Productivity isn't endless hustle. It's about getting the most done in the least amount of time. That's why it's not surprising that billionaires have favorite tools for productivity (one of which includes setting limits on things like meetings) and that sometimes, silence can help you be more productive. In this article, I want to share my friend Noah Kagan's secret: airplane mode.
Noah once told me that the two biggest obstacles for people who want to be more productive are:
- Not prioritizing the right problem
- Looking for a tool or magic bullet to make it happen
The reality, Noah notes, is that we already know occasions when we are the most productive. What we should try to do is replicate those conditions. When he flies Noah does not order wifi. He uses that time of disconnected isolation to get a lot of work done. He recognized that the conditions of airplane mode were replicable when he was back on the ground, namely:
- People were isolated from him
- There were no distractions (apart from an occasional crying child, but hey, that's life)
- He had a block of work to do
When he shared this concept with me I told him that my equivalent for "airplane mode" were blocks of time that I put into my calendar called "show prep." I spend 8-10 hours prepping for each regular-length interview episode of The Art of Charm. Most of that time is spent reading about our guests and things they've written, and taking notes on all of that. I do this in a place where I'm away from email, slack, or calls so I can really focus. Because our guests are booked weeks and months in advance, this is something I could easily fall behind in, but scheduling it in makes me accountable, and it makes me productive.
Productivity ultimately should lead you down a path of creation rather than one of consumption. That is to say, sometimes people can mistake milestones like "inbox zero" for productivity. But that's just treading water. Making progress on a body of work can only be done in periods of deep work, and you've got to schedule that in. Examine when you are most productive, replicate those conditions, and then make sure that you consistently schedule those sessions.