10 Productivity Tips from a Blue-Collar Genius

10 Productivity Tips from a Blue-Collar Genius

Reader Comments (99)

  1. This is it.

    This is the one post I’ll think back on tomorrow, five years from now and when my child gets their first job.

    As far as cities go in the UK, they don’t get much more blue-collar than Liverpool – my hometown.

    My granddad was a plumber here in his day. A remarkable plumber. A remarkable plumber that made very little money … because he refused to charge his neighbours.

    My dad laid the cobbles down at the Albert Dock and put his back into all kinds of labour roles before becoming a writer.

    I worked a warehouse job for seven years alongside my studies … though ‘worked’ is a bit of an overstatement.

    Anyway, I guess I’m saying my family is blue-collar too, lad.

    So, you’ve hammered some vivid and relatable images into my mind with this one Demian.

    #9 has already changed my life.

    Nice work.

      • Aye – the doc told him he couldn’t graft again, which meant he couldn’t get insured. So, he took to the pen and started writing scripts.

        Turns out he should’ve been writing all along. He was the one who encouraged me to start creative writing at uni.

        As for the warehouse – let’s just say I used your grandfather’s trick of sleeping anywhere a bit too much. And for the record, bubblewrap is as comfy as it looks.

  2. This was fantastic Damien!

    A great example of effective storytelling.

    My blue collar hero is my grandfather too – with nothing to his name, he was one of the first blacks to be given a scholarship to a prestigious high school in my country. Not being able to afford a full time university education, he took a long distance correspondence course in Law, becoming one of the first people in the region to successfully complete it.

  3. Hey Demian

    Nice article, this is one of those rare ones that is wildly important but not often applied because it requires two magic ingredients :

    Work and Persistence.

    I also grew up on a farm. Doing a dozen chores and not really enjoying it. But I have to admit, it has engrained good old fashion values.

    I liked #1 and #3. They have been real good advice for me. That I have applied again and again.

  4. What a legacy, Demien. These are some very wise lessons for us living in a very frenzied world. I especially like the small to-do list and to work on small steps every day with a large project. Thank you!

  5. Very good points – Although I disagree with point 1 “teach yourself everything”.

    The problem is, most people get stuck in “learning mode”. As they say “ignorance on fire is better than knowledge on ice”. Its much more productive to get someone (outsource) trivial tasks like – WordPress install, Graphics creation, etc..

    Not everyone can afford to outsource to being with but don’t think you have to then go and learn photoshop and design skills before you can create a logo.

    It is great to have the ability to do things yourself but is spending 2-3 hours creating a logo or doing WordPress SEO the best use of your time?


    • Depends on your goals, and your natural skill set. Probably should’ve qualified this one … naturally there were some things that my grandfather didn’t teach himself, but if necessity demands you learn how to create a logo, then do it. You can only outsource when you have the money to do it. Or you learn how to barter. I had to do most house repairs (which I hated) until I could afford to pay someone else. Now I try to delegate … but there is also a lesson in knowing how to do these things even if you aren’t doing them … you know when someone is trying to snow you.

  6. Thanks Demian, I am already good at teaching myself things and getting up early and staying up late. But i struggle to “sleep anywhere” no matter how much i try. An encouraging piece nonetheless.

  7. Wow, even though you do your best to “apply” the principles you observed in your grandfather, he was an amazing man. I personally am inspired from some of the character traits you describe here, and I am reminded of my own grandpa….living for benefiting others (both your tribe and the ones around you) used to be a way of living, but now, in this modern world…

    Back to the topic. Thanks for opening up such principles, even though they both expose us (and you) and encourage us all to continue developing our character….

  8. As someone who has made his grandparents’ and their important life lessons my blog centerpiece, this is my favorite post on this site.

    Thanks for a great article.

  9. Wow! Great story – Very admirable. While I agree with Austin’s assessment on outsourcing, I still agree with your grandfather, learn everything. You should know the process. That’s how I see it. Very good thing to read first thing in the morning,



    • I agree with Austin, too, that you should learn how to delegate the things you can’t do very well (or hate doing). I think my grandfather LOVED all the things he learned.

  10. This reminds me so much of my grandmother and I feel very fortunate to have known her. She was a Swedish farmer and made everything textile in her home including mattresses, sheets, towels, rugs, curtains you name it. So did all the other farmer’s wives of her era. She had a washing machine but wouldn’t use it, it remained covered in plastic, as she claimed it wore out the clothes. She went on washing clothes by hand in a large basin. Not to mention all the food was provided on the farm from milk to eggs to vegetables and fruit to meat and poultry. The house often smelled deliciously of bread and pastries. We were scolded if we wasted water or forgot to turn off the lights or close the door when we left a room. It’s important to me that I saw how things were made, and that I can pass this on to my children – so many of the younger generation are totally disconnected from self-sufficiency.

    • Yeah, what I didn’t get into was he was a Depression era baby so frugality was in him from the start … and he was a little bit of a hoarder. Just a little bit. πŸ˜€

  11. Your Stag beer reference had me immediately because as a 65 year old Oklahoman it created a mutual information bonding. One commenter disagreed with learn everything but I agree. My understanding of it is simple. If I know enough about it I know how to outsource it because I know its value in time. I also know what the value is I should pay. This is learning I got from my Mother.

  12. I had to study the picture a while to figure out his grip: left hand in an awkward underhand position, right shoulder hunched in effort, torso twisted, face contorted in concentration. Either he’s tapping precisely with a too-big sledge he happened to have in his hands or he’s perched on a roof girder desperately trying to keep his balance. Probably both.

    Great lessons and a wonderful tribute piece, Damian.

  13. Hi Demian – thanks for sharing this inspirational story of your amazing grandfather – it must be wonderful to have had such an incredible role model. The only point I’d take issue with is number 4 – I’m sure your grandfather had the good sense to get enough sleep, but I think some people might misinterpret this and, taken to extremes, it’s going to land you in sleep deprivation land, which is not a good place to be.

    On reflection, I also think I agree with Austin about point 1 – we can’t all “know” and “do” everything and we have to make decisions about what to learn and what to outsource based on our individual situations, time, skills and aptitude. I’ve set up my own blog and mostly manage it myself, but I’ve come to realise that sometimes it makes sense for me to pay someone else to deal with some of the technical stuff I really struggle with.

  14. Demian, great post. It is amazing how many comments talked about how significant their grandfather was to their development. My own grandfather was my father figure during much of my childhood. I got my work ethic, view of life and love of St. Louis history from him. Grandpa was big on point three also. Thanks for a thought provoking article.

  15. Brilliant storytelling. My blue collar hero would be my partner. Although we work in a white collar profession, he has always taken a blue collar approach, much like your grandfather, to serving clients in a responsible, sustainable way. In other work, he’s built a cottage and home pretty much from the ground up, using self-taught ingenuity and recycled materials every step of the way. It’s an admirable work ethic that we hope our younger generation will appreciate someday. For now, they roll their eyes more often than not. If we all worked this way, if we all supported each other in working this way, I have no doubt we would all have more grace and sustainability.

    • I truly do admire people like your partner … they are an inspiration … seeming like there really isn’t anything they couldn’t do … just give them a little space, some tools, and watch them create something out of nothing.

  16. Excellent! Your grandfather was one-of-a-kind and is most certainly missed by all of us. What a great way to memorialize him!

  17. Demian, I’m feeling ridiculously nostalgic right now – thanks a lot! πŸ˜‰

    Your writing is amazing, transporting me right into my own grandfather’s workshop. One of the main lessons I learned from him was to be patient. When he was crafting with his hands, he was so calm and patient. While he was rustling grandchildren, he was calm and patient. I still struggle with this, but thank you for reminding me to tap into his wisdom and his legacy!

  18. Hi Demien,

    Loved this article and how you related it to current times and working your business. I could picture your grandpa, working hard and playing hard, and it really brought back memories.

    My whole family, both my mother’s and father’s sides, were all hard working blue-collar folks with large families. I grew up having everything I needed but not everything I wanted, but I think that has made me appreciate things more.

    Thanks for making my day!

    Lori Smith

  19. Demian- Really enjoyed the post. Reminds me of my father-in-law.

    Like you say, never stop learning, helping, contributing and making a difference. Content + Context + Effort + Focus + Action = Grandfather… I mean a successful life πŸ™‚

  20. Seldom do I take the time to read an entire article, but this one I did. Not only did I see your grandfather, but mine, and my dad, and my husband. Coincidence? I think not. Thanks for this inspirational piece.

  21. What an inspiring story. My brother and I were adopted by older parents who could have also been grandparents. They worked hard and I inherited the gene, but I’ve got to work on #2 and #9. Thanks for sharing.

  22. This is a great example of dedicated hard work. I also liked that you highlighted the simplicity of life — I think that our lack of focus really does hurt us in the long run. And it certainly makes it harder to relax/play when the opportunity arises (I know this from experience).

  23. Damn-fine post! Teach yourself everything indeed.

    On Friday I was copyediting.
    On Saturday I was helping my father build an addition on a house (specifically, spraying insulation into an attic, which I’ve never done)
    On Sunday I fixed my leaky sink, then went to a class on how to grow mushrooms.

    Livin’ the Medici Effect!

  24. Hi Demian,

    There is a wealth of knowledge here that can truly create an astronomical difference when applied in real life.

    My favorite is: “That lack of complexity meant he knew what he needed to do each and every day. There were few decisions to make about what to work on. Just get up and do it.”

    I’ve been “cleaning up” myself lately: unsubscribing from email lists I never read, and consolidating my assets to perform an assessment as to what is really working in my business.

    It looks like I still have many distractions to clear, before I can get to a similar level of focus your grandfather did.


    • Me too, and it’s a constant process of skimming off the excess. You have to be vigilant, otherwise you look up one day and you are underneath a mountain of distractions.

  25. My father’s first language was Irish and he never mastered being able to read and write in English. He migrated to New Zealand from Ireland in 1939 and worked on the wharf (docks) every day right up until the day he died. I now work with words and books and authors. Most birthdays he would buy me a book, a precious thing in our house. The stories of the saints, a novel and then in my later school years he would buy me dictionaries. All sorts of dictionaries, French, German, American English, English English, you name it, I had it. So from my father I learned my love of words, not because he could read or write them, but because he understood that words change everything.

  26. I really enjoyed step 8 build a community. It was tied in very well with authority.

    Reminds me of my grandfather a ww2 vetern for the italian army. Lot of points rings true especially working on a big project a little everyday. Hes 92 now and since my grandmother passed away in march he has been keeping busy around the home, gardening, planting flowers and vegetables and house chores.. its active things that will keep you going. that guy is a real soldier.
    Great article!

  27. Wow.

    Thank you for this blog post. It was certainly inspiring and thought provoking.

    Your grandfather reminds me very much of my own. He passed away earlier this year, leaving behind 9 children, 50 grandchildren and who knows how many great-grandchildren. He was a school principle, janitor and general handyman. He loved to laugh and have fun, but was serious about providing for his family.

    Thanks again. Not only did I learn a thing or two, but you let me skip down memory lane with my Grandpa once more.

  28. Your post beautifully shows the power of both family legacy and of mentoring. Whether your grandfather did it intentionally or not, his life helped to set the course for the generations that followed.

    It’s a vivid picture of the ripple effect of life lived authentically. It conjures a vision for how today’s fathers, grandfathers, mothers, and grandmothers can influence their offspring – simply by walking in the integrity of their hearts.

    And, you have given me and others the chance to benefit from his influence. Thanks so much!

    • That’s a great point about leading by example. Each one of his sons has adopted that work ethic and sense of family. No one is flawless, but they’re all heroes in my book. It’s a ripple effect, indeed.

  29. I love this post! It reminds me so much of my own grandfather who was a soldier in the ww2. He was such a great kind man and so hard working! He had his own land, too and built his own house. Additionally he had a little shop selling fruits and veggies from his land. He was so loving and so loved by everybody and he was very compassionate.

    He had a really close relationship to all his children and grandchildren. and I think he inspired us all. It was amazing how he could talk to anybody and instantly have a connection with them. When he talked to children, he would become one of them and with adults, women, man, subordinates or higher ups – it didn’t matter. I liked to think I have inherited some of that…

    So I really liked this post and I agree with it completely – great work!

  30. I have added this post to my bookmarks because tips like this is something I can easily come back to and read again, great stuff! πŸ™‚ I especially like the part about learning everything you can. One big advantage of that tip is that it will help make you an expert in your blogging niche. Once you are an expert – people will flock around you and want to learn everything they can from you. I hope to see more posts like this one more often! πŸ™‚

  31. Truly inspiring, Demian! With so much “new school” technology and processes coming online daily, it’s nice to be reminded of what can be accomplished with “old school” hard work, principles and philosophies.

    Your grandfather sounds like a wonderful man that clearly has left a lasting legacy. Your post continues that legacy … thanks so much for sharing his timeless wisdom!


  32. Awesome post, Demian. I couldn’t help but think of my dad while reading about your grandfather. Dad was blue-collar to the core and I learned a lot from him.

    I’ve been following the articles here at Copyblogger for a while now and I must say your contributions are always full of quality information. Thanks for the effort you put into them.

  33. “Over time, an authoritative website will rise out of the Internet.”

    This really hit home; it’s precisely what I’m doing.

    Fenix Marketing is the name of my biz that I am in the process of ‘rising’ in the post-housing crash economy.

    I’m still in the mortgage business, but Fenix is how I am reinventing myself. The articles from the Smart folks at Copyblogger certainly help! πŸ™‚

    Great post, Demian! Thanks for sharing such a personal and inspirational story.



  34. My blue collar hero is my grandfather too – with nothing to his name, he was one of the first blacks to be given a scholarship to a prestigious high school in my country.

  35. Thank you. Loved reading this. Thought of my grandfather and father. Grandpa lost an arm and leg in an electrical accident at age 35. Remained a hard worker all of his life. Kicked our butts and taught us to appreciate what we had. He had a fruit orchard, we were his pickers. He would stand on the ground with his one arm and wooden leg and shout, ‘Use both hands!’ While we hung on for dear life.

  36. I LOVE your grandfather! Thanks to both of you for the inspiration.
    My particular area of weakness is in the “Boil Down Your To-Do List to One or Two Items”. That’s what I’m going to work on…

  37. Awesome, awesome post, Demian.

    We are who made us, and it’s clear that yours is a bloodline that will continue to serve you – and enlighten your readers – quite well.

    Keep sharin’ those vibes, brutha.


  38. OK, I’m on to you Copyblogger people. I think I’ve figured it out why I keep returning to your site and spending way too much time on it.

    Your content is always helpful and extremely well written.

    But – and here’s where I think I’ve cracked your code – it’s inspiring as well.

    Well played, Copyblogger. Well played.

  39. Both my grandfathers are (were) blue collar heroes. My dad’s dad was a coal miner for 50 years, became a father for the last time at the age of 42 and raised four children alone when he became a widower two years later.

    My mum’s dad was in the army and worked on the railways for 30 years. He was also a local councillor for many years and served as mayor. He’s been actively involved in his local community all his life, working for the council, the local regeneration partnership and more. He even helped out at the old folks’ drop-in centre when he was older than many of the people there.

    People talk about changing the world but my grandfather has spent his life quietly helping the people in his local community and doing what he can to improve their lives. If everyone did that, the world would be a much nicer place.

  40. Great post Demian!

    I grew up in the shadow of a superhuman blue collar immigrant. My father was sent to watch farms during the night at the age of 5, doing back-breaking manual labor at 15 and running farms and selling livestock by 18, successfully pulling his parents and siblings out of poverty almost single handed. He was sent into a war soon after and escaped death for 2 years and then immigrated to the U.S. Growing up I was never allowed to sit around, mocked for reading and pounded inch by inch into a “working man”. Sounds horrible doesn’t it? But you know what? I wouldn’t have changed a minute of it. It made me a self reliant, hard worker who’s never faced a challenge I didn’t believe I could overcome.

    Keep up the thoughtful writing.

  41. #2 is huge for me. I used to literally have a to do list that was saved under “Epic To Do Live” and it had hundreds of items. I would print it out and then when I’d go to start something I’d get paralyses trying to figure out what my #1 priority was for that day.

    A while back I started making a daily to do list with 2 or 3 items on the list. It resulted in a huge boost in productivity.

    Thanks for the great list, I will be adding a few more of these to my routine!

  42. My grandfather was a blue collar hero for me. He used to work hard every single day and night. He is frugal and doesn’t allow even building a home (a dream for my father) with a loan which could be easily cleared. My father was however optimistic and stubborn: He borrowed a loan, built the home and cleared it by the time I was born.

    When it comes to helping nature, both my grandfather and father reflect each other. My grandfather was a wood seller and there were about 5-10 workers who at times, doesn’t bring their lunch boxes to work and it was grateful for my grandfather to feed them. My father, who (I don’t say he gives money to everyone), makes the poor better but not rich richer (He follows this Confucius principle).

    Four lessons I could outline are being frugal to ourselves and being optimistic, stubborn and helpful.

  43. This tops the list of favorite posts I’ve read recently. And so you know, i read a lot of websites and blogs, so that’s saying something. πŸ™‚

    You really point to the importance of really being in the moment, learning for yourself and not getting all tied up in a long list of to dos and plans. It’s so easy to spend an entire morning organizing e-mail and evernote and somehow never actually do anything.

    You’ve also made me miss my own grandfather.

  44. Wow..

    I loved this article.. I’m very new to the community and I’m absolutely blown away with how helpful all the articles and free ebooks are. It’s articles like this that just definitely motivate me and thankful you shared it with us.

  45. This gave me chills.

    Your grandfather sounds incredible and exactly like mine – he built his own house, worked tirelessly in the mills to support his wife and 4 children, tended to his own farm, was an avid recycler and composter, was an influential member of his church (roman catholic) and would cat nap anywhere. He taught all his grandchildren (me included) the value of family and most importantly hard work.

    I miss him dearly.

  46. I can’t quite place why but I am quite annoyed that there is 0 mention of your grandmother and how it is almost certainly because she raised the children 99% of the time, that he could do all this.

  47. This is fabulous.

    I especially love #9. I have a huge issue with dreaming so big, I overwhelm myself. I want to start a blog but only focus on “how am I going to reach 100,000 subscribers?” or “I want to write a book, but how am I going to turn out 200 pages of excellent writing?”

    Thank you for the invaluable information and encouragement!

This article's comments are closed.