If You Keep Up These 4 Small Habits, You'll Save 30+ Hours A Week

Save time and get more done on any given day.

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I’m the kind of person who wants to exploit as much juice as I can out of my life. And hence, I like to be productive and take as much action as I can.

To that end, I’ve learned or developed mental models that allow me to save time and get more done on any given day.

Here are 4 small habits that will save you 30+ hours a week:

1. Set daily goals based on the quantity of work

Let’s begin with goal-setting and why I advise against doing this in the usual way.


The usual way of setting daily goals: Deciding the quantity of work to be done.

People usually set goals by deciding how much work they’ll get done in a day. Examples:

  • "I’ll write this report today."
  • "I’ll write three chapters of my book today."
  • "I’ll study this chapter from my textbook today."

However, there are a couple of problems with this approach.

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Firstly, the quantity of work is fixed. So quality must be variable.

Consider this. If you tell yourself that you’re supposed to write a given report today, you’re fixing the amount of work that needs to be done. Hence, your goal becomes to complete the report at any cost.


But what if writing a high-quality report actually takes over 10–15 hours? Something you cannot complete in a day? But you’re still determined to complete the report in a day?

You will have no choice but to do that by compromising the quality of the report.

Secondly, it induces anxiety, and consequently, procrastination.

A student tells himself that he’ll study a particular chapter from his book today. But how does he know whether understanding this particular chapter properly takes two hours or ten hours? Of course, he can make a guess — but that’s what it’ll be — a guess.

To put it simply, he’s setting a goal for the day that’s not necessarily within his control. This uncertainty induces anxiety — and that in turn — induces procrastination.


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A better way of setting goals: Deciding the number of hours you have to work on something.

A better way to set daily goals might be to decide the number of focused hours you’re going to spend on something.

  • "I’ll work for 4-focussed hours on this report today."
  • "I’ll write a few chapters for my new book for three hours today."
  • "I’ll study this chapter for 3-focussed hours today."

This works well for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, the quality of work is fixed. Hence, the quantity will be variable.

For instance, when you decide you’re going to spend 4-focussed hours on the report without fixing how much of the report you’ll complete, you’re fixing the quality of your work.


In those 4 hours, you might write only one page of the report. Or you might complete the whole 16-page report.

The quantity of work done will be variable. And that might seem like a disadvantage — but in the long run — quality beats quantity. And to be honest, many times, you actually end up doing more work because you’re focused.

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Secondly, such a goal is completely within your control. And hence, it doesn't induce anxiety.

For instance, if I tell myself that I have to work on this report for three-focussed hours today, and it’s only noon, I know that I have the time to do that.


I know consciously and subconsciously that this goal I’ve set is completely within my control. This doesn’t induce anxiety — and hence — I’ll be able to avoid procrastination better.

Hence, these days I never set goals like people usually do. I set goals based on the number of hours I’ll work on something.

I don’t tell myself I’ll write 4 articles today. I tell myself I’ll write for 6 hours today. That is something within my control — and hence — the anxiety reduction is very significant.

This anxiety reduction actually allows me to work more during the week and a lot of time is saved because I don’t procrastinate nearly as much. All this while ensuring that I do high-quality work!


Pro tip: Use a timer to actually count the number of hours you work. This enforces accountability and eliminates distraction because you know the timer is on — so you’re focused. This is also the reason the Pomodoro technique helps people.

Note: This approach might not work when you have a very strict and premature deadline. However, if your deadline is far away, this approach can work just fine.

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2. Play cognitive Tetris

You know the game Tetris, right?

Tetris is primarily composed of a field of play in which pieces of different geometric forms, called "tetrominoes", descend from the top of the field. During their descent, the player has to figure out which piece must be inserted at what location to ensure all places are filled.


Cognitive Tetris is something similar.

It’s a mental game that requires you to figure out how much energy and what type of energy you have and fill it with tasks that match that energy.

For instance, this is how I played cognitive Tetris as a med-student:

  • When I had very high energy: I solved 3-hour long tests because tests need lots of active participation and the use of mental faculties to solve problems.
  • When I had high energy: I used to solve question banks for new and difficult topics.
  • When I had moderate energy: I used to study new chapters.
  • When I had low energy: I used to revise what I’d already studied before.
  • When I had very low energy: I used to passively watch video lectures.

…something like that.


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I was not super-precise and analytical about it. I just laid down these examples in a discrete manner to give you an idea of what I’m talking about. In reality, I used to do this matching by developing an intuitive understanding of how much energy I have at any given moment — and how to best exploit it.

As I got better at playing this game of cognitive Tetris, I saved a lot of time because I realized that mismatching tasks in relation to your cognitive energy wastes a lot of time and energy.

For instance:

  • If you have a lot of cognitive energy, and you choose to do a task that requires very little focus and attention, you’re leaving so much energy unexploited.
  • And if you have very low cognitive energy and you schedule a very cognitively-challenging task for that moment, you’re likely going to do a very poor job. Or you’re going to avoid doing it altogether and not do anything because you feel like you don’t have enough energy. However, if you were good at playing cognitive Tetris, you would have immediately understood that you can do a low-energy task at that moment — instead of watching Netflix.

How to play cognitive Tetris well:

  1. Have a list of tasks in your chosen field that range from needing very low energy, to needing very high energy.
  2. Develop an intuitive understanding of what your energy is at any given moment.
  3. Match with appropriate tasks.

It’s not easy. But practice and repetition will make you better at this.

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3. Play temporal Tetris

Temporal Tetris is similar to cognitive Tetris, but it’s a bit easier. The premise is simple. Figure out how much time you have at any given moment, and accordingly fit in tasks.

Examples of me playing temporal Tetris as a med-student:

  • When I had several hours: I used to give 3.5-hour-long mock tests.
  • When I had a couple of hours: I used to study new chapters or watch video lectures.
  • When I had an hour: I used to revise old chapters.
  • When I had 30–45 minutes: I used to give mini-tests of 20 questions.
  • When I had only minutes: I would review the questions I solved wrong on my tests.

Playing temporal Tetris is easy in and of itself. However, as a person wanting to maximize their time and energy, you want to get really good at playing cognitive and temporal Tetris both at the same time.


And it’s not something that can be taught. You just have to practice.

Note: In these two points, I talked about matching your time and energy to appropriate tasks. However, it also needs to be mentioned that many times you need to create a state of super-high cognitive energy with several hours at hand to do important and challenging tasks that have the highest ROI.

For instance, to give mock tests, every Sunday I used to:

  • Wake up without an alarm (to ensure I’ve slept well)
  • Put my phone on DND for hours first thing in the morning.
  • Drink a cup of coffee.

This is how I ensured a state of super-high cognitive energy with lots of time on hand. I created such an environment from time to time, instead of waiting for it to happen on its own.


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4. Use the three-timer technique

At any given time, a person has multiple goals in life.

For instance, at this moment, I’m working on being a great digital writer, studying to become a neurologist in the future and trying to develop extraordinary physical intelligence.


So naturally, during my day, I keep thinking about these pursuits and how I can get ahead at all of them.

However, an annoying problem that arises is that I’m pulled here and there because I have multiple goals.

  • I’ll spend five minutes figuring out how to build more muscle or learn how to do handstands.
  • And then I might spend the next 10 minutes figuring out my next article.
  • And then my mind will remind me that I also have to figure out how to cover my huge medical syllabus, so my mind will start thinking about that.

Argh! It’s super chaotic. And worse, being pulled here and there stops me from doing deep thinking about any one particular endeavor.

Enter, the three-alarm technique. (I discovered it on Sahil Bloom’s Twitter page. It’s a technique by Eric Partaker — who also has a book on the technique.)


After getting to know about this idea, I set four alarms on my phone. It started off as three alarms, but I added the fourth one after a few days so that I remember when I’m supposed to conclude the day.

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This has completely changed my life because I know exactly what issue to focus on at any given point.

  • Between 7:30 AM to 1 PM, I think about how to be a better writer, and I try to do most of my writing during this period.
  • Between 1 PM to 5 PM, I think about how to propel my medical career going forward, and I try to do most of my studying during this time.
  • Between 5 PM to 9 PM, I think about how to develop my physical intelligence. (Developing my physical intelligence includes many goals like building more muscle, losing fat, increasing flexibility, learning how to do handstands and backflips, etc. However, right now I’m focused on building more muscle.)

This has helped me a lot because this stops me from being pulled here and there at any given moment.

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For instance, if I’m in the World’s Greatest Writer period, I only have to think about how I’m going to be a better writer. If my mind throws in another anxiety related to med school or fitness, I can simply ignore it — because it will be dealt with later in the day.

This has allowed my mind to stay anchored to one issue for longer periods of time, and consequently, dig up insights that weren’t possible before. This focus saves me tons and tons of time every week.


In this article, we discussed some unique mental models that one can use to save several hours within a day and many more within a week. Here’s a recap:

  • Instead of deciding how much work to do in a day, decide how many hours of focused work you’ll do. This helps you focus on the quality of work done, rather than quantity.
  • Get better at playing cognitive Tetris and match tasks according to your cognitive energy. This helps you exploit your mental energy to the maximum.
  • Get better at playing temporal Tetris and learn what kind of task to fit in during different sizes of temporal windows. This helps you exploit even minutes of free time.
  • Use the three-alarm technique to distinguish what goals you’ll focus on during different parts of the day.

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Akshad Singi, M.D. has been published in Better Humans, Mind Cafe, and more.