The best productivity hack I’ve ever heard

There are thousands of tips and tricks on the internet on how to increase your productivity, but most of them are lacklustre or have very little impact. I recently came across a productivity hack that blew my mind. It not only helps with procrastination but also makes sure you’ll do the work you scheduled. Sounds too good? I thought the same until I gave it a try.

Goals Infinite: The best productivity hack I've ever heard

Raymond Chandler’s secret productivity hack

The late fiction writer Raymond Chandler was convinced, that a good writer writes at least 4 hours a day. To fulfil this he scheduled uninterrupted time every day, where he was supposed to do his writing. He often struggled with this, like many of us struggle in a similar situation. Have you ever tried to spend 4 hours of focused work time in one sitting? It is nearly impossible.

He often found himself reading books or writing letters instead of working on his novels. (Let’s face it, most of the time it is easier to do something else than to do the task we scheduled.) This infuriated him, as he made less progress or the desired progress took more time. He decided to come up with one simple rule to solve this problem. This rule became the best productivity hack I’ve ever heard.

The rule was simple. He knew that you should not force writing. If you are not in the mood, you don’t have to write. But you are not allowed to do any other activity either. So, he gave himself two options:

  1. I may write, but it is not mandatory,

  2. Not do anything else.

What does “Not do anything else” means? It means you are not allowed to do anything productive (another task, housework, paperwork…) or anything that helps time fly (surfing the web, checking your phone, reading the news, writing emails…). You may look out the window, walk up and down in your room etc.

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The rule basically says Writing or Nothing. Of course, it works with everything else as well like Homework or Nothing and Promote or Nothing, not just writing. Some literature even calls this rule the Nothing Alternative. It sounds super simple I know, but here me out.

Why does this rule work and how to apply it?

This seemingly easy rule works on many levels. Here are just a few:

  • First of all, you have a choice. This gives you the feeling of freedom, which is rare when working.
  • Your mind won’t feel forced to work. Forced work is never efficient work.
  • You’ll realise that doing nothing is boring. The only thing that is less boring than nothing is working.

Applying this rule will help you deal with procrastination and spend your scheduled time productively. It does require some discipline and willpower, so the best is to get rid of the temptations around you. Here are some examples:

  • Schedule your work time:
    • Set a time limit for your session, like Chandler did with his 4 hours of writing,
    • Make sure you won’t get interrupted by others,
  • Turn off your phone (aeroplane mode or notifications off),
  • Close the unnecessary tabs in your browser (or the whole browser),
  • Get rid of newspaper, magazines and books from your workspace,
  • Take breaks regularly (I recommend 45 minutes of work and 10-15 minute breaks).

What do you think of this hack? Why do you think you should or shouldn’t give it a try? Do you have a similar productivity hack that you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments what do you think!

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About the author

Gabor Hosszu is the founder and head article writer of Goals Infinite. Being passionate about personal development and helping others were the main reasons he launched this site. By trade Gabor is a mechanical engineer. His hobbies include being a chilli farmer, a video game nerd and a wannabe beer expert.