5 Real-life productivity hacks

Image of a rocket shooting into the air to demonstrate productivity hacks.

In this blog, we’re sharing real-world productivity hacks uncovered by our VTT team member and remote work coach, Lorna Lacey.

Check out these 5 weird and wonderful ways you can up your focus and performance at work. Try them out for yourself and let us know how they changed your days.

Productivity hack #1: Use Buffer to ensure you never sleep in again! 

No, you didn’t misread that, we’re talking about Buffer the popular social media scheduling app. Before you start thinking that they’ve now got some new built-in alarm function, you’d be wrong.

That’s where study skills expert Thomas Frank comes in. Thomas uses Buffer in a very novel way. He schedules embarrassing posts to go live each day at 6:10 AM so that he has a 15-minute window after his morning alarm goes off to reschedule it for the following day — ingenious!

Thomas has taken the essence of Buffer — scheduling posts that you want everyone to see — and turned it on its head — posts you don’t want anyone to see!

Now he’s not advising that you craft a message that’s life or career-destroying — just something that’s embarrassing enough to get you out of bed (but doesn’t offend anyone).

Here’s a look at the types of posts Thomas tends to schedule:

Do you find it impossible to wake up in the morning? Why not give this hack a go following the process below:

  1. Create a tweet in Buffer (or Hootsuite etc.) that contains a message you wouldn’t want anyone to see.
  2. Use the ‘Schedule post’ feature and set the tweet’s post time to 10-15 minutes after you want to wake up. (e.g. wake up at 5.55 AM and schedule the post for 6:10 AM).
  3. Set your morning alarm, and if using your mobile put it out of arms’ reach — ideally in a place where you need to get out of bed to switch it off.
  4. Wake up early enough each morning to move the tweet’s scheduled date to tomorrow.
  5. Repeat the process the next morning.

Want to take the stakes up a notch? Follow Thomas’s lead and put some skin in the game. Perhaps the tweet could include a pledge to send a voucher to the first person to like the embarrassing tweet or a donation to a named charity?

Productivity hack #2: Nuke the inbox

We all know the feeling, it’s the first Monday back to work after a week-long vacation and as you open your email a pang of dread hits you — your inbox is in the double (or maybe triple!) digits!

Well, don’t despair, Chase Warrington from Doist has a revolutionary productivity hack to ensure you don’t get lost in an email black hole so you can focus instead on the more important tasks on your to-do list.

How does he handle his post-holiday inbox you ask? — simple, he deletes all his messages.

Here’s a look at his OOO automated response:

It’s a clever strategy which puts the onus on the sender to follow up with Chase upon his return if the matter is still relevant and requires action.

Go on, give it a go.

Productivity hack #3: Gamify your to-do list with Habitica

Love playing games? Hate getting through your to-do list?

If you answered yes to at least one of these questions, then Habitica might just be the task management app for you!

The app has the same appearance as any other fantasy role-playing game centred around your chosen pixelated character. But instead of completing quests, you’ll need to finish tasks to level up.

So how does it all work? Well, once you have signed up for the free app you can then set up your digital to-do list and/or habit tracker. Every time you finish a task or complete a daily habit you earn points. Your avatar can then use their newly earned points to unlock weapons, buy potions to hatch cute animal companions, or even access custom rewards such as a bar of chocolate or a trip to the cinema!

Productivity hack #4: Focus with binaural beats

What are binaural beats? They just happen to be a little unknown tool that might help you find your focus and tap into a state of flow.

Like sound waves, brain waves have different frequencies. Higher-frequency waves are linked to focused attention and problem-solving (Beta waves: 15-40 Hz) and memory recall and awareness (Gamma waves: 30–90 Hz).

So how do we access these wavelengths? That’s where binaural beats come in, except they don’t actually exist in music or audio tracks. The weird (and fascinating) thing about them is that they’re all in your head.

Confused? Understandable, give us a moment to explain what we mean.

To experience binaural beats, you need a set of headphones and a specially designed audio track. The track will have two tones of different sound frequencies—one tone sent to your left ear, and the other to your right. Your brain interprets those two frequencies plus a third one: the mathematical difference between the two.

So, for example, let’s say your left ear hears a 250 Hz frequency while the right ear simultaneously hears a 220 Hz frequency. That difference of 30 Hz will be heard by you as a third sound, drum roll……..a binaural beat.

Cool right? What’s great is that you can access these tracks and specific productivity-inducing playlists for free on youtube or Spotify.

What are you waiting for, put on your headphones, stick on a binaural beats track and attack that report that you’ve been procrastinating on for the last week!

Productivity hack #5:  Get back to basics with Pomodoros

Pomodoros, they’re an oldie but a goodie. For many the Pomodoro method is synonymous with time management but for those who are not familiar with the popular technique here’s a quick walkthrough.

The concept begins with creating a to-do list and breaking that list down into small bite-sized tasks. Using a timer or a Pomodoro app, start a countdown of 25-minutes. During this time focus on only 1 task and try to complete it within the 25-minute time block. When the timer rings, you can then take a 5-minute break, ideally away from your desk so that you can stretch and recharge. Once the 5-minute break period is up, you can start the process again with a new task. After completing 4 Pomodoros (4 X 25-minute deep focus work block + 5-minute break) you can take a longer break of 15-20 minutes.

The beauty of this time management technique is that you only need to focus for short bursts of time and then you’re rewarded with a rest period. It can be incredibly helpful for those of prone to procrastination and a great way to make sure to take regular breaks.

Here’s a look at a sample daily routine using Pomodoros:

Final thoughts

Want to learn more about productivity and turbo boost your team’s work performance? Check out our latest workshop ‘Productivity supercharged’ here.

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