A Few Elementary Productivity Tips
I’m no productivity monster, but I know a thing or two about doing things, and am after all able to write a blog post a week, make music and read some while working a fairly demanding full-time job. (It helps, of course, to have, when times are busy, low enough standards that one is ok with publishing a post as lazy as this one.) Even if that does qualify me as a giver of advice, given that I do nearly all of my work in front of one or another computer, I should be frank and admit that that’s the only sort of productivity with which I have much experience. If your life goal is to go on a Lord of the Rings tour in New Zealand, commune with the ghost of Nietzsche or ascend to heaven as the rapture envelops us all, you need to go somewhere else for advice. But if your life goal will involve a lot of button-mashing and screen-staring, you may be in luck.
When I write “productivity”, by the way, what I mean is progress made on medium- and long-term goals per unit of time. Not per unit of time that you are engaged in productive activities, but per unit of time that you would like to be so engaged. So if you’d like to write that blog post or read that book, but keep getting distracted by your phone, then you are not productive. But if you have decided to allow yourself to spend the evening binge watching a TV show or going to a bar, then you are neither productive nor unproductive (unless doing those things furthers one of your long-term goals).
It follows that there are two ways of becoming more productive:
- Getting more work done per unit of time you spend engaged in an activity.
- Spending more of the time you have apportioned (or would like to apportion) to an activity, actually engaged in that activity.
Because (1) depends on the nature of the activity, I will limit myself to some basic advice on (2):
- Never keep a phone within reach of wherever you sit or lie down. And while you’re at it, keep your phone on Do Not Disturb to avoid being interrupted by notifications. (Friends can call twice to get through.)
- Use LeechBlock or a similar tool to block or limit the viewing time of certain websites during working hours. Good candidates are news sites, social media sites and video platforms. (This will not always work, and it will never work perfectly, but the goal here is to slowly modify your habits and instincts.)
- Delete your social media accounts, or at least delete their apps from your phone and limit their viewing time on your computer (using a tool like LeechBlock).
- If you have spare money, buy yourself time. For example, I buy meal replacements from Jimmy Joy (other options include Soylent and Huel), which I usually have for breakfast and lunch. (We always cook and eat a proper meal for dinner.) This way I can end my workday sooner. Another way would be to buy groceries online. (You can find more advice in this vein here.)
- If you can’t concentrate because of pain or headaches, remember that you are allowed to take painkillers. This sounds (and is) obvious, but I think I was too conservative with painkillers for a long time, and it cost me many days of basically not being able to do anything useful.