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3 Simple Productivity Hacks From Prison Inmates

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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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Published on September 21, 2021

How Remote Work Affects Your Productivity And Wellbeing (Backed By Data)

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How Remote Work Affects Your Productivity And Wellbeing (Backed By Data)

The internet is flooded with articles about remote work and its benefits or drawbacks. But in reality, the remote work experience is so subjective that it’s impossible to draw general conclusions and issue one-size-fits-all advice about it. However, one thing that’s universal and rock-solid is data. Data-backed findings and research about remote work productivity give us a clear picture of how our workdays have changed and how work from home affects us—because data doesn’t lie.

In this article, we’ll look at three decisive findings from a recent data study and two survey reports concerning remote work productivity and worker well-being.

1. We Take Less Frequent Breaks

Your home can be a peaceful or a distracting place depending on your living and family conditions. While some of us might find it hard to focus amidst the sounds of our everyday life, other people will tell you that the peace and quiet while working from home (WFH) is a major productivity booster. Then there are those who find it hard to take proper breaks at home and switch off at the end of the workday.

But what does data say about remote work productivity? Do we work more or less in a remote setting?

Let’s take a step back to pre-pandemic times (2014, to be exact) when a time tracking application called DeskTime discovered that 10% of most productive people work for 52 minutes and then take a break for 17 minutes.

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Recently, the same time tracking app repeated that study to reveal working and breaking patterns during the pandemic. They found that remote work has caused an increase in time worked, with the most productive people now working for 112 minutes and breaking for 26 minutes.[1]

Now, this may seem rather innocent at first—so what if we work for extended periods of time as long as we also take longer breaks? But let’s take a closer look at this proportion.

While breaks have become only nine minutes longer, work sprints have more than doubled. That’s nearly two hours of work, meaning that the most hard-working people only take three to four breaks per 8-hour workday. This discovery makes us question if working from home (WFH) really is as good a thing for our well-being as we thought it was. In addition, in the WFH format, breaks are no longer a treat but rather a time to squeeze in a chore or help children with schoolwork.

Online meetings are among the main reasons for less frequent breaks. Pre-pandemic meetings meant going to another room, stretching your legs, and giving your eyes a rest from the computer. In a remote setting, all meetings happen on screen, sometimes back-to-back, which could be one of the main factors explaining the longer work hours recorded.

2. We Face a Higher Risk of Burnout

At first, many were optimistic about remote work’s benefits in terms of work-life balance as we save time on commuting and have more time to spend with family—at least in theory. But for many people, this was quickly counterbalanced by a struggle to separate their work and personal lives. Buffer’s 2021 survey for the State of Remote Work report found that the biggest struggle of remote workers is not being able to unplug, with collaboration difficulties and loneliness sharing second place.[2]

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Buffer’s respondents were also asked if they are working more or less since their shift to remote work, and 45 percent admitted to working more. Forty-two percent said they are working the same amount, while 13 percent responded that they are working less.

Longer work hours and fewer quality breaks can dramatically affect our health, as long-term sitting and computer use can cause eye strain, mental fatigue, and other issues. These, in turn, can lead to more severe consequences, such as burnout and heart disease.

Let’s have a closer look at the connection between burnout and remote work.

McKinsey’s report about the Future of work states that 49% of people say they’re feeling some symptoms of burnout.[3] And that may be an understatement since employees experiencing burnout are less likely to respond to survey requests and may have even left the workforce.

From the viewpoint of the employer, remote workers may seem like they are more productive and working longer hours. However, managers must be aware of the risks associated with increased employee anxiety. Otherwise, the productivity gains won’t be long-lasting. It’s no secret that prolonged anxiety can reduce job satisfaction, decrease work performance, and negatively affect interpersonal relationships with colleagues.[4]

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3. Despite everything, We Love Remote Work

An overwhelming majority—97 percent—of Buffer report’s survey respondents say they would like to continue working remotely to some extent. The two main benefits mentioned by the respondents are the ability to have a flexible schedule and the flexibility to work from anywhere.

McKinsey’s report found that more than half of employees would like their workplace to adopt a more flexible hybrid virtual-working model, with some days of work on-premises and some days working remotely. To be more exact, more than half of employees report that they would like at least three work-from-home days a week once the pandemic is over.

Companies will increasingly be forced to find ways to satisfy these workforce demands while implementing policies to minimize the risks associated with overworking and burnout. Smart companies will embrace this new trend and realize that adopting hybrid models can also be a win for them—for example, for accessing talent in different locations and at a lower cost.

Remote Work: Blessing or Plight?

Understandably, workers worldwide are tempted to keep the good work-life aspects that have come out of the pandemic—professional flexibility, fewer commutes, and extra time with family. But with the once strict boundaries between work and life fading, we must remain cautious. We try to squeeze in house chores during breaks. We do online meetings from the kitchen or the same couch we watch TV shows from, and many of us report difficulties switching off after work.

So, how do we keep our private and professional lives from hopelessly blending together?

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The answer is that we try to replicate the physical and virtual boundaries that come naturally in an office setting. This doesn’t only mean having a dedicated workspace but also tracking your work time and stopping when your working hours are finished. In addition, it means working breaks into your schedule because watercooler chats don’t just naturally happen at home.

If necessary, we need to introduce new rituals that resemble a normal office day—for example, going for a walk around the block in the morning to simulate “arriving at work.” Remote work is here to stay. If we want to enjoy the advantages it offers, then we need to learn how to cope with the personal challenges that come with it.

Learn how to stay productive while working remotely with these tips: How to Work From Home: 10 Tips to Stay Productive

Featured photo credit: Jenny Ueberberg via unsplash.com

Reference

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