Productivity & Work Psychology

Obsessed with productivity


Skip breakfast. Shorten your work week to four hours. Strengthen your focus. The obsession with productivity is getting out of hand. Why do humans want to maximize their output so they can become more like computers? What are we going to do with the extra time, do even more work? Perhaps, but only if the work is purposeful.

“The most important possible thing you can do is do a lot of work.” – Ira Glass

What people are actually requesting when they pursue life hacks are shortcuts. But if you seriously want to achieve something, you can’t skip the fundamentals. At some point, the flaws are going to reveal themselves.

Humans are fallible. We need sleep. We need proper exercise and nutrition. The same applies to our digital diet, avoiding the taxation of a high-attention economy. No wonder Arianna Huffington is focusing one hundred percent on health-themed projects. Distraction is the obesity for the mind. And stress kills brain cells.

The frenzied culture of Silicon Valley is a hell of a drug. Maybe it’s time to slow down and re-evaluate, keeping the patience in working on something important instead of running off to the next thing.

Productivity & Work

The 100% Rule

cat no effort
An ‘A,’ for lack of effort

Half-ass efforts produce half-ass results. The same goes for 99 percent effort. If you don’t commit 100 percent to whatever it is–quitting smoking, writing a book, taking photography seriously–it’s going to fall to the wayside.

“99 per cent is a b*tch. 100 per cent is a breeze.” Jack Canfield, The Success Principles

What do you tend to? What is your one non-negotiable that you do every day regardless of the circumstances. I publish a blog post each day, even if it’s trash. But who cares; I shipped! When I was a kid, the daily habit was basketball. Rain or shine or below freezing temperatures I was outside shooting hoops or at least dribbling in the garage. The dedication paid off in games.

Worrying about getting something done is far worse than than the actual doing. So make a promise to yourself to win at one thing every day. Once you get started, anticipation fades into the background; now, you’ve got no choice but to do it. When you do the work, the rest follows. Action first. Deduce later.

Give it 100 percent. Don’t overthink it. Go all in. And start before you’re ready.

The 100 per cent rule: The simple advice that changed my life

Productivity & Work

How to use ‘temptation building’ to get things done 

How do you make a strenuous activity more enjoyable? According to Wharton School assistant professor and behavioral economist Katherine Milkman, you bundle it with something that's rewarding in what she calls “temptation building.” #gif #motivation

How do you make a strenuous activity more enjoyable? According to Wharton School assistant professor and behavioral economist Katherine Milkman, you bundle it with something that’s rewarding in what she calls “temptation building.

It goes something like this:

“This means you would restrict your Netflix time to the same time you spend working out – only watch your favorite show while you’re in the gym. Once you leave the gym, you’re left wondering what happens next in that show. The only way to find out (that is, if you stick to the plan) is to reward yourself with the next episode while you’re on the treadmill.”

There are of course countless ways to make the things you ‘should’ do easier. My preference is to listen to a new music playlist while cleaning up the house or checking out the latest Tim Ferriss podcast while jogging on the treadmill. Anything that requires extra effort or creates boredom (like driving), I try to find a way to make the process a little more pleasurable.

The only problem is that temptation bundling strategies are brittle. Every time you skip a workout, it will become harder to start up again. Do it or lose all motivation.

In the long-run (assuming you stick to your habit), the goal is to drop the incentive of temptation altogether. You ‘should’ be able to accomplish things without the extra encouragement. For writers or athletes, practicing each day is non-negotiable and often the force of grit.

There is nothing wrong in dropping carrots for you to get started. Intermixing activities of strain and happiness makes things a little easier.

Read more about temptation building on the ToDoist blog.


99U’s Manage Your Day-to-Day

Want to stay creative in the age of digital distraction?

Below are some of my favorite highlights from Manage Your Day-to-Day from the folks at 99U.

Grethen Rubin on the “Power of Frequency”

Often folks achieve their best work by grinding out the product. Creativity arises from a constant churn of ideas, and one of the easiest ways to encourage that fertile froth is to keep your mind engaged with your project. When you work regularly, inspiration strikes regularly.
“What I do every day matters more than what I do once in a while.”

Seth Godin on “Honing Your Creative Practice”

Because lots and lots of people are creative when they feel like it, but you are only going to become a professional if you do it when you don’t feel like it. And that emotional waiver is why this is your work and not your hobby.
If you’re a professional, you do not get to say, “Ugh, now I have to go sell it”—selling it is part of it because if you do not sell it, there is no art.

Leo Babauta on “Making Room For Solitude”

Today, it is essential that we find solitude so that we can learn what it has to teach us, so that we can find the quiet to listen to our inner voice, and so that we may find
What’s the point of sitting? There is no point—sitting is the point. You’re not doing it to reduce stress, gain enlightenment, or learn more about yourself—though all these things might happen—but to practice just sitting.

Cal Newport on “Scheduling in Time for Creative Thinking”

The key, however, is to never allow distraction. If you give in and quickly check Facebook, cancel the whole block and try again later. Your mind can never come to believe that even a little bit of distraction is okay during these blocks.
When possible, do your work with pen and paper to avoid even the possibility of online distraction.

Christian Jarret on “Banishing Multi-tasking from Our Repertoire”

We may tell ourselves that we’ll just answer one quick e-mail or make one short phone call. But in reality, switching tasks sends us down a rabbit hole, pulling our attention away from our priority work for much longer than we anticipate.

Dan Ariely on “Understanding Our Compulsions”

Because as we invent new technologies, we also invent new ways to kill ourselves. Think about obesity. Think about smoking. Think about texting and driving. All of those are self-control problems.

Scott Belsky on “Turning in to You”

When you tune in to the moment, you begin to recognize the world around you and the true potential of your own mind.
Notice one source of unexpected value on every such occasion. Develop the discipline to allow for serendipity.
Nothing should resonate more loudly than your own intuition.

Lori Deschene on “Mindfully”

When we’re mindful, we’re aware of why we’re logging on, and we’re able to fully disconnect when we’ve followed through with our intention.
All of the most fulfilled people I know focus more on the quality of their connections than the quantity of them.

Tiffany Shalin on “Reconsidering Constant Connectivity”

everything is an extension of our desire for connection. We couldn’t see far enough, we invented the telescope. We wanted to communicate across distances, we invented the telephone. Then, we wanted to connect with everyone and share all these ideas, and we invented the Internet.
We’re both focused and distracted. So I think the real problem isn’t the technology. I think we need to evolve to know when to turn it off.

James Victore on “Reclaiming Our Self-respect”

This busywork pulls our attention from the meaningful work—taking time to think, reflect, and imagine.
we need to consciously develop a healthy relationship with our tools—or we will lose perspective and become slaves to them.
As Marshall McLuhan theorized, “We shape our tools, and thereafter our tools shape us.” We let our tools take the lead because it’s the path of least resistance—the easy way. And the easy way is always a trap.

Todd Henry on “Creating For You, And You Alone”

To truly excel, you must also continue to create for the most important audience of all: yourself.
Unnecessary Creation gives you the freedom to explore new possibilities and follow impractical curiosities.
As Steven Johnson explains in his book Where Good Ideas Come From, “A good idea is a network..A new idea is a network of cells exploring the adjacent possible of connections that they can make in your mind.”

Scott McDowell on “Training Your Mind to be Ready for Insight”

When you’re working on a sticky problem, the solution is often disengagement.
What we do know for sure is that whenever your brain senses a pattern and gets too comfortable, creativity stagnates and it’s time to try something else.

Stefan Sagmeister on “Tricking Your Brain into Creativity”

If you want to come up with a new idea, the first thing you can always do is think of something that you did before or something that you’ve seen before. So starting with someone, or somehwere, else is just basically a trick to fool the brain out of thinking in repetition.
I feel the most satisfied if I work on projects where I know about half of what I’m doing and I don’t know the other half. If I go too much in one direction, meaning if I know too little about something, I get too anxious. And if I know too much about something, I get too bored.

Elizabeth Grace Saunders on “Letting go of Perfectionmism”

Saying something is complete doesn’t mean that it can’t be improved upon or elaborated on in the future. It just means that I can submit it and move on to other work.
To a perfectionist, settling seems worse than not completing the piece, which is why perfectionists often produce very little…My guess is that you’ll find you produce far more and far better work with much less stress by aiming for less-than-perfect.

Mark McGuinness on “Getting Unstuck”

It’s only when you’re focused on intrinsic motivations—such as your fascination with the material or the sheer pleasure you take in creating it—that you do your best work.
Don’t beat yourself up if you’re not on fire creatively every day—give yourself credit if you show up for work and make even a small amount of progress.

Steven Pressfield on “How Pro Can You Go”

Stage One is simply being able to sit down and work, if only for a single hour. Don’t laugh. Ninety-nine out of a hundred can’t do it.
As you travel through life, let this be our goal: keep your eye on the donut and not on the hole.
A professional is someone who can keep working at a high level of effort and ethics, no matter what is going on—for good or ill—around him or inside him. A professional shows up every day. A professional plays hurt. A professional takes neither success nor failure personally.