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The Most Productive People I Know Have These Simple Habits

by | Oct 17, 2022 | Life Hacks

Poon survived 33 days alone in the middle of the sea.

In 1942 the British merchant ship he boarded got torpedoed by a German U-boat. Super unlucky.

As the ship sank Poon managed to get a lifejacket on. After 2 hours in the water he climbed aboard a floating raft. Some drinking water supplies, cookies, and flares were onboard.

The other 53 crew members all died.

Poon stayed alive on the raft by eating the food and water onboard. But the stash ran out. Each day he’d make tools from his supplies. He turned a biscuit tin into a knife, and a wire from a torch into a fishing hook.

He jumped into the shark-infested waters daily and swam to stay fit. Even though he lost weight he kept his muscles. He used the leftover food as bait to catch fish. He kept some of those fish as bait to get more fish.

Every day he’d use a tarp to collect rainwater to drink. Several times ships passed that could have rescued him. But they didn’t stop.

He thinks it was because he was Asian.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons (Poon on his raft)

Another theory is that ships thought his rescue was a trap, so the German U-boats could surprise attack them. Poon never wanted to give up easily. He just did his daily habits and kept the faith.

Further into his sea adventure he added the daily task of killing birds. He used those birds to lure an unsuspecting shark. He brought the shark aboard the raft and it attacked him. He used a water jug to fight the beast.

And won.

After 133 days at sea Poon entered a river inlet and drifted towards land. A group of Brazilian fishermen saw his raft. Poon waived his shirt and they picked him up and took him to the hospital. The English king later gave him a medal for heroic survival.

All life rafts from then on have a pamphlet filled with Poon’s survival techniques.

I tell you this story because it demonstrates the power of simple productive habits. If Poon had gone all big-picture and thought too much about how he’d live, he’d have died instantly.

Instead he took it one day at a time. He started with small habits, like eating the supplies he had. Then he gradually added more habits that kept him alive for so long.

This is what the most productive people I’ve ever met do, too.

Stop doing pointless crap

It’s easy to waste time on low-value tasks.

I got stuck today. My phone got a call from an American number. My brain got all excited and wanted to answer. Why? Because of the uncertainty. Who could it be, I wonder?

The call ended up being a telemarketer. They sucked me into a pointless survey and ruined my good mood.

If you want to get more done then do less pointless crap.

This is the #1 time to start an important task

If you decide a task is important and worth completing, one barrier we all face is a lack of time.

We’re busy so we can’t get it done. Waiting until you’re less busy has the baked-in assumption that you’ll do it when you get time.

This is a paradox.

If you won’t start the task because you’re too busy, when you do finally start the task once time frees up, you’ll stop doing the task again when you get swamped. This is setting you up to fail.

The best time to start a new task is when you’re busy. If you can make it work on a busy schedule you can make it work on any schedule.

Start when you’re busy.

Do this if you don’t have enough opportunities

All day long I get “Hi” messages on LinkedIn.

There’s no other text. Just “Hi.”

Each of them is secretly looking for more opportunities. Here’s what the best in the world do: say yes more often if you’re low on opportunities. Say no more often if you are low on time.

Get up close and dirty with productivity guilt

When you’re ambitious and building a life for yourself, it’s easy to feel guilty when you’re not working or doing productive tasks.

The downside is productivity guilt makes you relax and rest less. That’s not good. You need rest and relaxation to let the creative dots in your head join together when you least expect it.

Rethink what rest and relaxation mean. See them as part of your future success.

Ask yourself “do I want this right now?”

When we get asked to do something we delay replying for one big reason:

We’re not excited.

We don’t want to admit that’s the case but it is. The way to beat this feeling is ask yourself “do I want this right now?” If the answer is no then chances are the ask isn’t exciting enough and you should delete it.

This makes a huge difference to how productive you are

Many people try to be productive and fail. Why?

Well if they only focus on results, it’s hard to have energy to get through each task. But if you love what you do then being productive doesn’t feel like productivity at all.

The solution isn’t to become more productive. It’s to choose to be productive at things you love.

It’s to eliminate more of the work your brain labels bullsh*t work and replace it with meaningful work you care deeply about. It won’t happen overnight but it can 100% happen.

“When you’re worn out the way you see the world changes”

Nathanial Drew said this and he’s one of my favorite Youtubers.

Sometimes we think the world is screwed or we wake up each day and don’t care so much that we’re alive. We grind for the sake of grinding.

Burnout alters how we see the world.

  • A tired mind sees problems everywhere.
  • A tired mind can’t think of a positive thing to say.
  • A tired mind thinks me, me, me all day.

Instead of chasing new opportunities or getting sucked in by dopamine-giving temptations like Netflix, the answer is to take time off and recover.

The badass Sunday activity to 10x productivity

My friend Justin sent me these questions via email that he asks himself every Sunday:

• What can I remove from my calendar?

• What’s on my calendar that can be automated?

• What’s something that should be delegated, but isn’t?

• Is there anything on my calendar that isn’t urgent & important?

• Can any important meetings be 50% shorter?

• How can I maximize family time?

• Is there anything missing?

This is his weekly preview that lets him delete any problems and remove roadblocks before the week has begun.

Starting with an elimination mindset is one of the best things you can do for your productivity.

The stupidly simple way to speed up delegated tasks

When you delegate a task it goes on someone else’s pile of to-dos.

The problem is they have other demands on their time other than yours. To keep your task top of mind and get it done faster, all you do is politely follow up.

I find the right amount of time between follow-ups is 48 hours.

The idea of “attention residue”

Productivity guru Sahil Bloom says high-performers can turn off external stressors and get stuff done.

They focus on one task and don’t let others cloud their thinking. They understand that attention residue from another task can bleed into the current task and destroy performance.

Learn to compartmentalize if you want to change the world.

This one’s going to get me in trouble. Screw it.

I like to work hard.

Currently society hates anyone who says this. We’ve become productivity snowflakes and the idea of hard work is seen as bad. Good luck ever succeeding at anything if you’re not willing to work hard.

The problem isn’t hard work.

As I said before, it’s doing work you don’t care about to impress a boss or achieve some BS status in society.

When you do tasks you love it doesn’t feel like work at all.

One of the things I notice productive people do is surround themselves with other productive people. In a group where everyone is productive in their chosen field of work, it’s harder to be a lazy ass and watch TikTok.

That’s the brutal truth no one wants to hear. Sorry not sorry.

The counter-intuitive productivity hack that will flip your world upside down

High-performers don’t give a damn about being productive all the time.

(Wait, what? After all the other tips above Timbo?)


We’re not robots. We can’t be productive every second of the day. If you do the same schedule over and over you get bored out of your mind. It’s why most people’s 9-5 jobs suck the life out of them.

The trick is to vary your routine, frequently change environments, and for the love of god, embrace randomness.

Random moments are some of the best moments in life. That’s what the most productive people I know have taught me.

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