Simon Willison’s Weblog


21 items tagged “productivity”


Advanced Topics in Reminders and To Do Lists. Fred Benenson’s advanced guide to the Apple Reminders ecosystem. I live my life by Reminders—I particularly like that you can set them with Siri, so “Hey Siri, remind me to check the chickens made it to bed at 7pm every evening” sets up a recurring reminder without having to fiddle around in the UI. Fred has some useful tips here I hadn’t seen before. # 15th March 2024, 2:38 am

Tom Scott, and the formidable power of escalating streaks

Ten years ago yesterday, Tom Scott posted this video to YouTube about “Special Crossings For Horses In Britain”. It was the first in his Things You Might Not Know series, but more importantly it was the start of a streak.

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[On AI-assisted programming] I feel like I got a small army of competent hackers to both do my bidding and to teach me as I go. It’s just pure delight and magic.

It’s riding a bike downhill and playing with legos and having a great coach and finishing a project all at once.

Matt Bateman # 5th April 2023, 11:50 pm

When you start a creative project but don’t finish, the experience drags you down. Worst of all is when you never decisively abandon a project, instead allowing it to fade into forgetfulness. The fades add up; they become a gloomy haze that whispers, you’re not the kind of person who DOES things.

When you start and finish, by contrast — and it can be a project of any scope: a 24-hour comic, a one-page short story, truly anything — it is powerful fuel that goes straight back into the tank. When a project is finished, it exits the realm of “this is gonna be great” and becomes instead something you (and perhaps others) can actually evaluate. Even if that evaluation is disastrous, it is also, I will insist, thrilling and productive. A project finished is the pump of a piston, preparing the engine for the next one.

Robin Sloan # 5th February 2023, 5:59 pm


Coping strategies for the serial project hoarder

I gave a talk at DjangoCon US 2022 in San Diego last month about productivity on personal projects, titled “Massively increase your productivity on personal projects with comprehensive documentation and automated tests”.

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We’re generally only impressed by things we can’t do—things that are beyond our own skill set. So, by definition, we aren’t going to be that impressed by the things we create. The end user, however, is perfectly able to find your work impressive.

@gamemakerstk # 13th August 2020, 3:12 pm


For creative work, you can’t cheat. My believe is that there are 5 creative hours in everyone’s day. All I ask of people at Shopify is that 4 of those are channeled into the company.

Tobi Lutke # 26th December 2019, 7:06 pm

Weeknotes: Niche Museums, Kepler, Trees and Streaks

Every now and then someone will ask “so when are you going to build Museums Near Me then?”, based on my obsession with niche museums and websites like

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Seeking the Productive Life: Some Details of My Personal Infrastructure (via) Stephen Wolfram’s 15,000 word epic about his personal approach to productivity, developed over the past thirty years. This is a fascinating document—I found myself thinking “surely there can’t be more information than this” and then spotting that the scrollbar wasn’t even a third done yet. Very hard to summarize: it turns out if you’re the work-from-home CEO of your own privately held 800 person company you can construct some very opinionated habits. # 22nd February 2019, 9:46 pm


What are some tips for improving public speaking skills quickly?

Practice your talk, out loud, in private, as many times as possible before you deliver it. There’s no better way of ensuring you know your material and that you can deliver it at a sensible pace without freezing up.

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What should be considered when deciding to do a marathon?

Running a marathon is easier then you think.

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How do I overcome my fear of public speaking (of people just “switching off”, or simply getting up and leaving the room)?

Look for opportunities to give “lightning talks”—5 minute talks given as part of a series of talks. These are excellent for beginner speakers as they help force you to get to the point as quickly as possible, and you only have to survive for five minutes! They are good for the audience too as if they don’t enjoy our talk they only have to sit politely for a couple of minutes before the next talk comes along.

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Is there a website or app that helps you track what you have completed each day?

I’ve tried a few solutions for this. Surprisingly the one that has stuck for me is Evernote—I keep a different document for each week (I tried a document per day but that was annoying to update, and meant I didn’t look at my older notes as often) and each day I add a new header at the top of the document for that day. Being able to link through to other notes from my day summaries is useful too.

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I want to write a short summary for every article I read online for future use. What is the best tool to do this? is well suited to this. It’s a bookmarking service (like the old Delicious) with a bookmarklet that lets you quickly annotate and add tags to a link, privately or in public. For an extra fee the site will archive copies of the pages you are linking to as well in case they vanish in the future.

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What are some recommended efficient apps for personal productivity (e.g., setting & receiving reminders for completing tasks)?

Things is excellent (at least if you are a Mac/iPhone person)—intuitive, powerful and with flawless syncing. Only catch is it’s a tad expensive considering you have to buy the iPhone and Mac apps separately.

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What are some productive things to do for 15 minutes a day?

Learn a foreign language—using DuoLingo on the iPhone, or with podcasts such as Coffee Break Spanish.

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What are some creative programs to use for presentations?

Here’s a trick I’ve used with success in the past: set up your Mac to have 9 virtual desktops, then arrange your “slides” on each desktop using a combination of applications. I’ve done this with a title slide in keynote on the first desktop, a text editor with some sample code on the second, a terminal prompt set up for live coding on the third, a browser showing a demo on the fourth and so on. Learn the keyboard commands to switch between desktops and off you go.

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What are some things I can do if I’m lying awake and unable to sleep for an hour?

Listen to a podcast. If you’re lying at rest in bed you’ll still get at least some of the benefits of sleeping, and you might find that listening to the podcast helps take your mind off things and sends you to sleep.

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Software engineers today are about 200-400% more productive than software engineers were 10 years ago because of open source software, better programming tools, common libraries, easier access to information, better education, and other factors. This means that one engineer today can do what 3-5 people did in 1999!

Auren Hoffman # 24th June 2009, 11 am


Spend 10 minutes collecting everything you need to work on a problem, and unplug the internet for 2 hours. You’ll finish in 30 minutes.

Matt Mullenweg # 7th September 2007, 10:42 pm

Geek | Manager. Meri Williams is one of the most productive people I know. This is her new blog on being a manager and a geek at the same time, with plenty of productivity advice. # 19th February 2007, 10:15 am