Two Simple Productivity Tips I’m Loving


Greetings from Mexico 🇲🇽 This is my next step on the digital nomad adventures, before heading back to the US shortly. In this week’s email, I wanted to share a couple of quick little tactics I’ve been getting a lot of mileage out of to stay productive while travelling.

Namely, for the past 2 weeks, I’ve maintained a habit streak of doing at least 30 minutes of exercise each day. And even while travelling, I’ve managed to get in 3 bodyweight workouts per week.

This is unusual for me, because regular exercise is something I’ve been struggling to make a habit for a very long time.

But here are the two things that have been helping.

1 – The “Streaks” App widget on my home screen – Streaks is a super simple habit tracker. And it’s got a widget that you can add to your iPhone’s home screen (there are equivalent habit trackers on Android too). The widget shows you which of your habits you’ve “ticked off” today and which you haven’t.

This is super helpful, because the first thing I see on my phone when I open it, is therefore a reminder of “oh yeah I need to do my 30 minutes of exercise today”. This is often the nudge my brain needs to think “oh yeah I guess I could do that right now”.

2 – My AM5 Template – One of the highest leverage things I do almost everyday is to ask myself: “What’s today’s adventure going to be?”. By asking myself that question, I’m asking myself: “What’s the most important thing for me to work on today, and how can I approach it in a way that’ll make it more fun?” This is a really useful habit to build. But now that I’ve built it and don’t need to think too hard about it, it means I can stack another habit on top of it to help build that one too.

And so, I’ve added two questions that I ask myself *before * the adventure question. The first is “What’s today’s exercise plan?”

I’ve built that into the “AM5” template that I use in the journaling app Day One that I’ve been using for 7+ years. Which means that in the morning, when I sit down to start work, I open up a new journal entry, hit “template”, hit “AM5” (my cute name for my 5-minute morning journal), and then it automatically populates with the relevant questions.

So the first question is “What’s today’s exercise plan?” and the second is even more devious: “Is it in the calendar?”

I’ve found on several occasions that I’ve answered the “What’s today’s exercise plan?” with “Cool so I’m going to do a bodyweight at some point in the day”. And then I see the next question: “Is it in the calendar?” and I chuckle to myself and think “lol good point”. So I open my calendar, take a glance to see what’s on there right now, and stick a 45-minute block in for working out. I’ve found that it’s much easier to stick to if it’s in the morning rather than in the evening – something about willpower being a finite resource that depletes over the course of the day, or something like that.

In a way, this morning journaling template thing is like my own personal accountability coach, but instead of paying for a coach, I can make my ‘higher self’ that coach for free. By adjusting the template based on my particular needs (in this season of life, trying to build an exercise habit), it’s like I’m giving a message, or prompt, to my future self.

I’ve even got an evening reflection 5-minute journaling prompt (“PM5”) that asks: “How did the diet and exercise go today? Any learnings for tomorrow?”, but I’ve yet to build the habit of evening journaling into my life fully.

Just thought I’d share these quick tips that I’ve been getting value out of, in the hope that something here might resonate with you too.

Have a great week!

Ali xx

PS: Tomorrow (Monday 27th November), I’m launching Lightmode, a productivity tech brand my team and I have been working on for over two years. It launches with a great mechanical keyboard we’ve spent ages perfecting, with more products to come in 2024. If you’d like to keep up with what’s going on, I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t mind dropping us a cheeky follow on Instagram 😀

❤️ My Favourite Things this Week

  1. 🎬 Nostalgic Video – I rather enjoyed watching this random compilation of behind the scenes footage from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. It’s a lovely, heartwarming and wholesome watch if you fancy taking a trip down memory lane.
  2. 📕 Fantasy Fiction Book – I’ve been continuing to read and enjoy the excellent Battle Mage by Peter Flannery – it’s a very readable, not-too-complicated, yet still highly engaging read about a young boy in a fantasy land who wants to train to be a wizard… lol these fantasy book descriptions always sound dumb when I recommend them here. It’s good. You’ll enjoy it if you like fantasy books.
  3. 🎧 Fantasy Fiction Audiobook – Even as a lover of fantasy books, I’d never quite managed to get through the Lord of the Rings series, mostly because The Fellowship of the Ring book starts out pretty slow. BUT on the recommendation of a friend, I started listening to the audiobook narrated by Andy Serkis, and it’s finally helping me appreciate Tolkein’s work. If, like me, you loved the LoTR movies but hadn’t managed to get through the books, Serkis’ narration is amazing.
  4. 💪 Bodyweight Workout Routine – The bodyweight fitness routine recommended by Reddit has been a rather welcome addition to my life. The exercises are fun, they’ve got clear progression steps for all of them, and it definitely feels like people who know what they’re talking about have put it together. If you’re looking for a bodyweight routine that you can do (almost) anywhere, this is the one. Annoyingly, it does need a bar to hang off for pull-ups and rows, but I’ve been managing to find random beams / tree trunks in the places I’ve been staying at in Mexico lol.

🎬 My New Videos

🤯 7 Mistakes Students Make Every Year – Students can get a lot of things wrong every year when it comes to studying, money, careers, socialising, and basically everything in your life. Here’s 7 things I wish someone had told me when I started university.

✍️ Quote of the Week

“The important work, the work we really want to do, doesn’t come with a recipe. It follows a different pattern.”

From The Practice by Seth Godin. Resurfaced using Readwise.

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