Productivity or how to make more time

Many of my students complaint that they do not have time to read. Being more effective than most people I thought I escaped this destiny, but this month I find myself out of time all the time… I read this blog and decided to write down what in the list (or its exact opposite) works for me.  My time management is still imperfect, and I am super-effective with learning skills, so there is a lot of place for improvement.


Time, energy, and attention hacks to be more productive


How you manage your time is a huge contributor to how productive you are, but all three ingredients are absolutely essential if you want to be productive on a daily basis. That’s why there are a bunch of tactics that cover all three areas in this article. You absolutely need all three ingredients to be productive.


Hacks to get more time

1. Schedule less time for tasks. Forces productivity and creativity and generates some motivational stress. To make this method work I always leave “filler up” times to finish the activities that are harder to complete.

2. Say no to commitments that zap you of your time, energy, and attention. The best way to get more time is to not introduce unproductive activities into your life in the first place. Be assertive. Does not work that well when married with children, but I honestly try.

3. Remember that “perfect is the enemy of good.” Know when to stop. Get feedback as soon as possible – and stop if the feedback is good enough or bad enough

4. Have a maintenance dayGroup all of your “maintenance tasks” (laundry, groceries, cleaning, watering plants, etc.) together on one day of the week.  Friday morning…

5. Work no more than 35 hours a week. Studies show that to be the most productive and creative, you should work 35 hours a week. There is a way around it: having several highly different “work” activities, less than 30 hours each.

6. Speed-writing. There is actually a way to write extremely fast, not only learn extremely fast. I tried to teach it once. Maybe I will put some lecture notes in this blog.

7. Reuse everything. There is no reason to reinvent when you already found a similar solution once. Superlearner memory really helps here.

8. NEVER Track how you spend your time on the computer. This is counter-intuitive. Some procrastination helps with creativity. Allow yourself to be bored, and then activate the best ideas.

9. Always do the work that you like. Usually it is easier just to hire someone to do the job I really hate. Cheaper and better than doing it myself. Otherwise the interest needs to be generated, and this is effort-intensive.

Hacks to spend time on the right things

0. Research everything. The more I know the faster and better I learn, less mistakes I make, more creative my solutions are,

1. Determine your highest-leverage activities. Make a list of all of the activities you’re responsible for in your work, then ask: if you could only do three of those activities all day long, which ones would you pick? These are the three activities you should invest 80–90% of your time into.

2. Shrink how long you’ll do something until you no longer feel resistance to it. This is a great way to integrate new habits into your life. Breaking tasks into smaller tasks until these tasks are fun is a good way to do things.

3. Work on tasks that are important, but not urgent. Every day, do at least one task that is important but not urgent, try to group all the urgent tasks in 45 min multiples.

4. For each 45 min of work take 15 min of rest. There are other distributions like 20min/5min or 90min/45min based on the amount of uninterrupted “flow”  time you need. Amazing what you can learn near water cooler.

5. Make lists when I do not know what to do. Then go over old lists for ideas. To do lists, procrastination lists, bucket lists, fun lists, lists of lists – they really relax my brain from holding too much info.

6. Live by the two-minute rule. The two-minute rule (from David Allen’s Getting Things Done system) says that when a task will take you less than two minutes, just do it—don’t add it to your to-do list or capture it for later.

7. Determine the very next thing you need to do by looking out for four things: the context you’re in (work, home, cottage, etc.), how much time you have, how much energy you have, and what your highest-leverage tasks are. Basically I look through some of my prioritized lists and do what I find most “fun” to do right away.

8. Be mindful of basically everything. Energy, attention, focus, physical status, how I sit and breath. The idea is to focus on one of those every couple of minutes randomly.

9. Schedule time when you completely disconnect from your work. When you completely disconnect from your work, your mind continues to process your work, but in the background while you do other things. Having a wife and 3 kids helps here.

10. Spend more time planning. For every minute you plan, you save five minutes in execution. When all you do is execute and you never step back from your work to plan, it’s difficult to work smarter.

11. Know what people are really saying when they say, “I don’t have time for that.” When someone says they don’t have time for something, it’s not a statement about their quantity of time, but how important a task is to them. I hold “nagging” lists where  I keep tasks that are not important.

Body hacks

I am really neglecting myself here. Should be a wake-up call.

0. Meditation. Before going to bed or after rising up for at least 15 min each time. Or after exercise. Whenever I am truly alone. Having 3 kids I am never alone…

1. Exercise(Source.) I used to do sport 45 min daily, weight-lift 3 days a week and walk for 2 more days. Dancing during weekends was also very good.

2. Eat better. What you eat has a huge effect on your energy levels. Vegetables should be the main part of the diet. I used to make my own sushi and misu soup and some other stuff. Now I just try to choose a healthy option from the menu.

3. Stop drinking caffeine habitually. Up to 3 cups daily are good. I detox occasionally, but it is really hard to be caffeine-free for long. I guess I am an addict. I am glad that is coffee and not something much worth, like sugar.

4. Drink more water. I drink kind of too much water, but sometimes I forget to drink for hours and end up with a headache.

5. Get enough sleep. Sleep boosts your concentration, attention, decision-making skills, creativity, social skills, and health, and decreases mood fluctuations, stress, anger, and impulsiveness. I found that strategically placed 20 min naps really help.

6. No alcohol. I drink sometimes with family and friends, usually once a month, usually red wine.

7. Set your office thermostat between 70º–72ºF (21–22ºC). This is the temperature that will make you the most productive. I do not use air conditioning at home to save energy.

8. Calculate your “Biological Prime Time (the time of the day you’re the most productive) by charting your energy levels every day for a week. I try to do my work between 9:30-11:30, 14:30-16:30,   18:00-19:30… When I am low on energy I read like 2 hours daily or make lists of everything.

9. Smile! Smiling boosts your immunity, makes you happier, helps you deal with stress and focus on the bigger picture, makes others trust you more, and of course, feels great. I am doing this more than I used to.

10. Faking powerful body language:  reduces stress and makes you more confident. I do it at least each our and it make a huge effort.

11. Decorate your office . Bring small things from home to feel more cosy.

12. Limit your exposure to blue light before bed. Exposing yourself to too much blue light (from your smartphone, tablet, or computer) before bed is detrimental to your sleep. I sleep well, so I ignore this rule.

13. Expose yourself to more natural light. Natural light helps you sleep better, reduces your stress levels, increases your energy levels, and allows you to focus better. Sitting near window helps.



Mind hacks

0. Superlearning. This in itself includes hundreds of hacks.

1. Make changes automatic through habits. I think making new behaviours automatic is the key to making them stick.

2. Start very small. I think one of the keys to becoming more productive is to simply make one small change at a time. The smaller the change you try to make to your life, the more likely you’ll actually make it.

3. Be mindful of when you’re needlessly hard on yourself. According to David Allen, who wrote Getting Things Done, 80% of what you say to yourself in your head is negative. Watch out for when you’re needlessly hard on yourself, so you can have fun on your journey to become more productive. A feedack from a friend, a spouse, a professional really helps.

4. Make more friends at the office. Office friendships increase your job satisfaction by an average of 50%, make you seven times more engaged at work, and make you 40% more likely to get a promotion! I am not after promotion, but I really enjoy having friends.

5. Lower your expectations. This may sound like strange advice, but lowering your expectations makes you more confident, and lets you relax, have more fun, and not worry about proving yourself to others. There are whole nations whose happiness is driven by low expectations.

6. Use visualizations to become more productive.

7. Seek out conflict instead of pushing it away. Balance is very important. Conflict over specific details in implementation – not world view or personality.


8. Every day, recall three things you’re grateful for. This trains your brain to “retain a pattern of scanning the world not for the negative, but for the positive first,” making you more energetic, happier, and more productive. I really want to start doing this, but I come with the same things every time (kids, job I like etc)… I do it when driving to work.

9. Every day, journal one great experience you had“Journaling one positive experience you’ve had over the past 24 hours allows your brain to relive it,” which energizes you and makes you more energetic and happy. Hm… I should start doing this.

10. Procrastinate every once in a while. No one is a robot, and you shouldn’t take becoming more productive too seriously. I tried to be significantly more efficient once, but found myself too tired to do anything.

Manage your attention

1. Meditate. Meditation is the art of continually bringing your attention back to a single object. Works well with visualization, can be done when exercising,  boosts creativity…

2. Smart multitasking. Multitasking is terrible for your focus and productivity, and it makes you more prone to errors, affects your memory, and even adds stress to your life. Being focused on a single task for too long is also bad for you. Choosing the right time to switch tasks is an art I am trying to master.

3. Do not relive experiences over and over. Move on, go with the flow.


4. Keep a list of everything you’re waiting on, to make sure nothing slips through the cracks, and so you can worry a lot less about the people and things you need to stay on top of.

5. Start a mind capture ritual. Shut everything off, set a timer for 15 minutes, and lay down with a blank notepad and a pen. More lists to clear away your mental clutter.


6. “Clear to neutral. Whenever you finish an activity, physically walk away and walk back when ready to do next activity.

7. Slow down. It is fairly easy to switch your mind to autopilot and then bounce around from one distraction to the next. Slow down and do things deliberately to manage your attention better and become more productive. Alternatively speed up and jump over all the distractions back to focus.


8. Resist temptation by rehearsing how you’ll act ahead of time. To focus on the long-term instead of short-term temptations, rehearse a situation in your head ahead of time (e.g. not stopping at McDonald’s on your way home).



9. To get into a flow state (that magical place where you’re completely absorbed in what you’re doing), do activities that pose a challenge roughly equal to your skill level.

10. Do less. When you spread your attention, energy, and time over fewer activities, you bring more to everything you do, and achieve a whole lot more.

Focus on the right things

1. Keep a list of outcomes you want to accomplish (not to-dos; actual outcomes). When you limit yourself to just three outcomes, you force yourself to prioritize and focus on what’s actually important. I prefer to keep long-term list, like 3 months into the future.

2. Instead of focusing on doing more things, focus on doing the right things. Find tasks that are aligned with what you care about, so you know why you want to accomplish the things you’re doing. Also very important to know stopping criteria for each thing: when to call it success or failure.

3. Develop a “growth mindset. According to research, the main quality that separates successful people from unsuccessful people is whether they think their intelligence and abilities are fixed. Superlearners have no such problem, but there are still skills and tasks which I find frightening. Once in a while I face my fears, but typically I prefer to walk away and save energy.

4. Get in touch with your future self. People often think of their present and future selves as completely different people. Combat this trap by creating a future memory, sending a message to your future self, or imagining your future self. Do not overdo – you will never be able to predict the future correctly.

5. Create a “mindless list.” Accumulate a list of the mindless activities you do (laundry, cleaning, etc.), and do them all at once as an exercise and recreation from mental activity.

6. Ask yourself for advice. Advice is cheap, but often the advice you should pay the most attention to is the advice you can give yourself.

7. Make your goals S.M.A.R.T.erIf you want to set better goals, make sure your goals are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time based. This will make it much easier for you to define and achieve them.


8. Identify your keystone habits. Keystone habits change and rearrange your other habits as you integrate them into your life. A few examples: cooking, developing relationships with your partner/friends, and waking up early.


9. Reward yourself. Adopting new behaviors and habits is difficult, but providing yourself with rewards for following through with new behaviors has been shown to help you solidify new habits.

10. Anticipate obstacles to new habits. When you integrate new habits into your life, make sure you look out on the horizon for any obstacles or commitments that might get in the way of you forming new habits.



11. Always work with a specific purpose in mind. Intention behind your actions is like wood behind an arrow, and when you continually question the purpose of what you’re doing, you can make sure your actions are aligned toward a purpose that’s meaningful to you.

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