cult of productivity

2 minute read

TLDR: All my thoughts on productivity collated


My YouTube algorithm is showing me productivity videos. I don’t know why. Please stop this YouTube. I watched one and found myself disagreeing with a lot of the advice. I don’t need to speed read, increase my typing speed and be beholden to a 15 minute tomato pomodoro timer. Here is advice for my future self in case you forget.

Work on the right problems

Productivity for the sake of productivity is dumb. You want to be working on meaningful problems.

What you are working on, is much more important than how ‘hard’ you are working.

Choose good problems. Micro problems over macro problems as an individual. Join institutions and collaborate for macro problems.

Have more than one problem you’re working on

Counter intuitive. But focusing on a singular problem to the detriment of the rest of your life is unbalanced. For example : you can work on improving medical knowledge, fitness, writing software- all simultaneously.

It also is much more enjoyable, and facilitates greater creativity. Fox rather than a hedgehog. You can connect concepts from disparate fields together.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t sit and focus for 8 hours. If you’re in the zone, absolutely go ahead. But you shouldn’t aim to sit for 8 hours on one single task.

write down what you’re working on

It helps to write down your problems and priorities. That automatically tends to fix how you spend your time, because you know your priorities.

Have goals, but rely on systems. Instead of the goal of performing a front lever, it’s more important to implement the system (train 3x a week with this set of exercises and progressions)

Uninterrupted time

You need to switch off distraction to get work done. You can condense all productivity advice into this one sentence.

Uninterrupted time is the biggest ‘productivity’ hack

Small hacks and thoughts

  • Write down all your ideas and random thoughts. iPhone notes.

  • Remove all ‘top down’ distractions from your phone.

  • Inspiration is perishable. Act on it immediately. You never know where an idea will lead

  • Tinkering is the mother of invention.

  • Break down hard problems into constituents - this is the only time I would use a to do list

  • Work on the edge of your competence. deliberate practice.

  • It is possible to make it fun.For example, I gain a lot of satisfaction from writing these short blog posts. If someone were to force me to do it, it would lose a lot of the appeal. Not everything can be ‘fun’ (revising pointless trivia for medical exams I will forget), but it is possible to inject some joy into this (revise with friends).

  • Use deadlines for serious projects.

  • Procrastination is natural. It’s a sign that you’ve hit a mental block. You need to process. Go for a walk.

  • Autotelic activities: enjoy the process rather than the outcome


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