This post is part of a 6 article series about productivity.
If you’re confused right now about reading this in the blog of a VFX artist, I’d recommend that you start from the introduction. Otherwise, here’s all the articles in order, in case you’d like to jump to any specific part once they’re all available. I hope you enjoy!
Here’s a short list with some of the resources that have had the most impact in shaping the way I think about the topic of productivity today.
“Productive with a purpose” blog
This blog is the journey of another individual, who has some incredibly insightful thoughts on what being productive means and how one can go about it.
Some posts I especially loved to read:
Todoist is one of the leading and most complete task management apps, and while it’s not the one I personally use, their blog is amazing and thoroughly explains some of the main productivity systems. They even have a quiz to help you find the ones that could be the most useful to you.
Here’s two articles, for example, that were like diamonds for me:
Zen of Python
This Bible of Python’s design guiding principles, which is written down as 19 aphorisms, is something I reference back to in so many different contexts. I show it to my VFX students as an example of a working philosophy that you can apply to your work and not only within Python or programming. If you didn’t know about it, I’d invite you to read it and reflect on each point and if/how it could apply to your particular task at hand.
What I’ve Learned
Joseph Everett is another person who you can tell really thinks out of the box and has a very logic-based line of thought. His YouTube videos are super informative and food for thought (as well as, many times, thought for food).
In his own words:
This is about connecting the dots, making conclusions and weighing that against modern dogma. Lately I’m focusing a lot on health since it’s so important yet there’s so much conflicting information about it; I am also keen on enhancing productivity, enhancing cognitive capability and general self improvement. My general goal is for each video to provide some takeaway that’s applicable in your daily life.
Two highlight videos from What I’ve Learned about productivity:
James is a minimalist who gathers amazing quotes and his own thoughts and sends them both weekly through his free newsletter. I can’t recommend it enough. It has me reflecting on stuff and thinking “wow this is a very nice thought”, every single week, and that’s no little amount of weeks.
His super popular book Atomic Habits is now considered a reference book on productivity, centred around making lasting changes to your routines and building habits. Also… he just released a course on Masterclass, which I’ll definitely be watching soon!
Denis is a productivity enthusiast who writes articles on Medium that really resonate with how I think. I enjoy his content a lot and each post hides some little gem!
In his own words:
Digital Minimalist exponentially getting better at the Information Management. Transparency and clarity are my key values on this journey.
Thomas Frank is another productivity enthusiast, and while most of his content is focused around working with Notion (which is a core part of my system), he also has some amazing videos around general productivity notions and good practices. One thing I really value about his content is how down to earth his videos are and how he makes each topic extremely practical, actionable and simple to understand. Something that almost reminds me of my friend Tony Lyons. If only this article was about VFX and not productivity.
Thomas now mostly uploads Notion videos, but here’s two old ones that are a nice example of his work:
Tiago really helped popularise the concept of a digital second brain with his book Building a Second Brain, although by far his biggest contribution to the productivity space has been the PARA method. You can learn more about it on his website and YouTube channel, but it’s an amazing framework to help you organise and prioritise where you store and access your information.
Key takeaways for me:
- Sort your info by actionability: As I discussed in the second part of this series, The Mindset: The more actionable items should be “in your face”, and the less actionable ones shouldn’t clutter your view.
Example: The most actionable info might be the stuff you need for a project you’re meant to complete today and you know exactly what to do in order to complete it. Less actionable info might be the piano sheets for that song you’d like to start re-learning some day in the future. And the least actionable info might be related to a project you already completed in the past. That should basically be archived, so that you can forget about it while you don’t need it.
- Don’t be too rigid: There’s no perfect configuration. The system will change as you do. And it should be practical, so really, don’t overthink it. Just get going and you’ll then be able to tweak it little by little.
More great inspiration...
This was meant to be a short post, but here’s some other great resources that I just couldn’t miss because of how much I consider they’re helping people, myself included:
- Tim Ferriss: Should’ve gone first on the whole page, but if I tried to list all the concepts I’ve learned through his books, podcasts and articles, I wouldn’t be able to pack it in a single article (or series of them). So if you don’t know about him please feel free to explore his content goldmine.
- Ray Dalio: Loved his book “Principles”, and (as your regular billionaire) consistently publishes super valuable content, around personal responsibility and some learnings/advice for navigating the world.
- Cal Newport: Computer science professor and very prolific writer. I loved his books Deep Work (2016) and Digital Minimalism (2019).
- Ali Abdaal: Former doctor turned productivity expert, Ali has become very popular in the productivity community thanks to his way of sharing practical tips on study techniques and work-life balance, which I personally find very engaging and effective, through his YouTube channel and website.
- Alex Hormozi: Whilst Alex mostly talks about finances, and he clearly is an outlier that goes about entrepreneurship in a more focused way than would be healthy for 99% of people, his brain works very well. And he is extremely good at explaining actionable pieces of information. So he has to be part of this list. I follow and enjoy many pieces of info he shares on YouTube, Instagram, or Spotify, where he recently published his audiobooks completely for free.
- The Sweet Setup : This site is all centred around tech, apps, gadgets and techniques around productivity. They love functional products and workflows and go quite specific with the apps, so I tend to really enjoy reading most things they post! They also offer some premium courses which I haven’t had the time to follow yet. Nice example post: The Ownership Matrix (What to Do When You’re Overwhelmed)
- Jeff Su: YouTuber who focuses sharing his tips for being productive in the workplace, using the computer, ChatGPT, the Google Suite, and many other random-but-useful things. I love his content (and his vibe).
- Modern Wisdom: Chris Williamson runs this podcast about “Life lessons from the greatest thinkers on the planet”. And I’d argue he does a remarkably good job at it. Chris has the perfect attributes you’d expect to see in the host of such a podcast – thoughtful, smart, optimistic, and good at asking questions. The podcast covers such a broad range of topics, and productivity is a core one. It’s probably at the top of my podcast list right now.
- Kevin Kelly! Talking about optimism, and going back to technology and futurism, Kevin is not a person you should not know. Co-founder of the Wired magazine and a person (similar to the rest in this list) who loves to share what he learned through his life.
There’s so many more books, podcasts, websites and basically humans that have had and still have a huge influence on my journey with productivity, and the way I think about it. Especially given that this is not only about optimisation, organisation and speed, but more importantly about purpose, passion, priority and principles.
However, these links should be a good representative bunch and definitely a starting point if you’re also looking to start or expand this journey.
This concludes my article series on productivity. After so long trying to figure it all out by myself and being overwhelmed by the amount of information and possibilities online, I felt this was something worth sharing in case there are other busy people in my situation.
Productivity isn’t just about getting things done. It’s about crafting a life that’s more meaningful, focused, and enjoyable. As I wrap up this journey through my personal productivity labyrinth, remember that the best system is the one that empowers you while keeping you calm, focused, and happy. Your path will probably differ a lot from mine, and that’s perfectly fine.
I hope you enjoyed this series, although it’s really different from anything I would’ve ever imagined publishing about! Let me know if any of this helped you in any way and feel free to share any bits with someone else if you feel they could help.
For a happy and productive life,
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