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When I Researched the Most Productive and Successful People, I Saw These Commonalities

by | Feb 6, 2023 | Success

I’m a good lil’ self-help boy.

I spend much of my free time studying productivity. But unlike most people in the field, I’m looking for paradoxes.

I’m looking for counter-intuitive approaches instead of have a cold shower and play with yourself. Everyone from Mr Beast to Usain Bolt has different ideas on how to be more productive.

Here are the best productivity ideas I’ve found to give you more time and do more of what you love.

Optimization is for chumps

The problem with productivity culture is everyone gets as a high as a kite on jamming more crap into their days.

This is wrong.

Zach Pogrob helped me understand the disease I suffer from. I’m not overly productive. No. I’m downright obsessed, crazy even.

When you’re obsessed with your work and mission in life you don’t need stupid hacks or 4 am cold showers to get stuff done.

Obsession bleeds into everything you do. It creates the flow states and provides the energy needed to obliterate massive goals.

Most people don’t need to optimize. They need to find something worth obsessing over.

Understand this harsh truth about why we procrastinate

The productive and successful people I’ve studied know why they procrastinate. The reason is fear.

When we’re afraid or feeling imposter syndrome we procrastinate on the work we must do. Once you consciously know that you can get past the barrier.

But procrastination gets a bad rap.

Part of my daily writing process driven by obsession is to actively procrastinate. Procrastination is what kickstarts my creativity.

I love to throw on some inspiring Youtube videos and waste lots of time. Then at some point in the process it feels just right to begin to write.

I used to get angry at myself for doing this. Now I see it as a crucial ingredient to any tiny success I’ve had.

See the double-edged sword of procrastination as both fear of what lies ahead and also a kickstarter of creativity. Sorry productivity gurus…

Procrastination is the way.

Do this odd thing every day (and watch it change your life)

Productivity master James Clear says “do one thing per day that compounds.”

Not all tasks and habits are even. Some produce results, others produce compound results. The most productive and successful people chase compound activities.

The two compound activities I chase are writing online and investing.

  • Writing online lets me build an audience that compounds and grows bigger over time without any extra effort.
  • Investing money allows me to get time wealthy so I don’t have to blow my time on a dumb boss who doesn’t understand my obsession for unfiltered creativity done in a flow state.

The same opportunity exists for you.

  1. What’s one activity you could do that compounds?
  2. How can you unlock the magic of leverage?

Working 3x less doesn’t make you lazy

Conventional productivity advice says to hustle your face off.

Watch all that struggle p*rn and then go work 16 hours straight until you don’t hate yourself or feel guilty anymore, soldier!


The quality of your work gets better when you work less.

Don’t trust me. Read stoicism, philosophy, and study high performers. They all reference this counter-intuitive idea.

The struggle I’ve had is to keep my attention away from work when I’m not working. If I take my phone with me on a family trip with my 12 week old daughter, it’s too tempting to sneak a peak.

The problem is I teleport out of my head and away from my gorgeous newborn baby, and drift off into the land of work and mind control algorithms again. I’m supposed to have time off but my mind doesn’t rest.

If I follow this pattern for long enough my work becomes dog sh*t.

Rest is what makes you creative. Creativity is what makes your work stand out and improve in quality.

We need to work less to improve our work.

They bizarrely know why they get distracted

When I worked an email job inside a cubicle prison, I used to get distracted a lot. I’d shoot my mouth off with anyone who walked by.

I now know from my productivity studies that I did this because I was as bored as a circus Panda stuck inside a zoo in the middle of winter.

Boredom can be a sign the work you do sucks. If you ignore it, you’ll likely never make a change and stay stuck.

You’re not easily distracted. You’re painfully bored.

Screw morning routines. Try this peculiar routine.

Morning routines are a new form of Jesus.

I see them all over my social media timelines. As if all you need is a morning routine and you’ll magically become Richard Branson and own the New York Jets.

When I studied the most successful and productive people I noticed it wasn’t morning routines that made them badass. No.

It was evening routines.

They realize their day starts the night before. So a few hours before bed, they seem to dump their thoughts onto paper or computer by writing and then plan tomorrow.

The plan often shrinks. They’re looking to reduce tasks, not try to jam in more. A second look before the day starts often shows them they have too much on their schedules already.

A schedule lies to us, too. It has the tasks scheduled on our calendar. What’s not accounted for is the before-meeting and post-meeting stress. Before I jump into a one-hour Zoom call I go to the toilet, breathe, stress, prepare, procrastinate, think about what I’m going to say, etc.

Then after the Zoom call I think “did I say too much,” “did I talk too much,” “did I help this person.”

1-hour meetings have 30 minutes pre and post stress which makes them 2 hours in total length. You can only do a few of them before your mind burns out and you get Zoom brain.

Use evening routines to make tomorrow’s routine easier.

That’s what I learned from studying the most successful and productive people. Not what you thought, right? Good. Go get obsessed.

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