Anti-productivity patterns

Posted on August 5, 2023

I have been surrounded on the interweb with videos, articles and pretty any kind of content on the web with things that have to do with Productivity.

It might just be me hanging in these kind of circles and all the recommendation engines picking up on my initial search for the keyword “productivity”. And it is only fitting that I write about it.

Just the sheer volume of articles and videos that get recommended to me should be enough for me to fill an entire book on productivity let alone a blog post. But that would just be me plaigarizing(will save that for when I actually decide to make a book hehe 1 )

But having wasted spent alot of my time in pursuit of the wild beast called productivity I can outline pitfalls to avoid or what I like to call anti-productivity patterns.

Getting hung up on tools

I have spent a lot of time going through various tools in an attempt to find my mojo. I have hopped from one tool to another, In the endless pursuit of such tool. And when I decided I was going to use Emacs I pretty much tied myself to that tool. I was refusing to use anything else. Any nice and easy tool I found to do a job I would try to see how I can make Emacs to do that.

What I could have achieved effortlessly with Notes app on mac to sync my notes across devices, I spent way too much time trying to see if I can find a way to make that happen using Emacs. And in the end it turned out the solution that I was come with was something I wasn’t still fully satisfied with.

This pursuit of trying to get one tool to do evertyhing consumed a lot of my time and turned out to be a distraction.

Should be non-invasive

Find tools that work with minimal interruption to your current workflow.

I am looking at Emacs, Notion, et. al tools that have endless possibilities and where the ramp up time is kind of steep. To get you productive levels would mean to first go on this other journey to master the tools. If you such leverage great! But not all of us are afforded the free time to embark on such journey.

I find tools that are simple 2 better for productivity. (Notes app in mac for my note taking needs, reminders app like the name suggests for everything to do with todo lists/reminders, calendar app for timeblocking/organizing your day..etc.)

Tweak/Customizability trap

While it is great to use tools that are extensible and customizable.

With great power comes great responsibility

It is easy to also get carried away with the customization and extensibility options a tool provides, to the extent that it can distract you.

As I say that, I don’t mean that you should practise abstinence from using such tools. The extensibility/customization should happen organically. Similar to how one would craft their vimrc or init.el(emacs)

I have been guilty of this, where I spend time just looking for cool tweaks and code snippets on the internet without really needing them or having a usecase for them.

All purpose tools

Have tools that do one thing and do it really well. For quite sometime I was trying to live in the Emacs world, note taking, reminders, calendar etc. Trying to do everything inside the Emacs world. While it is possible and I have seen many people on the interweb do it, it also takes a lot of time and effort.

By having one tool do everything I was missing out on how much more productive I could have been had I tried and used apps that are built to carry out those specific tasks and in a much easy, intuitive and optimized way.

The problem with trying to do everything with one tool meant that I would have to constantly be on Google, trying to find if someone had a solution for my problem in the tool I was using. And sometimes even if it did the maintainer would have moved on to something new leaving the plugin or library in an abandoned state(which would either not work or work with an older version of the software)

Use tools that work for you

Don’t chase the unicorn that everyone is (unless ofcourse you are able to find and tame it), instead use tools that work for you and fits your workflow. Even if that just means using a traditional but trusty notebook and pen or a physical calendar to track your events. They are perfectly fine as long as they work you and fits into your system/workflow.


  1. don’t worry I will not charge money for poor and plaigarized content :P↩︎

  2. By simple I mean, time to taken to be up and running using the tool should be minimal.↩︎