My Best Productivity Secrets and Hacks
Between writing a master’s thesis, working a job and running this blog I have had to figure out some ways to squeeze as much productivity as possible out of my waking hours. These are the products and practices I use to keep everything running smoothly in my life.
Learning my Work Habits
I think that most people, if we’re honest, get four hours of really good work in per day. The key is to figure out when your most productive timeframe is.
I have always been a morning person. I have never pulled an all-nighter and I have absolutely no desire to. I don’t even like staying up late at night.
So, I have structured my day to accommodate this. I work in 2.5 hour chunks:
- 55 minutes of work followed by 5 minutes of stretching
- After two hours I take 30 minutes and totally disconnect. I either nap or stretch. But I do not think about my work
I do this cycle twice in the morning. This allows me to get my really high value activities done during the time where I know I am most productive.
I will then move onto my afternoon block. This is when my motivation begins to falter so I need to do tasks that are easy to complete and preferably passive.
If I’m studying, I’ll use this time to do repetitious tasks like writing notecards. If I am working on my blog I will watch Lynda.com videos to learn about how to create a better blog. If I am working I will try to schedule my meetings in at this time.
I suggest that you determine your best working hours and structure your day to accommodate them.
This is a habit I picked up after reading The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. The goal is to identify what roles you fulfill, your goals for those roles and the tasks necessary to complete those roles.
Having this weekly planner helps to declutter my life as I can see my week at a glance and rearrange if necessary. It helps to ensure I accomplish my goals for the week for each of the roles I have listed for myself.
By accomplishing a small goal every week I move closer and closer to the larger goals which I have made for the year, for two years and for five years.
This is an online music portal that has a database of music that is designed to help you focus.
I first came across this when I heard Salim Ismail speak at my university. He had a picture of a brain scan that was taken while he was listening to the music on the site and the picture was lit up like a Christmas tree. While skeptical, there was a free month trial period so I gave it a whirl.
After the first month I was sold and I became a paid subscriber. It took a little tinkering but I finally found the kinds of music which really keyed me in while I was doing work.
My two favorites are
- Kora Beta w/ Entrainment
- This is really good when I have a task where I know the parameters and it is merely a question of sitting down and hammering it out. For example, writing the results section for my qualitative research
- Alpha Chill
- I prefer this one when my task is less defined and I need to generate ideas. I turn this on while I am thinking about how to structure arguments or generate ideas for the blog. In fact, I’m listening to it as I write this post.
I picked this up when I was in college. It pairs really well if you have adopted your body to burn ketones through adopting a paleo/primal diet.
Essentially, it is just butter and medium chain triglycerides (MCT) added to coffee. The first time I drank it I felt like my eyes were trying to push themselves out of my head. Needless to say, I got all of my work done that day.
On days when I need to sit down and write for hours this is what I go to. It is effective for two reasons:
- It provides a lot of ketones via fat digestion which your brain can then burn for hours
- The fat in the coffee encapsulates the caffeine so you get a more gradual release of caffeine into your system rather than a rush
The recipe is simple
- 16oz of coffee (I prefer a dark roast but make sure it’s high quality. Follow my guide on French Press to make a great base)
- 2 Tablespoons of butter (make sure it is grass-fed, like Kerrygold)
- 2 Tablespoons of MCT oil
- A couple grinds of salt (preferably Himalayan, definitely improves the taste)
A word of warning: when you first start this I would highly recommend dialing back the amount of MCT oil to 1 Tbs or less. Going straight for 2 Tbs will almost certainly cause some bowel distress, especially if you are new to burning ketones for energy.
I have tweaked this recipe to accommodate new products as they come onto the market to really optimize my results from it.
There are three things which I think are worth mentioning:
- Brain Octane Oil
- A smaller chain triglyceride that is more rapidly broken down into ketones. For me, it seems to give a more powerful kickstart to my thinking. I would recommend it, but it certainly isn’t necessary
- Emulsified MCT oil
- This is a new product that I just had delivered and I think that it is fantastic. I prefer adding the vanilla flavored one to my coffee to make it a bit more palatable.
- Kimera Koffee
- This coffee can be found on Amazon and comes with added nootropics (focus supplements). In terms of coffee it is ok, but it comes preground which puts me off a bit. However, I don’t like using my nice coffee beans to make BPC with so I gave this a try. I would say that it is definitely effective and an interesting modification to my standard BPC recipe. You can definitely taste the nootropics. It’s an interesting product but I probably won’t stick with it.
This is a nootropic, or a supplement which increases focus. I do not use this every day as there is some stuff floating out there which suggests that there is some diminishing returns when taken every day. And, frankly, if you structure your working hours correctly you shouldn’t have to rely on it.
I use it on days when I have a lot of work to do and I can’t slow down after lunch. I take it after lunch because I know that that’s when I really begin to taper and the Alpha Brain works to counteract that.
This is the most important part of my focus routine. Without it, I would absolutely burn out. There comes a time every day when I just put my work down and go relax. For me, I play video games or read a book. It helps me to disconnect and indulge in the things that I love.
I also take time every morning to go for a walk. This helps me to focus my mind on the day ahead and really be prepared for what is coming.
Finally, I take Sunday off every week. Regardless of what needs to get done I give myself one day a week to not care about it at all. By doing this I feel recharged on Monday and I am ready to tackle another week full of work.
This is how I keep my focus on track and produce results every week. I hope there are some things which you can take and apply in your own life.