Productivity (from Latin pro "before, forth" + ducere "to bring, lead") is the rate at which goods are produced. Studied as part of management_.

Write out tasks as clear tasks which can be evaluated as done or not.

Offline hours to eliminate distraction.

Routines to help set expectation about availably.

Avoiding "analysis paralysis".

Productivity is distinguished from being busy.

Personal productivity is important because it enables all other activity.


1   Factors

Skill is perhaps the most important factor.

Physical state:

Mental state:

Environmental factors:

Open questions:

2   Theory

Is it possible productivity works on a sine wave? Further, does it work on a daily level as well as yearly?

3   Workplace

Workstation popcorn: Find at least three different location to work from outside your house. Split up your work in three equal sized groups. Complete each group at a different location.

3.1   Interruption

Unscheduled interruption is ...

Some Kaiser hospitals also mark off "no-interruption zones" near medication dispensaries, using red floor tape or different-colored floor tiles, he says. Mr. Heisler says Kaiser got the idea for the program from federal regulators' "sterile-cockpit rule" for the airline industry, which prohibits interrupting pilots during critical times, such as takeoffs and landings.

Analyze source of interruption and either eliminate or reorganize them.

One way people can dive back into a task more quickly and reduce errors, research shows, is by bookmarking their place, marking the next step with a large, bright symbol such as a red arrow.

Extract research:

4   Procrastination

From Latin pro "for" and cras "tomorrow".

When we promise to save our money we are in a tempered state.

Related to initiative, temperance.

To some degree, a large amount of productivity can be recovered by simply eliminating procrastination. There are a number of reasons for procrastination.

4.1   Fear of failure

Tasks can be viewed either with a promotion focus, looking at the gains that result from a task, or a prevention focus, looking at what is kept by completing a task. For example, completing a task to impress one's boss would be a promotion focus, and completing a task to stay healthy would be a prevention focus. Prevention focus is enhanced by anxiety, and is recommended as a way of generating will.

4.2   Lack of motivation

The solution to this is just to get through it anyway. Ignore your feelings and forget inspiration.

4.3   Avoiding pain

Use if-then planning. For example, "If it is 2pm, then I will stop what I’m doing and start work on the report Bob asked for." By deciding in advance exactly what you're going to do, and when and where you’re going to do it, there's no deliberating when the time comes. It's when we deliberate that willpower becomes necessary to make the tough choice. In fact, if-then planning has been shown in over 200 studies to increase rates of goal attainment and productivity by 200%-300% on average. [?]

5   See also

6   References

Just some thoughts on the insane / pathological productive culture. We have tons of mantras:

"My mind," he said, "rebels at stagnation. Give me problems, give me work, give me the most abstruse cryptogram or the most intricate analysis, and I am in my own proper atmosphere. I can dispense then with artificial stimulants. But I abhor the dull routine of existence. I crave for mental exaltation. That is why I have chosen my own particular profession, or rather created it, for I am the only one in the world" - Sherlock Holmes

The conventional argument in favor of dual monitors rests on what might be called the two-window problem. Imagine, for instance, the process of writing a research report. You have a word processor open in one window, and, somewhere else on the screen, a web browser full of tabs pointing to research papers. To write the report, you need to shift your attention frequently from the browser to the word processor and back again. On a small display, it would be difficult to keep both windows open at the same time, so you’d waste time switching from one to the other. On a large multiscreen display, you can keep both windows open on your screen — and you save all that switching time.

The research supports this. One study commissioned by NEC and conducted by researchers at the University of Utah showed that people using a dual-display machine to do a text-editing task were 44 percent more productive than those who used a single monitor.


Our workplaces are bombarded with distractions. Studies show that office workers are interrupted every four to 11 minutes by external distractions including phone calls, email and people who stop by your desk to chat about the weekend.

Then there are self-motivated distractions, when, for no apparent reason, you quit working on your project and do something else — for instance, jump into the rabbit hole of the web.

A new study finds that even gentle lunchtime strolls can perceptibly — and immediately — buoy people’s moods and ability to handle stress at work.

It is not news, of course, that walking is healthy and that people who walk or otherwise exercise regularly tend to be more calm, alert and happy than people who are inactive.

But many past studies of the effects of walking and other exercise on mood have focused on somewhat long-term, gradual outcomes, looking at how weeks or months of exercise change people emotionally.

Fewer studies have examined more-abrupt, day-to-day and even hour-by-hour changes in people’s moods, depending on whether they exercise, and even fewer have focused on these effects while people are at work, even though most of us spend a majority of our waking hours in an office.

So, for the new study, which was published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports this month, researchers at the University of Birmingham and other universities began by recruiting sedentary office workers at the university.

Potential volunteers were told that they would need to be available to walk for 30 minutes during their usual lunch hour three times a week.

Most of the resulting 56 volunteers were middle-aged women. It can be difficult to attract men to join walking programs, said Cecilie Thogersen-Ntoumani, the study’s lead author and now a professor of exercise science at Curtin University in Perth, Australia. Walking may not strike some men as strenuous enough to bother with, she said. But she and her colleagues did attract four sedentary middle-aged men to the experiment.

The volunteers completed a series of baseline health and fitness and mood tests at the outset of the experiment, revealing that they all were out of shape but otherwise generally healthy physically and emotionally.

Dr. Thogersen-Ntoumani and her colleagues then randomly divided the volunteers into two groups, one of which was to begin a simple, 10-week walking program right away, while the other group would wait and start their walking program 10 weeks later, serving, in the meantime, as a control group.

To allow them to assess people’s moods, the scientists helped their volunteers to set up a specialized app on their phones that included a list of questions about their emotions. The questions were designed to measure the volunteers’ feelings, at that moment, about stress, tension, enthusiasm, workload, motivation, physical fatigue and other issues related to how they were feeling about life and work at that immediate time.

A common problem with studies of the effect of exercise on mood, Dr. Thogersen-Ntoumani said, is that they rely on recall. People are asked to remember hours or days after the fact how exercise made them feel. Given how fleeting and mysterious our emotions can be, recalled responses are notoriously unreliable, Dr. Thogersen-Ntoumani said.

Instead, she and her colleagues wanted in-the-moment assessments from people of how they felt before and after exercise. The phone app questions provided that experience, she said, in a relatively convenient form.

Then the first group began walking. Each volunteer was allowed to walk during one of several lunchtime sessions, all of them organized by a group leader and self-paced. Slower walkers could go together, with faster ones striding ahead. There was no formal prescribed distance or intensity for the walks. The only parameter was that they last for 30 minutes, which the volunteers had said would still allow them time to eat lunch.

The groups met and walked three times a week.

Each workday morning and afternoon during the first 10 weeks, the volunteers in both groups answered questions on their phones about their moods at that particular moment.

After 10 weeks, the second group began their walking program. The first group was allowed to continue walking or not as they chose. (Many did keep up their lunchtime walks.)

Then the scientists compared all of the responses, both between groups and within each individual person. In other words, they checked to see whether the group that had walked answered questions differently in the afternoon than the group that had not, and also whether individual volunteers answered questions differently on the afternoons when they had walked compared with when they had not.

The responses, as it turned out, were substantially different when people had walked. On the afternoons after a lunchtime stroll, walkers said they felt considerably more enthusiastic, less tense, and generally more relaxed and able to cope than on afternoons when they hadn’t walked and even compared with their own moods from a morning before a walk.

Although the authors did not directly measure workplace productivity in their study, “there is now quite strong research evidence that feeling more positive and enthusiastic at work is very important to productivity,” Dr. Thogersen-Ntoumani said. “So we would expect that people who walked at lunchtime would be more productive.”

Gretchen Reynolds. January 21, 2015. The Benefits of a Lunch Hour Walk.

We tend to assume that pressure makes us more efficient. I work fastest when I’m on deadline. I stretch my grocery budget the most when my funds are running low. But in reality, it’s not that you’re working better when you’re stressed. It’s that the opposite situation, overabundance, often makes us less efficient.

Mr. Shafir likens the effect to a traveler’s packing a suitcase. If you have a small suitcase, you have to be efficient when you pack, but with a big one, you can afford to leave some slack. True, it takes you less time (and fewer cognitive resources) to pack it, but as a result you may end up not packing it nearly as well. It wasn’t that the poor participants were doing better; it was that the rich ones were doing worse.

And yet the truth is that more often than not, techniques designed to enhance one’s personal productivity seem to exacerbate the very anxieties they were meant to allay.

“I’m mostly out of the productivity racket these days,” Mann told me.

Given that the average lifespan consists of only about 4,000 weeks, a certain amount of anxiety about using them well is presumably inevitable

The problem of how to manage time, accordingly, goes back at least to the first century AD, when the Roman philosopher Seneca wrote On The Shortness of Life. “This space that has been granted to us rushes by so speedily, and so swiftly that all save a very few find life at an end just when they are getting ready to live,” he said, chiding his fellow citizens for wasting their days on pointless busyness, and “baking their bodies in the sun”.

Seneca’s answer to the question of how to live had nothing to do with becoming more productive: it was to give up the pursuit of wealth or high office, and spend your days philosophising instead.

The time-pressure problem was always supposed to get better as society advanced, not worse. In 1930, John Maynard Keynes famously predicted that within a century, economic growth would mean that we would be working no more than 15 hours per week – whereupon humanity would face its greatest challenge: that of figuring out how to use all those empty hours.

Arguably the first time management guru – the progenitor of the notion that personal productivity might be the answer to the problem of time pressure – was Frederick Winslow Taylor, an engineer hired in 1898 by the Bethlehem Steel Works, in Pennsylvania, with a mandate to improve the firm’s efficiency.

The idea of efficiency that Taylor sought to impose on Bethlehem Steel was borrowed from the mechanical engineers of the industrial revolution. It was a way of thinking about improving the functioning of machines, now transferred to humans. And it caught on: Taylor enjoyed a high-profile career as a lecturer on the topic, and by 1915, according to the historian Jennifer Alexander, “the word ‘efficiency’ was plastered everywhere – in headlines, advertisements, editorials, business manuals, and church bulletins.” In the first decades of the 20th century, in a Britain panicked by the rise of German power, the National Efficiency movement united politicians on left and right. (“At the present time,” the Spectator noted in 1902, “there is a universal outcry for efficiency in all the departments of society, in all aspects of life.”)

It is not hard to grasp the appeal: efficiency was the promise of doing what you already did, only better, more cheaply, and in less time. What could be wrong with that?

In Taylor’s day, efficiency had been primarily a way to persuade (or bully) other people to do more work in the same amount of time; now it is a regimen that we impose on ourselves.

According to legend, Taylorism first crossed the threshold into personal productivity when Charles Schwab, the president of Bethlehem Steel, asked another consultant, a businessman named Ivy Lee, to improve his executives’ efficiency as well. Lee advised those white-collar workers to make nightly to-do lists, arranging tomorrow’s six most important tasks by priority, then to start at the top of the list next morning, working down. The story goes that when Lee told Schwab to test it for three months, then pay him what he thought it was worth, the steel magnate wrote him a cheque worth more than $400,000 in today’s money – and the time management industry was up and running.

Other gurus were to follow, writing bestsellers that modified Lee’s basic technique to incorporate the setting of long-term goals (the 1973 book How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life, by Alan Lakein, who boasted of having advised both IBM and Gloria Steinem, and who inspired a young Bill Clinton) and spiritual values (The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, published in 1989 by the Mormon efficiency expert Stephen Covey).

Time management promised a sense of control in a world in which individuals – decreasingly supported by the social bonds of religion or community – seemed to lack it. In an era of insecure employment, we must constantly demonstrate our usefulness through frenetic doing, and time management can give you a valuable edge. Indeed, if you are among the growing ranks of the self-employed, as a freelancer or a worker in the so-called gig economy, increased personal efficiency may be essential to your survival.

Above all, time management promises that a meaningful life might still be possible in this profit-driven environment.

An awkward truth about Taylor’s celebrated efficiency drives is that they were not very successful: Bethlehem Steel fired him in 1901, having paid him vast sums without any clearly detectable impact on its own profits.

Likewise, it remains the frequent experience of those who try to follow the advice of personal productivity gurus – I’m speaking from years of experience here – that a “mind like water” is far from the guaranteed result. As with Inbox Zero, so with work in general: the more efficient you get at ploughing through your tasks, the faster new tasks seem to arrive.

Then there’s the matter of self-consciousness: virtually every time management expert’s first piece of advice is to keep a detailed log of your time use, but doing so just heightens your awareness of the minutes ticking by, then lost for ever. As for focusing on your long-term goals: the more you do that, the more of your daily life you spend feeling vaguely despondent that you have not yet achieved them. Should you manage to achieve one, the satisfaction is strikingly brief – then it’s time to set a new long-term goal. The supposed cure just makes the problem worse.

There is a historical parallel for all this: it’s exactly what happened when the spread of “labour-saving” devices transformed the lives of housewives and domestic servants across Europe and north America from the end of the 19th century. Technology now meant that washing clothes no longer entailed a day bent over a mangle; a vacuum-cleaner could render a carpet spotless in minutes.

as the historian Ruth Cowan demonstrates in her 1983 book More Work for Mother, the result, for much of the 20th century, was not an increase in leisure time among those charged with doing the housework. Instead, as the efficiency of housework increased, so did the standards of cleanliness and domestic order that society came to expect. Now that the living-room carpet could be kept perfectly clean, it had to be; now that clothes never needed to be grubby, grubbiness was all the more taboo.

One of the sneakier pitfalls of an efficiency-based attitude to time is that we start to feel pressured to use our leisure time “productively”, too – an attitude which implies that enjoying leisure for its own sake, which you might have assumed was the whole point of leisure, is somehow not quite enough. And so we find ourselves, for example, travelling to unfamiliar places not for the sheer experience of travel, but in order to add to our mental storehouse of experiences, or to our Instagram feeds. We go walking or running to improve our health, not for the pleasure of movement; we approach the tasks of parenthood with a fixation on the successful future adults we hope to create.

Even rest and recreation, in a culture preoccupied with efficiency, can only be understood as valuable insofar as they are useful for some other purpose – usually, recuperation, so as to enable more work.

If the ethos of efficiency and productivity risks prioritising the health of the economy over the happiness of humans, it is also true that the sense of pressure it fosters is not much good for business, either.

thinking about time encourages clockwatching, which has been repeatedly shown in studies to undermine the quality of work.

In one representative experiment from 2008, US researchers asked people to complete the Iowa gambling task, a venerable decision-making test that involves selecting playing cards in order to win a modest amount of cash. All participants were given the same time in which to complete the task – but some were told that time would probably be sufficient, while others were warned it would be tight. Contrary to an intuition cherished especially among journalists – that the pressure of deadlines is what forces them to produce high-quality work – the second group performed far less well.

DeMarco points out that any increase in efficiency, in an organisation or an individual life, necessitates a trade-off: you get rid of unused expanses of time, but you also get rid of the benefits of that extra time. A visit to your family doctor provides an obvious example. The more efficiently they manage their time, the fuller their schedule will be – and the more likely it is that you will be kept sitting in the waiting room when an earlier appointment overruns.

A similar problem afflicts any corporate cost-cutting exercise that focuses on maximising employees’ efficiency: the more of their hours that are put to productive use, the less available they will be to respond, on the spur of the moment, to critical new demands.

“An organisation that can accelerate but not change direction is like a car that can speed up but not steer,” DeMarco writes. “In the short run, it makes lots of progress in whatever direction it happened to be going. In the long run, it’s just another road wreck.”

It's not hard to discern a familiar motive: the fear of death. No wonder we are so drawn to the problem of how to make better use of our days: if we could solve it, we could avoid the feeling, in Seneca’s words, of finding life at an end just when we were getting ready to live. To die with the sense of nothing left undone: it’s nothing less than the promise of immortality by other means.

But it also functions as a form of psychological avoidance. The more you can convince yourself that you need never make difficult choices – because there will be enough time for everything – the less you will feel obliged to ask yourself whether the life you are choosing is the right one.

Productivity presents itself as an cure to busyness when it is better understood as yet another form of busyness. And as such, it serves the same psychological role that busyness has always served: to keep us sufficiently distracted that we don’t have to ask ourselves potentially terrifying questions about how we are spending our days. “How we labour at our daily work more ardently and thoughtlessly than is necessary to sustain our life because it is even more necessary not to have leisure to stop and think,” wrote Friedrich Nietzsche. "Haste is universal because everyone is in flight from himself."

It doesn't matter how fast you move if it's in a worthless direction. Picking the right thing to work on is the most important element of productivity and usually almost ignored. So think about it more!

The most impressive people I know have strong beliefs about the world, which is rare in the general population. If you find yourself always agreeing with whomever you last spoke with, that’s bad. You will of course be wrong sometimes, but develop the confidence to stick with your convictions.

I’ve learned that I can’t be very productive working on things I don’t care about or don’t like. So I just try not to put myself in a position where I have to do them (by delegating, avoiding, or something else). Stuff that you don’t like is a painful drag on morale and momentum. (By the way, here is an important lesson about delegation: remember that everyone else is also most productive when they’re doing what they like, and do what you’d want other people to do for you—try to figure out who likes (and is good at) doing what, and delegate that way.)

Doing great work usually requires colleagues of some sort. Try to be around smart, productive, happy, and positive people that don’t belittle your ambitions. I love being around people who push me and inspire me to be better. To the degree you able to, avoid the opposite kind of people—the cost of letting them take up your mental cycles is horrific.

My system has three key pillars: “Make sure to get the important shit done”, “Don’t waste time on stupid shit”, and “make a lot of lists”.

I highly recommend using lists. I make lists of what I want to accomplish each year, each month, and each day. Lists are very focusing, and they help me with multitasking because I don’t have to keep as much in my head. If I’m not in the mood for some particular task, I can always find something else I’m excited to do.

I don’t bother with categorization or trying to size tasks or anything like that (the most I do is put a star next to really important items).

I have different times of day I try to use for different kinds of work. The first few hours of the morning are definitely my most productive time of the day, so I don’t let anyone schedule anything then. I try to do meetings in the afternoon. I take a break, or switch tasks, whenever I feel my attention starting to fade.

I don’t think most people value their time enough—I am surprised by the number of people I know who make $100 an hour and yet will spend a couple of hours doing something they don’t want to do to save $20.

Also, don’t fall into the trap of productivity porn—chasing productivity for its own sake isn’t helpful. Many people spend too much time thinking about how to perfectly optimize their system, and not nearly enough asking if they’re working on the right problems. It doesn’t matter what system you use or if you squeeze out every second if you’re working on the wrong thing.

The right goal is to allocate your year optimally, not your day.

I use a Chili Pad to be cold while I sleep if I can’t get the room cold enough, which is great but loud (I set it up to have the cooler unit outside my room)

This is likely to be controversial, but I take a low dose of sleeping pills (like a third of a normal dose) or a very low dose of cannabis_ whenever I can’t sleep.

I use a full spectrum LED light most mornings for about 10-15 minutes while I catch up on email. It’s great—if you try nothing else in here, this is the thing I’d try. It’s a ridiculous gain for me. I like this one, and it’s easy to travel with.

An opportunity cost box is a context where you don't have to worry about opportunity cost. For example, camping or a cabin. The problem with cities is there is too mcuh optionality.