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Productivity

  • Productivity is about efficency towards our goals: More work with less time. More results with less effort.
  • It’s important to remember that simply being efficent does not mean you’re actually being productive because you may be working really hard to not reach your goals.

Books

Some books I consider essential which helped me a lot over the years. They’re fairly mainstream books for productivity nerds, but maybe it’s worth listing them.

  • Getting Things Done — Classic. Introduces key ideas of “inboxes”, “projects”, and the processing workflow. Important to remember that many have failed making complicated systems. Most have found actually using GTD to manage their entire life is unsustainable. Still, a lot to be gained from reading the book.
  • Four Thousand Weeks — New, but instant classic. You have ~4000 weeks to live if you make it to your life expectancy. In the scheme of the universe a blip of time. Important to have realistic concepts of “what you’re meant to do”, “who you’re supposed to meet”, and etc. Primary Theme: Remember to LIVE life instead constantly chasing after it with productivity hack after productivity hack.
  • Deep Work — tldr; Stop using things that distract you. Slack/Email/Etc. notifications; Social Media, TikTok, Youtube…; To do “deep” meaningful work requires space for your brain to do it’s job.
  • So Good They Can’t Ignore You — Forgot the details, but I remember it to be a good book. Same author as Deep Work
  • Four Hour Workweek — Another classic. The key ideas here are around automation and “working hard” != “smarter”. The literal advice from the book is dated, but the principals behind the advice are still relevant (e.g. the links are probably dead and etc).
  • Four Hour Chef — Great follow up to Four Hour Workweek which teaches you about cooking, but Actually Teaches You about Tim’s methods for learning new topics quickly by using Cooking as an example. Also good for learning Cooking…

Principals of Productivity

  • “Only things which spark joy” — It’s better to only keep the things around you which you actually really like or need. For most people that is far less than they have. The essential things for some is much more.
  • Everything must have a place — Keeping a place clean becomes impossible if you must figure out where to put things every time you’re cleaning up. Having places for things also makes it easy to viserally feel that you may have too much. This is important for keeping your space as clean as needed without the need for a big clean.
  • Remember to clean your digital spaces too — Your desktop, your documents, the people you follow on twitter. It’s important to clean these out regularlly (2-4x a year?) to keep them fresh.
  • Tools do not fix things1 — Productivity follows from a process which tools can be made to make more efficient. E.g. for knowledge work less congnitive switching is best so first there needs to be a process for that (e.g. async work, etc.). Tools can be made from there.
  • Productivity is managing short-term pain for long term benefit — We have issues going to the gym, but not watching movies for hours. Even though the gym provides more long term benefits (and we KNOW that).
    • Solution is NOT “pushing through — “sleep when I’m dead”.
    • Being passionate about the work is not a long term solution; besides are you sure you’re passionate about X and not just using it as a coping mechanism? Do you REALLY love League of Legends? REally?
    • Find ways to enjoy the work — First, allow yourself to think it’ll be fun. Take the work sincerely, not seriously. Give yourself permission to have fun while doing it. Respect importance of your work with proper attention, but also give space to make it enjoyable.
  • Productivity can not fix setting bad goals or impossible deadlines — Productivity makes us more efficent, but everything has a limit. If your job/work makes you miserable it may not be enough to “make it fun”. If the goal is to write a best selling novel in a week productivity hacks are not going to make it more possible.
  • Do not consume endless productivity content — YouTube, Books, Podcasts, etc.; At some point you need to stop. You must implement things. You MUST start doing whatever your work is even if inefficent. Listening to content at 2x speeds doesn’t make you learn more. In fact you’ll probably learn less.
    • Speed reading and listening is great for getting a sense of what is out there, but at some point you must take the time to actively listen and retain the information which is important.

Research

“Paper >>> Technology” in Meetings or Lectures

Researchers studied students in classrooms at West Point showing students using laptops in class fail to learn or retain less information than others.

  • Typing on a keyboard is faster than writing by hand. Writing by hand requires you to process and synthesize the information actively to compress it to keep up. This compression process actually enables the brain to learn the concepts.
  • Because typing is so fast it can transcribe the lecture allowing students to not need to actively learn as much.
  • Worth noting is that laptops contain many distractions and requires more will power to not become distracted than paper.
  • Very few students review notes later. So it’s important to use note taking method which best enables retention: Paper notes.
  • Study did not say laptops are not useful. Clearly if you transcribe your notes later you have another chance to see and process the information. Once in the computer it’s far easier to keep with you, keep safe, and makes it searchable. Using something like Roam or Obsidian also helps you link together topics and make more connections between concepts.

Verdict: Buy a nice notebook and pen. Use that in your classrooms for notes. If it’s important scan it into your computer later or transcribe the note; Later versions of iOS can read hand writing and let you copy it from the camera into your notes. If it’s drawings just redo the drawings via an iPad later or similar instead of bringing it with you.


  1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_LHh1TD4xOY ↩︎

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