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Issue #38

What About When It’s All Overwhelming?

John Loeppky

March 18, 2024

White man sits in a chair, the top of head is open and is replaced with a stylized machine that he is taking a screwdriver to.
I wish I had a beard this good/aytuguluturk from Pixabay

In other words: damn it, LinkedIn

Welcome to the reset of the newsletter, I’ve written enough of these that I’m not spending more than a couple sentences on the month and a half pause. I ran out of spoons to write this newsletter, my system failed,  and now I have some metaphorical cutlery (and a plan to keep them). Cool? Cool. 

Now to today’s topic: The overwhelm of simplification. Aren’t counterintuitive phrases fun!

There’s this funny thing that happens in the productivity content ecosystem where someone will create what they think is a simplification but which is, in fact, a visually or auditorily overwhelming practice in chaos. Take, for example, this post from CEO coach Eric Partaker. A whole pile of terms and an overwhelming image. This is not a slight aimed at Eric, this is just the way of the social media-sphere, but it doesn’t exactly give us hope when it comes to cripping productivity. Except, we can simplify, and some of it is already done for us. 

Now, it would take someone more talented than me at graphic design to make the aforementioned graphic readable to your average consumer, but I can take a crack at expanding upon a more actionable version of the part of this post that is most important: the list of terms and concepts. 

Here goes: 

  1. 18 Minute Plan: Plan your day for five minutes at the start, refocus for one minute an hour, review for five minutes at the end of the day. Fairly standard productivity advice. 

From a cripping productivity vantage point, I think we need to zero in on finding a way to review and a way to refocus. For example, I love watching YouTuber Christy Anne Jones’ videos. She’s an Australian author and content creator who has a series where she follows the writing routines of famous authors. In a recent edition, she followed Dan Brown’s which involves, among other things, a minute of push ups every hour.

If that works, great! But find the thing that refocuses you. For me, it’s petting one or both of the dogs that I share my office with. I find that planning once on Sunday evening and once on Wednesday evening is enough to get the big picture, and that following my to-do list in Notion keeps me on track just enough. 

So, find the ways that you can plan and refocus, and stick to them as best you can, boiling it down to a number of minutes just sounds exceedingly neurotypical to me. 

  1. Task Batching: Task batching is when you group similar tasks together. So, a few weeks ago,  I wrote all of my newsletters for the week to get ahead and save spoons. We’ll ignore for the moment that I didn’t post them when I planned to.The most common example is batching your emails so that you’re not jumping back and forth to that tab of your browser. 

From a cripping productivity perspective, batching your tasks could mean grouping your medical appointment to-do list tasks or batching tasks together into low spoon, medium spoon, and high spoon activities. 

  1. 1-3-5 Rule: I’m a fan of this one. Pick one big task per day, three medium tasks, and five small tasks. Now, those nine tasks are a bit much for me when I’m trying to plan for my medium symptom/lower spoon day, but I do think it’s a good starting point. This feels like one that can scale in ways that other productivity systems tend not to be able to. 

For me, on days when I’m not freestyling my to-do list, usually high pain days, I pick three tasks. Now, because I’m me, I’m almost always exceeding those three tasks, but it gets me started, it builds momentum, and it gives me permission to stop. Cripping productivity, if it’s successful, is about giving us permission to start and permission to stop. Funny that a guy that doesn’t drive is about to give you a vehicle metaphor, but it’s about the freeway on and off ramps. 

  1. Getting Things Done (GTD) method: This is David Allen’s concept, one of the core founders of productivity discourse, but he groups things into five steps: capture, clarify, organize, reflect, engage. In other words, collect the information, understand the information, organize the information, figure out why that information is important, and then act on that information. It’s more complicated than that, and productivity purists are probably yelling right now, but it doesn’t have to be.

I have yet to do a deep dive into the GTD methodology, but cripping the GTD method, I think, is about having disability-friendly systems and tools to work with and through these stages. Not unlike many other productivity tools. 

  1. Time Blocking: It sounds fancy, but time blocking is just treating your calendar like a school timetable. During such and such a time I will be doing such and such a task. It’s been popularized, in more recent years, by folks like Cal Newport (who has a new book out called Slow Productivity) but its origins have been dated back centuries. A pessimist (usually me) might say it’s just another version of capitalism making its way into our understandings of time. I do think that the time blocking method can be disability friendly, I just don’t think it starts out that way.

Cripping time blocking asks us to set aside time, and stick to that time, but not be scheduling every moment of the day. For many folks I’ve played sports with there are areas of the day that are already heavily time blocked (think: medical or care routines). Expanding that to your whole workday can be helpful, especially if you adore routine, but I think—to use a medical metaphor here—you need small doses. I’d recommend starting by time blocking a morning where you need to do minimal tasks and go from there. 

  1. Eat the Frog: A concept brought forward by Brian Tracy. Essentially, do the hardest part of your work first. The rush of getting that thing done, the thinking goes, can then carry you forward, building momentum and reducing procrastination.

I truly do believe in momentum and how it impacts crip productivity, but I’m not sure doing the hardest thing first is the best course of action from a disability perspective. This is going to sound very pessimistic, but we’re conditioned to think that we’re not allowed to see an email as a difficult thing or a sentence as a difficult thing.

Invariably, the frog in these analogies is used to describe some deep work and not, for example, confirming a calendar appointment. To borrow an educational term, I think scaffolding towards the hard thing is very valuable when it comes to crip productivity. For me, eating the frog is getting up earlier than the rest of the house. It’s a battle every time. 


  1. Eisenhower Technique: I never thought I’d see the intersection of the punnett square and productivity, but here we are. The Eisenhower Matrix, as opposed to being about building highways or anti-communist sentiment, is about deciding whether something is both urgent and important. If it’s important and urgent, do the thing. If it’s important and not urgent, schedule the thing. If it’s not important and urgent, delegate the thing, if it’s not important and not urgent then let go of it entirely. 


I actually find this one of the most crip-friendly concepts on this entire list. Having a gatekeeping procedure like this can really help reduce the amount of brainclutter that being productive in this world necessitates. The flipside of that, however, is learning that you can’t just identify everything as important. Particularly if your disability/a symptom of it—like mania or rejection sensitive dysphoria—has you believing everything is a five alarm fire. 

  1. 80/20 rule: In other words, 80% of the results come from 20% of the effort. Another way I share this concept with friends has me reminding them that they don’t need to be perfectionists. If you can teach yourself to be happy with the 80% of the results, that can go a long way. It’s really hard to get there, but it’s worth it. 

A crip example of the 80/20 rule is related to a recent process that I’ve gone through automating a lot of my household tasks. I think I was so used to equating hard effort with good work that I didn’t do a good job of letting things be automatic. This meant that I saw value in logging in and buying dog food each month rather than just scheduling it. It took me many years to automate the little bit of investing I do (an RDSP, very disabled of me) because I felt like I needed to put in that effort in order for the results to have been earned. 

  1. 2 Minute Rule: If it can be done in two minutes, like Shia LeBeouf, just do it. Out of date meme reference? Yeah, I know. 

I still follow this one, but I have reduced how much I believe in it from a cripping productivity perspective. On one hand, if I know I can write a pitch to a publication or an email to an editor in two minutes, I will do that. I value being as punctual as I can with those forms of communication. Where I’ve had to lessen my two minute rule following is on household tasks. Sure, I can do those dishes in two minutes, but that leads to doing the garbage in the next two minutes, and then sweeping the floor, and suddenly I’m shampooing the couch and reorganizing our wardrobe. For the two minute rule, if you don’t have an exit strategy, it can get you in trouble. 

  1. Flowtime Technique: On the surface, this one sounds very crip/disability friendly, but I’m not sure. The idea is to work until you lose focus, note how long that time was, take a small break, and then continue to adjust to that time of flow that you found.

This sounds lovely, but in practice I’m not sure it works for a lot of disabled people. In the same way that an inclusive culture isn’t one where anything goes, an inclusive and accessible workflow needs some parameters, some guidelines, in order to be effective. I think flowtime can be helpful if your flow sessions are fairly consistent/predictable, but not if your relationship to time is very dynamic and frustrating. 

Until tomorrow!


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