The Productivity Thread

To envy is human. But comparing ourselves to others creates blind spots that leave us unhappy and unproductive.

First, when we try to emulate the Elon Musk’s or Gwyneth Paltrow’s of the world, we fall victim to a cognitive error called survivorship bias. We read a headline about how a certain high-powered CEO wakes up at 4 am to get a jump on the competition and we think, “I need to get up early to be successful.”

The problem is that no one writes headlines about all the people who have gotten up at 4 am and haven’t become incredibly successful. We have no way of knowing if that ungodly wake-up time led to the CEO’s success or if it was other factors entirely. Yet we hold the habits of successful people up on a pedestal and end up feeling like failures when they don’t work for us.

The second problem with comparing ourselves to others is that people only share the good stuff, not the full, messy picture of their lives. We don’t know what they may have sacrificed to get where they are.

Maybe they have six-pack abs, but they’ve spent the best years of their lives hungry and miserable. Maybe they have a successful business, but they’ve fallen out of touch with all of their friends along the way. We have no way of knowing.

All that to say, just because super successful so-and-so approaches work and productivity a certain way, doesn’t mean you have to (or should) do the same.

It’s great to get inspired by the way other people do things (I love a good behind-the-scenes productivity profile as much as the next person). But the best thing you can do for your productivity and your wellbeing is to learn to trust yourself — your values, your priorities, the way your body and brain operate at their best.

Here are some places to start plotting your own path to productivity:

Do a commitment inventory. Get clear on what’s important to you and what you’re willing to sacrifice in order to prioritize it. Every minute you spend on one area of your life is a minute you aren’t spending on another. Learn to make peace with the trade-offs you’re making.

Here’s a step-by-step approach to conducting your own commitment inventory.

Identify the habits and thought patterns that are holding you back. Everyone has different hang-ups when it comes to work and productivity. I’ve found the Enneagram personality framework incredibly helpful when it comes to recognizing the uniquely frustrating ways I get in my own way (a tendency to focus on what could go wrong, to overthink and overanalyze and end up overwhelmed, to seek out others’ opinions instead of trusting my own judgement — all classic signs of a Type 6).

Last year, we published a guide to The Enneagram and Your Productivity. It’s a great resource to start identifying your own uniquely frustrating habits and thought patterns so that you can choose to change them.

Use trial-and-error to find a productivity workflow that’s right for you. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach. The best productivity method isn’t the one [insert your Productivity Crush here] subscribes to. It’s the one you will actually stick with. Only you can know what that looks like.

Try a curated hub of the most popular productivity methods along with a personalized quiz to help suss out which one(s) might be a good fit for you. Mix and match and experiment until you find one that sticks.

Personal productivity is just that: personal. So stop listening to me and start listening to yourself.

So, as some of you may or may not be aware, I like productivity.

I create systems for myself. I put down everything that I need to do, things that have been done, things in the future. If it enters my mind, it gets placed into my system. It goes without saying, I have tried a lot of systems, tools and methods and my system is still evolving and changing to suit my needs.

I like improving upon my productivity systems, be it in tools, processes, methods, or whatever and love exploring new avenues and helping others should they require or have a need to improve.

So let’s have a discussion or just a place we can discuss these systems at play and help each other become more efficient at being productive, and tell me about your systems and how you cope with the daily struggles.

I’m always happy to help :smiley:


So whats the X axis in that graph meant to be?

A seperator between top and bottom :stuck_out_tongue:

"Often it’s small tasks that pile up on our to-do lists, fill us with dread, and eventually feel insurmountable. Generally speaking, responding to an email, watering a plant, tidying your desk, filing a receipt, or wiping down a mirror are all tasks you can complete in 120 seconds or less. But, taken together and left to collect, they add up to a laundry list of chores that we continually put off.

As a result, we spend more time and energy thinking about how we haven’t done them yet (and feeling guilty about it) than we would have spent just doing the things in the first place."

Source: The Two-Minute Rule: Stop Procrastinating With This Simple Trick

If it will take 2 minutes or less, don’t put it on your to-do list. Do it right away!

I can’t in good faith tell you that the 2-minute rule will solve all your procrastination problems. But I can say that it helps make me aware of my automatic response to these types of tasks — avoidance — and gives me the opportunity to consciously choose action instead (after all, it’s just 2 minutes). When I do, I feel a sense of competency and accomplishment that motivates me to take on the next thing.

Do I always follow the 2-minute rule? Not yet. But recognizing a habit is the first step to changing it.

If you’re sceptical such a simple rule can make a difference, I encourage you to read Fadeke’s article and give it a try. You may be surprised to find that all the tasks you’ve built up in your head aren’t as overwhelming as they seemed.



Having first hand experience of this from both working and managing disparate teams, I’ve observed that productivity often does tank. After a year of 100% remote work, my core team is back in our office in Cape Town and productivity almost quadrupled. No jokes. We’re seeing more, better code being delivered because developers can communicate efficiently now with the project manager(s) and tester(s). I’m busy instilling a rule where we need at minimum 1-2 “office days” so the team can communicate and collaborate to get problems solved more efficiently.

I don’t think everyone is cut out to embrace the “freelancer” work style. It seems that most people need to be in contact with their core team members to work efficiently.


Yeah, of course, I totally get that and completely understand. I understand that everyone is different and everyone’s productivity systems work differently. There is no one style (or system) that works for everyone, and that is part of why I created this thread. While a certain method doesn’t work for everyone, their process and methods could help the next person to tune their systems.

I do agree that not everyone is cut out for the “freelancer” way of working, but it can also be embraced to help assist those and devise systems that help those who aren’t accustomed or “cut out” to working in these ways. Given the current lifestyle and situation, what with COVID, I don’t believe anyone should be forced to go into a public or office space, especially so if they are not comfortable with it.

This is also why I dedicate my time to help those find their niche or find ways that work for them. A productivity system is personal and it should be treated as such.

EDIT: I am busy defining and tuning my time management and blocking side of my systems.

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In the same part, I can commend you (as a business owner and employer), for embracing the remote workstyle (see what I did there, like lifestyle but for work). For also compromising or meeting your emploees needs by coming to an arrangement where it’s a mixture of both office and remote based work patterns. I can understand and appreciate both sides of the coin here.

I don’t want this to be a discussion on remote work life balance, that’s a different argument all together. But I do aknowledge that it is also directly linked to productivtity.


We experienced the opposite of this. Productivity shot up after going completely remote. And now we go in to the office when there are less urgent deadlines about, for more of a social catch up, while doing less intensive work. Though this is few and far between, at most twice a month.

It’s interesting how companies’ daily routines and needs can be so different, yet work so well.


I wanted to share a personal favourite of mine by then freelance writer now Twilio’s director of content marketing Claire Karjalainen on how she paradoxically found more freedom going back to a traditional 8-hour workday.

In theory, workplace flexibility allows people to live fuller lives free from the 9-to-5 constraints of the office. In practice, the ability to work anywhere anytime often turns into working everywhere all the time.

Somewhere along the way, the seamless integration between work and life became a feature, not a bug, as this ad from team chat app Slack sadly demonstrates:

The dark side of the flexible schedule is that we often pay for it with 9 p.m. email checks and phone calls while waiting for our kids at baseball practice. The same technology and mindset that lets us stay flexible can also compel us to flex right back into work at any time.

As people figure out what they want their work lives to look like in the near post-pandemic future, Claire’s story and real-life advice for putting guardrails on your workday is even more relevant today than it was when it first published.

After all, productivity isn’t just (or even mostly) about getting more done. It’s about being fully present in every aspect of our lives. So you can focus on work when you’re working and fully disconnect — physically and mentally — when your workday is done.


So true.

While I’m on call, I avoid work after hours when possible, which is most days.

I could use more snack breaks during the day though.

Almost 11AM now. I can confirm that timeline is correct, I’m about to start work now. Maybe…


Productivity guide:

  1. Get off MEW
  2. Get work done. Maybe.


Finding Flow

With the right routine to balance work and life, plus the perfect productivity method to prioritize what’s important, you still need to just sit down and do the work. How do you focus, get started, and complete what you need to instead of staring blankly at your screen or pacing around as a form of procrastination?

That’s where the concept of “flow” comes in.

Coined and studied by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a renowned psychologist and author, flow is an immersive state of focus that elicits a feeling of contentment:

“The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile. Optimal experience is thus something that we make happen.”

Flow is often felt when performing activities like “sports, games, art, and hobbies” –– athletes might find flow while running down the track and an artist could experience it as they paint a portrait. But we can also find flow in day-to-day professional work, making “even the most humdrum experiences become enjoyable.”

During periods of flow, you might step into a state of intense concentration where time flies by and you feel a sense of accomplishment as you move towards mastery. Here are a few tips I’ve found to reliably create flow and get more done:

  1. Set an ambitious intention –– Decide on the specifics of what you want to accomplish ahead of time –– discard vague to-do list items like “work on the finance presentation” in favor of concrete tasks like “summarize new financial model in ten slides with captions and graphics”. Then, put it at the top of your to-do list and block off time on your calendar to work on it. The enjoyment of flow happens “at the boundary of boredom and anxiety”, so choose something challenging to find that immersive feeling.
  2. Create the right ritual –– Ritualizing work –– turning on the right music, fixing the same drink, or pulling open your blinds –– can create a pavlovian response that helps you enter flow. Over time, certain activities can send the message to your brain that it’s “work time” and help you skip the step of getting into focus mode, or at least, make it easier. Personally, I like to put on my over the ear noise-cancelling headphones, turn on Brain.FM or a focus playlist, and set my computer’s time to analogue so I’m not watching the clock.
  3. Start with a timer –– If you’re still struggling to get focused, try a timer. Even if you’ve done the work to set aside a few hours in your schedule, it can still be daunting to get started. Instead of trying to focus for four hours, start with five minutes. Set a timer on your phone to work distraction-free –– just for those 300 seconds! Chances are, this toe-dip into your work will help you focus beyond the five-minute timer. If not, take a break, then set the timer for another five minutes. Focus is a muscle you can build, one five minute session at a time. Eventually, you’ll find yourself working for longer and longer spurts and finding flow more often.
  4. Eliminate distractions –– Once you find flow, it can be easy to break with a desktop ping or a phone call. Once you’ve lost flow, it takes a while to find it again. Ahead of your focus session, close out any unneeded browser tabs, put your phone on silent, and sign out of your team’s communication tool. By preventing distractions before they happen, you can get deeper into your work without interruption.
  5. Find fulfilling work –– Csikszentmihalyi suggests you can find flow in doing almost anything –– it’s mostly a matter of mindset. However, it’s certainly a bit easier when you feel engaged with your work and interested in what you do day-to-day. If this doesn’t describe your current situation, consider exploring ways to make your present position more engaging, if there’s an opportunity for new assignments or projects in your current role, or if it might be time for a new professional challenge altogether.

I’ll leave you with a quote from Csikszentmihalyi on exactly what you gain by optimizing for flow states in work and life:

“The mark of a person who is in control of consciousness is the ability to focus attention at will, to be oblivious to distractions, to concentrate for as long as it takes to achieve a goal, and not longer. And the person who can do this usually enjoys the normal course of everyday life.”

Here’s to finding flow this week (and in all the ones ahead)! 😌

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The Zeigarnik Effect :link:

Why it’s so hard to stop thinking about everything we have to get done (and so easy to forget what we’ve already accomplished).


I love making todo lists for work. They don’t always all get done, but at least its all organized and I can refer back to my notes on the list.

Then save it all in a cloud folder, and I’ve got my lists wherever I go!


Quite a rudamentary approach and I imagine it’s quite manual, that being said, nothing wrong with that. Do what works for you. I love it! :heart_eyes:


Since we’re sharing, I have been usingTodoist for about 4 years now.


It’s a little manual, but Notepad is universal and I’ve yet to hear of an IT dept. that bans it. So far.

Because of the manual labour involved, I keep the system simple. Win+R → notepad → Enter. Each action line starts with *, which is edited to X when the action is completed. Lines with no * or X are descriptions to the previous * or X. Ctrl+S, filename is YYYYMMDD and a short descriptor to help searchability.

For my personal stuff I have a personal wiki for longevity reasons.

I love the simplicity of it, and it is just a testament to how a productivity system can be whatever you want it to be. There is no right or wrong way, they’re personal systems that work for us.

Heck, even if you are struggling to find your flow or a system that works for you, you can always steal one and slowly adapt it to your needs over time.

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