The Eudaimonia Machine is an architectural design for a building which promotes the type of study/work environment conducive to carrying out the acts that lead to a state eudaimonia.
For Cal Newport this means an environment where we can perform Deep Work. The design features a building with a series of adjacent rooms and the unique feature is that there is no hallway, you must pass through each room in order to proceed to the next. This forces your to move through a series of environments and these environments are tailored to help you gradually move in to a more and more focused headspace. The last room is where you do your deep work. It is a simple room with only the equipment you need to do your work, say a table, chair, notepad, pen and paper.
We don’t have access to the building but we can imitate it. We can changed our working environment to best match this scenario, we can go to the local library and leave our phone at home, or my favourite, you can take a plane or train ride somewere, so that you don’t have the option to leave, even if you get strong urges.
I always struggled to study at the library. When it happened it was fantastic and very productive. But it either happened, or it didnt. A lot of the reason for it not happening is that I could just get up and leave. It’s so easy to rationalise an excuse for leaving, “I’ll do it later, I’m too tired now, its nearly lunch, I would be better off doing a workout now and study later etc.”.
On a plane, or a non-stop train, there is no escape. Take no internet, if you need to look things up, write it down, look it up later and continue on to do as much as you can. This study technique works surprisingly well. By the time you come back to look it up, you have already read ahead and have some context in which to understand it. I find that when I go back and look up something that I didnt understnad I have a “it all just fell in to place” moment, like filling in a hole on a tetris puzzle.
But what was it that made the difference between it starting and not starting? I think the difference may have been two things urgency+lack of social media. Something urgent to get you underway and in to it, then no distractions so you can keep going once started.
So in practice: do your most pressing and easy tasks first, have a few early wins. Usually this is email for me at work, I always feel good once I clear them out, then on to something more challenging. And do that more challenging thing in a Deep Work structured way.