these are the posts tagged ‘productivity’:


about a year ago, i asked here on the blog and on facebook whether anyone wanted to study with me. i was looking to replicate our berlin early morning study sessions on an online format, to help me get out of bed and into study-mode in the early hours of the morning. but no one came along, and i get it: this is not for everyone.

a couple of weeks ago though, someone in habitica mentioned focusmate and it has been the answer to my prayers!

focusmate is a platform that does exactly what i’ve been looking for: you’re paired with another person for a 50 minute video time slot. you talk a bit in the beginning about your goals for the session, and then get to work, only talking again at the end. all the while, you’re doing your thing, the other person is doing their thing, and you’re both quietly being your most productive selves.

as expected, the results have been awesome! not only do i get out of bed extra quickly (there’s someone waiting!), but i’ve also been able to do lots more stuff these past few weeks, including reading about difficult conversations and online communities, studying chinese again… and writing on this blog. :) hurray!


this last tool on the mini-productivity list is admittedly a bit weird, but bear with me because i think it has merit to it. it’s called beeminder, and the tagline is “reminders with a sting“.

so, here’s how it works: you set up a quantifiable goal, and commit yourself to reaching it within a certain amount of time. beeminder plots a nice graphic that shows you the yellow brick road, ie, is the path within which you must stay in, in order to reach that goal. the goals can be anything: read or write a certain amount, go to the gym, reach a certain weight, etc. and there are a number of integrations that import data automatically.

what happens when you don’t stay on the yellow road? that’s where it gets interesting. for every day over the line, beeminder will charge you — the amount is configurable, but increases over time. you don’t have to put in a credit card to give it a try, but it really helps make the threat credible. oh! and you can pause or delete your goals, but any changes you make will only take effect a week from now, to prevent any sneaky weaseling.

here is my “go 100 times to the gym in one year” goal:

i’m well above the threshold and could stay flat for another 42 days until i was charged $5. i’m not planning to de-rail on it, but i like the looming threat on the horizon, combined with the graphic representation of each goal. it’s a neat way to follow your progress and keep yourself in check.

so there you go, this is my trio of productivity tools! they’re a weird bunch, but hey… whatever works, right? :D

ps – do you use any other tools that i should check out?


the second tip on this mini-productivity list is a bit radical, but if you’re an habitual internet-fueled procrastinator, maybe you’ll appreciate the ruthlessness of the self-control app.

this is the thing: i know there are people who are able to do all the hard things or watch unfazed from a distance as distractions float around them… but i’m definitely not one of them. my mind is a whirlwind of ideas and connections, a place where the instant gratification monkey has both hands firmly on the wheel.

and this is where self-control comes in. the app is really basic: you feed it a blacklist of websites where you don’t want to go, and it blocks them for as long as you’d like. until the timer expires, you won’t be able to access those websites — not even restarting the computer or deleting the app makes it go away. alternatively, you can use it with a whitelist, setting only the websites which you want to be allowed to open for that period of time.

i use it to block all kinds of social media, news sites or search engines where my random thoughts inevitably lead me. i turn it on when it’s still early and i’m filled with good intentions, and set the timer for when i’ll probably need a break. and so in the meantime, whenever a stray thought comes in or i feel an urgent need to know more about the endemic cabbages of kerguelen islands, the browser just refuses the connection and i’m thrown back to work — easy peasy.

it’s a very effective way to “burn your ships” and make sure you don’t have to rely on your own self-control to be focused. the fact that you can’t weasel your way around the restrictions is what makes it work for me — there’s nothing else to do but work, and after a while, it’s easy to get the groove going and forget about the other thoughts.

if you’re easily distracted by all the shiny things online, i heartily recommend it.


i don’t exactly feel like i’m qualified to give productivity advice, because i’m a huge procrastinator… but precisely because i’ve had to deal with this for all my life, over the years i’ve discovered a few tricks that help keep me on task and on track. i thought i’d share a few of my favourites this week. first up: habitica! habitica!

habitica is a mix of habit-tracking and to-do list app/site… but, the cool thing about it is that it’s also a role-playing game! every task, daily or good habit that you complete gives you points and rewards that can be used to advance your avatar or swap for other things.

that would be cool in itself, but i find that one of the most effective aspects of the website is that you can join a party and complete quests or battle monsters together with your friends. how do you do these things, you ask? well, by finishing your real life tasks, of course! every item that you tick off your lists hurts the monster you’re currently battling, but if you skip tasks or leave them undone, then the whole party suffers as a result… so the peer pressure to get stuff done is huge!

this mix of punishment, rewards and accountability works really well for me and so over the past year, habitica has slowly replaced my beloved things.

the website feels somewhat old school because of the pixel art, but i actually like that, as it’s less distracting than a proper “game”. and because the project is open-source and has a motivated community behind it, lots of members contribute with art, words or new features — so it feels like there’s always something new to explore or look forward to.

give it a try, if you’d like! and if you end up staying around, let me know and i’ll invite you to our group! :)