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Ask HN: What changes in your life did you make to become more productive?
78 points by chronal on Oct 16, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 105 comments

Went to my doctor for the first time about what turned out to be undiagnosed/untreated comorbid depression and ADHD. I was apprehensive and avoided it for years but it's easily been one of the best decisions I've ever made. I was losing so much time to the vicious cycle of not wanting to do anything but lay in bed, then feeling crappy that I wasn't doing anything, then trying to focus but constantly geting distracted for several hours, then feeling crappy about all of that and just wanting to go back to bed. (And obviously, I have seen enormous improvements in my overall mental health and well-being, not just productivity. But it turns out that not feeling like crap most of the time also makes you a much more productive developer.)

If you don't mind me asking: What kind of doctor did you see? What do you say when you want to make an appointment?

Lately I've been wanting to talk to a doctor, but I get very hung up on who I need to see and how to kick off the conversation about how I've been feeling.

I just went to see a general family doctor originally. I made the appointment by saying that I hadn't been in for a checkup in a while and wanted to establish a relationship with a general practitioner (for me it felt even more difficult to talk about being depressed with a random secretary). Then when I went in for the appointment I told the doctor I was there because I'd been depressed for a while and it had gotten bad enough that I wanted to see about treatment options. She was kind and professional from there, recommending me to a therapist in the practice and getting me set up with an appointment. It seems like a huge mountain from this side of things but at least from my doctor's reaction, this is hardly a rare occurrence and they know how to help you without making you feel like a burden or a crazy person or something (which is what I feared before I went in).

What was the treatment?

For me, it started with an antidepressant (escitalopram, commonly called Lexapro) and weekly visits with a therapist. The escitalopram did wonders for my particular depression. I have dysthymia (also called persistent depressive disorder, I forget which is the official name now) which means I experience ongoing, low-level daily melancholy (as opposed to clinical depression/major depression, which is much more episodic in nature -- you have weeks you just can't get out of bed or eat, and you have weeks when you're pretty much fine). So for me, escitalopram did a ton to even out my daily melancholy and limit mood swings -- I still have good and bad days but my baseline is much closer to neutral rather than consistently feeling down in the dumps.

And then as I talked to my therapist over time she uncovered symptoms of ADHD that I'd never really thought about. There's a lot of debate about whether adult-onset ADHD exists, but her perspective (which seems very accurate in my case) is that people with "adult-onset" ADHD have actually had it their entire lives as well, but they had better coping mechanisms so it wasn't diagnosed at a young age. I was always a good student, rarely got in trouble, could sit still in the classroom -- but I had a terrible time trying to focus on work, I fidget constantly, I always have multiple trains of thought in my head. I'm just also a pretty fast worker and fairly smart so I was able to be unfocused and put things off to the last second but eventually lock it in just in time to beat the deadline. My therapist administered a diagnostic test (basically a multiple choice test asking about how often I experience X, Y, and Z, and a similar test sent to a close friend to be completed separately about their perceptions of me) and it turned out that I do have ADHD. So she started me on Ritalin which has also helped me immensely. I'm able to focus and be productive on a regular basis (rather than in brief but manic spurts) and it also helps my overall mood, because I'm not constantly getting down on myself for being unable to focus on something important. (That's what it means for my ADHD/depression to be "comorbid" -- they feed into each other.)

It's worth noting that this is just my particular combination of neurodivergences and treatment plan. Different people experience success with different treatments, including various medications, ongoing/regular talk therapy, lifestyle changes, etc. But the one constant is that I've never met a single person whose life has gotten worse because they talked to someone about their mental health. It's a lifelong journey but in my experience the needle only moves in one direction and it starts with opening up to someone.

either therapy and/or drugs. go see a professional and stop using webMD. or worse, hackernewsMD. :D

In which country will a doctor diagnose an adult with ADHD?

In Denmark, to name one.

Norway as well.

That is: they'll forward you to a specialist who is also a doctor and that person will then diagnose you.

In order of impact:

* Stop looking for "opportunities" until I need one. This means entertaining recruiters, personal branding, networking, coupons/free stuff, freelance sites, side projects, meeting sales people. 80% of errands I didn't want came from this. The only exception is helping people who ask for help.

* Getting the hardest thing done a day. Sometimes this means getting rest and sleeping at 9 PM.

* If it feels bad to the point I rant for nights to my wife about it, get rid of it. Fire that guy, send that email, yell at the boss, quit that job, destroy that rival. Sometimes it costs me all my daily willpower to do this one thing, and I end up too tired to do anything else. It's always worth it.

* Focus days. Basically these totally monastic days, where I stay away from all entertainment and think on a problem, except for family time. You know that moment you get an idea in the shower? When avoiding all entertainment, you get that moment all day, and it wanders off to something useful, not about how to optimize my build for a game.

* Never directly working past 6 PM. Daydreaming about work is fine but don't write anything.

* Getting 7 hours of sleep a night. 1 extra hour of sleep allowed 2 more hours of difficult work.

* L-Theanine

* Exercise regularly in mornings.

* Disposable prototypes. If I feel unsure if something could be done or unsure how to do it, build something that will be disposed later. Forcing myself to throw it away also keeps me from adding stuff I don't actually need and keeps me from paralyzing perfectionism.

* Don't emotionally focus on something. Bad things hurt, but focus on getting back up or away from the pain. Don't let it distract.

* Yes, fear/depression/anger increase productivity 500%. But the side effects are very bad.

what is L-Theanine for?

It's a calming nootropic that goes really well with caffeine. (It's why green tea is so great.)

I am drinking green tea (a lot actually). Should I also ingest L-Theanine?

I think the nootropics people claim that most green tea has a little bit too little L-Theanine to get the most out of it biochemically, but I'm not sure.

They first extracted L-Theanine from Japanese gyokuro tea, which is green tea grown in shade and it has a lot of the wonder drug, but it's pretty expensive.

Anyway, green tea is great as it is, so it's up to you!

Possibly not. You can try, it's quite safe. I take it with no caffeine at all because I caffeine stresses me out during deadlines.

Strengthen my self-discipline muscle. Seriously the ability to self-control ourselves is the biggest and hardest thing.

1) I HATE Running and I would run 3 miles a day around a 1/4 track 5 days a week. I could stop at anytime and just did it.

2) I fasted breakfast and lunch once a week. Just drank water period.

This was awesome then I got married and have kids. I am the most undisciplined self I have ever known and less productive.

1st off, username checks out.

>I am the most undisciplined self I have ever known and less productive.

Are you saying this is a result of marriage+kids or 1&2 above?

For other parents here:

Check that you get enough sleep.

Trying to work more than full days (e.g. long days at work, volunteering or moonlight consulting) while constantly getting woken up in the night can be really hard.

I had to give up a lot of my volunteering after I got kids.

I'm also really happy I took the effort to teach my kids to sleep through the night.

Strange. I found that my children have caused me to be much more disciplined, productive, and organized. It's just that much of my energy now goes toward raising good kids.

Serving in the army (and actually going to war, which is a nightmare, for a brief period):

1. It helps you get discipline right, and care less about "productivity" and "motivation" - you just do stuff. 2. It teaches you that your reserves and powers are limited, and priorities are an hourly grind of making the right choices. 3. It teaches you to stay sharp all the time, no matter what your body tells you to feel.

Not that I've mastered any of these, but even small hints I've picked up really changed my life before/after spending 6 months in pre-field training and a year in field (I was officer-in-reserve before, but it teaches you knowledge, not skill).

The two friends I know who went to war had to shove dead kids into trucks. One is a functioning alcoholic and the other is a recluse whose nickname has "drugz" in it. Good luck with that as a self-motivating strategy.

Thank you for your service to your country.

No 0 days.

Taken from this thread on reddit: https://www.reddit.com/r/getdisciplined/comments/1q96b5/i_ju...

Reminds me of the make-your-bed advice. http://www.businessinsider.com/navy-seal-commander-explains-...

I ditched my smartphone and opted for a dumb phone instead. For me, having a smartphone made my distractibility even worse than it naturally is (I have ADD). Also, I no longer hear the siren call of the internet calling to me everywhere I go.

Was it hard to make the transition? I wish I could get rid of my smart phone, but I'm so dependent on lyft, my gps, etc, that it's hard to separate the addictive parts from the parts that are really useful.

Well, I have a Garmin for GPS (which is arguably inferior but it's fine) and I don't live in an big city so we don't have Uber or Lyft here anyway. I can see how for some people it is a requirement to have a smartphone - esp if you need to be constantly tethered to your email (dev ops etc...)

so the trick is not ditching your device access to online stuff, but your physical access. without a cellphone in big urban centers you'd have a tough time moving around. well, I would.

public transport in big us cities are broken down by little cities, which any European would call neighbourhood... and parking in sf and ny is impractical. now you have to know how to transfer between several buses routes, or even if you decide to just take a cab, you must know the cab number for the company for that specific little region you find yourself at. I can't imagine not having a phone with a browser to navigate this mess, obviously designed to limit mobility.

Maybe delete the apps that's you want to force limited exposure to.

Deleting my native Facebook app did me wonders. I can always use the website if I really want to but I naturally visit less frequently

I did the same, as well as using a chrome extension to block my feed on the non-mobile version. It's been a great decision.

I switched to an iPhone SE recently and it seems to be the best of both worlds. Uber, GPS, and internet are there if I need them, but that tiny screen makes aimless browsing much less tempting.

I have to carry a smartphone for work. Removing or disabling distractions can still make a big difference. Uninstalling games and social media apps, disabling Google Now's feed and disabling most push notifications helps me.

I am extremely tempted to do this, but I also benefit from simple positive features like contact syncing, notes, grocery list syncing, calendar syncing, and a few other utilities.

I've decided to try one of those micro-smartphones, hoping the small screen will be fine for calendars but miserable for email & web surfing.

Sometimes I think what I really need is WiFi but no data. Sync on the nightstand, but no data connectivity out and about.

Got some examples of these micro phones? Sounds interesting!

Edit: This is from a Kickstarter - Super cheap and fits the bill https://www.amazon.com/Unihertz-Smallest-Smartphone-Android-...

> Sometimes I think what I really need is WiFi but no data. Sync on the nightstand, but no data connectivity out and about.

I only have 10MB data / month. Perfectly sufficient for chat and the rare emergencies.

Huh I'd think Android would suck up 10MB in minutes doing random useless stuff. No ability to turn mobile data completely off for all BUT one or two apps.

It works just fine for me, I've never gone above the 10MB. "Restrict background data" on my Android 4.1 on each app/service does the trick.

Meal prep once a week.

Once a week I roast ~8 chicken quarters (I quarter whole chickens). M-Th the only meals i eat are 2-4 cups of mixed salad and 1/4 chicken. Takes about 1 hour to prep, saves about 6 hours of time per week.

Intentionally do less. I frequently trim back all the things I think I "have" to do and realize they're not worth the marginal time. This includes things like cleaning my apartment (once a month instead of once a week). Checking email besides when I find my self waiting for something else (like an elevator or coffee). I also try to keep this mentality with development. I try to code the least thing and get it shipped so that we can improve it if/when someone ever uses it. The vast majority of P0 Must have CEO direct features have been largely untouched and thus I now just do the bare minimum on things so we can get the data to know where to focus real effort.

I would hate chicken after few weeks of such diet )

The biggest change for me has been partitioning. When it is time to work, I work. No distractions, attack the most important tasks etc. During breaks I will let my attention wander but not during work periods.

When I am participating in hobbies, with friends, on vacation, done for the day etc I do not work. I will not check my email, I will not answer phone calls, I will not do any work. Obviously if there is an emergency I will break this policy, but true emergencies are pretty rare. I schedule both work time and time off in my calendar and make it available for people I work with to see. They know that unless it's an emergency, if they contact me during a marked time off they will not get a response until the next work period.

I've never made a change in my life with the conscious purpose to become more productive. But there have been a couple of periods in my life when my productivity was higher, so it was tempting to examine what circumstances were present that could explain those good times.

I have no positive answers. It's more like I am usually very productive as long as there's not some circumstances that slow me. Actually it's very easy to find the causes for my lack of productivity: illness, family problems or toxic workplace.

So my advice is: get the monkey off your back and forget the details.

Try FaceApp and see yourself aged 30+ years. You will eventually become that person so it's worth taking steps towards making that person the best version of you.

"We treat our future selves like strangers" https://www.vox.com/2014/12/18/7414105/procrastination-futur...

I stopped caring how productive I was and just produced stuff when I felt like it

Ditched multiplayer roleplaying games: I found I was mostly playing these games out of desperation for meaningful interaction and chatting. Though I've replaced that with Discord servers now, so perhaps I should cut that out too.

Same! I replaced it with Manga, read a couple chapters in my downtime or during meals. You'd the surprised the depth of these, they are usually well written, basically an ongoing book.

Give your local live music scene a go, its worked really well for me!

Got married and had kids. Before that, I was happy working a 30k/year job, coming home and playing video games every day. It was a simpler, and more blissful time, but I was not progressing in any way.

Getting married and having kids is amazing at building up both focus and ambition.

I've played video games my entire life. I'm really good at them, and as a result, I enjoy them. Video games have always been my outlet, my "TV", my go-to when I just need to detach and relax. I play ~17 hours a week +/- 3 hours.

I'm not as productive as I'd like to be in my side projects. So I'm trying something new that I started 2 days ago: Quitting video games ENTIRELY.

Here's my theory:

Video games are really fun. The instant gratification of landing a head shot. The skill, investment, and reward of becoming better, and better. The social atmosphere of team based coordination... These things have become my expectation for what is "fun" and "interesting". Years of gaming has reset my subconscious view of the world. How can reading compete with the excitement you get from a round of CS:GO? How can my mind be pulled to work on a long running side project, when I get stimulation and excitement from a game? I need to give my willpower a break, and reset my expectations of what "fun" is.

I'm going on a 30 -> 60 -> 90 day video game "detox" to assess whether or not my productivity (and other mental health factors) benefit.

In the first day (Saturday) I was far more productive around the house, because I was bored. I would not allow myself to play video games, so I took care of shit that I'd been putting off for months. So far, so good. I'll continue to monitor and see if this has been a net positive, or net negative decision (or neutral).

Learned few simple HIIT exercises. Now when I am feeling tired, I do them for 5 minutes, and it resurrects me and boosts productivity significantly.

Plus regular exercises (heavy lifting once a week, and interval running 3 times a week) boost energy level and don't take much time.

Started my own company. I know why we're doing things and why they are important. And I know that if I don't do some things they won't get done.

In a similar vein; I quit my job and started my company. The number of empty hours I spent trying to be/look busy at work was astounding. When it was my own company, my work ethic became more sensibly based on actual output, rather than perceived output.

Using a notebook. Just writing down observations (code, health, whatever) was incredibly powerful in making and evaluating changes.

Do you use the notebook as a self evalation tool or something else? Can you give any examples?

I got a better keyboard. I had some bad typing habits that a regular keyboard was "allowing". I tended to reach across the keyboard with my dominant hand and left my non-dominant one to easily accessible keys. Needless to say, typing was slow and error prone.

Then I tried one of those keyboards that splits in the middle. It forced me to break my bad typing habits, I literally couldn't reach across the keyboard anymore, it was waaayy to far to move. My WPM went from 30 to 60 in about two weeks. (Microsoft Ergonomic Keyboard 4000, for those interested. About $40 on Amazon)

Typing faster allowed me to express my ideas much quicker. I could iterate faster, solve problems quicker, etc. etc. I started moving around the computer with my mouse less, so common operations like saving and opening files sped up.

I moved my phone away from my person when charging it at night. I’ll, without fail, spend an hour on it doing bullshit before going to bed if I don’t.

Installed Qbserve. Makes it easy to cut down on daily distractions.


What have you discovered about your habits and time usage by time tracking?

I just came to terms with the fact that I work 100 times better with external motivation. Worked in school, works at the job, needed to find a way to make it work in personal life.

That's been a lot harder - still not good at it. Best I can do is announce things to people beforehand and then work at it as opposed to not working on it and risk appearing all talk.

I'm still working on finding internal motivation - but this is bridging the gap for now.

1) I built an app to help me form habits on a daily basis: https://github.com/ioddly/meditations . Pretty simple, minimalistic, but having it open every time my computer does makes it low-friction to log all these things. There are loads of these; I wrote my own for fun and because I wanted to keep the information encrypted, locally.

2) I've started unplugging the internet. Like I literally pull the ethernet cord out of my computer and turn off my phone. I do it every night so that when I wake up, I code for about 4 hours without it. This has been the biggest boost to productivity and happiness I've had in a long time.

Two issues with this so far:

a) Sometimes I hit a wall where I need to look something up before I can proceed, but I've never run out of work that I do know how to do. So I just write it down to search for later and work on something else.

b) I'm not sure how this would work with paying clients, managers, and so on. So far I've only done this on my own projects, in between clients.

I used a browser plugin similar to StayFocusd to block social media and news sites while working. This helped wean me off of checking Hacker News throughout the day. This helped me focus much more on work and on enjoying my personal time. In a similar vein, get off social media as much as possible especially Twitter. I'm also at the point where I would include TV and netflix in general in this category, where you should wean yourself off of it.

Something that may help is to use a paper notebook to take notes and keep track of important todo items. I personally feel more productive with pen and paper but your milage may vary. I particularly like either legal pads or the moleskin-type journals.

For those introverts like myself, make sure to set up events to look forward to on a regular basis. Meet up with ex-coworkers, college friends etc. It definitely makes getting up in the morning easier knowing that you have something to look forward to.

1. Serializing my tasks and assignments (to the extent possible).

2. Doing my work more slowly and deliberately.

3. Working in my own shop with nobody around (i.e. reduced distractions, no office chit-chat).

Not a complete list, but these 3 changes make me more productive than ever before, and with less stress.

(edit to add: not only is productivity greater, but the quality of my output is improved, too.)

Make a prioritized list of things that need to be done with my time, and setting goals based on those lists.

I just start going down the list, and use the goals to measure whether my time is being used effectively. Also, don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good here. Make incremental improvements.

Stop watching television, getting kids.

getting kids

Ah, the trial-by-fire approach to streamlining your life.

That's probably the most succinct way I've seen to articulate the Kid Effect. I'm going to steal that one!

Started working remote.

Stopped setting alarms for getting up in the moring.

How did no longer setting "wake up" alarms help?

I now always sleep as long as I need, which makes me wake up more refreshed.

Also, it leaves me with only 14 wake hours a day, lol

Not sure if you're joking. So you sleep 10 hours a day?

9-10h yes

Don't think about productivity because it will introduce yourself to mental stresses that will derail your productivity. For a few simple things I have some ideas.

- Do small changes

- Break apart what you have to do

- Realize what you can't do and instead do something you can.

Good sleep, food and sport. It is the step 0 if you want to improve your productivity.

Switched jobs. No longer on call doing DevOps means I can focus on each task knowing I'm not going to have to drop everything and work on a technical issue off hours.

I started taking L-Theanine with my coffee in the morning. It's been about a month now and I find myself having incredible focus when I need to throughout the day.

What are specfic benefits L-Theanine gives you? I've read that L-Theanine is more of a relaxant that counteracts the anxiety casuing effects of caffiene, so I can't really see how it helps you focus.

It helps me get into the "flow state" where I can work on just one thing and dive deep into it without thinking of all the other things I have to do or want to do.

1. Spend ~3 minutes stretching and doing light exercise (pushups / situps) upon waking every morning.

2. Skip breakfast. Just black coffee until lunch. The intention is to train your body to get its energy from fat reserves (a more stable source) instead of the sugars in the food you just ate.

3. Cast aside desires, in the Buddhist sense. I found that, with just a little mental shift, I could "let go" of many daily frustrations that were sapping my energy.


Made OS X's ssh-agent remember my passphrase today

The biggest was deciding to work on things I love. For days when I'm feeling distracted, I use Freedom and it works pretty well.

I started using a habit tracking app. I've always had things I've wanted to stick with (eating healthier, learning a second language, learning how to solve CS-heavier algorithm problems), and this has helped incentivize me to do a little bit each day, or just keep up with important daily tasks like cleaning or using skincare products.

Any app in particular that you recommend?


Exercise, water and sleep.

Used website restrictors on multiple browsers to block out Facebook and other shit, then eventually stopped looking at Facebook altogether.

Also: had a baby, realized that my death is a certainty and that I need to make my dreams come true RIGHT NOW.

Being in a relationship. When single, I would spend time & money on dating apps and going out. Now that time is spent with her at home where we can read, work on side projects and just be productive.

Shifted my schedule 2 hours earlier so as to get to the office while it's still quiet and get some focus time in.

If there were any offices left in this city that weren't open plan, that would be the next step.

Met my best friend through work and she changed my life, I enjoyed work more than ever, you can't choose to do this so I apologise but if you find it you're very lucky <3

I alway thought workplace dating was at least risky, and mostly just off limits?

We're not dating just great friends

The greatest productivity boost was to get rid of internet altogether at home (say goodbye to Comcast) and work only at the office. Also, I downgraded my phone service plan and switched to 1 GB limit/month on the data plan. I also recommend getting rid of cable TV.

I became more efficient at work, with clear goal in mind that I had to finish my daily work in order to meet my hard-set deadline of 6pm. I was able to really focus and concentrate with greater intensity, since I couldn't do more work at home.

There were also other unintended benefits.

Not having internet at home allowed my mind to be free from "distractions" at home. At home, my mind was still engaged in the work-related stuff. In order to switch gears and to unwind, I was spending time on Youtube and mindless entertainment, but more often, I was vegging out and becoming an internet couch-potato.

Now, I tend to spend more time with the family, and I am able to focus on people and not technology. I am free from the burden of FOMO. I am thinking more clearly and creatively. I have more time for hobbies and side projects. If I really needed to Google something , I'd use my phone for quick search (again, being limited to 1GB limit so I didn't get side-tracked). I can't procrastinate by going on the net and getting lost in endless research.

And since I couldn't be online while at home, I was unconsciously building good habits. I am reading more books (and buying more paper-based books instead of e-books/Kindle books). I am writing more, journaling more, and getting more exercises and working out. I'm also sleeping better and no longer have insomnia, probably due to limited screen time in the evening.

I also became more selective of the type of entertainment, preferring quality over quantity, and elminating my binge-watching. Instead, I watch movies on Bluray/DVD and is a much better viewing experience. I recommend Netflix (snail mail service, not the online version).

During weekends, I have an excuse to go to a local coffee shop with good coffee and fast internet connection. For dealing with urgent issues that come up during off-hours, I can use my pre-paid LTE hotspot (Karma).

I also use my phone less, and now I use it mostly for maps, weather, and email.

If cutting the cord is not an option, an alternative is to set the parental control on the wifi router and use time restriction to block internet during evening and on weekends.

Also having good set of tools AND having mastery over them are important, but that's another topic.

In recent weeks: disabling push notifications for social apps, getting up much earlier (also to beat morning rush hours), pomodoro.

Left Facebook. Meditate. Turn the devices off when working and meeting humans on the physical plane.

Blocked Hacker News at work!

1) Taking Modafinil[1][2] semi-regularly. I've always had problems focusing and being productive. Honestly I've always wondered if I have some form of ADD or something. I used to drink large amounts of caffeine but the effects after long term use declines dramatically due to tolerance and I found out I was lactose intolerant. So I tried Modafinil after hearing a lot about it. I personally find it to be an extremely useful tool for my productivity and even my social life. It's also a much better drug in comparison to caffeine (disclaimer: individual results may vary, do your research, I'm not a doctor, etc).

2) Write things down. Make a list, write a journal, what ever feels right and works for you; just dump thoughts or ideas from your mind onto paper. Make it as structured or unstructured as you desire. It might be projects, things you want to watch or buy or upgrade around the house, etc. My 'notes' are literally completely random things I've thought or been told immediately and want to remember later. Most of them I'll never see again, but I know they are there. Eventually some of these might make it into the next step.

3) Get some productivity/task software or devise your own system for tasks and reminders and actually stick with it. I use OmniFocus2[3] but use what ever works for you. A simple calendar and notes system would work for most people. I work from home and found myself just reverting to reddit or hacker news when bored, where as now I see if there's any tasks assigned for today and what needs doing and do those before I allow myself to relax for the day. Having my day already planned makes me so much more relaxed when I wake up. The alarm can go off and I don't have to worry that I forgot to email my client, or the tax statements need to be mailed today. It's already sorted out for me to do and I don't have to think about it. It frees the mind to think about what you're focusing on, or a problem that requires devoted attention.

4) Every few weeks or so, spend some of your down time reflecting and thinking about what you can automate to save time, or what you can change so that you're more productive. Automate and iterate upon your productivity systems like you would as if practising agile. You wont get it perfect the first time around. I identified tracking the time spent on different clients was taking a lot of my time by hand, so I automated my timesheets into a CSV format which is imported into Google Sheets and used in my books for invoices. Later I automated the invoice email too. I used to do that by hand. I also created a filter that forwards my client's emails into my OmniFocus inbox and I can set the tasks for a date which appears in my calendar with alerts. You can do a lot, even with out the expensive productivity apps.

5) Don't work against your own unique circumstances or biology, work with them. I have a sleep disorder[4] (unrelated to the Modafinil, I assure you) and had a really bad time working full time normal office hours. I lasted two years full time waking up at 7am but I was getting 3-5 hours sleep and as a result I got burnt out, depressed and anxious. I quit and currently contract remotely earning a lot less money than I could otherwise, but now I get to work during my own sleeping hours and I feel a lot more happy. I tried changing my sleeping pattern and tried a bunch of band aid solutions but I never had any success, where as I've had great success adapting my life around my biological abnormality.

6) Reduce friction. It's really obvious when you think of it. I learnt this when I was playing guitar. If I have a guitar sitting next to my desk already tuned and ready to play, it results in me playing guitar more regularly. If it's untuned and in a case, I'd play it much less regularly. Reduce friction required for you to get started.

7) Don't believe anyone who tells you they have the solution™. You are a unique individual with unique problems which require unique solutions. This applies to self help too. No one has the 'real' answer. You need to try, experiment, think, and decide for yourself. Modafinil might kill you. Notes might waste your time. You might spend $80 on a productivity app and never use it after the first week. You might be suited to orderly enforced sleeping patterns.

EDIT: Formatting, added #6, and added some references

[1] Wikipedia Modafinil: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modafinil

[2] Very informative write up about Modafinil from the lovely Gwern: http://www.gwern.net/Modafinil

[3] OmniFocus2: https://www.omnigroup.com/omnifocus

[4] Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delayed_sleep_phase_disorder

(5) has been one of the biggest struggles in my life. At times where I could sleep/wake naturally, I was a different person. I had more energy, I felt more optimistic, and alive. I still had my struggles to be sure, but sleeping in your 'natural' rhythm (whatever is native to you) is far superior to a forced sleep/wake cycle.

The problem is, even if you do contract work, or work remotely for a flexible company, you're beholden to your partner's sleep/wake cycle as well.

That's very true (depending on the partner's pattern, I guess), and not all contract work allows you to be asleep during the day, some still require phone meetings and the such.

Even working remotely from home, I still have occasional logistical problems because sometimes there are appointments at 9am, or social events in the late morning and this will always be the case.

Just going to have to work with what you've got and work around it to the best of your ability. Although I should probably point out that it is important to find out before hand if there's anything else going on that could be causing this and potentially be resolvable before you stop expending energy fixing something you can't solve.

Although, if you are still having troubles sleeping and waking naturally feeling refreshed do your own research and maybe ask your GP if Melatonin[1] would suit you. Using flux[2] is also a great tool to help get to bed earlier too as that actually increases your melatonin naturally. Melatonin is not really similar to any other sleeping pills and it seems to be quite safe and has a great return on investment[3].

You probably already know about it so sorry if this was an unrequested information dump :)

[1] Wikipedia: Melatonin https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melatonin

[2] Flux: https://justgetflux.com/

[3] Gwern on Melatonin http://www.gwern.net/Melatonin


Uninstalled Facebook and all other social media apps from my phone

Stopped watching TV. Total life improvement all-around.

Does TV include Netflix/Youtube? I love watching those and can't really muster the energy to read after dinner until I go to bed..

Watching DVD/Bluray discs helps (vs watching unlimited contents from Netflix/Youtube), since it limits the number of hours I spend watching, and I can avoid binge-watching. I recommend Netflix (the snail mail service, not online streaming)

In the vein of Michael Pollan ..

Say No. A lot. Mostly to your self.

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