Personal Productivity

by Peter Saint-Andre


Today a friend asked me about more of my secrets for personal productivity. I still think that having a strong to-don't list and staying on a low-information diet are key factors in how I get so much done. However, reflecting further, I came up with a few more reasons:

  1. I focus in areas where I have a comparative advantage because I have practiced and honed my skills: in particular, technology (especially the intersection between technology and business) and writing (especially works that serious thinkers would consider to be pop philosophy).
  2. I work on many projects in parallel. Right now I am writing or doing research on both Thoreau and Aristotle. I have a number of technical projects underway at work and in the industry standards arena. And I continue to nurture some of my musical projects (I have at least four records to make and I endeavor to practice this music somewhat regularly so that I don't forget how to play it). On occasion, I devote a burst of activity to one of my various projects in order to nudge it forward or to finish it. I think it might seem that I am more productive than I really am, because something new is always being published or completed.
  3. Somehow I'm able to change focus quickly and keep things in memory over long spans of time (which might be related to the fact that I work on projects in parallel). Because of work and life schedules, I don't often have large blocks of time for my philosophical or musical projects (even though I wish I did!), so I have learned how to make the best use of whatever small blocks of time I have available (typically, the hour or two before I go to sleep, a few hours on Sundays, and plane and hotel time when I travel for work). The same goes for many of my technical projects, too.

Perhaps based on these three factors, I gestate on topics for long periods of time (I was thinking on and off about my book on Rand for seventeen years, and since my days at Columbia I've never really stopped thinking about Aristotle here and there). Thus when I finally do sit down to work on a topic intensively, I can often make fast progress.

Mostly, though, I just work hard...

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