The Easiest Productivity “Hack” ever
A few days ago, a friend texted me asking what’s the best productivity tool I’ve used. Like a lot of people, I’ve been a “productivity nerd” & tried to optimise my “system” in order to get the maximum output from my 24 hours.
This journey has essentially followed the mid-wit meme template : starting out writing things on a notepad & doing them, no productivity hacks. The middle was a complex relationship between Trello, Zapier, Things, Todoist, Apple reminders, Notes, Evernote, Goodnotes & Fantastical. Somewhere at the end of that cycle, I found Notion & adapted it to a simple kanban board, Apple Calendar & a daily handwritten to-do list. I’ve been using this for a few months & I think this this might be the one. (I’ve often thought this is it but this time, I really do think this is it)
But telling him about my system, got me thinking. Since I’ve moved out of the music business & come to the tech world, I’ve had to drastically up my productivity game because
- I’m new to this field & there’s a lot I want to learn & explore.
- The amount of things to be done across multiple areas is massive (I’m impatient with my actions & just want to do, do, do)
Upon deeper thought, I think the most underrated & ignored productivity tool is regulation of the self. Listening to what your body is trying to tell you, is a pretty good way of being “productive”, all without to do lists or Kanban Boards.
The way I usually end up doing this is by paying attention to how I feel after doing the thing in question. With regular check ins, I’ve been able to understand how tasks make me feel & while it might feel slightly robotic, it does help with productivity & a generally happier “work” life.
When you do your check ins, in all probability you’ll be feeling something between the 4 states below;
- Physically & mentally drained
- Mentally drained but physically active
- Physically drained but mentally active
- Physically & mentally active
Somewhere between 3 & 4 is the sweet spot : activities & tasks that leave you mentally & emotionally charged but depending on the type of activity, physically drained or charged. For instance, the feeling after a good workout. Or finishing a particularly rigorous Sudoku or Wordle. As you start noticing more of the things in your day that leave you in between spectrum 3 & 4, you can start optimising for them. Does waking up early land in the quadrant? Does writing? What about cooking a meal? And meeting people? Which people?
Like all rules, this doesn’t have to be hard and fast. There could be things that could leave you energised on one day & exhausted the other. On a long enough time frame, where does the scale tip?
If you can start optimising your day to have more of these activities, there’s a good chance you’ll find yourself more productive, simply by doing things that you enjoy doing more. Obviously, there are the usual caveats & we can’t ALWAYS be doing these things. There will be certain “have-to’s” (taxes, social obligations, dealing with traffic) and it’s okay, because a little bit of friction is a part of the human experience.