Productivity: Don't be too hard on yourself

A lot of us here are productivity geeks, as well as Apple geeks. A fairly recent post here inspired me to post this, a modified version of which I sent to a friend recently.

I would be cautious about putting too much pressure on yourself about being productive. We are living through a global crisis that no one alive today has ever seen. All of our routines are out the window (I put shoes on today for the first time since March 12th). We have no structure, no rhythm to life. Dealing with these changes is taking most of my effort - it’s very disruptive. I think anything I can do toward my work is a bonus. First and foremost is self-care - both mental and physical.

You may have heard of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. In the attached graphic, we currently spend a lot of time at the bottom in Basic Needs. Thinking about security, safety, food, water, warmth, rest are the most important things to us at the moment.

Here’s an article that might be helpful as well.


Agreed! Heard someone today say they estimate that on a “good” day they’re at about 80% and most days about 50% compared to “normal.”


I find that being lucky enough to be able to keep working from home, having that whole ‘being online 9-5’ to be keeping me in routine and giving me the feeling of productivity during these times. Though I’m also finding myself missing the office and its mundane level of social interaction now that we’re home stricken. I can’t imagine the difficulty for people now, a few weeks in, who haven’t been able to work from home and were let go. A whole lot of worries and fear :frowning:

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Can’t find the picture anymore, but there are (at least two) updated versions of that Maslow pyramid:

The first I have seen some years ago. It added 2 (bottom) “basic needs”: WiFi & Battery…

The second I saw only recently. It added another layer at the very bottom: toilet paper…

I’m glad those needs are fulfilled and I’m actually grateful for technology, as it helps staying informed, work from home, and keep in touch with family & friends (some of those higher layers).

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I’ve been hearing a lot of the same. The world is very different right now so 50-80% are really good and no-one should be ashamed of being less productive than normal.

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I’d say that most days of my 43 year career I was less than 50% productive anyway!

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I kind of thrive in all the chaos. :smiley: Productivity is off the roof.

No big insights here. I’ve worked at home for years, with a team of people across the world who also work from home. So I’m still joining the team online at 7 AM weekdays, interacting in meetings, and signing off at 4 PM. I am grateful to have that routine. My wife worked and volunteered outside the house most days, and had to work hard the past few weeks to create a new home-based routine, which she has managed to do.

I do not think any of this is about productivity right now. (In the best of times, I’ll have to say, I really do not know what “productivity” is supposed to be.). I think it is about creating new routines, new ways of being with our families, friends, business and social associates. I hate it that I cannot get on the subway and go to a museum on a whim. I hate it even more that if I were in a crowd right now I would be wary, maybe even fearful, of strangers – something I have never experienced.

It feels like my mental model of the world and “how things work” is still 95% accurate, but the 5% that changed drastically is so weirdly different that it feels like sleepwalking in a bizarre dream.

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There are a lot of variables to this, but one big impediment I’ve faced is dealing with the emotions of a global pandemic. Been feeling a lot of strong grief. It’s not fun, but it weighs me down and I need to be intentional to process through it. Something to keep in mind if you’re facing diminished productivity outside of a new routine or having kids at home.


To use a baseball analogy I had someone say to me “@Jonathan your trying to achieve a 1.000 bating average, even the really good pros bat .400 in baseball, it’s ok if you don’t do everything!”

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This video by CGP Grey is very good. I tried compartmentalizing/contextualizing yesterday and it was really helpful. Sleeping place, eating place, working place, relaxing place. If I got the urge to check MPU (etc) while I was at the working place, I reminded myself that I was at the working place, and could go to the relaxing place if I really wanted too.