3 New Ideas 💡

Work in the Abstract 📂
Often times we bemoan the need to ‘work’. We might tell our friends that we can’t see them later because we have to “get some work done” or have “so much work to do” and fail to see that we’re falling into the trap of talking about work in the abstract.

As Ali and Taimur discuss in this recent episode of Not Overthinking, our work lives are far more complex than they used to be. They’re full of different tasks that we might hate or love for different reasons, but by using the umbrella term of ‘work’, we lump everything together and tie all the baggage associated with the word to our feelings about the things we want to get done.

By referencing work in the abstract as opposed to what it is we actually have to do, we (1) create uncertainty - that we as human hates - about what we’re doing (2) go in with the mindset of “I have to do this” even if what we're doing might be enjoyable and (3) fail to prime our brain for the task at hand.

To overcome the hardest part of any task (getting started), it's a useful shift in mindset to avoid thinking about work in the abstract, and to instead focus on specifying exactly what it is we want to get done.

Eating the Broccoli 🥦
Productivity is all about getting more output from the same (or less) input.

By employing systems, shortcuts, life hacks, mindset shifts and the wisdom of science, we can get more things done and apply leverage to make our time more abundant and valuable.

But despite the fact that these things can help us cut back on misguided efforts and misused hours, no matter how low you make the barrier to entry or how efficient a system you produce, productivity will always depend on you putting in the work (in the abstract) and ‘eating the broccoli’ (a phrasing from this Farnam Street essay).

Using the analogy of eating the broccoli as something we all want the benefits from but not necessarily something we want to do, productivity can only help to reduce the friction around doing the work (equivalent to cutting up the broccoli into our mac and cheese).

We can make things easier but effort is an irreplaceable part of the equation. While intelligent work practices and refined systems are useful, they are not substitutes to doing the things we want to have done. But this isn’t something to be upset about:

“Remember that anything really worth doing is probably hard work, and will absolutely require you to do things you don’t currently do, which will feel uncomfortable for a while. This is a “hard truth” we must all face. If it was easy, everyone would already be doing it.”

One upside to remember when it comes to 'eating the broccoli' is that our perception of the things we want to have done aren’t fixed. Overtime, with enough repetitions, you might find joy in the process itself, “you might really start liking, and even get used to eating, broccoli.”

Liquid Knowledge 🌊
We understand the world through a set of mental models that explain how things work. To be able to solve complex problems and come up with creative solutions, James Clear tells us that it’s necessary to develop liquid knowledge (multidisciplinary understandings about the world from different contexts and fields) by growing our toolbox of mental models and not confining ourselves to a single hammer (set of beliefs) or silo (academic fields).

In order to accumulate liquid knowledge, it is important to question the labels that we like to assign to certain knowledge and undertakings. Instead of working within a set of boundaries that are created by the ways we identify (as a student of blank or as blank profession), our curiosity and the value of ideas themselves should guide our learning as we constantly search for ways to apply knowledge outside of the context that introduced it to us.

3 Favourite Saves 💾

Packy McCormick is one of my favourite writers. He writes the Not Boring newsletter which talks about interesting ideas in the world of technology and business, and this one-year-anniversary post dives into the series of connected dots that brought Packy from 500 to 42,000 subscribers in the span of a year. In the post, Packy says that looking back, his biggest lesson is that “this is neither as impossible nor easy as it looks” and that comes across clearly in the story he tells. Both his consistency and dedication to putting out well-researched and thoughtful posts, and his willingness to admit defeat and pivot to follow his changing set of beliefs are an inspiration to me and - in my eyes - would be to anyone insistent on pursuing a dream of theirs.

The Digital Productivity Pyramid provides a useful model for the different layers of skills that allow us to make the most out of technology and productivity tools in the 21st century. In the article, Tiago Forte breaks down these different skills and systems into five tiers based on how fundamental they are to the other layers: (1) digital fluency (2) task management & workflow (3) habit formation & behaviour change (4) personal knowledge management (5) just-in-time project management. He explains some of the guiding principals that are applicable across the pyramid and provides resources (from the articles he’s written and courses he offers) that somebody interested in levelling-up their proficiency could look into. My biggest takeaway was that the pyramid is all about constant learning: we should be concurrently looking for ways to level-up at each stage and not rigidly focus on progressing through one at a time.

Matt Mullenweg founded WordPress in 2003 as an open-source fork of b2 - a blogging platform from that age. At the time, he was 19 years old, had taught himself programming and was building what would become one of the most important infrastructures of the web which many of the famous blogs and websites of Today still run off of. In this older (2015) interview with Tim Ferris, Matt talks about the history of WordPress and work practices at his company Automattic: why almost all employees work remotely, why Matt advocates against using email as well as hiring processes involving Slack DMs and ‘auditions.’ They also talk working habits, open-source, travelling and success, to make for an insightful and entertaining conversation.

3 Quotes to Think About 📝

“The chief enemy of good decisions is a lack of sufficient perspectives on a problem.” - Alain de Botton

“Capacity is a state of mind. How much we can do depends on how much we think we can do” - David Schwartz, The Magic of Thinking Big

“A person’s destiny is something you look back at after it’s past, not something you see in advance.” - Haruki Murakami, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

This is an excerpt from my weekly newsletter Sunday Saves. You can start receiving a curated list of insights by signing up here: