You would think that the people who are most into advanced productivity ideas and systems would be the most productive people who, having mastered the basics, are looking for ways to eke out even more performance. In my experience, though, the people looking for "five weird productivity hacks" are usually the ones who think they're too good for the basics.
The most productive people I know are people who absolutely master the basics. They know how to fill the time in the day with the most important tasks they have, and they know how to string those days together in such a way that they're making meaningful progress.
The most important basic skill to master, without a doubt, is consistency. I've seen this in my own life, in my friends' lives, and in all of my coaching clients paths. Those who are able to be consistent end up with huge success, very often much greater success than they expected or even hoped for.
People in finance say that people aren't able to comprehend the benefits of compounding interest over time. Consistency in productivity creates compound benefits which people are similarly not able to comprehend. Your starting point doesn't matter, because you can quickly scale up to your capacity once you have a history and habit of consistency.
It's very easy to idealize and cherry pick from the past, but it feels like quality used to be a metric that people cared about, and now it feels more like a buzzword that is used for marketers to use for products that generally aren't of very high quality. That strategy seems to have worked, because it feels to me like many people don't understand what quailty is or care about it. Often those who claim to care are found buying things that aren't actually of high quality
The first question, then, is whether quality even matters. Is there any point in getting a high quality chair versus a low quality chair? Do high quality clothes matter, or should we just get low quality clothes and replace them when they wear out?
I think that these are fair questions and that there is no universally right answer. The glue gun I have in front of me on my desk is a low quality glue gun, but that's perfect for me. I need to use it once or twice per year, don't really care about the experience of using it, and may not have bought it if it were higher quality and thus more expensive. I think, at the very least, there is a place in our society for low quality goods.
It's hard to define quality, but I think it's easiest when we think about a spectrum.
Merry Christmas! As seems to be my pattern lately I keep pushing the gear post later and later. Sorry about that! It happens because I get excited about gear and always end up testing a bunch of things right near the end.
One thing I'm very excited about this year is that I was able to merge several items and have fewer overall. My shorts and bathing suit are now one and the same, and several items got merged into one.
Without further ado:
Wool and Prince Button Down
Another year gone! For the first time, as I read through old monthly updates and scrolled through my yearly calendar, I was shocked at how quickly time had passed. Things that happened last February felt as though they were just a few months ago.
In some ways this year was very dense. For the first time ever I felt like nearly every day of the year was accounted for in one way or another, almost always very high quality time with friends or family, big pushes in work, or some other activity. On the rare occasion I'd have two consecutive days with nothing scheduled I felt like I was in a different world.
Usually when I look back over a year I am shocked at how much I accomplished. I'm not totally sure I feel that way this year, or at the very least I feel like the things I did were more focused on either long term growth or relationships. That could be a very good thing, but it's enough of a departure from previous years that I plan on thinking about it a little bit to see if I need to alter my habits a bit. On the other hand, I casually mentioned a few goals for the year in last year's post, and they were pretty much all reached.
Here are some breakdowns of the highlights of the year for me
Imagine that everyone has a bucket, and they fill it with tasks. At the bottom of the bucket is a hose that is constantly draining it at some rate, which represents completing tasks. The tasks are your obligations in life, your work, and your responsibilities.
We all know people with overflowing buckets. It almost doesn't matter what the size and rate of the outflows are through the hose, because things are sloshing around and falling over the edges of the buckets. Anything that falls over the edge is a missed deadline, a broken promise, or a lost opportunity. People with brimming buckets don't get to choose what falls over. They walk around with this big sloshing bucket, trying to keep everything inside, but things fall over the edge.
We also know people with empty buckets. They don't have too much to do and they aren't overwhelmed, but the hose at the bottom is just barely dripping.
In the middle are people with buckets that are about 1/2 or 2/3 full. They have things to do and obligations, but they also have spare capacity. No one can perfectly predict what will come in the future, so we all need a little bit of spare capacity. If you're at 100%, you can't capitalize on an unexpected opportunity, you can't take a day off, and you can't explore. You have to keep draining the bucket just to keep it from overflowing.
I just got off the phone with the last of the attendees of Superhuman 3 and am totally blown away. Every single attendee followed through with everything they said they would do and many of them made enormous progress that they previously thought was impossible. Best of all, several of them came into SH3 telling me that they couldn't ever follow through with anything. How things can change!
In other Superhuman Alumni news, the Superhuman 2 group has been in regular touch with each other and organized their own 1 year anniversarry with 100% of them attending.
I always knew that people would make huge progress from coming to these events (especially as I've gotten better at figuring out how to get everyone to follow through), but I didn't fully anticipate the bonds and community that would form. Many people have told me that the best thing they've gotten from the event is a group of peers who share their principles and help encourage them.
All that said, it's time to schedule another Superhuman event. This year Superhuman 4 will be in Las Vegas from April 10th-12th. The two mandatory days are the 11th and 12th, but I invite everyone to come over the night of the 10th to meet each other and chat so that we can hit the ground running the next morning.
If you spend time in San Francisco, you hear a lot of startup ideas. A few of them sound really cool, but a lot of them sound pretty dumb. I used to fall into the trap of criticizing them, without the founder present, because it was easy and fun. He thinks he's going to rent blowup mattresses in people's living room? Ha!
You feel smart when you shoot down someone's idea, and that makes you want to do it more. If you look at a lot of popular media creators, you'll notice that they like to shoot everything down. Besides being fun and snarky, they will often be right. Most new ideas do fail and we live in a society where the price of testing new ideas is cheap, so we do it often.
The problem is that the best ideas all sound stupid at first, and few of us are good at predicting which dumb ideas will actually work. If you aren't going to be good at that part, I don't think you've earned the right to call out the ones you think will fail.
Even new amazing products will have flaws. There are no Apple products which I think are good enough to use, but I still try to find things about them that I like. For example, a friend watched a movie on his MacBook the other day and I was blown away by how good the speakers sounded. I'd rather talk about those positives than the negatives.
For the past three years I've been actively searching for an apartment in Tokyo for my friends and I to buy. It was by far the most difficult city in which to find a suitable apartment, and even up until I got the notification a few minutes ago, I wasn't entirely sure that it would happen.
One of the biggest challenges in Tokyo is that you must buy a vacant apartment. An apartment that is occupied may take years to vacate, as apparently renters are entitled to renew their leases with no price increase. If you want them to leave or even to increase their rent, they must agree to it.
Location in Tokyo is not as simple as finding the center of the city and trying to get as close as possible. The ideal situation is to get an apartment that is a short walking distance away from a station that hosts lines that provide good coverage.
Last, most apartments in our price range (around $100k US) were not only small but only really had one room. I felt strongly that we would want to have two rooms so that two groups or individuals could each have a little privacy.
Last week I posted about buying our fifth group property, an apartment in Tokyo. I got more emails and messages about this post than any in recent history, and people asked a lot of good questions, so rather than address them individually I will answer them all in a blog post. It's also worth mentioning that I go into more detail on the topic in my last book, Forever Nomad.
How is this actually better?
A few people asked questions about how this is actually better than just renting an AirBnB. I think that this is a really good question and is the hardest one to answer. I've tried a few times and I think I've done a bad job at actually getting the idea across, so I'll try in a little more detail here.
As I wrote (last week), it's very easy to criticize problems, and it's easy to categorize things as good or bad without any nuance. I think that it's a lot more productive to recognize the good in everything and everyone, and so in that spirit I'd like to challenge myself to share some positive things about things I don't like.
I never eat fast food myself, but I am impressed with how efficiently our system can bring people nutrition. It may not be ideal nutrition, but I think it's great that people who are struggling can get a quick and tasty meal for not much money.