Mike Vardy is a writer and founder of the popular website Productivityist. His work has appeared in Success Magazine, Huffington Post, Lifehacker, and many other major outlets.
He is a leading thinker on productivity and technology and has spoken for TEDx, South By Southwest, and other major events. His goal is to help people become more aware of the present so they can progress with more focus and purpose in life.
What’s the key difference between “doing” productive and “being” productive?
Doing productive is spending time on low value tasks more often than not, keeping busy instead of moving the right things forward. It’s about checking off as many boxes as possible, regardless of their value.
Being productive is about investing your time wisely. It’s about checking off the right boxes. It’s about moving things forward strategically. It’s about marrying intention with attention in a way that boosts effectiveness and efficiency.
What’s your advice for people who know they need to increase their productivity but have a hard time personally connecting to the deluge of literature, ideas, etc on productivity?
Stop guessing and start going. When you find something that works give it a chance for more than just a week. Let it grow for at least 30 days before dismissing it. Less is more. I’m all about ‘personal’ productivity so if something really resonates with you then run with it and push aside the rest until it resonates more.
Get clear on your intentions and then pay attention to those instead of paying attention to everything else. If all else fails, limit what you read in the space to a certain amount of time per week. (For example, I am about to finish reading the last non-fiction book I’m going to read until September. That limitation will help me work on my next book without words and ideas seeping in from anything I’m currently reading. I need to set that boundary because I want to write the best book possible.)
How did you come up with the title, The Productivityist?
I came up with the title after recognizing that I’d gone through stages in my journey to be more productive. At first, I was an enthusiast, taking in everything I could because I was passionate about the topic.
Then I became a specialist because I knew a lot about the subject and could share that knowledge with others.
I’ve since evolved into a strategist because I have my own approach (The NOW Year™ Method) that I teach. So I took the “ist” and tacked it on to “productivity” to get Productivityist. People seemed to like it, so it stuck!
In your own life, what do you gain by consciously scheduling time each week to keep learning?
Knowledge and, now that I’m older, wisdom. I’m at an age where those two things are starting to intersect more often, so by theming one day of my week a “Learning Day” I can really leverage that. I can focus on absorbing facts and ideas in my own realm and in other areas, which is key to my overall growth.
And I’m not just learning about productivity on that day, either. I am learning about how to be a better leader, a more astute entrepreneur, and a better husband and father. Making and taking time to learn is something everyone should do because when we stop learning then we stop growing.
If you could share just three quick tips on task and time management, what would you say?
The first is to theme your days so you have an overarching focus for each of them. Your brain needs it so that it can do the work it is meant to do. The second is to work by “mode” as much as possible so that you can get into a state of flow more often than not. Doing this allows you to avoid “task-switching” too much and lowering your energy levels in the process.
Lastly, keep a journal and write in it daily. It’s like giving your mind a break when you do this because it doesn’t need to waste energy on storage. Plus it keeps you on top of what’s going on in your life across the board.