Updated: Oct 3, 2019
Is there a scientific way to evaluate your productivity? This question has been popping up in my head for quite some time. Hence, like everyone, I've spent hours and hours reading books and listening to various podcasts such as:
[Book] Deep Work by Carl Newport
[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] Faiā Pack - started by George Siosi Samuels
HBR articles like No nonsense guide to measuring productivity
And many more, this list is endless to be very frank
Out of all of these, two resources that I found useful and impacted me the most are- George’s introduction to Faiā Pack and Carl Newport's book Deep Work. George introduced me to a completely new world of managing tasks, writing daily scrums, and using productivity tools like Trello, Slack, etc. It’s not like I have not used these before - I've spent months trying various tools like Todo, Evernote, Google Keep, Trello, Notion, etc. but nothing helped me with 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 do I 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?
The initial 2 weeks were crazy. I was all over the place, feeling lost and overwhelmed. Part of the reason was that I needed to plan my whole full day, but had no office or regular 9 to 5 work. I was my own boss, trying to figure out my next move - entrepreneur, freelancer, consultant, lifetime learner, joining a fellowship (in the US), listening to my mom, starting 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 insight into how to focus on deep work, minimize the distractions, and what it means to be highly productive.
Here are a 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 smartphones 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.”
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.”
I met George around this same time at Tribe Theory Bangalore. 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 Faiā Pack - a program for high performers, who are suffering from Lone Wolf Syndrome (i.e. trying to hustle or juggle things alone). That completely 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 our journeys.
This 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 everyday productivity. Let me show you how I do it (not sure how “scientific” it is, 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 in 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.
You can read enormous texts, research papers, and blogs about this subject, but productivity essentially distills down to 2 main things:
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.
Chunking - This is actually planning your day, week, month, quarter and even years. It doesn’t mean you need to stick to it to the tee, but it gives you a framework, a plan to fall back on so that you don’t fall into the trap of procrastination. However, procrastination can be good if it opens your door to creativity.
Combining the learnings of Deep Work and Faiā Pack has given me my secret recipe to personal productivity.
My productive score, at the time of this writing, was 8 out of 10 (7 for completing tasks and 1 for feeling positive about the work that I did).
What’s yours? Please share below.
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 allows your creative juices to recharge. Just don’t take it to the extreme, because then it becomes septic and it might damage your productivity. Later it will lead to guilt for dropping a certain task or hobby. I call this “conscious procrastination”.
Are you a conscious procrastinator too? I would love to hear more from you on this. I highly recommend watching the TED talk by Adam Grant on the surprising habits of original thinkers.
If you are someone who is a high performer, digital nomad, entrepreneur, freelancer, rule breaker, outlier, and a misfit but struggling to be productive or suffering from lone wolf syndrome, why not stop by and send us as an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We have just opened applications for our next Pack cohort. So if you are interested, click here to learn more.