Ah, the never-ending pursuit of increasing productivity. 

When we don’t tackle everything we want to do in a day, it leaves us feeling like shit. Like we didn’t try hard enough. Like we’re good enough. Like we don’t deserve our goals because we didn’t optimize every goddamn second of the day. 

The productivity market–which includes apps, courses, books, etc. — was valued at $5.63 billion in 2022, more than double since 2017. It is expected to reach $8.5 billion by 2027. That is fucking bananas.

At Vulgar Advice, we suffer from being chronically multipassionate. We’ve tried apps, courses, and methodologies to increase and maintain productivity. We don’t knock those tools by any means– we’re die-on-the-hill Pomodoro fans and Zapier is the shit — but when it comes to finally achieving productivity, we focus on three things. But first … 

What even is productivity?

Technically, productivity is the ratio between output volume and the volume of input. Or, to put it simply, getting shit done with the time you have. 

How do we measure it? 

Just like how you know if you haven’t really tried your best, you know if you’re not being as productive as you’d like to be. Your gut tells you. That voice in your head tells you. You know in your fucking  bones if you haven’t used your time well. But what is your gut, your inner voice, your bones, basing that off of?

It depends on the expectations you set for yourself. The nebulous but omnipresent idea that our value lies in our productivity makes it difficult to actually measure that shit. 

If you set out to conquer a fucking huge to-do list every day, you’ll probably fall short and feel like shit by the end of the day. Adjust your expectations. To achieve more productivity, do less.

Just do three fucking things

That's right: do less, for fuck's sake.

Make your daily to-do list three items long: one big item that moves you closer to your overall goal, and two smaller items that take care of day-to-day needs.

Make the call. Sign up for the class. File your LLC. Book that meeting. Submit the proposal. Do the dishes. Get an oil change. Send the email. Vacuum. Order groceries. If, after you have done the three things on your list, you want to do more, by all means, keep going, you fucking legend. But if you want to stop there, then fucking stop there because you did everything you set out to do today.

Do you know how competent, badass and un-fuck-with-able you will feel if you cross off ALL the items on your to-do list? You will feel productive. And that will beget more productivity.  

Reward yourself

A study by German neuroscience daddy Wolfram Shultz found that rewards are crucial for cognitive development. 

What does that mean for you? That means you need to treat your damn self after you accomplish the three tasks on your new and improved to-do list. 

Shultz wrote, “Rewards are not defined by their physical properties but by the behavioral reactions they induce.”

Designate something you love, something that gives your brain that happy rush of dopamine — reading a chapter of your book, eating chocolate, going for a walk, watching octopus videos on YouTube —  and reward yourself with it. This creates a “fuck yeah, I did it” association with completing your to-do list. 

Final thoughts 

It’s hard not to get wrapped up in the productivity dick-measuring contest, even when it’s with yourself. For all of the tools we have to simplify our lives, we feel pressure to maximize our existence in every measurable way. More hours, more money, more clients. But behind the measurable is the unmeasurable: quality time, a low-stress lifestyle, work you enjoy.

Don’t sacrifice being deeply in your own life to check items off a list. Consider what your to-do list will bring you — will getting it done give you more of what you value? Will it give you more time? More opportunity? Less stress? Ask yourself those questions to filter out the shit that and make sure your productivity ultimately brings you more of the good stuff of life: memories, joy, aliveness.

Share this post