Thursday, March 14, 2013

One powerful trick to boost your productivity

 If you want to move a project or task forward, there are many techniques that you can apply to give yourself that little extra kick.

You can prepare yourself by starting with a 5 minute meditation.

You can use the Pomodoro technique.

When your deadline is not near, however, you might find yourself browsing over the internet, or chatting in the hallway with your colleagues.

When you have 4 years to finish a dissertation, you might not even feel to need to impose deadlines on yourself.

But, dear PhD students, this is reality calling.
Reality tells you that you need to push your project forward continuously to secure your success in the end.
Reality tells you that only a handful of PhD students finish within their 4 years of time (in the Netherlands).

To succeed, you need frequent bursts of productivity
You need to regularly squeeze in a few hours of concentrated, uninterrupted time.

I do the following when I want to push myself to finish a task (writing a subsection of a chapter, or a paragraph of a paper, or execute a set of calculations):

Unplug your laptop from its power cord and use the battery.

Finish your task before the battery runs empty.

Here's why this trick works:

1. Urgency

Suddenly, you have a clear time-frame defined to finish your task.
You might reach the same effect with the Pomodoro technique, but in my opinion, Pomodoros are better to divide a large task into manageable chunks, while the Laptop Unplug works best when you have a clearly defined goal that takes about 2 hours to finish.

2. Ideal writing time slot

Writing two hours a day is the ideal writing diet in academia. Devoting 2 hours, preferably in the morning, to writing will lead to a larger output than writing a few days uninterruptedly whenever a deadline is near.

3. Walk away

The Laptop Unplug works best for me when I take my laptop away from my computer table in my room, and place it on my desk. My desk is my devoted study and work area at home, while my bed and computer table are for browsing the internet.
When I sit at my desk, my mind knows that I'm at my designated work spot.

Now it's your turn! Give this technique a try, and please come back to tell me how you liked it, or why it didn't work for you.


  1. Unexpectedly a bit, it worked 100%. Got out 2 and a half hours of PURE productivity (deadline for a presentation in 2 days) while being on battery, in the bedroom (23h-01.30 on a Sunday eve). Then i reached for the adapter and got another hour of perfect non procrastinating time. Haven't had this ever since the time before internet, i think.

    Now, will it work again? And thanks!

  2. Very glad to read you found it helpful and got some good results!