I haven’t always been productivity obsessed. I’ve always liked efficiency but to this day my wife still yells at me for letting the place get messy… not something you’d expect from somebody that seems to have mild OCD on certain topics. In a lot of ways, this is by design, let me explain.
As a kid, I was diagnosed with dyspraxia and dyslexia – I learnt to solve problems more visually and unconventionally as a result of the dyslexia but dyspraxia is a bit different, one of the symptoms is essentially being disorganised and lazy… cue the fireworks for my parents no longer feeling like they could enforce me tidying my room (some habits never die).
Anyway… for some reason I decided to join the army at 15 on a military grad scheme and I went off to a military boarding school called Welbeck. The army isn’t quite as lax on tidiness as my parents and I quickly had to shape up. What happened next was quite interesting, I noticed that I started to apply order to a lot of things outside of ironing clothes and keeping my room tip-top. I started to structure maths problems in a much better way and get to the answers faster, which quickly became my favourite subject. I started to train more effectively and make plans for the gym ahead of time, I started to organise my prep time (what homework’s called at boarding school) to stack the more difficult tasks first so I got them done and finished on a high with the easier stuff. Simply being made to tidy my room, changed my academic approach, physical fitness approach and general personal admin setup. I started to be more productive, see the results and double down. There’s a reason the military obsesses over things the admin side, it enforces discipline across multiple areas of life.
Ever since that learning experience, I’ve tried to focus on keeping the same principles. The purpose of the post isn’t to get you to do the same things I do – but to get across the point that naturally applying order to life has a significant knock on effect on your professional career, enabling you to do things like keep your inbox at zero!
Here’s 4 seemingly random things that drive other people crazy but in my opinion has a much bigger effect than the individual activity:
I’m pretty rubbish at poker, but I quickly learnt that my biggest downfall was that I lost concentration quickly. Assuming others would do the same, I figured being constantly engaged would give me an edge. I used to play a lot of poker, I used the game to fund surviving running my own startup for the first 6 months of operation.
If you haven’t played poker before, poker chips come in different colours representing different values and most also have little white notches all the way around. I would stack everything by colour in descending order of value then… make sure all the notches lined up! It sounds insane and when it became an obsession of mine it had a downside – friends could mess up my chips to throw off my concentration until they were all correct again. But it made me focus, it made me pay attention and it in some ways other people finding it funny and weird made me want to actually win more chips partly just to sit there and annoy everybody by stacking them ‘correctly’.
Point being, something silly and seemingly insignificant had a big impact on my ability to play the game. In a lot of ways, being naturally productive is similar to superstition, you do it a few times, get good results then it becomes a habit. The more ways you try to optimize productivity, the more productive you become in all aspects of life.
Hanging up laundry
This one drives my wife insane. When I get laundry out the machine (yes, living in the dark ages with no dryer), I take it over to the rack and drop it all on the floor. Then I sit down, sort everything into different piles, starting with underwear, then socks, then t-shirts then whatever the hell I want because I live life on the edge!
Laundry is placed on the rack in a specific way and always in the same order. Underwear goes on the bottom (see what I did there!) on individual rows, then the socks make up the space on the rows because you can’t fit 2 boxers on one row. Then t-shirts start in the inner rows on the next level and work to the outside but don’t take the outside rungs. Finally trousers go on the middle tier outer rows and shirts on the top ones… crazy right?
I genuinely do it the same way every single time. I believe it’s more efficient and I believe it makes more sense. Tanya thinks it’s a waste of time. The point is that I believe it and having order in random aspects of my life brings order in professional aspects of my life.
Stacking the dishwasher
Wouldn’t be a post about crazy versions of productivity for the sake of productivity without a section on the dishwasher. This is actually a more recent thing for me, I didn’t used to care.
It’s quite simple actually – there’s the obvious, mugs on the top shelf etc but the little tweak is actually with cutlery. I now sort the cutlery before I put it in the machine, so the forks get their own section, then the knives (yeah, I do it in the same order because I’m the epitome of cool). It actually 100% makes life easier, because when you’re loading the dishwasher you’re actively cleaning the kitchen, but when you’re unloading it you’re normally about to cook and can’t be bothered with tidying up… now the tedious bit happens when I’m more open to it and the easy bit happens when I’m less inclined.
There’s always logic to the madness, even if it’s wrong!
Keeping my desk immaculate
I’ve mentioned this before, but organisation really can be driven by the perception or order. I am not a naturally tidy person, but at work I am a crazy crazy crazy human about my desk. This morning I was working from home and one of my colleagues sent me a picture of my desk covered in other people’s stuff as a joke, I was livid!
I use a monitor stand with inbuilt compartments. Before you actually put tech on it it resembles a school dinner tray, but stick some legs on it and a monitor on top and it looks slick and everybody else wants to buy one!
Order at home is one thing, but the primary purpose of being productive for me is about improving in a professional environment, so having order at work and carrying on the same principles discussed in this article in the middle of that world, is crucial for me.
Anyway… if this article sounded completely insane to you and like it all came out of a horse, then fair enough and thanks for reading this much! Hopefully some of my craziness rubbed off on you however and you’ll start becoming more organised in unconventional ways and start seeing it translate over to your work environment. Either way, I’ve enjoyed writing this post and hope it bought you some form of entertainment!
I score this productivity hack as:
It’s tough to score this high as a hack, because it’s more of a general mindset approach. It’s not easy to make yourself care about silly things like how you hang up the laundry (and you may have a dryer) so it gets a 3 for habit forming and a 4 for setup (because it’s not technically difficult). Cost is an anomaly here, it feels like cheating giving a 5 to a mindset but at the same time, it is entirely free so it scores a generous 4. Productivity is subjective, I personally think it’s a 5 but I’m sure others will disagree so I’ve gone for a conservative 3. So overall… 3.5.