Category Archives

5 Articles

Posted by Madison Jardine on

Why is productivity cyclical?

This post originally appeared on, but I thought it might be interesting to Bounteo readers, so I’m reposting it here. I’d love your comments and feedback…thanks!

Is it just me, or does productivity come in cycles? Sometimes I’ll go weeks at a time and absolutely tear it up, getting tons done on client work, personal projects, etc. I feel great, motivated, etc. Other times, I struggle to get anything done and never really get into the groove. Why is that? I mean, I do get stuff done, but it just feels like such a freaking chore and I have to force myself to power through. These cycles seem to last several weeks each, perhaps a bit longer. I have a few speculations that I’ve pulled from thin air on why this might occur:

Natural biological process
It might be that there’s some natural chemical process in the brain that makes some people more or less productive and that this process tends to be cyclical in nature. I feel like perhaps I’ve read something about this…if it’s true, I’m not sure how much I can do about it other than be aware of it and try to use it to my advantage? For the record, I think this is the most unlikely of the three scenarios.

Reflection of what I’m working on
Perhaps I’m just more excited at times about things that I’m working on because they’re more interesting. This one is hard to evaluate, because I’m not sure if I’m feeling unmotivated because of boring projects or if the projects seem boring because I’m feeling unmotivated.

Motivational momentum
I think is probably the most likely scenario. Basically, I think that certain people (myself included) swim better against the current. When things aren’t going well and I’ve got a lot of pressure (both external and internal) to get stuff done, I tend to build up a lot of motivational momentum and push hard to get things done. On the way up this hill of accomplishment, things are good, as I’m getting a lot done, keeping up with all my responsibilities, etc. It feels great. But as I accomplish more and more, that pressure and stress begins to dissipate, and so does some of the motivation. At this point, I begin to crest the top of the motivational hill and the old feelings of being unmotivated begin to return. Over the next few weeks, stuff begins to gradually pile up again and the pressure and stress begins to build. But until it hits a certain point, my motivation doesn’t seem to really kick in. Once it does, the cycle starts over.

This has been an issue my entire life and I’m just now getting to the point where I can deal with it more effectively. In college, I dealt with it by keeping my schedule absolutely slammed so there was virtually no room for error. I finished 75% of my bachelor’s degree in 17 months and graduated with a 3.9 GPA. I say this not to brag, but just to point out that I had virtually no room to slow down or slack off. This ishighly effective, but it carries two huge price tags: risk and stress. The risk is that you’re juggling so much that if you drop one thing, it can all come crumbling down. The stress comes from the fact that you have no margin for error. These two things feed off each other, as the high risk stresses you out and the high stress increases the risk that you’ll make a mistake. Obviously, this is not a viable long-term solution.

The core problem here (for me, anyway) is relying too much on motivation, which is a fickle emotion. It can be incredibly useful, usually at the start of a venture, to kickstart your efforts and give you that critical early boost in the right direction. But if you rely too much on it, you’ll find that it never lasts long enough to get you where you need to go. The primary reason that people fail is because they give up, and I believe that the primary reason people give up is because they rely too much on motivation. The going gets rough and they find that the only fuel they really had was an emotion that’s now gone, so they just kind of let things die out.

Here’s what I’ve tried to do: replace motivation (emotion) with decision (habit). This is the primary reason that I do my seven daily habits. These habits were carefully chosen as things that I want to accomplish daily to get me closer to where I want to be, regardless of whether I feel like doing them or not.

That doesn’t mean that motivation has no place in productivity and self-improvement, but I think that you can’t rely too much on it. To the extent that motivation does play a role in my productivity, I’ve tried to replace external motivation with internal motivation, where I’m pushing myself harder rather than waiting for other people to pressure me. As an example, one of my daily habits is to look at my goal plan every single day. I also carefully track my goals from month to month, recording what percentage I accomplished, and preparing a new plan for the next thirty days. I also carefully track the amount of time that I work on various projects and initiatives in my life. I do all these things not because I have some weird fascination with data (at least not primarily so), but because by carefully tracking my productivity and advancement towards my goals, I am often motivated to push myself harder because I’m not moving as fast as I would like. The adage that “what gets measured gets managed” is true for the simple reason that when we’re confronted with the data about how we’re spending our time and the results of our efforts, we’re often encouraged and motivated to improve.

I’d love to hear what other people’s thoughts are. Have you experienced cyclical productivity? If so, how do you deal with it?

Posted by Madison Jardine on

7 Tips for Surviving the Road (Even) Less Traveled

“Sometimes the road less traveled is less traveled for a reason.” ~Seinfeld

This post has been rolling around in my head for a long time now, and I wanted to throw it out there. It may seem contradictory to a lot of the other material on Bounteo, but I’d like to at least start the discussion.

There are tons of personal finance bloggers out there, and most of them would probably point to the pattern of thrift and investing in the stock market for the long-term (usually via index funds) as the most proven way to achieve wealth. Studies have certainly born this theory out, and I have advocated the same thing on this site and elsewhere.

However, a nagging doubt at the back of my head is this: just because something worked in the past, does that mean it will work in the future? Also, just because 80% of millionaires made their money using method A, does that mean that you should take that route? Maybe methods B & C are a better fit for you, for the age we live in, or maybe they’re just simply less obvious / harder so fewer people try them.

Should we take the tried-and-true route to wealth, even if it doesn’t inspire us?

Here are some examples of taking the road less traveled in terms of wealth:

Dropping out of college or skipping college to start a business
Probably not a ton of people who would advocate this, but it’s a common story among the super-rich. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Michael Dell, the list goes on and on. Now, please understand, I’m a huge advocate of college, but lots of people have succeeded without it. Maybe there’s something else that works better for you.

Leveraging your investments by buying on margin, trading stock options, or day trading
Are you likely to succeed at this? Statistically, absolutely not. However, I personally know some people who have done very well in these areas. I have a hard time thinking of circumstances where I would encourage it, but why should you listen to me? 😉

Skipping the stock market altogether and just focusing on real estate
Real estate is a proven path to wealth, so perhaps it doesn’t belong in this category, but for whatever reason, I see a lot of personal finance bloggers making the argument that real estate is too advanced for most people or offers inferior returns to those of index funds. Neither are necessarily true. Unlike index funds, real estate is an investment that you can directly improve through hard work and dedication. Returns that are orders of magnitude larger than the stock market are not uncommon for professional real estate investors. “But I’m not a professional”, you say? Well, do you want to be? All those professionals started somewhere, too.

Bootstrapping a business with your credit cards
Does this path carry a lot of risk? Absolutely. Are there other ways to accomplish the same thing? Yes, there usually are, but what if this is the only option you have? Should you not take it just because some blogger said it was a bad idea? Lots of businesses have been started this way, and while it’s not an ideal start, if it’s this or no start, it may be worth it.

Borrowing from your 401k to fund investments
Why not?

Becoming a bank robber
Just kidding. Getting wealth through dishonest means is never worth it.

I say all that to say this: there are many paths to wealth, beyond just the old “save and invest in things that are boring” routine that is often bandied about, even here on Bounteo. That plan is a great one for the vast majority of people, and it’s certainly better than no plan at all for 100% of people, but what about those people who are driven to do more? Well, if you’re determined to go your own way and explore the road that’s even less traveled, here’s some advice for the journey:

  1. Don’t lie to yourself – Be honest about the risks you’re taking
  2. Manage the risk – Just because you’re taking extra risk doesn’t mean you can’t control or manage it
  3. Don’t be risky – There’s a difference between taking risk and being risky (aka reckless)
  4. Have a plan – Before you jump in, think about your path and how you’ll deal with different scenarios
  5. Seek advice – You’re probably not the first to travel down this road, so get advice from those who have
  6. Don’t abandon the basics – Do what you can to cover your downside and provide an insurance plan if things go south
  7. Stay involved – Nothing good ever just happens to people on the road less traveled; you have to make it happen.

Bonus #8: Know when to call it quits – There’s no shame in giving it your best and failing. What’s sad is people who stumble on in a zombie state for years, wasting valuable time that they could spend on their next attempt.

Posted by Della William on

Saving money while staying fit

Think you need an expensive gym membership to stay fit? Not according the The NYTimes’ Walecia Konrad:

As the nation’s economic woes drag on, many people are rethinking their investments in pricey gym memberships and home exercise equipment. After all, the average health club membership is $750 annually, including sign-up fees and monthly dues. Treadmills can cost upwards of $1,000.

Many fitness buffs are finding that less expensive alternatives can be just as invigorating. “These days people realize you can burn the same number of calories for a lot less money,” said Beth Kobliner, personal finance expert and author of “Get a Financial Life.” “All kinds of programs have popped up post-recession that offer lower-cost ways to exercise.”

Posted by Madison Jardine on

Youtube turns amateur chefs into celebrities

Great story today in the SF Chronicle about how amateur chefs are getting huge exposure on Youtube.

I love that there are so many ways to make a living online today. There are Youtube celebrities that have been making six figures in income for years. If you’re not already doing what you love, why not start making content online about it? Stick to what you’re truly passionate about and stick with it for a few years. You never know where you might go 🙂

Note: If you’re not a subscriber, you won’t be able to check out the SF Chronicle article until Saturday.

Posted by Madison Jardine on

It’s OK to not be perfect

“The human story does not always unfold like a mathematical calculation on the principle that two and two make four. Sometimes in life they make five or minus three; and sometimes the blackboard topples down in the middle of the sum and leaves the class in disorder and the pedagogue with a black eye.”

~Winston Churchill