Thoughts on Productivity.

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Simplicity is where you find productivity. That being said, there is no reason for an introduction. Here are some productivity methods that I use and have helped me.

This is something I came across in the Moses book and really liked:

“Having a large table instead of a desk was insurance that this procedure would be followed. Since a table has no drawers, there was no place to hide papers; there was no escape from a nagging problem or a difficult to answer letter except to get rid of it one way or another. And there was another advantage: when your desk was table you could have conferences without even getting up.”

Robert Caro on Robert Moses.

-At home, I have a big glass computer desk with out any drawers at all. There, I was probably the most productive I’ve ever been. I have to go buy a new one soon for my new house and I am probably going to get a dining room table. It will be big, open and sturdy. This is what I love about my Mac. The first thing I did when I got it was wipe the harddrive and reinstall only the basics. The background is a grey screen. I extended the no drawer analog to my computer. I have maybe 10 mp3s on the entire thing. My folders are as follows: Movies, Music, Documents, Journal, Photos.

-I take all my notes for class or meetings on yellow legal pads. Every few months, I go to Wal-Mart and buy a huge pack of them. Each topic has its own pad–never mix. Then when they are full, I box them up and ship them home. All personal writings go in my Moleskine.

-I will never put a TV in my bedroom again. Chris Anderson is right. My freshman year of college, I’d watch reruns of “Just Shoot Me” instead of reading. Or I’d watch CNBC instead of writing. I’ve probably seen every episode of Law and Order at least 3 times. For me, the television contributes to my life when it is a destination instead of a foundation. That is, when I go into another room to watch it rather than it always being one.

-I always get an early night and change my bedding regularly. After reading a study, it was proven that the more hours of sleep you get each night, the better productivity you will have the following day. I put this to the test, I purchased a brand new full size mattress, changed my sheets regularly, and I have been having 7 – 9 hours sleep each night, and I have been so much more engaged and focused since.

-I have a Whiteboard in my room where everyday I write down what I need to do. It monitors the immediate present for me. Depending on the context it will be as general as “Come up with ideas” to as specific as “Read last 76 pages of ______, review notes.” For the week or month ahead, I have a desk calendar. But I think I am going to graduate to this tip from Jerry Seinfeld.

-Emails that I need to respond to are starred, so I have time to think about them instead of rushing a less than satisfactory response.

-As I said before, when I read I carry a highlighter (with tabs) and a pen. Quotes and passages are marked with flags on the right hand side. Terms to define, topics to investigate and books to buy are marked at the top. Thoughts and tie-ins are marked with the pen. If I need to define a word immediately, I use Google SMS by texting “Define ________” to 45546 or Wikipedia on my Blackberry.

-I also started drinking a lot more water–a minimum of two bottles before lunch. Besides the strange looks caused by the bathroom trips, I’ve been feeling more energetic and more alert.

As always, am looking to absorb any of the productivity knowledge the rest of you have accumulated. Post ’em if you’ve got ’em.

Written by Ryan Holiday
Ryan Holiday is the bestselling author of Trust Me, I’m Lying, The Obstacle Is The Way, Ego Is The Enemy, and other books about marketing, culture, and the human condition. His work has been translated into thirty languages and has appeared everywhere from the Columbia Journalism Review to Fast Company. His company, Brass Check, has advised companies such as Google, TASER, and Complex, as well as Grammy Award winning musicians and some of the biggest authors in the world. He lives in Austin, Texas.