Mike Vardy: Tools, Tricks, & Habits From the Productivityist


I connected with Mike Vardy at the World Domination Summit in August, a worldwide gathering of remarkable people, and he is no exception.. Mike is a writer, speaker, podcaster and founder of Productivityist. He also manages to add a lot of humor and entertainment into the productivity space.

Mike is a productivityist, or a productivity enthusiast. He enjoys studying the tools and habits of productivity, and he looks at the world differently because of it. Through the Productivityist blog and podcast, Mike is helping people stop “doing” productive and start “being” productive, by giving them the tools to start paying attention and setting the right intentions.

We start our conversation about productivity discussing non-alcoholic beer and decaffeinated coffee. Seemingly tangential, body and energy are directly tied to productivity so I was interested to hear about his recent experiments in cutting both of these from his life. “I really enjoy finding ways to keep the rituals I have, but also do it in a way that’s responsible and allows me to be the night owl that I am ... but not have those productivity spikes.”

Mike sees most people getting stuck in a trap of doing just for the sake of doing, and that’s not productive. “They’ll basically go through the motions, they don’t really segment out their to-do list, and as a result they end up with a fragmented to-do list.” They work haphazardly, trying to get as many things done as possible, until the day is done. Then they get home, wiped out, and do nothing.

The problem is, when we do that, we aren’t moving forward with any kind of purpose.

At World Domination Summit, Mike talked about the idea of theming your work days, and the idea resonates with a lot of people. “Your calendar should be your overarching guide, but the details are in the to-do list.” What people tend to do is look at a given day, without giving it any meaning or purpose, then go through a checklist without intention.

Mike doesn’t like the idea of letting your schedule be your guide, or hyper scheduling, because it leaves no room for flexibility. If you theme your day and something unexpected comes up, like a last-minute coaching session, then you aren’t lost when you get back to work.

“I think there’s some merit to giving themes to each day so you have an overarching focus, but when you hyper schedule yourself you run the risk of just completely falling off track, feeling overwhelmed and feeling that you haven’t accomplished what you set out to do over the day.” It doesn’t matter if you’re a startup founder, working on your side hustle or a stay-at-home parent, theming your days can help you be productive.

For someone who can’t completely untether him or herself from their email, at least make it more manageable. Mike talks about the idea of Inbox Today. While many people try to get to Inbox 0, Mike tries to clear the backlog so that you only see email from today. Additionally, your inbox shouldn’t be where you go to look for things. “It’s a loading bay, not a warehouse”


Mike has a system called Three Mail, where each email goes into one of three folders. It’s a simple process:

  1. Set up folders for every day of the week that you want to deal with e-mails (if that’s every day, that’s fine).
  2. When you get an e-mail, decide what day you want to deal with it, and then move it to the appropriate folder.

  3. When you first sit down with your email on a given day, deal with the folder for that day first. Then, organize your backlogged emails again.


Mike uses a number of physical and digital tools to improve his productivity:

  • He believes that a digital task manager is a must in this day and age. “Your mind really is meant to be a factory and not a warehouse, so if you keep trying to store things in here you’re just going to slow things down.” It’s important to have a digital task manager for long term things, even if you’re a paper person.

  • Mike uses todoist, and Wunderlist is also simple and collaborative. He also uses Asana for team-based tasks.

  • To maximize productivity, you may also want to track how long you spend on different tasks. To track how long you are spending on different websites, so you can see what is taking most of your time, RescueTime is a great tool. If you want to track where team members are spending their time, Time Doctor is a great tool.

  • Mike also uses a device called Saent to track his time. It’s a small button that you click to track how long it takes you to perform certain tasks, and it allows you to label websites as good or evil.

  • Mike is beta testing a new product, called a ZIE. It is like an 8-sided die with blank sides, which you label. When you turn it to any given side, it starts tracking that time. It then integrates with a tool called Toggl.

“I like both the Saent and the Zie, because it’s physical. It sits on your desk. You can’t help but see it. I think physical tools, like having those visuals in front of you, are really important, because, frankly, digital tools can hide in the background. This can’t.”

Mike isn’t actually a diehard tracker, but he believes the tools can be helpful for putting yourself in a good, productive mindset. Your brain sees the day or time, sees what it should be doing, and everything outside of that can fall away. “Again, paying attention and setting the right intentions. These tracking tools, unless you have the right intentions for them and then you find a way to pay attention to them, they’re not going to be as much help to you as you’d like them to be.”

“I’m a big believer in human automation, the automation that you set up … I’m not as huge a believer in setting up a bunch of digital automations because they can break, and they’re not as connected to you.”

Productivityist recently self-published The Productivityist Playbook. It includes video interviews, audio and a number of productivity plays. When you buy the guide, you receive 15 plays, and you can assemble your own productivity playbook out of them. If listeners of the show go to Productivityist.com/TheBoldLife, they will get one play for free! (Thanks Mike!)

“I’m a big believer that even when business isn’t personal, productivity always is. I don’t think there’s enough talk about the personal component of productivity, and I really want to put the personal back into it. That’s what this whole guide is designed to do.”

Mike is probably the most entertaining person in the productivity space, and I appreciate him coming on the podcast to talk. He gave us a lot of great tips and tools for living a bold life with more attention and the right intentions.


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  • Where are the biggest areas that Mike sees people struggling with their productivity?

  • What are easy wins that people can implement into their life to get time back?

  • Favorite tools to become more productive and track their productivity?

  • What are Mike’s favorite books for newbie Productivityists?


  • How to avoid just going through the motions with your daily schedule.

  • How to start each work day by paying attention and with the right intention.

  • A better system for organizing your emails.

  • A number of must-have tools for managing and tracking productivity.

  • Plus much more…