How I Stay Productive

I’ve been playing with tools and methods on how to make myself stay productive.

I’ve noticed that being physically present at work doesn’t make me productive at all, so I started playing with tools and methods to see if I can change this, and long story short, it has.

This is a quick rundown on tools and explanations on why I use them and what/how they work.

One thing before I start is that I greatly dislike moving my hand from the keyboard to the mouse, and back and forth. So most of these help with that.

  • Org Mode

    This is an amazing free tool. It helps with organizing almost anything and everything. Todos, calendar/agenda, spread sheets, literate programming, etc. Highly customizeable in almost every way and runs inside of GNU Emacs which is an editor that I also mention in this list. Another good alternative is a tool called Notion,it’s been gaining a lot of popularity but I lost interest since I can’t control everything from the keyboard. Also, the free version can be very limiting if you end up going pretty deep in the rabbit hole.

  • Vimium

    A free browser plugin that lets you use VIM keybindings to navigate. Pretty slick. \o/ I believe it’s only available in Chrome/Firefox, but if you’re like me and dislike using the mouse to move, then this will be a life saver.

  • Pomodoro

    A technique to help you stay focus on work. It works wonders. Here’s the basic breakdown

    • Work for 25 mins
    • Take a 5 min break

    • Work for 25 mins
    • Take a 5 min break

    • Work for 25 mins
    • Take a 5 mins break

    • Work for 25 mins
    • Take a 20 min break

    • Repeat all the steps

    The thing that you must understand is that this is 25 mins of pure work, no distractions, no checking phone, social media, etc. And once the 25 mins are up, you must stop working and take a break. Otherwise you’re losing the reason as to why you’re doing Pomodoro.

    Make sure that in the breaks you’re doing something that relaxes you or helps you get something else done. For example, I sometimes read a book, wash the dishes, do a quick exercise, etc, but once the break is over I get back to work. Staying strict on yourself is key to making this work.

    I found it difficult at first but then it started to become easier and easier. So just stick to it \o/

    Also, all of these numbers can be changed (eg, work for 30 mins and take 10 mins break) to make it work for you. I find it that the default numbers work for me and sometimes, I work an extra minute or two after the 25 mins are up just to wrap up. If I realize that I’m spending more than 3 mins extra on the task, I stop and take the break.

  • Emacs

    An editor that’s pretty customizable and can nearly do anything and everything. The only editor I use for programming.

    Although, it should be mentioned that it takes a while to learn since it’s primarily keyboard driven, of course you can use the mouse to move around but I’ve found that not many people do that.

  • Amethys

    A tiling Window Manager (WM) for Mac.

    When I was in Linux I went nuts with finding the perfect tiling manager and ultimately settled for stumpwm. If you’ve never heard of a window manager, it basically lets you controls all your windows and lets you decided what to with them via keystrokes. Pretty neat!

    Sadly there the closest I found to that was Amethys, which works well but it just doens’t feel the same. Anyhow, if you’ve never tried Window Managers, I’d highly suggest checking one out.

  • 12 Week Year

    A method of actually achieving your yearly goals.

    I’m no expert in this topic since I just started using it, but checking out the link above will go more into depth, but I’ll do a quick breakdown from what I understand.

    You break up your year into 12 weeks. In those 12 weeks, you focus on achieving some type of goal (learning guitar, get fit, create a company, etc) and track your progress throughout the 12 week year. The point is, that if you have a year to do something, you’ll likely procrastinate and forget about it, but if you know it’s just around the corner, you’ll be more motivated.

  • Listening/Watching in 2X Speed

    This isn’t really a tool but something that never occurred to me.

    If you simple speed up a video/audio 2X, you’ll be able to consume the content faster and not loose any information while doing so. It takes a bit of practice to listen/watch things in 2X but once you’re there you can pretty much take on information much faster/quicker. Some people even do 3X which is a little insane for me.

  • Save Everything To Calendar

    If you’re anything like me, then you probably forget things pretty frequently which is annoying. Especially if you have to do something, now I’ve gotten to the habit of saving everything and I mean everything to my calendar, no matter how small. This has helped a lot in realizing and prioritizing things no matter what they are.

  • Pen and Paper for problem solving

    I never believed this worked, but actually writing problems when I’m stuck has helped me clear my mind and find the solution faster than usual. There really isn’t anything else I can add to this but to simply just try it, even if you were like me not believing it worked.

Of course, I’m still learning how to be more productive/efficient. Some of the ways I go about learning new things is by listening to podcasts. A podcast I really like is The Productivity Show which where I’ve learned quite a bit of things and I hope it’ll help you as well.