Sleep, Exercise and Diet as the Foundations of Productivity

This is the seventh post in a series on productivity1. The articles are based on content from a workshop I led at The Makers Summit.


We have arrived at the practical implications that a solid philosophical foundation in productivity hacking allows for. The last post was called First, Know Thyself—an appropriate sub-head for this post would be Second, Care for Thyself.

Warning, if you’re a regular reader, this is mostly-recycled content from a post I wrote in a now-dormant series2.

Healthy, sustainable productivity

In this post we are going to discuss what I believe is one of the key components of people who maintain a high level of healthy, sustainable productivity. I use the descriptors “healthy” and “sustainable” because you can be extremely productive in any number of ways and not all of them are good for you. People commonly employ substances (sugar, caffeine, narcotics, etc.) or sleep deprivation in order to get more done (or, at least, feel like they’re getting more done). Too much of a substance or too little sleep over time is unhealthy—something we’re all aware of and that I touched on in a previous post in this series3:

Therein lies the problem, though: while these methods produce some sort of real or perceived short-term benefit, if used in excess or exclusively, none are sustainable, especially over the long run. In fact, repeatedly pulling one (or more) of these levers to force more output can be harmful to us. Sleep deprivation can wreak serious havoc (as we’ll discuss in an upcoming post) and no medical professional would recommend drinking 10 pots of coffee (or cans of Red Bull) per day.

The tricky part is that whether the levers you’re pulling are good or bad for you, the productivity gains are real. Unfortunately, it always seems easier and more convenient to make unhealthy choices, which creates a cycle of tangible productivity bursts followed by burnout or near-burnout—a pattern that takes it’s toll and almost guarantees severe burnout over time.

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1. You can read the story behind this blog series and find links to all of the resources here.2. You can read the original post about sleep, exercise and diet here.3. Read my first mention of unsustainable habits in the post titled, Productivity is Not Intuitive, here.

First, Know Thyself

This is the sixth post in a series on productivity4. The articles are based on content from a workshop I led at The Makers Summit.


eric-dodds-productivity-hacking-blog-series-know-thyself

So far in this series we’ve talked about what we would do with more time, what productivity hacking is, how productivity isn’t intuitive and how research can reveal the difference between reality and perception.

Before we dive into more tactical subject matter, it’s important to take a moment and talk about knowing ourselves.

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1. You can read the story behind this blog series and find links to all of the resources here.

Research and the Realities of Time Worked

This is the fifth post in a series on productivity5. The articles are based on content from a workshop I led at The Makers Summit.


In the last article in this series, we discussed the idea that productivity can be an unintuitive pursuit. Today we’re going to dissect why and look at time (hours worked) as an example.

First, though, we need to discuss how we’re going to perform this dissection. As I said in my talk at The Makers Summit, much of what I cover when it comes to productivity is based on research, not opinions or anecdotes. The productivity industry is notorious for ‘tricks and tips’, but these are serious issues that affect our businesses (and personal lives) and it’s worth our time to find information based on solid research and analyses.

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1. You can read the story behind this blog series and find links to all of the resources here.

Productivity Hacking is Not Intuitive

This is the fourth post in a series on productivity6. The articles are based on content from a workshop I led at The Makers Summit.


ericdodds-productivity-hacking-blog-series-productivity-is-not-intuitive

When I was a young boy both of my grandfathers had woodworking shops. I used to love (and still do) visiting and tinkering with tools to build things. For some reason, one of my clearest early memories of working with wood is one of the first times I got to use a hand saw. I must have found a branch or log that I wanted to trim and my grandpa probably thought it was a good opportunity to teach me safe and proper use of a saw. Like any eager and impatient youngster, I immediately put every ounce of my effort into cutting. My arm fatigued quickly and my frustration must have been apparent. Gently, my grandfather (who had wisely waited out my short flare of enthusiasm) took the saw and explained that the teeth are designed to cut the wood without requiring extreme, constant effort. “Tools are designed to make your job easier. Just let the saw do the work and don’t wear yourself out so quickly.” He would later reinforce the concept at the driving range, explaining again that a well-calculated, solid strike will beat out an all-out smash on the golf course almost every time. (The lesson stuck, thankfully, but not the love for golf.)

Productivity is one of those concepts that we like to think we understand, but as we’ve seen, taking time to actually contemplate how we use our time and ponder the definition of ‘productivity’ reveals a landscape more complicated than we might have originally bargained for.

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1. You can read the story behind this blog series and find links to all of the resources here.

Productivity Hacking: What is Productivity Hacking?

This is the third post in a series on productivity7. The articles are based on content from a workshop I led at The Makers Summit.


When discussing any subject it’s extremely helpful to define the terms being used so that everyone is reading from the same page—the term ‘productivity’ in and of itself likely means different things to different people.

ericdodds-productivity-hacking-blog-series-what-is-productivity-hacking

Talking about “productivity hacking” (or anything else) without a clear definition of what the term actually means is a recipe for constantly trying to describe what we want, as opposed to digesting and applying what we learn (much like diving into productivity tactics without thinking about how we really want to use our time8). 

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1. You can read the story behind this blog series and find links to all of the resources here.2. I discussed thinking through how we use our time in the previous post in this series. You can read it here.

Productivity Hacking: What Would You Do With More Time?

This is the second post in a series on productivity9. The articles are based on content from a workshop I led at The Makers Summit.


The subject of productivity flows almost immediately to discussion around tactics—we’re all hungry to know what we can do to be more productive, right now. Oftentimes, that hunger keeps us from stopping to first evaluate our current state of affairs and second, more importantly, to put serious thought into what we’re really seeking to get out of increased productivity.

productivity-hacking-eric-dodds-blog-post-series-makers-summit-workshop-productivity-questions-satisfied-with-productivity

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1. You can read the story behind this blog series series and find links to all of the resources here.

Productivity Hacking: Introduction

This is the introduction to a series on productivity10. The articles are based on content from a workshop I led at The Makers Summit.


productivity-hacking-eric-dodds-blog-post-series-makers-summit-workshop

Writing the words “productivity hacking” in the title of a blog post feels almost dirty to me. I’ve said before that the business of productivity is riddled with a huge amount quick-fix rubbish11:

That being said, this past weekend I led a productivity-focused workshop at a conference called The Makers Summit12. I titled the workshop “Productivity Hacking” because, despite the slight snake-oil taste I sense personally, I felt the term was a simple and accurate description of the workshop content.

I was astounded at the feedback that I received from workshop attendees. What I had envisioned as a quick fly-over of research and lessons-learned was described as “one of the most helpful talks I’ve ever been a part of” by several people in the audience.

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1. You can read the story behind this blog series and find links to all of the resources here.2. I called out 'snake-oil' productivity advice in the introduction to my Making it Count series.3. The Makers Summit is a marvelous conference. Learn more on their website.

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