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The Recorded Life

A snapshot of the mind of Cal…

Personal Hacks

A reader recently noted the following:

It strikes me that you haven’t said much at all on your blog — or for that matter, in your books — about how one ‘succeeds’ at one’s personal life.

It’s true that I tend to keep things professional here at Study Hacks. But this doesn’t mean my personal life escapes similar scrutiny.

Exhibit A is the stack of moleskin notebooks shown at the top of this post.

They’re all full.

I keep one such notebook with me at all times for recording any “important thought” that I might want to revisit later during my monthly check-in. Some of the ideas, of course, relate to my work as a professor or a writer. The page below, for example, which is from September 2, 2010, shows the genesis of my Romantic Scholar series (though, at the time, I was calling it, ill-advisedly, the “aesthetics of student knowledge” series):

At least three-quarters of the notes, however, deal with living a better life outside of work. In other words, I put a lot of thought into hacking the personal — I just tend to be too private to share.

To understand my hesitance, I present Exhibit B:

This page, recorded on May 21, 2009, is one of several entries on the importance of the “500 push-ups project.” Something which I clearly deemed urgent.

Don’t ask…

10 thoughts on “The Recorded Life”

  1. As a general point, looking back over your posts, you do make life sound like hard work at times. Still, I enjoy your writing, and have ordered your latest book. With regards the pressups. Try doing 10 a day, or just go for a walk at lunch time…

  2. I have an almost identical system (and resulting collection of notebooks). The main difference? I use the Moleskine Ruled Cahiers. Better sized for purses instead of pockets. I don’t know what I’d do without my notebook! So many great ideas would be lost. Thanks for sharing, Cal!

  3. Cal, today I was sitting with my thoughts and writing out how I can get a “sense of achievement” on a daily basis. I broke down my life into six segments – food, exercise, study, job, business and relationships and then went on to dissect what really gives me that sense. For example – Eating good food has become such a part of my life that having a good food day doesn’t feel like an achievement. As for exercise I am doing Tim Ferrisss geek-to-freak experiment so on workout days I feel great,almost high, and that sense of achievement is certainly lasting. Similarly when I get to hang out with friends ends on a good note so I’m trying to schedule that on a more deliberate basis.

    I am now experimenting with a timed schedule of work using “deliberate practice” to see whether that feeling of accomplishment comes through. What do you do to get that sense of achievement everyday? Is it unreasonable to expect myself to get that feeling on a daily basis?

  4. Identifying predictors of life satisfaction and basic needs satisfaction seem as important as journaling. E.g., work by Bruno Frey and (separately) Richard Layard identifies some variables to attend to in your journaling. Daniel Golman’s work on discounting and error in predicting experienced utility is also a helpful guide. Doyal and Gough offer a nice summary of needs.

  5. Thanks for sharing Cal. I would be interested in more of this to be honest. I realise it’s personal. I think there would be a lot for us to learn from you in this regard. One small example is : what is the “monthly check” you write about? Just that you journal regularly is interesting and I’m so glad you shared it … now where is my journal so I can get started?

  6. Really enjoy your blog — I understand and respect to keep your private life separate from your public life (this line is nonexistent for many egoistic web stars) but this was the perfect way for us to get a glimpse of the unguarded, deeply human side of you. 🙂


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