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Issue #31

Minimal Viable Productivity

John Loeppky

January 11, 2024

Four white arms, all in business attire, fist bump in the middle of table with paper and technology that hints at a business meeting.
If the term corporate synergy had control of a generative AI tool, this is probably what it would come up with/Mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

Yes, We Can Steal from the Business Bros

Today, as I was doing dishes and wishing my dishwasher didn’t annoy my senses quite so much, I was listening to a recording of Tiago Forte speak about his writing process. In that talk, the interviewer—who hosts a fascinating YouTube channel dedicated to people’s writing practices—relayed a line that he had shared some years earlier. The gist of it was, “Quantity and quality do not have to be mutually exclusive. "

And it’s true, isn’t it, that we often put our own productivity into one of those two buckets. You can either do something well and that requires slowness, or you can do something quick and that requires some sacrifice in quality. Perhaps it won’t surprise you, given that a large chunk of my business includes one to two-day turnarounds for articles, that I’ve never quite prescribed to this idea. But, I hadn’t quite heard it being challenged quite so plainly before. 

At the same time, over the last few days, I’ve been toying with this business term that gets chucked around a lot: minimal viable product, MVP for short. It’s a step up from a prototype, in some cases, but its goal is to get an item or a system working with the least amount of money and effort required to get the job done. The whole point of the MVP is that it is there to spark innovation, to be built upon, to be chuckled at at some point during the development process as newer ideas come to the forefront. However, there’s always this tension with business (and especially innovation) related jargon that it will morph into a capitalistic monstrosity the moment you turn your back. Much the same way that disability justice founders are uncomfortable with how the term is being used to revert back to an ableist status quo in some circles, work jargon feels somewhat out of place. 

And hilariously, this comes at the same time as disability-related jargon is proliferating at a horrifying pace. The closer disability activism gets to academia the closer we get to the meaning of terms just becoming a word soup or salad, like the worst Olive Garden appetizer ever.

So, as I was mulling the term MVP—-and no, it’s not lost on me that a parasport metaphor would be low hanging fruit—-I came up with minimal viable productivity. Yesterday, we talked about spoons, about the metaphor’s wondrous capabilities and hidden limitations. If we think about minimal viable productivity, at least as I’m imagining it, we can set ourselves an achievable standard to reach each day that lets us off the hook. So, minimal viable productivity for me today looked like this (in no particular order): 

  • Get out of bed
  • Make wife and I breakfast
  • Convince dogs to go out and then come back in amidst snow flurries (quite possibly the hardest part of the day)
  • Write one article
  • Write CRPL
  • Make Dinner

Or at least, that’s what I was telling myself this morning. I realized about halfway through the day that I didn’t strictly need to write the article, I’ve invoiced enough this week that I can give myself a break. I, unfortunately, only realized this after I had pushed through to finish the thing. Dinner is not made yet, but the rest has been accomplished.

In response, here’s tomorrow’s minimal viable productivity: 

  • Get out of bed
  • Make breakfast
  • Toilet dogs (preferably not in a snow storm)
  • Work for an hour on book proposal
  • Make Dinner
  • Rest throughout

I’m not here to say this is a magical system, it’s barely a few days old, but today’s challenge is to think about your task tomorrow through the lens of what is both minimal and viable. And, if you’re feeling like a little bit of an extra challenge, how can your MVP for tomorrow be in response to whatever you did today?

Until (a hopefully more restful) tomorrow,


Want to Support More Disability-led Writing?

I've decided to shift CRPL to a 5 times a week newsletter about productivity as I am fascinated by the topic, am in the early stage of writing a book about it, and want to have a place to think, and write, and create work about this vital area of thinking. Click below to join the daily newsletter and/or to help financially support this project.