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How I stay productive at work

Ali Abdaal
Ali Abdaal

Hey friends,

I’ve been on-call as the psychiatry junior doctor this weekend. That’s involved leaving home at 8am each day and returning around 10:30pm each night. This is rather a large chunk of the day spent ‘at work’ and yet I managed to get a lot of side-hustle stuff done (writing, planning videos etc).

The reason is “productive downtime”. When I’m at work, especially on-call, there are often long periods of downtime. In fact, I can sometimes go 2-3 hours without getting a single call. Since I started using an iPad, my downtime in moments like this has been much more productive.

It’s not that there’s a major difference between an iPad and an iPhone - you can basically do the same things on both, and especially if you connect a bluetooth keyboard to an iPhone, you can probably be just as physically productive.

But at least for me, there’s a big difference in mindset. To me, the iPhone is very much a consumption device. I browse instagram, watch YouTube videos, read articles on Reeder or Instapaper, or if I’m really stuck into a book, continue reading it on the Kindle app. These are all consumption activities.

When I’m on the iPad though, I have a much more creator mindset. Even though the operating system is identical to my iPhone (for now), I find it much easier to plan out videos in Notion, write stuff for the blog/email in Bear, update my to-do list on Things and update my Second Brain in Evernote.

Most of us probably find it easier to study in the library than in our bedrooms. This context-switching helps shift our brains into different gears. I suspect a similar thing is happening when switching between the iPhone and iPad.

And sure, I get that the luxury to switch between these two devices shows how enormously privileged I am etc etc. But I think that even without fancy tech to play with, we can all figure out what environments and contexts we work best in. Having identified that, we can then work with our psyche to get stuff done, rather than fighting an uphill battle in the never-ending quest for productivity.

Have a great week!

Ali


This week's podcast episode

Not Overthinking | 024 - What's it like to be internet-famous? Ft. Sara Dietschy | Episode 24

This week we're joined by a very special guest — Sara Dietschy, tech and creativity Youtuber and podcaster (links in the full show notes). In this episode, Taimur interviews Sara and Ali about being "internet famous" and how they feel about it — getting recognised in public, doing meetups, and everything else. Huge thank you to Sara for joining us this week!

Stuff I enjoyed this week

1 - Tech - This week, the Kickstarter campaign for the Paperlike screen protector for iPad v2 launched. I've been testing out the Paperlike v2 for the past few weeks and love it. If you've got an iPad, I'd recommend it - here's a cheeky affiliate link.

2 - Audiobook - I've been listening to the first book in the Wheel of Time series on Audible. It's narrated by Michael Kramer who does the fantastic narration of the Stormlight Archive series as well. It's a little slow to get started, but now that I'm into it, I'm trying to savour every moment.

3 - Board Game - I've plugged Avalon before but I'll do it again. We had a crew of university friends over this weekend and played several hours of Avalon with 5-9 players. It's like Mafia but on steroids. Really great game to make enemies out of friends.

Kindle Highlight of the Week

The ordinary challenging relationship remains a strangely and unhelpfully neglected topic. It’s the extremes that repeatedly grab the spotlight – the entirely blissful partnerships or the murderous catastrophes – and so it is hard to know what we should make of, and how lonely we should feel about, such things as immature rages, late-night threats of divorce, sullen silences, slammed doors and everyday acts of thoughtlessness and cruelty.

From The Course of Love by Alain de Botton. Resurfaced with Readwise.

This week's video

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Ali Abdaal

Junior doctor, YouTuber, web designer, aspiring musician. Trying out this blogging thing.