Study Hacks Blog Decoding Patterns of Success

Monday Master Class: How to Keep Life Interesting with a Saturday Morning Project

October 27th, 2008 · 20 comments

A Dash of SpiceWeekend Work

Have you finished your mid-semester dash? If not, make a plan to do it! I’m already hearing reports from readers of huge post-dash stress reductions.

Once you’ve completed this purge, return to this post. Below, I will teach you how to keep your newly stripped down student life from becoming too boring.

The Grand Project

Readers of How to Win at College know that I’m a big fan of what I like to call: “Grand Projects.” I introduced the idea on the blog early last winter, but haven’t given it much attention since then.

Let’s change that.

Here’s the basic definition:

A Grand Project is any project that when explained to someone for the first time is likely to elicit a response of “wow!’

The purpose of a grand project is two-fold:

First, it injects excitement and possibility into your student life. As I said in last winter’s post: “[A Grand Project] focuses you through the small ups and downs that litter the standard student grind. It gives you higher purpose.”

Second, it exposes you to the type of bulk positive randomness that acts as the source of the most exciting, innovative, and impressive activities. Put another way: if you want to stumble into a really cool opportunity, you have to be working on things that are really cool.

Examples of Grand Projects:

  • Writing a screenplay.
  • Trying to get a short story published.
  • Launching a microbusiness to keep you in beer money.
  • Mastering an insane and little understood sport or hobby.
  • Building a blog to prominence.
  • Starting an activist movement.

But Wait! This All Takes Time!

The observant reader may have noticed that this Grand Project notion seems to run counter to last week’s advice to ruthlessly cull your schedule in preparation for the busier second-half of the semester. This is where the “Saturday morning” piece of the title makes an appearance.

A Saturday Morning Project is a Grand Project that you work on only on Saturday morning, in between the time when you wake up and lunch.

What’s cool about a Saturday Morning Project (SMP) is that you gain the two benefits of a Grand Project (excitement and quality randomness exposure) without a major time sink. You make consistent progress in a time period that you would otherwise leave empty.

Of course, in the long run, if a SMP takes off it will eventually need more than just a few hours a week. If you’re so lucky to get to this point, then you can rebuild your schedule so that the SMP graduates to become a major focus. But most of these projects either (a) don’t get to that stage; or (b) require a long time before the right combination of factors come together. The Saturday morning time slot acts as the perfect incubator to keep these dreams alive. The tight constraints also provide a good lesson in how to be ultra-efficient and make big progress in a small amount of time — a useful skill for all of your endeavors.

Clean Up. Spice Up. Live (it) Up.

My mid-semester challenge to you is clear. First, conduct a dash to clear the deck and set your mind at ease. Then add in a SMP to keep life interesting. Follow these two simple steps and your path to winter vacation should be a pleasure.

(Photo by re-ality)

20 thoughts on “Monday Master Class: How to Keep Life Interesting with a Saturday Morning Project

  1. DrBurst says:

    Thank you so much. I’m in high school right now and all ways wanted to write a book. I’m going to college soon and thought I could knock it out in the summer. Now, I have something to look forward to, thank you

  2. Jen says:

    I love the idea of a grand project and would like to hear more about it. It seems intriguing to make something grand. Do you have any stories of students doing it? How did they achieve it (the details!). And slightly off topic: what is happening to the college chronicles? how are the students doing? Do you have any?
    I like the ideas you present, but for me it is always more helpful if I hear about an real example. Does that make any sense?

  3. Study Hacks says:

    Thank you so much. I’m in high school right now and all ways wanted to write a book. I’m going to college soon and thought I could knock it out in the summer. Now, I have something to look forward to, thank you

    Excellent. I’m happy to see you’ve found an outlet for your ambition. When it comes to book writing, you should also check out this article I wrote about my own process of becoming a writer. It should provide some practical tips:

    http://calnewport.com/blog/2008/03/28/how-to-get-a-book-deal-lessons-from-my-adventures-in-the-world-of-non-fiction-publishing/

    Do you have any stories of students doing it? How did they achieve it (the details!).

    Check out the interviews and zen valedictorian topics on the right sidebar of the blog. There are lots of case studies in here that capture stories of students doing something Grand. I ran grand projects all throughout college. Some — namely, my books — really took off. Others — several different business ideas and writing projects — not so much. But I loved them all.

  4. Jen says:

    I already did (had a lot of free time before college started and pretty much read the whole blog several times, but still possible that I missed something as it never was an organized search) but somehow I’m still curious about some more examples. Did anyone here already started their grand project and wants to share some experiences?

  5. Kara says:

    How specific should this project be? Say your major is Biology, and you are really passionate about it. Could a project be doing extensive reading on a subject you find interesting, or is that too related to coursework?

  6. Stephanie says:

    If you have a lot of interests, how do you pick one project without wasting your energy on many?

  7. Study Hacks says:

    Could a project be doing extensive reading on a subject you find interesting, or is that too related to coursework?

    Sure. When I was interested in getting involved in computer science research, I started to spend time reading different journals, getting a sense of what was going on in the field. At one point I started even experimenting on my own with a topic. It was fun.

    If you have a lot of interests, how do you pick one project without wasting your energy on many?

    Just choose one the maximizes the combination of your excitement about it and how well it matches your skills.

  8. Stephanie says:

    I’m tired of the work-school life. It’s a very boring, very vicious circle. I realized one day while processing a customer’s credit card application that I needed my hobbies back. I’m still not sure what my GP is or if it should have anything to do with my current major.

  9. Vincent says:

    Hey Cal, is that you in the picture? The face there looks like the face in your MIT bio and book pictures, but the haircut is so different.

    Great post, like usual. I’ve been sluggish with improving the Wiki, and Jafar is the only one besides who used to work on it regularly. I definitely could use a Saturday-morning routine can help this get up and going, because I would like that kind of resource. But there are so many articles, and the Wiki is not updated to the most current article. Maybe we need more people–I don’t know how to handle it if I were you.

  10. Tiffany says:

    I found this post kind of interesting, because I myself am starting a “saturday morning project,” particularly starting a hobby in dancing.

    The problem I face now, however, is that I found that this project is more of a passion. It’s not easy for me to balance practicing my hobby into my school curriculum (I’m currently a biochemistry major). How do you suggest pushing a saturday morning project into something more substancial, as well as find the balance.

  11. Ashley says:

    I love this idea. The one edit I would make is call it the Saturday Afternoon Project between lunch and dinner because let’s be honest, after a long school week and night out, whose going to be up early enough to have time before lunch? Or maybe it’s just because I have a hard time seeing weekend mornings as time to work or be productive. I think to think of Grand Projects in college as thinking of the great things you want to do after college and find ways to do them in college, even if it’s on a smaller scale.

  12. Candice Dologuele says:

    Dear Cal Newport,

    I am an aspiring writer and love to write short stories. I am also writing a novel in French. I was wondering, since you’re a published author and therefore my hero, how did you get published? Who did you contact? How was your relationship with your editor? And also, if it is not too private, how did you discuss the money part ? Thanks you for your time.

    Candice

  13. Study Hacks says:

    I was wondering, since you’re a published author and therefore my hero, how did you get published? Who did you contact? How was your relationship with your editor? And also, if it is not too private, how did you discuss the money part ?

    Read this:

    http://calnewport.com/blog/2008/03/28/how-to-get-a-book-deal-lessons-from-my-adventures-in-the-world-of-non-fiction-publishing/

  14. M G says:

    Your blog is fantastic. Thanks for all the inspiration–I’m picking up your book.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *