What is productivity?
Personal productivity can be associated with many different things simultaneously: getting more stuff done in a timely manner, setting goals and accomplishing them, measuring value from the consumed resources.
However, first of all, personal productivity should be seen as a skill that is not different from any other one – a skill that can be definitely improved with practice.
If you want to develop a certain skill, one of the first things to do is to identify influential thought leaders who will help you learn in a smarter way and who will keep you motivated.
Therefore, if you want to become more productive, start with following the so-called productivity gurus who do not only live extremely interesting and fulfilling lives by themselves but also find time and strength to inspire thousands of others every day to do so.
1. Tim Ferris
Have you ever dreamt of quitting your office job and moving far away from your hometown to start your own business that will allow you to achieve more things with less effort? So has Tim. Probably, the only difference between you and him is that he actually found the courage to quit everything one day and start a new life.
His fascinating life story has started exactly when he got sick of his boring salesman job and decided to found his own retail business. In some years, after he managed to arrange a successful sale of his new company to a PE firm, Tim decided to write a book about his experience. He called it “The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich”. Unfortunately, in the beginning the book was rejected by first 25 (!) publishers, but Tim didn’t give up and tried again. As a result of 26th attempt, his book was approved for publishing. The agency definitely did not regret about this decision afterwards – more than 1.4M copies of The 4-Hour Workweek were sold worldwide and for a long time it has been No. 1 on the New York Times/ Wall Street Journal / BusinessWeek bestseller lists, which made Tim famous around the world.
If you have not read The 4-Hour Workweek yet, below you can find some of my favorite quotes from the book or you can watch the wonderful animated review from startup Dojo:
- What we fear doing most is usually what we most need to do
- You are the average of the five people you associate with most, so do not underestimate the effects of your pessimistic, unambitious, or disorganized friends. If someone isn’t making you stronger, they’re making you weaker
- Being able to quit things that don’t work is integral to being a winner
- The opposite of love is indifference, and the opposite of happiness is boredom.
- Focus on being productive instead of busy. For all of the most important things, the timing always sucks. Waiting for a good time to quit your job? The stars will never align and the traffic lights of life will never all be green at the same time. The universe doesn’t conspire against you, but it doesn’t go out of its way to line up the pins either. Conditions are never perfect. “Someday” is a disease that will take your dreams to the grave with you. Pro and con lists are just as bad. If it’s important to you and you want to do it “eventually,” just do it and correct course along the way.
After The 4-Hour Workweek, Tim has launched several other evenly successful projects. He published two other great self-help bestsellers about getting fit (The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman) and about cooking (The 4-Hour Chef: The Simple Path to Cooking Like a Pro, Learning Anything, and Living the Good Life), started a great blog and one of the most downloaded ITunes podcasts about personal productivity and success – “Tim Ferris show” and launched amazing TV show “Tim Ferris Experiment“, where he pushes himself to the breaking point, attempting to learn difficult skills—surfing, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, languages and etc.—in just one week each with world best teachers.
Bestseller writer and blogger, angel investor, advisor to multibillion corporations, Chinese kickboxing champion, Guinness World Record for tango-spins holder and member of several charity organizations. Sometimes you may think that Tim was just born as a super-human, however when you get to know him more, you realize that it is all only about his can-do attitude and hard work, which can not be more motivating and inspiring than it actually is.
2. Mike Vardy
Another must-know name for everyone, who wants to become more productive, is Mike Vardy. Mike is the owner of the Productivityist project that includes blog & podcast. Productivityist is trying to help people “stop ‘doing’ productive and start ‘being’ productive through a variety of online and offline resources”.
Mike is also a writer, an editor and a guest publisher in many other famous online magazines and websites like The Huffington post, 99U, Lifehacker. Moreover, he has published a book called “The Front Nine: How to Start the Year You Want Anytime You Want”, where he uses the metaphor of a game of golf to illustrate his approach to launching new projects in business and in personal life.
Personally, I like Productivityist mostly because of the technology section and guests interviews: Mike always gives very in-depth description of apps and explains how to use them in the most efficient way and invites many knowledgeable guests for discussion.
Check out some interesting ideas from Productivityist:
- Routines are the ideal way to bookend your day. I think they are the building blocks of effectiveness, efficiency, and efficacy
- Your mind is meant to be a factory, not a warehouse. So, the more freedom you give it to be able to work, the better it will function
- Anything you’re trying to stick to routinize – put it at the beginning or at the end of your day. And make sure it is consistent.
3. Cal Newport
Cal Newport is the most popular productivity enthusiast in the sphere of academics and definitely must-follow for all students and young professors.
Currently, Cal is an Assistant Professor of Computer Science at Georgetown University, who specializes in the theory of distributed algorithms. He has a Ph.D. from MIT and writes a blog Study Hacks focusing on personal productivity aspects, studying techniques and the impact of new technologies on the way how people work.
Also, Cal is a great writer featured by many prestigious magazines, such as The Wall street journal, The economist and New York Times Book Review.
If you are in science/consulting, you will definitely love his books, because they are extremely well-structured. Following the standard scientific research/consulting project structure, first of all, he introduces hypothesis, tests it and then provides very well-researched arguments in favor/against of initial hypothesis. His books are full of interesting facts and at the same time it is very easy to read them.
I highly recommend to read all of them:
- How to Become a Straight-A Student – especially for students struggling with numerous deadlines, papers, and assignments, but also it can perfectly work for all life learners
- So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love for everyone who is not 100% sure of what they want to do with their life in long-term or who are not happy with their current work
- Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World – basically for everyone who is struggling with concentration – who is unsuccessfully trying to focus on important task but always ends up being distracted in a couple of minutes
Check out a couple of interesting ideas from Cal:
- Passion comes after you put in the hard work to become excellent at something valuable, not before. In other words, what you do for a living is much less important than how you do it
- If you want to love what you do, abandon the passion mindset (“what can the world offer me?”) and instead adopt the craftsman mindset (“what can I offer the world?”)
- To remain valuable in our economy, therefore, you must master the art of quickly learning complicated things. This task requires deep work. If you don’t cultivate this ability, you’re likely to fall behind as technology advances
- Deep work is one of the most valuable skills in our economy that is becoming increasingly rare. If you master this skill, you’ll achieve extraordinary results.
4. David Allen
Speaking about productivity gurus, I can not help mentioning the creator of one of the most popular time management systems of all times and a bestselling author of the book “Getting things done“ – David Allen – who is widely recognized as the world’s leading expert on personal and organizational productivity.
In general , Getting things done methodology, known as GTD, is based on storing, tracking and retrieving the information related to all the things that need to be done. GTD encourages us to apply ‘front-end’ planning – thinking in advance, generating a series of actions, introducing “reminders” and keeping it all in one external “trusted system” to free our minds from related worries and concerns.
GTD has been a real hype for more than 10 years. People around the whole world are eager to pay thousands of dollars to attend GTD seminars, huge communities have been formed to facilitate implementation of GTD principles, and several successful businesses related to GTD methodology have been launched.
Personally I think that GTD is a great technique, but it is far not for everyone. However, undoubtedly all of us can take something useful from this book to implement it in our daily lives to become more organized.
If you have missed this trend and you have not read this book yet, you can easily get the core concept if you check the YouTube video-summary or PPT presentation. Also, find some quotes from the book below:
- If you don’t pay appropriate attention to what has your attention, it will take more of your attention than it deserves
- Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them
- You don’t actually do a project; you can only do action steps related to it. When enough of the right action steps have been taken, some situation will have been created that matches your initial picture of the outcome closely enough that you can call it “done”
- Use your mind to think about things, rather than think of them. You want to be adding value as you think about projects and people, not simply reminding yourself they exist.
5. James Clear
Another great productivity blogger to follow is James Clear. In his blog James writes about a wide range of topics covering motivation, habits, emotional intelligence, system thinking, lifelong learning. His job has been featured by dozens of famous sources.
Especially I like the fact that James’ publications are mostly research-based: he tries to uncover the latest scientific research about living a better life and to explain it in a simple way that can be easily understood and applied to life by people without any academic background. Also, James constantly analyzes the behavior and routines of many other successful people – athletes, artists, and entrepreneurs and to build the common characteristics theory that make these people the best at what they do.
Find some of his ideas below:
- Becoming the type of person you want to become — someone who lives by a stronger standard, someone who believes in themselves, someone who can be counted on by the people that matter to them — is about the daily process you follow and not the ultimate product you achieve
- Success usually comes down to choosing the pain of discipline over the ease of distraction
- Consider every thought you have as a suggestion, not an order. Right now, my mind is suggesting that I feel tired. It is suggesting that I give up. It is suggesting that I take an easier path. If I pause for a moment, however, I can discover new suggestions. My mind is also suggesting that I will feel very good about accomplishing this work once it is done. It is suggesting that I will respect the identity I am building when I stick to the schedule. It is suggesting that I have the ability to finish this task, even when I don’t feel like. Remember, none of these suggestions are orders. They are merely options. I have the power to choose which option I follow
- If you want to make a masterpiece, you have to be willing to create a little garbage along the way
Moreover, James is a successful weightlifter, great photographer and a big world traveler.
Thanks for reading and I hope you managed to find some inspiration and motivation in these extremely productive people and you will keep up the good work to become more like them.
If you want to have a full list of people whom I follow to stay up-to-date regarding all productivity-related topics, feel free to mention it in the comment section or just drop me a message and I will certainly share the file with you.
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