Productivity lessons from Mark Zuckerberg’s closet.

When I worked in a big corporation, productivity meant staying in the office longer than necessary.
I was lucky enough to work from home on Fridays, so I perfected all my processes. By 2pm I had already done all my tasks for the day, and half of my tasks for Monday and Tuesday. I then took the rest of the afternoon to read a book.
During the week, it was different. On some days, I would finish work at 1pm but was brow-beaten into staying in the office until 7pm with nothing to do. No wonder my documents were always so well formatted.

When I worked in my first business, productivity meant never saying no.
I have seen this over and over again with clients working on their first project. Founders and small teams get caught in a frenzy where you have to do everything.
Because there isn’t a clear direction, fear of missing out and vanity metrics favour a “spray-and-pray” approach.
When you’re working a lot and seeing relatively low results (that matter I mean), hopefully you start to question things.

It took me years, but I finally understood that productivity means doing less, and doing what matters only.
Doing less, but better.
This doesn’t just apply to work, but to all areas of your life.
Like a healthy diet, it only works if adopted as a lifestyle. It’s too easy to binge back to being unhealthily unproductive.

So what do a lot of productive people have in common?

Have a look.
Here’s Mark Zuckerberg closet:

Google “Obama Suit” and you’ll only find two colours:

And of course, remember Steve Jobs’ outfit?

They are doing one thing: reducing daily choices.

Obama has actually told Vanity Fair:

“You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits, I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.”

Willpower runs your day.

Research from Columbia University has shown that willpower is like a muscle. Every time you make a decision is like doing another rep on that willpower muscle: it gets tired.

After a few decisions, your muscle will be too tired to make another one.

This phenomenon is known as decision fatigue.

Have you noticed how most bad decisions are taken late in the day?
Decision fatigue is responsible for every time you’ve skipped the gym, every time you said yes to that dessert, or went to sleep way to late before a big day.

Productive people reduce the amount of daily choices they need to take by using automation: they look at unimportant priorities and reduce or eliminate choice.
Like Obama said, this leaves enough willpower to make important decisions.

We all have decisions to make.

What to watch on Netflix. What to eat for dinner. What to wear. Should I buy a house. When to meditate. What article to read in your “read it later” list. Should I spend more time with the people I love. What tweets to reply to. What do you want to learn today. What education do you want to give your children. What events to say yes to. What face to swipe right. What email to reply to. Should I get some good night sleep. Should I buy another gadget. What to have for lunch. Should I put myself in debt. Should I eat another chocolate. Should I ask her/him out. Should I do something from my bucket list. What to work on today. What do I want to achieve this year. Should I eat a McDonald’s.

It’s up to you which ones you want to use your willpower on.

— Matt


PS: If you’re tired of endless todos that don’t bring you anywhere, and want to be effective and create change in your life, check out my upcoming free email course Busy to Productive.