Category Archives: Productivity

How I improved my productivity by changing my sleep habits

I’ve always admired people who can sleep less than five hours and seem to function. I’ve always thought that the people who have trained themselves to sleep for such few hours accomplished more than I possibly could, as I sleep for at least 7.5 hours daily. To be honest, I average 8.5-9 hours.


I’ve tried the whole I’m-gonna-sleep-for-four-hours-and-then-hit-the-ground-running thing, but it has never worked for me. Sure, on the first day I will feel like Superwoman, but by the second day I am a zombie. Even with the tons of coffee.

So what does research tell us about sleep? The National Sleep Foundation released the results of a study that took over two years to complete and offered the following recommendations:

For healthy individuals with normal sleep, the appropriate sleep duration for newborns is between 14 and 17 hours, infants between 12 and 15 hours, toddlers between 11 and 14 hours, preschoolers between 10 and 13 hours, and school-aged children between 9 and 11 hours. For teenagers, 8 to 10 hours was considered appropriate, 7 to 9 hours for young adults and adults, and 7 to 8 hours of sleep for older adults. (Excerpt from the National Sleep Foundation report published in the Sleep Journal. Read full report here.)

Basically, as an adult, I need to spend a third of my day asleep (validation of my sleep!).

Reseach also shows that some of the costs of insufficient sleep include:

  • Physical maladies such as obesity, headaches and migraines, gastrointestinal issues, liver disorders, slowed metabolism, among others;
  • Occupational injuries such as crashing motor vehicles or having near-misses;
  • Reduced productivity in the form of impaired cognitive and motor skills, making unsound decisions, giving muddled presentations, trouble learning, easily distracted, weakened social skills, missed work days due to health concerns, among others.

Some say that a sleep deprived person (one getting 5 or less hours of sleep) are akin to those who drink and drive above the legal limit.

So, what are some things that one can do to encourage better sleeping patterns?

  • Set a bedtime routine and stick to it. This includes winding down at least one hour before your bedtime by switching off all electronics. You could drink a cup of herbal tea while listening to some soft music.
  • Create an environment that encourages sleep – basically comfortable, quiet and dark.
  • Exercise for 20 minutes daily to ensure good fatigue, which contributes to deep sleep.

If you enjoyed this post, I’d be very grateful if you’d help it spread by emailing it to a friend, or sharing it on Twitter or Facebook. Thank you!

My favorite productivity tools: 2017

As a fan of productivity, I try to research and experiment with tools that I come across, in the hopes of learning more and upping my game. There are those which I instantly fell in love with; others exhausted me for various reasons. Without much further ado, here are my top 3.

  1. Todoist: I am still not sure how I managed to survive without this simple, minimalist, task manager that packs quite a number of features. I mean, I was so hooked onto it after three days of experimenting that I immediately upgraded to the premium version (USD 28.99 per annum)! It is available across a number of platforms (something that is very important to me), it has great features at the basic level and its premium version is very competitive among other similar apps.
    Todoist lets you create projects, in which you have your tasks and sub-tasks. These project s can be color-coded for visual reference. The tasks and sub-tasks can have due dates, and you can assign task priorities on four levels for each of them. The basic version offers up to 80 projects with a maximum of 5 collaborators in each project.
    The premium version, in addition to the above features, offers task labels and reminders, comments and file uploads, the ability to add tasks via email, iCal synchronization, notifications and project templates. The projects available are up to 200 with up to 25 users in each.
    These are just a few of the features available on Todoist. For me, though, my favorite feature is the short-cuts available on Todoist. Once you understand them, they make life so simple. For example you can type “#” to bring up your projects, “q” to input a task, “@” tags an individual in a project, or writing catch phrases like “tomorrow” or “every 2nd Monday” which Todoist will translate as due dates and file them accordingly. So to remind my colleague to send the budgeting report next week on Wednesday I could hit the letter Q on my keyboard to bring up the Quick Add Task, type something like “#Work (to add it to the Work project or ‘folder’) @Michael to send budget report Wednesday 9.30 am”, and Michael will see the assignment in his work folder and the reminder set.
    Once you have added your tasks, you can choose to view them in different ways, like Today, Tomorrow, or By Project. You can also customize how to view by searching in the quick find bar “overdue” or “next 10 days”.
    As you check-off your tasks, you gain Karma points (premium feature). Karma points basically show you how productive you are. These are awarded based on how many tasks you complete daily and weekly (target can be adjusted in the settings). The more Karma you gain, the higher you progress through the levels.
  2. RescueTime: This is by far one of the best tools for productivity (in my humble opinion). On the website, it is described as a tool that “helps you understand your daily habits so you can focus and be more productive”. RescueTime runs quietly in the background, tracking the time spent on various applications. It then gives daily and weekly dashboards on how your time was spent, ranging from very distracted to very productive. RescueTime can be customized; for example, I changed my email to distracting to minimize the amount of time I spend dealing with emails and I track my productivity between 8 am and 6 pm.
    Each week, I receive a summary of how my time was spent, with a productivity score and how many hours have been logged in total. I can also set daily goals to help improve my productivity and keep me on track. I also have downloaded the app onto my phone and use it to track my mobile usage.
    Premium features ( include the ability to turn off distracting websites for periods of time, receive daily highlights, create notifications and track offline activities. The premium version also offers more robust reports that are unlimited (the basic version offers three month reports). This, however, comes at a (pricey) tag of USD 72 per year or USD 9 per month.
  3. IFTTT: IFTTT simply means “If This, Then That” and is pronounced “Ift” (like lift, but without the l). Their slogan is “Do more with the services you love.” IFTTT has recipes, which are basic instructions that trigger an event if a certain action takes place. For example you can activate a recipe that sends certain emails to your OneNote. Or you could save your exercise data from your Fitbit to your OneNote. Or save photos that you are tagged on Facebook. There are so many recipes that you could activate and use, or your could make your own. I so far have never had the need to make any.

If you enjoyed this post, I’d be very grateful if you’d help it spread by emailing it to a friend, or sharing it on Twitter or Facebook. Thank you!