The Productive Life


Lesson Info


The very idea that we want to become more productive implies on some level that we're not entirely satisfied with where we're at already. And that idea is something that you've all experienced before. It's self-talk. Something remarkable happened at the end of this productivity project, and it was that I got a book deal, something that I'd wanted my whole life. And it wasn't a book deal with any old publisher. It was with Penguin Random House, my favorite publisher out there. But the first thing that popped in my mind after this point surprised me. It wasn't words of congratulations or "Man I'm so great," it was "You're a fraud." I didn't believe that I was worthy of the deal that I got. So, much like the procrastination idea, this got me curious. What does the research show? And so I pored over a lot of research on self-talk. And it wasn't honestly very good research, just the actual research, because you can't really measure or sample what's going on in somebody's mind. But the best ...

research that I found discovered that a large proportion of it is negative. In fact, around 80% of self-talk is negative. And so, being a curious guy, I started at that point forward to capture all these ideas that were going on in my mind. Things like: I'm way out of my element here. I'll never get better at this. I'm no good. I'm a fraud. I know they'll say no. I'm not good enough. I'm gonna miss my book target. Man, imagine writing a book on productivity.... (audience laughing) But half way through the process, I was in Dublin, and I broke my leg. I was holed up in a hospital with no energy, with no health insurance, without anything, and so my self-talk was through the roof, as you can imagine. Luckily I was covered, but you could imagine the self-talk that was happening during that time. Why does it take me forever to get stuff like this? I can't do anything right. I can't do this. They're gonna laugh. They go on, I have nothing valuable to say. Why did I say that? Or I doubt anyone's as lost as I am. It's fascinating when you tune into this frequency of your mind, whether it's during meditation, whether it's going through a rough time. Whether it happens when your mind is wandering occasionally. When it does wander to the past 12% of the time. And the place this comes from is a very curious one. It turns out, it comes from our parents. If you sample the proportion of parental self-talk that's negative, it turns out that 85% of what parents say to kids is negative. And it's meant in a constructive way, like "Put that down," or "Stop doing that," or "No, if you do that, "this will happen." You know, we're wired to care for others and to allow others to perceive threats as well. But it does inform how we speak to ourselves. And the productivity connection here is huge, right? We experience more of it as we become successful. So as we invest in our productivity, as we begin to accomplish more, as we achieve more success in our work and in our life, it goes up. Most of the managers that I coach experience more self-talk than a lot of the people that I know. We take on things that are less impactful because of it. We're more likely to procrastinate, because suddenly the things that we don't think we can do become more aversive. Triggers get stronger, they become more frustrating. It makes it more difficult to focus. We're more likely to procrastinate. And it makes us less happy when we have this internal dialog in our mind. Happier people are more productive. There was a study done by Shawn Achor where he found that happier people, people who experience a positive affect, I believe they're 31% more productive than everybody else. That's remarkable. So I have one final productivity experiment for you. And it's to simply notice and become aware of this self-talk. During a few different scenarios: when you push yourself to get more done; when you don't do what you intended to do; maybe when you are about to open up your email and haven't checked it in a little while, what's going on in your mind? How are you feeling in your body? Check in. Are you holding your breath? Email apnea is a real thing. What about when you accomplish something amazing, when you get the equivalent of a book deal in whatever your line of work happens to be? What goes on in your mind? Do you feel like you're worthy of it? What about when you eat something terrible for you, like a funnel cake or something like that? What goes on in your mind? What self-talk happens? I want to end this course on a few ways of investing in our happiness as we invest in our productivity, because as I was saying, the very idea that we want to become more productive implies that we're not totally satisfied with where we're at. And so I think there's a balance in becoming happier and investing in your happiness while at the same time never feeling quite comfortable with where you are, always wanting to accomplish more and become more. By recalling three things that you're grateful for. This has been shown in research, if you do this every single day, after a pattern of 21 days it trains your mind into a pattern of looking out for opportunities and the good things that are happening around you. The second idea is to daydream. Our mind needs the rest, and the best thing we can do when we daydream is to do something habitual at the same time. To go for a walk, to just carry around a notepad somewhere, to take a shower, to become immersed in something that isn't something that we need to focus completely on. The final idea is to keep an accomplishments list. Because it's so easy to forget about the things we've done, to forget about the things that our productivity has led to, this is so helpful in combating that. Keep a weekly one where you track your accomplishments for the week, and keep a yearly one. I keep a yearly accomplishments list that has all the big accomplishments and milestones in my life: milestones with my fiance, milestones with my best friends, milestones with my work, in terms of how many things I've sold, and things like that. It keeps my mind balanced. Not only thinking about what I have to do, but also patting myself on the back and thinking about things that I have done. This is, I think, a great one to end on, because it's one of the most valuable ideas out there. So our attention. These distractions, these interruptions, hyperfocusing on the most important tasks that benefit from the focus. Taking thinking breaks, taming internal distractions, and this idea of taming self-talk as well. Noticing it and combating it by investing in your happiness. The energy that we have, in terms of eating and putting good fuel into our bodies, elevating our heart rate by exercising, and getting enough sleep is so essential. The basics for our productivity. Working around and riding these waves of energy over the course of the day. Drinking alcohol and caffeine strategically instead of habitually. And noticing as we try to modify these habits, just how much of a capacity for change we have. And finally, our time. There are so many great ways to become aware of how we spend our time. Things like the Rule of Three, that lets us set a course for ourself every day and every week. The right things, taking a step back and thinking, what's actually important here? Procrastination, another one, and hot spots. This idea of seeing our life from 10,000 feet. Now these three ingredients of productivity, our time, our attention, our energy, are so vital. And I think it's never been more important that we zoom out to see all of the things that influence how much we accomplish every day. And where these three ingredients meet in the middle, that's not just how productive we are, but that's how deliberate we are, and how intentional we are every day, too. Thank you. (audience applauds) Chris, where can people stay in touch with you, if people want to get more information? You know, I hate plugging myself, Chris. <v Chris, Host>I know you do, but that's how we're gonna wrap things up. People want more, they want more of Chris Bailey, where can they get it? I know, I know. So my book is called The Productivity Project. It contains 25 ideas for becoming more productive. My site is, where I write a weekly column, and my Twitter is @wigglechicken. That's my personal one. (audience laughing) And my professional one is @ALOProductivity. So if you want, you can follow me there. Thank you so much for having me. <v Chris, Host>Thank you so much, absolutely.

Class Description

The first 100 eligible purchasers of this class will receive 
The Productivity Project: Accomplishing More by Managing Your Time, Attention, and Energy
Limit one Offer per person. Additional exclusions may apply - visit for full details.

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.