4 Principles of Productivity

Mark Manson
6 min readSep 9, 2019

Productivity is a tricky balance. On the one hand, if you treat yourself like a slave, flagellating yourself, locking yourself into a quiet room and not allowing yourself to have any fun, ever, then you’re going to get burnt out and things will slowly come apart.

On the other hand, if you are too lax on yourself, if you give yourself free time whenever you want it, if you don’t hold yourself accountable to schedules or commitments, well, then you wouldn’t get anything done, would you?

In the past several years, I’ve written four books, hundreds of blog articles and newsletters, managed a staff of full-time employees, done speaking tours on three different continents, and somehow managed to maintain relationships with friends and family.

I don’t say that to brag. It’s just that I’ve been self-employed for my entire adult life, and I’ve been forced to find that Goldilocks balance of productivity-not too much, not too little.

Below are four principles I’ve discovered in optimizing my work:

Productivity Is Personal

Some people have a strange fetish about the productivity of other people. It’s like productivity porn for them or something. They sit around in a circle jerk learning about what Jeff Bezos eats for breakfast on Thursdays or the exact time Elon Musk takes a shit or that Sheryl Sandberg uses a-GASP- paper notebook to manage her schedule.

Seriously, just stop.

There’s nothing wrong with learning new systems of efficiency. But at the end of the day, productivity is a very personal thing. What works for me-or Jeff Bezos, for that matter-probably won’t work for you. And even if it does, it will probably change one day.

I used to be a die-hard night owl. For years, I couldn’t even remember my own name before 10 AM. I did my best writing at 3 in the morning, blasting heavy metal into my skull through my earbuds.

Now my most productive days occur when I wake up between 6–7 AM and I bang out my best work before noon.

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Mark Manson

Author of #1 NYTimes Bestseller ‘The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck’. OG Blogger. Psychology Nerd. I enjoy cats and whiskey. But not at the same time.