Some very interesting thoughts by Tiago Forte in a Twitter thread, which I’ve reposted here for readability:

I’m increasingly convinced that THE most important thing in productivity is to end every cycle with a clear milestone or deliverable

Both “deep work” (large batch) and “multitasking” (small batch) miss the point in this regard

The absolute size of your work batches doesn’t matter, and a wide range of sizes is probably best

But if u don’t end your cycle with a clear deliverable, you’re de-optimizing the next cycle before it’s even begun

You’ll either have to spend the entire next cycle tying up loose ends of previous one, OR remembering what you started in previous one

Latter is not as innocuous as it seems. Its difficult to pick back up smthg that was begun, but not brought far enough 2 reduce ambiguity

You’re left with the constraints of previous work session, but w/out benefits of clearly defined next steps

But it goes deeper. By finishing w/ an artifact, physical or conceptual or visual, you have something to ponder between sessions

The mind cannot creatively ponder messy work-in-process. Occurs as a morass of open loops, no anchor to push back on

A deliverable is a thingified idea - it provides distinctions, decisions, constraints, affordances that can be embraced, or rejected

Thingified ideas provide another benefit in rapidly changing, networked world: u can get feedback on them, improving orientation

Key skill in matching cycle time to delivery pace is acceleration (and deceleration)

Simple level: be able to cram in that last bit of work to finish it in this work session, instead of pushing it to next one or deceleration: know when to slow down and > really do the most thorough job, instead of maintaining speed and starting smthg new>

Complex level: know how to align life rhythms so that cycle time and deliverables fluctuate in sync, to the same rhythm

This involves multiple skills: next-level calendaring/scheduling, rapidly creating conditions for flow, setting/enforcing blackout times abruptly changing states of mind, > self-awareness to know limits, defining tasks/deliverables and their interfaces, distraction mgmt>

It also means spending more time planning (all aspects of life), relative to doing, which feels to many like lowered productivity

But it’s necessary, because planning has way more leverage available to it than doing. Doing is base, planning is exponent

Also shows why very healthy body and mind is critical. It limits sprint/stamina at most fundamental, hardware level

Thus a tiny constraint at hardware level magnifies into massive constraint at mind (software) level. Ceiling on cycle time limits range

Also shows why maintaining relationships/hobbies is important. These cannot be pulled on demand, operate on much longer cycles

And the reserves they fill (love, connection, acceptance, humor) cannot effectively be filled any other way

Ability to quickly and thoroughly relax is probably key capability required. Middle ground of low level stress shortens next cycle

W/out producing clear deliverable, or even planning of next deliverable, which is hard to do when stressed

But walking away when a deliverable is finished is very hard, bec all biomarkers are attuned to immediate gratification & stimulation

Dopamine provides anticipation + pleasure, whereas serotonin lacks anticipation, making it hard to pursue in presence of former

After yrs of time-tracking I almost never work more than 30 hrs/wk, bec there’s no point in working if I can’t produce a deliverable

Better to spend that time creating the conditions for massive acceleration, which brings exponential rewards

(I pulled the text out with the excellent Spooler.)

Max Masnick, PhD @max

© Max Masnick. Views expressed here are mine alone.