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Saturday, April 13, 2024

Productivity Tips From Pulitzer Prize Winner Michael Lewis

Sleep, exercise and good nutrition are proven stress reducers and productivity enhancers, according to Harvard Business Review. That might sound simple enough, yet more than half of employees report being relatively unproductive at work, per McKinsey & Company. So what else exactly goes into unleashing creativity and optimizing performance in the workplace or in pursuit of another professional goal?

Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Lewis, acclaimed author of hit titles including Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine and most recently Going Infinite: The Rise and Fall of a New Tycoon, about the crypto fraudster Sam Bankman-Fried, explores just that in his new class on MasterClass.

The class not only breaks down Lewis’s unique approach to masterful storytelling — “which will enhance your life in all kinds of ways,” the author says — but it also delves into the processes that lead to productivity and success in writing-related endeavors and beyond.

Related: ‘Big Short’ Investor: SVB Crisis Is Accelerating Economic Slowdown

“At the bottom of the best me is love. It’s love of what I do; it’s love of the characters, for better or worse.”

One essential component? That would be the creation of an environment conducive to success, according to Lewis. You have to zero in on that space and commit to it, the author says, adding that you should choose a location “where you feel safe.” For Lewis, that means working in his office surrounded by photos of his family. “At the bottom of the best me is love,” he explains. “It’s love of what I do; it’s love of the characters, for better or worse. It’s love of telling stories. It’s love of the interaction with the reader.”

Additionally, Lewis suggests minimizing all potential distractions: Remove the cell phone from your desk “because it’s only a matter of time before it buzzes or rings,” and consider slipping on headphones to listen to a mix tape. “The key to it all is the feeling of impossible interruption,” Lewis says. After a while, that playlist might even have a Pavlovian effect and kickstart any working session, he adds, admitting he wrote the whole of The Undoing Project to Frozen‘s “Let It Go.”

Related: 10 Simple Productivity Tips for Organizing Your Work Life

“It’s useful to have routine, but the minute it becomes a superstition…it becomes a crutch.”

Lewis also notes that we can “learn from the smartest baseball players about the power of routine,” but the trick is to establish a loose routine — and ensure it doesn’t start to get in our own way. “You need to insist upon the difference of routine and superstition,” he explains. “It’s useful to have routine, but the minute it becomes a superstition…it becomes a crutch.”

Lewis prefers to write at the beginning of the day because “your mind processes problems when you sleep” or at the end of the day (he sometimes worked from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. before he had kids). Otherwise, Lewis isn’t precious about it: “The routine is put my ass in the chair. Don’t get up until I have 1,000 words. Let that be a floor, not a ceiling. If you can go beyond that, that’s great.”

Related: Want to Be More Productive? Stop Trying to Finish Every Task, and Do This Instead

“I know exactly where I want to go so there’s no snag. When I start the next day, it will be obvious where I start.”

Another perhaps surprising tip from the author is to “stop before you’re actually finished” — essentially, you want to interrupt yourself in the middle of a task when it’s going well so that it’s easier to jump back into it later. “I know exactly where I want to go, so there’s no snag,” Lewis explains. “When I start the next day, it will be obvious where I start.”

And some final words of wisdom for those who have their sights set on a writing project? Although you can “be in almost any mood when you start writing,” it’s better to edit when you’re in a good one. “Write on caffeine, edit on wine,” Lewis says. “Don’t write on wine and edit on caffeine. That’s the wrong way around. It’s a very bad way to do it.”

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