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Sunday Self-Scaler 31
Some Personal Updates, 7 Potent Productivity Upgrades that Cost $0, and The Book I'm Currently Reading
Before you go bonkers at me for missing last week’s scaler, I was down with Covid. For the first 2-3 days, I could barely look at a screen. Then an irritating cough hampered my productivity.
I’m feeling better again so here’s a value-packed scaler for you. Before that, a few more personal updates.
Before you think I’m just plugging my stuff, I also went out with 2 girls, and things escalated. This week I have my second tattoo appointment coming up. It’s an outer forearm piece and I’m super excited about it!
You’ll be one of the first ones to get a peek into the tat once it’s done. So till then, enjoy the scaler.
7 Potent Productivity Upgrades that Cost $0
In today's world, productivity is all the rage. And that’s for good reason — with our insanely busy lives, even a few minutes saved can make a world of difference.
Most of the productivity upgrades I see self-help gurus recommending cost money, a lot sometimes — noise-canceling headphones, fancy multi-screen desktop setups, and paid apps.
But there are highly potent upgrades that cost absolutely nothing. I want to share 7 such upgrades with you.
These have caused a marked improvement in not only my productivity but also my life. I hope they do the same for you.
The best part is that each of them takes at most a minute to implement. So you can start using them right away!
#1 — Turn Off (Almost) All Notifications
Except for high-priority work emails and airplane mode missed phone calls, I don’t have any notifications enabled. And this has worked wonders for both my mental health and productivity.
Nothing’s more distracting than a constantly plopping smartphone. And nothing drains your mental energy and focus more than constantly checking your phone.
Studies have found that it can take up to 23 minutes to get back to the task at hand after you give in to a notification. And guess how many times we check our phones in a day? — A whopping 150 times on average.
Do the math — notifications pulverize every ounce of your focus. So, except for the ones you really need, turn off all notifications.
#2 — Make the Most out Of Your Commute
Since the pandemic, work-from-home has given us a respite from commuting. But with offices opening up again, the hour-long subway and cab rides are just around the corner.
Most of us either listen to music, watch videos or browse social media while commuting. On a daily, a couple of minutes might not sound like much but in the long run, it’s a lot—the average American wastes 54 hours in a year commuting.
54 hours is a lot of time — you can read ten books, watch over 25 movies, and decently master a new skill from scratch. So, don’t let your commute time go to the dogs.
#3 — Track and Limit Your Social Media Usage
Social media apps are designed to keep us hooked. It’s ridiculously easy for “I’ll just check my phone for a minute” to turn into hours of mindless scrolling.
Do you know what else is ridiculously easy? Underestimating our social media usage. I was dead sure mine was less than 2 hours until I tracked it — it came out to be over 4.
Research has linked heavy social media usage to depression, anxiety, demotivation, and hampered focus. In addition, excessive screen time can lead to chronic back and neck pain, headaches, and eyestrain.
There are tons of free usage tracker apps that you can use to track and limit your social media usage. I use an app called Socialx — it gives me reminders every 15 minutes and once the limit is up; I am locked out.
#4 — Keep a Full Bottle of Water Within Hand’s Reach
According to statistics, most of us are clinically dehydrated but don’t realize it. And studies have found that just 1% of dehydration can cause a 12% drop in productivity.
But with our busy lives, something as mundane as drinking enough water can be hard to remember. Even if we did, having to get up now and then to drink can break our focus.
Having a full water bottle within hand’s reach solves both problems — the sight of the bottle acts as a reminder while its proximity removes the interruption.
#5 — Go Cold Turkey when Working
Ever since I started using the Cold Turkey Writer, my writing game has completely changed.
It’s a devilishly simple yet powerful piece of software — once you set a word or time goal, it turns your computer into a type-writer. Until you meet the goal, you cannot exit it. It’s either banging your head on the wall or writing.
If you aren’t a writer, there’s the general-purpose Cold Turkey Blocker — you can block distractions like social media, games, YouTube, apps, or even the entire internet.
Distractions are the biggest productivity killers and these apps get rid of them for you — so that you can focus on working and not spend valuable willpower on resisting distractions.
Both apps have premium versions but the free versions are more than enough for most of us.
#6 — Play Just One Song on Repeat
Working or studying while listening to music has been a constant for most of my life. But earlier, if an interesting song came up, my focus would break and shift to the music.
Playing a single song on repeat solved this problem. When you loop just one song, the repetitive music fades into the background and your work focus remains sustained.
Right now, my goto is Pryda — Loving You by Eric Prydz. The slow build-up, constant lively beats, and lack (mostly) of lyrics get me into a trance of deep focus.
#7—Set Self-Imposed Deadlines
Have you ever noticed how you tend to laze around when there’s time but work like an adrenaline-crazed robot when a deadline’s around the corner?
And more often than not, the break-neck rushed work is better than the leisurely done one. This is thanks to what’s called the Parkinson’s law — work expands to fill the time allotted to it.
Say you have 5 hours to submit an assignment that would realistically take only 30 minutes. You’ll leisurely plan, research, write, take phone breaks, survey, rewrite, polish, survey it again, rewrite again.
And by the end, you’d have gone full circle and ended up with one of the earlier versions itself. This is where a self-imposed deadline comes in.
Now restrict yourself to an imaginary deadline of 30 minutes. With the timer ticking away, you’ll dive right into it — brusquely plan, research, write, one quick look, and done.
So, estimate the time a task will take, impose an imaginary deadline, and milk the most out of Parkinson's law.
These upgrades might not seem like much initially but over time, they compound to unbelievable results.
A couple of pages read on your daily commute or a few minutes cut off Instagram add up to tens of books and hours of reduced social media in the long run.
The key is making them habits and consistently sticking to them.
“Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement. The same way that money multiplies through compound interest, the effects of your habits multiply as you repeat them.”
The Book I’m Currently Reading
I was in quarantine and when my Kindle shut down, I couldn’t find its charger. So I had to make do with the few physical books I had.
One of them was “Can’t Hurt Me” by David Goggins → My non-reader brother had loaned this book but had systematically quit after the first 100 pages or so.
But this is sooooo good that I can barely stop myself from plowing on and on.
If you don’t know who David Goggins is, he’s one baaaad motherf*cker.
Profanity aside, he’s a human tank → one that has made suffering his best friend and overcome unbelievable odds to achieve even more unbelievable results.
He went from a bullied intellectually-stunted physically abused kid to a Navy SEAL, ultra-marathoner, and world pullup-record holder.
And this book narrates his raw super-inspiring story. The biggest takeaway is how we’re capable of much more than we think we can even dream of.
Go read the book and you’ll understand what I’m saying.
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