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Ask HN: How do I 3x my performance?
112 points by all2 43 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 62 comments
Generally, I'm not doing everything I want to do in my life, and I'm wondering how other people manage to do all the things.

After a conversation here with another HN user[0], I'd like to ask high-performers how it is they do what they do.

First, what do I mean by "high-performer": someone who is doing what seems like two or more full-time tasks during their everyday life. In the case of [0] the user in question is a dad, full time at school, and has a full time job.

Second, by "how you do what you do" I mean: when it comes down to the point of action how do you move into an action? When does the choice happen? Did you offload that to a list a week prior? How do you handle feeling overwhelmed? Do you even have a sense of overwhelm when moving in to an arbitatrary task? Do you feel exhausted or mentally non-functional with any frequency? What does your sleep, food, and exercise routine look like? Do you meditate?

I just want to know if I'm lacking something fundamental: something physical (chemical imbalance? gut microbiome?), some lack of character development (do I lack "grit"? am I undisciplined?), or something else entirely.

In the case of the conversation in [0], the user has some external motivation; having faced death by cancer, he now wants to live his best life possible. Is this something I can apply to myself? I ponder death on a regular basis (2 to 4 nights a week, not in a sense of suicide, but considering my own mortality), and that doesn't seem to have the same sort of effect.

[0] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19357028




Don't aspire to be a high performer. It's a lie. People posture and virtue signal and Instagram how they want to be perceived, and the nerd crowd is no exception.

Want to know the secret to social and economic power housing? Contacts! You only get real power when other people contribute to it, whether you're an artist or a financeer or a scientist or whatever. You succeed when your network wants you to succeed. How many things you can do at once is irrelevant, and only puts you on par with the horse in Animal Farm.

But there's nothing that says you must play that game. Success in life is not how many shinies you get. It's about your deep connections. Nobody on their death bed wishes they'd gotten that Ferrari.

Get the money you need to do the things you want with the people you care about. How you get it is up to you, but it doesn't have to be the measure of your life.

Stop.

Enjoy where you are now, because you'll never be able to come back to it.

See the wonder that's right in front of you. Enjoy your youth while you still have it.


> Don't aspire to be a high performer. It's a lie.

Thank you for this reminder. It is often hard for me to see past projections. It is also hard to accept that I cannot do everything that I want to do.

> Success in life is not how many shinies you get.

I'm not so concerned about "success" on the world's terms. What I'm concerned about is the long periods of procrastination, being stressed about outstanding commitments (school? work?), feeling overwhelmed even though I know what I need to do next...

> See the wonder that's right in front of you. Enjoy your youth while you still have it.

Again, thank you for the reminder. I get lost in the world of "pending responsibilities" often enough that a reminder to slow down brings me some peace.


Seems like Anxiety and other feelings are messing a lot with you, I personally recommend some spiritual time :), things like meditating can really help. I found a lot of things in buddhism that related to me and helped me a lot in some bad times of my life.


I've found that I start procrastinating most after I've run myself too hard. It's important to have lazy days, where the goal is to accomplish nothing at all. This is one area I really struggle in, even after all these years...


I feel like I need lazy days about 1/2 of all days. Maybe this has to do with how I meter out my deep(er) work.

I typically procrastinate enough that I spend 10 to 12 hours the day an assignment is due to get it done. Part of that is I get stressed out thinking about the assignment prior to when it is due, so I put it off.

I've been reading GTD and I think at least part of my stress response is not having clear outcomes or clear next steps... I've been working to clarify my most important (time sensitive) projects and it seems to be helping some.


This may be one of the better HN comments I've ever read. I would just like to add that all jobs, all experiences, aspirations, goals, boil down to other people. Focus on them and help them; it's likely you already know people who have the capacity to point you in the direction that you want to take your life.


Yes, doing two full-time things at the same time is an illusion. Obviously there are people who studied several subjects. Of those that I know better I realized they got sub-optimal grades and/or had to extend there study time.

Contacts and continuously growing your network in the areas you are good at or at least highly interested with basic knowledge is also key. But at the same time a lot of work is necessary but in a single position though.

Not to forget that many people who "did it" financially might have done that on the cost of other people, may it be friends or family.

But yes, it boils down to trading life for work.


I love what Stephen King says on this topic: "I try to get six pages a day." [1]

He works 3 to 4 hours per day, every day. He most likely works the same time block every day. As he says in the video, life happens. Don't stress life happening. Attend to things that come up and return to your "six pages a day".

The number of pages isn't important. King even qualifies his answer by saying, "...if things go well." The key component here is:

- every day;

- preferably same time block each day;

- concentrated effort;

- attainable goal with a bit of a stretch each day.

I adopted this model several years ago and my productivity went through the roof. (From my own perspective, measuring against myself; not others.) I can say I'm overjoyed at how much work I can get done using this approach. Five hours each day, starting at 4am, is the sweet spot for me. Note, though, that I wake up at 2am to be ready by 4am and I go to bed, uh, about now.

Here's the rub: it will always appear that you can do more. However, as others have said here, it's an illusion.

Finally, I would make the following observation: if one feels secure and has a stable environment, productivity and motivation don't seem to be elusive. If you're chasing after dollars and you're about to go bust if-it-doesn't-get-done-by-this-Friday, you've already lost. It's been my experience that you cannot start from a foundation of anxiety. It can't be "I have to do this or I'm screwed". I realize this creates a paradox for many folks. My solution was just to accept a much lower standard of living to reduce that meat-computer thread constantly running in my brain saying, "...but where the MONEY going to come from!?" The thread still runs occasionally and I just kill it.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xR7XMkjDGw0

EDITED: formatting


This echoes the sentiment of Deep Work, which helped me a lot with my own productivity.

If you can do 4 hours of productive work, truly, no distraction, deep productive work, then you're likely way ahead of your peers.

Leave the rest of your time for shallower work, which doesn't require intensity of focus, and make sure to spend some time re-charging, where you focus on not doing work or being connected at all.


I neglect my health, personal relationships, and rational probability. Also because of however my brain is wired, "making things" is my happy place. Not recommending this, just saying that some "high-performers" might be people with unique problems that you might not want.

Enjoy what you're doing while you're doing it. Enjoy it like it'll never make you a billion. Also, as much as you can, try to stay grounded with your health, personal relationships and rational probability.


You think of the activities too much. The 'high-performers' I know, do it unconsciously. They had developed the habits to be 'high-performers'. They don't waste mental energy/willpower on the activities they do daily.

They start writing/blogging every day for 3 months, then suddenly is a habit of writing 2 hours per day. They do not think 'I need to write today' they just write.

Then they develop another habit; they start coding an idea for the next 4 months. After a year of daily coding, it outputs 2 or 3 great side projects. At the end of 5 years, the projects are on the double digits.

Then they develop a fitness habit, they start by swimming an hour a day, then adding a running hour, then cycling weekly. At the end of the year, they complete a half-ironman.


For some people, the challenge is having more goals than you can reasonably make room for. Your strategy works, but it doesn't scale infinitely.

Working full-time, excelling at a side business, maintaining a quality relationship with your spouse, and going to the gym regularly? It's too much, and something has to give. So you dedicate more time to certain areas, then rotate which areas you prioritize.

It's far from a winning battle, or truly excelling in any area.


> Warren Buffett's secret to success is intense focus - instead of doing more, he does less. He once told his pilot that in order to reach his goals, he needed to do three things. The first was to write down his 25 top goals, and then circle the top 5 most important. Then, separate the top 5 into their own list - and goals 6-25 get put on a 'not to do' list. Ignore everything on the 'not to do' list until you've achieved your top 5.


FYI Warren Buffett never said that, it's an internet myth. I saw an interview with Buffett and he was asked about it and denied saying it (although he did say the advice seemed reasonable).


My life is a lie :(


Some people get burnt out quick on a high demanding full-time job. Some people don't.

Some people require huge will power to exercise. Some people don't.

Some people require a huge amount of energy to maintain a quality relationship with their SO, for others is natural to have a good relationship.

I get your point. But my main idea is not related to that. Is about to build habits to make those high productive activities effortless.


I think this is the core of what I was trying to ask when I submitted my questions.

Whats the difference between me and them? What do I lack that another doesn't?

> Is about to build habits to make those high productive activities effortless.

I know others have spoken on this, but could you also expand on this?


Develop one habit at a time. It could take up to 6 months to start them without effort. Don't try to learn multiple things at once.

I found that a clean diet + 8 hours of sleep works wonders to stick to good things. It should be your step 0. I'm not learning/doing new stuff until my diet and sleep are on point 100%.


>Generally, I'm not doing everything I want to do in my life, and I'm wondering how other people manage to do all the things.

As if other people do "everything they want to do in their lives"?

Don't fall for success porn, productivity porn, hustle porn, etc.

Who exactly does "all the things"?

Over 80% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck [1].

An untold number struggle with situational depression, opioids, messy family lives, alcoholism, obesity, and such.

Tons work on low income, minimum wage jobs.

If you don't belong to any of these groups, you are achieving way more than the 90% of the people.

>I just want to know if I'm lacking something fundamental: something physical (chemical imbalance? gut microbiome?), some lack of character development (do I lack "grit"? am I undisciplined?), or something else entirely.

You lack a job telling others BS about your productivity, and selling them conferences, tutorials, sponsored products, seminars and retreats. But then again those are few and far between, and they depend more on having a charismatic persona and good stage presence to sell BS (Tim Ferris and co) than actual productivity.

You also luck the conveniences, assistants, etc, rich people have to make them appear as they do "so many things" (when they don't have to worry about 80% of what a non-rich person has, from cleaning the house, to picking up the kids).

>In the case of the conversation in [0], the user has some external motivation; having faced death by cancer, he now wants to live his best life possible.

And who said the "best life possible" is to overwork yourself with "two or more full-time tasks during [your] everyday"? That's just a sucker myth sold to people to keep them in the rat race.

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jul/29/us-eco...


> Who exactly does "all the things"?

Those people he is observing and who he is trying to live up to.

> Over 80% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck [1]

...which merely means their lifestyle is more lavish than if they had adopted a more fiscally conservative one.

> Tons work on low income, minimum wage jobs.

Less than 5% of workers work minimum wage:

https://www.businessinsider.com/federal-minimum-wage-workers...

The median income worker has higher purchasing power in the US than almost anywhere else in the world or at any time in history.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Median_income

> If you don't belong to any of these groups, you are achieving way more than the 90% of the people.

Even if 90% of Americans had it that rough (they actually don't) that's no reason to aim low.


>...which merely means their lifestyle is more lavish than if they had adopted a more fiscally conservative one.

In some cases, yes, in other cases it's like saying poor are poor because they have costs beyond what they make.

>Less than 5% of workers work minimum wage

That's a large number. Now add those that barely make above, but aren't counted -- which adds up to 30% or so.

>The median income worker has higher purchasing power in the US than almost anywhere else in the world or at any time in history.

Which is neither here, nor there. Wealth is social, not absolute. We're not animals.

When everybody else lives in a proper house, we're not thankful that we live in a trailer because in 10.000 B.C we'd been living in a cave

>Even if 90% of Americans had it that rough (they actually don't) that's no reason to aim low.

There's also no reason to aim "high", just because some people sell you that lifestyle.

Life is not a race to make the most money. Some people make it, but it's not inherently that.


> Which is neither here, nor there.

It's actually kind of the same argument you are making: Look at the "poor" 90%, except in global terms.

> Wealth is social, not absolute.

I don't know what "wealth is social" is supposed to mean. I'm talking about material wealth, not "spiritual wealth". The things I can buy, the services I can afford to use, etc. That's what income and purchasing power is about. If you want to compare by other measures, don't start by talking about income, otherwise you're shifting the goalpost. Talk about "Gross National Happiness" or something like that.

> When everybody else lives in a proper house, we're not thankful that we live in a trailer because in 10.000 B.C we'd been living in a cave

Except "everybody else" isn't living in a proper house. The worldwide standard of living today is far below that of the US. To compare good and bad you need a reference frame.

> Life is not a race to make the most money. Some people make it, but it's not inherently that.

Of course it isn't, but let's dig a bit deeper.

Let's start by making any amount of money, because as you say, most people live paycheck to paycheck. What does money represent to someone who doesn't have any? It's their lifetime, their freedom. You can't say no to a shit job if you need the money. You can't take a vacation if you don't have the money. You can't eat the things you want if you don't have the money. You can't live where you want if you don't have the money.

Sure, at some very high point (tens of millions of dollars) your basic lifestyle can't really any better, but at that point you will probably still find joy in investing into companies or charity. You still can use more money to live a better life.


> As if other people do "everything they want to do in their lives"?

Certainly not. Further up, someone else talked about the 'success/productivity porn' that has piled up in tech.

I'm not trying to "measure up" so much as I am trying to get more out of myself. My goal isn't to "seem" to be someone I'm not, only to short circuit whatever I have that keeps me from executing next steps.

> Who exactly does "all the things"?

For me, "all the things" boils down into a few priorities: 1) faith, 2) family, 3) health, 4) school, 5) work.

I don't think it is unreasonable to want to be healthy and developing in each of these.

> That's just a sucker myth sold to people to keep them in the rat race.

Sounds like a conspiracy theory. ;) I think I see what you're saying, though.


I recently started doing Ultraworking "Work Marathons". This is a 3x improvement in itself. It made me realize how much there is left to gain in performance improvement.

I combined it with Focus@Will with noise cancelling headphones and "run-breaks".

I wrote a little bit about it here https://www.elijahlynn.net/blog/2019-01-08-ultra-working-plu...

I haven't fully implemented it yet (every single day) as new habits take time but the trend is going up and I have a lot of optimism around this!


I just read your blog post, I find it very odd but super interesting.

I'm still a little confused by the base idea of the "work marathon" though. Does it boil down to uninterrupted 30 minute stints?


Yes, but the spreadsheet is configurable to be whatever cycle length you want, they just recommend 30 minutes as a type of standard, try this first, length.

The 30 minute work cycle is 100% focused, with a 10 minute break that I usually get up and do some sort of movement, whether it is a run break or stretching or just going outside to look at the trees, and some type of offline processing happens here where my mind is still "into" the current problem space. It helps break things down into achievable units of work, you get a nice spark line chart to measure if you achieved your goal and it gives you a fast feedback loop on whether or not you are creating achievable enough cycle goals.

Once you do a work marathon this is all much easier than it sounds. I do recommend trying one out. When I get to doing this every day for 8 hours a day I am confident I will be 5x more productive than I usually am. This is a compounding time investment.


I heard about it recently via HN and took action on it, signed up and completed it. Life changing for my career!

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18769215


Not a high-performer by any measure. But it seems like you are trying to extract meaning from achievements and success in life.

Hopefully this will give some perspective: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8CrOL-ydFMI

Some of the other comments touch on the routine building that leads to "high-performance". A buddy of mine says that the ingredients to greatness in anything are consistency, determination and a little bit of anger.

-consistency: devoting time routinely to the thing you want to achieve, i.e. eveyday

-determination: being able to stay focused on your goal when your original motivation is not longer relevant and being able to find new motivation

-a little bit of anger: the key here is "a little bit". You can't be angry all the time, that's not healthy. But when push comes to shove and you need a little extra it helps to become competitive and use that to push through.


Don't try to become a productive superman in one day, you'll fail. Don't even decide to work towards lofty goals. Instead slow down and iterate. Move the ball forward a little each day.

What does that look like in practice?

1. Building routines. People don't rely on making the individual decision to exercise every day. Instead they set a schedule and stick to it until it becomes a habit. Where you'd have to specifically decide to skip the gym rather than decide to go. Imagine if people didn't have any set schedule or expectation for work hours? How much mental stress would be involved in just choosing when to deal with work.

There is only so much willpower you've got, and it should be focused entirely on building habits. Only add one at a time, and find methods that help turn a decision into a routine. For some people that's religiously keeping a calendar. For others it's more ritualistic (I always go for a walk with my morning coffee).

2. Matching pursuits with available resources. Remember in HS when you had to write a paper about a subject in Biology and you had to write an essay in English class. What did you do? Wrote one paper that could meet the requirements of both. Or at least one that could be cross submitted with minor edits.

Often the people holding down 2-3 jobs are copying work between areas. Doing one unit of effort for two units of credit. I.E. If you are a full time programmer, keeping up a blog about technology developments has a lot of crossover. Being a sysadmin and publishing benchmark results.

3. Min/Maxing total progress rather than fear of failures. We get a lot further by showing up everyday ready to make mistakes vs holding off waiting for more analysis/knowledge. Be the dumb noob, seek out harsh criticism and embarrassment early in the process.

It's a lot easier to write off mistakes due to inexperience, than it is to explain a long term lack of progress. This area gets me all the time, because it feels right to carefully weigh all options. However any honest appraisal of the opportunity cost would show that I'd have been better off making any decision (even the worst one) and then correcting based on feedback.


> Don't try to become a productive superman in one day

can relate. I think if you have a full time job, then trying to take up more than one hard thing beyond that just drains all your energy.

From my personal experience, I can either workout, or learn piano, but if I try to cram both + work I am miserable.

It's like you get only so many coupons in a day. A _lot_ of these things, as I have learned, depend of one's mental health too. Ideas like working in isolation, or extreme will power are fetishised too much at times. Having good relationships and healthy mind doesn't nearly get as much attention.


What has worked for me are the following things.

1. I have quitted drinking coffee about 5 years ago. I love the taste and smell of coffee but it's a joke what it does to people's wellbeing.

2. I am semi vegan, 3/4 of my diet is a vegan diet. I only eat meat on the weekends and only in small portions. During the week when I need to be sharp I avoid it completely.

3. I stopped eating bread and if I feel like eating it I would get a gluten free one.

4. Before going to sleep I get a pint of water.

That's it, 4 simple rules. If you try it for 5-10 days you will never look back. At times I miss a chunk of medium rare piece of steak on Thursday after work or a nice smelly fresh cup of coffee in the morning accompanied by a chocolate muffin but what I learned is that the endorphins spike that follow up the food intake would be momentary and can not compete with the level of energy my brain produce without it.


> it's a joke what it does to people's wellbeing.

what does it do?


If you have spare 15min I recommend reading this extensive summary of researches on how coffee is sabotaging our brain's energy http://blog.myneurogym.com/is-coffee-sabotaging-your-perform...


that was a good read and quite interesting. liked that it provided a viable strategy for doing a reset and cycling use so that you still get the health benefits.


reading now. thank you.


> During the week when I need to be sharp I avoid it completely

Does eating meat makes you lazy? Could it be 'quantity'?


It doesn't make me lazy but I clearly feel different. The quantity makes some difference but still no matter how small the portions are the feeling is not the same as if I had no meat. I feel that being 100% vegan isn't healthy but I recommend to everyone to try go vegan for a couple of days and not take the current feeling for granted.


Plant-based diets and veganism are often conflated.

"Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose." (https://www.vegansociety.com/go-vegan/definition-veganism)

Good on you for carving out a couple of days a week for plants, it all helps. FWIW, I've been 100% whole food plant-based since 2003 and have enjoyed a very healthy life with lots of physically demanding activity. I'm not even dead yet. Win!


> I feel that being 100% vegan isn't healthy

The American Dietetic Association disagrees: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19562864


As I get older in this industry performance obsession has gone from making me sad (how can I possibly compete) to making me laugh.

We work in a field where it is our literal chosen profession to leverage the most powerful machines human beings have ever invented into business logic.

Any attempt to push on the lever harder is just a waste of time. I’m actually trying to learn how to work less right now. I suggest everyone else do the same.

You know what can make you a valuable high performer though? Choosing the right levers to push. Become more tactical and strategic in your work, that’s how you start to shine.

Okay so how do you do that? There are lots of ways to do it, but perhaps the most obvious way is to work on things that will make your team more productive.


One thing that has helped me is trying to understand exactly the task I am supposed to work on. Because I read once on HN, that there is nothing worse than implementing wrong solution in the right way! What generally happens is, without understanding the task properly in depth, we try to form a solution and start execution. Then, while execution we continously run into problems, slowing us down and causing frustration.

Another thing that has helped me is searching/asking for help. You see majority of the problems that happen with us, someone or the other has encountered them and tried to solve them. It can be very useful to look at what they have done and see if you can apply it.


There is more than enough time in the day/week/year to do what you want. You just have to avoid doing other things.

The biggest impact would be changing your desires.

One option is to really want something. You sneak away time from work/sleep to work on a project. You think of it in the shower, in a queue, on a toilet. It has top priority in your brain, above gaming, above any tv show, above any problems. It becomes an itch that you have to scratch.

If you don't desire something enough, your energy is channeled somewhere else. It's there, but in things like volunteering, random hobbies, trying to be good at a game, Tumblr. There are just many people in this whole who make it their goal to channel your energy.

The other option is to desire nothing. This is where meditation brings you. This is what you get from sickness, near death experiences, or excessive rest.

When you desire nothing, you're able to move it around at will. It's no longer a force you can't control, but a tame beast.

Most of us desire something - money, power, fame, attention, respect, knowledge. This can get complex. Many people have some kind of irrational desire as well - to look more successful than their ex, to not work in the same field as a parent, to work as few hours as possible, to see an underpaid project fail. Often born from some kind of mental scar or cultural conditioning.


I think the best thing you could do is to find a therapist to discuss these feelings with and help you work out a plan for you. A lot of high "performers" regularly work on their mental health. Nobody talks about it but you see it with high performance athletes, CEOs etc...

Another idea is to focus on your unique skills and do those well. You may find that your skills have no use in one company but are invaluable in another. So it's a matter of context that defines high performing.

Just to note that health scares only briefly change behavior [1]. Some ways to help make a change permanent is to develop a support network and physically change your environment so that something negative is no longer accessible.

The last part of having a support network is huge. You may see someone who is a high performer at work and school and as a Dad but they have a spouse who shoulders at least half or more of the burden. In work they may have a team to rely on and in school a study group. We really should look at high performant teams instead of individuals. We like to assign success as a function of the individual but really it takes a village.

[1] http://www.nbcnews.com/id/35584798/ns/health-behavior/t/scar...


For a bit over four years I worked a demanding full time job while also getting my Master's degree and maintaining a relationship with my spouse.

I don't really have any insightful tricks, I just found the time.

When friends would go out, I would choose to stay in and either get some rest or do work. My weekends were fully allocated to my graduate work. My spouse was understanding and supportive but ultimately I spent less time with her, my family and friends.

I felt most overwhelmed when I planned out what I needed to get done next - that feeling usually went away when I started working.

One semester, in an effort to finish my degree faster, I tried taking an additional class. A little over two weeks in I found myself physically and mentally overwhelmed and unable to keep up with the work. Upon reflection, I realized that in an effort to keep up with the work, I was putting in 95+ hours of work per week. For me, that was unsustainable, so I dropped a class.

Most importantly, in retrospect, I regret it. Looking back it's pretty obvious to me that the compromises I made were misaligned with what actually matters to me. The tricky part for me was that it was really hard to see when I was in the middle of it.

I also think that my excessive workload actually took a lot of the joy out of the work I was doing. And for me, I think I'd rather go 50mph and enjoy the ride adjusting the direction as I go than 150 mph holding on for dear life in who the hell knows which direction.


I can only speak to the "point of action:"

When faced with a big task, I usually feel overwhelmed. But if I take a step back and focus on a singular thing that needs to happen, it makes it far more managable. The first step is always the hardest, but once taken, you've overcome a the mental block of seeing the whole forest.

For instance, after a dinner party, the stack of dishes seems insurmountable. But if you focus on the first dish, then the next, then the next...pretty soon the entirety of the effort seems manageable.

In my professional life, I have to build a lot of excel models - many of which are complex and take a long time. This, again, seems overwhelming. But I start by putting something - anything! - in a cell. Then I build out a row of headers. Then the column headers and a formula or two. Then iterate on that. Soon, the insurmountable task has been made possible by SIMPLY DIVING IN. And once you have something to iterate on - even if its "bad" - it's mentally easier to make changes than start from scratch.


I consider someone doing okay if he/she is not having one of the following issues.

(a) He/She lost someone close or someone you love has a life-threatening disease. He/She most likely is having a tough time comprehending life/death or the futility of aspiring to be like someone else. Life changes in a moment and everything that was important thus far becomes insignificant.

(b) He/She has a tooth ache. You'll agree that when someone has a tooth ache, nothing else matters

I'm sure there are other examples that portray my point. But I think the root cause of this feeling of appearing "incomplete" or "not enough" to yourself is that we as humans tend to unnecessarily compare ourselves with others. I'm not saying you shouldn't have goals to achieve, but just that those goals shouldn't have origins in somebody else's seemingly successful life.

Any small success you achieve on a day-to-day basis should be celebrated. And believe me, a string of such small kinds of successes will make you contented.


Good advice here, I'll add some tactical tips that have helped me:

1. Offload mental overhead. For example, try organizing systems like GTD. What works for you will be highly personal, but the goal is to clear your head of everything you can so you can devote your full brainpower to whatever task is at hand. In the post you linked MRD85 mentioned keeping lists.

2. When things get busy, separate thinking about what needs to be done from actually executing it. It lets me plan and organize when I have high mental energy and execute even when I have low mental energy. It's a lot easier to knock out a 15m mindless task after a long day at work than to decide what needs to be done and then do it.

3. Consider impact in everything you do. It's a lot easier to 10x your output by working on tasks with 10x impact than by working 10x as hard. This is intuitive, the challenge is remembering to do this when things get chaotic and urgent. Related, read about the importance vs urgency quadrants in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.


Maybe spend 30x the amount of money?

Based, in part, on the concept that the fastest way to become a Millionaire in Business Type X, is to start out as a Billionaire in Business Type X?

Other than that, I think you'd be better off trying to figure out how to be happier with what you've got, rather than looking at all the things you don't have and berating yourself for failing to achieve them.


Sleep better, regular exercise, learn the skill of focusing on a single task with no distractions for at least 45 mins. Eat your frog every morning - i.e. do your most difficult task first.

Most of your questions can be answered with the usually productity space answers. If you want resources try Chris Bailey’s Productivity Project and the book The One Thing.


I am a extreme multiplexer, that means I switch between sound engineering, camera work, music composition, electronics, programming, writing, design etc.

First thing to realize is, that you won’t be able to do all things 100% at once. Usually that is okay, many activities benefit from some cool off period anyways (everything were perception matters — colors, sound, shape, etc).

Some activities require more uninterrupted time than others, for these it can make sense to dedicate fixed days or mornings to.

Some activities depend on inspiration, it usually doesn’t make much sense to forxe them into a schedule.

Treat off time also as an activity.


It's about priorities. I wouldn't necessarily make all the same choices I made in the past or recommend it. I've sacrificed some health, aged more than I would've otherwise, missed out on social events, lost relationships and damaged others in the name of professional proficiency. I just put that first and didn't let anything else get in the way.

A far better way to achieve the same thing is to lead others (making 5 people 25% more productive is much much easier than doubling your efficiency), though that's less of a personal productivity hack.


Work up to it, and strip out stuff you don't need to do. For most people jumping into a lifestyle change is likely to fail.

My approach is more triage based: when I find something new I want to do but don't really have time for, I look at the other stuff I'm doing and work out what is less important than the new thing. That explicitly includes "me time", and an honest assessment of what I actually do vs what I think I should. So, a certain amount of randomly reading crud on the internet and posting rubbish (like this)... just because I enjoy doing it. I used to be active on various stackoverflow sites but I found gaming the metrics too addictive so I stopped (viz, too much time writing answers to get rep, moderating posts to get badges... it wasn't what I wanted to be doing, and I found it hard to just do it a little).

When I have been busy all the time it's been like that, but more so. Get up, eat the same thing for breakfast every day, wear the same clothes, etc... routine tasks take little mental effort and can be streamlined. That works for me, it may not work for you. Do a day's work, minimal lunchtime and maximum productivity so I can leave early and still get bonus marks for getting things done. Be conscious of the metrics my workplace uses and balance playing to those metrics against the time it takes (ie, if lunch with the boss is worth the same as an extra 5 hours work a week... have lunch with the boss).

Look for ways to save time and combine tasks. For me that means bicycle transport. I get time outside, exercise, and save time/money over driving. Since I rent, I try to rent somewhere in the area bounded by my other activities and such that I get enough exercise just doing those things. Likewise, vegetarian food can more easily be cooked once a week and stored/transported every day. I make soup or pasta or stew, cool it, put it in meal-sized plastic jars (they held stewed fruit once, which I like eating), then they go in the fridge. Again, efficient to cook, saves money, and no effort spent during the week making sure I eat well. I buy easy-to-eat fruit and vegetables as snacks, and drink water or herbal tea. Bike riding means I need more salt than most people, and more energy. Fortunately I also like eating corn chips :) Those synergies are important, look for them!


What do you think full time means?

The people who seem to be high performers are the ones who quit almost everything else.

So your answer is a simple, "quit".

Quit all the things, quit family, quit friends, quit tv, quit YouTube, quit Reddit, quit HN, quit your side gigs, quit your job.

Find the one thing you want to focus on and go for it.

Obviously don't quit all family and friends. Don't quit sleep. But do quit family and friends that bring you down.

There is a difference.


Start keeping a notebook how long tasks take, like morning routine 06-06:10. This simple trick makes you understand how much time you waste. At least it did for me. I doubt you can get 3x performance with a full time school, work & family though. Delegating family stuff doesn't work for most of us.


Find your most productive hours and squeeze them for all they’ve got. The rest of the time do passive activities. Spend time with family, go to the beach, eat, sleep, chill.

Mine are early morning or late night, that’s just how I’m wired.


I just want to say thanks for asking this. I wanted to ask this myself but could not phrase it as good as you did.


High performers always delegate or talk what they'll do and then after awhile stuff gets forgotten.


First and foremost, you have to be healthy, mentally, emotionally, and physically (yes, physically). If you are not up to par, get these out of the way, first. Go to the gym, sleep well, eat well, don't consume mind-altering substances (for me, even caffeine has been shown to hurt my performance), don't be in an unhealthy relationship that is a constant distraction. I like to think of mental performance as a racing engine. You can have a dirty fuel filter, and not notice it because the air filter is plugged, and the spark plugs are misfiring. Only once everything else is fixed, do you begin to feel the horsepower from all cylinders firing.

Another thing that has helped me immensely, is listening to Jordan Peterson. If you can get beyond his political bent, you realize that he has a lot to teach to motivate. The main take away that has helped me become motivated, is the realization that you must be working towards something that is both difficult, and will significantly change your life. Listening to his lectures has helped me go back to working on a project that I had stalled for a year, and I have been working 40+ hours on it each week for months now (In addition to my 40 hour regular job).


I work F/T, I study ~3hrs a day, I work on sideprojects, I exercise on a bike for an hour, I do bodyweight exercises, and I have a partner and social obligations like everybody else. I also get as much sleep as I want and have a ton of free time, mainly my weekends and after work evening hours are completely free as in there isn't one thing I have to do whereas most people I know need to spend hours doing laundry and other chores they put off. Before I did this I worked F/T, wasted all my free time and felt like I had no time to even get essential things done like going to get a haircut. My strategy then was to put off everything to the weekend and then end up not doing it anyway, repeat. After I organized myself I was even working at a university lab on weekends in addition to everything else because of all the free time, putting in 6hrs before 1pm still left lots of partying or beach time.

I agree that productivity memes are getting ridiculous, like actors or CEOs who shill their schedules of getting little sleep and power lifting 5 minutes after waking up at 3am but there is benefits to doing just basic time management. I give myself 4 hours in the morning free time before the daily commute. Before I started doing this I had to blow off social obligations because homework and assigned reading were due, but now I'm already done the assigned reading, already done working through the hw (and last semester's hw), and already went through the lecture slides before I go to the lecture that day. The reading I do while on a stationary bike for one hour. The bodyweight exercises I do during 10 minute breaks while going through exercises and hw. A half hour in that morning period is just for organizing laundry/cleaning and basic chores that before I put off until the weekend, then would end up wasting half of Saturday getting my shit in order. Breaking it up to a half hour for 5 days a week, and now my weekend is completely free, which was a god send when I started doing an OS course and the assigned projects were a ridiculous amount of work like implementing a kernel spec. While I'm doing all this everybody else I know is asleep, there's no phone calls to answer, no emails to answer ect. I'm always out at night doing something with my gf and have tons of energy whereas before I just wanted to fill my face with takeout, passively entertain myself with some Netflix marathon and then pass out. I didn't have a gf, I was overweight, I was tired all the time and thought that it would be impossible to finish a chapter out of a dense math text unless I waited until the weekend, but of course I was so disorganized I didn't have time on the weekend either.

The only reason I made this choice to start scheduling was due to getting older. When I was very young I always felt like there was plenty of time to put off things until later, but like you I'm very aware of time and how little of it we all have. Now if I'm wasting time I'm always thinking to myself I could be learning randomized computation right now and discovering something amazing about quantum information theory, instead I've wasted that opportunity so I can consume yet another zombie themed soap opera. That nagging feeling of winding up on your death bed and realize you've wasted something like 12hrs a week for 2 decades passively watching junk or putting off having a family to just self indulge a meaningless existence is pretty much my primary motivation not making money or becoming a Zuckerberg.


It's good that you actually give actionable advice. 1) Wake up early, 2) Don't do all your chores on the weekend, 3) Do less housework, and an optional 4) Don't have kids.

I have the same experience you do as far as routinely finding myself having "too much" free time on weekends. Just don't fill it with TV, interruptions, and bad comedowns from your job stress.


I just started Vyvanse today, maybe give it a try? It's not a "magic pill" but rather a supplement to help.


It's probably not wise to rely on drugs. Not a good long term strategy.




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