Study Hacks Blog Decoding Patterns of Success

Deep Habits: My Office in the Woods

May 28th, 2014 · 20 comments

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Fashionably Deep

A reader sent me the above image. She implied that it represents a logical conclusion to my ever intensifying quest for depth.

I’m not there yet, but she’s not far off…

Case in point: I recently found a new hidden work location here on the Georgetown campus that I think trumps any previous spot I’ve found in terms of its ability to eliminate distraction and foster depth:

outside office 477px

I hate to give away all my secrets, but the location of this particular spot involves the Glover park trail that abuts the western edge of the medical school.

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As an unrelated logistical note, my good friend Ramit Sethi is holding a webinar to explain what the hell goes on in that fabled Dream Job course he offers. If you’re interested, I believe it’s tonight (Wednesday, 5/28). You can learn more here.

20 thoughts on “Deep Habits: My Office in the Woods

  1. omeir says:

    It’s been a while since I too am obsessed with deep work . What I have concluded is that deep work – the constant rhythm that maintains positive gradient of obtaining knowledge or expressing it in one form or other – can be achieved by practice. But what complicates the process is that we focus too much on deep work that we lose the grip of deep work itself . You usually advice about reducing the number of activities and minimizing distraction to achieve the state of working deeply.BUT , my question is what shall college students do reach that level of depth in particular work when our days are filled with diverse activities , where we have to juggle between different classes and co curricular activities . It sometimes make me feel that deep work is only for high level students and scholars and virtually is not a college level(BACHELORS LEVEL studies) thing

    1. Study Hacks says:

      If you’re a college student there is no way to avoid studying. So you might as well take that time and spend it deeply — you’ll get more done in the same time that you’re already spending.

      Also…in general, it almost always helps to do less activities!

    2. Danny says:

      Guess you might be a Singaporean to have so many CCA lol.
      Just joking.
      I also have the same feeling. College students are given so many opportunities to know more and decide their minds on what to do in the rest of their lives. I don’t think it’s totally pointless to have some more activities. I think we need to make a balance and get focused while doing one of those things.

  2. Tri Cao says:

    Hey Cal, I will begin my PhD program next Fall and I want to get your advice on networking in academia (and in general life). Some of my friends seem to believe that networking is the most important thing you can work on. I hope to learn your opinion on this matter.

    P/S: I think I’m a huge fan of your books and your ideas about deep work. I ordered your book all the way from to Vietnam 4 years ago before I even entered US for college. Your books really changed my life. On the other hand, I have tried to discuss about deep work with my friends but almost none of them listened to me 🙂

    1. A says:

      sounds like maybe you need new friends. You don’t have the same views and you don’t trust each others opinions….

  3. Cal, your choice of a natural setting makes a lot of sense to me because nature is almost always less distracting than what we humans create. Noise is just one example. The rumbles and honks of our cars are much more jarring than the sounds animals make, even though some birds do give horns a run for their money. Not to mention that nature excludes or makes difficult most distracting technologies-laptops, cellphones, etc.

    I hope “The Intellectual Life” is going well!

    Blake

  4. Carl says:

    I’ve always noticed that studying outside is far more efficient and effective. I think part of the reason –there’s no nervous system interference from artificial light or electric magnetic fields from interior wiring.

  5. Daniel says:

    A few things:

    1. Sound-proof headphones and an absence of people moving are actually a great help (to me) in getting deep work done.

    2. I recently reviewed So Good They Can’t Ignore You for The Objective Standard. You can read the first part of that review here:

    http://www.theobjectivestandard.com/issues/2014-summer/good-cant-ignore-cal-newport/

    For anyone who doesn’t want to pay to read the whole review, the magazine will be at Barnes & Noble stores soon, so you can read it there for free (and buy it if you want afterward).

    I actually drew the image of Lincoln on the cover of this magazine. As weird as it may sound, the book inspired me to pursue art as an occupation, as well as translation from Japanese to English.

    Of course I didn’t drop everything to do this, I just decided that I would pursue these things steadily for decades, like Steve Martin did with the banjo. And, as was his experience, I found that after a while I became pretty good at it and people (such as the editor of this magazine) were starting to notice.

    3. To Trí Cao: Please write an email to Tr?n ??ng Khoa or Uông Xuân Vy about how meaningful you found the book and why you think they should consider translating it.

    I’ve been impressed with both of their translated works and would love to see So Good They Can’t Ignore You get the best possible translation into Vietnamese.

    (Also, I hope you are enjoying America! I actually live in Quy Nh?n, Vietnam–having moved here a couple of years ago from Hà N?i.)

    1. Tri Cao says:

      So you are living in Vietnam right now? That’s cool.
      Translation is a nice idea. I may actually do it myself. Let’s see.

  6. Ralph Dela Cruz says:

    Hey Cal,
    I urgently need your help on something-something not about the article here. I took a hard Biology test and pretty much half of the questions i looked at seemed like i didn’t learn it. Please Cal, I really need your help… I need to get an A the next time I get into this situation. Thx

  7. Ralph Dela Cruz says:

    Hi Cal,
    I’m very sorry, I urgently need help with something that is out of topic from this article. I took so many tests in this unusual Biology class that about half of the test looked like I didn’t learn any of it. It wasn’t even in my notes, homework or lectures. What should I do?

  8. Chris says:

    Quite embarrassing to say, I found nature studying quite distracting with all the spiders crawling around.

  9. Jari Vasell says:

    As deep learning is your ultimate goal, I thought I ask if you tried reflecting what you’ve learned daily?

    See this, with also links to studies for further info:
    http://www.businessinsider.com/this-15-minute-activity-will-make-you-more-successful-at-work-2014-5

  10. Chris Chu says:

    Quite embarrassing to say, I found nature studying a bit distracting with all the spiders creeping around.

  11. Bradley Remsen says:

    What sort of topics would be the focus of my deep work if I am an undergrad social science students? I have no proofs or complex mathematical problems to solve.mwoukd my deep work consist of me reading and exploring my field of study(my major is criminology and my minor is political science)? Thanks

  12. Bradley Remsen says:

    What sort of topics would be the focus of my deep work if I am an undergrad social science students? I have no proofs or complex mathematical problems to solve. Would my deep work consist of me reading and exploring my field of study(my major is criminology and my minor is political science)? Thanks

  13. Sportacus says:

    Looks like a spot where mosquitos and bugs will eat you up. Plus those seats are tough on the back. I prefer a secluded spot in the library stacks myself.

  14. Heather says:

    When I was at college, it took me a long time to find the best place to study for really hard classes (Organic Chemistry e.g.) The major libraries had cubicles, were very quiet, and I found that I got very distracted and kind of bored. Eventually I found the Physics library, where there were a lot of big open tables where groups of physics students would get together to work on difficult problem sets together. I found that just being around people who were clearly focused on “deep thinking” really got me motivated to keep working. By contrast when all I could see were the 3 walls of my cubicle, I got a little stir crazy.

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