What is Puttering and How Does it Work?

What is Puttering and How Does it Work?


On Google, puttering is defined as:

Occupy oneself in a desultory but pleasant manner, doing a number of small tasks or not concentrating on anything particular.


The first time I heard of this phrase was from Jeff Bezos.

He was asked by an interviewer on how he typically starts off the morning.


The interviewer was expecting Jeff Bezos to list out an intensely disciplined regiment.

Wake up, answer emails, work out, answer more emails, etc.


Instead, Jeff Bezos said he puttered.


I Googled the word and was surprised.

He was executing the anti-discipline in the morning.

Just hopping around from activity to activity.


Can puttering lead to more productivity?

I believe so.


Why Puttering Leads to More Productivity


Where Jeff Bezos putters in the morning, I putter at the end of the day.

I normally start my morning off with intense discipline.

I work out, create content, and attend my meetings.


Around the end of the day, I hop around from task to task.

I can’t watch a tv show from beginning to end.

I just occupy myself with a bunch of random clips.


Why does puttering work?

Because it’s a great equalizer to discipline.


Imagine that you have been on a strict diet all week.

At the end of the week, you are going to treat yourself to a cheeseburger.

That cheeseburger serves as a pull for you to carry out your current discipline.


Puttering is like that.


When you are very disciplined for the most part, it’s fun to introduce parts of your day when you are just hopping from activity to activity.

When you concentrate a lot, it’s good to have moments when you don’t concentrate.


How to Putter


I’m sure most people have never heard of this phrase.

But for the people who are now hearing about it now, they are thinking:

‘I don’t know… Puttering sounds like goofing off.’


I think puttering can easily turn into goofing off if you don’t already have a disciplined schedule.

To be efficient, start off with discipline, and then introduce the puttering concept.


Introduce a time frame for when you’ll putter.

Maybe it’s in the morning like Jeff Bezos.

It could be at the end of the night like me.

Or you can putter in pockets throughout the day.


When you have identified WHEN you are going to putter, that adds a lot of clarity.

If you are not clear about when you’re going to do it, then chances are that you will do it a lot, or not do it at all.


Once you identify your puttering block, keep it spontaneous.

Don’t plan things out too much.

Go with the flow.


Initially, you may be confused about what to do.

Just spot activities that you consider to be effortless.


Maybe sitting on your couch.

Then work on a bookshelf you’ve been thinking about building.

Then go back to sitting on your couch.


In my opinion, keeping it spontaneous is a great way to go about it.

If someone asks you what you’re puttering schedule looks like…

Then you should be able to describe past puttering sessions.

But for future puttering sessions, you say:

‘That’s still to be determined.’


Is Puttering Needed?


Puttering is completely optional.

Doing a bunch of small tasks and not concentrating on anything particular may seem like torture to some.


I know highly disciplined people who factor in rest throughout the day.

But even when they rest, they do it in a disciplined sort of way.


The say:

‘I must finish this series from beginning to end. No other series will be considered until I finish this one.’


I’m the exact opposite.

I say:

‘I will start this series, but if it doesn’t move me, I’m going to hop around.’


For me, puttering works because I don’t always like to concentrate.

I want my mind to be off for a certain period.


If you like to have an off switch for discipline, then puttering is a relief.

But if you don’t like that off-switch, forget about puttering.

Act like you didn’t even hear that word.


Avoid Puttering Too Much


When I initially Googled “putter”, I kept thinking that it was a fancy word for goofing off.

And it can easily get like that.


I think puttering is only worth it when you balance it with work.

Sort of like traveling.


I see a lot of people on Instagram who quit their jobs to become professional travelers.

They hop from to country, climb mountain after mountain, eat at fancy restaurant after restaurant.


I have a friend who has traveled a lot.

He said:

‘After a while, all mountains begin looking the same.’


Wow, that’s pretty insightful.


Then he said.

‘Traveling is only fun when you celebrate after working hard.’


Wow, another insightful comment!


That’s exactly how puttering works.

View it as a reward for discipline.

That’s why I said to get a disciplined lifestyle up and running, and then introduce puttering.

Rather than puttering from the get-go and hoping to stumble onto a disciplined lifestyle.


Experimenting with your Productivity


Experimentation is the key to leveling up.

There are things that will work for one person, but will fall flat with you.

Vice versa is also true.


I wanted to create a post on puttering because I had been doing it, but I never knew there was a phrase for it.

When I heard of the phrase, I thought it was something worth sharing.


Puttering allows me to rest at night so I can start off the next morning with a bang.

It’s a good time frame to allow myself to daydream, goof off, scroll on the phone, talk on the phone, etc.


After I putter, I feel emotionally relieved.

Where I do it at the end of the day, Jeff Bezos does it at the beginning of the day.


When will you decide to do yours?

If you decide to do it at all…


For more insights into emotional intelligence, check out the Armani Archies EQ Edition:





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