Work less and do more: Productivity Hacks

This is my personal productivity cheatsheet.

4 min read

This is my personal productivity cheatsheet. Here’s not only how I stay productive, but also the resources that helped me figure out what works for me. I hope they help you figure out what works for you.

1. Know your daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly goals. 

You need to know what you want to produce in a day, week, and year to be able to plan for it. 


Fast Company Set Goals

Quartz Create Systems

2. Make a list of to dos to reach those goals.

Break down your to dos into a list of to dos. I keep a list of todos for each of my goals in a Google sheet.

3. Put everything in your to-do list for the week into your calendar.

Timeboxing is a time management technique where you allocate a fixed time period to a planned activity. You work on the activity during the fixed time period and stop working on it once the time is up - then, you assess whether you've reached your planned goals.

I currently timebox my schedule into 30 minute increments on Google calendar. Here’s how my calendar looks: 

(Image from Devi Parikh’s blog)

I schedule my tasks based on my goals for the week. This method helps me keep realistic goals because whatever I can’t fit into my schedule this week, I push to next week.


Harvard Business Review Timeboxing

Harvard Business Review To-Do Lists Are Bad

Entrepreneur Running Your Day Like Elon Musk

Devi Parikh Timeboxing

4. Unboxed time / ultimate freedom

Unboxed time is boxed freedom. It means scheduling time to do whatever you want, but it can’t be used for doing errands, socializing, or browsing the internet. I like unboxing a whole day over the weekend twice a month.It helps to have a bucket list or a backlog of tasks to choose from. 

This helps with 2 things:

  1. I believe you do things best when you feel like doing them
  2. Creative tasks can’t be time based

For example, I’m writing this article during some unboxed time. 

You need to have more than 4 hours because of the deep work philosophy. I argue you need a whole day to follow your heart fully and do whatever you want to do. It’s a great feeling to wake up and be like I can truly do whatever I want today. What you choose to do with that time can tell you a lot about yourself, your likes, and your dislikes.

I find that certain tasks get done faster when I have the feeling of wanting to do it instead of scheduling it in. I believe creative tasks can’t be time boxes because you need to have the feeling of wanting to do them. I personally don’t like to feel any time restraints when working on them either. 

Honestly, these days are the greatest gift to myself. I look forward to them so much. I’m always in awe of how much I get done on these days.

Have structure to have no structure. You also need no structure to have structure.


Paul Graham’s Maker Schedule

5. Optimize by doing things when you feel like it, but if it takes less than 2 minutes then do it immediately. 

Do tasks when you think of them because you feel like doing more when you first think of them than later. The alternative is to write them in your to do list and coming back to it later feels less interesting and more like work since you’ve already thought about it. Daniel Gross explains “it’s like chewing on a fresh piece of gum, immediately sticking it somewhere, then trying to convince yourself to rehydrate the dry, bland, task of chewed-up gum.“

The 2–Minute Rule from David Allen’s book titled Getting Things Done overcomes procrastination and laziness by making it so easy to start taking action that you can't say no. David suggests if the task takes less than two minutes, then do it immediately.

More resources:

Daniel Gross Improvising for Productivity

6. Stay focused on the task at hand when you’re doing it.

According to Microsoft Research, the average person is distracted or interrupted every 40 seconds when working in front of their computer. Then, it takes on average 23 minutes to refocus. If interrupted for 3 second interruptions, the error rate doubles. 

Avoid being distracted and interrupted audibly and visually. Here’s how I do it:

  1. I turn off all notifications on my computer and phone. 
  2. I put my phone and/or laptop where I can’t see it if I don’t need it. 
  3. I turn off the WiFi if I don’t need it. 
  4. I only keep the tabs I need open.
  5. I use pencil and paper whenever I can.


Shane Parrish’s Twitter Thread 

RadRead’s Guide to Productivity

Quartz Phone Addiction

RadRead’s Stop Reading the News

7. Feel inspired and productive during your work session to recreate your flow state.

Have an environment that you associate with productivity and nothing else that activates all your senses. Here’s how I do it:

  1. I have a desk area I use for productive time.
  2. I light a candle when I’m feeling 
  3. I drink a tea that I associate with 
  4. I put inspirational quotes on my laptop and notebooks.
  5. I read about interesting and/or inspiring topics before I start working, usually on my morning commute.  


The Forcing Function’s Guide to Getting Unstuck

8. Review your progress at the end of the week

It’s hard to be productive if you don’t have a reason or purpose. Try to find what that is for yourself. Knowing what my goals values are helps me use each day to the fullest and stay true to them. I have a productivity journal where I write down weekly daily, and monthly goals and review myself. That way I can feview myself, why I'm productive and see what I can do better.


The Forcing Function’s Assessment

43 Folders Getting Things Done


Questions or comments? Tweet at me.