Getting meaningful things done using "fixed-schedule productivity"

Cal Newport, a post-doc at MIT who writes the blog Study Hacks, has an interesting method of getting important work done. He calls it "fixed-schedule productivity."

The idea, in a nutshell, is this: "Fix your ideal schedule, then work backwards to make everything fit – ruthlessly culling obligations, turning people down, becoming hard to reach, and shedding marginally useful tasks along the way."

Newport works between 8:30 and 5:30 on weekdays only, yet he gets a lot done:

This past summer, for example, I completed my PhD in computer science at MIT. Simultaneous with writing my dissertation I finished the manuscript for my third book, which was handed in a month after my PhD defense and will be published by Random House in the summer of 2010. During this past year, I also managed to maintain my blog, Study Hacks, which enjoys over 50,000 unique visitors a month, and publish over a half-dozen peer-reviewed academic papers.

Ramit Sethi of I Will Teach You To Be Rich wrote about Newport and a few other people who use similar techniques to get a lot of meaningful work accomplished in 40 hours a week or less.

I think they are onto something — ever since I had kids (which gave me fewer hours in the day to work, and also put a start and end time on my day) I've been much more productive.

Time management: How an MIT postdoc writes 3 books, a PhD defense, and 6+ peer-reviewed papers – and finishes by 5:30pm