Hostile Environment

Productivity in a Hostile Environment

Do your friends, spouse or significant other think interest in productivity is silly, pointless or a waste of time? Then you need help being productive in a hostile environment.

The corner of the internet occupied by personal productivity blogs and resources is quite a little community. But it’s sometimes easy to forget that outside the community there’s a widespread lack of understanding as to what it’s all about. Many are prone to laugh and scoff at the whole concept.

For example, my partner can’t understand how I can possibly want to spend time reading blogs in the niche. Common questions I get are along the lines of “why don’t you spend less time reading about productivity and more time being productive?” and “did you do the washing up or were you too busy being productive?”

Maybe it’s just me, but I sometimes have a hard time getting across that I spend time both reading about and doing, that learning about productivity is both a means to a more productive end and an enjoyable activity in its own right.

I realized I was clearly losing the battle for hearts and minds and I fear others may be too. So I’ve come up with five tactics to make easier the pursuit and practice of productivity in a hostile environment:

1. Demonstrate Results

There’s a well-documented temptation, especially with productivity systems, to spend all your time tinkering and tweaking the system rather than actually getting anything done. I’ve certainly been guilty of this in the past. But this is a sure recipe for mocking that you’re all reading and no doing. By having to show what you’ve done to escape the mocking, the incentive is there to quit procrastinating and get on with it. This works in the same way as making your commitment public when trying to break a habit or make a change – the thought of others’ disappointment or gloating really helps to keep you on track.

2. Out of Sight, Out of Mind

I get up early to blog, read my feeds and pursue various other personal projects. Much easier to firewall time when it’s not under challenge for being a waste of time that could be better spent on home improvements.

3. Make it Relevant

If you can pass on something of value from your learnings that gives you an excellent platform for demonstrating that what you’re doing isn’t a waste of time. For example, my partner loves the new menu plan I suggested we adopt. And where do you think that idea came from? The same goes for your friends, if you can apply something you’ve learned to a problem they’ve got, your weird little hobby will become more tangible and less risible.

4. Don’t be Ashamed

When I first started getting into this topic I kept it a secret from everyone, thinking they’d think it was odd. But remember as long as you’re confident about it, you can sell anything to anyone: see my post on how to make your own cool for more details.

5. Draw Comparisons

If you are still having trouble convincing those you wish to, I suggest changing your approach by drawing comparisons between your ‘waste of time’ and their preferred time wasters. Common time wasters that can be pointed out include watching rubbish on TV, video games and reading trash novels. Of course if you’re an avid video game player yourself, your argument will be somewhat undermined!

I hope some or all of these work for you. If you’ve got any more theoretical or road tested tactics, please let us know in the comments.

This article was written by Richard Thomas. Richard writes on productivity in the real world at his blog


Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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