One of the questions I get asked most often is:
How do you get into your most productive modes?
Over the past 5 years or so, I’ve experimented with a lot of things and have arrived at a “stack” that I use when I need to be at my most productive, so I thought I’d share.
While you need to find a “stack” that works for you, this is how I get into my most productive modes:
Table of Contents
First things first – get rid of the distractions.
Best of all, it works on your iPhone too, so you can forget about being distracted there as well. No cheating!
Morning Brain Download
I spend a lot of time trying to quiet all the things going on in my head.
The best way I’ve found to quiet my head is to write it all down first thing in the morning (or whenever my head starts to get busy). This can take anywhere from 5-15 minutes and can sometimes literally be “blah, blah, blah.” What you write isn’t really as important as the fact that you’re getting it out of your head and onto paper (or screen). Then, you can leave it and come back to it (if you really want to), and don’t have to deal with it bouncing around in your head while you try to get work done.
As for tools, I use DayOne, but you can keep it offline in a notebook as well. I find I write much faster on a computer than I do in an old-school notebook.
Alpha Brain (2 capsules)
I’m not a supplement junkie (and I used to never even touch pills), but Alpha Brain is one of the ones that started to turn me.
The primary ingredient is Alpha GPC
Please do your own research (and ideally experimentation), but I’ve found that it works quite well for me.
Made by Onnit, Alpha Brain turned me into the closest version of a “fan boy” that I could be of their products. If you’re in Austin, Texas, they have an awesome fitness facility you should check out.
New Mood (1 capsule)
I got introduced to New Mood after Alpha Brain to help me sleep better (there’s a whole post coming on this soon).
However, through some experimentation, I found it also helped me chill out a bit throughout the day. While I might take 2 at night, I take 1 before I sit down to work (along with the Alpha Brain) and it helps me bring a better mind to the day’s work and problems.
Iced Coffee (Cold Brew) + Water
It’s the best.
I don’t really enjoy hot coffee (no matter how much patience I have, I always burn my tongue), so Cold Brews are typically my caffeine vehicle of choice. However, if I have more than 2 of these per day, I get jittery and feel terrible at night. Find what works for you.
Also, if I get stuck on a problem, email or article, I reach for a drink. If the beverage next to me is a coffee, I end up drinking way too much. For that reason, I like to have a reasonable amount of water within reach so I don’t end up all jittery.
I’ve written about this before, but the main goal of pomodoro (for me anyways) isn’t necessarily working in just 25 minute increments (sometimes I need much longer time chunks to get quality work done).
However, the best thing that comes out of me from planning work like this is that I force myself to DEFINE what I want to accomplish in a specific amount of time.
When people complain about procrastination or not being productive, it’s often because they haven’t decided what they want to get done in the first place.
Definition is the hard part. Once you’re clear on that, execution is easy.
Focus@Will is a website that uses music to help you hypercharge your concentration and focus.
In general, I find mellow beats or music without words works best for me. Another hack here is to find 1 song, play it on repeat, and have it be your “productivity” song. It might sound annoying, but if you do it for a week, the song becomes a little hypnotic and a “trigger” to remind you to dive into your work and get in the “the zone.”
=> Get Focus@Will (I like the AlphaChill playlist)
My three favorite Spotify playlists for productivity
Move Every 2 Hours
This might be the biggest thing for me.
Often, if I get stuck in a location, then I get stuck in my work. I’ll get up hours later realizing nothing has gotten done and I got lost in my own mind.
The trick to this is to “wake yourself up” from work more often and check in with how you’re doing. The best way for me to do that is by physically getting up and moving.
Currently, I’m holed up in Chiang Mai for the last week. Here, there’s 2 cafes on every block, so every 2-3 hours, I pack my stuff up, grab some street food and head to the next cafe. I’ve found that this workstation popcorn is my ideal scenario. However, if I’m in a situation where I can’t switch cafes or if I’m working at home, I make a note to get up, get away from the screen, and walk around the block, work on the day’s pushup grid, or do jumping jacks.
Whatever it is, getting your body physically moving again can help you refocus your mind keep on task.
There you go – that’s what I’m currently using to stay productive on my best days. It might change over time, but I might do regular updates on what I add or subtract over time.
What’s your current productivity stack?