Glorified Routines and Productivity (Inspired by Maria Popova)

Routines and Productivity - Maria Popova Brain Pickings

Hi Live Diversified people,

Recently I came across an interview of Maria Popova on the Tim Ferriss Show – Tim Ferriss’ podcast.

When Tim Ferriss asked Maria what she does, she answered: “I read and I write, in that order”.

Maria is the creator of, a ridiculously adored website.

Brain Pickings is Maria’s life journey, the books she reads, and mostly her subjective lens on what matters in the world and why.

Glorified Productivity – The Video

I also created a YouTube video for this article. Watch if you don’t fancy reading.


Maria Popova on Routine and Productivity

Tim Ferriss asked Maria: “What does your day look like”, “What is your daily routine”?

I was blown away by her answer. She says word by word:

Well, I’ll answer this with a caveat. The one thing I have struggled with or tried to solve for myself in the last few years is this really delicate balance between productivity and presence, especially in a culture that seems to measure our worth, or our merit, or our value through our efficiency, and our earnings, and our ability to perform certain tasks as opposed to just the fulfillment we feel in our lives and the presence that we take in the day to day.

That’s something that’s become more and more apparent to me. So, I’m a little bit reluctant to discuss routine as some holy grail of creative process because it’s just really – it’s a crutch. I mean, routines and rituals help us not feel this overwhelming massive mess of just day to day life would consume us. It’s a control mechanism, but that’s not all there is. And if anything, it should be in the service of something greater which is being present with one’s own life.

What a beautiful answer. A ton of wisdom on how to live your life in a few sentences.

Talking about the same topic on her website, Maria mentions Annie Dillard:

How we spend our days, is of course, how we spend our lives.

Ours is a culture of how to get things done. How to be more efficient. How to master speed-reading. How to learn a language in 7 days.

Hey!! Stop! Take a breath. Be present.

If what you want right now is to go for a walk, or cycle your bicycle, or shoot a few free throws, or sit on the grass doing nothing, do it. Break your routine and do that.

And after you do all what you felt like doing, you realise you’re suddenly more productive.

From my experience as an author and YouTuber, I often struggle coming up with article or video ideas. Of course, if you sit in front of a computer all the time being loyal to your daily routine, how do you expect to be creative?

An author has to live in order to write. Creativity sparks when you do things out of your schedule, when you talk to other people, when you walk and more oxygen reaches your brain cells, when you travel, when you taste new flavours.

My Battle Against Routine

I’m making this video for myself so I don’t get sacrificed on the altar of productivity.

In the past, I used to be a productivity freak and today still I often get eaten by productivity.

One of my mentors, Dr. Teresa Hunt, who is an astrophysicist, writer, composer, musician, a totally Live Diversified lady used to tell me: “You are obsessed with your schedule Angelos, getting up early, doing the same things every day. You shouldn’t be living like that.”

And imagine that was after I quit investment banking to become an entrepreneur.

An Internet entrepreneur is supposed to be have a flexible schedule but I still used to stick to my daily routine as if was something holy I had to protect.

Teresa was right but I couldn’t understand her a few years ago.

Why Do We Love our Routines So Much?

I guess it’s our psychological bias again.

We are reluctant to deviate from the equilibrium point, ie. our daily routine, because we believe that our daily routine is what will lead us to success.

For example, we can’t afford to go to a theatre play because we haven’t crossed all tasks off our to-do list.

Remember what I said earlier though. Life is non-linear. Deciding to answer 10 more emails will definitely contribute to your success “a considerable linear chuck”. At the same time, the solution to one of your problems, or your next big idea may be hidden in that theatre play which you turned down to answer those 10 emails. In other words, the theatre play can potentially contribute a “huge non-linear chuck” to your success. But even if it doesn’t, a wonderful evening in the theatre will at least charge your batteries for the next day that you have to fight against your to-do list.

Yes, life is chaotic, non-linear, unpredictable. What’s wrong with living chaotically then just like life is?

It’s OK to deviate from an equilibrium point. It’s OK to explore without any particular purpose. It’s OK to try something without being certain about the outcome.

And if you are an entrepreneur, this is what entrepreneurship is all about – pushing boundaries, discovering new areas without any guarantee of success.

It’s all about the journey remember. All the experiences, lessons, failures contribute to your success.

Routine Doesn’t Create Memories

One of my favourite contemporary Russian authors, Михаил Веллер, says in his book “Everything about Life” that an indicator of a good life is your memories. How rich are your memories? Routine doesn’t create memories. If every day of your life looks like the previous, you will probably don’t remember much about those days a few years later.

If you ask me to write about my memories during the five years I used to work in banking I can probably write a short book with the title “getting to work and back home”. If you ask me to write about my memories during the last three years as an entrepreneur travelling the world, I can probably write ten books!

To sum up, it’s OK to have a routine, it’s OK to fight procrastination and aim to be more productive. Just always have in mind Maria Popova’s caveat. And remember, how we live our days, is of course, how we live our lives.



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Awaken the Giant Within by Tony Robbins (Part 1 – Decisions)

Awaken the Giant within - Tony Robbins

I just finished reading Tony Robbins’ book Awaken the Giant Within and I want to share with you some powerful ideas from the book.

1 – The Power of Truly Committed Decisions

To take control of our lives, we need to take control of our consistent actions. I’m not talking about the things that we do once in a while but what we do consistently.

But what precedes all our actions? What is the father of all action? What drives all our actions? The answer to all these questions is one word – decisions.

You take action because you decided to take action. If you don’t take action, it’s again your decision not to take action.

People instead of making decisions complain about their conditions. I came from a dysfunctional family. My parents were really poor. I didn’t get the right education.

No one denies that there are people who are born with advantages. Genetic advantages, family advantages, environmental advantages, relationship advantages. However, for every “privileged” person I can give you an example of a non-privileged person that against all odds smashed all their barriers by making the decisions of what to do with their lives.

But what sort of decisions? Truly committed decisions. The moment you make a decision, it’s a commitment. There is no way back.

We have disempowered the word decision in our lives. We have associated the word decision with something like I should do that one day, I ought to do that one day, it would be nice to do that, wouldn’t it? No. If you decided that you have to do something, you must do it and you have to take action now.

A real decision is measured by the fact that you have taken new action. If there is no new action, sorry you haven’t decided yet.

A truly committed decision has to be unshakable no matter what happens. The stock market collapses, your girlfriend dumps you, your “friends” think you went crazy.

Your decisions need to stay there strong and powerful. Because your decisions reflect your values, your purpose, what you came to this world for. You decisions need to stay consistent with the quality of your spirit, your inner calling.

Make decisions often. The more decisions you make, the better you’re gonna get. Muscles get stronger with use and so do our decision muscles. Feel the excitement that comes from taking the committed decisions that shift your life towards the direction you wanna go.

Learn from your decisions. There are gonna be times when you screw up. Don’t focus on the short term setbacks but focus on the lessons that will save you time, money and pain in the future.

Build flexibility. Once you decide who you want to become, what is you wanna get, be flexible in your approach. Try different ways, learn throughout the process, experiment, don’t become rigid in your approach.

Enjoy making decisions. One moment, the moment that you make a true decision can change your entire life. The moment you decide to quit smoking, to buy a gym membership, to quit your job.

A truly committed decision is the force that can change your life.


PS: For those who are asking about camera and lighting gear have a look:


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Should we Focus on Strengths or Weaknesses?


Hey LiveDivers,

Have you read the title of this post? Well, I don’t know the answer. I want you to answer this question for me.

This is what Gary Vaynerchuk says: “You need to bet on your strengths and not give a fuck about what you suck at.” Watch here.

In another video he says the same.”Legacy is better than currency”. Watch here.

Now, Peter Ducker in a popular Harvard Business Review Classics (Managing Oneself) says the same: The reason people don’t succeed is that they don’t know their strengths. He suggests that we can only find out what our strengths are by looking at our past successes and failures (he calls that feedback analysis). Then, we should only invest in those strengths every single day. Also, we shouldn’t try to change everything at once. The key is in getting rid of the bad habits and continuously investing in our strong areas.

Here is an excellent summary of the book Managing Oneself written by the successful entrepreneur Tai Lopez.

On the flip side now I have to say the following:

  1.  What if you have built your strength to such an extent that any marginal improvement towards your strength is not that important as opposed to an improvement in an area that you have always neglected.
  2. What if your strength is not as enjoyable anymore as it was before? OK, you most probably enjoy things that you’re good at but what if you don’t find something as sexy as before anymore?
  3. What if you have multiple passions and want to live a diversified life? What if you are a mathematician in your 30’s and a degree in history is now more interesting than a PhD in mathematics?

My dad used to be a teacher in primary school. He was a really good teacher. All the kids loved him. I’ve probably got some of his talent and done lots of teaching myself too. I’ve taught mathematics, languages, music and the feedback I’ve been getting all these years is really exceptional. However, I haven’t always enjoyed the process of teaching. Why? Because teaching sucks all your energy. 3-4 hours of real teaching can leave you dead. Does the fact that I can be a good teacher means I should become one? Not sure.

Two years ago I wrote a book about how we can become better learners and memorise better what we learn. I spent six months reading tons of research in cognitive psychology. There is no evidence that we should learn according to our preferred learning style (visual, acoustic, verbal, kinaesthetic) if we want to learn more effectively. On the contrary, there are studies that have shown the opposite. For example, visual learners learn better if they start reading or listening.

In another recent Harvard Business Review podcast, Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, professor at University College London and Columbia University says there is no scientific evidence that focusing on your strengths guarantees success.

The problem he says is that we usually compare our own strengths between them instead of comparing our strengths against the same strengths in our peers. Well, I don’t fully agree with that either. Let’s say that more than half of the population is better at something we like and are best at. Giving that something up and looking at something we’re not good at doesn’t sound like a good strategy either.

Professor Chamorro-Premuzic says also that overdeveloping a strong area can become a liability rather than an asset. For example, a really ambitious person can become greedy or someone with good social skills can become a manipulator. But that’s again something you can’t control. Here we’re talking about people who want to get better and achieve the most of life like you and me. I don’t find convincing the reasoning here. Read for yourself. Tell me what you think.

My gut feeling as I’m writing this article is that we should do what feels right and not what we think is right. We live in a “KPI and ROI” society where productivity and optimisation are everything. We put our mind first and our heart second.

I think you shouldn’t follow anyone’s advice. Do what feels right to you. Do you want to explore something new? Do it. Do you find challenge in improving a skill that you thought you were not good at? Do it! You may find out that you’re good at it in the end.


Can you leave a comment below? I want to know your opinion.


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