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The Unconventional Scholar: Eat Alone Twice a Day

Eat Alone Twice a DayUnconventional Scholar

During busy periods: Choose one meal each day to eat with friends. Take your time with the experience. Catch-up. Relax. For the other two meals, however, eat alone and eat fast. Minimize the time wasted.

This sounds draconian. But, surprisingly, it will actually make your social life richer.

Allow me to explain…

The Work Momentum

Work requires focus. Once you enter a flow state, you can go for hours, knocking off one chunk after another. When you sit down for a social meal, on the other hand, two things happen. First, time is wasted. Typically, well over an hour will transpire from when you first head off to the dining hall until you head back to the books.

Second, and more important, your flow is demolished. Your mind switches from work mode back to relaxation mode. Even if you plan to diligently return to the library after your long lunch, your effort might be for naught. You’ve lost your momentum, and procrastination has gained the high-ground in the battle of work versus slack.

Focus Your Relaxation

Have breakfast alone. Your friends are too tired to be much company. If it’s possible to get most of your work done in the morning, afternoon, and early evening, then have a quick working lunch to keep your momentum alive. Try to finish everything before dinner. Then, when you head down to the dining hall, you can fully relax. Invite your friends. Unwind. Your work is done. Time to kick off a night of socializing.

If, on the other hand, your day is jammed with classes and meetings, and you need to work at night, then make your lunch social. You don’t need daytime momentum because you’re attending appointments more than working. Kick-off your evening of productive work with a quick, energy-boosting, solo dinner. Hopefully, your leisurely lunch will stave of feelings off social withdraw.


A key to consistently getting things done is having a good set of mindless habits that you can automatically rely on to structure your work flow. This tip is simple, but it’s effect is powerful. A little more separation between work and play can go a long way toward becoming an efficient academic.

5 thoughts on “The Unconventional Scholar: Eat Alone Twice a Day”

  1. What a very good point you make.

    I was always on my own for breakfast, because nobody else would be up. And although I generally spent most of my lunches on the move, I still remember occasions with friends, wasting the time away with nothing better to do…Well, ahem, something better to do but not doing it!

    While I could spend many mornings and weekends getting the work done without interruptions, I probably still spent too much time socialising on lazy lunchtimes.

    You’ve managed to make me feel a bit guilty about it now!

  2. Hi Cal,

    Once again a great post. I actually have a question that does not fully connect with the topic, although it does have to do with working/studying.

    I noticed that in your book (page 80) you recommend that students leave the reading assignments and only take lecture notes, and use the textbooks for clarification when needed. Now would this be true for a science course such as Biology or Environmental studies where the use of formulas can be considered non-existent? What I am asking is whether or not I should be doing the reading assignments for such courses or follow the same advice as technical courses?

    Also I noticed in later chapters, that you recommend students take very brief but effective textbook (course textbook) notes. Should a student within a science program follow this? I think this sort of ties in with the above question a bit.

    Thanks again for helping out.

  3. Ilham,

    When in doubt, experiment. Many biology courses — like the the single such course I took as an undergraduate — do not require that you read the textbook in advance. I could imagine, however, that some professors might construct such a course in a way where material in the textbook is *not* covered in class but *is* included on the test. If this was the case then, of course, you would have to read the textbook. You have to just feel things out…

    – Cal

  4. Thanks for the reply, I actually got a similar response from one of my cousins who is doing his PhD currently and he commented that he only used his book to scan for anything that professor might have missed out or that he thought was important and might come on a test. I have started to follow his method a bit, and have noticed quite a bit more time and I understand more.

    Thanks again for the reply.


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