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Mastering Productivity Summary

Summary

The more we reinforce ideas in our mind, the easier it is to recall these ideas. Eventually, new knowledge that previously required a lot of effort to implement becomes quick and intuitive. So let’s review the main points we covered in the book!

Section 1: Changing Your Everyday Behavior

  • Principle 1: Planning properly with schedules, charts, and outlines sets you up to be productive. Preparation ensures discipline and provides the structure for future success. 
  • Principle 2: Setting daily goals gives you a endpoint to march to each day. Splitting up larger tasks into micro-tasks lays out the waypoints along the road to your goal. Micro-tasks are also built-in progress meters and provide you with the small victories each day which will fuel you to your larger daily goal.
  • Principle 3: Staying in shape and being systematic about your fitness ensures that your mind is firing on all cylinders. Your mind and the cognitive power you bring to the fight each day is connected to the overall health of your body.
  • Principle 4: Eating right and being systematic about preparing and cooking your meals will help ensure that your mind is properly nourished and ready to be productive. Being efficient about food requires prior planning.

Section 2: Getting better over time

  • Principle 5: Self-knowledge is the key to unlocking your motivation. The more you understand about your desires and what you’re passionate about, the more likely you are to find work that is naturally fulfilling.
  • Principle 6: The more you practice, the easier tough tasks become. Being deliberate about practice and working on the skills you know you need to become successful requires a gritty approach. As you learn via practice, things that were once hard become second nature. Also recognize that you can work at something that you’re good at, but maybe not passionate about, to create time and space for your passions.
  • Principle 7: Measuring your time use (and misuse) is the first step to identifying ways to make yourself more efficient and to acknowledge problems associated with procrastination and time waste. 
  • Principle 8: Regulating your unproductive wants and desires is hard enough -- and unnecessarily harder if those things are constantly staring you in the face. If you’re dieting, would you find it helpful to put a chocolate cake on your dining table? Use tools and techniques to make it easier for you to exercise self-control, which will give you the time and space to get stuff done.
  • Principle 9: Set up a system to collect data about yourself in order to know where your strengths and weaknesses lie. Analyze the collected data regularly to figure out how to optimize your behavior. Feedback is the key to learning.

Section 3: Set yourself up to be successful

  • Principle 10: There are lots of ways to take the small annoyances out of your life like waiting in long lines at the grocery store where only a single cashier is on duty. Streamline these things away with services like Amazon Prime, Blue Apron, and Dollar Shave Club.
  • Principle 11: Controlling and optimizing your sensory environment can go a long to way helping you get stuff done. Getting into a “flow” state, when you hardly even notice that you’re working hard, is easier when there’s ambient noise. Changing up your work scenery can make you more productive as well. 
  • Principle 12: Social media is designed to keep you hooked. Unless you work in an industry where social media or reading the news is essential, paying attention to these bottomless pits of information will quickly sap your energy. Use a combination of physical and software tools to restrict your access to social media and news.

Section 4: Cut out the noise and focus

  • Principle 13: Do you ever feel like you spend half your day on email? You might be receiving a lot of email because you send a lot of email! Being more efficient in your communications, by employing multi-modal means (e.g., pick up the phone every once in awhile) means freeing up time to get more stuff done.
  • Principle 14: Meetings can be terribly inefficient. If the meeting doesn’t have an agenda that involves you, if no decisions are going to be made, and if you don’t have anything to contribute, don’t go!
  • Principle 15: Do more than one thing at a time by pairing effortful tasks, such as listening to an educational podcast, with cognitively simple work, like doing chores. But know and acknowledge the limits of multitasking: you’re worse at it than you realize and doing two effortful things simultaneously makes you worse at both things. Cutting down on interruptions such as email notifications helps too. 
  • Principle 16: Sometimes you hit a point of diminishing returns and it is better to recharge than to push ahead. Know your limits and know when to come back to a task! Also know that you can’t go on forever at the same pace -- being smart about breaks and vacations means being able to be productive for longer periods of time.
  • Principle 17: Procrastination is often rooted in fear of failure or disappointment. But that chronic fear will translate into a complete lack of results if left unchecked. Beat procrastination by just doing: whether it be reading, writing, running etc. regardless of whether it is good enough. Everyone’s first draft is rough, but the key is not to let that hold you back.
  • Principle 18: Design your day around your natural body rhythm. Mornings are usually the best time for work that requires high levels of concentration so protect your mornings at all costs. Afternoons are great for meetings and make sure you have scheduled in time for working out and sleeping.
  • Principle 19: Surround yourself with people who are willing to give you constructive criticism, who you can learn from and who will feed you positive energy when you need it.

Section 5: The "Big" One

  • Principle 20: Finally, never give up! By following the above principles, you’ll be able to both work smarter and harder.

[Bonus] Read our Epilogue: Eat the Cookie

Part 1 (Principles 1 thru 10) | Part 2 (Principles 11 thru 20)