Productivity Hacking

Added 2022-01-29, Modified 2022-09-05

Tactics that help me waste less of my life

Update (2022-09-05): This is obsoleted by my newer post written post-replacing-guilt and some other realizations. I've unlisted this post, but it's still available for historical purposes.

Update (2022-07-04): After reading the replacing guilt sequence (by someone I respect) my philosophy has changed somewhat.

Disclaimer: I constantly fail at many of the things listed here, read my journal for a realistic picture of my productivity.

Read Genius Checklist, it has very good high level advice. The stuff here are more tactics than strategy.

Note: People are different, what works for me may not work for you. Reverse all advice you hear and check if the reversal makes more sense.


Being in control of yourself and the feeling of becoming stronger is one of the best feelings there is.

In contrast: Every time I've been depressed it was because I was not in control of myself, not becoming stronger or not pursuing a worthy goal.


Journaling and reviewing each day is the most important meta-habit in my opinion. Constantly review past failures and form concrete plans to combat them. (The "form concrete plans to combat them" part is important! Most people don't journal with this intent.)

You can see my journal here. I also post them on discord to get accountability and feedback.

Win the morning

I've noticed that every day I sleep well, get up early (before family) and do my morning routine (intense workout, shower) then start work by 8am I'm typically very productive and don't waste time until late in the day (7pm ish).

The converse: If I wake up well after sunrise and after the rest of my family my brain associates this with "low performance mode" and I'll typically have a bad day.

This advice may not apply to night owls who get their best work done at 1am, me personally I almost never get quality work done after 7pm.

Block Distractions

I have YouTube, Discord, and other sites blocked before 5pm. Obviously I have to stop myself from disabling the block, but this does address the bad habit of "I'm bored for a second, new tab and open site XYZ".

The way I block distractions on my computer is interesting, I can temporarily disable the block but after some time it will re-enable itself. This is useful to ensure the block is re-enabled after I disable it, otherwise you might forget/give up on re-enabling it. For the technical readers, I have a blacklist in /etc/hosts.real with a cronjob that copies /etc/hosts.real to /etc/hosts every few minutes.

I also use the unhook extension (for firefox or chrome) which blocks youtube recommendations, that way if I do decide to disable the block (perhaps I need to watch a math video or something) I can only watch videos I search for.

My Phone I typically keep in airplane mode most of the day, There's also a thing in android to block specific apps (Settings -> Digital Wellbeing and parental controls -> Focus mode).


Update (2022-07-04): I believe I made too many projects and clients to the point where the pie chart was meaningless. In the future I'll bias towards fewer of both.

I use toggl to track all my time.

I use the "clients" feature as top level projects, ie. I have "math, coding, family, social, ..." and the "projects" feature for instances of the previous, ie. "axler,, chores, discord, ..."

Avoid automatic time trackers, The point of tracking time is to make you more mindful of how you spend it, not to "set and forget".

I think a better personal time tracker could be built, but for me toggl works the best (I've done a fair amount of research).


Habitica is great for tracking daily habits, it's also open source!

Currently, my habits look like

Maintaining all of these is really hard, I slip up a lot, but I've put maintaining habits high on my priority list, and I expect this to yield under increasing optimization pressure.


EDIT: I'm not using beeminder much anymore, since "when the measure becomes a target it ceases to be a good measure". The monetary pledge makes me cheat and corrupts the data. Also the monetary pledge doesn't motivate me as much as happy habitica sounds

I've used beeminder to track my important goals, It's a commitment device which charges you money when you fall behind a goal. You can see my beeminder here.

If you're disgusted by the idea of paying a company when you don't meet your goals ask yourself, do you plan on failing? If you don't, you'll never pay them.