Want a free copy of my brand new book, Real Help an Honest Guide to Self-Improvement? If you’re new to Audible you can get the book for free along with a trail membership (cancel anytime). Click here for more details.
I Googled “how to be productive” and saw all these 20 point lists with super-specific techniques. Unnecessary.
These posts teach you the opposite of productivity.
You don’t need a 20 point checklist to be productive. You don’t need a meticulously crafted rainbow-colored calendar. And you definitely don’t need to use apps.
Self-improvement as a whole has created too much complexity when all the answers are simple. If you want to improve your life, you just need to do all the things you know you need to do deep down,
I’m here just to remind you of the things you already know deep down,
That’s what’s so frustrating about productivity. It’s an open secret, yet you feel like it’s a mystery. You know what to do but get stuck on how to do it. You can feel the future potential in your bones, but you hit this wall when it comes to performing the right actions. That gap between who you are and who you could be, eats at you.
Let’s close the gap and revisit some useful ways to build momentum in your life.
To be productive, you must produce something. This is why so many activities actually fall into busy work and errands instead of real productive activity. Many people are active, but they’re not productive.
I produce something almost every day. I write a new blog post, a chapter of a book, and an email to send to my list. When you’re productive, you’re doing something that’s a means to an end. And not just a means to any end, a worthwhile end.
I’d rather you jump in early and focus on what matters while making a few mistakes than falling into the trap of thinking you’re productive but never producing anything of value for the world.
Much of the aimless energy in the world stems from the fact that people do work hard, they really do, but they work on the wrong stuff. This causes frustration and anxiety. You’re active, but you’re living life like a hamster running fast on a wheel that goes nowhere.
We’ve created a simultaneously hyperactive and useless culture. If you stopped doing so much misguided activity and started focusing on activities that made a difference in your life, you’d feel more motivated, wouldn’t burn out so easily, and the anxiety you have about living below your potential would go away.
If you want to be truly productive, you need a clear purpose and mission for your life. A mission doesn’t need to involve a ton of money, status, fame, etc, it simply requires you to do something you enjoy doing and care about. Not love. Not magical fairytale unicorn rainbow levels of passion.
Just enjoy and care.
Juxtapose a mission with a job. A mission if something you feel compelled to do. A Job is something you feel you have to do. The best part about creating a mission while you have a job? The motivation spills over from one into the other.
Say you work on your side project in the morning and hour or two before work. You’ll have more energy when you’re done with your morning session and you’ll be better equipped to deal with your job. You won’t feel as burnt out throughout the day because at least part of your day matters.
Feeling productive means you feel like you’re contributing something to the world. You can cultivate that feeling over time and it can grow exponentially the better you become at a new skill.
If you find a purpose in life, you’ll be productive in other areas, e.g., health, relationships, general time-management, too because you want to be able to do what you love more often. I keep myself healthy because I want to live longer and produce better work. I’m careful about who I choose to let in my life because I want to be around positive people only. As absent-minded as I am, having a writing career I care about has forced me to manage my time better.
Your life purpose is the stone that kills all birds.
Of course, this is no easy problem to solve, right? But it’s a worthwhile problem to solve! I don’t get why people throw up their hands at the task of finding their purpose. It’s supposed to be hard, genius. Otherwise, you wouldn’t want it.
Here are some of my best resources for finding your purpose in life to help you out:
Let’s say you do have a mission in mind — a side business, a hobby, a fitness goal. Whatever. How do you become productive while on that mission? Again, let’s look at more principles, not tips.
Ugh. I know what it feels like to be at stuck, zero, no progress, no results, just an uphill climb. Just thinking about the steps it would take to change your life exhausts you. I get it. There’s no easy answer to overcome inertia, but once you do, you can experience the power of momentum.
The more momentum you create, the easier it is to produce more, which creates more momentum, which makes it easier to produce, which creates the upward spiral success is built on.
Life is a game of upward and downward spirals. It’s a game of feedback loops. If you learn nothing else from me, understand this concept that is literally running your life.
Confident, motivated, and productive people just build better feedback loops than others. You take in feedback all the time, mainly in your behavior.
When you do excel at something, it sends a subconscious signal that says “you’re excellent.” Stack enough subconscious wins under your belt and you create a “winner effect.” You’ve experienced this at some point in your life in some areas.
You get lucky or you do work hard to succeed something. All of a sudden you have a bit more swagger. Did you magically become some superhuman? Nope, you just gave yourself permission to be confident due to feedback.
The most difficult part of the new life path isn’t the entire path itself, but the very beginning. If you can work on something for 90 days to 6 months, you are 80 percent of the way there.
Most bloggers quit writing before six months. The majority of people quit their diet and exercise before six months. People give up on hobbies before six months. But of course, you see the people who are still in the gym after the new year’s craze dies down, manage to get that blog up and running, learn the new language, etc.
Are they any different than you? Better? More motivated? Yes and no. Let me explain.
I’ve gone from very, very, very lazy to productive. I always ask myself how. I’ve been that stoner on the couch watching Netflix and porn in rotation all day. I’ve been a loser. This fact actually helps me write with more confidence because I know what it’s like to be on both sides.
I credit my productivity to three things. The first two I mentioned. I found my purpose and gained enough momentum to break the beginner’s barrier. But there was one more important source that changed everything for me.
I got really, really, really pissed off.
I was sick of being a loser, knew I had intelligence, and knew I had too much talent to be a bum. Pain and dissatisfaction are two of the most potent sources of productivity. I prefer them much more than inspiration.
Pain is so useful. People who literally don’t feel pain have a hard time staying alive.
They’re missing that crucial signal pain provides:
Something is wrong, fix it!
There are no easy answers to this problem, but sometimes feeling the weight of your inaction so badly that you feel compelled to do something is the best route you can take.
If you combine dissatisfaction with the search for purpose with momentum, you get to experience this level of productivity nirvana I’m going to describe next.
I opened the post by mocking 20 point productivity checklists because they miss the point entirely.
Those posts are like someone giving you a bunch of wood, nails, hammers, saws, etc, but failing to mention that you’re building a house with them.
Tools and tasks are a means to an end.
Productivity itself is a means to an end.
So many people are needlessly bowing to the altar of productivity, all the while never becoming productive, foolish.
Understand the principles, know why you’re doing what you’re doing, and the tasks themselves won’t matter at all.