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Any productivity author who claims they’re productive 100% of the time is full of it.
Since my book, The Productivity Project, came out, I’ve been fortunate to participate in a lot of interviews surrounding this project. A question I get asked quite a bit by interviewers and readers alike is this: do I still follow the advice I dole out in the book? Or have some habits come unstuck since my project?
As a follower of this blog, you’ve probably read about my failings in the past, like my experiments to wake up at 5:30 every morning and to eat only “soylent” for a week. But in the off chance you think I’m becoming some sort of infallible creature, I wanted to put this article together to show that nothing could be further from the truth.
It’s not that I don’t follow the advice that I give: I do—just not all the time. If I had to wager a guess, I’d say I follow nearly all of my advice, 90% of the time. But like most people, I find some productivity tactics tougher than others.
Here are five things that hinder my own productivity, and how I combat them!
1. Shut off every distraction around you
Each day I make an effort to shut off the distractions around me: email notifications, social media alerts, and other interruptions. But sometimes, like when I’m waiting on an urgent email or resisting doing an aversive task, I slip and turn on email notifications or open Twitter.
The reason we fall victim to distractions is simple: in that moment, distractions become simple tasks that are more attractive to us than our work. When our willpower is low, we slip.
My solution to this is simple: allow myself to be distracted, but only for so long. If I’m waiting on an important email, I’ll decide to check notifications on my phone–but only until I receive that important response. If I’m working on an aversive task, I’ll set a timer and let myself get distracted by tweets and Instagram updates for that set period. But once that timer rings, I’ll go back to working as I did before—undistracted.
2. Eat for productivity
I’m a big fan of eating clean-burning foods for productivity. I eat a massive chicken caesar salad when I wake up in the morning. As an extra energy boost, I drink green tea and a couple tablespoons of chia seeds mixed with water before I work out. I love how productive these foods make me—but at the same time, wine and Indian food are pretty great sometimes, too.
My solution: I allow myself to eat whatever I want during one day of the week. As the week progresses, I record all the crap I want to eat on a list, and pick a few things to eat during my binge day. Pre-deciding when I’m going to break my rule of eating for productivity allows me to better deal with cravings.
3. Check email only once a day
I have two work email accounts: one that I post publicly, and a second secret email that filters messages coming from the people I work with daily. On the email address I post publicly, I have an autoresponder that says I only check messages once a day, at 3 p.m., but that isn’t always true. Often when boredom strikes or I’m resisting an aversive task, I slip.
My solution: I’ve created a complicated, 30-character password for the account that’s a pain to type and remember. It’s a tiny hurdle, but I find that the annoyance of typing this password is usually enough to keep me focused on what’s important. Not always, but most of the time.
4. Get enough social interaction
It’s kind of crazy how much more motivated, productive, and happy I am when I get ample social interaction. This isn’t always easy. I work for myself, often at home, on a lot of solo-work (like writing), and compared to most people, I’m relatively introverted.
My solution: I work social interaction into my day in some simple way—like visiting the same gym every morning to get to know the same people; working at coffee shops when I have the flexibility to do so; scoping out local co-working spaces; and making sure I spend extra time with people outside of work to compensate.
5. Drink caffeine strategically
I strongly believe it’s worth drinking caffeine strategically, instead of habitually, in order to become more productive. Sometimes that’s easier said than done, though, especially during busier weeks.
My solution: I take the advice I write about a couple weeks back, and reset my caffeine tolerance. Doing so can be a pain, but it works wonders for getting back on track!