9 Ways to Be Happily Productive

I did my version of a power hour yesterday. In the middle of my regular tasks, I scheduled in an hour for six different projects—some large, some small—and set a timer for 10 minutes each. When the timer went off, I switched away from one project and set the timer for 10 more minutes to spend on the next project.

Was it efficient? Definitely not.

But was it fun? Incredibly so.

I felt very fulfilled moving forward on six different projects.

This philosophy of making our work feel good is what Dr. Ali Abdaal’s new book is all about: Feel-Good Productivity: How to Do More of What Matters to You. As an easy mark for productivity books, I found this one wonderfully satisfying.

Abdaal says,

“Put simply: success doesn’t lead to feeling good. Feeling good leads to success.”

He organizes the book into three neat categories: Energizers, Unblockers, and Sustainers. Each category is further subdivided into three more categories with practical experiments in each.

I’ve listed one experiment here from each of the nine subcategories. Find one that suits you and try it, not to center productivity per se, but to make your work feel good.

Feel-Good Productivity


1. Play

Add a spirit of play into your work.

Experiment: Don’t Be Serious; Be Sincere.

Abdaal draws on Alan Watt’s work to not take ourselves only seriously, but to also be authentic. Abdaal writes,

“The trick is simple: when you feel like your work is draining or overwhelming, try asking yourself, ‘How can I approach this with a little less seriousness, and a little more sincerity?'”

2. Power

Feel empowered as you take your work into your own hands by a shift in attitude.

Experiment: Own Your Mindset

“‘Have to’ is coercive language that makes you feel powerless. ‘Choose to’ is autonomy-affirming language that makes you feel powerful. . . . Is there a way to turn this ‘have to’ into a ‘choose to’?”

3. People

Increase your energy by connecting with supportive people.

Experiment: Overcommunicate

“We’re much more likely to underestimate how much communication we need to do than overestimate it. . . .When you think you’ve communicated plenty, you almost certaintly haven’t. . . . We need to learn to communicate bad news too. Unfortunately, we’re not always very good at that.”


1. Seek Clarity

Find out what’s blocking your productivity so you can do something about it.

Experiment: The Five Whys

“Use the five whys to determine whether a task is worth doing in the first place. Whenever somebody in my team suggests we embark on a new project, I ask ‘why’ five times. The first time, the answer usually relates to completing a short-term objective. But if it is really worth doing, all that why-ing should lead you back to your ultimate purpose. If it doesn’t, you probably shouldn’t bother.”

2. Find Courage

It may not be lack of talent or inspiration that holds you back, but fear; learn to unblock from it.

Experiment: The 10/10/10 Rule

“Ask yourself:
Will this matter in 10 minutes?
Will this matter in 10 weeks?
Will this matter in 10 years?”

3. Get Started

One of my favorite categories, these “get started” unblockers help you overcome inertia.

Experiment: Reduce Emotional Friction

“The five-minute rule is a simple but powerful technique that encourages you to commit to working on a task for just five minutes. The idea behind this rule is that taking the first step is often the most challenging part of any task.”


1. Conserve

Learning ways to resist distraction is an effective approach to sustaining your work.

Experiment: Add Friction

“Invert the logic [of reducing friction]. Create obstacles between you and what you don’t want to divert your attention.”

2. Recharge

Find ways to refuel by participating in some activities that have nothing to do with your work, but are simply things you enjoy.

Experiment: Calm Hobbies

“The defining characteristic of a hobby is that it’s low stakes; there’s simply no way to win or lose a hobby, nor to turn it into a business. . . . Continually remind yourself that the hobby should be enjoyed for the process, rather than any kind of high-stakes goal.”

3. Align

Know what really matters to you, and align your behavior to match it.

Experiment: The 12-Month Celebration

“Imagine it’s twelve months from now and you’re having dinner with your best friend. You’re celebrating how much progress you’ve made in the areas of life that are important to you over the last year. Write down what you’d want to tell your best friend about your progress.”

The book is full of many more experiments, interesting anecdotes, and helpful insights. I highly recommend it to productivity junkies like me as well as those who rarely read this genre. Abdaal doesn’t claim that every experiment here is a new one, but the way he organizes them is new, effective, and most importantly, feels good.

Everyone will find helpful tools for themselves in this book.

Do you have a favorite book on productivity you’d recommend? Another of my favorites—an oldie but a goodie—is Getting Things Done by David Allen. Share your thoughts in the comments.

My thanks to NetGalley for the review
copy of Feel-Good Productivity.

19 thoughts on “9 Ways to Be Happily Productive

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I need to actually DO the celebration one myself too! It’s so easy to just read them and think, What a great idea! But to follow up with the action is different. lol.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’ve followed this author’s Youtube videos for a couple years. He is so engaging with book reviews, etc. He is/was a doctor in the UK but I think his youtube following became so large that he’s now doing it full time. Such a crazy world, yes? ha.

  1. Dianna

    This is a very interesting approach…who knew? I love it that it isn’t success that leads to us feeling good, but rather the other way around! Thank you for the review, Lisa. I’ve done a lot of jobs around the house by setting timers and I have to admit that it is fun!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, I’m still mulling the idea in my head. I do get more done when I’m enjoying it! I just can’t always depend on feeling good about it before I do a task. ha.

  2. Sue from Women Living Well After 50

    Love this, Lisa and thanks for sharing at #WOYBS. I will definitely be getting copy to read. I like to think I’m a pretty productive person but you are never too old to learn new ideas. Have a lovely weekend. x

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Sometimes I wonder if it’s the productive people who are most apt to read productivity books. lol. I feel like I’m a productive person too yet I’m so drawn to these books just the same! 🙂

  3. Debbie- Dabble

    Great post!! I find that I am a list maker and if I do not make a daily and weekly list, I tend to wander aimlessly through the day….
    Thanks so much for stopping by!! I hope you are staying warm!!

  4. Donna Connolly

    Hi, Lisa – I love this review and found it both provocative and helpful. I agree that ‘keeping things fun to get stuff done’ is a great strategy. Another oldy but goody productivity book is ‘The 7 Habits of Effective People’ emphasizing proactive thinking, prioritization, effective communication, collaboration, and personal growth <3

  5. Janet Alcorn

    This book is going on my TBR list. I’m a sucker for books about productivity (they’re one of my favorite distractions from actually being productive), and this one sounds like it has a more positive approach than some others.

  6. Kathryn Trask

    Sounds like a really positive book, love the idea of doing different projects and setting timer for 10 minutes for each. I also thought the imaginary celebration dinner is a great way to note down goals for a year.

  7. stephanie

    Sounds like a very interesting and positive book. I love the 10/10/10 rule! Thank you for sharing this with us at The Crazy Little Love Birds link party #21. I hope you will join us again soon. 🙂

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