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Quick Hits: Searching for E-mail Renegades, Rethinking Work, and Listening to Ramit’s Take on Student Loans

April 26th, 2010 · 19 comments

Quick hits is an occasional feature where I take a breather between my epic big idea posts to share ideas, ask questions, and in general provide a catch-all place for me to catch up with you.

E-mail RenegadesE-Mail Zero

As part of an exciting writing project, I’m looking for people who have taken drastic steps to reduce the distraction generated by electronic communication tools — e-mail, social networks, twitter, etc. I’m more interested in big changes — e.g., getting rid of public e-mail addresses — than I am in moderation — e.g., checking e-mail only twice a day.

I’m interested in stories from knowledge workers, entrepreneurs, and folks in academia — be it professors, grad students, or undergraduates.

If this describes you or if you know someone like this, please e-mail me: author [at] calnewport.com. 

Interesting Links

  • “When it comes to student loans, financial aid, and higher education, everyone’s got an opinion. They just usually happen to be wrong.” Thus opens Ramit Sethi’s barnburner of an article on the costs of higher education.
  • “Comfortably situated in Chicago outside of the ‘start-up’ echo chamber, 37Signals is focused on getting sh*t done instead of chasing the Silicon Valley venture capital death spiral” This is Tim Ferriss’ description of the tech firm 37Signals. I’ve been fascinated by this Chicago-based company since I first read about their four day work week policy. Ferriss’ article is a great introduction to their unconventional thinking on integrating work into a full life.
  • “This would suggest that sometimes you’re not going to be interested in something right out of the gate.” This is one of several interesting conclusions from Ben Casnocha’s recent article on the science behind interest development. (A topic, incidentally, that I cover in-depth in my new book on college admissions. Did I mention that I had a new book coming out?)

Coming Up

I have two provocative posts in the works. One describes recent research on people who describe their work as “a calling,” while the other explores the controversial idea that competitive college admissions can actually be good for students.

Stay tuned…

19 thoughts on “Quick Hits: Searching for E-mail Renegades, Rethinking Work, and Listening to Ramit’s Take on Student Loans

  1. After I ‘got rid’ of my email addiction my life COMPLETELY changed. I’m still working out the smaller details of outsourcing email but I technically don’t have to open up my company email more than once a day.

    I’ve also been experimenting with getting rid of my cellphone as well. I can’t tell you how beautiful it feels to sit down for the day and work on a project without constantly checking email and getting phone calls all day long.

  2. Suzyn says:

    You may be interested in Havi Brooks’ article on her year without email (which she has decided to extend permanently): http://www.fluentself.com/blog/mindful-time-management/my-year-without-email-part-1/

  3. Rowdy says:

    Still trying to cut down on email and such myself. Such a time-vacuum.

    On a different note, I am psyched about the new book, Cal. I’m a little past that point, already being in college, but I already pre-ordered a copy for my little sister. Want her to get an earlier start than I did!

    Thanks for the post!

  4. Estara says:

    Hey, thanks so much for your response to my question about majors! Just viewing my multiple interests in a positive, beneficial light helps (like you said) and makes it easier.
    It gave me a much – needed paradigm change.
    As far as the email/cell phone/social networking, well, it’s all in the way you view it. I have learned to think of it as an asset – not a detrimental force, mostly because I don’t let it rule me. Email, phone calls, etc, don’t command my attention. I use them when I need to and want to. When the phone rings, I don’t have to answer it. I am in control of the communication device, not vice versa. I know there’s a lot of holes in this solution, but it works well for me.

  5. Study Hacks says:

    I’ve also been experimenting with getting rid of my cellphone as well. I can’t tell you how beautiful it feels to sit down for the day and work on a project without constantly checking email and getting phone calls all day long.

    I can’t wait to hear more about your story.

    On a different note, I am psyched about the new book, Cal. I’m a little past that point, already being in college, but I already pre-ordered a copy for my little sister. Want her to get an earlier start than I did!

    Thank you! I’m definitely hoping that older fans of my ideas my consider buying the book for young siblings or friends of the family who might benefit from an early “indoctrination.”

  6. The classic case of an extreme reduction of email is Don Knuth, but I’m sure you already knew that.

  7. dyserenity says:

    Hey Cal. This is a little off topic, but what do you think of MD/PhD programs? They typically take eight years and are intense; would it be better to pick on or the other?

  8. Study Hacks says:

    The classic case of an extreme reduction of email is Don Knuth, but I’m sure you already knew that.

    Yep. I wrote a blog post about him a little while ago.

    This is a little off topic, but what do you think of MD/PhD programs? They typically take eight years and are intense; would it be better to pick on or the other?

    Not necessarily. MD/PhD programs lay the foundation for serious medical-related research. Eight years is not a long time in the scheme of becoming a good researcher.

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  14. Isaac says:

    email is only a tool, problem is how to use it.
    the issue is that we are overcommitted to email, the sense that an email has to be read and responded upon – which is not true.
    Solutions: use email only as task oriented (task interested/related to your focus), not for social purpose (for social purpose, why not phone/visit/even letter?)

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  19. Mister says:

    To reduce distractions, I don’t use mobile phone.
    I use Google voice instead.
    I don’t answer calls.
    Text and voice messages go into my email inbox.
    Plus, it’s free within US.

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