October 24th, 2020
These are my top productivity tools, researched, tried, and true. I update them regularly right here and post them to Reddit once they get big enough for me to think of it as another version.
These should help you in everything from productivity to sleep, mental clarity to procrastination. Let me know what you think.
This habit enables you to fall asleep faster and wake up at the same time, like clockwork, all subconsciously.
Your body clock and circadian rhythms control hormones such as melatonin. Sleeping at the same time every night is one of the queues for your body to start secreting melatonin - this is why you subconsciously get tired and start yawning at a particular time when you have a routine.
There’s much more to sleep and body clock queues here.
This could be at the start of your day, the beginning of a project, or your study session’s first hour. After completing this task, you’ll have not only done something meaningful with your day, but you’ll feel the momentum carry through to other todo items.
Every decision you make throughout the day comes with a tiny mental tax. When you add it all up, you start performing worse at the choices that matter. So eliminate picking an outfit, deciding on breakfast, or figuring out when to workout - replace them all with a routine.
The faster you commit to pre-selecting a schedule and sticking to it, the more mentally precise and swift you’ll be when you make decisions.
Make the morning yours, get acquainted with how you feel, and take control of your time before others try to compete for it.
When you stop a task to answer an email, help someone, or check notifications, you disrupt or altogether avoid deep work. Instead, designate a time to deal with all the ‘admin’ stuff on your schedule, not someone else’s.
There’s a high chance that the problems you have in your work, code, studies, gym routine, etc. have been repeated.
If you’re messing up an exercise, ask the staff or check out a tutorial. Before doing some crazy code gymnastics, check out some forums. Before drafting a reporting template, see if the company already has a standard.
We always hear, “If you never ask, the answer is always no.” So ask for a little extra, ask for an alternative, an exception, the dumb question. If you don’t ask, you won’t know and won’t receive it. A lot of the time, asking has a massive upside with almost no downside.
We don’t ask most of the time because we don’t want to be a bother - but the squeaky wheel gets the oil. Another reason goes deep into cognitive biases; loss aversion, and mastering it will help in every aspect of life.
We almost always repeat our mistakes; it’s too hard to remember the lessons we thought we learned. Writing them down and revisiting them helps us etch them into our memory, but doing this haphazardly isn’t as effective as systematically.
A terrific strategy is to put together a rule book or set of principles that you can always refer back to when you’re in doubt. If you can do this, it’ll be worth your time.
Cleaning your office, eliminating distractions, getting rid of bad influences, surrounding yourself with like-minded people; these are all environment choices. Designing your environment to push yourself in the direction you desire will have a disproportionately positive effect on your success.
The essential strategy here is to reduce friction within your surroundings, and sometimes it's not so obvious - ask yourself, “What’s something that gets in my way when I’m working?” and “Can I get rid of or manage it?”
It’s hard to decipher constructive criticism from noise. If you create a list, even a mental one, of the people who matter in their feedback, you’ll have a much easier time trusting opinions without having doubts about the quality.
Something as trivial as being hungry can make your emotions play a much larger role ina logical decision. Reminding ourselves and being aware of our mental state can delay making decisions until we’re better equipped to handle it.
Make your customers' life easier; be rewarded with repeat customers. Make your professor's life easier; be rewarded with higher marks. Make your manager’s life easier; get promoted.
Mindfulness, spiritual, transcendental; all that matters is that it works for you.
Yours might be going for a run and exercising focus, or having a coffee in silence while being aware of your surroundings.
Any time you take for yourself and exercise doing practically nothing, noticing when a thought comes, acknowledging it, and moving on is meditation.
We procrastinate on many small things until they combine to become an actual problem. So doing them in the moment is the perfect way to avoid the big one.
This rule doesn’t mean disrupting deep work; that’s a form of procrastination in itself. It means that when you aren’t, you can bundle a few tasks together and be done with it in less than 10–15 minutes.
Dishes out of the dishwasher, bed made, floor swept, call returned. It’s easy and will leave a clean mental state for future you.
This will allow you to complete the tasks, and maybe not right away, but soon enough, you’ll start to realize how many items are appropriate. Say goodbye to the endless list that’s never complete.
Each night, write a single goal for the next day. If you complete this, it was a successful day.
Underlines, notes, important chapters, paragraphs you’ve read for the 5th time, and notes that are thicker than the sections they were written about — this is how you learn.
Taking this much time and care may be the same time it takes someone else to read three books, but I’m betting you’ll come out more knowledgeable. Quality > Quantity.
Ego is something everyone wrestles with because we’re inherently the center of our universe. Listening is such an immense exercise in focus, learning, and empathy that your ego level almost drops to zero.
Too many people wait for their turn to talk instead of listening. You can avoid so much miscommunication by doing this, and you’ll be better for it. This also goes for reading emails and texts.
The level of improvement in thinking, decision-making, fitness, and productivity has significant ties with what you put in your body. This isn’t some trivial point, either.
The classic example is sugar and caffeine’s effects on performance. Protein supplements and healthy fats, an appropriate amount of carbs, all of this preparation helps. It’s likely not a placebo when someone is raving about how great they feel after switching up their diet.
This costs you nothing and gives you all the benefits you could hope for. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it will enhance the collective productivity and morale in your social circles, groups, projects, teams, and companies.
Think about a task that you often do. Do you need to be doing it? Can you put in some investment of time or money to get rid of the job forever? Does that investment pay off?
Answering these questions will allow you to examine if it's viable to delegate or automate a routine.
Technical automation by using Zapier, Google Sheets, and other apps can be inexpensive or free. Delegating tasks by hiring the right people might win you back countless hours of your own time.
Identify. Assess. Execute.
Don’t listen to the overworking ‘hustle’ crowd. You can get a full night's sleep and still be working hard and smart.
Your hours will yield a much higher return if you’re well-rested and switched on. So whether you need nine hours or six, do it without guilt, and plan around it for significant productivity.
Engage your fight or flight instinct by starting a task three seconds after realizing you’re procrastinating.
You count down from three, and once you get to zero, you just do the thing. There’s no question about it, no further dwelling, just action.
If you fail at this once, this rule will never work again. It’s a mental exercise and sounds trivial, nonsensical even, but it works.
It’s hard to keep the ‘go go go’ attitude sustainable, and if you’re in it for the long game, you need to have some time for play. But many people face extreme guilt when they take time off.
Don't see it as “not working,” look at it like a requirement for success and an essential ingredient for a content life, a part of the productivity cycle.
Take a Tuesday or Thursday night to do something fun, relaxing, or different. Learn to split up your week, so the days don’t melt into one.
Dressing to be productive or successful will put you in the mindset to do just that. It’s your uniform; it’s a signal to yourself that it’s time to work.
This is why we feel much more productive, dressed smartly than wearing what we’ve slept with and trying to get work done from the bed.
This helps with procrastination as well as organization. Massive projects and undertakings are often daunting and require more than willpower to tackle.
Splitting it up into chunks not only makes things more digestible, but it also gives you a sense of progress and momentum as you complete tasks.
If you’re struggling with a problem, talk it through with a friend, co-worker, or inanimate object. When you start explaining your situation, there’s a good chance that you’ll solve it.
Explaining something requires that you take out the jumbled thoughts in your head and string them together to make sense to a third party. Programmers call this Rubber Duck Debugging - explaining the issue to a rubber duck.
Similar to designating hours for tasks like emails. If you set a time in the day to consume Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, you’ll be less distracted by every notification that comes in.
Especially for emails, dot points are a lifesaver and allow people to decipher what you’re saying quickly. Beating around the bush or being overly kind never helps.
Conveying urgency, being firm and clear will help someone solve your query faster than going back and forth until the email chain is 30 emails long.
This is especially useful for committing things to memory like speeches and presentations. Reading, writing, re-writing, and verbalizing the content right before and right after REM sleep reduces learning friction.
If you have an exam, a presentation, or a sales pitch, practice in non-ideal scenarios.
Make sure you’re tired and in an auditorium with a lot of distractions when practicing your presentation. Or you replicate the exam conditions as much as possible when doing a test exam, i.e. try not to do it in your PJs while listening to Lo-Fi Hip Hop.
The more successful we become, the more habits we need to adjust. It takes a few years into mild success before you realize that you’re spending time doing certain things when it’d be more efficient to pay for the service.
What habits have you kept for a long time that may need adjusting? You could be eating healthier than the cup ramen college days, or you might not like going out as much. Assessing will help you find out.
Speed reading for quick information is underrated - this might not be the best thing for retention and detail, but certainly for faster information transfer. Many speed reading apps show one word at a time on the screen, allowing you to focus - you set the speed.
A quick Google search should get you the right apps and extensions.
Typical examples are meal prep, bulk ironing clothes, and even setting up your bag for the next day. Doing this reduces friction and bandwidth throughout your week, day, or morning.
This is easier for some than others. Visual and design work is different from analytical work. Sitting down and looking at a screen is different from cleaning or going to the gym, and yet it’s all productive - this is also called productive procrastination.
Some people prefer to use the Pomodoro Technique to work between 25 minutes and 1.5 hours at a time and take a short break. Others will opt to work continuously and achieve a flow state. Both options work, but they depend on your preference.
Color coding may or may not be worth the time. Some people prefer using the search function for quick access. Though by color-coding, you can seamlessly swipe through pages and find the app you need. We’re visual creatures, and logos are more memorable than names.
When trying to decide whether to say yes to something, it’s a fantastic strategy not to allow yourself to give it a 7/10 - because if it’s not a “Hell Yes!” It should be a “No.”
You’re either going to give it a six or below (barely passable), or an eight and above (exciting).
Less is more, and that’s because you can focus a lot easier. You’ll have a purpose in your day when you have a simple story - I need to get X, Y, and Z done, and that’s a win.
It’s the easiest way to make a decision and not for reasons you think.
If you’re stuck between two options, flip the coin and commit within three seconds. What will happen is that the urgency will engage your gut, and you’ll go for the opportunity you wanted anyway.
This means light exposure through sunlight during the day and artificial light in the evening. You want a lot of sunlight and minimal unnatural light - this natural cycle is how the human body evolved, and following it will make sure you sleep very well.
This cycle is built up of Circadian Rhythms to make up what we call the body clock. And among other things, natural body processes like the day/light cycle will regulate melatonin.
Runners High is a real thing. When you do similar aerobic exercises like cycling and swimming, you’ll activate a flood of antidepressants and euphoriants that are naturally produced in your brain - this enables you to clear your head and will put you in a meditative state without needing to meditate.
Less is more when it comes to taking notes, and if you write them, date them, and organize them without all the bells and whistles, you’re going to have a much better time.
If you take your typical day and give it 100% regardless of whether luck’s on your side or not, understand that it will even out.
Yesterday may have been a high, today might be a low, and tomorrow might be somewhere in between - but if you’re consistent, there’ll be an upward trend when you zoom out to a year or decade.
There are natural maximizers and natural satisfiers. The maximizers will consider every possible option, do their research, and perfect a decision with all available information. The satisficers will pick the first option that satisfies what they’re looking for.
Maximizers will often feel overwhelmed or overthink fundamental decisions, while satisfiers can get through them quickly.
But satisficers can sometimes make poor decisions on things they could have avoided if they did the research.
There’s a happy medium of knowing when to maximize and when to satisfy. Investment fund? Maximize. Takeout? Satisfy.
This is only really learned by trial and error, but ask yourself the question when you’re mulling over your next decision: Am I maximizing when I should be satisfying? Or vice versa.