5 min read
Progress and productivity

Progress and productivity are two essential concepts that go hand in hand when it comes to achieving your goals. By understanding the distinctions between the two and how they interact, you can develop strategies to optimize your efforts and reach your full potential. Remember, there is no one-size-fits-all approach – it’s all about finding what works best for you and staying committed to your goals. With the right mindset, tools, and strategies in place, you can navigate the path to success with confidence and purpose.

Breaking Down Goals

Goals are often abstract and large, making them challenging to tackle head-on. The key to achieving them is to break them down into smaller, manageable objectives. By dividing your goals into smaller tasks, you can conquer them one by one, using the “divide and conquer” approach. This strategy allows you to focus on each step, making the overall goal feel more attainable.

The Linear Fallacy

Naval Ravikant, a renowned entrepreneur and investor, once said, “We like to view the world as linear. Which is, I’m going to put in 8 hours of work, I’m going to get back 8 hours of output. Right? It doesn’t work that way. The guy running the corner grocery store is working just as hard or harder than you and me. How much output is he getting? What you do, who you do it with, how you do it, are all way more important than how hard you work.”

This quote highlights the importance of focusing on the quality and nature of your work, rather than solely on the hours you put in. It’s not just about working hard, but also about working smart and efficiently.

A Personal Journey

I once ran a company that built software for other companies. As a consultant, I worked hard and earned money, but I found myself burning out. Upon retrospection, I realized that while I was working well, I needed to introspect and find what truly made me happy. This led me to discover the distinction between productivity and progress and how we need to balance both to achieve our goals.

Defining Progress and Productivity

  • Progress: Moving forward, solving a purpose, creating impact, simplifying life, or attaining self-contentment and fulfillment.
  • Productivity: Doing more, paying attention to detail (precision), managing resources, and figuring out movements.

The W5H Framework

To structure a problem or critically analyze a situation, we can use the W5H framework, which consists of: what, how, who, when, where, and why. By applying this framework to our questions on progress and productivity, we can gain a clearer understanding of how to approach our goals.

Functions of Progress — F(Progress)

  • What you do: The problem you aim to solve.
  • Why you do: The purpose behind your actions.
  • Who you do: The people you collaborate with.

Functions of Productivity — F(Productivity)

  • How you do: The tools and methods you employ.
  • When you do: The timing and deadlines you set.
  • Where you do: The location or environment you work in.

What You Do: Finding the Right Problem

Identifying a problem you’re passionate about solving is crucial for staying motivated and content. Whether it’s a simple, unseen issue or a complex, unheard-of challenge, finding a problem that resonates with you will keep you engaged and driven.

How You Do: Utilizing the Right Tools

Using the right tools is essential for productivity. From hammers and wrenches to scales and calipers, having the proper tools to do and measure things can make a significant difference in your work.

Who You Do: Collaborating with the Right People

Some of the greatest things are invented, created, and discovered when great people come together. Surrounding yourself with the right collaborators can lead to incredible achievements.

When You Do: Timing and Deadlines

Procrastination can be both a blessing and a curse. However, the idea of doing things now and setting deadlines can help you move faster and create consistency in what you want to do. Execution is key, as many people dream but fail to take action.

Why You Do: Finding Purpose

Finding purpose may sound philosophical, but it helps you stay committed to a problem for the long haul, even if others find it boring. Some of the greatest movies and inventions were born from individuals who found their purpose and pursued it relentlessly.

Where You Do: Location Matters

The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced new ways of working, such as remote and hybrid setups. While staying close to people can invite creative energy, the world is transitioning towards more flexible work arrangements. However, not all fields of work can be done remotely, and some still require an office or a specific location where people can collaborate in person.


Work and play, and everything in between, constitute a human life. But more often than not, we find ourselves using the phrase “work in progress.” Are we really progressing? By understanding the interplay between progress and productivity and applying the W5H framework to our goals, we can optimize our efforts and achieve success on our own terms. Remember, it’s about finding what works best for you and staying committed to your purpose.