The Only Productivity Tip That Matters

The mindset shift you always needed.

Ben Yap
4 min readJan 25, 2020


Bonus tip: Did you know that having two monitors will actually increase your productivity?

Looking back at 2019, there is one thing which I wish I had spent more time doing: reading. In 2018, I had read 25 books and was pleased with myself (I did 5 the year before). However, having only managed 8 books in 2019, I look back at the year with a feeling of mild regret.

“I could have done better.”

“I wasted time doing this-seemingly-important-thing, that-somewhat-urgent-thing and that…”

When I reflected on 2019, I concluded that the three words which best described my year were happy, hazy and quick. Happy was because of a 10-day trip to Vietnam I took with my wife. What a year.

Who’s not busy

We are all busy. What I’ve always done in the past was to look at my to-do lists and prioritise them.

You probably know how it goes: start by picking out the ones with the nearest deadlines.

It’s a perpetual dance of chasing (and sometimes, missing) deadlines. Two steps forward, two steps back. With this routine, the year seemed to blaze by and before I knew it, it was Christmas.

Being busy felt good. I would feel as though much had been done by the end of the day or the week. However, the fact remains that it was merely doing work and not much value had been added to my life or those around me.

It was as if I was on junk food and needed a more balanced diet.

I figured my 2019 was such a blur was because I had not considered what truly mattered to me. Things which fulfilled and nourished me on a deeper level.

I mean things like friendships, family, good memories, books, spirituality, etc. I’m sure the list is different for all of us, but there should be a list.

But priorities matter

This came as a realisation to me when I came across this statement:

“The key is not to prioritise what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”

Of course, this was Stephen Covey. I had read the book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People back in 2018 but had not put it to practice. As I reflected on this quote, I decided that I am going to schedule in things which matter to me in 2020.

I remember the calendar template from the 25th anniversary edition of the book. The version above is retrieved from

Stephen Covey wrote about this from the angle of roles. The idea was to think of the roles we play in life (whether inside or outside work) when planning our weekly calendar.

We often base our identity on our work and work becomes a large part of our lives, understandably so. However, when it is not balanced with other priorities, we become lopsided human beings.

After we have identified our roles, we should set a goal for those roles every week as we review our calendar.

For instance, I’m a husband and I cook. So one goal this week would be to prepare a home-cooked meal for my wife so that we can have some heart-to-heart conversation over dinner in the comfort of our own home.

Once goals corresponding to roles are set, we need to schedule a time in our week to get those goals done. Of course, other activities and tasks will come in eventually, but that will only happen after we have scheduled in what matters most to us.

Then it is just a matter of keeping those appointments. I have found that it’s important for me to be true to myself about what means the most to me from the very beginning. That way there aren’t any internal struggle about keeping those appointments.

It’s really a mindset shift

The tip is to change from a victim mindset (things happening to me that I have no control of) to a leader mindset (I’ll take control and first decide what I want to do this week).

“The key is not to prioritise what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” — Stephen Covey

I hope you have found this article useful. Go ahead, give it a try and see it boosts your productivity and, possibly, change your life.

Creative Lead by day, writer by night, husband and dad throughout. I write about things that interest me and lessons I’ve learnt. My views are my own. Check out other things I’ve written.



Ben Yap

Husband, father, child of God. I write about things I’ve learnt in my daily life.