Outside the box

Can you hack productivity?

As we come to the end of a restricted life, our motivation and productivity feels like it’s at an all-time low, and whilst we do believe that coffee can improve your productivity we know that it has its limits, and will only truly benefit if lots of other aspects in one’s life are in the right place. The post pandemic brain fog is proving difficult to clear. So recently I have been looking into more unorthodox ways of improving productivity beyond caffeine, meditation and to-do lists.

Productivity is defined as, “the effectiveness of productive effort, especially in industry, as measured in terms of the rate of output per unit of input.“. If we’re talking about productive people, (rather than vast factories or whole countries), productivity is the measure of how efficiently a person completes a task. It seems that in every aspect of our lives we are trying to wade through a long to-do list, but ironically life seems to get in the way. Lots of businesses are making it their mission to get rid of your pain points with the overarching goal to allow you to do more. Whether it’s improving your workflow or getting you from A to B quicker, businesses are looking to offer you a life of no distractions and more time to be in flow. Flow state is the mental state when a person is fully immersed in the activity they are doing with energised focus. AKA being in the zone. AKA being productive.

This fleeting and ethereal state is promised by many businesses. From Lucozade to Slack, it is easy to feel that with just one more product in your life, you will enter a constant state of flow. We all know this is bullshit; improving productivity should be looked at holistically. Looking at your diet, health, and general mental well-being is probably better than downloading a productivity app. Also, we should ultimately recognise that this state is fleeting, and collectively lower our own expectations of how much we can achieve, working when we feel like it — going with the flow.

This being said, there are some products that fulfil the promise more than others. Products that guarantee to improve your cognitive function to be as focussed as possible: drugs. Nootropics are substances that are reported to improve cognitive functions, namely memory, creativity and motivation. The most popular drug that helps unlock your brain’s potential is caffeine. Needless to say, we are huge fans of caffeine and if you’re reading this it’s pretty likely you are too. But some drugs go above and beyond what caffeine can offer. Here’s what I found. These drugs are mostly illegal and I do not encourage sourcing or taking them.

1. Modafinil

The most well-known nootropic. The epitome of a smart drug. Famously “the drug that the film Limitless is based off”. Prescribed for the treatment narcolepsy, Modafinil promotes “wakefulness”. Adored by students, hated by doctors. It’s a relatively new drug and the studies have proven to be inconclusive. The side effects seem that they may outweigh the potential benefits. The idea of chemically fueled wakefulness fills me with anxiety. Some experiences I found in the darker side of Reddit report of uncontrollable and endless scrolling on instagram, insomnia and weird rashes. I think I’ll stick to coffee.

2. Microdosing Psilocybin Mushrooms (Magic Mushrooms)

Whilst illegal in the UK, other countries are looking at new ways of legalizing magic mushrooms for their potential medicinal benefits. In Canada, patients with terminal illnesses have been given the legal right to use the recreational drug. Leading doctors and police commissioners in the UK are starting the discussion on whether the drug should be rescheduled to allow it to be used for its medicinal benefits in the treatment of depression and PTSD. However, beyond recreational and medicinal purposes some are using the drug in small doses as a productivity hack, and are calling the drug ‘Silicon Valley’s secret’.

Microdosing involves taking one tenth of a ‘trip’ dose, which is a dose too little to trigger hallucinations but enough to ‘sharpen the mind’ and improve creativity and focus and decrease anxiety and depression. However, I really can’t get my head around this. Even if it is just a tiny edge of trippiness I cannot imagine trying to hold down a job on mushrooms. From an outsiders perspective this seems to me unmanageable. Some things are best left at home.

3. Phenibut

Phenibut is an anti-anxiety drug that was used on Russian space flights for cosmonauts due to the reports of enhanced cognition and high tranquilising properties. The drug is chemically similar to GABA and works by reducing the excitability of brain cells and has a long list of harmful side effects and can be addictive. It’s in a grey area of UK legislation and can be purchased through supplements such as Z12. It’s legal to buy and consume, but illegal to sell. However, I should mention that it should not be taken frequently and we do not recommend purchasing it. That being said, I did buy it and I did take it.

Didn’t know what to expect with this and the research I had done still made me quite unclear of what the drug was supposed to do. I took the Z12 supplement before bed. I didn’t feel intoxicated, I slept like a baby, and the next day, I genuinely felt good about the work I was doing. This does sound slightly too promotional so I will say that after doing more research, frequent use can be extremely harmful, addictive and is not recommended.

The fact that this drug is mainly focussed on how you sleep is telling in how you can hack productivity. Ensure that you’re resting properly to be able to work properly. A great day often comes after a great sleep. There is no single hack to productivity, it’s a balance of many (mostly uncontrollable) factors. Our untrained brains have had over a year of little stimulation and it’s hard to accept but I think they’ll need a year to recover fully. Can you hack productivity? I don’t think productivity is there for hacking, it relies on balancing work, rest, and thousands of factors in-between. It appears that even very strange drugs will not guarantee productivity. So best to just stick to a good night’s sleep and that trusty bean juice. 

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