Pillars of Productivity: Building Your Best Self

I've been able to remain consistently productive for years now but I wasn't always this way. Some of what I know now came from my past mistakes. Bootstrapping companies solo, made consistency a necessity for me. It's all on me. There isn't anyone to shift responsibilities to. I realize to be successful at this game, I need to be the best version of myself. I also need to get the most out of my days. 

My productivity is enabled by 4 core pillars. Purpose, focus, a task management system, and my self-care routine. All four are necessary to maximize productivity. 

Your system will likely look different from mine though because it's not a one size fits all approach. We all need to design our own systems that allow us to consistently show up and do our best work. It's also important to keep your system in permanent beta by always seeking to improve it.   


Purpose comes first. We need a strong WHY to remain discipline overtime. Our purpose is the compass that guides our decisions. Without this we default to instant gratification. 

My WHY is to be the best version of myself. 

This means:
  • Self-directed learning  
  • Optimizing my health
  • Practical sustainable living.
  • Living frugally
  • Being kind to all
  • Striving to make best of the worst
  • Spending time with those I love
  • Striving to never waste a moment
Sound idealistic? That's intentional. Your core purpose should be something you strive for. There is no final destination. 

This is something you carry with you throughout life. It doesn't matter if you're on your death bed or if you're in your prime. You can always strive for your best. 

I'm striving to leave this world better than when I found it.


The direction of our attention determines the direction of our growth.

To achieve any long-term goal, you must focus on the process of getting there. Many make the mistake of obsessing over the outcome though.

You need to be in love with your process. If you don't enjoy it, you will burnout. 

Obsessing over the outcome takes you away from the present moment.

With the right process, the outcome takes care of itself. 

This is why I avoid long-term planning. I have long-term goals but not a long-term plan to get their. Life is uncertain. Long-term plans use yesterdays thinking to solve tomorrows problems. 

Long-term planning is all hypothetical. It's a waste of energy. It's why many never even get started. They are too overwhelmed with analysis by paralysis to make that first step. 

I plan one week out at a time and take each day as they come. You don't need a crystal clear vision of the end. Just the present.

This quote by E.L. Doctorow really explains this well:

'Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.'

This quote, applies to any long-term goal. Not just writing a novel... It takes faith and trust to operate like this. But it's really the only way. 

Try otherwise and see how far you make it. Long-term planning is a recipe for burnout or not even getting started in the first place. 

Now that we've talked about focus let's discuss task management.

My Task Management System

To remain productive we need clarity. We need to know what to work on and when. This requires an intentional system for managing task. 

My system has become more robust over the years. I used to keep most things in my head. This lead to constant mistakes and missed opportunities. 

My rule now is not to memorize anything. When I have an idea or something external that I need to reference later, I've learned that I need to store it somewhere other than my brain immediately.

Memorization has a low value with a high opportunity cost.

For 4 reasons:

- Conservation of energy.

- The act of holding on to information takes you out of the present moment.

- Value comes from our ability to find answers, not to recall them.

- True memorization comes naturally from repeated practice.

So where do I keep it all? That depends. 

For quick ideas and reminders, I simply write it down. Index cards and Sticky notes are my best friends for this. 

To keep track of task, I use Todoist. Todoist holds all my task. My routine tasks, appointments, future tasks and someday maybe tasks. My routine tasks and appointments are scheduled so that they automatically show up on schedule each day.

You don't need to use Todoist. Choose an app that works for you.

I also use a legal pad to keep track of my day-to-day tasks for work. My system for this is to write down my tasks for the next day when I finish work. No wasted time figuring out what to do the next day. I go to sleep each night knowing exactly my plan for the next day.

To set intention in my life I journal. My journaling practice consist of a daily journal, and weekly, monthly and yearly reviews.

My daily journal has a morning and night journal where I answer the same prompts daily.

Night Journal:

- How are you?
- 1 thing you're grateful for
- 2 things learned today
- 3 biggest task for tomorrow

Morning Journal:

- How are you?
- 1 thing you're grateful for
- 2 things that would make today exceptional
- Review 3 task for today and reaffirm you got this

I won't go in depth about my daily journaling practice but for more on this feel free to checkout the video below.

I also do weekly journal review. For this I reflect on 3 key areas in my life: Work, Relationships, and Personal Development. My weekly review is where I make adjustments to my goals, track progress and set new goals. 

At the end of each month I do monthly review. I also do my yearly review for each year that passes. 

Without my journaling practice, I'd be lost.

My Self-Care Routine

None of this would be possible without self-care. The two things that had the biggest impact on me with self-care is prioritizing sleep and daily exercise. 


I once lived by the phrase, "I'll sleep when I die". This is great if you want to speed up your path to death. But I thought the key to productivity was to maximize hours worked and minimize sleep. 

I just did not understand how important sleep was. I even got into a terrible car accident one day after a night studying for an exam with no sleep.

It wasn't until I read the book "Why We Sleep" By Mathew Walker when I began to realize just how important sleep was. This book changed my life when I applied the insights I learned from it.  

To do great work, you need great sleep. Great sleep requires intentional sleep hygiene. 

This means 
  • Limiting light exposure and water before bed 
  • Cutting off caffeine before late in the day


I exercise daily because, humans are not meant to be sedentary. Our ancestor's exercised everyday by necessity. That was called survival for them. 

Today, we need to be intentional about exercising. Some people have decided to hate exercise but I enjoy it. It's all about your perspective. There are many ways to make exercise enjoyable. 

We choose what we enjoy, based on our beliefs. I choose to enjoy activities that align with a healthy life and avoid cheap dopamine. 

Often times people over complicate their exercise routine which makes it's very difficult to be consistent. I keep my exercise routine simple and that is why it is something I can do every single day. I don't go to the gym. I just do simple body weight exercises like push-ups and sit-ups. No need for fancy equipment. Long-term consistency over short-term efficiency. Keeping this process simple is the reason that I can't recall the last time I missed a day. And if you do miss a day never miss twice.  

What else? 

On top of sleep and daily exercise, I also have some other key elements to my daily routine that help me remain productive. 
  • Daily Meditation
  • Deliberate cold exposure: cold shower
  • Eat healthy - minimize sugar and  limit portions
  • Go for walks
  • Intentional Stillness - To process life, our minds need time without external stimulation. That's when ideas come to us. There is a reason that people commonly get ideas in the shower... Clarity comes from stillness.  
  • Always learning - If I was depending on what I know from personal experience, I would not get very far...
  • No Alcohol - 3 years ago I gave up alcohol and it was one of the best decisions I've ever made for myself. 
    • At first this was a tough decision. I come from an Irish family where everyone drinks. I thought weddings and family parties would be awkward without alcohol. So, I thought  I was giving up a lot but I didn't realize how much I'd be gaining. 
    • No hangovers, better health, less wasted time, less wasted money and better sleep.  
    • By the way, weddings and family parties are more fun now than ever. Better conversations and more great memories.
Everyone is different. Find a system that works for you. Your routine should be always evolving. I'm constantly tweaking my routine to get it just 1% better. 1% better with a routine compounds overtime.

That's my system for consistently showing up and doing my best work. The 4 pillars: Purpose, focus, task management, and self-care are critical for any productive routine. Though these pillars will look different for each person. Your routine should be customized to your needs. Pick the habits that help you remain consistent and accumulate compound growth.

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