Cal Newport’s Time Blocking for Efficient Planning

Cal Newport’s Time Blocking Technique

Newport is a time blocker, not a list maker. He believes in giving your time a job and working within the constraints of your schedule, rather than having a to-do list that is orthogonal to what’s happening in your day.

Newport’s philosophy is called “fixed schedule productivity.” He fixes his work hours and then works downstream from that for everything else. This approach forces him to be more innovative and efficient with his time.

Newport typically exercises before dinner, using a garage gym built during COVID. He also does a lot of walking, especially if it’s not a teaching day. He aims to be in his room by ten but doesn’t track his sleep due to insomnia issues.

Huberman notes that time blocking is similar to time-restricted eating, as it simplifies decision-making and improves overall behavior. Newport adds that visually distinct blocks, such as deep work blocks, provide a feedback mechanism for how much meaningful work is being done.

Time Blocking for Efficient Planning

Newport and Huberman discuss the benefits of multiscale planning, which involves planning on daily, weekly, and seasonal or quarterly scales. Newport explains that this approach allows for better focus on what matters and prevents wandering through the day.

Huberman relates this to his own physical workout routine, where he plans resistance training, cardiovascular training, and specific muscle group workouts on a weekly and 16-week cycle basis. He acknowledges that while he does this for his workouts, he hasn’t applied the same approach to his cognitive work, which tends to be more deadline-based.

Newport emphasizes the importance of incorporating communication, such as email and social media, into specific time blocks. By dedicating time to these activities, it becomes easier to focus on the task at hand during other blocks without constantly debating when to check emails or social media.

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