I want to produce at a superhuman level. Looking back over a year, I'd like to wonder just how I got so much done in such a short period of time. At my best I can execute to that standard, but I'm not always at my best. It's possible to have this level of productivity by killing yourself and burning the candle at both ends, but that's not sustainable. I want high productivity to be my regular speed, not the absolute maximum I can sprint.
One big trick to improving productivity is minimizing the number of routine decisions you have to make in a day. These decisions are taxing to willpower and focus, so by eliminating them you can keep your reserves for the work that matters.I wear the same clothes every day. I never have to think about what to wear, and I never think about buying new clothes. I eat the same food every day, so I don't have to think about meals, cooking, or grocery shopping. I have fixed schedules for Sett (every day), writing (every day), gym (MWF), dinner with friends (Sunday), meditation (every day), language tapes (every day), and almost everything else I do regularly.
That means that every day I know exactly what I'm going to do, and I don't have to think about it or negotiate with myself. If I didn't have a schedule for all of those things, I would either not do them consistently, or I would drain my willpower every day just getting myself to start them. The power of eliminating all of those willpower-based decisions can't be overstated.
On a broader scale, I put long-term restrictions on myself to eliminate temptation, a precursor to draining decisions. I've restricted myself from making any effort towards meeting girls until 2015. I don't allow myself to consider big projects other than Sett. I specify external conditions to trigger actions, like deciding that I'll buy an airplane when it costs X% of my liquid net worth.
These rules probably sound restrictive and unpleasant. Surprisingly, though, they're actually very liberating. I feel like every day I wake up with a fresh tank of willpower, and I can use it exclusively for what matters. The background of my life takes care of itself because it's already been decided, and I can focus everything I've got on the tasks that will move me forward.
If you feel overwhelmed, or feel like by the time you sit down to work you're halfway depleted, take inventory of the decisions that you make on a regular basis and try to automate them by making them in advance or changing your lifestyle to eliminate them entirely. That's how you produce at a superhuman level and don't burn yourself out.
The photo is from an old graveyard in Boston. Like a graveyard for all those decisions you used to make.