Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Every productivity thought I've ever had, as concisely as possible (guzey.com)
634 points by less_penguiny on Aug 19, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 158 comments

I highly recommend Jean Moroney's blog. She digs deep into the psychology behind productivity and goal-setting. I found many unique insights in her articles. Thanks to her writing I've come to believe that procrastination often stems from deeper emotional issues or an unacknowledged clash of priorities (for example, when you try to force yourself to do something that you don't, in fact, want to do, the deeper issue is that you haven't resolved the clash between your short-time desires and your long-term goals).




General list here:


More and more research is showing procrastination to be an emotion management problem. [1]

That's why it's been really helpful for me to start keeping a journal. It helps increase self-awareness and helps when I get off-track on my side projects. I can can realign my goals and ease back into being productive again.

[1] https://www.fastcompany.com/90357248/procrastination-is-an-e...

Have you guys ever read the "War of Art"? It comes from a place that understands Procrastination as an emotional problem, and has a fully developed solution for dealing with it in that way.

At the end it gets REALLY artsy and religious in a way that made me very uncomfortable. But its still the most helpful book I've ever read on productivity.

Jean Moroney would say that War of Art is based on the "duty mentality" - a mentality where there are certain things that you simply need to do, that are considered intrinsically important, and that your own personal desires are irrelevant and should be squashed. This mentality leads to problems. It's not surprising that the author is religious.

https://www.thinkingdirections.com/join-the-thinking-lab/ - ctrl-F "ineffective thinking habits"

"5. Duty Mentality: you treat your desires as irrelevant to your conclusions about what you should do.

Symptoms: You describe the obstacles to your goals in terms of temptation and resistance. You often feel you have to force yourself to do what is right. If you don’t, you feel guilty.

Practical Obstacles Created: You over-commit. You feel unmotivated. You work well only under pressure."

I can see how the symptoms listed could lead to the obstacles listed. However, as a religious person, I do regularly treat my desires as irrelevant to what I should do - and I do not exhibit the symptoms listed. So not sure what to make of that. Seems there is another way to have duty.

I really disliked that book, I found nothing actionable in it. I only read it to the end because it is recommended so often and I hoped to find something useful in it. Sadly I didn't.

The book is REALLY for a certain kind of person who has a deep seated fear of success that they don't really understand.

If you have ever written 3/4's of a novel that you all of a sudden couldn't finish, or always abandon projects just as you are about to be able to reap the rewards, the book is for you.

I'm hoping the book wasn't for you, because fear of success isn't really a problem for in your life.

I’ll concur with this thought.

It’s inspiring but there’s nothing really to take forward from there.

It’s like a talk from a motivational speaker - it’ll get you into that desirable state of mind for a little bit, but won’t help you change anything fundamentally.

Also read the book and found it deeply inspiring, I’d recommend war of art to anyone that is pursuing creative endeavors.

I’m curious though why did it make you uncomfortable?

I'm an overly skeptical and rigid atheist. I have problems getting value from religious stories even in the metaphorical sense because I know how many people interpret them as facts.

I'm working on it.

I have a close family member who was a TV Televangelist (retired now) but who still claims to have the ability to heal people with the laying on of hands. Seeing the after effects of this "healing" when I was very young sent me down a path extreme anti religiousness.

> So often, people take on tasks because they think you have to do them, or the task meets some criteria that someone else has set. You feel you have to do the project because it's required for a class, or your boss told you to do it, or it's the only way you see to get the credential you need to take the next step in your career.

Remided me of passage from J.K's book.

"There are two kinds of action. One brings you reward, and the doing of it strengthens the ego, the ‘me’. The other kind of action, the action which you love to do, has no reward or punishment and is not concerned with what the neighbour says, or with gods or with the priests or with belief. You do it because it is the only thing to do. You rejoice in the very doing of it, not for heaven or the avoidance of hell. You just do it and in the very doing of it is the delight. This action is of freedom from society and has nothing whatsoever to do with morality. This action is from nothingness. When there is this, you can look at the world from that silence of nothingness."

Seems like you need all kinds of productivity tools/hacks for the former and none for the latter.

> clash between your short-time desires and your long-term goals

Or maybe its a clash between the artist in you with cog in the machine that you need to be live the life you want

Sometimes making art has boring parts, too. Writing a book, for example, can be drudgery, even if you're not writing for anyone in particular or aiming to make a profit—just because there's an order-of-magnitude difference between the amount of effort required to exhaust your creative impulse, and the amount of effort required to actually create a whole work from which you can feel satisfied that you have communicated the thing your creative impulse was driving you to communicate.

> Sometimes making art has boring parts, too.

Right but productivity hacks culture is not usually talking about this specific type of work.

Yeah, if I only ever did things that I rejoice in doing I'd be getting nothing done. Not everyone is a super naturally passionate type.

What is the other option though? None of the "productivity hacks" actually work.

> for example, when you try to force yourself to do something that you don't, in fact, want to do

This is called a day job, even for programmers.

> you haven't resolved the clash between your short-time desires and your long-term goals

Is it even possible to resolve? One would like to read books (play guitar, gardening) for the rest of his life instead of trying to get his docker-compose file working properly. How a productivity technique could resolve such a discrepancy between goals and desires?

If you actually spent your entire days gardening, you'd soon feel an irresistible urge to bake a working docker-compose file. You'll procrastinate and dream about YAML files instead of paying attention to your plants.

This is why some advanced communities have a weekly/monthly duty cycle where people switch activities.

> This is why some advanced communities have a weekly/monthly duty cycle where people switch activities.

Monthly/monthly sounds more fair to me. Or even monthly/weekly if I'm allowed to dream...

To clarify: Either weekly work routine (Sun. gardening, Mon. kitchen, Tue. teaching in school...), or monthly work routine (same, but tasks are retained for longer consecutive periods)

Got it. I agree with your point that after months of gardening I will probably be dreaming of the beauties of YAML files, or even XML if the gardening period was too long. But still, does it solve the motivation/productivity problem? Also, during long breaks you lose the context, so both types of activities will be less productive.

I don't think this way of organizing work is about maximizing individual productivity. It's more about the (forgotten?) idea that there's more into humans than being productive in some narrow scope.

Then play guitar for the rest of your life. It might be a short life.

"Productivity" techniques are inherently flawed by the way they put capitalist "productivity" at the top of the most important things in life. Check the blogpost where the author describes playing a computer game as "life down the drain" and how their productivity tips have to tightly control that.

If your life is to be commercially productive and own a multi-hundred-thousand-dollar house and get paid for docker-compose, then you can't switch to playing the guitar and have the same life.

But if you consider your deathbed and think a life of fighting Docker was a total waste, what was the point? The "resolution" to the discrepancy doesn't come from a productivity technique, it comes from a enlightenment; losing the desires to control particular life outcomes and desiring "good" outcomes and fearing "bad" outcomes.

Go far enough down that and you'll unpack the fears and anxieties about not being good enough, not being perfect, making mistakes, being inferior, etc. which cause procrastination in the first place, and be more able to work on Docker without feeling bad. And more able to turn away from it and play guitar without the anxiety of "what if my boss says I wasn't productive enough".

Honestly I find that an important part of being “productive” at my job of drawing weird comics for Patreon money is to make damn sure I take time off. I love doing this job, I’m delighted that I manage to pay my bills with it, and I still need to take regular breaks.

I have this observation as well. Many lifestyle ideologies fall apart like this in practice, I think. The one I’ve found work for me the best is Eckart Tolle’s “The Power of Now.” If you forgive its aloofness and smirkiness, I really do believe finding a sense of joy in doing what you do, even mundane things, can really help your mood and stave off procrastination.

Serious question: Is anything less productive than reading other people's productivity thoughts? It's a combination of procrastination and finding out what works for someone who is presumably more productive than you (ie: guilt).

One less productive thing I can think about is reading a comment about how unproductive reading thoughts about productivity is :)

It's turtles all the way down.

Or in this case, tomatoes.

(My first hn joke. Not sure if jokes are allowed but sure was worth it.)

As someone who had never contributed anything to this forum other than mediocre jokes, I can attest it's allowed (but more often than not downvoted to oblivion).

I don't get your first HN joke.

Pomodoro timers are shaped like tomatoes.


I also read it as "throwing tomatoes", as each commentator was criticizing the previous level as being unproductive.

Wait, is this not the joke? Why's this getting downvoted so much?

"The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. ... Each interval is known as a pomodoro, from the Italian word for 'tomato', after the tomato-shaped kitchen timer that Cirillo used as a university student."


Thank you

There’s always next time!

For the commenter, but think about the time saving for the readers of the comment!

In the article you just read, the author writes an entire section: "2. Every productivity system stops working eventually and there’s nothing you can do about it"

If you're like me and have ADHD, you read looking for your next system that will work for a while.

And if you're a night owl, you inevitably learn how to sleep right through your alarms.

I was procrastinating and read about the Pomedoro technique and it worked pretty well for me. Sometimes you need a trick I guess.

Pomodoro worked great for me until I just stopped wanting to do my job.

But really who doesn't want to be super productive as we work ourselves to extinction.

The same, Pomodoro works well for me when I'm already motivated. It helps focus and is a decent multiplier when I have a baseline already.

When motivation is at a low, the 25/5 flips around.

Same, but it's good as a stop gap until I clear up enough stuff to be comfortable to take at least 3 weeks off.

Not everyone who comes across this post will be spending more time reading about productivity than being productive.

The term I've heard for that is 'productivity porn'. (as in, getting the satisfaction from observing productivity, without actually putting in the effort yourself).

I think it can actually be very productive if you engage with the article and take notes.

Example: I read the following article over the course of 2 days. While I was reading it, I had VSCode open and was taking notes in Markdown. While this article only mildly changed how I acted, it definitely planted a few seeds in my head, which I am trying to cultivate. And now I have a source of notes on productivity I can look at any time!


You never know when you’re going to find the next trick that will actually work to fool your brain into letting you get shit done for a while. These days I mostly rely on my own version of the Pomodoro method but I have definitely found value in other ideas now and then.

Commenting on them ;)

> If you aren’t working from home, your workplace should be at least a couple of minutes away (better: an hour away)

One great hack for this is if you work from home, get up and get dressed, then go out for a walk around the block as your "commute" to work. At the end of your work day, take a walk again in the opposite direction as your commute home.

Even though the ploy is totally obvious, it will put your mind in a work vs play mode depending on the direction of the walk.

Great idea. This also sounds a lot like it falls in with the "ritual" concept from Deep Work by Cal Newport.

This is a great idea and I used to do it for a while when I tried working from home. The problem for me is that I usually give on this ritual after a week or two. How long have you been able to sustain it for?

I don’t actually do it. :) my problem is that I work too much when I work from home. I can’t pull myself away. My solution was to have children who draw me away with their siren song of, “lets play legos daddy!”

I don’t actually do it. :)

I can't help feeling that most internet advice falls in this category.

I should have clarified that it was something I learned from someone else who actually does do it. But yes it is definitely second hand.

How many times do I have to tell you child, the plural of Lego is Lego!

An hour away seems like a waste of 2 hours of your day to a commute.

Depends how you view it. My commute is almost an hour, half on a train and half by bike. In the morning, the train comes first, and I'm basically still waking up. That's wasted time anyway - even if I were at leisure, all I'd be doing at that point is sitting with a cup of tea, booting up my brain. Occasionally I'll see a fellow commuter I know, and we can spend the time chatting and waking up together. Then the bike ride - mostly along relaxing bike paths and trails - is a great way to finish waking up and settle my mind for work, as well as a core part of my daily exercise. Again, activity I'd need to do at some point anyway.

In the evening, the bike ride is much faster as it's more downhill, and because I'm fully awake the train ride is a chance to read, listen to music, or program for fun.

Point is, with this style of commute, the time mostly isn't "wasted" because it consists largely of activities I'd like to do at some point in the day anyway. I don't know how people cope with an hour in traffic behind a steering wheel.

Could be spent productively, e.g reading, meditating or working on a laptop. That's assuming you take public transportation to work, but audiobooks and podcasts could substitute if you drive/walk/bike

I can only imagine how unfathomably ridiculous this would look like to an onlooker

I would definitely recommend against having an hour’s commute to work. It is a really strong predictor for life dissatisfaction. Fifteen minutes is the number I heard to be a good balance.

I currently have an hours commute, which I find works quite well for me. It is a little bit unusual though - it is a train journey with no changes, I always get a seat, and I live about a 2 minute walk from the train station, and work about a 2 minute walk from the train station at the other side. The train journey is about 50 minutes.

It's a good period of time to slowly engage and disengage - I do the things that might affect my productivity in the day - read HN, catch up on personal (and sometimes work) email. I sometimes read a book, or message friends.

Everyone's different but this works nicely for me - when I get in from work I tend not to feel the draw of the screen, so my leisure time is less at risk from being sucked into for example reddit, and when I get to work, the period of the day that in the past I have previously lost a lot of productivity to - a 'few minutes' on catching up with the world, 'relevent' tech news etc I've already scratched that itch.

I think it just sort of works with my fairly ill-disciplined personality traits in a way that helps me be productive.

I think much longer though and I would feel I was losing too much of my day. (I'm typically out of the house 07:00-18:00).

I always look forward to my 50 minutes long commute. It's my podcast/audiobook time that I would never have otherwise.

Mine is pretty similar.

An hour's commute on the train is not at all similar to an hour's car commute.

Let me guess, Cambridge to KingsX to work at Google?

Northallerton to Leeds, work at undisclosed.

Strongly agree, though if you find yourself in that situation there are ways you can turn it into productive time. Especially if you otherwise don't have blocks of alone downtime.

- Use the time to think. Driving the same commute every day becomes automatic and you can solve problems, practice a talk, iterate or come up with ideas and so on. Take notes via voice.

- Podcasts. There's an endless amount of learning available. Some recommendations: 99% Invisible, Making Sense, Hardcore History, Freakonomics, Business Wars, Planet Money.

- Audiobooks.

Make it a habit and you can actually get to the point where your commute is almost painless and even something to look forward to (particularly if it's the only place you listen to podcasts/audiobooks). Sometimes I actually end up waiting in the car extra time for a Podcast to finish or to clean up notes.

Audiobooks have been my savior since I switched to them from podcasts.

I'm making my way through a backlog of must read sci-fi and fantasy classics I never would have read otherwise because I have little time to read a book as it is.

I have to wait a bit and have a somewhat limited selection with my library card, but overall it's worth it.

You should try Scribd.com for audiobooks (disclaimer: I work there)

Thanks for the suggestion. Not really looking to add another subscription to the budget at the moment though.

My coworker has a 1.5-2h commute, which I couldn't wrap my head around until I found that he has two children.

This is his "me time".

> Fifteen minutes is the number I heard to be a good balance

I would rephrase it as: a 15 minutes walk is the sweet spot of commutes.

I typically have about an hour of commute each way adding up to two hours a day.

It kind of works. Lately it has been 1.5 each way which starts eating seriously into other things.

The things that makes it tolerable are typically:

- if I can work while commuting, because that means shorter time in the office. Ironically - and depending on project - I can get more work done on the train than in a similar time slot in the office.

- if I can work on a side project

- if not, if I can read or study

- if I could sleep (I find it hard, but sometimes it works)

But it is tiring to be away from home 10-11 hours a day just to fill 40 hours.

Yep. I'll add though, personally I was happier doing a 90 minute train commute than a 45 minute drive by car. Seemed doubly productive because I spent the commute time working on a fun side project and not battling with my negative inner monologue about other drivers.

That seems like good advice. I currently commute 20 minutes and it's fine. Not too long, but long enough that work is far away. But if it were half again as long I'd probably get stabby.

Fifteen minutes does seem a good time, too far to pop in on a whim but not so far that the daily journey is onerous. Bonus points if it’s a fifteen minute walk.

Piling on, I’d also recommend against a 15 hour workday.

This is actually a pretty good list. Obviously it's personal and specific to him but it gives food for thought.

With that said I've read a million posts like this and the only thing that's ever made me feel like I had genuinely changed my perspective and understood what was happening more clearly was reading the Getting Things Done book.

The key insight for me is that so much of procrastination results from a lack of clarity about what exactly should be done next, and keeping a mental load of trying to keep track of everything. Separating the three basic concepts of planning, making decisions, and actually doing the work, into discrete sessions, has been a life changer.

I still fuck off constantly and hate myself for procrastination from time to time, obviously, but using the core GTD framework and returning to it when I stray has really helped.

Yes. And if you’re not sure what to do next, the next thing to do is figure out that next step. Sounds circular and silly, but helps tremendously to realize, hey, I got stuck, let me take a step back and figure out what I’m really trying to do and what tasks I need to complete to get it done.

You can only do about four hours of solid work a day.

That is the only trick I know that really works. Took me forever to relearn to.

I went to school in Mexico where school is divided into two shifts, AM and PM; choose the one you want.

1-5:30 are my work hours unless the water around the business gets a little turbulent, in which case, I dunno, depends on if i consider you a friend or not.

I need just one thing: a way to get rid of a bad habit that doesn't involve changing the circumstances in which I have that habit.

I'm a Web developer with a mindless tic-like habit of opening sites like Reddit and HN all the time. Even a second after closing it. I can't very well get rid of Web browsers.

Edit: ohh, but the tip of going to a place where I've never procrastinated before and sitting down to think what I actually want to do next, that doesn't involve a Web browser. Nice.

I have a similar tic. I just edit my hosts file to redirect those requests to localhost. Then when I mindlessly navigate to one of those sites it doesn't work and I realize I did it unconsciously. I do the same for gmail because I have the same tic for checking my mail.

If I actually want to go to one of those sites I just edit the hosts file and comment out the redirect line.

On my mac, the /etc/hosts file looks like:

  # #
  # Host Database
  # localhost is used to configure the loopback interface
  # when the system is booting.  Do not change this entry.
  ## localhost broadcasthost
  ::1             localhost
  fe80::1%lo0 localhost news.ycombinator.com twitter.com www.facebook.com reddit.com mail.google.com

I do that too! But then of course there also the moments when I am really procrastinating and I remove them again... but that's a dumb excuse as it's much easier to solve than the subconscious problem, thanks for reminding me.

Edit: ohh, but the tip of going to a place where I've never procrastinated before and sitting down to think what I actually want to do next, that doesn't involve a Web browser. Nice.

That is a great idea, but what do you call it when I do not want to do it because I start thinking about all the awesome things I could have done in my life if I started doing that earlier?

Midlife crisis? Life?

Last week I sat down with a notebook and wrote down my thoughts about what all my problems in life boil down to, how I should deal with each of them, what my next actions are... And then I noticed I was using an old notebook and on the first pages I had written almost the exact same things, in 2011.

Except I was much more stressed about them then than I am now. Becoming wiser apparently means thinking the exact same thoughts as ever but being more relaxed about them.

What's worked for me every time I get in that routine is to force myself to do one to five push ups every time I think about switching tabs.

During that time I think about what it is that I really want to be doing. After a while I automatically skip to this step without having the desire to refresh HN.

The problem is that I don't think about switching tabs anymore, it's really completely brainless.

To the point that I sometimes do it in the middle of talking to people (while sitting behind my desk), who will point it out to me, and then I will close the tab. And then re-open it a few seconds later while still talking to them. ctrl-T O enter, for old.reddit.com. It's really a true habit.

There is an extension where you can limit the number of tabs you have open, I'm going to try that again. Limiting myself to 1 should lead to some conscious thought, after those keystrokes fail a few times.

I used this to quit Facebook. It's an almost Pavlovian trick. You start to associate your habit with a negative connotation because you know that a short workout will follow.

This works great for me: http://www.stayfocusd.com/

You can limit your time on specified sites

The simplest productivity hack is finding passion. I never seen a windsurfer procrastinate. If you are truly enjoying your work and can't wait to do it, there is nothing going to stop you.

Unfortunately, that's not an easy thing to do. It's not practical for 90% of people. Being software developers, we're lucky, but even though I love what I do, I often hate doing it for other people.

I liked the suggestion that the important difference between "for fun" and "for work" is reliability. https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/9EyzaH3jzH3PyQtM5/the-costs-...

90%? You think 1 in 10 people out there are passionate about their job and love going to work on Monday?

Do you think more than 1 in 10 are excited to go to work on Monday or less?

The worst productivity advice I am hearing over and over.

I ensure you that there are many passionate writers, graphic designers and... programmers, who procrastinate a lot.

One of a big finding for me was that it is NOT nearly as much if I like something or not[1]. Is about knowing the next step and maintaining focus (especially with keeping the time "now" not "not now"). (However, I speak from ADHD perspective; maybe for non-ADHD people passion is sufficient.)

[1] For a stark comparison: I procrastinate on open-ended side-projects I love (sometimes for years), but when there is some accounting issue I solve it ASAP.

Find someone who has to windsurf for a living and you'll find one who procrastinates.

If they are windsurfing for someone else, probably...

But it doesn't seem like top pro athletes and olympians procrastinate. They are intrinsically driven.

> But it doesn't seem like top pro athletes and olympians procrastinate.

I don't think you can become a top pro athlete or olympian if you're not the fraction of a fraction of the world's population with immense intrinsic motivation, passion, ambition, and drive -- so this seems like survivorship bias.

And your coaches are the fraction of a fraction of the world’s hardest hard-asses.

There’s a lot of external motivation there as well. That’s three people doing a tremendous amount of work to avoid one of them crying in the corner.

Some selection bias there. People who procrastinate at stuff don’t become olympians, I’d guess.

Survivor bias for sure. Lots of parents would rather have a happy child than a gold medal. Once the kid is miserable it becomes a hobby.

If you know one that procrastinates ask them if they still have passion for it?

> If you are truly enjoying your work and can't wait to do it, there is nothing going to stop you.

Clearly you don’t have an anxiety disorder.

For most people as soon as your passion becomes your money earning occupation it ceases to be a passion.

"Follow your passion" requires a lot of willpower and very often more work than a salaried position, unless you lower your standards drastically.

Sometimes one can be in a situation of the Buridan's Ass, there are multiple things interesting and exciting, but one can't fully commit to any of them, and end up doing none of them.

That's more than likely because the moment you do start procrastinating as a professional wind surfer, like in any sport, you immediately get ousted by every hopeful who's willing to put in the hours to get access to an extremely limited pool of things that pay in that field.

Windsurfers always sitting on the beach not windsurfing!!

I think the biggest realization I've ever had is that things take time away. The sensation of procrastination happens when you feel the "thing you need to do" should take some smaller constrained amount of time, usually in days or weeks or sometimes months.

But if you can stomach that the thing may take years or even a decade, you'd feel much less like you were procrastinating.

In addition, if you assume that the thing will always be done piecemeal, here and there, or when you can remember to do it say like cleaning a room or organizing a thing, then that can also alleviate the sensation of procrastination.

The sensation tends to occur when you maintain a false belief that the things you need to get done should take hours or days instead of weeks or years.

That's more interesting than the title implies.

I looked at the guy's pie charts of working time, and unless I'm reading them wrong, he _never sleeps_. He has all 24 hours of the day marked as mostly work.

He's mapping his working time onto the pie chart. For example, if he works 9am-5pm, during that time he follows the pie chart's structure for that block of time.

> "provides me with 625 minutes of work, interspersed with 275 minutes of breaks (provided my workday is 15 hours)."

Why would you work for 15 hours? I aim for 6. No way that you can be productive for 15 hours.

And, do you really want to spend pretty much all your time working? I followed along and agreed with lots of the stuff, then a comment like this throws me off. I totally understand that you're having trouble focusing if that's a normal day.

This [1] comic is hilarious and I have it on my background.

All self-help advice is bullshit and useless unless it changes your behavior. Find what works for you, experiment, take what works, discard what doesn't, rinse and repeat.

[1] https://i.imgur.com/5bIKcWR.png

How to achieve a productive mentality seems closely tied with individual dopamine and neuroscience factors (e.g. genetics like COMT / rs4680). Maybe these guides should be customized to 23andme results.

RE: 11.3 Browser tab management

No manual, rule-based tab management ever worked for me, which is why I took over development for Tab Wrangler a while back and have been continuing to update it. Garbage collection for old tabs without me having to intervene.

This has been the best system for me, and it has worked well for years. Old tabs are automatically cleaned up when I haven't looked at them in a while.

It's all open source: https://github.com/tabwrangler/tabwrangler

dayum. that's sounds like something I really need. every time i sort out my tabs it takes only a week before it's back to normal.

when the tabs are closed and stored are they put into one folder or can they be put into month folders?

The closed tabs are stored in the extension's local storage as JSON. There is some basic sorting built into the extension, and you can use the export functionality in the "Options" tab to export the JSON info and work with it in other ways.

> If you aren’t working from home, your workplace should be at least a couple of minutes away (better: an hour away)

The notion of a commute being beneficial is weird to me. If it takes more than 5 minutes to get to work, I end up spending the time engaged in something else, which leads to me being significantly distracted when I arrive. Thinking for an hour about what to do when you arrive seems like the opposite of productivity

By happenstance I just ended up in an apartment that's a 5 minute walk from my office. It's the best thing that's ever happened to me. I go home for lunch. I spend 0 time commuting, I'm basically home as soon as I'm ready to leave.

Compared to my other jobs, which tended to have more like a ~30 minute commute, I feel like I have so much more time in the day. I'm never taking a job where I have to commute again. It sucks the life from me.

A related anecdote: I lived in very small rural village in Nebraska for about 1.5 years . I worked at a small, sleepy, company that made radio broadcast software. I lived across the street from my office parking lot. The supermarket, gas station, library, and Post Office were all within 3-6 blocks.

Although some opportunities weren't available. The ability to spend essentially 0% of my time commuting for any errands made my life very simple and enjoyable.

I love in Boston now and work for a startup, so there's been quite a stark contrast between my lifestyle in the past year. Luckily I work completely remote now because I told myself then, I would never work or live anywhere that requires me to spend a dozen hours a week driving and doing errand.

I travel about an hour, but I can read or work in the train. It's not that bad.

I need the ~10 minutes it takes me to talk home from the train station to switch between work mode and be-nice-to-excited-kids mode.

My workplace is 10 minutes away, I would hate life if I had to commute an hour every single morning for work.

I enjoyed reading this. I've personally found it difficult to shoehorn work into the 8-5. I've found that I work best speaking to people face to face and formulating ideas from 9am to 12pm, and I work best putting together slides and documents from 9pm to 12am. But between the two? I enjoy going out, seeing the world, hanging with my wife, doing life activities.

Now that I know that, how can I fight it? Yes, I'm lucky to do a job that allows me the flexibility to be task-centric rather than time-centric, but I'm just happy that I've found a working model that, works, pun intended, for me.

My productivity hack is coming to terms with the fact that my life can't, and will likely never, be as optimised as the processes and routines that I like to optimize for work.

There is something about the oppressive guilt of being "unproductive" that, for myself personally, far outweighs any of the benefits gained from being hyper-productive.

Although I do feel a certain "high" when coming off of a full 8 hours of get-$#&+-done mode. I try to realize that isn't a switch that is flipped. It's just a derivative of my current state of mind.

>Tabs have a tendency to blow up. However, there’s a natural upper limit for how much the can blow up, since at some point they overflow and you no longer have access to the rightmost tabs.

ahaha hahahahaha

Thanks for posting this. One thing that I think really helps me is to have a reason for everything I do, better than pleasure/power/attention/toys, that is relevant to both the long-term and the short-term. So I know why, and that motivates me. One problem I might have had is too much motivation and I have had to adjust, to re-balance.

I have decided that direction is more important than speed. I.e., making sure the ladder of success is not leaning against the wrong wall (Covey), and that we are not running in circles, or spending our lifetime on mere shiny things. What do we want to look back on after decades, or at the end of mortality? I.e., good decision-making, keeping in mind the purpose of one's life. My purpose in life comes from my beliefs, but I think a next candidate for purpose could be joy, which I suppose comes from knowing one's nature, and from learning/growth, and unselfish service to others (helping them learn and grow and be well & happy).

So, balance while moving forward well, based the above, to me is much more important than getting more tasks done (though I am very task-focused when I am able, because the tasks relate directly to the purpose and related specific goals). This and other things help me feel peaceful and happy (life and learning are very much a work in progress, but some things I have gratefully learned).

I have written more at http://lukecall.net (a lightly-loading, simple site), including about development of and candidate content for maturity models for different areas of life (mental, physical, social, spiritual). Feedback welcome.

> provides me with 625 minutes of work, interspersed with 275 minutes of breaks (provided my workday is 15 hours)

Who the hell works 15 hour workday?

Everyone seriously thinking about productivity is going to mention Little's law. If a resource is occupied for more than 80% the lead time is going to increase exponential.


Personal productivity deals in the hoary space between defining who you are as a person and figuring out the best way to move reality towards the vision.

If you're not treating subconscious input with as much seriousness as humanly possible, (i.e. you're procrastinating for a good reason, one that probably relates to why you think this thing you're procrastinating doing is the best way to move the needle on that vision) then you will forever be living in a hell of your own making.

Making yourself is an artistic pursuit and should be treated with every bit as much care and nurturing as making a painting.

How else can you reach your final form!

I've delved into this a couple times and put together a resource on some of my thoughts here.


The "Workstation Popcorn" methodology has been particularly useful to work from home, digital nomads, and remote workers who feel "stuck" in one spot throughout the day.


Whenever I read one of these posts I'm always very curious about the age of the writer. I find my thoughts on this topic has changed a lot from mid twenties to mid thirties.

Hi! I'm the author of this post. I'm 22. I wrote most of this post when I was 20. I still agree with basically all of it. Also, I spent like 6 months writing it because most of the productivity advice is bs and wears off quickly and I wanted to make sure I only include things that stick.

That explains a lot. I'm 45, and while all of this is very recognizable, it's also very incompatible with my life.

But the reasons for procrastinating, those are spot on.

Esp. when reading the part about 15 working hours per day.

Note that there's only 625 minutes of working during this "15 " hours work day. So working 5 days a week this is less than 60 hours of work per week.

... Without breaks. That's more or less insane. However that's easily adjustable, the article is the same if we read half that number.

It's the complete absence of influence of other people (be it in the form of SOs, kids, coworkers, office environments, meetings, bosses, customers, what have you) that makes it alien to me.

If I could have 4 hours of real, concentrated, productive work on important things each working day, I would massively increase the impact of my work.

My productivity tip is to get old. If you are too young for that, watch an old person complete an overwhelming task. Model after their resilience and patience.

And I don't mean old as in obese diabetic vitamin d and iron deficient cranky old. I mean reliable old.

I often get surprised how deep we got hooked into the system. We tell ourselves unless we're doing something (no matter how useless that is) we're worthless. Everything becomes a different kind of procrastination.

We feel productive creating yet another CRUD app, idle game or advertisement optimization tool that ultimately does nothing for anyone but the capitalists on the top of the chain. Only to feel bad about doing anything that doesn't generate profit to someone.

It saddens me that I don't see a way out of this hole. The system has won and everyone either follows it willingly or is forced to by society.

If only I could be like the OP who seems to live happily in this productivity cycle without gazing into the abyss that is the meaninglessness of it all.

I'm very glad you have raised this point. This concept of productivity is quite new. Unfortunately, it has not remained flexible enough to offer the same kind of meaning today, that it did for workers at it's inception.

Fortunately, many engineers, among others in technology-centric roles, have co-opted this definition to mean their intellectual output.

Depending on whether or not an individual's intellectual currency is manifested via productive output, this hyper-productivity needn't be unhealthy in itself.

It is when this desire overtakes those who don't derive value from the "hobby" of productivity that it becomes dangerous.

There are places where you can find well-paid work that isn’t for ‘capitalists at the top of the chain’. Well, at least not directly. Do you think you’d find the public sector equally meaningless?

Unfortunately I live in a corrupt country where public work would possibly be even more harmful than private work.

The incredible amount of wasted potential from human beings spent in the endless race for profits makes me sick.

The irony of it all is that we're always trying to find ways to find meaning in life and ended up caught up in the most useless quests possible...

To answer my own question, I’m not sure I find a great deal of meaning in most of my work, but I like doing the work and I like the people I work with, and I don’t resent the people I work for, because it’s ultimately the British public.

I wonder when achieving personal productivity has become a widespread problem and why did this happen.

The democratization of capitalism oversold the benefit of productive output

Does the 10hrs / day of actual working time described in the post seem exesive to anyone else? Half this time would typically be a very productive day for me and much more usually leads to a very unproductive following day.

Presumably no-one productive ever shared their life with anyone else? The best way to be productive? Work alone, as a hermit remotely, without the Internet. (tricky if you build websites)

Adding to the other comments wondering about the age of OP, I also wonder if, more than how to be productive, this doesn’t look more like “how to force you to work”.

Number 1 and 2 are.... incredibly validating for me, in a way that I'm not sure I could believe when talking about procrastination.

On the `Incoming.md` bit, y'all might be interested in the Markdown New Tab Chrome extension which gives a similar affordance

Nice list, Alex. Will take a look when I’m feeling less productive.

Needs to add in exercise.

I experimented a lot with exercise. I found that it doesn't influence my mood, productivity, etc. at all, so I didn't include it. Admittedly, I'm an outlier here.

Like Alan Turing I am extremely exercise dependent, and it has to be hard exercise not just walks.

Most of the items on that guy's "todo" list wouldn't even qualify as "work" for me. For me meaningful work can only be accomplished in uninterrupted chunks of 2 hours or longer. There's so much mental context, and it's so complicated, it takes a lot of time to rebuild it. I do gnarly low level C/C++ and assembly (for Intel, ARM and MIPS). "Write a blog post", "clean up one note". If I used One Note or wrote blog posts, those would just be background tasks while stuff compiles or tests/benchmarks run.

Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact