Achieving Insane Productivity : While Maintaining Sanity
Recently I’ve had a few friends asked how I was able to become super productive, my reply was “I wish I’m more productive LOLz”. However In retrospect, I would agree with them given that so far my I started my career a little over a year ago and optimizing for productivity has become one of my own personal goals. As people often realize, goals can become obsessions and sometime ‘Working really hard’ can destroy your quality of life (paradoxically, don’t we work hard to pursue high quality of life in the first place?).
I was really scared of my personal work ethics when I first started and afraid I was going to burn out before I hit 25. However, after more than a year I started to realize that I can sustain the level of work, while putting everything else in maintenance mode and be really quite content with life 😃
So after endless podcasts, books, blog posts, here is my own distilled strategy for achieving insane productivity — while at the same time staying relatively sane (and happy!)
The Mindset: Living for a work (not work for a living)
The modern stipulation in society seems to be that one must maintain a level of ‘work life balance’ in order to be happy. While I’m an advocate of trying stuff outside your scope and changing up your routine, I’m absolutely anti-work life balance — and here’s why:
‘Work life balance’ has become an excuse for people to detach themselves from the work.
The truth is, most of the time in your adult life will be spent on your work. You will work 80% of the time so you could be doing what you want with the 20%? That can’t be right. Why not live in such way that you live the 20% in anticipation for the 80%? In other words, have the weekdays 9–5 be something you look forward to. Have the fruit of your labor be the labor itself. Your weekend is agonizing AF because you could be working right now.
When you a living for work, every decisions become easy. This mindset shift allows me to grow faster in my career, achieve more and derive more meaning out of live.
For this topic, I highly recommend the book ‘The One Thing’. The overarching question is what’s the number one most important thing you can do that will be everything else easier if not necessary. Once you have found that one thing, that one thing is your work.
The Strategy: Become a System thinker (Getting Things Done)
A pursue for maximum productivity often drives a person mad. Because our brain is not wired to remember every single schedules and meetings. The more meetings, events, meet-ups, courses, books you are trying to squeeze into your mind will consume you whole. How to maintain sanity? Having system in place so you are keeping track of everything
I took a lot of work to creating my own version of dummy-proof productivity. In fact I would argue that if I lose my short term memory of the past 2 months, I could still pick up the laptop and continue being productive in a span of few short days. How? Because I have a catch-all system that put everything in perspective. From an online course I might take someday, to super urgent email I have to send to a grocery shopping list. Nothing escapes the ever watchful eye of God — uhh, my productivity system.
As for a Productivity systems, I’m using a variation of GTD by David Allen, which I’m convinced is revolutionary.
The Tactics: Pomodoro + Time block + Night Ritual
On the implementation level, here are some individual techniques that I employ:
- Blocking out the time for Deep work: You can’t hop on to a chair and be expected to become super productive in 1 hours. To be at the top of your game, you need to be engaged in a Deep work, or in other words ‘Getting in the zone’. That often takes time! That’s why whenever I want to get stuff done I would block out at least 2–3 hours of focus.
- Pomodoro: Even though you block out a few hours of deep work, human attention span is very short and continuous work on just one thing can be very taxing. If you have long evening or afternoon ahead of you, I often use Pomodoro techniques. Basically you work for 20 minutes and rest for 5. I have a variation that I’ve tested is better for me (30 minutes work, 7 minutes break). I also made an simple web app for it which I use everyday @ http://worktimely.cheecharern.io (featuring a very kawaii UI)
- Night Ritual: Too much time is spent figuring out what to do rather than actually doing the work. Therefore my night ritual often involves listing out the tasks I’m going to do the next day. That way I’m more effective at doing the work (might actually make an app for this soon)
Kool books on Productivity
I’m a sucker for Thought leadership and productivity books, here are some personal favorites. Let me know if you have read some of these, or have some productivity tricks you deploy yourself. I’d love to talk (and geek out on) productivity over coffee 😃
- GTD by David Allen
- Deep Work by Cal Newport
- Rework by Jason Fried
- The One Thing by Gary Keller
- 4 Hour Work Week by Tim mynigga Ferriss
- The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker
- War of Art by Steven Pressfield