I want to give you a distillation of all of the current life hacks, productivity hacks, and random creativity hacks I have– which have helped me (and which I hope can help you!)
First of all, when you’re creating, you want to flow– like water. You want to enter into a creative state of ‘flow’ (study more on this topic from psychologist Mihalay C.)
The basic idea is that you want to flow like water//let your creative stuff out of you, with as little friction as possible. Let your ideas, art, music, poetry flow out of you like water.
For example, when I write, I write in a ‘stream of consciousness’. It is a stream (like water) of ideas that flow from my finger-tips, onto the digital screen. It helps that I can type 140+ words per minute (if you want to flow more in writing, get really good at typing without looking at your fingers, and memorize the keys).
Another random life hack: sometimes the best writing can be done on your phone. I’ve written a lot on my phone and iPad using the ‘iA Writer‘ app (in focus mode), where I can get into a zen-zone, and not get distracted.
TUNE OUT DISTRACTIONS
The secret on ‘focusing’ is not to force yourself to focus, but to simply tune out/subtract/remove distractions.
Things I have done to cut out my personal distractions:
1. Do work with headphones on, with a simple song (or playlist/album) on loop.
Try to experiment using noise-cancelling headphones (like the BOSE QC-series).
2. Turn off the internet:
Turn off wifi on your laptop, phone, or go into ‘airplane mode’. For extreme measures, use the ‘Freedom‘ app to literally shut off the internet and block yourself out of it for certain hours at a time.
3. Use Safari (not chrome).
This is my theory: Google Chrome was built (and is optimized) for advertisements from Google. I don’t have anything morally/ethically against advertising, but I hate ads because I find them distracting. Safari was built for the user (not ads). There are innovative functions like the ‘reader’ function in Safari that strips away the columns and distracting site elements of a website, which gives you a zen, focused experience:
Not only that, but the following Extensions are essential:
- Shut up (turns off comments on popular websites)
- Facebook demetricator (turns off the numbers of notifications on Facebook)
- 1Blocker (adblocker, but paid)
- Adblock ultimate (use the ‘block site element function’ to further remove distractions on popular websites)
- Google Clean urls (easier to copy and paste websites from Google)
- Facebook news feed eradicator (don’t get distracted from the newsfeed)
Take naps when you are tired. Put on some earplugs (I recommend the ‘Hearos’ from Amazon), and a face mask.
When you’re awake, drink lots of black coffee (cold brew from Starbucks, all black) or espresso (at home, or at hipster coffee shops). Drink a lot of water as well.
I personally don’t eat breakfast or lunch; only a massive dinner. I usually break my fast at around 4-6pm, and eat until I sleep (usually 10pm-midnight).
If I worked out during the day, or am massively hungry, I will try to prolong my fast by eating some almonds, cacao nibs (a good stimulant), or a little spoonful of coconut oil (not too much, or you will get stomach cramps).
The benefit of this: less ‘food coma’ during the day, and more energy to do creative work.
Workout as a break
If you’re doing a lot of creative work and have hit a mental block, go for a walk around the block, or go to the gym. Don’t treat it like “exercise” — treat it like a zen meditation experience.
For example at the gym, I put on headphones, bring my old iPod Nano (no phone to get distracted), and “zen out” to doing deadlifts, squats, dumbbell presses, chin-ups, or I just walk around the gym and enjoy people-watching.
In the past to take breaks from work I would just browse blogs, websites, check my email, or do random stuff. I’ve found a much better break that recharges me to be a physical one, that includes movement, lifting heavy stuff, and changing up my physical environment.
Standing desk / crouching desk
I always try to do work on a standing desk. When I don’t have one, I just put my laptop on top of a chair or elevated surface, and crouch down (like an asian ‘kimchi’ squat) and do work.
Why? It reminds me to move my legs. I get tired after standing for a while, and then end up taking a break, stretching, and moving my legs. Same goes when I’m crouching.
When you’re sitting at a desk, you forget to move. And I used to get massive back pain from sitting at desks. The only solution: Don’t sit anymore. I’ve had no back pain ever since.
Also another tip: the best back-strengthening-stretching exercise are ‘hindu pushups’ or ‘dive-bombers’. I always do them before squats/deadlifts, and haven’t had any injuries as a result. Also they were essential to building up the strength in my back, to get rid of my lower-back pain.
Take screenshots while you’re watching great films/movies
I’ve been studying a lot of cinematography and being super-inspired by watching movies on my laptop and taking screenshots whenever I like a scene (Shift+Command+3). I’ve been using Photoshop to analyze the compositions after-the-fact.
For example in the films:
- The Epic Cinematography and Philosophy of 2001 Space Odyssey by Stanley Kubrick
- Lessons Ridley Scott Has Taught Me about Life, Art, and Cinema
Not only that, but I’ve set my desktop wallpaper to scroll through these movie screenshots every 5 seconds, for me to always find inspiration on my desktop.
Living without a phone
An experiment I’ve done recently: get rid of my phone, and see what life was like living without a phone — whether I could focus more, be less distracted, be less anxious, and whether I could be “happier” as a result.
After about 1.5 years without a phone, I can happily say: yes, living without a phone allows you to be less distracted, and more focused. And all things considered, I would say that NOT owning a phone is a “net positive” for me (weighing the downsides).
Cindy and I still have a phone that we share between ourselves (it is mostly ‘her’ phone): a Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, that doesn’t have a data or phone plan. So we kind of treat it like a mini-tablet; it is great for calling Uber, Google Maps (especially the offline function).
When I want music on the go, I use an old iPod Nano, which is less distraction, because I focus only on the music (not mindlessly getting lost in Spotify).
To call friends and family, we use ‘kakaotalk’ (the Korean Facebook messenger/whats app) on our laptop or phone.
But for my day-to-day living, I don’t own a phone. The majority of my creative work is now done on a MacBook laptop, or my 10.5 inch iPad Pro.
The ultimate and best life hack is memento mori ; remembering that you will (and must) die.
If you know you’re going to die, you’re not going to waste any time doing shit you don’t feel is important, significant, or purposeful in your life.
That means, less worrying about money, fame, status, etc. More focus on creative work that you find personally-meaningful and fulfilling, and sharing that work with others. It means you don’t want a billion followers, but just a small group of people to appreciate your work.
Just imagine: if you lived everyday like it were your last (like you would literally die in your sleep, tonight), what would you not do today?