The 5 Principles of Productivity in One Example

"Focus is a matter of deciding what things you're not going to do."–John Carmack

Working from home is hard if you've never done it.

I've been doing it for 13+ years now, and it wasn't until we had a Black Swan event that I realized how many gaps there was in my routine.

So I'm taking the completely absurd lockdown of 2020 to engineer my perfect productivity routine.

Concepts like 80/20, Deep Work, Time blocking, The #1 Thing, First Principles thinking are all paramount to productivity. This shortlist is all you need. If you become even average at this list, you'd be on your way to crushing your goals.

So read up on those concepts if you lack in any of them. Read the foundational books for each. Take notes. Watch some YouTube videos and listen to some podcasts. You'll reap so many rewards from this. I'm excited for you if these are new ideas for you since you have such an awesome opportunity in front of you.

Let's use something Stephen King has said to illustrate the idea I want to infect your mind with today.

This is taken from a live convocation between Stephen King and the Game of Thrones author, George R. R. Martin.

Martin: How the f@!% do you write so many books so fast? I think, "Oh, I've had a really good six months, I've finished three chapters." And you've finished three books in that time.

King: Here's the thing, okay? There are books, and there are books. The way that I work, I try to get out there and I try to get six pages a day. So, with a book like End of Watch, and … when I'm working I work every day — three, four hours, and I try to get those six pages, and I try to get them fairly clean. So if the manuscript is, let's say, 360 pages long, that's basically two months' work. … But that's assuming it goes well

6 pages a day. Every day. It's about 1000 words.

Let's take King's daily practice and apply the productivity principles mentioned above.

The 80/20 concept

Stephen King's 20% that generates 80% of his results is his writing. Period. So when he gets 1k words in every day, he's getting his 20% work done. Read this a few times and let it marinate. Try to understand it. This is simple in execution but profound in its implication.

Most success is just this: simple to consider and to figure out how to do, but complex in execution due to human nature.

The #1 Thing concept

For Stephen King, his daily 1000 words is his big one thing. Once that's done, the weight is lifted off his shoulders.

I know I feel this way when I get my important work done each day: the rest of the day can be more casual since you already know you did your best work.

Deep Work

When he's doing his 1000 words, it's likely he has notifications off, and no one is around to distract him. Any veteran writer will nod in agreement on this one.

For those of you that have never had a creative practice like this, when you implement a daily one-hour or two-hour deep work session, you will quite literally change your life. That's how powerful it is.

The integral part of this routine is making sure you have ZERO distractions or interruptions. So no notifications.

The fastest way to explore your results is to get your deep work routine down now.

Carving out 2 hours a day to be alone and focus on your most important work will change your life and career. You'll get more satisfaction out of your work because you'll get more results. You'll go deeper. You'll become a craftsman, an artist, and you'll give your gifts to the world. I can't stress this enough.

Time blocking

Time blocking is setting aside time each day, usually on your calendar, and using that time to do your important work, like deep work.

Let's look at the King example:

Time block 2 hours - alone, notifications off, Airplane mode.

Write 1000 words. Nothing else.

The writing is part of 20%.... so 80/20 productivity law: check.

He is utilizing Deep Work thinking and routines to focus intensively.

He is working one #1 Thing, writing. Check.

First Principles

First Principles are foundational realities you can use to build success on top of. 1 + 1 = 2 is a first principle of math; without it, you couldn't build complex equations on top. So you always want to reason up from first principles.

There is a bit of first principles framework in every concept above since they are each based on truisms of human nature, psychology, and getting things done.

When in doubt, return to the basics. Master them. Obsess over them. 

It all connects

Each concept above applied to King's daily 1000 words a day practice perfectly illustrates how these concepts work in real life.

This is what productivity is about: getting essential things done as consistently as possible.

You can then use these principles to consider what things you should be doing based on the goals you want to achieve.