The Productivity Cheat Code for Hard Workers (and it’s not Working Hard)

There's an unconventional cheat code to ultimate productivity. Hint: It's not working harder. Feeling Better is how you become more productive - NOT doing more.
Productivity Cheat Code: Feel Good. Do Better.

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There’s a big rule that we overlook.

I believe our focus is misaligned, and our strategy is back to front. Everyone always focuses on being productive by doing more work quicker and easier.

But I think the answer is to feel better.

Reduce the Mental Resistance

Everything is about overcoming friction.

We all have the mental barrier and resistance to doing certain things. Depending on what it is, will determine how much resistance there is to do it. We have the mental resistance to wake up when we want to stay in. Also, when we need to go to the gym but would rather stay in.

That resistance may be the lack of motivation or procrastinating on Netflix. It may be that we’re anxious about how it will turn out or that there’s much to do.

The hardest part usually isn’t actually the thing we need to do. Most of the time, it’s getting started. We’re more anxious and stressed with the anticipation than the work itself.

So, in this sense, the challenge isn’t doing that thing. It’s actually overcoming the mental barrier to get started in the first place.

The general advice is to “Just Do It”. Just use brute force and do whatever you need to do regardless of your feelings.

I don’t think it’s a bad idea. It does have its place for us to push aside circumstances to do what needs to be done.

I just think it’s extremely inefficient, especially for that to be our sole means of overcoming that resistance to work.

  • It doesn’t really solve the problem.
  • It takes tremendous willpower (which is limited) to overcome.
  • It only helps with the specific thing and nothing else (such as physical health, mental health and relationships)

Using brute force alone is far from sustainable.

I realised it’s stupidly more effective and efficient to increase motivation than overcome its lack.

It's a better long-term solution to prevent, or at least reduce, than to treat and cure.

Feel Good. Do Better.

My proposal is to do other things that make you feel good so you can do the work that really matters easier.

It’s a well-known fact that when you feel better, you do better. But it’s an overlooked one.

Imagine you’re stressed (which probably doesn’t require much imagination). This is happening, and that is going on. Money, relationships, responsibilities, everything. But you still have to work.

Which option seems to be the best idea for you?

  • Work for an hour under the stress you are under. As a result, your overall output is greatly reduced, and you have to mentally, emotionally and physically push through that long, enduring hour with very little progress.
  • Spend the first 10 mins to de-stress and remove the great mental resistance you have to start your work. Now you’re more relaxed and in a better mind frame to do your work. So you work for the remaining 50 minutes with increased output while enjoying it much more.


What’s been working for me is taking the focus away from overcoming the friction and more towards reducing the friction in the first place.

My Best Work was When I Felt Amazing.

I’ll tell you a secret.

Some of the best work I’ve done is after I felt good.

I wrote a blog post about how I finished my writing quota for 3 days in 2 hours. The premise of that post was about maximising the pockets of time we have throughout the day.

But the first thing I gave credit to was the fact that I felt amazing that morning.

I had oats, blueberries, honey and chia seeds for breakfast. Eating a healthy breakfast made me feel great. I didn’t have to rush that morning, so I could afford a leisurely walk to the station while excited about a new project I was starting.

I decided to write on the train, not just because it was an effective use of my time. But firstly, because I was in a state where there was very little friction to do things that otherwise would be difficult or demand an internal battle.

You know about keystone habits if you’ve read The Power of Habits. They’re habits and activities that impact and flow into other and unrelated areas of your life – positively or negatively.

That is what I’m talking about. It’s the well-known rhetoric of “Work Smarter, Not Harder.”

Watching Netflix is NOT "Feeling Better"

So, now, I try to focus on activities that make me feel good internally before focusing on work externally.

  • Going to the gym or for a run.
  • Take a walk
  • Spend time with my brother.
  • Doing the small things first.
  • Eating healthier.
  • Writing in my journal


The key point is that it’s not “passive” or superficial “feeling better”.

When you mask the problem or do passive things, you aren’t really helping yourself. You’re just avoiding and procrastinating. It doesn’t serve your work or yourself. It doesn’t compensate for the lack of motivation or even boost it. Instead, it feeds your lack of it until you don’t even want abundance.

Notice how none of the above examples includes watching Netflix or binge-eating. They’re all active things. Conscious, deliberate actions that are all inherently and objectively good for me. So don’t mix the two.

What are the things that put you in a good mood? The things that elevate you and make you confident to conquer anything. You don’t have to necessarily love it, but if you do, that’s a bonus. What gets your endorphins going?

Whatever your answers are, do them way more often. Particularly before you do something with a lot of mental resistance. Watch what was difficult to think about become easy to do.

Remember: It’s a better long-term solution to prevent, or at least reduce, than to treat and cure.

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