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3 Simple Productivity Hacks From Prison Inmates

3 Simple Productivity Hacks From Prison Inmates

What’s your first thought when you think of a prisoner?

Often, people have a negative perception of those doing time, even if the person was convicted of a victimless crime. That’s one reason why former convicts have such difficulty finding work and forming new relationships once they are released from prison.

However, it’s important to remember that ex-cons are people — and no less human than someone who has never done any time. In fact, you might be surprised what you can learn from those who have been incarcerated.

We are students of this experience called life. The truth is that we can learn from everybody. After speaking to a number of prisoners, I learned a lot.

Here are two of the most important lessons:

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  1. Most prisoners have developed remarkable mental strength. (Many of their habits are described in this article.)
  2. Time spent in prison can be productive or unproductive. Despite their limited resources, inmates tend to get creative and at times are even more productive than those who are not limited in resources.

So, what can we learn from prison inmates that will make us productive in life?

1. Write Every Day

Prisoners typically have three mealtimes and a recess period every day. Unless one has a job in prison, the other 19 hours are spent in their prison cell. 19 hours is a long time to sit and be unproductive. What would you do if you were confined to a room for 19 hours?

Prison inmates frequently write to pass time. Some write song lyrics. Others write daily entries in a journal. A few even write a book: Andrew Medal wrote Hacking The Valley during the time he spent in prison.

Medal’s advice: It’s better to spend your time being productive rather than sitting there doing nothing.

2. Read Every Day

Besides writing, reading is one of the other activities that prisoners do a lot of. Since inmates do not have laptops and WiFi, they use those 11 to 19 hours to educate themselves the old school way — by reading books.

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Inmates often have family and friends who bring them newspapers, magazines, and books from the outside. Having such resources allows prisoners to educate themselves and stay informed about the trends happening in modern society.

Unfortunately, for many who have access to the internet, things like video games, music channels, and social media become distractions to the point that they cannot focus on the resources they need to reach the finish line.

Getting a magazine subscription or joining a book club is a good idea. I like to follow the reading list of successful people in my niche. Peter Sage (commonly known as The Extreme Entrepreneur) is one example of people that I follow for reading recommendations.

3. Bootstrap

Life in prison can be expensive for the majority of inmates, especially when money is low. But borrowing from a bank or investor isn’t really an option.

For many Americans, the financial situation also looks bleak:

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50% of Americans make no more than $28,013 a year.

Only 40% of Americans with student loans are paying them back.

22% of American children are living below the poverty line.

So how do you move forward with your idea or goals when the situation is so bad?

Bootstrap.

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Likely, no matter how dire your situation is, someone is surviving with less. Bootstrapping makes you productive because it forces you to be more resourceful. It is a skill that inmates develop in prison, and it can be just as helpful for people who live outside those four walls.

Hopefully, you’ll never have to serve any time in the big house. But for those who do, it can be a huge learning experience — leading to extreme productivity.

Why not take a few moments, and see how you can incorporate their hacks into your life?

Featured photo credit: diegoattorney via pixabay.com

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Kallen Diggs

Bestselling Author / Magazine Editor / Syndicated Radio Show Host

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Last Updated on July 10, 2020

The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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Program Your Own Algorithms

Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

How to Form a Ritual

I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

  1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
  2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
  3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
  4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

Ways to Use a Ritual

Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

1. Waking Up

Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

2. Web Usage

How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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3. Reading

How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

4. Friendliness

Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

5. Working

One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

6. Going to the gym

If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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7. Exercise

Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

8. Sleeping

Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

8. Weekly Reviews

The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

Final Thoughts

We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

More Tips to Conquer Time Wasters and Procrastination

 

Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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