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Ways We Work

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Chris Bailey

Founder and Writer of A Year of Productivity

What do you do?

Hey! My name is Chris Bailey, and I write a website named A Year of Productivity. When I graduated with a business degree (and two awesome full-time job offers) last May, I decided to decline both jobs to dedicate a year of my life to becoming as productive as possible and writing about what I learn. For the project I’m conducting weird productivity experiments on myself (like meditating for 35 hours over a week, living in total isolation for 10 days, and more), interviewing über-productive people, and reading as many productivity books as I can.

What mobile device do you use?

I use an iPhone 5 (black, 32GB), without a case. At the time of writing, my phone contract expires in 570 days (damn three-year plans!)

Best way to stay on top of email?

Here’s the best tip I can give: Stop checking your damn email all of the time! Email is fun and addictive, but every single minute you spend pointlessly refreshing your email is a minute you’re not making something cool. I try to spend as little time on email as possible, and blow through my inbox three times every day.

Top five applications/programs?

In no particular order:

iOS: Downcast. I constantly listen to podcasts, whether I’m at the gym, out running errands, or doing things around the house. Podcasts are my favorite way to learn cool, new things.

iOS: Instapaper. I hardly ever read articles on my computer anymore. Instead, I send all of the articles I plan to read to Instapaper (a read-it-later service), and read them over tea every Sunday morning.

Mac: Keynote. Keynote always blows me away with how powerful it is. I don’t just use it for presentations, even though it’s great for that–I also use it for mocking up web pages, performing simple image edits for my site, and a whole lot more. I personally think it’s the most underrated design program out there today.

Mac: Textedit. I’ve tried countless text editors for writing, but TextEdit is my personal favourite, mostly because of how simple it is. If you use Windows, think of Wordpad, only 10x better.

Everything: Simplenote. Whenever I have an idea, wherever I am, I can diary it in Simplenote. Simplenote is a free note-taking app that syncs across all of your devices.

What is your best time-saving trick?

Say ‘no’ to way more things than you are now. I think one of the most powerful skills someone can develop to become more productive is the ability to say no to things. When you think hard about how much you’ll get out of the commitments people are throwing your way, you can defend your schedule against pointless stuff that will zap you of the time and energy you need to be productive.

Favourite productivity tool?

The meditation cushion that sits right next to my desk. I use my meditation practice to defragment my thoughts and step back from my work to become way more productive. The practice lets me work much smarter, instead of just harder.

I’m not one to toot my own horn, but I write a killer guide on how to meditate for my project if you’re interested.

One non-tech thing you can't live without?

Exercise. I think if exercise came in pill form, every single person in the world would pay hundreds of dollars a month for it, simply because it’s so good for you. I can’t think of a single better way to focus better or get the energy to do more.

Structure of your typical day? How do you divide your time?

Every weekday I wake up at 5:30, and then hit the gym for 6. At the gym, I define the three outcomes I want to get out of every day (not to-dos; actual outcomes that the things I’m doing that day will lead to). These become the three areas I channel my time and energy into throughout the day. Over time I’ve gotten real good at learning how much I’m capable of each day, and defining my three daily outcomes accordingly.

I don’t have a typical day per-se, but at the gym I plan out each day so I can accomplish those outcomes (for example, if one of the outcomes involves being creative, I’ll give myself less structure that day).

What does your workspace look like?


Paintings, left to right: View of Notre Dame by Henri Matisse, and Home Safe by Kristy Boisvert (you can get a print here, but I have the original muhahahahaha) 13” Macbook Air 27” Samsung display Apple wireless keyboard and trackpad Harmon Kardon Soundstick speakers

Who would you like to see featured on Ways We Work?

I’d personally love to see either David Allen or Seth Godin interviewed. They both do really cool work.