Hacking Motivation & Beating Productivity

Hacking Motivation & Beating Productivity - student project

Ali Abdaal's Productivity Masterclass #2  builds upon the foundations set in the first, by adding more actionable steps to ensure productivity in the digital age:

Remember - Productivity = (Useful output / time) * fun factor

SECTION 1 - The Pilot: Lesson 2 - The Pilot - Introduction:

When you have a moment of clarity, set the Plane's destination

  • Focus on the 6 Horizons of Focus:
  1. Calendars & Actions: eg. go for coffee with a friend
  2. Projects: eg. refurbish your desk setup
  3. Areas of Focus: eg. things to focus on your entire life eg. relationships
  4. Goals & General Objectives: - both personal & professional, that can be split into projects
  5. The 3-5 Year Vision: eg. a long-term ideal of where you want to be eg. owning a business
  6. Principles & Purpose: eg. what type of person do you want to be?; what value do you want to add to the world?; what is your purpose?; what do you want to gain from your life?
  • Understanding of these Horizons is necessary to be the Pilot - it's very easy to get tunnel-vision and not appreciate the latter Horizons

Lesson 3 - Scheduling & Calendars:

We are notoriously bad at estimating how long it takes to do a task, and how long we spend doing a task

  • Scheduling & calendars concern Horizon 1 - ensuring you undergo the smaller actions in life
  • Using calendars will allow you to realise how much you can fit into your day, where you are losing time, and what actions you are actively choosing not to make the time for
  • Schedule in every event you are doing, to find where you can schedule in your daily tasks when you are in Pilot mode

A 40-hour work-week that is scheduled, is likely as productive as a 60-hour work-week that is not scheduled

  • However, do not be afraid to make your time flexible - as long as it is scheduled, you won't be distracted by something else for too long

Action - Download a Calendar app and start scheduling all of your events, as soon as you become aware of them

Lesson 4 - The Power of To-Do Lists:

Think of 'to-do' lists as 'might-do' lists

  • Thinking of lists as 'to-do' lists makes you refrain from adding to them - instead have 'might-do' lists, and select tasks from them every day
  • Filter your tasks into 'things to do today'; 'things to do this week'; 'things to do someday'
  • Daily Highlight - Set yourself a 'daily highlight' for the day - if you do that one thing, you can feel fulfilled at the end of the day
  • Eat the Frog - Start the day by doing the most unpleasant thing that needs to be done
  • Starting off with either the daily highlight task, or eating the frog, can start the day with satisfaction
  • 1/3/5 Rule - Set 1 big task, 3 medium tasks, 5 small tasks for the day

Action - Reform my TeuxDeux by deciding which technique I will use - set a daily highlight at the start of each day, perhaps 'eat the frog' first, or use the 1/3/5 rule - experiment with these!

Lesson 5 - Projects & Areas of Focus:

Projects need to be divided into actionable, deadlined tasks, so that we get them done

  • The more specific we can make our tasks within the project, the more likely we are to get them done
  • Every single project should have an appropriate next action
  • Splitting projects into tasks allows you to undergo a 'slow burn' - gradually getting through your tasks so that the faster 'heavy lift' is less strenuous

Action - Use TeuxDeux's categories (bottom of the TeuxDeux page) to split your projects into actionable tasks

Lesson 6 - Goals:

Goals should be SMART - Specific; Measurable; Achieveable; Realistic; Timely

  • Setting goals can be harmful - it encourages a reliance upon the destination, rather than the journey, and when goals are hit, you have to move the goalposts in constant pursuit of unachievable achievement
  • Goals should be less definite, and more progressive - making £10 in a week should be met with the same satisfaction as making £1000 in a week
  • Goals should also be time-gated (system) - eg. go for a run 3x a week, and worry less about the results, as they will come naturally
  • Goals should always be wholly within your control - a goal should be to produce 3x YT videos a week; not 3x YT videos a week that get 100k views (the views are not controlled by you)

Goals should be used to set your direction, and are then forgotten - the score takes care of itself

  • However, goals can be important for some people, no matter how definite and numerical they may be

Lesson 7 - Vision & Purpose:

The Pilot is responsible for ensuring all you do is useful, and in-line with a wider vision

  • Pursuing visions is difficult, as the longer away they can be achieved, the harder it is to put the work in
  • A good example of a vision is to gain so many streams of passive income, to make working optional

Meaning comes from responsibility for something that is greater than themselves

  • Eg. parents find meaning in caring for their children - another human, far greater than themselves
  • There's a number of actions that you can take to understand your greater purpose in life; how to 'play the game of life', and optimise what matters to you in life

Action - Write up an 'Odyssey Plan', in order to understand your vision (see below):

Question 1 - In 5 years' time, what would my life look like if I continued down exactly the same path?

Question 2 - In 5 years' time, what would your life look like if you took a completely different path?

Question 3 - In 5 years' time, what would your life look like if money was no object, and societal expectations didn't matter at all?

Action - Do the 'Death Bed' exercise: If I was to die 1/2/5/10 year(s) from now, what would I do differently?

Action - Split life up into the 4 things that matter: 1. Physical Health; 2. Mental Health (happiness, fulfilment etc.); 3. Relationships; 4. Materials (money, food, shelter etc.) - your mission purpose in life should be to optimise these 4 elements

SECTION 2 - The Plane: Lesson 8 - The Plane - Introduction:

The job of the Plane is to simply execute the course set by the Pilot

  • The Plane has 3 Functions:
    1. Take off safely (issues with motivation)
    2. Remain on course (issues with distraction)
    3. Land safely (easier than taking off and remaining on course)

Lesson 9 - Hacking Motivation:

We often think of motivation as a requirement to get something done - in fact it should be the opposite

  • BOOK - Motivation is a Myth (Jeff Haden)
  • Action should lead to success, which should lead to further motivation - motivation should not have to come first to breed action
  • We struggle to find 'motivation' when an action has a long-term success, but a short-term pain
  • This lesson was a repeat from the Ali Abdaal's Productivity Masterclass 1 - Plane; Pilot; Engineer (see Lesson 5)
  • Ultimately, if we can just take off, then Newton's First Law will take effect - we will continue to move
    • The 5 Minute Rule aids for this, by hacking the brain to start working

Lesson 10 - Overcoming Inertia:

If you are moving, you don't need any extra force to continue moving - we just need that initial force to start moving

  • 2 Minute Rule - If something takes less than 2 minutes, then do it immediately
  • 5 Minute Rule - Trick your brain into thinking you will just work for 5 minutes - you'll find yourself wanting to work for longer following those 5 minutes
  • Environment Design - In the role of the Pilot, eliminate any friction from working before you aim to work
  • This is a very similar lesson to Ali Abdaal's Productivity Masterclass 1 - Plane; Pilot; Engineer (see Lesson 9)

Lesson 11 - Achieving Flow:

The best way to stay on course as the Plane is to achieve 'flow state'

Hacking Motivation & Beating Productivity - image 1 - student project

Mihaly Csikszentmihalvi's model of flow as related to challenge and ability

  • When something is high-ability (requires a lot of what we can do) and high-challenge (challenges our ability)

  • The flow state is a satisfying and psychologically enjoyable state to be in - you won't want to start checking your phone

  • There's no guaranteed way to achieve flow - it seems like an accident when achieved

  • There are 7 Ways to Make Us More Prone to Entering Flow:

    1. Manage External Distractions - Remove your phone (put on Do Not Disturb), notifications etc.
    2. Manage Internal Distractions - Eg. stress, anxiety can be managed by using to-do lists and journaling - our mind is for having ideas, not storing them - and meditation
    3. Work on One Task at a Time - Multitasking is a myth, and you will never achieve flow when switching contexts, due to the presence of 'attentional residue'
    4. Set Up a Mental Cue - Create an environment whereby you have a mental cue to enter flow state - eg. make a certain drink and working conditions when you wish to enter flow state - these act as mental triggers and stimuli
    5. Choose Challenging but Not Impossible Tasks - If too challenging, you'll be demoralised; too easy, you'll be too bored - attempt things that stretch your existing knowledge to be interesting
    6. Work at Your Biological Peak Time - Some evidence of different chronotypes - people being more likely to work at certain times of the day
      • Perhaps I should not be getting up at 7am, as I am making myself do, but wake at a more biologically tuned hour
      • Do less demanding tasks at times that your chronotype does not suggest to be times to achieve flow
    7. Listen to the Right Kind of Music - Listen to Study w/ Me playlists - this especially helps for motivation as it adds to the Fun Factor of studying
    8. Strategically Consume Caffeine - Around 1-2 cups of coffee has been evidenced to help you achieve flow
    Lesson 12 - Distraction Management:

    The more friction we add to distractions, the less appealing they are

    • Partly, the way to manage distraction is to make our desired action more enjoyable and important - you then won't be distracted by something more enjoyable!
    • Digital distractions are the most pertinent distraction - purposely give digital distractions more friction
      • Physically move your phone away - out of sight, out of mind

    Action 1 - Rearrange the apps on your homescreen - only productive apps should be easily accessible

    Action 2 - Bury social media apps in folders

    Action 3 - Set your phone to greyscale mode, to make it less appealing

    Lesson 13 - Pomodoro Technique:

    25 minutes is a great time - giving us less time allows Parkinson's Law to take effect

    • 25 minute sessions - 5 minute break - repeat 4x then 30 min break
    • Pomodoro Technique w/ friends is a good idea also
    Lesson 14 - Course Correcting:

    Going slightly off course does not end your day

    • It's your choice whether to correct your course, and battle further temptations
    • In the Pilot analogy: you wouldn't turn the plane back if you went 2 degrees off course - you'd simply get back on track
    Lesson 15 - Leveraging Artificial Deadlines:

    Setting deadlines makes you re-evaluate how long you think something takes

    • Give ourselves 'fake' artificial deadlines in order to get the things we personally want to do, done
    • Don't fall into the trap of thinking things need to take longer to be of a higher quality
    • You could put money on doing something - if you're reluctant to do this, you clearly don't have as a strong a 'why' to do the action

    Action - Start to train yourself to think deadlines are 5 days before the actual deadline - P's Law takes effect

    Lesson 16 - The Reitoff Principle:

    Writing-off a day deliberately allows you to relax without feeling guilty

    • The worst thing about feeling guilty when not working is that you procrastinate in a less enjoyable way, instead of proctistinating in a more enjoyable day (eg. scrolling through IG instead of playing video games)

    Action - Set aside write-off days every 1 or 2 weeks - but ensure you do something unique and enjoyable

    SECTION 3 - The Engineer: Lesson 17 - The Engineer - Introduction:

    The Engineer has three roles for optimising the Plane: Speed; Efficiency; Organisation

    • Speed - Getting stuff done quicker (as part of the Productivity Equation)
    • Efficiency - Fuel efficiency; doing useful stuff (as part of the Productivity Equation) by eliminating friction to do useful things
      • Also relates to optimal health
    • Organisation - Alter your systems to avoid high entropy, and make you overwhelmed
    • The Engineer role should be inhabited around 5-10% of the time - I'm probably in this role too much, currently
    Lesson 18 - The GTD (Getting Things Done) Methodology:

    GTD by David Allen is the bible to productivity

    • The more responsibility you hold in life, the more elements you need to sustain
      • GTD organises these to ensure you sustain such areas
    • GTD looks at things horizontally - all elements of your life should be maintained equally
    • GTD looks at things vertically - purposely choose what to get done, to progress these elements
    • There are 5 aspects of GTD:
      1. Capture - Our mind is for having ideas; not for storing them - you need systems to offload these ideas to free up space for more
        • Write down any open loop in your mind instantly - don't trust your brain to remember anything!
        • A lack of a centralised, trustworthy system leads to mental overwhelm
      2. Clarify - Often a lack of activity comes from a poorly-defined or absent next step
        • Convert your to-do ideas into several actionable actions
      3. Organise - Put reference materials in the right place in your Second Brain
        • Organise items into projects, by priority; add deadlines and other meta-data
      4. Reflect / Review - Make a habit of conducting weekly and monthly reviews of the P;P;E
        • See Lessons 21-24 of this class
      5. Engage - Choose the actions within your Second Brain in a way that will make you the most productive

    Action - Write down everything on your mind into a to-do list - this should be a regular process

    Lesson 19 - Digital Productivity:

    Digital productivity aids in the 'Speed' element of the Engineer role

    • Digital Productivity Coach
      • This is a Notion page that runs through the purpose and meaning of Digital Productivity
    • Digital Fluency is especially important - getting to inbox zero enables you to organise your emails much more efficiently - touch an email only once (an email's actions should be sent to a secondary app)
    • Building a Second Brain
      • The concept of a Second Brain is central to digital productivity, and ensuring no thought is lost

    Action - Work through the Digital Productivity Coach course

    Lesson 20 - Health & Wellbeing:

    The Engineer needs to be fuel-efficient

    • Sleep:
      • Why we Sleep - Matthew Walker
      1. Do not take your phone into your bed, and set the alarm elsewhere in your room
      2. Invest in blackout curtains - any exposure to light affects your sleep; you want to be sleeping in complete darkness, ideally
      3. Avoid blue-light exposure - this comes from screens and the Sun, and triggers you to wake up
        • Reduce blue-light on devices (night-shift mode)
      4. Caffeine stays in your system for around 12 hours, so drink caffeine ideally in the morning only
    • Nutrition:
      • WHO - Inadequate nutrition reduces productivity by 20%
      1. Drinking more water is paramount
        • Use a straw for cathartic drinking
      2. Some evidence to suggest that processed food and takeaway reduces productivity
    • Exercise:
      • Exercise works three-fold: mental, physical and productive benefit
      1. Exercise early in the day for a confidence boost at the start of the day
      2. Recognise when you are in a productivity slump, and exercise at these times
    Lesson 21 - Daily Review (The Log Book):

    Making time consists of Highlight; Laser; Energise; Reflect - the daily review aids with the latter

    • The biggest issue with finding new productivity techniques is feeling an initial sense of pride, but never reflecting upon their usefulness or future application
    • Make Time - Jake Knapp

    Hacking Motivation & Beating Productivity - image 2 - student project

    The framework for a daily review

    • Do not be afraid to try different tactics everyday; reflect upon these tactics to see what tactics personally work

    Hacking Motivation & Beating Productivity - image 3 - student project

    Ali's Morning Notes

    Hacking Motivation & Beating Productivity - image 4 - student project

    Ali's Night-time Review - the 'story' point is especially important to frame your life in memory and context

    Action - Make my own Daily Review template (Notion), taking ideas from the Abdaal and Knapp templates

    Lesson 22 - Weekly Review (Operating System):

    Tightening our productivity operating system prevents it from descending into chaos

    • The Weekly Review is perhaps the most important GTD technique, as it prevents open loops from remaining open
    • The Weekly Review focuses on reflecting on your projects, what you have to do, and if you are still invested in these projects
    • GTD Official Weekly Review
      • Some of these tips are somewhat outdated, given that David Allen came from a paper-based, corporate age
    • Tiago Forte's Weekly Review

    Action - Make my own Weekly Review template (Notion) using ideas from the GTD template, Forte template and the Abdaal template (in Lesson 22 video from min 7:45)

    • Any task should be placed into an Inbox, which should be filtered by Project
    Lesson 23 - Monthly Review (Systems Check)

    The Monthly Review involves seeing if your actions marry up with your projects, which marry up with your goals

    • The Monthly Review both reviews existing projects, and inspires new ones
    • In Notion, you could make a list of projects (categorised by area of life (perhaps by 4 elements)), and filter tasks through these in separate Pages

    Action - Create a Monthly Review Template, taking ideas from the Abdaal template (from min 3:00 in Lesson 23)

    Lesson 24 - Annual Review (Aircraft Inspection)

    Keeping an annual review allows you to really reflect on life

    • Abdaal Template (min 0:30 - 1:00)
    • Forte Template (min 1:30 - 2:00)

    Action - Create an Annual Review Template, taking ideas from the Abdaal and Forte templates

    Lesson 25 - The Fun Factor

    If you have to do it, but you're not having fun, you might as well find a way to enjoy it

    • Tweak the story you're telling yourself - recognise your privilege you have in being able to do something

    Action - Try and enjoy the things you're doing!

Finley Watton
Southampton, United Kingdom