer Method

When you get home after work, you put your phone on a table in your foyer near your front door. Then — and this is the important part — you leave it there until you next leave the house.

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The Atomic Minimalist: My Conversation with James Clear

October 16th, 2019 · 17 comments

Last October, my friend James Clear published the breakout hit book, Atomic Habits. As we both discovered in the months that followed, we have many readers in common. James’s habit-building framework, it turns out, is quite useful for those looking to increase the quality of their deep work or succeed in a transition toward digital minimalism.

In recognition of this overlap, and in celebration of Atomic Habit’s one-year anniversary, James and I recently recorded a podcast in which we geek out on the details of our work and how they overlap.

If you’re a fan of James, or are interested in learning more about how his ideas and mine work together, I recommend you give this conversation a listen (you can use the embedded player above, or access it directly here).

Not All Emails Are Created Equal

October 7th, 2019 · 15 comments

Interviews are a common part of the book publicity process, especially as you become better known as a writer. Between television, radio, print and podcasts, I ended up doing well north of 100 interviews about Digital Minimalism since its release last February.

Given this volume of appointments (which is actually modest compared to many authors), I arranged things with my publicity team at Penguin so that they could book interviews on my behalf. Using a service called Acuity, I specified what times I was available, and they then put interviews directly on my calendar during these periods, all without requiring me to participate in the scheduling conversations.

Viewed objectively, this setup shouldn’t have made a big difference in my life. Scheduling an interview takes around 3 or 4 back-and-forth messages on average. This adds up to somewhere around 300 or 400 extra emails messages diverted from my inbox.

When you consider that these scheduling threads were spread over six months, and that the average professional user sends and receives over 125 emails per day, the communication I saved with this setup should have been be lost in the noise of my frenetic inbox.

But it did matter. Not having to wrangle those scheduling emails provided a huge psychological benefit.

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