119: Productivity & Meditation, with Chris Bailey


Really thought provoking… thank you. Interesting how the world changes; we spent so much time being told to focus on goals, “you’ll never achieve anything unless you are clear about your goals”, but I notice (like @RosemaryOrchard I think!) that most of my goals this quarter are processes…
Quick question to @mikeschmitz - what are the questions you use in your (I think) evening review? You mentioned in passing & I’m interested - still working on my format (Currently what did I do, what did I do well, what not so well, tomorrow…)

I model my journaling after the Daily Questions by Marshall Goldsmith. They are in response to the question, “did I do my best to…?” which makes it less outcome-based. Here are my prompts:

Did I do my best to…

  • grow spiritually?
  • love my wife?
  • love my kids?
  • be a good friend?
  • learn something new?
  • create something?
  • exercise?

Here’s a short video I published a while back that shows it in action: Daily Questions in Roam Research


Great episode guys! I normally listen at 1.5x but I slowed this one down to 1x and gave it the time and attention it deserved. @MacSparky regarding setting your intention and using Toggl, I employ a combination of Vitamin-R and Keyboard Maestro. The process is relatively simple - set time slice duration (I use 25 minutes), type in your intention and start the time slice. The magic comes from Vitamin-R’s ability to fire an event when a time slice is started and stopped (and other events as listed below). I use the intention that I set in Vitamin-R as the input to a Toggl API call (triggering the KM Macro below as shown in the comment). I also put my Mac into Focus mode and start some focus music (inspired by Chris Bailey, blocking distractions etc), and fire off a contextual computing conflict palette (of course inspired by David Sparks). When you were speaking about Intention and Toggl, the link could not have been clearer to me, as I use it many times a day! As an aside, my 4:30 PM shutdown reminder also tells me to finish up whatever the current Toggl timer is, again, using a Toggl API call. Is there a Focused + Automators podcast in the works? There could be some real potential there.



Incredibly thought provoking. So much so that I immediately purchased the audiobook.

The one bit that really resonated with me was @mikeschmitz saying how he struggles with the spiritual connotations of meditating. I am not religious and this has always been my biggest struggle so it was incredibly refreshing hearing Mike give the same response considering his religious beliefs. Thank you so much @mikeschmitz - you have set me on a path of meditating!!

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I’ve gotten the sense that in parts of the personal productivity community meditation has become a “must do” practice in which studies are quoted to show the benefits of meditation, seemingly to anyone that regularly practices it. I don’t doubt that some find huge benefits in mediation, and it makes them “more productive” by their standard. However, it seems to me that this is one area in which many seem to assume that everyone who meditates will receive these benefits.

That’s not the case when other productivity practices, processes, tools, or tricks are discussed. Everyone agrees that not all software or analog tools work as well for every person, and that you need to try different tools and choose what works for you and reject those that don’t work. Just because something works for me doesn’t mean it will work for you. We’re all different.

Maybe it’s my limited exposure, but I don’t see this same attitude or acknowledgment in the community when it comes to the practice of meditation. People try it, even multiple times, and it just “doesn’t work” for them in the sense they perceive no worthwhile, benefits (I’m thinking of you, @mikeschmitz). Instead of accepting their personal experience as legitimate, they are encouraged to try it over and over and over again with the expectation that at some point it will work for them. People feel guilty and are almost embarrassed to admit it’s not working for them like it is for other folks. We don’t feel that way about saying that Roam or Obsidian or any other tool doesn’t work for us.

I hope the meditation advocates would consider the possibility that this practice they find so helpful might not work for all of us, and that’s OK.

Sometimes I think it is the vocabulary, hype, imagery and expectations that get in the way. Meditation is too broad a word and caries too many connotations - religious and secular. Meditation is a method of achieving neuronal synchronization or a flow state - but it is not the only method. So you are right meditation is a tool and feeling embarrassed or inadequate because you do not understand a tool is not helpful.

Just because the tool does not work, does not mean the goal in not achievable:

  • there are many different types of meditation techniques, some I find helpful for me others less so. Simply saying mediation does not work may just mean the type of meditation you have chosen to try does not work.
  • motion works better for some people- receptive (eg:knitting) or contemplative(yoga)
  • nothing wrong with a combination of these things: tai-chi, Quadrato Motor Training

The end goal is to achieve a mind state where you are not fighting with your conflicting desires and emotions with whatever tools work for you.

Thanks for your thoughts. I think you’re right, and it’s a great insight. Meditation (of which there are multiple modalities) is only one of several approaches or tools, that can get you the same results. Some methods work well for some people, but not for everybody. For myself, I’ve found that yoga does much the same for me as those who practice a more “classic” form of meditation by sitting for a specified time and focusing on breathing, observing thoughts, etc.

The assumption that some form of meditation is the only way to achieve an objective is a large part of the uncomfortableness that I have with the way I hear this topic discussed in productivity circles. And I think it’s the reason why people who don’t find it helpful beat themselves up and keep trying to force the issue.

If what others are doing and recommending as “meditation” doesn’t work for you, back off and try another approach that may work for you and get you where you want to go.

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