I’m not a type of productivity hacker. I’m not a “pirated paper,” at all. My mind doesn’t really operate on the wavelength of hacking. When I want to do something, I do it. It is of no use to try to “trick” me into making it more productive.
Now, maybe that would have been different if I had done something I hated. If I was forced to work on things that didn’t matter to me, maybe I should use some of the productivity hacks that I see people advocating for and using. So for today, I’ll talk about it. I will also give my productivity tips that are not considered “pirates” per se.
My productivity method
For me, I follow a simple process that has never disappointed me.
- Write down the tasks to be performed.
- Complete the tasks.
This is a remarkable method. It’s simple (just two steps) and it’s infallible (following both steps as described improves productivity every time).
Note: It is crucial to follow each step to the letter. This method doesn’t work if you don’t.
In my experience, however, this first method does not work for everyone. I strongly suspect that they are not following the protocol in the end, but equally, I have created some more specific recommendations for single productivity deficits.
My favorite productivity tool is the slackline. Yes, that long strip of flat strap hung between two anchor points that you use to balance, walk, jump, and play. There’s something unique about five to ten minutes of slackline in your brain. To me, it feels like a reset. It seems that the brain is flooded with blood and eliminates all competitive desires and circular thoughts that prevent a person from staying on task and goal. The feeling of being on a slackline is so alien to most people: you’re in balance, you’re bouncing, there’s a little bit of tension but not enough to be really stable, which is a whole new entry that forces you at the immediate moment. Then when you go down, your brain feels weaker and your muscles feel energized and pumped, and you sit back and go back to work.
Here’s a good overview slackling.
Set the alarm to sound every thirty minutes or so and use it as motivation to get up and do a series of push ups, push ups, i / o squats, just to stay active all day. If you are very seated at work (or even if you are one standup workstation superstar), the use of a basic alarm clock to keep you moving every hour (at least) should keep some of the negative health effects of sitting at the same time that it improves your ability to concentrate. You know you shouldn’t be sitting so long, and the clock is ticking, so you really have no excuse.
Use the mouse with your hand
This is a very niche esoteric piece of advice I took from a friend of mine. He was doing an experiment trying to develop more fluency with his hand. With his right hand, he brushed his teeth with his left hand, cooked with his left hand, and did all sorts of basic functional movements with his left hand instead of his dominant right hand. After using his left hand to control the mouse on the computer, he realized something really interesting: he was much more productive that way and much less distracted with extracurricular websites. Although he was a little more clumsy with his left hand, he found that he did not click on social media or any of the other computer activities he often used to distract himself from work.
If you’re having trouble distracting websites, try using your non-dominant hand to use your mouse or scroll with your trackpad. Using the “other side” of your brain in this way can get you out of the neural grooves responsible for being distracted.
I don’t mean to go looking for work on a farm (although that’s great too). I mean take your work out. If you work with a laptop, you can do it outside, weather permitting, and the benefits to productivity, not to mention happiness, are huge. When you are away:
- You are breathing fresh air.
- You have full-spectrum natural light coming into your eyes, which increases alertness and energy.
- You’re reducing stress and cortisol, which burn energy and make you lose focus.
- You are restoring your attention span: the amount of “focus” you have on the tank. Research shows that spending time in nature is one of the best ways to regain that attention span.
Take a “sprint vacation”
Sometimes we cook over low heat in non-productive working mode for too long. We sit in front of the computer doing nothing, really convincing ourselves and our nervous system that we are “working”. It’s miserable and that’s how a lot of people spend their days at work. It is also very unproductive.
Not everyone can change that, but I recommend you take a “sprint vacation” – stay away for 3-10 days to do a project (creative or not) with everything you have as difficult as you can. It is not necessary to do it in an expensive getaway place, although it can be nice if possible. It can also be difficult with young children at home. But even if it’s just a matter of renting a modest cabin somewhere in the woods for a few days to go write, code, or plan, you can really afford it.
As needed download from time to time, just like abstaining from lifting any weights for a week can make you stronger in the long run, and when you come back, getting off work for a day or two or seven can mark a big difference in your productivity.
Just don’t do anything for a few days or more. Nothing to do with work. Take a walk, go swimming, have a date with your partner, take your kids to a fun place, do some puzzles. Do exercise. Do anything that isn’t work-related and take a break from it all.
You are in the middle of work. Things are slowing down. You are slowing down. Energy delays. You’ve already had coffee, tea, all that. How can you get a little boost?
Hold your breath and jump into place as much as you can. Other movements also work, such as squats or push-ups or burps. But just hold your breath and make a fairly intense movement. Breathe when needed and feel the energy flowing through you.
These are the “hacks” of productivity that, as a guy who rejects the idea of hacks, I find the most useful and promising. And you? How do you like to hack productivity?
Don’t break the chain
Jerry Seinfeld used this method to become one of the most prolific and successful comics in history. It’s very simple: every day you do the amount of work or activity you want, mark this day off on the calendar. If you keep progressing every day, you’ll get an unbroken X string in your calendar. Don’t break the chain and make sure you stay productive.
This is probably a productivity hack that I would really be willing to try. It is low tech. It is easy. Provides instant, tangible and visual feedback.
Kanban is a workflow method developed by a Toyota engineer to improve productivity and organize project progress in plants. It is very simple, it is used especially for general productivity. You get a large board with three columns: to do, to do, to do. Write all your pending assignments on magnetic squares or stickers. As a specific task, project, or goal progresses from “do” to “do,” and finally to “do,” move it to the correct column.
Here is one Kanban board that you can buy.
Use the Pomodoro technique
With Pomodoro, do a concentrated work for 25 minutes and then pause for 5 minutes. Download an app like this which allows you to organize your to-do list and reminds you to take a break. Use these pauses with caution:
- Drink some water
- Make a cup of has o coffee
- Go out
- Take a few deep breaths
- Run a sprint
- Spin a little kettlebell
- Stretch or do for about two minutes microtraining
- Browse social media
- Listen to a soothing song or a stimulating song
- “Brainstorm” in your diary for a few minutes to clear your mind
- Get a hug
- Give it a hug
- Caress an animal