Good Productivity Ideas Are Borrowed. Great Ones Are Stolen.

Carl Pullein
4 min readSep 20, 2023

I’m sure you’ve heard the quote, “Good artists borrow, great artists steal.” The quote is attributed to Pablo Picasso, although there is some doubt.

The point is that simply borrowing or “copying” (as Steve Jobs altered it) is not a good strategy when developing your productivity system. What works for one person is not going to work for you.

You and I, for example, work differently. We have different jobs, for a start, and how we work will be different. If you meet a highly productive person and try to copy their methods and techniques, you will fail. However, if you steal a concept and bend it to work for you, you will discover strategies and practices that work for you.

I recently came across Jeffrey Archer’s time management system. It’s extreme, and at first, I dismissed it as impractical for my work. However, a seed began germinating in my mind over the following weeks. I realised that while Jeffrey Archer’s system, as he practices it, would not work for me, the concept could be stolen and forged to work.

Jeffrey Archer’s method is to practice a ‘two-hours on, two-hours off’ work day. He will begin his day at 6:00 am with two hours of writing (his core work — he’s an author) and stop at 8:00 am for a two-hour break. He would then repeat that from 10:00 until 12:00 and so on until 8 pm.

This means he is doing deep, focused work for eight hours a day with six hours of rest. I realised that two hours of deep focused work is the limit I have for doing deep work. After two hours, I am mentally tired and need a break.

Knowing this means I can structure my day to get two deep work sessions each day. That would be enough to get my most important work done each day and leave me sufficient time to deal with communications.

Going a little deeper with this, I also realised when I needed extra time for my work, I could “triple shift”. This meant I could do two hours of focused work in the morning, two hours in the afternoon and two hours in the evening.

This means I would have two hours of rest in the morning and the afternoon and three hours in the evening and still have six hours of focused work each day.

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Carl Pullein

I help people learn to manage their lives and time better so they can experience joy and build a life they are truly proud of. www.carlpullein.com