6 brilliant quotes on productivity from Merlin Mann

by | Dec 2, 2013 | General Productivity

Estimated Reading Time: 2 minutes, 50s.

This morning I stumbled upon a fantastic interview with Merlin Mann, a popular speaker/podcaster/cool human being. I’m a big fan of Merlin’s, so I read the entire interview in one sitting (estimated reading time: 45 minutes, 46 seconds!), but a few quotes stuck out at me from the interview that I couldn’t help but share with you.

If you like this little taste, I highly recommend you read the whole thing. It’s long, but I guarantee you’ll walk away with a few golden nuggets that will shake up how you work. Here are six of my favourite lessons (in the form of quotes) from the interview.

1. Give yourself more room

“A lot of the best work I’ve ever done started out as something completely different because I gave myself permission to have space around my time and expectations.”

2. Carefully pick what you want to get good at

“It can be very frustrating to keep sucking at something without realizing that it’s not the thing you should be trying to get better at…Part of successfully growing up is letting go of unrealistic ideas that stop us from recognizing something else we’re good at and might enjoy more than what we’re doing now.”

3. On time, cost, and scope

Everything takes more time than you thought, everything costs more money than you thought, and almost everything turns out not quite as cool as you expected.”

triple.001-2A Project Management 101 chart. The quality of something you’re making depends on how much time and money you have for it, as well as how big the project is.

4. There are tradeoffs to everything

“How many people out there say, “Gosh, I wish I could own a house”? Everybody I know who owns houses are losing their minds trying to make their mortgage payment or they’re scared to death about having to replace the roof. Anybody who wants more money, a better job, or a bigger house is ultimately just wishing for a new set of anxieties. It can be a great set of anxieties, because that means growth, but there are trade-offs to everything.”

5. Be pickier about your time

I sometimes wonder if the reason some people find it so hard to get anything accomplished is because they haven’t gotten picky enough about their time.”

6. Know your priorities

“[W]hen I travel somewhere for work, I’m racked with guilt the entire time because my wife’s schedule is totally disrupted. … I just don’t want my kid’s childhood to get away from me. I know that sounds corny, but I want to be there for my daughter.

When my wife and I found out that we were having a girl—and I hope this doesn’t sound sexist or anything—the women I talked to all said the same thing: “Never be afraid to hug your daughter.” They told me to hug her so much more than I think I should. It might seem weird, but no little girl says, “My dad hugged me too much.”

Get down on the floor and play with your kid way more than you think you should, because eventually it’s going to go away, and there isn’t anybody out there who wishes they had less of that.

My daughter and I are really into the card game UNO, and sometimes I’ll be sitting alone in some fucking hotel room, staring at The Dog Whisperer, and thinking, “Man, I wish I could be at home playing UNO with Ellie right now.”

Merlin talks about virtually everything under the sun in the interview, and if you have some time to spare, I think it’s worth your time to read the full thing!

Written by Chris Bailey

Chris Bailey has written hundreds of articles on the subject of productivity and is the author of three books: How to Calm Your Mind, Hyperfocus, and The Productivity Project. His books have been published in 35 languages. Chris writes about productivity on this site and speaks to organizations around the globe on how they can become more productive without hating the process.

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