Johannes' blog


My most important rules to be productive in this order

Focus on the most important thing

For productivity, it is essential to concentrate only on the most significant task. And it can only be one thing: one chapter, one job, one task, one highest priority per day. Dropping everything else apart from the most important task is crucial to progress. Communicate when dropping something deliberately; this is better than being stuck with multiple priorities.

Get up early

The earlier one starts working, the more focused one can work. There are no distractions. Nobody is awake. Nothing more interesting is happening. Therefore, completing the most challenging part of the work in the morning is best. Moreover, the sooner I do the so-called frog part of my work, the more relaxed I am at the end of the day. The long-term value of getting up early is fantastic.

How to get up early: Go to bed early, lower your alarm gradually (if you want to wake up at 6, set your alarm 15min earlier x amount of days until you reach that time), put your phone away, and read (do not charge your phone next to your bed)

Visualize your goal

Breaking down abstract goals into manageable compartments is necessary to accomplish them. Mapping out a structure helps you visualize the parts essential to reaching your goal. For instance, if the goal is to write a paper, you can not imagine what the finished article will look like, but you can break it down into parts that can be more tangible.

A doc is the only tool you need

My ultimate productivity tool is Google Docs. I create to-do lists every day, and I make them from scratch every day. I have precisely one Doc for a year, where I have a date entry as a title for each day, and I write down in bullet points what I want to do that day. A doc gives you a single place where you can brainstorm and where you can keep notes and track. Any to-do list app will force you to use a particular structure that aims to motivate you by using a checkbox as a carrot that you can hopefully click by the end of the day—only coming back to the app whenever you complete a task while all these daring checkboxes from the past are looking at you. But checkboxes do not reflect work. Words and thoughts reflect work, and to-do apps are not the place to spell out your thoughts and much less to try to dissect your problem. That is why you never come back to todo-lists, why they have endless backlogs, why they are always outdated, and why they don’t feel rewarding. If you write a paragraph about your problems and spell out your thoughts in a doc, on the other hand, you will not only track your progress, but you will actually make progress.