In “The Productivity Project… accomplishing more by managing your time, attention, and energy”, Chris Bailey documents his lessons from spending a year exploring theories & tactics and experimenting on how to improve productivity.

After graduation, Chris turned down two well-paying jobs to run experiments on himself like: meditating for 35 hours a week, working for 90 hours a week, waking up at 5:30 in the morning, going to the gym, and living in isolation for 10 days.

Key Insight

Productivity is in many ways similar to physical fitness or dieting.

Everybody wants to be more productive.  But it’s REALLY hard.  Because it involves habits that go against your fun- and excitement-seeking parts of the brain.

Similar to getting on a diet, today’s self has a strong incentive to cheat.

Sure, there are productivity hacks.  These are equivalent to the latest diet fads.  You’ll get some quick results but they’re only temporary.

The Big Idea

Productivity is all about how much you accomplish, and it’s determined by how you spend your time, attention, and energy.

The constant email checking, social media, and multi-tasking make you feel productive.  When in fact you’re giving in to distractions.

When you procrastinate, you’re wasting your time.  When you’re distracted, your attention gets divided too much.  And when you don’t let your energy levels replenish, you get burned out and feel tired.

Your Productivity Journey

A few tactics that work well and can get you started on your productivity journey are:

Start your day by writing down 3 things to accomplish today.  Like: spend 2 hours playing with my kids, read 100 pages of a book, and draft a new marketing plan. It will take time to figure out your capacity to execute so you may need to adjust the types of goals you set for yourself.

Externalize all the tasks floating around your mind in a to-do list, and keep updating it as new ideas pop up.  Because they can take up valuable mind-space and don’t let you truly focus.

And make sure to let your mind wander.  Your mind can process tons of information in the background – that’s why you have “eureka” moments in the shower – as long as you stop bombarding it with email and YouTube videos.


In the book, you’ll find many tactics and exercises to put you back in control of your time, attention, and energy.  The challenge is that improving your productivity is NOT sexy.

Often, you may feel guilty for taking time away from “work” by doing things like visiting a museum, exercising, or meditating.  But all these are investments that can boost your productivity over the long run.

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