Common sense with an 80,000 word limit

June 29th, 2019

After being rebuffed several times by the first couple chapters, I clenched my teeth and powered through. I'm glad I did.

The first half of the book paints Bailey in an unflattering way. He comes across as privileged, being able to deny job offers out of college to blog and vacation in Europe. He comes across as superficial and unscientific with his n=1 studies and vague quips about productivity. He comes across as out of touch with office workers, recommending hiring personal assistants, and keeping to a personal schedule which is out of the control of most. The first half is cold and shallow.

But things get better. In the second half Bailey opens up about the struggles of the project, having to move in with his Girlfriend's Father to be able to make it through the year, suffering a crippling injury, facing self doubt and negative self talk about his ability to complete the project. The book feels much more human. It is worth noting that the content remains more or less the same: Bailey develops the argument that productivity should be redefined and that productivity is built from 3 things. He uses his experiments and various studies to support these claims.

The experiments were hit or miss. Often they would be uninspired and hyperbolic, and exist only to test the nebulous question: "Will x make me more productive?" Some were good, but I could have done without reading whole chapters about drinking water and watching TED talks.

Finally while I agree with Bailey's belief that productivity is measured in accomplishment, I feel as though this view held him back in the writing of this book. He mentions twice(?) about trying to reach his 80,000 word limit for this book, and the pressure he faced to finish on schedule. Could it be that his view of this book as just one more accomplishment, one more box to be checked off his many lists, hurt its quality?

Anyway. I'm glad I invested the time into reading this book.