A Few Elementary Productivity Tips

2022-05-14 • 3 min read


I’m no productivity monster, but I know a thing or two about doing things, and am after all able to write a blog post a week, make music and read some while working a fairly demanding full-time job. (It helps, of course, to have, when times are busy, low enough standards that one is ok with publishing posts as lazy as this one.) Even if that does qualify me as a giver of advice, given that I do nearly all of my work in front of one or another computer, I should be frank and admit that that’s the only sort of productivity with which I have much experience. If your life goal is to go on a Lord of the Rings tour in New Zealand, commune with the ghost of Nietzsche or ascend to heaven as the rapture envelops us, you need to go somewhere else for advice. But if your life goal will involve a lot of button-mashing and screen-staring, I might be able to help.

When I write “productivity”, by the way, what I mean is “progress made on medium- and long-term goals per unit of time”. Not per unit of time that you are engaged in productive activities, but per unit of time that you would like to be so engaged. So if you’d like to write some blog post or read some book but keep getting distracted by your phone, then you are not productive. But if you’ve decided to allow yourself to spend the evening binge-watching a TV show or going to a bar, then you are neither productive nor unproductive (unless doing those things furthers one of your long-term goals).

It follows that there are two ways of becoming more productive:

  1. Getting more work done per unit of time you spend engaged in an activity.
  2. Spending more of the time you have apportioned (or would like to apportion) to an activity, actually engaged in that activity.

Because (1) depends on the nature of the activity, I will limit myself to some basic advice on (2):