Series: Productivity Hacking


Quick links:


Writing the words “productivity hacking” in the title of a blog series feels almost dirty to me. I’ve said before that the business of productivity is riddled with a huge amount quick-fix rubbish1.

That being said, I led a productivity-focused workshop at a conference called The Makers Summit2 in the spring of 2015. I titled the workshop “Productivity Hacking” because, despite the slight snake-oil taste I sense personally, I felt the term was a simple and accurate description of the workshop content.

I was astounded at the feedback that I received from workshop attendees. What I had envisioned as a quick fly-over of research and lessons-learned was described as “one of the most helpful talks I’ve ever been a part of” by several people in the audience.

I offered to share all of my resources with attendees and had planned to send a quick email to everyone, but the amount of feedback and questions I received made me re-think the value of how I share the content from the talk. I’ve decided to publish everything in a series of blog posts called, as might be expected, “Productivity Hacking.”

I’ve written about or planned to write about many of these productivity topics in the Making it Count Series3, but I think the specificity and format of the presentation warrants a new series, so here we are. (I’ll either continue the Making it Count series as a place for philosophical musings or let it ride off quietly into the sunset. Some of the previously-written content in those posts will be re-purposed for upcoming articles.)

Index of articles

  • Post 1: Introduction
  • Post 2: What Would You Do With More Time?
  • Post 3: What is Productivity Hacking?
  • Post 4: Productivity Hacking is Not Intuitive
  • Post 5: Research and the Realities of Time Worked
  • Post 6: First, Know Thyself
  • Post 7: Sleep, Exercise and Diet as the Foundations of Productivity
  • Post 8: Productivity Requires Sacrifice
  • Post 9: Productivity Requires Removing Distractions
  • Post 10: Productivity Requires Harnessing Focus
  • Post 11: Productivity Requires the Art of Triage
  • Post 12: Productivity Requires Producing More than You Consume
  • Post 13: Myths of Productivity: Keeping up
  • Post 14: Myths of Productivity: Finding the Right Tools
  • Post 15: Notifications as Distractions-by-Default
  • Post 16: What Snake-oil Looks Like
  • Post 17: The Source of Distractedness

Mailing list

For ease of distribution (and because there will be multiple articles), I created a MailChimp list for The Makers Summit attendees who wanted the fully detailed resources from the workshop so that they can be notified of new content.

You’re welcome to join the list as well—just click here to signup.

RSS Feed

If you’d like to receive a feed of RSS posts from just this series, subscribe via FeedBurner.


This is where I’ll post links to slides, research and other resources as I publish posts.

Resources from Post 5: Research and the Realities of Time Worked

  • Read more about the journalist Samuel Crowther on Wikipedia. He covered Henry Ford and other forward-thinking industrialists who had a significant influence on business. 
  • Read more about the publication, The World’s Work, on Wikipedia. This is where Crowther published his interview with Henry Ford about moving to a 5-day work week. 
  • Read Samuel Crowther’s article on Henry Ford, titled”Why I Favor Five Days’ Work With Six Days Pay,” in the web archive (the original page was taken down), or download a PDF.
  • Read about Henry Ford’s decision to decrease daily hours worked on
  • Read an excerpt from Münsterberg’s Psychology and Industrial Efficiency here. Specifically, search for comments on Ernst Abbé’s research around decreased work time and increased productivity. 
  • Read Evan Robinson’s article, “Why Crunch Mode Doesn’t Work: 6 Lessons” in the web archive (the original URL is broken) or download a PDF.
  • Read about Daniel Cook’s research on productivity and download his presentation on his website.

Resources from Post 7: Sleep, Exercise and Diet as the Foundations of Productivity

From Post 8: Productivity Requires Sacrifice

  • The average American watches over 30 hours of live TV per week. You can read more about American television consumption habits in The NY Daily News.
  • Time spent on digital media averages over 20 hours per week per individual. You can read more about digital consumption habits on eMarketer’s website.

From Post 9: Productivity Requires Removing Distractions

  • Read about “digital overload” and how it is frying brains on Wired .
  • Read Nicholas Carr’s renowned article, The Web Shatters Focus, Rewires Brainson Wired
  • Read about how our attention spans are decreasing to only 5 minutes on the Telegraph.
  • Read about “the age of intention” and a theory for addressing attention spans in The Wall Street Journal.
  • Read about how TV rewires children’s brains in the Washington Times.
  • Read about how distraction affects the quality of work in the New York Times.
  • Read the Fast Company article about the time costs of interruption and task switchinghere.
  • Read about the social consequences of not participating in social media on Michael Sacasas’ blog.

Resources from Post 10: Productivity Requires Harnessing Focus

  • You can read more about the detrimental effects of multi-tasking in The New Atlantic’s article, The Myth of Multitasking, here. The article discusses many interesting points, including laws against using phones while driving and the IQ deficiencies caused by multi-tasking. 
  • You can read more about the origins of multi-tasking as a concept in computer science on Wikipedia.
  • You can read Rolf Dobelli’s article about news and how it harms our thinking on his website (PDF).
  • You can read the full definition of ‘focus’ on Merriam-Webster’s website.

Resources from Post 11: Productivity Requires the Art of Triage

  • Analysis paralysis is caused by over-analyzing a situation to the point that no decision is made. You can read more on Wikipedia.

Resources from Post 12: Productivity Requires Producing More than You Consume

  • You can read all of Chris Wake’s “Hidden Habits of Ineffective People” on Quora.
  • You can read more about the book Art and Fear—a book about “the way art gets made, the reasons it often doesn’t get made”—on Ted Orland’s website.

Resources from Post 14: Myths of Productivity: Finding the Right Tools

  • Merlin Mann wrote an excellent article about the good, bad and ugly of productivity tools called Because buying new running shoes is more fun than actually running. You can read it on

Resources from Post 15: Notifications as Distractions-by-Default

  • You can see a historical listing of best-selling mobile phones on Wikipedia.
  • You can learn more about limiting notifications by designating a contact as VIP in Apple’s Mail app on Apple’s support site.
  • You can read more about Projector and their goals for push notifications on their website.

Resources from Post 16: What Snake-oil Looks Like

  • You can read more about Evernote’s Context feature, a potentially helpful—but distracting by default—feature, on their blog.
  • You can read Merlin Mann’s full definition of ‘productivity pr0n’ on the 43 Folders wiki. His description is spot-on, in a deliciously sarcastic way.

Resources from Post 17: The Source of Distractedness

  • Note To Self, a WNYC podcast, covered digital devices and ADHD in their May 2015 episode (calledYes, You’re Distracted. Is it ADHD?). You can listen to it on the WNYC website.
  • Quartz, a digital publication associated with The Atlantic, published an article calledResearchers say using your smartphone excessively gives you faux-ADHDYou can read the full on their website.
  • Blaise Pascal wrote about how people naturally seek diversion. You can read more of this thoughts if you purchase his book Pensées on Amazon.
  • The Scientific American published an article called People Prefer Electric Shocks to Tedium. You can read the full article on their website.
  • Michael Sacasas is one of the best philosophical thinkers about our modern digital lives that I’ve read. On the subject of distractedness, his article Attention and the Moral Life is extremely instructive. You can read it on his website, The Frailest Thing.

1. I called out ‘snake-oil’ productivity advice in the introduction to my Making it Count series.2. The Makers Summit is a marvelous conference. Learn more on their website.3. You can read about my Making it Count articles here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

13 + nine =

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.