Hackernoon logoFocus Hacking with Complexity and Colors by@MichaelTrazzi

Focus Hacking with Complexity and Colors

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@MichaelTrazziMichaël Trazzi

I read an entire thesis in one afternoon and have only been unproductive for 8 hours this week. Surprisingly, it began with the discovery of a technique involving a Sock and a Google Sheet.

Slot Machines

First, to understand the intricacies of those techniques, we need to step back. Our minds are hijacked by little slot machines called smartphones. Brilliant minds work day and night so that you’re hooked on your phone.

Adding Friction

It’s possible to build a system where it gets very difficult to just check your emails.

I call this adding layers of complexity, or adding friction.

  1. I keep only productive apps on my home screen.
  2. I turn off every notification from every app.
  3. I am almost always on Mute.
  4. Whenever not on my phone, I turn the Airplane Mode On.
  5. I don’t have an internet subscription, so I cannot connect to the internet outside.

The Sock Technique

Strangely enough, those 5 tricks are not enough for Deep Work.

Last week, I had to read a thesis to understand an algorithm.

I designed a technique that allowed me to stay focused for an entire afternoon, and read the thesis from left to right.

  1. Make sure you have your phone on Mute and Airplane Mode, and then turn it off
  2. Put your phone in a sock
  3. Insert the sock in another sock
  4. Place everything in a bag
  5. Drop the bag in your kitchen
  6. Finish whatever you have to do, because you don’t have the energy to undo step 1 to 5.


But even with those very sophisticated techniques, with no willpower I was doomed to be unproductive.

Putting your phone in a sock is easy.

Having enough self-control to quit self-sabotage is not.

The Invisible Resource

What made me empathize with my future self was that my time was a much more valuable resource than money.

I came to realize that spending one hour on Reddit was worst than throwing away a $20 bill.

The Google Sheet Hack

Hopefully, Reddit is also full of productivity hacks.

A few days ago, I stumbled upon a crazy guy who has been tracking his time every 30 minutes.

I decided to take it even further, and do it every 15 minutes.

Coloring My Life

I have 15 colors for different kinds of activities. Close colors have close relationship.

  • Light green: exercise/walk outside
  • Dark green: listen to music
  • Red: writing code
  • Turkey red: writing articles
  • Black: unproductive black holes

Why it Works

  1. Detailed Stats about time spent on each activity
  2. High-Resolution: 15 minutes is the shortest time I spend on an activity
  3. Continuity in colors forces me to code without interruption for hours
  4. The Full Picture forces empathy with my Future Self (unproductive black cells are horrendous, and I do anything to avoid them)
  5. Objectivity: no more “I haven’t done anything today”. Yes, you watched this Westworld episode, and spent hours trying to understand everything. But, still, you had 6 hours of productive time throughout the whole day.

The Google Sheet (updated in Real-Time)

Prequel Work

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