Fixed-Schedule Productivity

Cal Newport talks about how he managed to only work from 9 to 5 M-F and Sunday mornings as a very busy grad student in the post “Fixed-Schedule Productivity: How I Accomplish a Large Amount of Work in a Small Number of Work Hours” which can be found at

I am very skeptical of this approach.  For the most part, Cal Newport claims that by consistently doing work at the same time each week he is able to be a great deal more efficient.  I have trouble seeing this working for your average college student because plans can change so quickly.  While one has to get their work done, there has to be room for flexibility as things come up.  That is part of the fun of college.  Your day can be so unpredictable that it would be a shame to shut yourself off from all the random memories you might form.  To be fair, everything must be in moderation though and being too flexible could definitely lead to problems.

One thing that makes me especially skeptical is that Cal seems to be shutting himself off from a great deal of interaction with others.  While I agree that constantly replying to emails instantly can often result in one being less productive, people/relationships are important and you have to make time for them.  A truly good friend is one who is willing to drop everything when you really need it.  Maybe you won’t get as much done but there is intrinsic value in this.

One reason this likely wouldn’t work for me is that a large portion of my commitment outside of the classroom is spent doing Student Government.  I am extremely passionate about it.  I would hate to not be able to excel in this experience and give back to Clemson.  This commitment provides a unique obstacle because many of the people I work with have “less than stellar work/sleep habits.”  In fact, one of my mentors was a night owl and was in than habit of staying up until 3 or 4 am than waking up at 11.  When I depend on working with these people and they have poor late night work habits, I feel I am somewhat forced to adapt to them thus making the 9 to 5 proposition extremely difficult.  I feel many college students will find this true whether it be a group project or some other commitment but depending on others could lead to problems with this strategy.

Perhaps the most important question is if I could actually get everything I need to do done.  While Cal seems to have mastered this it is hard for me to comprehend being able to fit in all my out of class work between the hours of 9 and 5 on top of the time I spend during my time in class.  At the very least, it would not all happen at once and would have to be a process where I would work towards that goal.

Regardless, through this article I am impressed how much he gets done in so little time and how much free time this opens up.  I also agree that habit is a powerful thing and one would be foolish to ignore it in the pursuit of becoming a successful student.  Perhaps even a larger take away from this article is the power of goal setting in regards to one’s habits.  Cal set the ambitious goal of doing everything it took to only work from 9 to 5 Monday through Friday, even with his crazy workload.  He then took logical steps and made drastic changes in pursuit of his goal.  He then evaluated and adjusted those changes accordingly.  This required a great deal of thought and determination.  Without a doubt, that process of goal setting and revaluation can lead to incredible results in many aspects of out lives.



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