Mastery and being inspired improves your productivity

Productivity is a measure of one’s output given a set period of time but it doesn’t mean quality or doing it right.

That’s my understanding of what it means when someone mention productivity these days.

Our modern economy places a high emphasis on this metric. With the advancement of technology, it is expected that everyone output 10x, 100x or even 1000x of what someone could output for the same amount of time and resource several years ago.

On a personal level, it’s suggested one sleep early and wake up early, exercise more, and maybe throw in some meditation to improve your energy level so that you can do more and faster in a short amount of time.

The 80/20 rule also applies here. One should only spent the least amount of effort to achieve the greatest result.

I for one don’t disagree with all those advices because they do help.

However, I have come to recognize that there are two more things that one should also acquire to be highly productive.

The first is mastery.

When you master something, be it copywriting, write codes, or draw art, you will find yourself doing a lot of things effortlessly because whatever it is you are doing is like muscle memory. This determine how much actual effort is spent to create something. Thus, it could take you as little as 15 minutes to do something that would taken you an hour or two when you were a novice.

I know because I have gone through that many times in my software development work. I can deliver way more than what my colleagues or friends could even when they are copying and pasting code within a set period of time. And with quality I might add.

What I did was by picking a specific area in software development and then focus all my attention on it.

For example, I picked UX/UI design and implementation for my current job and then spent weeks after weeks doing that. Right now, you can get the best possible UI (compared to my colleagues on the team and possibly my current division) from me using just the UI controls provided by Microsoft’s WPF and Telerik. I even took care of a lot of detailed stuff that help ensure a smooth and great user experience when they use the application. Something that I know for a fact my colleagues can’t do.

And I’m not boasting…Ok, maybe a little. I’m proud of what I have achieved.

My team lead saw it with his own eyes over the past year. And even my colleagues also recognize some of the stuff I have done that are better than their work. Even the customer, despite not knowing who done what, knows which part of the user interface they love the most and commented how good it was, which was done by me.

What I have realized too was you don’t need to reach 100% mastery (which is quite impossible) in something. All you need is to reach roughly 60% to 70% mastery in something and you can quite easily do anything that require you to use that skillset. Anything more than that will probably see diminishing returns and not worth your time to pursue.

The second thing to boost your productivity is being inspired.

Being a master at something isn’t enough to improve your productivity when you are completely drained and uninspired. In fact, being uninspired can reduce your productivity by some 50% or maybe more (not scientifically correct, just a gut feeling).

I have gone through days feeling depressed or uninspired. Even the thing I could have easily finished in less than an hour took me half the day and sometime, the whole day.

To feel inspired, sometime you just need to reframe your mind.

You can try to think of the problem you are trying to solve from a new perspective. This is where you need to figure out your WHY. You need to have an honest conversation with yourself about WHY you are doing what you are doing now. Once you do that, you could find the spark that you need to drive you forward.

And if that doesn’t help much, sometimes, you really do need to move around. Go for a walk or a run. Even step out of office and sit at the pantry or cafeteria can help.

Please don’t take my word at face value. Go and try the two suggestions out and see if it helps with making you more productive at work. So far, it has helped me in delivering more with quality over the last few months.

Living life without social media

Social media is one of the greatest inventions of the modern society after computers. It helped change the modus operandi of companies in how they do business with each other and with end customer. It has also shrink the world into a smaller place where communities are formed and people get together.

However, it’s not without its cons.

Articles like this, this, and this showed that social media led to decrease productivity in workplaces, increase anxiety and stress, increase depression rates, and decrease attention span. It has also led to situation where people in the same room don’t talk to each other anymore. They prefer to be looking at their screens scrolling through the feeds. They will see what their friends are doing, look at cat pictures (I do that because who doesn’t like cats…), and post curated content like images of themselves and their lives.

And you know what? Those articles aren’t wrong at all.

Auditing the time spent on social media

I decided to audit my life two days ago.

I realized I could spend up to four hours a day scrolling through Facebook news feed instead of doing anything productive. I would do it when I’m at work. I would do it while I’m on the train. I would do it while I am waiting for food to arrive. And I would even do it while my friends are around me chatting away.

I was addicted and afraid of talking to people.

And, it also took away precious time that I could use to read and write.

Excising the tumor called Facebook

I made the decision to quit social media. Unsurprisingly, the first to go was Facebook. I logged out from and uninstalled the main and messenger app from my phone and iPad.

Now, I didn’t exactly delete my account because someone once advised that keeping it around is necessary to ensure no one else attempts to masquerade as you. So what I did was to delete every single post I have ever made over the last two years and 95% of the photos on it. I removed my profile picture and cover picture. I put in a fake birthday and clear all the profile fields. There are still more posts to be deleted but it didn’t matter. The damage is done. My Facebook profile is ruined. When something is ruined, chances are you won’t go back and use it again. It would take too much effort to rebuild. Then I hit the logged out button and that was it.

What’s it like?

Although it’s only been three days, the effects were obvious. It’s especially so for me as a writer.

At first, you would feel weird like your limbs have been chopped off. There would be this void or itch that you can’t seem to scratch. When you are outside and feel like checking Facebook, you will find yourself feeling sad because the app is no longer on your phone. To make matter worse, you can’t even remember the password because it’s too long and managed by a password manager.

Then come the second day, you don’t even feel it. Well, at least in my case. I no longer have the desire to check Facebook anymore. You would find yourself feeling lighter and happier. When you are at work, you no longer stop what you were doing just to check the news feed. You can focus on your work more. And when you are traveling, you don’t check your phone as often. In my case, I brought a book along to read. You start to notice the nuances in your surroundings.

By the third day, you would actually use the freed up time to write. Again, I’m assuming you are a writer. The same could said if you like to bake or cook or play musical instruments. Now, even though you are on your computer with the password manager, you don’t even bother to open the password manager, access Facebook, and log in. The effort is just too much. You no longer feel depressed because you are not looking at other people’s well-curated life, all the nice photos of their families and friends, all the status updates of what they are doing, etc. You become more focus in what you want to do.

Don’t listen to those who claim social media is useful

Instead, I would counter that quitting social media is more useful. It will greatly improve your life, improve your productivity, your attention span, and the ability to think deeper.

And that’s how I am able to churn out this article in thirty minutes…

As Dr. Cal Newport put it during his ted talk, social media will actively prevent you from doing deep work. The ability to do deep work is ever so important in this and future economy. When you can do deep work, you are able to learn more in less time.

In that talk, you would hear him counter-argue three points people make when it comes to quitting social media. One of those point being “missing out” and the other was “my job requires it”.

Here are some other articles written by people who quit social media for a fix period of time and permanently.

Emma Fierberg wrote about how she quit social media for a month and how it was the best choice she have ever made.

John Gorman, who’s a writer, also wrote about why he quit social media and what were the benefits.

Call to action

I hope you take the chance to audit your life and determine if you should also quit social media so that you can build a better life for yourself and improve relationships that you have.