My Productivity Protocol

When you’re working for yourself, no one tells you how much you should work and what you should work on.

Which is awesome. But also incredibly challenging.

There’s always more you can do.

At the same time there are natural limits to how much you can work without running yourself into the ground.

So my approach for a long time has been to try working normal hours. Typically between 8 am and 6 pm.

This wasn’t really an intentional choice.

It’s what everyone else does, so I just did it too.

Now I realized that this approach is far from optimal.

What was always happening is that I would work on things that didn’t really matter just to fill the time.

I rationalized this by thinking that every single little thing I can do helps.

You never know what task is the butterfly wing flap causing a hurricane.

Also tiny efforts compount, right?

Well, maybe.

But there’s a huge tradeoff to consider.

When you’re working so many hours and work on dozens of tiny tasks, you lose clarity of thought and quickly stop seeing the forest for the trees.

So you enter this spiral where you work on fewer and fewer tasks with truly big leverage.

More busywork starts to creep in.

And you start to feel like you’re not making progress.

You’re just spinning your wheels.

So I’ve now switchd to a new productivity protocol.

I keep a big Master List of tasks I could be working on.

Every morning I pick a maximum of three key tasks from the list.

When I get these tasks done I consider the day a success in terms of work.

I can stop working without feeling guilty.

In addition I pick a maximum of 10 urgent but not as important tasks that I can work on if I have time left.

But here’s the key.

I’m not allowed to add any new tasks to my daily todo list during the day.

All new tasks go on the Master List first.

humble vs startup timeline

This helps me avoid getting sucked into the busywork spiral.

It’s also great for avoiding shiny object syndrome.

There’s always a 24 hour waiting period before I can start working on a new task.

Quite often it turns out the task no longer needs to be done or seems important/urgent enough to be worth my time.

But most important, I now work fewer hours without feeling guilty.

I decide what’s important.

I do it.

I stop.

As a result I have a ton more energy for the important tasks.

I also have the necessary clarity to see what tasks truly matter.

And most importantly, I no longer neglect other key areas of my life.

Written on February 19, 2024

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