4 Unconventional Productivity Hacks And Habits That Actually Work

By Guest Post •  Updated: 11/15/17 •  9 min read

Note from Sean: This is a guest post from my good friend Maneesh Sethi CEO of Pavlok, a behavioral change company known for their best selling habit wearable Pavlok and recently launched Pavlok 2. 

He has also agreed to give away one Pavlok 2 device to a commentor below. So take 30 seconds and let us know what you think of this post!

Take it away, Maneesh!

For the last 4+ years, I’ve been obsessed with learning and studying human behavior. Having struggled with ADHD my entire life, I could never relate to those suggestions to just “buckle down” and get things done. I tried rearranging my desk. Downloading the latest productivity apps.

But, no matter how hard I tried to focus, or how important the task was, I nearly always found myself switching back and forth between Reddit or watching some random Youtube video.

Which led me to a moment of 50% desperation and 50% genius.

Pavlok came about from what is now a viral freak experiment. I was so determined to improve my productivity that I literally hired a woman off Craigslist to sit next to me in the coffee shop while I worked.

The catch? Each time she caught me giving in to distraction, she was permitted to slap me in the face.

It only took a few slaps before I had one of the most productive days of my life.

While Pavlok began from my desire to help my own productivity and focus, I have since helped thousands of people around the world improve their habits, wake up on time, quit smoking, and more.

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I get it.

Changing your habits and routine is hard. It’s scary. But one of the reasons so many people fail at implementing lasting change is they often take the wrong approach.

Instead of strategically experimenting to find what works for them, they test a bunch of random tactics and tips and hope something sticks.

And while everyone works and operates differently, today I wanted to share a few unconventional productivity hacks that have helped me and hundreds of others finally transform into a person that gets things done.

Here are a few strategies that have helped me build Pavlok while remaining sane at the same time.

Pomodoro With A Twist

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You haven’t lived until you tried the Pomodoro…

The Pomodoro technique has become quite popular over the last few years. If you’re unfamiliar, it’s setting aside 20-40 minutes of uninterrupted time to focus on a single task, after which you can reward yourself with a 5-10 minute break.

During those 20-40 minutes, you can only do one thing. Nothing else.

No checking email. No tweeting what you ate for breakfast. No stopping to call mom.

When done properly, the Pomodoro technique is highly effective. However, if you’re anything like me, even just focusing for 5 minutes on a single task is nearly impossible.

Why? Because we’ve spent our entire lives giving way to every little distraction that comes our way.

“Oh, I have to answer that text message. It’s urgent.”

“Did Bitcoin go up again? let me check Coinbase.”

“Fish tacos sound really good… let me go check the fridge.”

The list goes on and on and on.

Despite my initial failing attempts at implementing the Pomodoro technique, I knew the technique had merit. So I spent five days training myself to follow the strategy as it was designed. I would start the timer as planned, and each time I found myself getting distracted or opening up a new tab, I would administer a shock using my Pavlok.

It wasn’t instantaneous, but I quickly began being less and less distracted. Within weeks, I could complete multiple Pomodoros with ease.

Instead of being down on myself for not being able to focus for less than 40 minutes, I trained my brain to be on my side. I made sure that I was giving myself every chance to succeed.

And the results were incredible.

If you’ve struggled to implement the Pomodoro technique, take a step back and start small. It’s unrealistic to expect to be able to focus for 40 mins in a row without never having done it before.

If you have a Pavlok, start your Pomodoro as you would normally do, and each time you catch yourself succumbing to distraction, give yourself a beep, zap, or buzz. Better yet, use the Pavlok Chrome Extension to automatically warn you every time you open an extra tab not essential to your work task.

Over time, you’ll strengthen your ability to focus and get the full effect of the Pomodoro technique in no time.

Build The Habit:

Focus is one of the most underrated “habits” in the modern age. You can use the Pavlok 2 to help build your focus power over time. Many entrepreneurs make the mistake of trying to do too much all at once. Instead, focus on becoming aware of your distractions to start and build up from there.

When working, wear your Pavlok 2 and install the Pavlok chrome extension. You’ll be able to customize which sites you can visit and how many tabs you would like to have open. Break your rules… and be welcomed by a zap. 🙂

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More Water. More Movement

As a busy entrepreneur, it can be a struggle to even remember to make your daily standup.

But if you’re living the digital nomad lifestyle, it can be just as easy to forget to drink enough water, or you know, giving your body a break after 10 hours at the computer.

Using the Pavlok 2 app, you can have your Pavlok 2 take the guess workout of the things that need to be done daily. Yellow pee? Set your Pavlok app to buzz your device every 2 hours. As soon as it goes off take a drink.

I have my Pavlok 2 go off every hour, not only so I can make sure I’m staying focused, but as a reminder to stop what I’m doing and do a quick neck stretch.

Build The Habit:

Whether you have a Pavlok 2 or not, it’s essential to set reminders on your phone, computer, or elsewhere to make sure you take care of things you might otherwise forget.

We all know drinking and moving more is GOOD for you, but so few of us build the systems to make things automatic.

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Screenshot2017 11 1411.45.40

Maneesh went heat to head with Mr. Wonderful on SharkTank.

I can proudly say I’ve never donated a cent to the KKK (hello, that would look bad I’m brown.)

But the truth is, I’ve had a few close calls.

One of the most effective ways to get things done is have “skin in the game.” In my case, I often use the punishment of rewarding some of the most detestable organizations known to man, if I fail to deliver.

Extreme I know… But I have yet to find a more effective way to deliver consistently.

In fact, when I was working on the Indiegogo campaign copy for the Pavlok 2, I committed 1k USD to the KKK if I didn’t share the page copy with my coach by a certain date.

I had a few late nights with my content team, but ultimately the copy was written with plenty of time to spare.

If you’re pro-life, commit 1k to Planned Parenthood. If you’re anti-gun, commit to donating to the NRA.

That course you’ve been promising to create for years?

That book you’ve always wanted to write?

Those 20 pitch emails you’ve yet to send?

Give this method I try, and I’m confident you’ll be blown away by the results.

Build The Habit:

Do some research on a few organizations you would never in a million years support.

Open messenger, tell your closest friend or employee. And then get to work. If trying this method for the first time, I highly suggest picking off some low hanging fruit first.

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Tackle your tasks.

Have Your Community Hold You Accountable

The thought of donating to the KKK might be too much for some. That’s perfectly okay. Not everyone is as weird as me.

Fortunately, as an entrepreneur, you have a resource not everyone else does.

Your community.

Using your community to keep you motivated and deliver consistently can help take your business and life to the next level.

Let’s say you’re aiming to post two blog posts a week.

Simply post on Facebook and Twitter that if you don’t publish an article on Tuesday and Thursday of each week, they can publicly humiliate you. While some of you weirdos might be into that, for the majority of us that’s plenty of motivation to get things done.

If you’re really wanting to overachieve, you can set up the Pavlok 2 and IFTTT to relate a “shock me” link into the wild if your post isn’t live by a certain time.

If the thought of 14 members of your community shocking you until your post is up doesn’t scare you, perhaps you should reconsider some of your priorities.

Having your community hold you accountable won’t just help you get more done, it will help build trust and transparency with your most loyal followers.

Built The Habit:

Take an hour this week to plan your goals for the next month. What do you hope to accomplish? Do you want to release a course? Offering your coaching program? Once you decide, put it in writing. Open up Twitter and Facebook.

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Earn volts for building good habits!

Taking Action

While the above tips certainly won’t work for everyone, I’m confident by implementing just one of these suggestions will yield huge results for your productivity and business growth.

I invite you to give these techniques a try and let me know how they work for you.

The most important thing, is you take action. Keep tweaking, testing, and experimenting until you find something that clicks.

Then go all in.

If you’re still struggling, I can’t recommend hiring someone to slap you enough. 🙂

Any tips or tricks you use to remain productive at home or work? Leave a comment below. We’ll be giving away a FREE Pavlok 2 to one random commenter 🙂

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Learn more about Pavlok and Maneesh’s life work at Pavlok.com

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48 comments on "4 Unconventional Productivity Hacks And Habits That Actually Work"

  1. Maneesh,
    I saw your shark tank episode. The thing worse than ignorance is ignorance with lips. Mr. Wonderful has no idea how well risk aversion works. Back in the day (30 years ago) I wore a rubberband around my wrist I would snap it when I would get call reluctance (looking at a phone which I used for cold-calling like it was a snake). It worked beautifully. Good luck with your company. Hopefully, you like what I wrote on the truth of risk aversion devices.

    1. Maneesh says:

      Yeah that episode was rough! And you’re right, aversion therapy is no joke. In the last 12 months thousands of smokers have used Pavlok and 75% of them got rid of their cravings in 5 days or less. We believe 🙂

  2. Igor Safavi says:

    When I saw the title of the blog post, I couldn’t help to think “Ok, another article about building good habits and giving up bad ones” and then I proceeded to read the article…and I was pleasantly surprised!

    Committing to give money to a cause you don’t support is actually an excellent idea to motivate yourself!

    1. Jordan Bryant says:

      What’s something you don’t support Igor? Perhaps you could put this into action today to help you achieve something 🙂

  3. Molly says:

    I’ve used a version of the pomodoro technique, using rewards. Works for a bit, then I go back to bad habits. Zapping myself could work. The donating money to a heinous organization doesn’t appeal to me, though I would be willing to donate to an organization I liked. As I’m trying to save money, this would work because I could spend more than i planned for. Like the money in the jar everytime I cirsed. Only, i could make the stakes hire. Great tips. Now I have to get started. I need a zap…

    1. Joel V. says:

      The whole point of pledging to donate to an organization that you hate, is that it’s supposed to motivate you to do whatever it takes not to have to.

      There are times when the stick is needed, and instead you’re just saying, “I think I’ll have a carrot.”

  4. Philip says:

    I love the post. It isnt the same old information repackaged. Another good way to put your skin in the game is using Beeminder so that you commit money to maintaining your goal. If you don’t go to the gym 3 times a week, then you will pay money. It also works better if you integrate it with IFTTT to make it automatic.

    Great post Maneesh!


  5. Alexander Clark says:

    I love pomodoros. Thanks for the upgrade to the next gen of habit hacking, Sean.

  6. Dave says:

    I love “outside the box” ideas like Pavlok. I remember reading about Maneesh hiring someone to slap him – hilarious! Who cares if “normal” people don’t get it!

  7. Jordan Bryant says:

    Yo Maneesh,
    Always enjoy hearing your ideas (heard you on a few podcasts).

    Love the idea of Pomodoro + Pavlok, I brought the app for my phone but it never really worked for me as the beep quickly became like an alarm clock where I could just switch it off. Pavlok would change that for sure (best ideas are always combining two to make a new one right?)

    The accountability one works for me though, 500$ if I didn’t compete a half marathon…early that morning, slightly drunk still with three hours sleep I was on the start line and keep up with the walking oldies to save my 500$ haha.

    Would Pavlok be compatible with these running apps that everyone uses? In that, if you fall below a certain pace (I do when starting to daydream), it zaps ya? Would definitely help keep up the pace!

  8. Mark says:

    I love what you say right at the end. It really comes down to going all in on what you want to achieve. Not just putzing around “trying” to make things work. Really hit home today. Thanks Maneesh.

  9. Carlisa says:

    Interesting, I would love to try this technique.

  10. Elisha says:

    Great post, thanks a lot! I’ve been thinking more and more lately that focus is about the most important thing needed to actually achieve!

  11. Jenny Cannon says:

    This post is hilarious and spot on! I’m building a life coaching business and not only do I see the value (when you are literally creating a business from scratch you need to instill good habits + pass these habits onto future clients) I dig that you’re doing it in a non conventional way. Might need to have my clients be held accountable by donating to an equally related terrible foundation. Thanks for the pro tip!

  12. Gogo says:

    I dont know what to think about this Pavlok.Never heard about,its interesting….but does it really work? Do we really need a little Machine to tell us what to do…to change our habits?Arent we strong enough to do it without or is it just lazyness?Another great idea to make money…hmmm.
    I will check it out,but i dont think i would buy one – mental training is good too….or wingwave to change your habits.
    Its a good idea.Good luck 😉

  13. Dan says:

    I am dating myself a little but if I grew up a generation later I would have had ADHD. Fortunately it has improved with age bu I still have a hard time staying on task at times.

  14. Alison Carminke says:

    I like Maria Brilaki’s approach to habit building.
    1) Start with something really small (you could do it in 30 seconds or less, you feel no resistance at all).
    2) Set yourself a trigger for when you’ll do it.
    3) Reward yourself immediately after you do it.
    When the incredibly small thing is a habit, expand it step-by-step until you get to what you want to be regularly doing.

  15. Sabine says:

    Truly, you hiring a woman off of Craigslist to slap you when distracted is the best thing I heard all day. Maybe my dog will do it for free?

    Thank you – Sabine (DK)

  16. Cj says:

    Repeat after me:

    Money is a story.
    A story that is told every time a transaction takes place.

  17. Cat says:

    I loved reading this! I was diagnosed with ADHD late like most women, at 17. As soon as I figured out I had ADHD everything started settling into place and making sense. Hearing from someone who actually has the disorder, instead of someone without it who thinks they know what’s best for people with it, is super refreshing! I’m going to implement these ideas to help me handle my own symptoms.

  18. Ray Mackay says:

    Focus is the secret to everything entrepreneurs are trying to achieve. everyone has good business ideas, but the difference between the ones who actually make it happen is the ability to be diligent and focus on achieving your goals. This product will evolve further in time and the market for better focus is not going away! Great job tapping a ever flowing water source!

  19. Stacey says:

    I just ordered a Pavlok. Super excited to see how this can train my ADD brain to make the most of my time and build strong, healthy habits in a million areas. This is a brilliant idea. I’m a mental health therapist and entrepreneur, and I can’t tell you the number of hours I spend guiltily encouraging my clients to build better self-care habits while I suffer from doing the opposite. I’ll let you know how it goes!

    1. Sean says:

      Yeah! Keep me posted with how it goes Stacey 🙂

  20. Tom Clark says:

    I seriously need some help… I’m a really bad procrastinator. I need a pavlock in my life..
    I’ll get one tomorrow!

  21. Sandra Hickton-Zern says:

    I would love to find a way to get on task and stay focused! I have soo many of unfinished projects. Have been wanting to start my own business. I want to quit smoking. Eat healthier. Need to get into the habit of exercising. Once I get started I keep going. Will your program help in any of those areas? I would love to make a change in my life for the better!

    1. Sean says:

      I’m willing to bet it could help in all of those areas – but I’d start with just one.

  22. Suzanne says:

    An amusing and different take on the problem of breaking bad habits and building good ones. I have heard of similar concepts before (the donating to a despicable cause if you don’t do something for instance) but I think the zaps of electricity tied to an app and automating that process is quite genius. I have been trying to quit biting or picking at my nails for well, ever, and I’m 36 so I’m up for trying this technique.

    1. Sean says:

      Let us know how it goes, Suzanne!

  23. Sheila B. says:

    Great article! Pomodoro is the only method I can use to get any work done, but lately, even it has been a struggle.

    Perhaps I should check out Pavlok.

    1. Sean says:

      Pomodoro has worked well for me in the past as well. Frankly the biggest thing I’ve done for my productivity lately is waking up early, but more specifically making sure I know EXACTLY what tasks I need to work on and having them laid out the night before. If I have to do any thinking or deciding about what to do next in the moment, it almost always turns to something un productive.


  24. “If the thought of 14 members of your community shocking you until your post is up doesn’t scare you, perhaps you should reconsider some of your priorities.”

    Whoa! OKay OKay… I see this is a good idea. Actually saw this when it came out on Indiegoggo the first time and we laughed…. and laughed…. but knowing that I had been Pavlok trained before in my life and of course listened to your video…. we saw the value of it. God… the things I may have accomplished since if I only had jumped in then… 🙂

    1. Sean says:

      No time like the present 🙂

  25. Greg says:

    Love the post Sean and Maneesh 🙂 Maybe one day, if you get shocked more than 10x a day, you are entered for a free upgraded “collar” version. Double the shock, double the embarrassment.

    Also comes with a limited free offer of a “Cone of Shame” – tunnel-visioning your way to productivity 🙂

    1. Sean says:

      Now we’re getting somewhere!!

  26. Steph says:

    Most interesting blog post I’ve read all week 🙂 thanks Maneesh and Sean!

    1. Sean says:

      Glad you enjoyed it!

  27. Ken McEachern says:

    Great article! It hit close to home for me as I recently found out after many years that I have ADHD.. the struggle is real, and I’m going to put a few of these tips into practice and see if they help!

    1. Sean says:

      I feel you on that 🙂

  28. Becky says:

    Risk aversion is interesting and especially coupled with goal development, but I’m a bit skeptical on it though. I’ve struggled with starting and maintaining habits even though I’ve been pretty serious about it for over a year. I’ve had some improvement but it’s the continuing maintenance and improvement aspect I struggle with. Perhaps I need to be more patient with the process and then I think well if I could just get it together I could accomplish so much more. Thanks for an interesting read. It was def different than most “self development” posts.

    1. Sean says:

      It is SO easy to beat yourself up. For the last 11 days I’ve been doing Whole30 and waking up around 4:30 on average. Mixed in there have been 2-3 bad days, where I slept in, wasn’t eating when I was supposed to and just generally didnt feel good about my progress. Then yesterday I came to the realization, there’s no such thing as 100% progress all the time. There will always be regressions, slip ups, or plateaus – but it’s accepting that and moving forward without beating yourself up about it that leads to longer term change.

  29. Angela Anderson says:

    Love these ideas, and I agree that done of the simplest tricks, when used with even a bit of consistency, can make a huge difference. I used snapping a rubber band on my wrist to help me stop twirling my hair, and have been working on focusing more /allowing fewer distractions when I’m working, and it does slowly make a change!

  30. Kristine says:

    Intriguing. But, how does Pavloc know I’m eating sugar? I mean, wouldn’t I have to actually wear it to make it work? If I had a craving, what’s to stop me from just turning it off or taking it off? Lol. Am I the only hardcore addict wondering these things? But hiring someone to slap me…. Hmmm. That might work. Lol

    1. Sean says:

      For a lot of things it only works if you truly want to quit. So when you have that sugar craving, to have the motivation to actually push the button to get the sensation. If you dont do that and just go on eating sugar it wont work. At least that’s what I personally found.

  31. Brilliant and hilarious ideas here Manesh- I love the concept of making productivity hacking a game, something real and tangible!

  32. This is a great idea, but how hilarious would it be if it came with a smell feature? You program the smell that will be dispensed based off of what you’re trying to quit. That way you associate the smell of whatever you’re trying to stop doing with the shock. Quitting sugar? Things are about to smell like candy around here.

  33. Erik Seabolt says:

    This was an interesting post and the first I’ve read on this site. I thought it was humorous and thought-provoking. Is it bad that my first reaction was that my best-friend and business partner could really use a “shock?” Since, leaving my corporate career and starting my own business it can be really hard to focus and know exactly what needs to be done in a given day. There are some great comments and feedback on this page, so here is my pitch – if chosen for the Pavlok 2 I promise to gift it to my friend and deliver a shock when his productivity slumps. He won’t be expecting it and I’ll post the video here! Thanks for the idea …

  34. Jalyn says:

    This is a brilliant idea! Problems focusing is my biggest barrier to accomplishing my goals, and this sounds like a super effective way to get me to concentrate. (Maybe it could even help my fiance get out of bed on time.)

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