Improvisational Productivity


Hey friends,

Last week I was listening to an episode of Million Dollar Brainstorm, in which the hosts Shaan and Sam were chatting with investor Daniel Gross*.

Towards the end of this episode, he mentioned the phrase improvisational productivity. Obviously, I’m a sucker for anything pretentious-sounding that seems vaguely related to productivity so this was right up my street.

Daniel’s idea, which he elaborates in a blog post, is that the less we think about something, the more likely we are to do it.

The longer you think about a task without doing it, the less novel it becomes to do. Writing things in your to-do list and coming back to them later helps you focus, but it comes at the cost: you’ve now converted an interesting idea into work. Since you’ve thought about it a little bit, it’s less interesting to work on.

It’s like chewing on a fresh piece of gum, immediately sticking it somewhere, then trying to convince yourself to rehydrate the dry, bland, task of chewed-up gum. Oh. That thing. Do you really want to go back to that? “We’ve already gone through all the interesting aspects of that problem, and established that there’s only work left”, the mind says.

I noticed this when I was starting my new YouTube channel (Appendix). I’d been toying with the idea for over a year before I even uploaded the first video to it. And since the first few uploads, I’ve been in thinking / planning mode for so long that the only thing left to do is sit down and film the videos for it. But that’s not the interesting part anymore, and so I haven’t been able to bring myself to do it.

Equally, for my first Skillshare video editing class, I’d thought about it for weeks before one free Saturday thinking to myself in the morning “right I’m going to film all 30 videos in this class today”. It took that improvisational approach of ‘lets just do it’, of just executing, to get it done.

There’s probably an optimal amount of time to think about something before acting on it. But most of us (including me) usually err far too much on the side thought rather than action.

So the question I’d put to you this week is this – what are you currently thinking about that you should really just get on and do?

Have a great week!


*PS: Incidentally, anytime I’ve listened to a podcast with Daniel Gross as the guest, I’ve always taken away nuggets of insight.

This week’s podcast

Not Overthinking is the weekly podcast hosted by me and my brother. If you enjoy these emails, you’ll hopefully like that too. You can listen on Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle PodcastsStitcherCastro (my favourite podcast app) or any other podcast app – just search for ‘Not Overthinking’.

Margin, Dinner Parties and The Art of Gathering | Not Overthinking

In this episode, we continue to discuss the difficulties with recording a podcast each week, which turns into a conversation about margin & keeping afloat vs optimising for the long term. We then talk about a dinner party that Taimur hosted, which turns into a discussion about The Art of Gathering, a book that explores these issues in much greater detail. Enjoy!

My Favourite Things this week

1 – Book – I’m working my way through How To Take Smart Notes by Sonke Ahrens. I’m only a few pages through it and already I’m in love with the writing style and the message. I’ll report back and let you know how it was when I finish it.

2 – Audiobook – I’m continuing to spend 10+ hours each week listening to the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan, currently on book 5 on Audible. This week it’s been so gripping that I haven’t listened to a single podcast (normally I get through 20+ episodes each week). If you’ve yet to listen to fantasy audiobooks, I’d suggest. starting with Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson. You won’t look back.

3 – Tech – For the past month, I’ve been tracking my sleep with the Oura ring. It hasn’t been life-changing but it’s certainly made me more mindful of my sleep hygiene. I’m low-key hoping the overall gains in sleep quality will justify the £300+ price tag.

Kindle Highlight of the Week

Maybe we all look for excuses to explain why we don’t achieve what we want to, and we should be more self-aware and recognize how much control we actually have over our own fate, even taking into account the barriers like racism, sexism, and nationalism that many of us have to face. It’s amazing how as soon as you make the shift from “I can’t” to “Why can’t I?” you go from defense to offense, and as everyone knows, the best place to score is always on offense.

From #AskGaryVee by Gary Vaynerchuk. Resurfaced with Readwise.

This week’s video

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