Is there a scientific way to evaluate your productivity? This question is popping in my head for quite some time. Hence, like everyone, I spent hours and hours reading books and listening to various podcasts like:
- [Book] Deep Work by Carl Newport
- [Book] Digital Minimalism by Carl Newport
- [Book] The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying: A simple, effective way to banish clutter forever
- [Book] The Productivity Project by Chris Bailey
- [Book] Company of One
- [Book] 4-hour workweek
- [Blog] A life of Productivity by Chris Bailey
- [Podcast] The school of greatness by Lewis Homes
- [Podcast] It will come by George Siosi Samuels
- [Podcast] Work-Life by Adam Grant
- [Podcast] Impact Theory with Tom Bilyeu
- [Youtube and Podcast] Matt D’ Avella / The Ground Up Show
- [Youtube] Thomas Frank
- [Youtube] Nathan Drew
- [Productivity Program] Faia Pack – started by George Siosi Samuels
- HBR articles like No nonsense guide to measuring productivity (if you are feeling bit nerdy, do read it then)
- And many more, this list is endless to be very frank
Out of all of these, two resources which I found useful for me and impacted the most are- George’s introduction to Faia Pack and Carl Newport book – Deep Work. George introduced me to a completely new world of managing the tasks, writing daily scrums, using productivity tools like Trello, Slack, etc. It’s not like I have not used these I spent almost a month trying various tools like Todo, Evernote, Google Keep, Trello, Notion, etc but nothing helped me in my deep work, getting shit done or even productivity in general.
The first week after leaving my last full-time job with Gray Matters Capital, an impact fund, where I was leading investments, I was puzzled (actually overwhelmed and lost) about:
- How to manage my time?
- How can I be more present in less time?
- How can I effectively get shit done?
- How can I prioritize tasks?
- Should I sleep less?
- Which note/task/to-do list app should I use? Is it the best way?
Initial 2 weeks were damn crazy and I was all over the place, feeling lost and overwhelmed. The part of the reason was now I need to plan my whole full day, no office and no regular 9 to 5 PM work. I am my boss, trying to figure out my next move – entrepreneur, freelancer, consultant, lifetime learner, joining a fellowship (in the US), listen to my mom and join a new job or starting a new fund. Trust me, I was mentally, physically and spiritually lost.
I must say, Deep work by Carl Newport gave me a lot of insights on how to focus to do deep work, minimize the distractions and what it means to be highly productive while being at deep work. Few takeaways for me (I am on a journey to adopt some of these):
- Shell out a few hours (3-4 hours) every day to do deep work
- “There should be only one possible way to get the deep task done in time: working with great intensity – no email breaks, no daydreaming, no facebook browsing, no repeated trips to the coffee machine.”
- Permit yourself to check social media and smartphone once in a while, i.e. don’t take breaks from distraction. Instead, take breaks from focus.
- Don’t respond to your emails right away, it’s okay to take time and maybe slack a bit.
- Give your brain time to rest, as attention restoration theory suggests that spending time in nature can improve your ability to concentrate and enables your unconscious mind to take a shift sorting through your most complex professional challenges.
- “Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets….. It is paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done.”
- Schedule and structure every minute of your day
- “Your goal is not to stick to given schedule at all costs; it’s instead to maintain, at all times, a thoughtful say in what you’re doing with your time going forward – even if these decisions are reworked again and again as the day unfolds.”
- Practice productive meditation, i.e.
- “The goal of productive meditation is to take a period in which you’re occupied physically but not mentally, walking, jogging, driving, showering – and focus your attention on a single well-defined professional problem.”
- Being process-centric
- Value your time and start saying no to “shallow work”. Let me define shallow work →
- “Noncognitively demanding, logistical-style tasks, often performed while distracted. These efforts tend not to create much new value in the world and are easy to replicate.”
- Offline to digital minimalism
- “Identify the core factors that determine success and happiness in your professional and personal life. Adopt a tool only if its positive impacts on these factors substantially outweigh its negative impact.”
- Plan your even leisure time by putting more thoughts into your leisure time- this will help you read more and even be productive in your personal life
- “Structured hobbies provide good fodder for these hours, as they generate specific actions with specific goals to fill your time. A set program of reading, a la Bennett, where you spend regular time each night making progress on a series of deliberately chosen books, is also a good option, as is, of course, exercise or the enjoyment of good(in-person) company.”
Then I met George around this time, we connected well and he introduced me to his world of living a more content, purposeful and productive life. He introduced me to various tools and more importantly, he made me part of his program, called Faia Pack – a program for high performers, who are suffering from lone wolf syndrome, i.e. hustling and juggling in their lives alone. That completely changed and transformed my life on how I see productivity, from a lone wolf productivity approach to community-based productivity approach. This brings a sense of transparency, accountability, and belongingness that we are not alone in the journey.
This has taught me to see productivity as a social thing and not an individual thing. Apart from this, it helped me develop the following habits:
- Having my vision board (long term)
- Identifying my goals (short term – 3 months)
- Daily todo list – or scrumming
- Evaluating every day’s activity towards the end
- Writing affirmation and gratitude quotes everyday
- Support others in their struggles
The interesting piece is how to evaluate every day’s productivity. Let me show you how I do it (not sure it is scientific but believe me- it works for me) →
- Define your daily task in the morning (put them priority wise), give priority score to every task and total priority score should not exceed 10. E.g.
-  Task 1
-  Task 2
-  Task 3
-  Task 4
- Towards, the end of the day – check how many tasks have you finished and put comments.
- Now, score it – e.g. I finished task 1,3 and 4 then my score should be 7 but feel free to add or subtract 1 to 2 depending upon how productive you “feel” towards the end of the day i.e. you were able to achieve something substantial (and go with your gut feeling). E.g. I am feeling pretty good about the day, so I gave an extra 1.5 to my score, hence my productivity score went up to 8.5.
The thing you can read enormous among of text, research papers, blogs but productivity distill down to 2 main things (according to me):
- Energy – it depends on whom you interact, what you work, where you work, do you meditate, do you show gratitude to the universe, self-love, self-care, etc.
- Actually planning your day, week, month, quarter and even years – that doesn’t mean you need to stick by it but that gives you a framework, a plan to fall back so that you don’t go into the trap of procrastination (which now and then is good because it opens your door to be creative) and
Combining the learnings of Deep Work and Faia Pack has given me my secret recipe to be productive.
BTW my today’s productive score is 8 out of 10 (7 for completing tasks and 1 for feeling positive about the work that I did). What’s yours? Please do share.
The most important takeaway for me was being consistent. I am a typical ENFP, we are procrastinators, we sometimes like to procrastinate, slack and then completely stop doing a certain task or hobby. It’s very important to be cognizant of your feelings and energy, I am personally okay if someone wants to procrastinate because it lets you think, reflect and rest which allow your creative juices to recharge. But don’t take it to the extreme, because then it becomes septic and it might damage your productivity and later will lead to guilt for dropping a certain task or hobby. I call this “conscious procrastination”.
I highly recommend watching the TED talk by Adam Grant on the surprising habits of original thinkers.
Are you a conscious procrastinator? I would love to hear more from you on this.
Humane Male ❤