Intentional Productivity: Sophia Amoruso on minimalism, spontaneity, and island life
Intentional Productivity: Sophia Amoruso on minimalism, spontaneity, and island life

How are the world's most inspiring entrepreneurs preparing for 2022? For our Intentional Productivity series, we caught up with award-winning entrepreneur and New York Times bestselling author Sophia Amoruso.

What is Sophia embracing, and letting go of, in 2022? And how is she starting the year with focus and purpose? Read on…

What mindset shifts are you taking with you into 2022?

After 15 years of intensely building businesses, I've put together the lifestyle that I want. I'm at a stage in my career where it's incredibly rewarding to share what I've learned with other founders, so that they can sidestep the landmines that I found myself stepping in β€” that's why I created a digital program for entrepreneurs called Business Class.

In 2020, we had to work remotely β€” and I became very attached to that. During 2021, I started implementing changes in the way I want to live my life, and the kind of thesis I want to build my work life around. Spontaneity is incredibly important to me now, after so many years where it was impossible.

What are you intentionally letting go of in 2022?

Spending time in Hawaii has led me to a forced minimalism. I don't accumulate clutter, I have one or two things on my calendar, and everything else is very spontaneous.

There is so much stuff that can fill your space physically, but also psychically and energetically. Los Angeles has every possible convenience, but being in a city makes it hard to slow down β€” I spent a lot of years living with decision fatigue.

Whereas on the north shore of Kauai, restaurants close early and there's no grocery delivery or recycling pickup. These constraints make life more challenging, but it's easier to have discipline when there is less choice. Island life forces certain rituals on you: like on Saturdays, you go to the farmers market to buy your food, and that lends itself to building a sense of community.

What routines have you found helpful to kick-off a productive and fulfilling day?

When I'm in LA, I have more of a routine and stack all of my calendar appointments together.

I wake up, drink coffee, and sometimes go for a walk in my neighborhood. I live up in the hills in LA, so even in the city I get quiet and peace.

In Hawaii, there's no wifi at the local coffee shop. I work outside, using the cell service on my iPad, with my headphones on to tune out the world. Back at the house, I work overlooking a rushing river with endless white noise, which is amazing.

What time of day are you most productive?

I play to my strengths: I'm not a morning person, so I like to keep my mornings open, unless I need to schedule early calls. I also don't like working late into the evening, though there are times where I do.

I'm most productive between 11 AM and 3 PM, so I generally try to compress everything to the middle of the day β€” stacking things pretty close together so I'm not tethered to my office. It sometimes makes it challenging to find time to eat, or even to make a second coffee, but I still prefer it.

But when I'm in Hawaii, I don't want to be on the phone all day in paradise… In the afternoons, I do Pilates, or yoga, or jump in the ocean!

Do you recommend any safeguards for managing communication overload?

I used to feel like everything was urgent. My instinct is to do everything now. I opened every email as soon as it arrived. But the truth is, very few things are truly urgent. Now, I don't even have email notifications on my phone.

With Superhuman, I'm able to hit H to push back on an email, and look at it again later. I can't even tell you how much I use Superhuman's H Command β€” it's my favorite thing in the whole world!

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I'm also comfortable with a certain amount of healthy avoidance. Avoidance is portrayed as something that isn't a good trait β€” but I've learned that healthy avoidance can allow things to unfold, and help the important things rise to the top. You can also avoid things temporarily, to manage your own time.

What have you learned about your ideal conditions for staying focused?

I like to stay nimble. I focus on what's most top of mind; for anything less essential, I either delegate it or lob it down the road.

I multitask a lot. I have so many tabs open in my browser, and so many tabs open in my brain! If I'm clicking on a link, I will literally do something else in the short amount of time that it takes for that page to load.

So I work on projects in chunks, but it's very fluid: I don't do time blocking, or the Pomodoro method, but it works for me.

What are your favorite techniques for avoiding distractions?

Music is at the top of my favorite things on earth. I'd rather listen to music than do anything else. I like to listen to music that reminds me of something I love, whether it's a person or experience or place, and I can multitask enough to have part of me transported with sound while I'm working.

Repetitive and instrumental music helps me focus, so I'm almost always listening to music. That allows me to avoid any distractions that can come up along the way.

Sophia's top 5 tracks for deep work

  1. Tony Conrad's Ten Years Alive on the Infinite Plane
  2. William Basinski's Disintegration Loops
  3. Terry Riley's A Rainbow in Curved Air
  4. Brian Eno's Music For Airports
  5. Nico Georis' The Spooky Hallway Vine

Sophia's top 3 tips for an intentional 2022

  1. Embrace simplicity and minimalism β€” life's constraints can build discipline and reduce decision fatigue.

  2. Play to your strengths β€” structure your day around the times you feel most productive.

  3. Redefine your sense of urgency β€” safeguard your time by switching off notifications and focusing on what matters most.