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Structuring my productivity system & Updates

·4 mins·

Update for the No Complaints challenge #

After two consecutive non-failing days it was back to complaining about circumstances with the work VPN and the “incompetence” of some colleagues. Also a lot of resets for cussing (mostly “fuck”), which we paid more attention to.

After getting my mom, brother and their yoga group to join the challenge, I found out that they interpreted the challenge stricter than we did. They included their thoughts and not just what you actually vocalized. I’m tentatively adding that rule to the challenge. We’ll see how it goes.

A man can fail many times, but he isn’t a failure until he begins to blame somebody else.

– John Burroughs

Not blaming others or circumstance is also being added as an additional rule.

I’ve noticed that my wife and I are adding the prelude “This is not a complaint, but…” to criticisms :)

(Re-) Structuring my productivity system #

Every system is perfect for the result it is getting.

– Steven Chandler, Crazy Good, p66

I’m not satisfied with the results my productivity system is delivering. The results created are fine and things are moving forward. Just not at the rate I would like to see. There is a lot of time wasted working on unimportant things, getting distracted or not working at all. There is too much information flowing in, which creates unnecessary administrative work and disperses my focus. All of which frustrate me.

In the past I always tried to fix the system by adding to it. More processes, scripts, habits and rules. After the initial motivation ran out, I quickly became overwhelmed. All the things I was expecting myself to do were too much. I hadn’t made any space for the new activates by first removing some weren’t serving me. Additionally a lot of schemes were ill conceived. I just had this cool idea, or read about an inspiring concept and wanted to implement it right away. It quickly became apparent that I hadn’t thought them through properly and spent the time integrating them into my life. Trying out these new ideas for a trial period became this weekly challenge.

So instead of repeating my mistakes of the past I wanted to approach this restructuring by cutting out the harmful and unnecessary1. To be able to do that, I first needed to understand what I was working with though.

Aiming to gain a detached understanding of the current system I just wrote down what a normal day for me looks like. Including all the different combinations (work day, weekend, sleeping in, appointments in the morning, etc.) and ways I get derailed from my routines or the task at hand.

Next up: analyzing patterns and coming up with some ideas:

  • What are the bad habits that derail the whole day?
  • At what point is the flow split into a bunch of possibilities?
  • How can this decision node be streamlined or avoided?
  • How do you break up your work?2
  • Which of those work blocks are the most productive?
  • What interferes with you making full use of them? Or circumvents them completely?
  • How can they be defended from interruptions?

The most productive time slot for me is the early morning. To protect it from being derailed and to eliminate a bunch of diverging paths I made a slight adjustment as described here.

I now concisely wrote down the habits I identified within my existing system. Seeing them so clearly in front of me allowed me to chain the individual habits together3. Clarifying the steps that I’m supposed to take for each habit and the transitions between them helped me reduce my sky-high abandonment rate4. Things have been going a lot smoother already, just by becoming conscious of my habits and properly structuring them.

I’ve been reading Mindset and The Slight Edge and am now in the process of consciously shaping my personal philosophy. The hope being that it will keep me on the right track, help me focus on the goal(s) at hand and increase my buy-in with future additions to the system. More on that next time.


  1. In the spirit of Occam’s Razor: “It is vain to do with more what can be done with less (see)”, and Tim Ferriss’ principle of eliminating first. ↩︎

  2. I do my best work on the maker schedule, so I tried to find or create uninterrupted blocks of work. With the beginnings and ends being immovable or natural barriers (after some time I need a break, or I feel hungry, etc.) E.g.: 6am until the daily standup; from the first meeting block until lunch; between my daily walk and the end of the work day; between dinner and 1am. ↩︎

  3. Referred to as “habit stacking” in Atomic Habit. ↩︎

  4. Abandoning my routine half-way had gotten so bad that I basically never did a full morning routine. ↩︎