Tag Archives: how to be productive


How to be productive – inspired by pancakes

In today’s fast-paced lifestyle, life can easily pass you by. Everyone needs to have a ‘how to be productive’ system that can fit into their hectic schedule. Husbands and wives have their home chore list. Students have their school assignments. Corporate employees have numerous reminders about the business reports that are due in a couple of hours. Often, an individual shares two or more different roles that need to be managed. Versatility, ease of use, and practicality are often a necessity to a productivity system. If you made productivity a full-time task, and you would still have a hard time efficiently developing a system that works for everyone. XKCD.com illustrates this perfectly.


How to be productive when you don’t have time to learn

The problem is that the more time that you devote to improving your method, the longer it takes to make up for the time lost. The harder you work, the further behind you become. It becomes extremely complicated to devote time to that when you have so many other things going on. Eventually, “find new ways to save time” becomes just another item on your “I will get to it at some point” to-do list.

That is why I have decided to make it my goal to help you.

The problem is that I can only work on thoughts and ideas that are in my given skill set. I can only make pancakes.


Photo by mroach


I am the biggest pancake critic I know. Any breakfast restaurant that serves the delectable spheres of doughy goodness can bet my order will include a short stack at least.

The funny thing about this that until recently, I did not even know how to make pancakes. The recipe I was familiar with included a box of batter with the simple instructions “Just add water”. Why had I never learned to make scratch pancakes? The answer was one simple word, fear. There was a fear of failure and then ruining my favorite meal forever.

Tim Ferris relates to this types of fear in his TED Talk, – Smash Fear – Learn Anything. Similar to his experiences becoming a “champion tango dancer” my cooking skill improved as my ability to adapt to my personal thoughts came in. My first attempt at pancakes was straight out of the recipe book, and the result was something that tasted like it came from the box. Over time, I started experimenting with ideas that would make my pancakes a little better. Instead of 2 teaspoons of salt, I would only add few shakes. Instead of 3 tablespoons of butter, I just throw in half of a stick. Slowly but surely, my pancakes became better and better. Now other people compare restaurant pancakes to my pancakes. 

Making things better

Just like my little pancake experiment, productivity can be improved. Using my skill set and personal preferences, I was able to make pancakes that others also liked. I learned how to be productive at a task that is very important to me. Who is to say that I cannot use my skills in productivity (which are mostly technical) to improve the methods that you use in your system?

“But pancakes are just a part of a balanced breakfast.”

There may also be scrambled eggs, bacon (please have bacon), and some freshly squeezed orange juice. My improvements can only be used for the pancakes. I cannot use the same methods for the rest of the meal. There is no adding more butter to orange juice. It just will not work.

Perhaps someone else has a method that makes better bacon or better eggs. If I invite them over and we all start preparing our signature dishes, we are left with a meal that is absolutely delicious.

This is how my personal system works and relates to the same thought LifeHacker.com Writer Adam Dachis had in Knowing a Little of Everything Is Often Better Than Having One Expert Skill.

“Thinking of things without any connection, without multiple perspectives, leads to work that’s often un-relatable.”

Collaborate with others. Take ideas from those people implement them in your day-to-day. We may think differently, but most people reading this would like to achieve the same goal. That goal is a better life managed with less time wasted in developing it. I can provide some of the dishes but you may have the rest of the recipes to help make the entire meal worth eating.

One Dish from Many

One of the most delicious breakfast dishes is the breakfast skillet. It is simply a mash of many different dishes blended and proportioned together to make a completely new dish. Perhaps you have many complete methods, but you only need bits and pieces of each to make a functioning system.


I have collected bits and pieces from productivity ideas. The more “hacks” I discovered, the easier it became to think outside the box. This prevented me from isolating my thought process to one central area. I could find more and more ways to incorporate pieces of techniques into my overall system.

I believe that the more people we have providing their “hacks” to productivity, the more we will discover unexpected and exciting recipes.  This will motivate people to take control of their system and their lives. It will also have people wanting to reach for better ideas, and promote productive creativity. Paul Arden talks about ideas in It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be: 

“You just have to put yourself in a frame of mind to pick them up.”

Here are some ways that you can  pick up ideas:

  • Create a list of problems and ideas, document them in a list. As soon as they come to you, store them in a list-management or collaboration tool like Twoodo and link them to your Evernote so you can expand on them later. (See my article  about linking your Twoodo and Evernote Accounts)
  • Keep a journal of methods you try. Be sure to identify both positive and negative aspects. (You may be able to learn something from them later).
  • Use read-later tools like Pocket to store the pages and articles with relevant short phrase tags in order to find advice on needed areas.

If you don’t like the eggs, you don’t have to eat them.
The best part about this idea is that you do not have to use all of it. You only need to take what is beneficial to you. Create a “recipe book” that has the dishes, their ingredients and steps needed to prepare them. If there is an item that you don’t like, you can leave it out. Just remember like all recipes there are essential and nonessential ingredients. Pancakes without flour are not pancakes.

Are you Ready to get started?
Scour Reddit’s
Productivity Channel and Lifehacker’s “How I Work” series and find the ideas and recipes that are out there. I plan to develop a site that hosts productivity information exclusively and allows for great collaboration and idea collecting. If you are interested in helping me with this idea in any way, including contributing content, please let me know.

Additional Photo Credits: Jeffrey W.