Productivity Expert: How To Finally Stay Productive: Ali Abdaal | E93

Last updated: Jun 2, 2023

The video is an interview with productivity expert Ali Abdaal, discussing his definition of productivity, tips for overcoming procrastination, and the importance of enjoying the journey towards goals.

The video features an interview with Ali Abdaal, a productivity expert, entrepreneur, and creator on YouTube. He discusses his definition of productivity, which involves using time well and working on meaningful tasks while optimizing for happiness. Abdaal also shares his tips for overcoming procrastination, including the two-minute rule. The conversation touches on various topics, including relationships, friendships, and the meaning of life and happiness. Abdaal talks about his upbringing in Pakistan and Lesotho before moving to the UK, where he discovered his passion for entrepreneurship and coding. Despite this passion, he pursued medicine at Cambridge University due to the influence of his mother, who was also a doctor.

  • Productivity is defined as using time well and working on meaningful tasks.
  • Optimizing for happiness is a key aspect of productivity.
  • Procrastination is a problem with getting started.
  • The key to overcoming procrastination is to take a little nudge at the start towards getting started.
  • The journey towards a goal is more important than the destination.
  • Ali Abdaal grew up in a culture where becoming a doctor, engineer, or lawyer was highly valued.
  • Abdaal defines productivity as getting things done that are important and meaningful to him.
  • Abdaal emphasizes the importance of enjoying the process of achieving one's goals, rather than just focusing on the end result.
  • Ali's first video that went viral was about how to study for exams.

Productivity Expert: How To Finally Stay Productive: Ali Abdaal | E93 - YouTube

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Definition of Productivity

  • Productivity is defined as using time well and working on meaningful tasks.
  • Optimizing for happiness is a key aspect of productivity.
  • Feeling unproductive occurs when there is something to do but not doing it due to distractions like social media.
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Overcoming Procrastination

  • Procrastination is a problem with getting started.
  • The key to overcoming procrastination is to take a little nudge at the start towards getting started.
  • The two-minute rule is a hack that can help overcome procrastination.
  • Two minutes is all that is needed to change one's life.
  • Breaking down tasks into smaller, manageable chunks can also help overcome procrastination.
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The Importance of Enjoying the Journey

  • The journey towards a goal is more important than the destination.
  • Internalizing the idea that "I am enough" can help in enjoying the journey.
  • Living in the present and enjoying the day-to-day is crucial.
  • Worrying too much about the end goal can lead to missing out on the present.
  • Having a destination is important, but enjoying the journey is equally important.
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Productivity Expert: How To Finally Stay Productive: Ali Abdaal | E93 - YouTube

Ali Abdaal's Background

  • Ali Abdaal was born in Karachi, Pakistan in 1994.
  • His mother moved him and his siblings to Lesotho in southern Africa when he was two years old.
  • They later moved to the UK when he was nine years old.
  • Abdaal discovered entrepreneurship and coding in secondary school in Southend-on-Sea, Essex.
  • He went on to study medicine at Cambridge University.
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Background and Motivation

  • Ali Abdaal grew up in a culture where becoming a doctor, engineer, or lawyer was highly valued.
  • He was drawn to medicine because of its prestige and the desire to save lives.
  • His parents' generation correlated financial success with traditional careers like medicine, law, and engineering.
  • Abdaal made a conscious decision to pursue medicine over computer science because he thought it would be more interesting to be a doctor who knows how to code.
  • He started a tech startup in his first and second year of university to help students get into medical school.
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Productivity and Procrastination

  • Abdaal defines productivity as getting things done that are important and meaningful to him.
  • He believes that procrastination is a result of fear and uncertainty about the task at hand.
  • Abdaal suggests breaking down tasks into smaller, more manageable pieces to make them less daunting.
  • He also recommends setting specific goals and deadlines to hold oneself accountable.
  • Abdaal uses the Pomodoro technique, which involves working for 25 minutes and taking a 5-minute break, to stay focused and avoid burnout.
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Enjoying the Journey

  • Abdaal emphasizes the importance of enjoying the process of achieving one's goals, rather than just focusing on the end result.
  • He believes that happiness and fulfillment come from doing things that are meaningful and enjoyable.
  • Abdaal suggests finding ways to make tasks more enjoyable, such as listening to music or working in a comfortable environment.
  • He also recommends taking breaks and pursuing hobbies to avoid burnout and maintain a healthy work-life balance.
  • Abdaal believes that success is not just about achieving external goals, but also about personal growth and development.
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Carving Your Own Path

  • Abdaal took a break from medicine to pursue his passion for creating content on YouTube and other platforms.
  • He believes that carving one's own path and pursuing one's passions is more important than conforming to societal expectations.
  • Abdaal acknowledges that there is still a cultural narrative that values traditional careers over creative pursuits, but he believes that this is changing.
  • He encourages others to pursue their passions and not be afraid to take risks and try new things.
  • Abdaal believes that success is not just about achieving external goals, but also about personal growth and development.
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Ali Abdaal's Journey to Becoming a YouTuber

  • Ali initially had dreams of being a YouTuber since 2009.
  • He was inspired by YouTube cover artists like Coach Schneider and Sam Tsui.
  • He wanted to create content where he could play along to songs and his friends who were good at singing could sing along.
  • He started his YouTube channel as content marketing for his medical school admissions business.
  • He created tutorials on YouTube to teach people how to do well in medical school exams.
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The Tipping Point for Ali's YouTube Channel

  • Ali's first video that went viral was about how to study for exams.
  • He researched extensively on the topic and knew he wanted to make a video about it.
  • He wanted to make it his 100th video, but ended up making it his 81st video.
  • The video went viral and he gained 4,000 subscribers, which quickly grew to 20,000-25,000.
  • This was the tipping point that started his exponential growth trajectory.
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Ali's Definition of Productivity

  • Productivity is about getting the important things done in a way that's sustainable and enjoyable.
  • It's not just about doing more work or being busy all the time.
  • It's about being intentional with your time and energy.
  • It's about focusing on the things that matter and letting go of the things that don't.
  • It's about finding a balance between work and play, and enjoying the journey towards your goals.
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Tips for Overcoming Procrastination

  • Break tasks down into smaller, more manageable chunks.
  • Use the Pomodoro technique to work in focused bursts with breaks in between.
  • Eliminate distractions by turning off notifications and using website blockers.
  • Use accountability tools like apps or accountability partners to stay on track.
  • Find ways to make tasks more enjoyable or rewarding, such as listening to music or rewarding yourself with a treat.
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The Importance of Consistency and Enjoying the Process

  • Making one video every week for two years will change your life.
  • Skills, experience, contacts, and friends can be gained through the process.
  • Consistency is key, and it's important to commit to making one video a week for at least two years.
  • Enjoying the process is crucial to making it bearable and fun.
  • Shifting away from outcome-oriented goals and focusing on goals that are within our control is helpful.
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Overcoming Procrastination and Finding Intrinsic Motivation

  • It's hard to show up week after week without seeing results.
  • Enjoying the process and shifting away from outcome-oriented goals can make it bearable.
  • People need intrinsic motivation to do the work without a guarantee of outcome.
  • Small, almost irrelevant decisions can compound and lead to success.
  • Removing the need for discipline and willpower by getting an accountability buddy, coach, or paying a friend can help.
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The Compounding Effect and Predicting Outcomes

  • It's hard to predict the outcome of viral videos.
  • Consistency is key, and the compounding effect can lead to success over time.
  • Small decisions can compound and lead to success.
  • Results happen slowly and then all at once.
  • It's important to focus on goals that are within our control.
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The Role of Accountability and Coaching in Productivity

  • Getting an accountability buddy, coach, or paying a friend can help remove the need for discipline and willpower.
  • Having a personal trainer has given the most results in terms of working out.
  • Removing the need for discipline and willpower can help get things done.
  • Outsourcing motivation and discipline to someone else can be helpful.
  • Removing the choice and committing to a schedule can help with productivity.
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Overcoming Procrastination

  • Procrastination is caused by psychological discomfort surrounding starting a task.
  • Internal friction, such as perfectionism and fear, can also contribute to procrastination.
  • To overcome procrastination, eliminate external friction and try to get rid of internal friction.
  • The two-minute rule is a helpful hack for getting started on a task.
  • The two-minute rule involves convincing yourself to work on a task for just two minutes, which often leads to continued work.
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Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation

  • Sustainable motivation comes from intrinsic motivation, or genuine enjoyment of a task.
  • Intrinsic motivation can still be difficult to act on, leading to procrastination.
  • Extrinsic motivation, such as financial incentives, can be helpful in getting started on a task.
  • However, extrinsic motivation is not sustainable in the long term.
  • Enjoying the process of a task is key to sustainable motivation.
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The Importance of Starting Small

  • Procrastination often stems from viewing a task as a monumental challenge.
  • Breaking a task down into small, achievable steps can make it feel more manageable.
  • Viewing a task as moving one pebble at a time can make it feel less daunting.
  • Starting with small, achievable steps can help build momentum towards completing a task.
  • Reducing the psychological discomfort of starting a task can make it easier to continue working on it.
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The Role of Environmental Friction

  • Environmental friction, such as having a guitar out in the open, can make it easier to work on a task.
  • Reducing environmental friction can eliminate barriers to starting a task.
  • Internal friction, such as negative self-talk, can also contribute to procrastination.
  • Eliminating internal friction can make it easier to start and continue working on a task.
  • Using the two-minute rule can help overcome both internal and external friction.
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Overcoming Procrastination

  • Tasks that are vague and icky need to be uniquified.
  • Clearly defined next action steps are easier to accomplish.
  • Brainstorming ideas for a name and picking one is a clear next action step.
  • Tasks need to be defined in a way that is not overwhelming.
  • Time blocking can help with completing tasks.
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Productivity and Huel

  • Huel is a nutritionally complete product that tastes amazing.
  • It is a great product for people who are busy and want to maintain a healthy diet.
  • The berry flavor ready-to-drink was the first product that the speaker fell in love with.
  • The protein powder in salted caramel flavor is the speaker's favorite.
  • Time blocking can help with productivity and using Huel can help maintain a healthy diet.
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Time Blocking

  • Time blocking can help with completing tasks.
  • Tasks need to be defined in a way that is not overwhelming.
  • Time blocking can help with completing tasks that are time-sensitive.
  • Time blocking can be especially helpful for people who work from home.
  • Time blocking can help with productivity and completing tasks efficiently.
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Mindset for Productivity

  • Step one in productivity is beating procrastination and getting started.
  • Step two is sustaining productivity and continuing to work towards goals.
  • Mindset is important for productivity and achieving goals.
  • Enjoying the journey towards goals is important for maintaining productivity.
  • Productivity is about making progress towards goals, not necessarily achieving them quickly.
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Importance of Fun and Gratitude

  • Focusing on making tasks fun can increase intrinsic motivation.
  • Fun means doing something for its own sake, not just for external rewards.
  • A mindset shift from "have to" to "get to" can increase gratitude and enjoyment of tasks.
  • Gratitude is important for staying motivated and happy.
  • Gratitude journaling can be helpful, but simply reminding oneself of what they are grateful for can also be effective.
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Overcoming Procrastination

  • Procrastination is often caused by fear of failure or lack of motivation.
  • Breaking tasks into smaller, manageable chunks can make them less overwhelming.
  • Setting specific, achievable goals can increase motivation and focus.
  • Using the Pomodoro technique (working for 25 minutes, then taking a 5-minute break) can increase productivity.
  • Eliminating distractions, such as turning off notifications, can help maintain focus.
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Defining Productivity

  • Productivity is not just about getting more done, but about achieving meaningful goals.
  • It is important to prioritize tasks based on their importance and impact.
  • Productivity is not about working harder, but about working smarter.
  • Taking breaks and practicing self-care is important for maintaining productivity in the long-term.
  • Productivity is not a one-size-fits-all concept and can vary based on individual goals and values.
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Enjoying the Journey

  • It is important to enjoy the process of working towards goals, not just the end result.
  • Setting goals that align with personal values can increase motivation and enjoyment.
  • It is important to celebrate small wins and progress towards goals.
  • Perfectionism can hinder progress and enjoyment, so it is important to embrace imperfection.
  • Learning from failures and mistakes can lead to growth and progress.
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Importance of Enjoying the Journey

  • Reminding oneself of the phrase "journey before destination" on a daily basis.
  • Internalizing the idea that the journey is more important than the destination.
  • Setting a goal is important, but enjoying the journey is equally important.
  • Realizing that hitting a goal only brings temporary happiness.
  • Living in the moment and enjoying the day-to-day work is crucial.
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Values and Morals

  • Values are best determined by how something makes a person feel.
  • As a society, our morals are highly influenced by what is happening at the time.
  • Personal values are usually shaped by parents or early experiences.
  • Our willingness to survive by taking up the values of the communities we live in shapes our values.
  • Personal values can be determined by how things make a person feel.
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Ambition vs. Insecurity

  • It is important to determine if a desire to do something comes from within or outside of oneself.
  • Living in alignment with personal values is crucial.
  • It is important to understand what one's true intrinsic values are.
  • Charity is not always a natural inclination, and our morals change over time.
  • Our values are shaped by our willingness to survive by taking up the values of the communities we live in.
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Enjoying Work Day-to-Day

  • Expanding a team and moving to a new office is important, but enjoying work day-to-day is crucial.
  • Living the dream day-to-day is more important than worrying about the end goal.
  • It is important to ask oneself if they are enjoying their work day-to-day.
  • Living in the moment and enjoying the journey is crucial to happiness.
  • Setting a goal is important, but enjoying the journey is equally important.
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Discovering Your Values

  • Ali Abdaal went on a quest to figure out his values.
  • He did an exercise where he went back to his childhood and thought about his most salient experiences.
  • He made a list of all these things and realized that a lot of them shaped his values.
  • His values include freedom and autonomy, togetherness, and helping others through teaching.
  • He realized that teaching is more of a value for him than saving lives, which explains why he prefers teaching medical students than practicing as a doctor.
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The Importance of a Quitting Framework

  • Ali Abdaal believes that if you have a good quitting framework, you will quickly move in the direction of your values.
  • He suggests conducting experiments and quitting faster to find out who you are and what your values are.
  • Increasing the amount of experiments you're doing and quitting faster will help you find a life that you really love.
  • Ali Abdaal never knew what his values were, but he went in the direction of what he loved doing and quit jobs that didn't align with his values.
  • He believes that quitting is easier said than done and is underpinned by huge confidence in oneself.
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The Importance of Enjoying the Journey

  • Ali Abdaal believes that enjoying the journey is more important than the destination.
  • He thinks that people should focus on the process of achieving their goals rather than the outcome.
  • He suggests breaking down goals into smaller, achievable tasks to make the process more enjoyable.
  • He also suggests celebrating small wins along the way to keep motivation high.
  • He believes that enjoying the journey is the key to staying productive in the long run.
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Overcoming Procrastination

  • Ali Abdaal suggests using the Pomodoro technique to overcome procrastination.
  • The Pomodoro technique involves working for 25 minutes and taking a 5-minute break, then repeating the cycle.
  • He also suggests breaking down tasks into smaller, more manageable tasks to make them less daunting.
  • He believes that procrastination is often caused by fear of failure or fear of not being good enough.
  • He suggests reframing these fears as opportunities for growth and learning.
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Decision Making Framework

  • Ali Abdaal retrospectively applied the quitting framework to decisions he made to quit.
  • He decided to take his medical career seriously and move to America to do medicine, but realized the reward was not worth the effort.
  • He did not quit only because it was hard, but also because the reward was not worth it.
  • He is a logical first principle thinker who will do something that is hard and worth it.
  • He will try to change something if it is worth it and if he believes it is changeable.
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