How I Am Productive

written by Dan Silvestre

how I am productive

I like to think I am productive and get a lot of stuff done.

Every week, someone asks me “How can I be more productive?” This is a natural question to be asked when you’ve spent the last decade finding better ways to work.

I’ve written about productivity for the better part of the last decade. But it was almost always “Here’s what you should do” and less “Here’s what’s working for me.”

In this essay, I’ll share my “secrets” and productivity system.

Productivity is about the process, not the instrument.

As for what my productivity is going towards, here’s the current list:

  • Coaching clients. I run 1:1 and group sessions with ambitious clients who want to improve their performance
  • This website. Where I write articles like these and publish my book notes
  • My newsletter. Goes out twice a week with an article on Fridays
  • The High Performers. A community for people who want to be more productive while having more fun
  • Running marathons and playing tournaments. More on this below

It took me 12 years to build the system you’ll discover below. It’s been mostly a process of trial and error and reading a lot of books.

It works for me. Some parts might work for you. Others might not. Take what you think will work for you.

In the words of Bruce Lee:

“Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own.”

The Productivity Feedback Loop

how i am productive productive loop

We’ll dive into my systems and tactics but first I want to talk about something more important.

To be more productive, you need to respect the fundamentals of productivity. This means exercising every day, eating healthy, and getting enough sleep to rest and recover.

When you are disciplined following this productivity feedback loop, you’ll see your results improve while having more energy.

Fail to follow them and no amount of systems or tactics can help you.

Move: Exercise Every Day

I make a point of exercising at least 3 hours every day. I run, go to the gym, or play padel.

Here’s what my schedule looks like right now:

  • Every day I have padel practice, and that’s anywhere from 1h-3h
  • On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, I run. Monday is the long run day, while the other two are an easy run and a speed run with some exercises after the run
  • On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I go to the gym for an hour

On the weekends, I either play padel tournaments or do more running.

I’ll take a rest day on Sundays on particularly gruesome weeks or if I feel tired. Still, I’ll do recovery work: exercises, foam roller, and ice baths.

Exercise helps me fall asleep faster, reduces stress, and reinforces great nutrition. Plus, I look and feel good. I’m 33 and in the best shape of my life.

Find something that is fun for you and make sure you’re moving every day.

Fuel: Eat Healthily

What you put into your body is the fuel you need to work, exercise, and everything else.

Good fuel in = great performance out.

I have one week’s worth of fresh meals delivered to my house every Thursday. This saves me a ton of time in grocery shopping and cooking time. Plus the stress of “What do I make for dinner tonight?”. When it’s time for dinner, I simply grab them and heat them.

I love to cook. So I’ll also cook a few times a week when I have some free time. For me, cooking is a relaxing and fun activity, so it doubles as something I enjoy.

I also drink a lot of water every day. I always have a glass of water next to me when working and a bottle in my backpack.

Eating healthy helps me stay in shape, sleep better, have more energy, and avoid getting sick.

I’m not a nutrition expert. And I know when it comes to diets there’s not a “one-size fits all” solution.

So I’ll share one piece of advice everyone can benefit from when it comes to food. From “In Defense of Food” by Michael Pollan: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

Also read: Lose Weight Naturally: Simple Ways for a Healthy Life

Rest: Get Enough Sleep

Out of these 3 productivity fundamentals, sleep is the most important. Sleep gives you more energy, improves your focus, and improves your mood and mental health. And it also promotes muscle repair and better physical health.

I get at least 8 hours of sleep every night. This is non-negotiable. If I feel particularly tired (either from work or exercise), I’ll sleep more like 9-10 hours.

I wake up at the same time every day but I go to bed when I’m tired. I have an alarm set up at 11 PM letting me know I should get ready for bed. Simple but it works.

Most days, I stop drinking coffee around 3 PM. I love coffee so this one is especially hard for me.

I don’t drink alcohol that much anyway but it helps if you limit consumption at night. Alcohol really messes up your sleep.

I fall asleep quickly, no more than 2-3 minutes. If I can’t fall asleep, I’ll get up and read for 20-30 minutes on the couch and then go back to bed. This trains my body and brain to fall asleep fast when in bed.

And that’s it.

Stick to the 3 productivity fundamentals: exercise every day, eat healthy, and get enough sleep. It’s a feedback loop, each element helping each other.

If you’re well-rested, fit, and eating well, you’re energized and ready to tackle whatever the day throws at you.

Productivity hacks are great, but they’re even more effective when you have a strong foundation.


The first step in my productivity system to be productive is to be organized and remember things without the need to memorize them.

Having these systems down allows me to not drop the ball on important projects and tasks, keeping with my events, and never forgetting ideas.

Write Everything Down

I write everything down:

  • Cool idea? I write it down
  • An event invitation? Goes into my calendar
  • Personal errands I need to do? They also go into my calendar
  • Tasks and projects? They go into my task manager

I try to keep the information in my head to a minimum. I use that brain space to create things.

Most of my notes live on ​Roam, where I have my Zettelkasten:

  • Notes from articles, books, videos, and podcasts
  • Ideas for future projects
  • My weekly reviews, as well as strategy and plans
  • Free flow journaling
  • Resources for future newsletters

It’s the app that saves all relevant digital information for my work and personal life.

For smaller things, like a grocery shopping list, I use ​Apple Notes​ or ​Google Keep.

I also have a small Moleskine notepad and a pen next to me at all times. So if something pops into my brain in the middle of a deep work block, I’ll quickly scribble it down.

Schedule Tasks and Events: The Calendar

how i am productive calendar

The calendar is the most important tool in my productivity stack.

You only have so much time. A calendar forces you to be critical in scheduling and acts as a filter for what’s truly a priority.

And that’s why a calendar is the most effective tool to maximize your time

Everything takes time:

  • Writing this article for ​my ​newsletter​​ takes time
  • Meetings with coaching clients take time. Preparing for those meetings and writing notes afterward also takes time
  • Processing my email and getting to ​​inbox zero​​ takes time
  • Personal errands and recreational activities take time

And because everything takes time, everything needs to be on my calendar:

  • When I’m working on a specific task, and for how long
  • Coaching sessions with clients
  • Personal errands I need to do
  • Deadlines for specific things
  • Deliveries I might be receiving that day

If it’s not on the calendar, it’s not going to happen.

I ​​time-block​​ my tasks during weekly planning. I give myself buffer time between big tasks. And I add breaks​ as well.

I also add reminders for my most important tasks and events. So whenever I’m working, I don’t need to think about the next things I’m going to do. That decision has already been made.

My calendar tells me what I’m working on next.

Also read: How a Color Coded Calendar Helps You Conquer Your Day (Easy Tips)

Keep Track of Tasks: The Task Manager

I don’t work from my to-do list but rather use it as a capture tool for all the tasks I might do. I use ​Things. It’s simple to use and great at quick capture.

I add everything here:

  • Main projects and tasks
  • Admin work
  • Emails I need to reply to
  • Personal errands

I add notes and reference links to tasks. This is helpful when I do need to work on the task.

These tasks stay on my to-do list until I move them to the calendar. If I don’t see value in doing an activity in the next few weeks, I move them to my ​Someday List.

Keep all your tasks in one location.

This helps you understand the big picture and the amount of workload you are currently taking. When it gets too big, cut down to the essentials. Delete what doesn’t matter and defer unimportant items to the Someday List.

Keep Your Email Clean: Always Inbox Zero

I get to inbox zero​ every day. If there’s a task in the email, I add it to my to-do list.

If it’s something important, I add it directly to my calendar, with a link to the email.

I have three email “windows” to ​batch-process​ email:

  1. After I complete my biggest task of the day. This is normally around 11 am
  2. After lunch. My ​​energy levels​ are a bit lower​ so it’s a prime time to do some shallow work
  3. Before ending my workday. This ensures nothing falls through the cracks before shutting down

During these windows, I’m focused on taking 1 of 6 possible actions on each message:

  1. Reply. If an email requires immediate action and I can answer quickly, I handle it right away
  2. Archive. If I don’t need to do anything else about it
  3. Add it to my Calendar. For meetings and any time-specific events
  4. Add it to my task manager. When the email contains a task, I add it as a to-do
  5. Send it to my notes app. For anything I want to save for future reference
  6. Send it to my Read Later app. For information I want to process later

More on how I use Gmail effectively on my ​GTD Email course.


Once you’re organized, it’s time to get in a position to do the things you need to do.

I’m not interested in doing everything. That’s a recipe for burnout.

I only want to do the most important things. And I want to do other things I love and relax the rest of the time.

It’s time to prioritize.

The $10K Framework

How do you prioritize?  The best tactic I’ve seen is the $10K framework. It’s a simple process of identifying your highest-leverage tasks.

how i am productive the 10k framework

Grab your master task list and insert each task into one quadrant:

  • $10 work. Replying to emails, some meetings, or talking to unqualified prospects
  • $100 work. Outsourcing simple tasks (that you should automate), or listening to an audiobook from your industry
  • $1.000 work. Planning and prioritizing your day, ​delegating complex tasks, or acquiring a unique skill
  • $10K work. Recruiting for a senior position, ​implementing systems​ and SOPs, selling to high-value customers

Now you know your highest-leverage activities.

I work on my $10k tasks before everything else. Then I move down to $1.000 tasks. And that’s it. Works for me.

Here’s more on how I use the $10K framework:

Timeblocking: Plan Your Week in Advance

I plan my week in advance, time-blocking my $10K tasks in my calendar.

I schedule deep work blocks in the morning. I like to “eat my frogs” first thing. In the afternoon, I mostly coach clients and work on High-Perfomers.

I have 3 or fewer tasks I want to complete every single day (aka The Rule of Three).

And I write down each task on a Post-it and put them in front of me, with the most important task at the top.

No fancy software. Keep it simple.


I’ve got my work planned, now it’s time to actually “get things done”.

Here are a few tactics that work for me.

The Pomodoro Technique

I use the Pomodoro Technique to work in sprints. When I started using this tactic, I would set up a timer. Now I’m so used to it that I don’t need to anymore.

I have the most energy in the morning so I stretch my Pomodoro sessions to 50 minutes of work and 10 minutes of rest. In the afternoon, I default back to 25-5.

On a good day, I do 3-4 Pomodoro sessions in the morning (50-10) and 3-4 more in the afternoon (25-5). This is more than enough time to work on everything I need to do.

Keep in mind that I’m completely focused during this time. No distractions, headphones in and head down just working. You can do a lot when you’re single-tasking.

Take a Lot of Breaks

We associate breaks with time we could be working. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Your brain is only designed to work at peak performance for a limited amount of time.

After you exceed 90 minutes of high-frequency brain activity, you must rest. Otherwise, you’re pushing your body when you have exceeded its limits.

In other words:

Your brain needs rest between focused work.

Apart from the Pomodoro breaks, I take a longer 20-30 minute break in the morning and 2 10-15 minute breaks in the afternoon.

If I’m feeling tired or low on energy, I’ll take a quick nap after lunch. 30 minutes of sleep can do wonders.

Also read: Ultradian Rhythm: How to Avoid Burnout and Boost Productivity.

Time Tracking

If I’m starting a new task I haven’t done before, I time track to see how long it takes me. This allows me to better calibrate the time I need the next time I have to do it.

I also use an advanced time-tracking technique called Interstitial Journaling.

Interstitial journaling is a productivity technique that combines notes, to-dos, and time tracking. I do it in Roam.

The basic idea of interstitial journaling is to write just a few updates when you take a break or finish a task, and always write the time next to it. This way you’re time tracking at the same time.

Interstitial journaling allows you to feel like everything is under control. You can always go back to check on your progress. Also, it makes my weekly review a breeze.

Parkinson’s Law

Parkinson’s Law states that “work expands to fill the time available for its completion”:

Parkinson's Law

Which means that working longer hours hurts your productivity. Weird, right?

The key to breaking free from this paradox is to adopt a more strategic approach to work.

To give my absolute full attention to the task at hand for a fixed period and then rest. Give my body and mind time to recover and get ready for the next sprint.

When I first read about Parkinson’s Law years ago, something clicked. I started looking at deadlines not as enemies, but as an essential tool for productivity.

Use smaller, shorter deadlines to challenge yourself.


It’s not enough to do. I want to understand how I can improve.

The best way to discover these insights is to periodically review your work and create strategies on what you can improve.

Here are all the reviews I do.

Daily Review

For the daily review, I write down 2-3 wins of my day. This can be anything:

  • Completing a major task
  • Feeling strong on a run
  • Getting a new client or having a great session

I then check my calendar for the next day and tweak it if necessary. This entire process takes me no more than 5-10 minutes.

Weekly Review

gtd weekly review my weekly review

For the weekly review, I have 3 main goals:

  1. Clean my inboxes. Empty all my physical and digital workspaces. Move things to their place and delete everything that can distract work in the upcoming week
  2. Review my week. Reflect on what went well and what could have gone better. Update my to-do and projects list. Remove unimportant tasks and update my calendar with any new relevant information
  3. Prioritize and schedule. Decide my tasks for the week and time block my calendar

I do my weekly review on Fridays. It’s a great way to signal my brain that my work week is over.

Also read: A GTD Weekly Review for Insanely Busy Managers (30 minutes or less)

Monthly Review

For the monthly review, I spend more time on the reflection phase. I look at my projects and tasks and draw a strategy for the month ahead.

I try to understand what’s working and what’s not. Based on this, I decide what I should drop/abandon and what I should double down on.

I also update my business and personal finances. I have a checklist for this so I do it faster.

My monthly review normally takes around 2 hours and I always do it on the last day of the month.

Final Thoughts

This productivity system might feel like a ton of work but at this point, it’s second nature to me. It’s just how I work.

If you want to start your productivity system, take it slow. Start incorporating the part that makes the most sense to you. Once that becomes second nature, move on to the next.

And with time, you’ll develop your own productivity system.

Thanks for reading!

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