The fundamental concept of efficient productivity is probably flat-out wrong. Let me explain.

For the past several years, I’ve been reading a lot of productivity blogs that all emphasize “maximizing the usage of your time.” It’s almost been ingrained in my head that if I have chores to do, I’ll open my audiobook app. If I’m waiting in line, the Anki flashcard grind begins. Productive, right?

Productivity is not a game of short-term victories.

How many times have you been absolutely productive for a day, just for the next day to be a complete waste?

Probably way too much.

Over time, even if you think you’re being productive by studying eight hours a day, the inconsistent bursts of short-term productivity victories do not set you up for long-term success.

I’ve begun to question: is reading an article while eating dinner really making me more efficient and productive, or is it just killing my ability to sit in silence and enjoy a good meal? In the practice of meditation, I’ve realized that the concept of meditation itself challenges the notion of “efficient productivity.”

The idea is that constantly filling our brains with noise and always being in a state of “doing” something, regardless of its significance, hampers our ability to concentrate on the present moment. It’s not enough to just sit alone, in silence, and enjoy a good meal.

By merging “efficient productivity” with our daily routines, we make them inseparable from every action we take. And in the process, they replace moments of solitude, reflection, and mindful engagement with the present.

If you really want to be productive, what should you do?

Go to your calendar app or your to-do list app and…

Block out an hour of doing nothing.


Many famous thinkers throughout history have attributed (at least partially) their success to isolation. Beethoven and Darwin favored daily vigorous walks surrounded by nature.

Still don’t believe me?

A professor at Princeton University once insisted on walking a mile and a half there and back on his way home, doing nothing (that’s one hour of walking, by the way). The old me would have balked at that statement: “he’s wasting his time, he could be doing more!”

The new me would have been embarrassed to tell Albert Einstein that he could be doing more.

In 1665, after a mandatory quarantine following the bubonic plague outbreak, he was forced to return home. Bored, he spent his days sitting in his garden. The old me would have told him, “you’re wasting your time.”

The new me recognizes the importance of him watching an apple fall from a tree.

Isolation and boredom aren’t signs of not being efficiently productive. Quite the opposite. Isolation and boredom prepare you for being efficiently productive during your productive times.

So what can you do differently?

To start, stop doing anything when you eat dinner, complete chores, or wait in lines. Take a moment for self-reflection and stay present. Later on, you can progress to blocking out one-hour slots of doing nothing, like I do now. Though you may need to explain to your parents that what you are doing is actually helping you ace that next test.

And perhaps, read the autobiographies of famous thinkers and individuals who have changed the lives of millions. Not some self-proclaimed productivity guru like me.