Golden Triangle of Productivity

How to bet effective and efficient at the same time

Speaking of productivity, most people are focusing on getting more work done in less time, accelerated learning techniques, or some MacBook multitasking tactics. I have to admit that they all help to boost your productivity, better put their help you to save tons of time, however, they are not the true definition of productivity.

Productivity is not just about doing things faster and getting more work done in less time. It’s about getting important things that get the biggest results done with minimal resources in scheduled time.

Real productivity

Productivity is the combination of effectiveness and efficiency. Only when the effectiveness and efficiency intersect, real productivity happens.

With that said, when we look at a method that claims to boost productivity, we should look at both effectiveness and efficiency. And there are a whole lot of examples that fall short when you dive into productivity with this approach.

Lack of effectiveness: We should hustle more, working 12 hours a day to get more work done, in order to grow our business. However, business growth is not just about the work you are putting in, also the reaction of your audience and the market.

Lack of efficiency: To improve teamwork, we use Trello, Slack, Asana, Google Drive, Dropbox, Evernote, and countless other applications at the same time. At the end of the day, we are spending more time on learning those apps than actually using them.You see, in many cases, we did more damage to our productivity by focusing solely either one side of the equation.

Approaching productivity the right way

Real productivity is easier to say than be done. However, like most things we are experiencing in everyday life. It’s the matter of balances of a few elements in the equation. You can easily maximize your productivity when you get the fundamentals and essentials right.

By fundamentals, I don’t mean short-terms tactics and hacks anymore. We should look at productivity from the 10,000-foot view and get the big picture right before we zoom into the tiny teeny details using a microscopic lens.

There are three fundamental pillars in this, and I called them the Golden Triangle of Productivity.

Fundamental 1: clarity vs ambiguity

The first essential element is clarity, and the opposite of that is ambiguity. To achieve maximum productivity, you need to be clear on the purpose of you doing something, what you’re doing, how you’re doing it, and what is your desired results.

  • Gary Vaynerchuck called this self-awareness, to understand your strengths, weaknesses, positions and what you really want.
  • Simon Sinek called this your WHY, start by identifying or defining your why, then figure out what to do and how to do them.
  • Even Napoleon Hill talks about this in his book Think and Grow Rich. In his words, the burning desire and invincible faith. Only by combining both of them together, all your hard work will pay off.
clarity vs ambiguity

If we put this on a scale, you want to be on the side of 100% clarity and 0% ambiguity. To achieve that, practice self-assessment and reflection regularly. Figure out your underlined purpose, your desired outcome, your current positions, your limitation of resources, strengths, and weaknesses.

Fundamental 2: focused vs divided

With well over 50 billion dollars to his name, Warren Buffett is consistently ranked among the wealthiest people in the world. It stands to reason that Buffett has an excellent understanding of how to spend his time each day. From a monetary perspective, you could say that he manages his time better than anyone else.

One popular Buffet’s productivity hack is called the 25/5 rules.

You come up with 25 goals you like to achieve in your career, you can also apply this within a shorter timeline such as a year. Then, with the list of 25 goals, circle 5 of the top goals you like to achieve.

If you’re doing this right now, pause right here and come back to this later. This may take some time to complete.

Now you have two lists: A list of 5 goals with the highest priority, and a list of 20 less urgent but equally important goals. What’s next? Spend more time on the list of 5 and dedicate less time to the remaining time for the list of 20?


As Warren Buffet said, the list of 20 is not a secondary list of goals, but the AAAC list, while AAAC stands for Avoid-At-All-Cost list. Devote all your time and energy to the top five goals in your career or your life, and ignore everything else until you completed the five.

With some mathematical calculation, what Warren Buffet has here is the famous 80/20 rules. By focusing all your energy and time on the most important 20 percent, you can cut through the crap and reduce divided attention.

focused vs divided

Being focused is crucial to your productivity for both long-term and short-term periods. From the long-term perspective, you need to stay focused on your goals and vision. While on the other hand, being focused means able to reduce day-to-day distraction at work.

However, I don’t believe in extreme focus as it became closed-minded. While focusing on your big goals and creative works, be open enough to acknowledge opportunities and handle multiple roles in work and life.

Fundamental 3: thinking vs doing

The modern world is very much different compared to a few decades ago. Today, creative works are getting more appreciation over hard labors. People start to emphasis more and more on the thinking today, and less and less on the doing.

However, even there is a huge shift from hard labor workforce to creatives outputs, from doing to thinking, the execution is still crucially important. Only by combining both thinking and doing, we are moving forward in a progressive manner.

This fundamental isn't anything like the previous two. You want full clarity in the first place, then a great amount of focus in the next, and finally, a balanced dose of both thinking and executing in the last phrase.

thinking vs doing

What we really don’t want is the mixture of thinking and doing at the same time.

One method to maximize your productivity using this essential element is by scheduling your time specifically for these two different modes. Simply because they are two very different type of work.

  • Thinking mode: Brainstorming, learning, planning, problem-solving, and maybe daydreaming.
  • Doing mode: Writing, painting, physical training, cold-calling, sending outreach emails, etc.

Having a clear line between these two modes will help you save tons of time switching back and forth between them. I believe we all experience the time when we were creating a new piece of content or any work, then we start thinking about how to spread our work later. The next thing we know, we get nothing done at the end of the day.

Wrapping up: essential productivity hacks

When you get these fundamentals right, you should experience an effortless boost of productivity instantly. While there are countless techniques and hacks to improve your productivity on the Internet, it’s easy to get confused by the usefulness of them.

You don’t really need a long list of productivity hacks under your belt, all you need is just a handful of them that fit into these three fundamentals. One essential requirement before you implement any of them is to have a clear desired outcome, because that dictate which will works and which will not.


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