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Ten Unconventional Productivity Tips That Got Me Back 10+ Hours a Week

by | Jul 4, 2022 | Life Hacks

My mother-in-law isn’t a dragon.

Phewww. We get on fine although she can’t speak a word of english. Yesterday she told me via my personal translator (my wife) what she got up to.

She started the day by getting up at 5 am to catch an early train — it’s free then because no one gets up that damn early. The train arrived on the other side of town 3 hours early.

Her appointment with the asian mattress company wasn’t until 10:30 am. Ooops. Excited to be in Australia, she goes on a bizarre walk.

A church on the way to nowhere is crowded with people. She goes in and sits down to see what’s going on, despite not being religious. The service starts.

Surprise! It’s a funeral.

Too scared to walk out halfway through for fear of being rude, she stays for the whole thing. Zero english is spoken. The body language and ceremony she observed were amazing though.

On her way out she collects a showbag full of goodies. Weird.

The walk strangely continues down an unsuspecting suburban street lined with gorgeous trees and perfectly mowed lawns.

A nice asian woman notices her gazing into the abyss and says “how are you?” in her native red flag language. She replies “fine” and starts to head over. They chat about life in Australia.

Turns out the woman has no children … and is battling cancer.

She’s invited inside her home. No stranger danger enters her mind. They go out to the backyard and pick vegetables.

She’s given a box to take home and some seedlings so she can grow her own (my mother-in-law lives in an apartment but is too polite to resist).

Hours later she comes home to tell the story. The reason she can spend her days living these weird encounters is because she isn’t overwhelmed by distractions.

Her productivity is A-grade so she can spend her time chasing randomness.

Oh, and she’s not afraid to embrace discomfort that gives a story she can tell for years and puts a giant smile on her face. I’m following her example.

Here are the tips my productivity tracker says save me roughly 10+ hours a week.

1. Become a distracted monkey

Wait, what?!

Productivity blogger Rochi Zalani introduced me to a badass idea: break up intense mental effort with distractions.

Now before you pistol whip me, what we’re talking about here isn’t just any normal distraction, like scrolling politics on TikTok until you create a doom loop. We’re talking about positive distractions.

Rochi suggests we have a list of positive distractions ready to go before we need them such as:

  • Ringing a friend
  • Going for a walk
  • Taking a 15-minute nap
  • Doing a paper crossword

When you take a break or feel overwhelmed, do one of these. Research shows positive distractions don’t ruin your productivity. They enhance it.

The right distractions 10x your productivity. Choose wisely.

2. More tabs equals more distractions

Having too many browser tabs open expands your attention until it snaps.

Don’t do it. It’s a trap.

I was a tab hoarder too, then I discovered OneTab. Now I save my tabs as if they’re gold bars. Yet 99.9% of the time I never open them again. Less tabs upgrade your attention so you can work more efficiently and save time.

3. Trade to-do lists for must-do lists

Too many people have way too many priorities. Priorities only work if you have a small handful.

Do this:

  • Write a ‘could-do’ to-do list
  • Turn the could-do list into a should-do list
  • Turn the should-do list into a MUST-DO list

The process of productivity curation helps flesh out the priorities and banish time wastage.

4. A 1-hour task for 10 extra hours during the week

The headline of this article promised 10 extra hours. Yet this one task can give you the entire time-saving in one hit.

This idea comes from my friend Eddy Quan. On Sunday night sit down and plan your upcoming week for an hour. (Honestly, I do it in 15 minutes). Write down everything you have to get done. Rank them in terms of priority.

Then each day let your plan act as a map. Plans require less decision-making, so you get more time and free up precious mental capacity.

5. Whip emails into line like a cowboy — yee-haw!

Giddy up horsy. Or ride me like a pony. (Sorry, had to.)

Email can make or break your week.

If email wins you become a prisoner of your day. “Steal Like An Artist” author Austin Kleon taught me a simple trick: Schedule emails to get sent in advance during work times.

That way you won’t wake up to an inbox full of broken dreams.

Pro tip: Most emails generate a reply. So send less emails to get less replies.

6. Do one big thing per day

Rather than do hundreds of tiny tasks, just do one big one. That’s what’ll get you progress and help to make the day feel successful.

7. The productivity paradox

It’s hard to be successful if you only work when you feel like it.

The paradox of productivity is to get good at working when you don’t feel like it. Even if the output is lower it’s okay. What I find is when I don’t want to work (or write) and I sit down to do it, the feeling goes away.

My mind is so primed to do what I do for a living that muscle memory takes over after about 15 minutes of pushing sh*t uphill.

8. The greatest productivity lie in history

“I need more time, sir.”

I get this all the time with students who want to join my academy. They say there’s no time. Yet this is a lie. We all have the same 24 hours in a day.

When you find yourself thinking you need more time remind yourself that what you actually need is more focus.

“No time” = “this goal isn’t a priority”

Don’t waste time trying to do tasks that aren’t a priority. You’ll get more dividends from your time when you focus on what is a priority.

9. Tasks get bigger the longer you leave them sit

A small task today can grow into a giant boulder tomorrow.

Rather than let tasks sit and overthink them, just decide. Decisions remove tasks and they’re often best made at the moment a task enters your inbox.


10. Get most of your work done outside of work

Wait, what?! That doesn’t sound like productivity Timbo.

Listen up. The most productive work you’ll ever do in your life is to solve problems. Finance author Morgan Housel says problems require deep thinking time.

Many of us only take holidays once or twice a year. So we’re only reaching our true productive potential once or twice a year. What a tragedy.

Creativity and critical thinking must have uninterrupted focus. Activities that allow the mind to focus include bike riding, washing the dishes, sitting on the beach, or getting lost in nature without a phone.

Get away from work to do the real work.

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