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Status: Draft Epistemic status: Weak

Every productivity tip, tool, system or book boils down to exactly one thing

I know this is a very strong claim, but after spending a lot of time reading, watching and experimenting with productivity advice, I belief that all you need to increase your productivity is to

Minimize the number of times you ponder “what should I do next?”

Alternate versions are: what movie should I watch next? What can I eat in this fridge? What app should I open, now that I mindlessly unlocked my phone? Do I want to go on a run? Should I quit watching this video?

This also explains why productivity is hard: it's not easy to split up the planning from the doing phase. The reason for this is complicated and I haven't fully understood it, but I think the main culprit is that this requires extraordinary cooperation with your past and future self. I will go into this later.

So why do we want to prevent this undecided phase after you completed something?

There is one obvious reason: batching is just more efficient. Most things have a startup cost, which is also true for planning (you have to get out a piece of paper or open your to do app or something) and a winddown cost (mostly pondering “did I make the right decision?” + attentin residue). So if you plan let's say your day in a dedicated time slot and not over the day you already gain a little bit of time.

But there is one way more important reason:

If you spent only a little time on answering the question you will pick the easiest option.

The more often you do this, the greater will be your missmatch between what you value and how you spend your time. This has huge compounding effects over time and that is why one of the predictions of my hypothesis is:

The most impactful people never ask themself the question of what they should do next, or only once or twice a day.

This is extremely impressive, given that just in a single hour on YouTube I ask myself this question 3 to 10 times. I estimate that on my least effective days this adds up to more then 50 times. On plattforms like Reddit (should I read this thread? And this?) this can get even higher, and on TikTok it can probably reach into the thousands.

Note also that it is possible to eliminate this question completely, “how should I spent the next week” is a sufficiently different question.