Sustainable Productivity

When we started this project, we aimed to help people to manage time in their own way – there are too many tools to manage time, but is it possible to have an all-in-one tool - as Notion to note taking - to manage time? In other words, can people build their time management workflow within one tool? The answer is technically possible, but it might be too ambitious to pursue at this moment. Surprisingly, after inviting many friends sharing their experience of time management, we learnt greatly from their sharing.

One of the key questions is how to sustain productivity in the long run.

Yes, we might be obsessed with various productivity hacks, or even being productivity porn. However, are these productivity hacks or productivity porn helpful to our overall productivity? beneficial to our mental health? The answer could be less optimistic: we heard many people trapped in such a situation: when they pursue extreme productivity, they will be easier to fall behind, to criticize themselves.

Therefore, we aim to help people sustain productivity, where the sustainable productivity is:

  1. Focused
  2. Lean
  3. Systematic
  4. Responsive
  5. Healthy

What is sustainable productivity?

  • The sustainable productivity is focused.

    1. We can set certain limits to keep our attention focused. For example, with the help of Burner List, we can set a limit of todo itmes in each day to help us focusing on the really important things;
    2. We can say no to any distractions. The best way to keep focused is saying no to any distractions, including unreasonable requests from others, etc.
  • The sustainable productivity is lean.

    1. We can be flexible with our plans as we can set a buffer. This is similar in the OKR concept: we have committed goals and aspirational goals: we aim high with the aspirational goals, and we prioritied commited goals. It’s ok to fail with the aspirational goals, but it is more rewarding to achieve them.
    2. We can always cancel or reschedule, therefore we can feel relieved.
  • The sustainable productivity is systematic.

    1. Sustainable productivity is a long-time game, an infinitive game. We aim to be more productive in the long run, therefore we need a system to achieve this.
    2. Instead of picking low hanging fruits of some short-term productivity boost, a systematic way of sustaining productivity always focus on the overall productivity.
  • The sustainable productivity is responsive.

    1. With a system of sustainable productivity, it will be easier to receive feedback of how productive we are and how can we be more productive in the long run;
    2. Accordingly, we can adjust our sustainable productivity to be more focused, lean and systematic.
  • The sustainable productivity is healthy.

    1. Pursuing sustainable productivity is to improve our mental health;
    2. As sustainable productivity is focused, lean, systematic and responsive, it is healthy by itself.

How to achieve sustainable productivity?

Then the question is: how can we achieve sustainable productivity? Here are some suggestions:

  1. Prioritize and focus;
  2. Set bonus goals;
  3. Say no to distractions;
  4. It’s OK to cancel or reschedule;w
  5. Track and review your progress;
  6. It’s OK to take a break;

Prioritize and focus

Both our time and attention is limited; hence we should always prioritize our plan to keep focused. This is easy to say, but hard to practice. In really, there are countless distractions. We therefore should be always be aware of distractions and keep focused.

Set bonus goals

As suggested above, when we set our goals, we can set some bonus goals apart from prioritized goals. If we can finish only prioritized goals, that’s OK if we can achieve additional bonus goals, that’s better. Why don’t we celebrate this bonus success?

Say no to distractions

Being aware of distractions is the first step, and the next step is to say to distractions. Saying no to our own internal distractions, such as cellphones, SNS sites, is hard; saying no to external distractions, such as others’ requests, emails, can be more challenging.

If we don’t say no to these internal and external dictations, it only harms our productivity. For the sake of productivity, please say no to them.

It’s OK to cancel or reschedule

Sometime, we may feel guilty or stressed to cancel or reschedule. However, most goals are set by ourselves. If we really feel uncomfortable to achieve these artificial goals, why don’t we be more patient to ourselves?

Track your progress

To obtain feedback of productivity, it is better to track our progress. In this way, we can gain an objective view of our productivity, which can help us adjust goals in future.

In addition, with the records of our progress, we can review regularly, in order to improve.

It’s ok to take a break

Sometime, we may feel we are in a rut - really unproductive time. Don’t feel too bad about it, because it is quite normal. Evan the famous productivity YouTuber Thomas Frank had a similar problem.

If we experience a rut, just take a break, and let the productivity bounce back. Even better, we can set regular sabbatical as a precaution.


Sustainable productivity is an infinitive game to help us win in the long run. Therefore, we’d better make it focused, lean, systematic, responsive and healthy.