The Rob Viglione production function

The Rob Viglione production function is an overview of my productivity processes, tips, and tools. Topics include staying informed, diet, exercise, sleep, and how to prioritize important work.

economics production function
Image from Khan Academy's awesome Microeconomics tutorial. 

Tyler Cowen is one of my favorite economists. Not only is he a super interesting polymath, but one of his tricks is to obsessively write out the arguments for the other side of every issue. If he thinks that X is the right answer in some argument, he'll go out of his way to think through and detail the counter arguments to X. He doesn't do this so much to find the flaws in other perspectives, but to truly understand the other sides in case they might be right!

This is a lesson for us all, and one to be applied the more right we think we are on any particular topic. If you get that flutter in your stomach that drives up your adrenaline on some issue, this should be your cue that you're especially susceptible to some sort of bias that'll cloud your judgement.

For some Tyler wisdom, check out Marginal Revolution and his podcast, Conversations with Tyler. Towards the end of every interview, he asks his guests about their "production function," which really just means the secrets to their productivity. Here's a fun interview where David Perell interviewed Tyler on his production function.  

In the spirit of helping you all get to know me a bit better, I figured I'd add a "Rob Viglione production function" post early on. Forgive any inadvertent virtue signaling, trying-to-make-you-think-I'm-super-smart kinda stuff, caveat caveat to show that I'm an appropriately self deprecating intellectual...and let's just get into it.

I used to think I was super smart until I took my first honors physics class in college. More humble pie. I realized I was middle of the pack, at least within that group. That's fine because my competitive advantage in life is a compulsion for learning and constant improvement. It doesn't matter what I'm doing, what I'm focusing on, I'm compulsive in making measurable progress every day. Lucky for me, small gains every day for decades add up.

Here's my current routine, in a nutshell. I wake up a couple hours before the rest of my household, get the coffee going, and then step outside for some morning sunshine to kickstart my circadian clock. A little light stretching, breathing exercises, and birds starting their days puts me in a good mood.

With my coffee comes some light reading, The Economist being my go-to these days. The goal isn't just current events, but one level deeper in critical thinking on what's going on in the world and with as little obvious bias as possible. If I'm feeling particularly sassy (or that I want the dopamine hit of a stream of current event headlines), I'll dive into my RSS feed on Feedly, where I aggregate about an hundred news and information sources. Just beware of headline or scrolling addiction!

The next chunk of morning comes with some studying--I've been learning Spanish lately--reading a more substantive journal article, meditating, and getting in a short workout (walk, run, or gym). An important part of the morning study routine is to focus on something big picture that can help with business strategy. HBR and MIT Technology Review are my friends this part of the morning. It's important not just to read, but to internalize what I'm reading and translate ideas that can be useful or actionable.

Now it's time to earn a living, so I switch to work mode. This is the time of day I'm most productive, so it's especially important to focus. The key here is to think before diving in, to identify the few really important things that matter most. It's all too easy to dive right into e-mails or calls and feel productive checking off simple tasks. Don't fall for it! Stop, think, focus on the most important things right away.

Note that I haven't said anything about breakfast yet because I'm a big proponent of intermittent fasting. Typically I fast for 16 or 18 hours daily, which means I don't have my first meal until mid- to late morning. Every other week I like to get in a 36-hour fast for some deep autophagy and overall wellness.

I break for lunch by step away from the office. I'm not an eat-at-my-desk kinda guy anymore, at least on average. These days I've been following the paleo diet and loving it, but life's too short to permanently restrict what we eat! After lunch comes a walk and if I'm lucky enough to be working from home, I've been dabbling in napping.

My morning work schedule is filled with a lot of meetings, video calls, and of course those critical items I mentioned above that I like to get into first thing. The afternoons are about catching up on communications, checking in with community, writing, brainstorming, and doing more of the checklist tasks. Ideally late afternoons are my gym time, or at least I like to step out and knock out some pull-ups if I'm tight on time.

Dinner with family, post-dinner walk to move after eating, then back to my desk to wrap up loose ends, get in some more writing, and prep for the next day. At this point it's helpful to recap what happened during the day, especially to make sure those few really important goals were met.

My nighttime ritual is heavy on reading and geared to wind down to sleep well. That's it! OK there is a lot of nuance and room for variation since neither am I a robot, nor is my schedule fixed. Things change and every day has some different challenge.

The themes here are to set a healthy structure with sleep, exercise, a productive information diet, focus on the most important things, and then just powering through whatever the day sends your way. We haven't discussed grit, how to deal with challenges, or the tools and tech that turbocharge things. We'll unpack all and more in future posts.


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