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Unconventional Productivity

I think I’m a fairly productive person—I thought it’d be interesting to categorize some of my work-style habits as following the conventional wisdom around productivity or not.

Conventional

  • I’m generally at or around inbox-zero.
  • I make sure to get plenty of sleep and generally rise early.
  • I drink coffee (or some other caffeinated beverage) in the mornings.
  • My workdays are pretty rigidly scheduled—I’m firmly operating on a manager’s schedule.
  • I make sure to lower the activation energy of “productive” activities.
  • I take notes when listening (to meetings, lectures, etc), mostly as a tool to keep me focused on the conversation. I rarely reference most of those notes, except notes about 1:1s.

Unconventional

  • I aggressively multitask—for example, I’m writing this post while at the gym. On my laptop, I’m always juggling between windows and tabs.
  • Similarly, I keep notifications on. I’ve found that fast response times are more important uninterrupted focus blocks for my current role.
  • I don’t separate my work and personal spaces—I do pretty much everything from my desk.
  • I don’t listen to music while I work.
  • When I do have free time, I rarely force myself to spend time on any particular task. Instead, I prefer to have lots of optionality, and work on what’s interesting to me at the time. This could be work, a side project, reading, writing, or even just zoning out on YouTube.
  • A lot of my work is done just-in-time. I prioritize having a big set of mental models to draw from so that most of my ideas and decisions are just pattern-matching. Said differently, I invest in generalizable pre-work that’s applicable to a wide range of specific problems.

I think the broader point I’m trying to make with this list is that being “productive” isn’t really about following a set of prescribed rules—like most things in the real world, it’s complicated and intensely personal. I’ve tried most of the conventional wisdom before ending up where I am today, more productive than before.

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