The Hidden Secret to Productivity: Enjoy the Journey

In this video, the speaker discusses the hidden secret to productivity and fulfillment. They assert that productivity is not about having a perfect system or being disciplined, but rather about finding joy in the journey. The speaker challenges the notion that work needs to be grueling and painful, suggesting instead that by enjoying what we do, productivity naturally follows. They provide five techniques for making the journey more enjoyable, such as adopting a mindset of fun, turning tasks into games, involving friends, creating a conducive environment, and exploring meaningful pursuits. The speaker also mentions their online classes on productivity and offers a discount for Skillshare membership.

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Key Insights:

  • Productivity is not about the apps, systems, or discipline, but about finding joy in the journey.
  • We are naturally motivated to do things we enjoy and have fun with, while struggling to motivate ourselves to do things that are short-term painful for long-term gain.
  • The „work equals suffering“ approach may work for some goals, but for a balanced and fulfilling life, it is important to enjoy the process rather than focusing solely on the end result.
  • Finding and pursuing passion may not be feasible for everyone, and it may not always be the key to enjoyment.
  • A mindset shift is crucial to approach work with a sincere, but fun attitude.
  • Gamifying tasks can make them more enjoyable and motivate productive engagement.
  • Involving friends or colleagues in tasks can make them more enjoyable and foster collaboration.
  • Creating a conducive and aesthetically pleasing environment can enhance enjoyment and motivation.
  • The question of finding meaning in work is essential to long-term fulfillment and productivity.
  • Additional exercises and resources can be found in the author’s online classes on productivity, meaning, and fulfillment.


All right, so, the truth about productivity is that it’s not really about the apps, it’s not really about having a perfect system or about being disciplined or motivated more than anyone else. Those things do help but what I’ve realized over the last few months is that there is actually a hidden secret to productivity and fulfillment. So grab a cup of tea and we can talk about it. As you may or may not know I am in the middle of writing a book and it’s a book about productivity. And so I’ve been thinking a lot over the last few months about like, what does productivity actually mean to me? And the main insight that I’ve realized is that productivity, to be honest isn’t really about getting more things done, it’s mostly about learning joy the journey because when we’re having fun, we’re doing the things that we’re doing then productivity kind of just takes care of itself. And this is kind of obvious, right? Like, you know, when we’re doing stuff that we enjoy when we’re hanging out with friends or watching Netflix or playing video games, we’re never worried about our productivity, we’re never worried about motivation. We never say I need to be motivated to watch this next episode of Netflix or to play „War Zone“ with the boys. We only really need motivation in inverted commas for the things that are like short-term painful for long-term gain. And we as humans, we are absolutely terrible at motivating ourselves to do things in service to our future selves because we’re all obsessed with instant gratification. And so the conundrum that we’re dealing with is how do we make ourselves do things that are short-term painful in service to our future selves? How do we make ourselves? How do we motivate ourselves to be productive, to sit down and learn to code, or to do our homework assignment or to work on that side project after we’ve come home from a hard day of work because we know we wanna be entrepreneurs at the end of the day? And there’s broadly two ways of answering this question: The first one is something that I call the Muhammad Ali method. This is called the Muhammad Ali method because Muhammad Ali famous boxer, has this famous quote where he said something like, „I hated every minute of training, „but I said don’t quit. „Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.“ And my middle is amazing everyone loves him and all that stuff obviously. But I think this approach to work as like work equals suffering that’s an approach that I’m not really a fan of and maybe that’s what you need if you wanna become like, you know, world heavyweight boxing champion or if you wanna win gold at the Olympics. But you know, if I think about what I want from my life it’s not to be the best in the world at anything, it’s not to win a gold medal or a Nobel prize or to be a boxing champion, the thing that I want from my life, which I think is true for a lot of us is that I wanna live a nice balanced life where I’m having fun, working on things that I enjoy, doing things that contribute a bit to the world and not really being overly concerned with like trying to be the best or trying to compete with other people. And so I think the problem with this Muhammad Ali approach to life i.e this work equals suffering approach to life is that it kind of glorifies the hustle and glorifies the grind that you need to suffer, this needs to be painful and if it’s painful, it’s because you’re doing it right and if you’re not doing it it’s because you can’t stand the pain. And obviously that’s a huge oversimplification and I’m sure his stance on this is actually more nuanced. But when I think of like my own life over the last 15 years and how I do things like YouTube channel, entrepreneurship, medical school, being a doctor podcast, all this stuff that people messaged me about none of it feels like suffering. None of it feels like a grind. None of it feels like work. None if it feels like a hustle. And so one of my housemates says, „It’s 11 o’clock at night, „like, why are you still working?“ It’s always a bit surprising ‚cause it really doesn’t like, genuinely doesn’t feel like work because it’s actually fun. And that begs the question that well, okay, how do we actually enjoy the things that we’re doing? I’m glad you asked because there’s, again, two broad ways of tackling this. The first one is the one that like books and stuff will tell you, which is that find your passion and do the things that you enjoy. That’s like one way of doing it. The problem with that type of thinking the whole find your passion and do what you enjoy is that a lots of us don’t know what our passion is. It’s like, you know, I don’t know what my passion is. What am I passionate about who knows? Secondly, the things I’m passionate about, like I dunno playing „World of Warcraft“ and trying to play songs on the guitar. I’m never gonna be able to make a living at playing „World of Warcraft“ or playing all the songs on the guitar. And if I tried, I’d be like, you know what? I’m gonna become one of those 0.01% of single song writers who make it big in the world. You know, the deck is stacked against me, the odds are stacked against me. And the third problem with this whole narrative of find your passion and do what you love and all that kind of crap is that it doesn’t recognize that we do often have to do things that we don’t wanna do. Like unless you’re born with a silver spoon up your behind you probably don’t have the freedom to just quit your job and follow your passion. Your put your passion is art, great. Don’t worry about working just become an artist full time. Most of us don’t have that level of privilege where we can just quit our jobs and follow our passion. And so when we’re trying to answer this question of how do we enjoy the journey, how do we have fun? That approach of like pick the fun things to work on, I don’t think that works for most people. I think there is a second approach and that’s the one that I’ve been using most of my life. The second approach is actually instead of doing the things you enjoy learning to enjoy the things that you’re doing, and this approach is great because it doesn’t rely on any level of privilege, it doesn’t rely on your external circumstances. All it relies on is like using a few mindset shifts and using a few like environmental tricks and using a few tips and techniques and hacks to make ourselves or rather to encourage ourselves to enjoy more of the things that we’re doing. And so genuinely, that’s the true secret of productivity if you can learn to enjoy the journey, if you can learn to have fun journey before destination then productivity takes care of itself. And so I wanna share five or so techniques that I found really helpful in my life over the last 10 years that helped me enjoy the journey a little bit more. Tip number one, and I’ve just spilled some tea, so as I wipe the tea, take tip number one is a mindset shift. And that’s just having the mindset that the thing that we’re doing or the work or whatever you wanna call it is gonna be fun. This is like absolutely game-changing; anytime I’ve had a situation in my life where I felt stressed or I felt unmotivated or I felt like, ugh, I’m not being productive enough, usually it’s because I forgot to have fun. And there’s a great phrase that the philosopher Alan Watts used which is about approaching things sincerely versus approaching things seriously. And I often find myself approaching things too seriously, like, you know, it’s no fun playing a game with someone who’s taking it too seriously. And so when I remember to have fun I switched to approaching things sincerely like I’m still gonna give it my all but I’m gonna recognize that this is a game and I’m gonna try and enjoy myself while I’m doing it. In fact, I even have a post-it note attached to my computer monitor at all times that says this is going to be fun. And anytime I find my, you know, I just, I’m looking around and I catch a glimpse of that post-it note, this is gonna be fun. I just remind myself, oh yeah, this is gonna be fun. This is fine. This is all good. I don’t need to feel that work is suffering, I can just treat it as a game and have fun along the way. Tip number two is all about turning things into a game. Now, this used to be a very popular like corporate speak thing back in the day I think about 10 years ago, gamification, is all about gamification. And if you gamified you workplace then the employees would be more motivated and more productive. And so the word gamification, a lot of people now like vomit a little bit in their mouth when they hear it because it just sounds so, you know, it harks back to that era. But I think gamification is actually like absolutely game changing. So for example, when I was going through medical school in my first year of med school, I really, really struggled because I had the mindset of this is supposed to be hard. And I just didn’t have the thought like I could treat this as a game, but in my second year of medical school I started treating things more as a game. And so when I would make my revision timetables I’d kind of write down all the subjects I need just to know and then I would color code them based on how well I knew them. And so they would all start off as red and then as I got better at them, they’d go yellow, and then they go green. And just that kind of color coding helped me think of it more as a game. And so when I’d be studying, I’d be looking forward to testing myself with active recall and then I’d be looking forward to that box on my Google sheet turning green, and just that added element of a game of finding the process made it so much more fun to study and it also helped me get a first class degree in my second year exams, which I hadn’t done in my first year when I thought things were gonna be really, really hard. Tip number three for making stuff more fun is to bring others on board, is to do things with your friends. Again, I’ve got a story for med school about this. So in my fifth year of med school, I had a project that I was doing that involves analyzing data from like 2000 patient records and manually going through them on the electronic patient record system in order to like tease out some things around, you know what medication they were on and what their results of an ultrasound scan were, the details are kind of irrelevant. The point is this was a lot of mind numbingly, boring dull grunt work, having to go through a spreadsheet. And it didn’t really require any like special knowledge on my part other than a cursory knowledge of medicine to know what sort of things I was looking for. And so I tried doing like a few dozens of patients by myself and realize that this is the worst thing ever, I’m so unproductive, I’m so unmotivated I can’t be bothered to do this thing I wanna realize I could do is I could bring friends on board. So I had some friends who I had like five friends in the year below, and I recruited them into this project. I said to them, „All right, guys „we’ve got these 2000 patients to get through. „We’ll split the workload up five ways. „So we do 400 patients each or 300 patients each,“ or whatever it was. „And then we’ll all get our names „on the paper that we ultimately try and publish „out of this thing.“ And so in one evening we just managed to get this done. We went to the medical school library sat in the computer room, the five, six of us. We ordered pizza. We had a bit of takeaway. We had donuts from the hospital canteen, and we just banged out these, this work over the space of about four hours and genuinely was quite fun. We had music in the background it was good times all around. And so we go through all 2,000 patients we wrote on the paper, it got published, so we got our names on a publication and that paper even ended up getting presented at a conference in Singapore, where I flew with some other friends and we presented it there and it was really cool. And all that happened, I think if I’d been doing it myself if I hadn’t just taken that extra step to get other people on board, this project wouldn’t have happened and I wouldn’t have had so many CV points and I wouldn’t have had a free trip to Singapore. And so the general tip here is that like think about whatever you’re doing, think about how you can do it with other people. You know, when I was in med school, again, studying for exams, but with friends around me it just made everything much more fun. And there are all sorts of aspects of our lives in which we can apply this principle. Tip number four is to actually really think about setting the appropriate stage for our productivity in service of this thing of like we wanna be trying to have more fun. And so for me, I often think about like the tools and the environment around me as making something more fun. So for example, if I have a nice little teapot it’s in blue blue is my favorite color, and this coral mug this is kind of nice. I’ve got my MacBook here. I’ve got a little sleeve on it, case thing, this whole aesthetic makes me really enjoy for example, if I was studying for an exam or if I was kind of working on a video script. Sitting on here, it would be quite fun. I’m quite enjoying making this video because you know I’ve got this stuff around me, I’ve got my little fake plants. The environment around me is like I’ve designed in a way that appeals to my personal aesthetic sensibilities and therefore, whatever I do in this environment automatically becomes more fun. This is the same principle behind why I like to have a fancy-ass desk set up and you don’t even need to have a fancy-ass desk set up for this ‚cause when I was in med school and I was broken, I had no money, I still put in time and effort to thinking, okay, how do I arrange my books and my laptop on my desk? And like add this little plant. How do I arrange it in a way that makes me feel good inside? Because when it comes to studying for my exams if I’m in my room and I’m on my desk, I’m doing it, I just have more fun when the environment is more aesthetic and more nice. Other things around this is working with music. I have a „Study With Me“ playlist on Spotify that has instrumental music from like the „Lord of the Rings“ and „Harry Potter“ and „Pirates of the Caribbean“ and the „Marvel“ stuff. I wanna have that playing on the speakers or through my headphones, it makes the work more fun. And yes, according to the evidence, studying with music working with music does reduce focus very, very slightly because it interferes with some aspects of like, short term memory processing but that’s fine. I don’t care. I would rather have a bit more fun by listening to music then squeeze out a little bit of extra productivity by working in complete silence. And so the tip here is that if you’re worried about your productivity or about motivation or whatever just think about the environment that you’re in and ask yourself, does it like, is that an environment that appeals to your aesthetics is it conducive towards having fun? Because if it’s conducive to enjoying the process, enjoying the journey, then you’ll automatically magically become more productive. And tip number five is kind of if we’re thinking ahead, like we can get to a point we’re very good at talking ourselves and tricking ourselves into having fun, we’re doing the things that we’re doing, you know, bringing friends on board, changing the environment, the mindset and like a load of other things that I haven’t talked about in this video. But we’ve got to ask ourselves at some point are we actually even working on the right things? Because if you have a job that feels ultimately meaningless then there’s only so much hacking that you can do to make yourself enjoy it. But the fact that it’s ultimately meaningless will come back to bite you and you’ll be unfulfilled because the job is ultimately meaningless. And this question of meaning is like a really important part of productivity because you know, there’s very little point in driving a hundred miles per hour if you find yourself driving in the wrong direction. There’s another metaphor I like which is that there’s no point climbing up a ladder if the ladder is leaning against the wrong wall. And so the question becomes how do we find the things that are meaningful to us that feel worth pursuing? Honestly, I don’t have the answers but there are lots of exercises that I found really helpful for thinking about the question around how do we figure out what’s meaningful to us? And I talk about quite a lot of these in my online classes around productivity that are hosted on Skillshare who are very kindly sponsoring this video at the moment I’ve got four classes related to the idea of productivity meaning fulfillment, enjoyment, all of that sort of stuff. And if you wanna access them you can hit the link in the video description and the first thousand people to do that you’ll get 30% off the Annual Skillshare Premium Membership. Even if you’ve already used up your Skillshare free trial you can still use this. And other than all my classes on Skillshare there’s also thousands and thousands of more classes on creativity and cooking and interior design and all sorts of cool stuff. But the ones that you should definitely check out first are mine. So three of them are on productivity, one of them is quite recent it’s specifically on productivity for creators. It talks about my secrets to productivity for doing things like this YouTube channel. And I’ve even got a one hour class that we recorded through Skillshare live, where I was giving I think three exercises for how I personally find things that are meaningful and fulfilling to me. Again, I’m not saying I have the answers for this, but like these exercises genuinely helped me to make sure that the stuff I’m working on feels like it has a purpose and that also contributes to my productivity and enjoyment of life in a nice way. So hit the link in the video description to get 30% off the Annual Skillshare Premium Membership. And thank you Skillshare for sponsoring this video. And if you liked this video, you might like to check out the video over here, which is all about how I’m figuring out what to do with my life and how I’m trying to find ways to do stuff that’s meaningful and fulfilling. So thank you so much for watching and I’ll see you in the next video. Bye-bye.