Bizzare productivity hacks. Ditch that to-do list and get 40 hours of work done in 30 minutes! That‘s what I would say if I were a lifestyle guru and tried to sell my newest book of productivity hacks. The truth is, if I had figured this out I would have written this blog article much sooner than 3 hours before the deadline – and yet, I keep reading about different techniques to get more work done. The most usual advice includes to-do lists, switching off your phone, waking up early, or prioritizing your tasks. While this is the conventional advice you can hear and read everywhere, some techniques take it up a notch and offer a more interesting approach towards productivity. Next time you want to make your working day slightly different – be it studying from home or an office job – give those a try!
This productivity technique developed by Francesco Cirillo is based on intervals of intense productivity with breaks in between. The clock that the creator used was shaped like a tomato, and this is where the name came from! What one does is divide the working day into intervals of 25 minutes with 5-minute breaks in between and set a clear timer to fully focus on the task for those 25 minutes. Once that is accomplished, one should put a checkmark and take a well-deserved break. It is recommended to take a longer break every four „pomodoros“ – 25 minute periods of productivity – and it can be 20 or 30 minutes. The point here is to give yourself a sense of urgency, as well as an appreciation for the time that you have. Also, it makes things seem much more doable (oh, that‘s just 25 minutes of work!) and gives a little dopamine rush that comes from the sense of accomplishment with every „pomodoro“. I have tried using a simple timer on my phone, and it does the job, but an app has been developed to specifically implement this quirky hack as well.
Dopamine Detox or the Ultimate Do Not Disturb Mode
You might have heard about digital detox and its benefits of focus and time management. This hack takes it to a different level and encourages you not only to ditch your gadgets and social media for a day every week or so. The dopamine detox (or dopamine fasting) is devoiding your brain from dopamine, or „the happy hormone“ which comes from engaging in highly pleasurable activities such as eating junk food, listening to music, watching Netflix, scrolling TikTok, or looking at cat videos. The purpose of this activity is to basically… bore yourself to death so that even things like writing assignments or doing your homework would start feeling like a party. This is achieved by avoiding all kinds of fun activities for a day a week, or even more often if one prefers to. Instead, one should exercise, meditate, do chores, take walks or read something academic – no fun books! Come to think of it, this is how great inventors, scientists, and writers must have lived in the olden days, and this is how they could come up with all those ideas as their brain was not buzzing with internet memes and newest music hits. Next time you are bored, allow yourself to sit with that feeling and drain that dopamine out of your brain – you might just come up with the next ground-breaking idea.
Eat That Frog
This hack is based purely on a quote (probably falsely, like most internet quotes) attributed to Mark Twain, which goes „Eat a live frog the first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.» Author Brian Tracy has written an entire book delving into this technique, but the point is to do the most difficult and challenging task of the day – or eat the ugliest and slimiest of all of the frogs – first. Accomplishing this should be followed by a sense of satisfaction for the rest of a day and a boost in morale to breeze through the rest of your day. This one takes a lot of grit and discipline, and fully embracing it might develop a healthy addiction to conquering the toughest challenges early in your working day. You might have been using this hack already without knowing it – if you are the kind of person to keep the tastiest snacks for later, or do the most challenging exercises at the start of your workout, you might be on a good path to “Eat That Frog” when it comes to your professional life as well.
Now, as an avid coffee AND napping lover, I have tested and tried this one myself before seeing it on the internet. This hack takes the concept of a power nap and couples it up with a caffeine addiction many of us have already developed. One should drink a cup of coffee and go for a short nap – no more than 30 minutes. Logically, at the time one has to wake up from the nap, the caffeine should kick in and give a double boost of energy – both from the nap and the coffee. While not exactly a productivity hack, this is a pick-me-up technique that can work for some of us and can be highly convenient in a remote work situation, since office naps are not exactly a common practice yet. If you are a heavy sleeper or sensitive to caffeine, proceed at your own risk!
Finally, you might have seen some people sharing this one on social media, because I have. The Forest App is an app to curb your screen time and works for people that are addicted to their smartphones. The application grows a little virtual tree for as long as you stay off your phone – it‘s that simple! The principle is to turn on the app, plant a tree, and set a timer for as long you wish to stay productive. The tree dies once you try to switch the app off or use any other feature on your phone. The interesting thing is that it slightly shames you for killing the tree and gives you a chance to redeem yourself by inviting you to go back to your session. Also, you can collect virtual coins by growing your tree, and if you collect enough of them an actual tree gets planted! While the app is not free and takes ages to collect the coins for a real-life tree, this incentive of growing a little endearing tree on your phone by only staying away from it has worked for some people desperate for focus.
Different things work for different people, and it also applies to productivity. Chugging coffee, eating frogs, setting tomato timers, and going back to Middle Ages are only some of the things people have tried to stay productive and accomplish their goals. While reading more about all of the techniques one might be shocked by the obsession with productivity and time management. Therefore, the final advice would be to just do your best! Keep trying things out for yourself instead of relying on internet bloggers who cannot manage their own time.
By: Viktorija Tuzaite, NHL University of Applied Sciences ’21