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Feel-Good Productivity: How to Do More of What Matters to You by Ali Abdaal

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Train now then spend your life being a champion – or is that the best way to do it?

Describes being an almost burnout out doctor who had been working hard on wards and his initial thought was do what has worked before study harder and work efficiently. Realised this is not doable and in fact firstly feeling positive is key to being successful first.

Ali Abdaal is now an influencer and YouTuber rather than a doctor, laughably he mentioned one of the patients in the hospital asked him why he was the only one working in the hospital that was smiling. Nice story about how he questioned his attitude – going to go home but needed to put a cannula in which would take about half an hour – overheard a patient stating how nice the staff were.  Realised he had to do the task, could either put a smile and do it with positivity or not.  On a different note am not quite sure how it would take him 30 minutes to put a cannula in, as an efficiency guru, but as he isn’t working as a doctor any more I suspect this is academic!

The revelation was that if you can improve your mood needs to improve to help how he is effective- a positive mood boosts creativity.  So do more of what matters to you! 

Broken down into these three sections

1. Science of positivity – three ways to energise you:

Play, power, people

2. Overcome procrastination: Uncertainty, fear, inertia

3. Sustain and tackle burnout.  Burnout can be overexertion, depletion, misalignment.  These can be tackled by Conserve, Recharge, Align

Successful people view work as play – integrate this spirit into work. Find the element of fun

Curiosity is key – makes you focus more; think like a child. Japanese word Shoshin describes this concept. Keep a beginners mindset, view things with an open mind and with curiosity.  This allows you to seek new approaches. In addition, helps reduce stress and reduces playfulness.  Behave sincerely rather than with seriousness.

Consider trying to gamify life – step into the right personality:

Collector, Competitor, Explorer, Creator, Storyteller, Joker, Director, Kinesthete

(add image from book)

Reframe how you think about failure. Think of this as a learning process.

If you are primed to be more confident before completing a task or performing exercise this will help.  Your belief improves your ability and you in turn become more efficient. Therefore become your own “hype” team; think how you would look confident then act like you have this.

A few concepts:

  • Vicarious success – Seeing others succeeding with sustained effort helps you believe you can improve.
  • Inactive mastery – learning through doing.
  • Protégé effect- don’t need to be a guru be a guide – one step ahead of others helps reinforce your own learning.

Generally you can take ownership of the process of how you work – not necessarily what the work is. Own your mindset. If instead of “have to” reframe this “choose to”. Select your attitude.

People- it isn’t a zero sum game, have a comrade mindset. Work together – collaborate with others.

Practice random acts of kindness.  The Benjamin’s Franklin effect – if others help they might like you more – ask for help more! Generally other people underestimate that others want to help. Try to ask for help in person. Frame asking with not quid Pro quo – instead more like how good the person is and why they are great.  (note I will ask Ali not in person if he will share this as he is great and an inspiration). 

Over communicate good news and also react in positive ways to other people’s good news. Actively and constructively response to other people’s good news outline the effort they have put in and the good things they have done. 

Show “Commanders intent” what is the purpose – why do you want something – then take steps to move forward.

Find your ultimate purpose by asking Why? five times in a row.  Then move from the why to the what. This is goal planning.  Note becoming fixated on an outcome or a goal doesn’t help as this loses fun in the journey. 

NICE goal:

Near term

Input based – emphasise the process



These are ways to chunk down SMART goals which tend to be longer term.

The Crystal ball technique – used for planning.  This means thinking of the obstacles that might occur before they have appeared.  Consider what are the top 3 reasons or obstacles you may face and how can you mitigate these.

Take action:

Ask when, plan the time to do it, then do it!

Use triggers and your calendar to help prompt your implementation intentions actions. If this … then . Reward yourself!

Block time off for specific tasks you are avoiding then do it.  Look at your to do list and schedule your week plan to achieve this.  Plan what is important to you when adding to your diary try to get the balance of fun and work.  Remember your plan isn’t rigid – this is a goal if you don’t achieve it be good to yourself show some flexibility.

Importantly when planning your diary find what blocks your good mood eliminate this. 

Fear – overcome this by affective labelling by naming and acknowledging our fears this helps our understanding.  Consider the 10 10 10 rule; would you be worried about this in 10 minutes, 10 months or 10 years – probably not this may help reframe your worries. What are you actually afraid of? Where does this fear come from – me or them? If something didn’t go so well so what? Other people aren’t watching they have the spotlight on themselves!

Take advantage of labelling – give yourself good labels – such as a life long learner this can be help you move forward. 

Remove barriers to action. Possess a bias to action – break things down and decisions into 3 options and steps you need to undertake.

If you are putting off a task consider starting it with five minutes of focus.  Then at that point continue or stop, you may find you will be more likely to continue! 

Overcome inertia by providing yourself with encouragement and consider finding accountability buddies.  Group online study sessions can even help (people are all working on their own things).  By tracking your progress allows you to write down achievements questions and barriers. 

Be Sustainable – over exertion

If you are doing too much then conserve more energy do less

Depletion burnout

Tackle this with the acronym CALM




You can always write off some days & don’t feel guilty about time off. 

Misalignment burnout

This occurs if you are doing aren’t meaningful activities.  So aim to only do meaningful things.  For example don’t say yes to a commitment in 6 weeks that you wouldn’t want to do tomorrow. 

Intrinsic motivation is good but when this is depleted and you are struggling this is when you can fall back onto extrinsic motivation to help you – doing this with a positive mindset is the essence of feel good productivity!  So remember celebrate every victory!

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