Study Hacks Blog Decoding Patterns of Success

A Study Hacks Primer

November 20th, 2009 · 32 comments

Fixed-Schedule Redux

My friend Ramit, from the exceptional I Will Teach You To Be Rich blog, just published a guest post I wrote about fixed-schedule productivity (the idea that you should fix your ideal schedule, and then work backwards to meet it). If you’re a fan of this philosophy,  you’ll love the guest post, which extends my original article with a series of in-depth profiles.

If you’ve found Study Hacks through Ramit’s blog,  here are some canonical posts to introduce you to our quirky little world here…

Thoughts on living a remarkable life…

Thoughts on being a successful (and happy) student…

Thoughts on being more productive…

And of course, if you like what you see, click here to subscribe via e-mail or RSS…

32 thoughts on “A Study Hacks Primer

  1. I just read your guest post, great content, much more in depth than what you regularly post on study hacks! I’d love to see more of these kinds of long posts here.

  2. AM says:

    Super Useful–I graduated and am still using your tips. Keep us updated on the book.

  3. Mark Essel says:

    Great splash/intro page full of juicy links. Looking forward to catching up on some of the posts here. Loved the writeup on Ramit’s blog (it was my first time there as well).

    Have you considered a comment system like Disqus. I really love what they do as a heavy commenter on many blogs.

  4. David Grun says:

    I really love this post. You should post more like this. If you put out one solid post like this a week, I would kiss your feet!

  5. Maureen says:

    I agree with the other comments: your guest post is better than your regular posts.
    I wonder how the content of your site will evolve as you graduate and start seeing the world maybe a little differently. I know I plan to keep reading as your content has really helped me. Thanks for that!

  6. Great round-up even for the accustomed Study Hacks readers (and owner of your books).

    I particularly enjoryed reading plan.txt again!

  7. Sully says:

    I like your post, Cal, but I find that I only have one gear.

    This frustrates the hell out of me, but with anything I do I am guaranteed to be doing it forever. I can’t just say I want to time box things, and I will get them done during a set time because it will require me to work harder.

    I’ve read your post about hard focus, but it don’t make sense to me; it seems made up. I’ve never experienced it. It is just unimaginable to me that greater focus x time will produce better and faster results. I can’t just say I will spread out a project over 4 hours instead of 10 straight hours because it ends up taking me 10.

    It just seems like a hump I can’t get over. All the work I do is psudowork, apparently.

  8. Martin says:

    Cal, great post once again. I really like your work (that being your blog and your books as well).

    However, on this topic, I’ve got a question: When I streamline my schedule to fit exactly the things I want to, how would you go about study techniques then? I mean, when you fix your schedule to your ideal, and then cut back on the number of hours of reading history, for example, you would have to be really efficient and really have the best techniques to get everything done. That being said, when you don’t yet implement any of the advanced/smart study techniques, or work at them too slowly, would you still advise a fixed-schedule ‘to the max’?

    I’d love to receive your (or others’) replies.

  9. Study Hacks says:

    It just seems like a hump I can’t get over. All the work I do is psudowork, apparently.

    A good way to ease into time-blocked, hard focus work is with an autopilot schedule for a small number of regularly occurring assignments. Over time you can reduce the amount of time needed in your block. This can act as the gateway to more aggressive time-blocked based scheduling.

    However, on this topic, I’ve got a question: When I streamline my schedule to fit exactly the things I want to, how would you go about study techniques then?

    Your ideal schedule still has to be reasonable. But lets say, for example, that you wanted to finish all work by 8 during the week. To get there, you might need a combination of more efficient study habits/scheduling, but also, perhaps, a more reasonable course schedule (dropping the double major, balancing course types), and starting work earlier.

    In my new book, I have a whole section on achieve this sort of fixed-schedule for high school students. Maybe I should do a post on the topic for college students…

  10. Martin says:

    Your ideal schedule still has to be reasonable. But lets say, for example, that you wanted to finish all work by 8 during the week. To get there, you might need a combination of more efficient study habits/scheduling, but also, perhaps, a more reasonable course schedule (dropping the double major, balancing course types), and starting work earlier.

    Thanks for your reply, Cal.

    Given the number of tasks (History reading for an exam, History presentation, Composition research paper and a culture research paper), my goal would be to be done every working day at around 5pm. I definitely think this is possible. However, it would require some drastic new habits, as I am way behind on my reading (like 4-5 chapters, with the next two coming up this week..). So the largest investment time-wise would be the reading. For the papers and the presentation I am doing all right, gradually working towards a submittable document.

    What’s more, I want to invest time in a new business/a grand project, in the same time as well. This should not be hard; my typical day requires me to only take one seminar/lecture for two hours, which is peanuts. Just need some beter habits for the history reading.. Which I find quite hard, as I am still juggling with the Q/E/C-format.

    In my new book, I have a whole section on achieve this sort of fixed-schedule for high school students. Maybe I should do a post on the topic for college students…

    That sounds very interesting indeed. I’d be pleased to read something like that.

  11. Steph says:

    You’re featured on the Yahoo! homepage Cal! Congrats!

  12. Samuel says:

    Thank you! (I found you through Ramit). Unfortunately, it came too late… I’ve already read all the posts you mentioned since yesterday!

    And congratulations! Your writings are very thoughtful, and it’s great to see someone who live’s by his speech. I also really liked the fact that you offer logical background to your methods. It’s really nice to see you put some hard thought on a subject before posting it, which is reflected in some elegant and simple methods like time arbitrage!

    I also find it comforting that there’s people out there like me! I simply refused to put my life on pause while graduating. I had a really tough time when, at the end of my first graduation year, I decided to not only quit extra classes, but also refuse some of the regular ones. Getting out of the flow, as i see, was hard because it raised my “responsibility awareness”. If the regular flow is unbalanced, that’s ok – you’re just following, and you’re par with everyone. When you move away and screw things up, you’ll hear a lot from others (and from yourself) “why didn’t you do it like everybody else?”

    Thanks once more for sharing your thoughts (and specially your time, which I see as our only and most precious resource) with us! If you ever come to Brazil, feel free to get in touch!

  13. Katie says:

    Hello new favourite blog!

  14. I loved your guest post over on Ramit’s blog as well and as a huge Tim Ferris fan as well I also really appreciated the references to the 4HWW. – Joel

  15. Study Hacks says:

    What’s more, I want to invest time in a new business/a grand project, in the same time as well.

    An interesting way to put your toe in the water with something grand is to adopt a “saturday morning project.” That is, put aside a few hours saturday morning, when you’re not going to be working on anything else, to explore the concept. As it gains momentum, then it can work itself into more of your regular schedule.

    If you ever come to Brazil, feel free to get in touch!

    I was there earlier this year. Beautiful country.

  16. Mariela says:

    Great post, and I came here from Ramit’s blog. I just tweeted you too!

    http://twitter.com/MusicSpirit

  17. Joe says:

    Hello, I am currently a 2nd year Maths major and am finding it extremely difficult to be organised! Just take what happened today and last week to illustrate what a mess my study life is as a whole!

    I had a coursework (Statistics) due in today and also, an Algebra test. Prior to this, I spent the whole of last week doing only Algebra problem sheets as well as working on the coursework (which unfortunately, was very hard!). As a result, I disregarded my two other courses and I am a very hardworking student to begin with, not someone who works last minute definitely! Still, I couldn’t find the time to study the other two courses and also I realized what did for last week was painful, energy sapping and honestly, somewhat a waste of time! Hence, I am very keen to try out this fixed-schedule productivity. Anyone have any ideas about how should I go about scheduling the day? Also, a silly question. What does it mean when it says we should work ‘backwards’? Say I listed some task chronologically from 1 to 10, am I supposed to work from tast 10 to task 1?

    Any suggestion and help is greatly appreciated! I have been spending every single day in the library working long hours since the past 2 months. If I am to continue this streak of mine, who knows what will become of me in the next few months.

  18. Joe says:

    Sorry about the grammar mistakes present in my previous post!

  19. Martin says:

    An interesting way to put your toe in the water with something grand is to adopt a “saturday morning project.” That is, put aside a few hours saturday morning, when you’re not going to be working on anything else, to explore the concept. As it gains momentum, then it can work itself into more of your regular schedule.

    That’s quite an interesting approach. I will try it out and report back on how it works..

  20. Joe says:

    I just want to say Thank You Cal!! I’ve been reading some of your post and I have to say, they helped me so much today!! I came back from the library a happier and satisfied student! Thank you for your insightful posts!!

  21. Ben says:

    Thank you!!!
    Google reader recommended your friend’s post to me, and now your blog is at the top of my blog subscriptions. Thanks for being so receptive and posting this guide to your blog, it is really helpful. You’ve got some very good advice on here.

  22. Study Hacks says:

    Any suggestion and help is greatly appreciated! I have been spending every single day in the library working long hours since the past 2 months. If I am to continue this streak of mine, who knows what will become of me in the next few months.

    Start with the suggested posts on the sidebar of my blog as well as the student-related articles listed in this post.

  23. Pingback: Welcome!
  24. William says:

    Hi there.
    After a dismal first semester, I am almost approaching the second semester and was wondering what are some simple things I can do to quickly get my life into order? My main issue is organization- time and of my notes.
    Thanks
    Will

  25. Study Hacks says:

    After a dismal first semester, I am almost approaching the second semester and was wondering what are some simple things I can do to quickly get my life into order? My main issue is organization- time and of my notes.

    Search for my four post series, “4 weeks to a 4.0”.

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