Ironically, for the past year or so I’ve had a note on my to-do list to write out my favourite productivity tips.
To my credit, I’ve been jotting down additional notes and ideas as they come. The result is the article below, which is a fairly broad list of productivity tips. I arranged these tips in rough order from the greatest productivity gains to the least, and in categories based on the type of system.
If you have great productivity hacks or productivity tips of your own, let me know and I’ll include them here. I’ll also add more of my own ideas later, similar as I do for the life lessons article.
Table of Contents
- Let the world adapt to you.
When most people go to restaurants, the server offers you a menu and some time to review it. When other folks go, they say "would you like the usual?" The latter is an example of the world adapting to you. If you organize your life around repetition then you can unlock this productivity gain too.Added: 2018
- Categorize must-dos, should-dos and could-dos.
Your highest priority tasks are "must-dos", followed by "should-dos" and "could-dos." If you put your tasks in the right category then you can get more important tasks done (leaving the shoulds and coulds for later). Small example: for 30+ years I thought of flossing as a should-do and didn't floss often, then I re-categorized it as a must-do and I've flossed every day since.Added: 2018
- Master meta pattern recognition.
After billions of years and billions of people, very little that happens is genuinely new. Most people can recognize simple patterns, like a series of odd numbers or that Apple always releases a better device soon after you bought a new one. However, even major events are often repetitions. Example: the Great Recession starting in 2007, the Great Depression of the 1930s and the Great Panic(s) of the 1800s were all essentially the same economic event, with their greatest differences in magnitude. Yet, each time this downturn happens we pretend it's something new. You can make massive productivity gains by recognizing meta patterns.Added: 2018
- Choose the right role models.
Some folks choose role models that aren't that much better at life than you, so if you want to be high performing then find role models that are objectively high performers.Added: 2018
- Make an ambitious plan and then do it faster.
You could call this the Elon Musk Rule. Musk sets ambitious goals, like going to Mars, pushes his team for an aggressive timeline, and then pushes them to achieve it even faster. You can do the same with your goals: make a six month plan and then get it done in three.Added: 2018
- Goal Automations
Perhaps the most powerful automations are those which help you achieve a goal. For example: Hamilton is the hottest show on Broadway and tickets regularly go for $500+ each, however there is also a daily lottery for $10 front-row tickets. I built an automation that runs in the background and enters the lottery each day, and so far it has won twice.Added: 2018
- Maintenance Automations
These automations can help you optimize what happens around you. Example: I use smart plugs on some of my devices. My internet router shuts off at 1 AM and turns back on when I wake up, and my air filter shuts off when I leave the house and turns back on when I come home. Another example is creating a simple app that clears all screenshots off your desktop at the end of each day.Added: 2018
- Financial Automations
You could categorize these productivity tips as goal or maintenance automations, but I prefer to separate them because financial automation is a big category of its own. Examples of financial automations: setting up bill pay for your rent, and automatic payment of utilities.Added: 2018
Noise Reduction 💬
- Relentlessly filter your inbox.
Most people get a lot of junky-mail, which they may not even read. Unsubscribe from everything you are never going to read again, and setup filters to tag and archive stuff you might get to later. You can also setup a filter for the word "unsubscribe" to filter out junk and future junk (shout out to Wade Foster, CEO of Zapier, for this one). Another example: many people in Mexico have a similar email address as me, and use mine by mistake, so I do broad filters based on a number of common Spanish words as well.Added: 2018
- Block review requests.
Everything from Plants vs. Zombies to FB Messenger ask you to review the app, and most people choose not to review. You can actually turn off ALL future review requests so that you never see them. On iPhone: Settings -> Your Name -> iTunes & App Store -> switch In-App Ratings & Reviews to off.Added: 2018
- Stop password store requests.
Depending on your computer setup, you may get multiple requests to remember your password every time you signup or login to a site (LastPass, Chrome, etc.). If you don't use a password storage option, then turn if off. Example: you can turn these notifications off in Chrome on a Mac by going to Preferences -> Advanced -> Passwords and forms.Added: 2018
Apps & Extensions 💾
There are a number of apps that block ads and similar scripts on sites you visit. Install these once and you can skip all ads on Youtube, news sites, etc.Added: 2018
Setup rules to block your device or browser from visiting certain sites like Facebook and Reddit. On an iPhone this feature is available in Settings -> General -> Restrictions and then set Websites to "Limit Adult Content", which is the only option to add specific websites to block. On your desktop browser there are various options, and I use one called BlockSite.Added: 2018
- Kill News Feed
Login to Facebook without seeing the News Feed. Kill News Feed is available on Chrome and will help you kick your addiction to checking for status updates.Added: 2018
This is one of my favourite apps ever, because you can copy multiple items to your clipboard and then scroll through them to choose which to paste. This ability is super useful for writing code, developing websites, editing copy, etc. If you don't like JumpCut, there are other clipboard managers available.Added: 2018
This app lets you type a few characters and output formatted text. For example, when I type "ddate" it outputs today's date. You can use this app for productivity gains on anything you type often. Other examples include ":wave:" to produce the 👋 emoji or ":sales:" to output an entire sales email.Added: 2018
- Send to Kindle
Sometimes I open articles but don't want to read them right now. I use Send to Kindle to get these articles out of my tabs and onto my "read later" list.Added: 2018
Other Productivity Tips 💡
- Get on the out-rhythm.
Many people do things at the same time and in a similar way. One of the largest productivity gains you can make is getting on the out-rhythm. When everyone else is commuting in traffic, you are already where you need to be. When they are going on vacation, you don't. Bonus: in addition to saving time, you often save money and have better experiences. The main prerequisite to the out-rhythm is control of your time. IMO, the most accessible way for most people to get this control is to work remotely, followed by building your own business and investing.Added: 2018
- Wear a digital watch.
I've heard that wearing an Apple Watch can improve productivity because you look at your phone less. IMO a cheap digital watch is enough, like the $8 Casio I bought on Amazon. In addition to checking time on the watch instead of my phone, I also use the stopwatch function to time various exercises and it helps me coordinate meetup times on cruises.Added: 2018
- Let someone watch you work.
Years ago, I was co-working with a friend and he said "I'd guess you could go 25% faster if you used a mouse instead of the trackpad." He was 100% right. I expect a mouse would help most people work faster at the computer, but the meta lesson here is that another perspective may see massive productivity gains that you are missing.Added: 2018
- If you wake up early and don't use your time well, you may be behind the person that sleeps in and does.
This one may be obvious, but if your goal is to get more done then just waking up early isn't enough. If you don't use this morning time well then you are probably better off sleeping more.Added: 2018
- Turn down most phone calls.
Sales people are always asking for phone calls, even after you say email only. Scheduling calls for a service you are unlikely to buy is a waste of time, and it's worse when its a sales call in disguise. Instead, say "hey, before we do a call can you please send a short summary of what you do, the benefit to me, and approximate pricing?"Added: 2018
- Loop Youtube
I listen to the same songs over and over on Youtube. This habit was very disruptive, because every three or four minutes I would switch tabs to restart the song. Then I learned you can loop any Youtube video by right clicking the video and selecting "loop."Added: 2018
- Remove Unused Features
To the extent software allows you to remove features you aren't using, do so. At the very least you should get fewer notifications and maybe not see the feature in the menu. One of my favourite gains was turning off photo icons and "automatically load remote images" on my email client, which makes the whole thing feel INSTANT instead of a slight lag that I wasn't previously aware of.Added:
I update this article at least 1x per year. If you’d like a notification when I update it next then enter your email here.