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The Productive Life

Lesson 11 of 17

Incremental Improvements

Chris Bailey

The Productive Life

Chris Bailey

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Lesson Info

11. Incremental Improvements


  Class Trailer
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1 Class Introduction Duration:13:33
2 The Productivity Project Duration:05:47
4 The Rule of 3 Duration:17:30
5 Your Most Important Tasks Duration:10:19
6 Beating Procrastination Duration:22:18
7 Hotspots Duration:15:24
8 The Basics of Energy Duration:10:44
9 Working Around Your Energy Duration:08:29
10 Use Caffeine Strategically Duration:07:02
11 Incremental Improvements Duration:08:23
12 Taming Distractions Duration:27:15
13 Hyperfocus Duration:09:00
14 Meditation Exercise Duration:12:21
15 Taking a Thinking Break Duration:06:11
16 Internal Distractions Duration:04:12
17 Self-Talk Duration:10:43

Lesson Info

Incremental Improvements

Just like everything else, we need to become thoughtful and deliberate about the habits we take on because our capacity for change in any given moment is limited. It's relatively fixed. We can only make so many changes at once because we only have so much willpower at once. So you can kind of think of the capacity. Your capacity for change is kind of like a pipeline in a way and change is what funnels through it. And so maybe on a regular day, you know, your capacity for change is greater than the change that you wanna make 'cause you're in your habits, you're in your rhythms, maybe there's a couple new things that you wanna try and that's fine. But then New Year's rolls around and you bite off more than you can chew and you try to make more changes than will fit comfortably within that capacity. You overreach. And because of that, you're trying to shove too much change into that pipe and things burst and your habits, you just don't have enough willpower to continue with them. Back-to-...

school season is another good example of this. A productivity course is another great example of that. You might be watching online, you might be here in person thinking man I'm gonna do like everything he's talking about. But it's worth becoming thoughtful. I think I said off the bat where I'm throwing about 15 ideas at you. There's a lot of stuff nested within those ideas also. And if a few of them stick, we've both spent our time well and wisely because that's all that needs to stick because that's all we can do. We can't make all 15 changes at once. We have to be thoughtful about what we do. And one of my favorite ways to become thoughtful about change is by making incremental improvements. There is a great quote that is misattributed to Einstein. He didn't say it, but it's one of the greatest quotes that I love. He said that compounding interests might be the greatest force in the universe. That sounds amazing. And I would argue that maybe he didn't say that with regard to the universe 'cause it doesn't really make sense in the context of the universe, but it does make sense in the context of our productivity where the incremental improvements and changes that we make are small enough to fit in that capacity for change. They fit in the pipeline, but they stick because they're small. And so by starting small and realistic, these changes compound on themselves and then we become more productive. And you know, focus on the problem areas that you have with regard to your energy if you have them. But, you know, a few examples that I've seen work. Something simple like adding spinach instead of meat into your morning omelet, it's such a simple change that you might not even notice it, but it compounds over time as you begin to build. Scheduling gym time every week, every Sunday. Instead of just saying, okay I'm gonna go to the gym three times today, focus on the process. The process is that you need to schedule that time. Schedule three one-hour chunks that you're gonna use at lunchtime to hit the gym. It's a very simple change. It's a very simple incremental improvement, but it works. Creating a nightly shut-off ritual that you love. We were chatting about our favorite productivity rituals. Mine is between eight p.m. and eight a.m. I totally disconnect from the Internet. And you know, there's the odd exception when I'm across timezones and things like that, but I love this ritual for the clarity that it gives me. It's a chance when your willpower is low to resist these distractions, be able to wake up and fall asleep naturally. It's a shut-off ritual that I love. I do this, I meditate, I read a little bit, I spend time with my loved ones and it's great. Something like drinking two and a half coffees instead of three. You know that third coffee, get it half decaf, half regular. It's a simple incremental change, but from that point you can do two coffees, then one and a half and you can become more deliberate and thoughtful about that habit. Maybe delaying that morning coffee so you can take advantage of that creative primetime where you can brainstorm and ideate. And blocking off your biological primetime. It's another simple little incremental improvement, but that let's you take advantage of when you have the most energy. So these ideas as it relates to our energy, the basics, you know, putting good fuel into our body. Getting enough physical activity. Elevating our heart rate. Getting proper sleep. To working and surfing our energy levels and drinking caffeine strategically. One challenge I wanna pose to you. There's a reason I haven't done many challenges in this section, is because change is hard. Incremental improvements are often the most valuable way that we can make lasting change to the way that we live our life. So I have another two-minute challenge for you. It is to pick two, just two small incremental changes you want to make to boost how much energy you have. We'll get the timer going behind here. Three, two, one and go. One and done. What kind of changes did you guys jot down? Very curious. Drink more water. Drink more water, yeah. One of my favorite rituals. It's funny because I have a blog and my highest performing article of all time is about drinking water in the morning. I thought that was the most boring piece of advice that I could possibly give, but I wrote a thing on how the first thing you should do when you wake up is drink a liter of water 'cause it gives you more energy, you don't start out with coffee. The studies actually are surprising it doesn't dehydrate you 'cause your body acclimates to receiving that much caffeine, but I have more energy doing that than almost anything else. Substitute green tea for coffee twice a week. That's cool. Get that extra boost, yeah. Scheduling exercise 'cause it becomes less of a priority if it's not in the calendar. In fact, if it's not in the calendar, I'm almost likely not to do it. It's funny how much just showing up to the gym will help you out, doesn't it? This is what I do. My gym has a sauna in it and so I like kind of trick myself in my mind, oh I'm gonna go use the sauna, but you have to pass the weights to use the sauna, so I might as well workout. It's a very stupid mind trick, but it works wonders. One more change. Yeah. I run a lot and I think a good change would be making more time for my easy runs so I don't have to hammer on them and burning myself out. I can get behind an easy run rather than a hard run. (laughing) That's awesome. The trick I find is starting small. Within that capacity for changes, it's such a valuable idea. So that's energy. You know, working around how much we have with the idea of our biological and our creative primetimes. Drinking alcohol and caffeine in excessive amounts. No I'm just kidding. In strategic amounts where we're thoughtful about the energy effects that these have. Eating as much as possible within the limits. Exercising, sleep and keeping in mind at the same time our capacity for change.

Class Description

It’s a common refrain: “If I only I had more hours in the day, I’d be able to get everything done.” But since finding more hours isn’t an option, we search for ways to be more productive—to better use our limited time to not only complete our required tasks but also accomplish our loftier goals.

Chris Bailey, author of “The Productivity Project,” spent a year of his life conducting productivity experiments on himself in order to discover the secrets to living the most productive life possible. He’ll share his most insightful lessons on how to work deliberately rather than reactively, manage your energy better, avoid excessive procrastination and have more time to do what you find meaningful in life.

In this class, you’ll learn how to:

  • Slow down and work more deliberately.
  • Shrink or eliminate the unimportant from your life.
  • Focus on your highest-leverage tasks that give you the greatest return.
  • Schedule less time for important tasks.
  • Distract yourself from inevitable distractions.
  • Develop productive procrastination.
  • Use a healthy diet, sleep and exercise to be more productive.
  • Strive for imperfection.
  • Form good habits so your productivity is automatic.
  • Motivate yourself by understanding why you want to get something done.


Michael Duskus

I wasn't sure what to expect from this course, but I was happily surprised to learn very useful, practical approaches to being more productive in all aspects of my life. Chris's approach to dealing with time and productivity challenges we all face daily are simple to comprehend — and with a little discipline, easy to implement. I'm looking forward to reading his book, too. Additionally, the team at Creative Live are so great and make the experience memorable; from their smiles, warm greetings and professionalism to the great food provided, they know how to bring out the good vibes in everyone. We're definitely looking forward to attending more classes!

Helen Leung

I found Chris' book very useful, full of great ideas that are easy to implement, and totally fun to read. This seminar is the same: inspiring, practical, and very enjoyable. The productivity ideas that he introduced are crucial for reducing stress and enjoying our work and personal life more. Highly recommended!


A fantastic class that will NOT teach you how to be more productive in creating to-do-lists and completing as many tasks as you can, but will explain how to make right priorities and choices and how achieve what you want in a more efficient matter while having a holistic view of your productivity, including your approach to food, sleep and meditation. The class is packed with actionable tools and techniques and I recommend it to everyone who would like to start working less and achieve more. The teacher - Chris - has a great personality - he's very likable and relatable - and he delivers the message in a manner that makes it very easy to understand and act upon the message.