The Productivity Project

Discover game-changing productivity insights from Chris Bailey’s “The Productivity Project” with this detailed summary of the book.

The Productivity Project

The Productivity Project: Accomplishing More by Managing Your Time, Attention, and Energy

The Productivity Project is a book written by Chris Bailey, a well-known productivity expert. In his book, he talks about his own experiences and knowledge, and shares tips on how to increase your own productivity and get great results at work and in your personal life.

Over the course of an entire year, Chris tried out all sorts of different ways to improve his own effectiveness:

  • Worked 90 hours a week;
  • Avoided taking time off to solve minor household problems;
  • Spent 35 hours a week practicing meditation;
  • Drank only water.

The result was The Productivity Project. It’s a book full of the most successful techniques Chris has personally tried and tested.

What You Will Learn from This Summary

  • How to increase your productivity;
  • How to manage your energy, attention, and time;
  • What procrastination is and how to deal with it;
  • How to reduce mental stress;
  • Why productivity and mindfulness are inextricably linked.

Key ideas from the book

  • The goal of being more effective should be aligned with your true priorities.
  • Time, attention, and energy are components to being productive.
  • For each day and week, set three goals that will have the greatest impact.
  • Find out why you’re procrastinating and take action.
  • In today’s knowledge economy, time management has been transformed into attention and energy management.
  • Schedule the most important things for when you’re at your peak.
  • Drop low impact projects.
  • Group all the “technical stuff” together and schedule time to get it done.
  • Meditation is a great way to manage your attention.
  • Seeing the big picture helps you to understand problems and to solve them.
  • The key to productivity is constant awareness.

Do you need changes?

Big changes take a lot of work. That means you’ll need a lot of motivation to keep going.

Brain iconBefore you try to increase your productivity, it’s a good idea to ask yourself the simple question: “Why do I want to do this?”

Your personal growth goals should be based on your values, such as freedom, self-improvement, and effectiveness. Otherwise, all your efforts to change are meaningless.

Give yourself enough time to think about your reasons and motivations. You may discover that some changes aren’t worth making.

Time, Energy and Attention

Time, energy, and attention are the three key ingredients of productivity. If you don’t manage your time well, you won’t be able to get things done, no matter how much energy or Attention you have.

Managing Time

Time management is critical to success. You need to know how to use your time effectively if you want to be productive.

Managing Energy

Managing energy is also important. If you can’t manage your energy, you’ll struggle to be productive no matter how much time you have.

Managing Attention

Finally, attention is essential. If you can’t focus, no amount of energy or time will help you get things done.

The Key to Productivity

Thinking about our values can be a bit boring, but it might be worth considering if we want to make a difference in our lives.

All three of these things – time, energy, and attention – are connected. Taking time to rest and relax will recharge our batteries, and being mindful of our surroundings will help us avoid time-wasting distractions.

The key to being productive is learning how to manage your time, energy, and attention. When you do, you’ll work more consciously and carefully, which will lead to more productivity.

But if you can’t manage all three aspects of your day – your time, your attention, and your energy – it’s practically impossible to be productive throughout the day.

«You don’t get paid for the hour, you get paid for the value you bring to the hour»

— Jim Rohn

The Rule of Three

In our daily work lives, there are always a lot of equally important things to do. Finding the three most important tasks is the key.

J.D. Meier (a top Microsoft executive and author of “Getting Results the Agile Way“) says it’s easiest to set your goals in threes because that’s how the human brain processes information.

Daily focus

At the beginning of each day, choose three tasks that, if completed, will give you the greatest results.

These are your top priorities – focus your time, energy and attention on these tasks. Similarly, at the beginning of each week, make a list of three things you want to accomplish.

Hand with pen iconA short list of just three tasks will be your guiding star in the middle of the daily chaos.

This approach is better than long to-do lists. If you don’t get one done, you don’t feel bad about yourself.

Procrastination and Productivity

When you procrastinate, it’s because the work seems overwhelming and scary. And that’s totally understandable. The most important things usually take a lot of effort and time, so it’s easy to put them off.

There are a few things that can make you more likely to procrastinate. Here are a few examples.

  1. Boring or complex work: Tasks that are boring or too complex can lead to procrastination.
  2. Lack of personal meaning: If the work doesn’t have personal meaning for you, it can make you more likely to procrastinate.
  3. Lack of enjoyment: If you don’t enjoy doing something, it can lead to procrastination.
  4. Feeling useless: Feeling that the effort you are putting into a task is pointless can also lead to procrastination.

An understanding of these factors can help you to identify and deal with procrastination.

Dealing with Procrastination

To help you get things done, you can try some tricks.

Set Clear Goals

At the beginning of each day, imagine the end of the day and think of three things you want to see done. Write them down.

It could be anything. This gives you a clear goal to work toward every day.

Create New Surroundings

The first step in the fight against procrastination is to figure out exactly what it is that’s causing you to procrastinate. If you’re stuck on a boring task, change the environment. Go to a coffee shop and do some paperwork.

Plan Your Work

If it’s a really complex or disorganized project, do a little research to plan each step. You can even do this in a coffee shop.

Visualize a reward

If there’s no personal benefit to the task, think of a positive outcome – a reward.

For example, visualize what you’re going to do with the extra money you’ll earn by doing this work.

Add some enjoyment

With a task that’s not fun, reward yourself for every step you take. Do something enjoyable for yourself – you deserve it.

The more emotionally difficult the task, the more you’re likely to procrastinate.

Make a List

Sometimes all you need to do to overcome the urge to procrastinate is to make a list of all the negative things that will happen if you don’t get the task done.

Get It Done

But the most effective way is to just dive in and get it done.

Decide how much time you want to spend on unpleasant tasks. Set a timer and when it goes off, ask yourself if you’re ready to continue or if that’s enough for the day. Once you get started, you’ll most likely feel motivated to keep going.

Managing Time

Over the past 60 years or so, automation has reduced the number of manufacturing jobs and created a new industry – professional services such as legal, consulting, and accounting. This is a shift from the industrial economy to the knowledge economy.

Education iconTime used to be traded for wages – the longer you worked, the better your pay – but now productivity is the main thing being traded.

The management of time has been replaced by the management of energy and attention.

Prioritizing Energy and Attention

You don’t need to manage time until you’ve figured out how much energy and attention you have throughout the day and what you want to accomplish.

If you work late every night and still don’t have enough time, you probably need better energy and attention management.

By working longer hours, you’re taking away the time your body needs to recharge. This leads to lower productivity. A heavy workload may seem like a lot of work, but it’s just an illusion.

Tips for Effective Time Management

According to some studies, if you work 90 hours a week, you won’t get much more done than if you work 20 hours a week.

Most experts agree that the ideal work week is between 35 and 40 hours.

  • Keep a time log so you can see how much time you spend on your most important tasks versus your less important tasks.
  • Try to avoid low-priority tasks or limit the amount of time you spend on them.
  • Spend less time solving important problems to help you focus.
  • Delegate small but necessary things to assistants and subordinates.
  • Limit the amount of time spent in meetings to perhaps four hours a week.
  • Take “mini-vacations” from unimportant things. For example, don’t check your email for a day or two; just set up an automatic out-of-office message.

It’s really important to know how much energy you have so you can use it wisely throughout the day.

With these simple tips, you can have more control over your time and increase your productivity.

Managing Energy

To manage your energy effectively, it’s important to know when you’re most energetic and when you’re least productive.

Brain iconIdentify your biological peaks – the times when you feel most alive – and plan your schedule around them.

Do your most focused and challenging work during these energy peaks to ensure great results.

Be prepared to make adjustments to your schedule if there are days when your normal energy rhythm is disrupted. Make sure the complexity of your tasks is in line with your feelings.

Balancing Work and Housework

Tech stuff is an essential part of our lives, and it’s hard to reduce, outsource, or get rid of it, unlike other work-related things.

It’s hard to have all your energy on the job and still do household chores.

You spend a lot of time shopping, cleaning, and doing laundry. To save energy, try grouping these chores together. Set aside one day, such as Sunday, to do them.

Plan and Prioritize

During the week, write down everything that needs to be done – from grocery shopping to cutting your nails. When your “tech day” arrives (when you need to do these things), refer to your list.

Embrace Mindfulness

Even a minute of meditation each day can be very helpful. There’s nothing you can’t do in a minute if you’re mindful.

By incorporating short moments of mindfulness into your day, you’ll soon see some big benefits, such as increased focus and productivity.

Managing Attention

Scientists claim that only 53% of a person’s attention is focused on tasks during the day. The remaining 47% is spent on various distractions.

To increase your productivity, you can start by limiting the number of distracting factors.

  • Limit email and social media checking to three predetermined times per day.
  • Consolidate similar tasks into a block and schedule a time to complete them.
  • Turn off notifications for incoming messages to avoid distractions.
  • Allow the mind time and space to wander freely to unleash the potential of attention and dive deeper into tasks.
  • Use the “20-second rule” to recognize and control impulsive distraction urges.
  • Hide the email icon so far away that it takes 20 seconds to launch the email application. This provides a critical pause to reconsider the need to access it.
  • Create long and complicated passwords.
  • Keep candy and the coffee maker away from where you want to work.
  • Understand the impact of fruit juices on energy levels. Fruit juices can cause a rapid rise in blood sugar levels. This can lead to a sharp drop in your energy levels.

Engaging in attention training exercises can help you focus better on tasks and ultimately increase your work efficiency.

The Myth of Multitasking

Scientific data suggests that the human brain cannot effectively manage more than one task at a time. The illusion of multitasking occurs when the brain rapidly switches attention from one process to another, causing mental overload.

The transition to a single-tasking mode should be made slowly. Setting a timer for 20 minutes and staying fully focused during that time can help. While it’s natural for the mind to wander, learning to control it is essential.

Manage Distractions to Improve Focus

Each time you are distracted, make a conscious effort to refocus on your work. This practice is excellent for honing your attention management skills.

It’s beneficial to note the time and reason for the interruption. This will help you see patterns and get more focused.

Mindfulness and Productivity

Losing just one hour of sleep can cost us at least two hours of productivity.

However, there are several ways to improve our ability to manage our attention, such as mindful reading, mindful eating, and active listening. In all cases, the goal is to notice when the mind starts to wander and redirect our focus.

Effective Attention Training through Meditation

One of the most effective ways to train your attention is through meditation. You can try a simple exercise by setting a short time interval (even as little as five minutes) and using a timer.

  1. Sit up straight, relax, but don’t slouch.
  2. Focus on your breathing and observe your sensations as you inhale and exhale.
  3. Whenever you become distracted (which is inevitable), bring your attention back to your breathing.

Meditation and being fully mindful are two sides of the same coin. Mindfulness is essentially about focusing on a task and the mental space around it, allowing for conscious monitoring of sensations and thoughts.

In this way, mindfulness is the key to productivity.

«The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing»

— Walt Disney

Understand How the Brain Works

The human mind is not really designed to take in a lot of information at once, and that’s why we get so stressed. It’s like the brain is always trying to process everything. And when it can’t, it gets overloaded.

External Storage

Instead of trying to remember everything you need to do, try writing it down on an external device. This will help you relax internally and think more clearly.

You can use a daily planner or even an app on your phone or tablet. Just make a list of all your upcoming events, appointments, purchases, etc.

Brain iconThink about this list and see if everything is really important to you. Maybe some things on the list aren’t that important anymore. You can easily get rid of those things.

Write down what’s bothering you and make a separate list of only the things that are important.

Action Plan and Mental Space

Now that you have this action plan in place, you can use the mental space that you have available to you to focus on what’s important.

Don’t worry about the little things because you’ll get to them when the time comes. Often, as you’re making this list, you may realize how ridiculous your fears are.

Your brain can be in a wandering state or a focused state. If the problem is complex, you need to give your brain enough “mental space” to solve it. That’s when you switch to the wandering state.

Engage the subconscious

Go for a walk, visit an art gallery, take a shower, whatever. While you’re doing this, your subconscious is still working on the problem.

The solution may come “unexpectedly”, so be prepared to write it down. Bring a notepad just in case.

Mindfulness and Success

Stepping back from a situation can help you see it from different perspectives.

This “top-down” approach can help you solve even the most seemingly difficult problems. But first, you need to get organized.

Loupe iconFirst, identify the areas of your life that require your attention, effort, and time. Think about things like your “spiritual well-being,” “career,” “relationships,” and “physical health”.

By analyzing each area, you can more clearly define your life goals. For example, under “work,” you might include training and educational opportunities, and under “relationships,” things like theater, movie nights, and road trips.

Create a Ritual

Set up a weekly review process for your tasks in each area. Analyze how much time and effort you’ve put into each area over the past week.

Consider where you could focus more attention next week. Continue to make adjustments to your list as needed.

This process will help you see your life in a bigger picture. But while you’re trying to get organized, don’t go to extremes. Aim for balance – keep track of everything and nothing. Remember that your goal is to be mindful.

Understand the concept of mindfulness

Mindfulness helps us see things from an objective perspective, so we can make plans.

Before an important conversation or meeting, think about what you want to get out of it. Imagine the perfect outcome and work toward it instead of just going with the flow.

Productivity depends on being mindful and staying focused on the big picture as you work.

Energy Management Techniques

Dietary Tips for More Energy

  • Eat unprocessed foods more often, as they have a longer digestion time.
  • Eat mindfully to recognize when you are full and leave the table at the right time.
  • Limit alcoholic and sugary beverages and increase water intake.

Use Caffeine Strategically

Use caffeine strategically when you need a short-term boost. But don’t use it too often, because regular caffeine use can lead to addiction, so it loses its effectiveness over time.

Rest and Exercise

Make sure you get enough sleep and exercise. Both help your brain function better and keep you in a good mood.

Start small. Build new habits gradually. They’ll pay off over time.


Increasing productivity is an important aspect of our lives. It allows us to achieve great results and improve our quality of life.

By following the principles described in this summary, you can learn how to plan your time, prioritize, and overcome procrastination.

Remember, being productive takes time and effort, but the results are worth it.

To learn more, check out other articles.

Stay strong. See you soon.



Want to learn more about this topic? Here is my short list of useful recommendations.


The Productivity Project. Chris Bailey

Redeeming Productivity. Reagan Rose

Deep Work. Cal Newport

Stolen Focus. Johann Hari

Hyperfocus. Chris Bailey

The Art of Focus. Dan Koe

Articles & Posts

George Miller’s Law

Maximize Productivity: 5 Powerful Time Management Principles

Speed Reading: How to Read Faster and Understand More

Useful Tools

Toggl – A free app that tracks your time to help you stay focused and productive.

Pomofocus – Simple Pomodoro timer for focused work.

EarthFM – High-quality nature sounds that can be turned on while you work to help increase your focus and concentration.

RescueTime – A tool that automatically tracks your screen time across all devices with detailed statistics.


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