I wanna give you some practical life and productivity hacks that can help empower you!
Needless to say, this stuff ain’t guaranteed to work for you. It works for me — so pick and choose the parts you find interesting, and throw away the rest.
This is a controversial point; I don’t check or use my email 99.99% of the time. Even my good friends and family can’t really contact me via email (I’m sorry guys, I love you)– but for myself, I’m greedy/selfish enough that my own creative output/focus is not worth the potential distraction of email.
The word ‘distraction’ means to “scatter”. To scatter your attention and focus. Honestly if I were a kid in today’s school system, some teacher would probably put me on Ritalin and classify me as ADHD. I seriously have a hard time focusing. The only way I can focus is to RUTHLESSLY PRUNE AWAY/SUBTRACT distractions.
The biggest one was stopping to use email. Whenever possible, if I need to send files, I will use wetransfer.com (not to open up email, where it is a Pandora’s box), or use other ways to communicate with family (KakaoTalk messenger, the instant messaging chat that my family uses). So I can still communicate with family. Or sometimes for old-school communication, I’ll just use Google Hangouts Dialer or Skype to call international friends, family, etc.
I procrastinate checking/using email as much as humanly possible. And while I have lost a handful of good opportunities, I think not using email has been a ‘net positive’ — I have been so much more focused, productive, less anxious, and happier as a result.
Don’t eat breakfast or lunch (intermittent fasting)
I usually start off the day, walking across the street to the park on an empty stomach, and doing a ‘street gym’ workout. I do chinups until exhaustion, dips, and other fun jungle-gym moves.
I then go back to the hotel room, shower, and have a black coffee (with a ‘Clever Dripper’, and our beans that we get grinded for us at the local coffee shop). And if I’m really hungry, I’ll just drink 100% cocoa powder.
I don’t eat breakfast, and I forgo lunch. I ‘fast’ until dinner time, or for an early dinner at around 5-6pm (if I’m Uber-hungry). The secret is this: have a massive dinner the night before (TONS OF EGGS, fatty meats, and leafy veggies); and stick to a strict ketogenic diet to not put on adipose tissue (body fat). This means I’m usually satiated and not hungry until dinner the net day.
The benefit is this: I am insanely focused during the day; because I don’t let eating get in the way of me working on stuff. It is incredible how much time we waste during the day to plan, cook, and literally eat our food. And honestly, most of us are just eating food mindlessly, like cows, while looking at our phones.
To clarify, I’m not saying that you must intermittently fast; nor do you need to follow a ketogenic diet. I’ve just discovered it has worked for me, and has made me insanely productive– and I do believe if you try it out, it might work for you too.
I don’t own a phone. Cindy has a phone, but it has (for the most part) no data/phone plan. So when we are back in the states, we use it like a mini-tablet (when we have wifi, to pull up Google Maps instructions).
But for myself, I no longer own my ‘own’ phone. This has been the ultimate productivity hack. Why? Because the phone is the ultimate distraction, that prevents you from doing real, meaningful, and ‘productive’ work — which I consider writing poetry, making films, making photos, editing projects, etc.
However at the same time, I think the phone can be the ultimate content creation tool. I installed the WordPress App on Cindy’s phone (a Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, which I got for free from Samsung), and it has been a great blogging tool. But still, I can type far faster on my iPad or laptop )13” Macbook Pro, touch bar, 2017 maxed-out refurbished version).
I’m still not fully-decided on my opinions on phones; whether they give you a ‘net positive’ for productivity, or a ‘net negative’. I think my ideal ‘phone’ would just be an iPhone without the phone; essentially a mini-mini iPad Pro, because I do like typing on a phone to write blog posts (using the iAWRITER APP, and the Swiftkey keyboard). Also I can write while standing up, when I don’t hav access to a ‘standing desk’ == which is another life hack/productivity hack.
When I was 21 years old and got my first office job, sitting in a chair for 8 hours a day, I started to get massive lower back pain. I was like, WTF — I’, only 21 years old; why am I getting lower back pain?
Fast-forward, Cindy taught me about the ‘standing desk’ concept: to essentially NOT sit down when you’re working on a laptop or computer. So now whenever we do work at coffee shops, we always try to put our laptops on a counter, and stand when we’re working.
For me, standing while working has helped me become so much more productive. Wy? Well first fo all, no distractions from the pain of sitting. Secondly, when I’m standing, I feel more awake, aware, alert, and sharp. Thirdly, standing reminds me to stretch out my limbs, and go for occasional walks around the block when I’m tired.
Another variation is when I don’t have access to a standing desk, I will just stand and type using my iPad on portrait mode, with the default ‘split keyboard’ mode on the iPad Pro 10.5 inch. Also, I have been blogging with the IA WRITER APP on the Smartphone.
Coffee is the ultimate productivity hack; especially if you drink it all black, no milk, no sugar. It stimulates an adrenaline response in you, which gives you focus, energy, and a motivation to move, act, create,type, or do stuff.
Similar effects happen when Cindy and I consume 100% cocoa, with no sugar. We get the ‘Alluvia’ brand on Amazon.
Green tea or matcha is also good, when we’re just a little burnt out from drinking too much coffee. We discovered this when in UJI, Kyoto — Green tea still gives you that stimulation from the caffeine, yet a little more of a mellow buzz. We usually drink black coffee during the day, and stick to green tea in the late afternoon or evening.
This is a tip: either be insanely productive and focused on creating and making stuff, and doing stuff– or just take a nap and don;t do anything else. Don’t do busy work for the sake of busy work.
When I am tired or exhausted, I usually go for a walk, and will just snap some photos, make a video vlog , or just find a place to take a nap. When I cannot take a nap , I will just sit in a chair, close my eyes, crosss my arms, put in some earbuds or earplugs, and close my eyes for 5-10 minutes; just to give myself a mental reset.
When I wake up from the nap, O feel recharged, and ready to hustle some more.
I am most productive when working at a coffee house. Why? My theory is that it is a combination of the influx of people coming in and out, which adds variety to our eyes, the energetic and creative vibe you get from others, as well as being in a novel environment which is usually more interesting than your apartment or bedroom.
Nassim Taleb thinks we are more productive in coffee shops, because of ‘stochastic resonance‘; the little bit of distracting noise actually forces us to focus (read more in his book ANTIFRAGILE). I agree with this theory, because when I am working in a 100% quiet library, I actually have a harder time focusing, because it is too quiet.
This is so simple, but when you’re working on a laptop, hotkeys are key. It seriously speeds up my workflow to about 10x when compared to seeing other folks. It also helps that I can type without looking at the keyboard (I think my word per minute count is in the 130+ WPM range). I navigate in MACOS mostly with my keyboard, and use my trackpad to a minimum. I remember simple hotkeys to copy and paste, to close windows (command +W), to open new tabs (command + t), and the biggest hack:
When you’re not using a program or you’re done with a file, either close it or delete it.
Also in terms of organization, I treat my ‘Downloads’ folder as my scratch disk. This means whenever I’m working on a file, I keep it in my ‘;Download’ folder, but when I’ve finished using it (whether I uploaded it to my blog, or I’ve shared the file), I delete it with the hotkey (command + delete).
Ultimately, productivity isn’t just being a machine, and being able to screw more bulbs faster than the next guy. I think ‘productivity’ is your capacity for producing more creative stuff; whether it be photos, videos, writing, poetry, etc.
Also , I don’t think productivity should be a contest. What does it matter if someone can write 10,000 words a day, while you can only write 100 words a day? Writing poetry is far harder than writing nonfiction, yet they use fewer words.
Great photography projects generally have few photos (in the 40 photo range). Just because someone shoots 1 million photos on their iPhone doesn’t make them a better photographer, just because they produce more photos.
So the ultimate takeaway is this:
Productivity is maximizing your creative output on what really matters to you.
So avoid distractions that deter you from your own personal goals in your creative life. Ruthlessly prune what scatters your valuable attention, and never stop making, producing, and creating what you desire to see in the world.