Productivity schemes

If you can tell me why this placeholder post from 2014 is still consistently in my top 10 most popular posts I would be grateful

Because “life hacks” and “productivity tips” are next to “viagra” and listicles when it comes to “stuff I reflexively delete from in my inbox”. Anyway, “schemes” evokes the snake-oil sheen that productivity tricks have, whether you are selling them to others or to yourself. This is the correct attitude.

Against productivity

Is productivity gain also a utility gain?

The need for slack time in your life, because that is what life is about. Alternatively, certain types of slackness produc greater overall productivity. e.g., meditation.

Kottke’s link bag on The tension between creativity and productivity includes Doctorow’s Lifehacking considered harmful.

The corollary of this is that it gets much, much harder to winnow out activities over time. Anything I remove from the Jenga stack of my day disturbs the whole tower.

And that means that undertaking new things, speculative things that have no proven value to any of the domains where I work (let alone all of them) has gotten progressively harder, even as I’ve grown more productive. Optimization is a form of calcification.

However, one should still avoid clickbait.

Operations research style

Breaking Logjams in Knowledge Work:

To get operations out of constant overload and firefighting, Broad’s genomics platform switched to a pull system. The key to understanding the difference between push and pull is to recognize that WIP inventory is a double-edged sword. Though it is intended to help mitigate variability in speed and productivity between steps in a process, it also hides information that supervisors and operators could use to manage and do the work more effectively. In a push system with lots of WIP, an operator can focus on her individual task with little regard for what is happening around her. But a pull system forces a broader awareness. It sets clear limits (both upper and lower) on WIP accumulation. When an individual or team hits one of those limits, that’s a sign of an underlying problem. Managers can trade off short-term productivity and long-run learning by adjusting the WIP limits. Tighter limits allow them to identify and fix problems in the system; a wider span leads to fewer hiccups and more short-run throughput.

Online services

Avoid email

how our tools become our masters by Emergent by design

Email and other such social time-suck. Corollary: avoid social networks EVEN MORE, since they are designed to leverage your psychology to waste your time

Procrastination tools

See time management.


Dodge, Sheila, Don Kieffer, and Nelson P Repenning. n.d. “Breaking Logjams in Knowledge Work.” MIT Sloan Management Review, 28.
Somlo, Diane R. M., Nelson P. Repenning, and Abeel A. Mangi. 2018. “Improving Patient Flow with Dynamic Work Design.” NEJM Catalyst, June.