Study Hacks Blog Decoding Patterns of Success Posts from 2015 January

Robin Cook’s (Literal) Deep Work

January 26th, 2015 · 14 comments

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Cook’s Colloquium

While I was at MIT, I lived for two years on Beacon Hill. One of my neighbors, I discovered, was the medical thriller writer, Robin Cook (to put things in perspective: I lived in a 500 square foot apartment while he lived in a six-floor, 1833 townhouse).

I didn’t run into Cook, however, until he agreed to give a speech at the Beacon Hill Civic Association. Eager to hear more about the life and times of this mega-bestselling author, I marked my calendar and attended the talk.

Cook didn’t disappoint. But there was one anecdote, in particular, that caught my attention.

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Deep Habits: Use Index Cards to Accelerate Important Projects

January 18th, 2015 · 28 comments

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The Difficulty of Deep Projects

For the sake of discussion, let’s define a deep project to be a pursuit that leverages your expertise to generate a large amount of new value. These projects require deep work to complete, are rarely urgent and often self-initiated (e.g., no one is demanding their immediate completion), and have the potential to significantly transform or advance your professional life.

Examples of deep projects include writing a highly original book, creating an irresistible piece of software, or introducing a new academic theory.

The problem with deep projects is that they’re complicated and really hard. Almost any other activity will seem more appealing in the moment — so they keep getting pushed aside as something that you’ll “get to soon.”

Recently, I’ve been experimenting with a habit that seems to help with this challenge.

I call it, the depth deck…

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Christopher Nolan Doesn’t Use E-mail (and Why This Matters to You)

January 13th, 2015 · 29 comments

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The Disconnected Director

Ben Casnocha recently sent me a Hollywood Reporter interview with the director Christopher Nolan. About halfway through the transcript, the journalist asks Nolan if it’s true that he doesn’t have an e-mail address.

“It is true,” Nolan responds.

He then elaborates:

Well, I’ve never used email because I don’t find it would help me with anything I’m doing. I just couldn’t be bothered about it.

What interests me about Nolan’s answer is not the details of his technology choices (his ability to avoid e-mail is specific to his incredibly esoteric job), but instead the thought process he applied in making them.

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Deep Habits: Read a (Real) Book Slowly

January 5th, 2015 · 50 comments

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A Call to Read

Maura Kelly begins her 2012 manifesto in The Atlantic with a Pollan-esque exhortation:

Read books. As often as you can. Mostly classics.

Kelly is just one voice in the growing Slow Reading movement (c.f.., here and here). The motivating idea behind this movement is simple: it’s good for the soul and the mind to regularly read — without distraction or interruption — hard books.

There was a time when intellectual engagement necessarily included long hours reading old-fashioned paper tomes. But in an age when a digital attention economy is ascendant, it’s now possible to satisfy this curiosity without ever consuming more than a couple hundred highly digested and simplified words at a time.

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