A New Year Tradition
It’s a tradition here at Study Hacks to greet the New Year with ambitious resolutions. In 2008 I listed five habits students should resolve to avoid, including skipping classes and studying without a plan. By 2009 I could trust that my readers were beyond such basic mistakes, so I presented instead three advanced habits students should resolve to adopt: commit to full capture, use assignment folders, and finish major assignments early.
Now that 2010 looms, I want to continue the evolution of my New Year’s advice. This year, I want to throw caution to the wind and try to convince you to transform your student lifestyle. (Though this advice is college-specific, elements of it should resonate for a variety of situations, so it’s a worth a read for anyone who is feeling overworked or under-inspired.)
Specifically, I want you to make 2010 the year that you seriously consider radical simplicity…
I first introduced the concept of Radical Simplicity in March of 2008. At its core was a simple idea: schedule (much) less than you have time to complete. A student who embraces radical simplicity has abundant free time — he rarely feels rushed to get work done, and often luxuriates by immersing himself in assignments or serious recreation.
This concept became the foundation of my Zen Valedictorian philosophy and I later made it the first part of Study Hack’s three-part college student mantra: do less; do better; know why.
The advantages of Radical Simplicity are numerous, and include…
- Time affluence is a like a wonder drug. It eliminates stress. It increases happiness. It helps you engage the world and increases the chances that you’ll stumble into something interesting.
- Having the ability to immerse yourself (and therefore excel) in a small number of classes and activities will make you incredibly attractive to both grad schools and potential employers. In fact, it will make you more attractive than the overworked grind who juggles a double major and ten different clubs.
- Busy students rarely accomplish interesting and meaningful things.
- If you adopt the mindset that you’re suffering now for benefits later, it’s likely that you’ll live most of your life continuing to work toward a payoff that’s always just around the corner.
- And finally, keep in mind that as a student you have few responsibilities and no boss looking over your shoulder. It’s as good a time as any to experiment with lifestyle design.
What Does Radically Simplicity Look Like?
The following are case studies of real students who embraced this philosophy:
- Alice escaped a self-described “academic hell” by dropping her econ/business double major, quitting two time-consuming extracurriculars, and adopting a light course schedule.
- Tyler turned around his life as a burnt out grind by switching to a major that interested him, cutting out all but one of his extracurricular activities, and choosing balanced course loads.
- Scott discovered that his laundry list of activities wouldn’t help him get into law school, so he decided to adopt the focused lifestyle, and soon became a stand out on his way to an impressive career.
- Amy was about to lose her scholarship and was barely sleeping when she decided to adopt fixed-schedule productivity, deep-six pseudo-work, streamline her schedule, and commit to doing a few things really well.
How Can You Introduce Radical Simplicity into Your Life?
There’s no single right answer to realize this philosophy, but any or all of the following will certainly help:
- Adopt the rule of one.
- Take an activity vacation.
- Become a proponent of adventure studying.
- Slash your course schedule to the bare minimum that still allows you to graduate in four years (use AP credits if you got ’em), then focus on becoming an A* student.
- Use your new found free time to explore your world.
Life is short. 2010 is as good a time as any to take back control of your life.
30 thoughts on “Resolve to Make 2010 a Year of Radical Simplicity”
Happy New Year, Cal. Thanks for maintaining a great blog and for putting thought into your posts.
Hey Cal, another amazing post. Thanks for taking the time to share encouraging words. Happy 2010!!!
I absolutely agree, Cal. My personal challenge is to get rid of old commitments and not take up new ones without much thought.
I, and I guess many other students, have previous commitments such as posts in various clubs and other extracurricular actiivites that run until the end of the year. One step towards radical simplicity is to let those commitments “run out” without loading up new ones that will block your potential for another year.
Looking back, I was a member of the organising committee for a major global conference, I did an internship with the Swiss government in Abu Dhabi for two months and grew my blog alongside. I believe that all three things were meaningful activities and I wouldn’t trade the experiences for the world, let alone the CV effect.
But my studies have suffered, and it’s time to regain focus for the final stretch of my degree.
Thank you so much for writing this blog! You’ve completely changed the way that I think about schoolwork. For once, I feel prepared to maintain my New Year’s resolution (this year, to work towards the Zen Valedictorian lifestyle) because of this site. I’m excited to go back to school and put everything I have learned to the test!
Have a Great 2010 Cal ^^!
It’s true if yo get great grades AND have lots of recreational activities to talk about grad schools will want you so badly. Love simplicity. It’s like they say, “Any fool can make someting more complicated, it takes a stroke of genius to simplify something”.
Thanks for a great 2009 of post Cal. But give us something new and juicy for the new year- you may have raised our expectations too high with all your great postings.
I am currently working on my Bachelor’s in Nutrition/Dietetics. I spent the last four years of college giving a satisfactory performance. Before I even discovered your Study Hacks website, I decided to spend an extra year to cut down the load of my courses. This past fall semester I took four classes, (as opposed to the normal six)and earned a 4.0. I don’t know how to explain what I felt. I felt that I will always be a C student and that I am not as intelligent as other students. My GPA could be much more impressive. I still have a desire to go to Pharmacy school after completing my bachelors. Now that I have confidence in myself…I wonder if I should focus on increasing my GPA in the next year and increase my chances of being admitted. What are your thoughts on this? Would you encourage a student like myself to do this?
I discovered your during the Holidays. It is fantastic. A lot of your hacks looks easy for me to implement. But I have some difficulty to see how I could implement the Autopilot since I have finished graduate school and now work as a research assistant. I interact with graduate students, a supervisor and outside collaborators and they are all acuustomed to fact that my office door is always open and that I’m always reacheable on Skype. Any tips on how to adapt the Autopilot to a research career instead of studies?
Have a great 2010!
Great post Cal, as a side note, what is the second picture of?
Finishing major projects early was the only resolution I kept for 2009 but that doesn’t mean I failed at keeping resolutions – it just meant that I had to focus on perfecting one than three.
Happy New Year!
Happy New Year Cal,
Radical simplicity sounds good. As a University Freshman, I have a lot coming on to me, so much stuff what needs my attention and I want to join even more clubs. Shouldn’t do that. Let’s focus on only one thing and become the best in it.
My resolution for 2010 is to adopt Zen To Done, that would be a great journey also.
Much as I love your blog, it’s all getting a bit repetitive. This post, for instance, said nothing new at all; nothing that a regular reader of the blog already hasn’t heard.
When can we expect something new?
Radical simplicity also applies well to programming. Programmers often underestimate the time it will take to complete a task.
For example, I’m working on something now which I thought would take me 3 hours, but it will likely take me an entire day.
As another regular reader of this blog, I think there has been plenty of information over the past 2.5 years about study advice/success without necessarily needing to get more. The rest comes from practice and thinking about how this all fits into your own goals. I think one can develop a bad habit of reading too much advice and not applying enough of it…
That said, I appreciate these student-focused articles and hope there are more.
I agree with Eddie. Having set up my own Zen Valedictorian and radical simplicity lifestyle, setting up and evolving my own organization system in the past 2 years, and making the right mistakes and learning from them, there’s little more to learn.
Like I’ve heard pickup artists say, you could memorize every line and read all you can on how to do things, but you’ll get blown out the first time you try. Like Scott Young says, https://www.scotthyoung.com/blog/2009/03/23/execution-is-more-important-than-planning/ . Study Hacks are similar. When I first picked up the red book, I thought this content was amazing. Now, two years later after a lot of practice, learning from mistakes and refining my procedure of attacking courses, I find as a “study hacker” I develop my own style.
And it all came from yes, reading the articles. But doing what Cal says, and rereading until I can do it perfectly. Or sometimes the advice didn’t work for my set of classes. When that happened, it wasn’t important that the advice didn’t work out, it was important to understand why the advice worked.
Keeping to the point, you can only really learn this stuff by trying it out, maybe making some mistakes and learning from them, rejoicing sometimes that you made the “right mistakes” that contribute to your school/work growth, and ultimately seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. And then, looking back, you see the advice in a new perspective, like for any area of personal development. Then, you find you can write your own student-advice articles if you want to. The content that comes up on this blog might seem somewhat repetitive, but what’s more important is that you practice the advice more than you read it. And then it works for you.
This article is just the kind of motivation I need. Moving into 2010 and a new quarter, I’ve laid the foundations for a simplified set of obligations. I’m falling back on IB credits from high school and taking a manageable set of core classes within my major and minor. I’m looking forward to focusing on a single extracurricular, as I become more involved in undergrad research for a distributed computing project within my computer science department.
Thanks for your continued writing and support!
Thank you so much. Your blog is my life boat. Ever since I discovered you a few months ago, I have been hanging on to it for dear life. My resolution is to work through these hacks one by one. I have particular problems with deep procrastination, and that, added to my post graduate degree, without a job or a student position has led me to depression. Last year unfolded as a horrid unplanned gap year that never ceased to end. Until now.
So yeah. Thank you for the hopes and hacks you give me. I am the one who really really really needs it.
reminds of Deepack Chopra’s law of least effort… in the 7 spiritual laws of success.
BJ doesnt have anything to prove
I totally agree with simplicity and more specifically of the phrase “Keep it Simple Stupid.” I try to think of the simplest solution to even a complex problem and roll with it. Also, I like to keep things in perspective and not make small issues into big issues. Moreover, not being afraid of failure is in a way keeping things simple because I realize that is just a step in the right direction.
Haha! Funny timing… I did a crazy thing this semester and took on 18 credit hours and an internship! But I’ve resolved myself to not be an employee or a member of Toastmasters while I am focused on university studies. This is the time for earning the degree, while I am still young, and while I have the energy and determination.
I live in a mountain community at 8700 feet above sea level and surrounded by national forest. I should have been taking my studies outside all of this time, but now that you suggest it, I think I’ll try it out.
Thanks for your posts. I look forward to your insight. 🙂