The Kaizen Newsletter #41 (14/04/2020) - How to turn your guilty pleasures into a productivity tool

Before starting, I just wanted to acknowledge that not everyone is in the same situation and that there's absolutely nothing wrong with having guilty pleasures.

I consider myself lucky that I have the opportunity of doing small experiments like these but please don't feel pressured to do the same.

During the first week of quarantine, I was pretty unproductive. I was so absorbed in all the COVID-19 situation that I didn't feel like working. I even became disinterested in my personal projects and spent most of the time refreshing my Twitter feed for the latest news on the coronavirus.

Being the self-improvement junky that I am, instead of just trying to relax and going with the flow, I decided that I wanted to change that.

Recently, I've become addicted to this volleyball anime called Haikyu and it's quickly becoming one of my favourite animes ever. Since I tried to self-pace myself and not binge-watch the entire 4 seasons in one sitting, I decided to just watch episodes while I was eating - so I would end up watching max 3 episodes per day.

Knowing that, I tried to leverage my new found love for this anime by using one of the oldest tricks in the book. Similarly, as giving a treat to a dog whenever they would do a particular trick, I would reward myself with one episode of Haikyu whenever I would finish a task.

How I set it up is as follows.

Every day, before going to sleep, I would decide on two tasks that I would need to finish the next day (either work-related or personal). And whenever I would finish one task, I would then be able to watch an episode of Haikyu while eating lunch or dinner.

The first day I had to eat my lunch without watching any episodes was when it really started working for me. I definitely made damn sure I would finish one of my tasks in the afternoon so that I would be able to watch an episode for dinner. It's been two weeks now and to date and it seems to be working pretty well. I've yet skipped all tasks in a day, which is a good thing!

I also believe that what really helps me is that I list out the tasks that I need to do, the day prior which really helps me prioritize what I need to work when I wake up.

An interesting observation from this new habit of mine is that I would tend to list out a relatively easier task paired with a harder task. The reason is that I have less time to complete a task in the morning than the afternoon, so I would give myself an easier task in the morning and a harder one for the afternoon.

Another behaviour that I observed was that if I'm not done my task yet, I developed the instinct of pushing my lunch a bit later so that I can watch an episode at the same time as I eat. Don't worry though, usually the hunger takes over and go get food regardless of the status of my task.

So unless you're dead-set on trying my approach (which I probably don't recommend since it's pretty intense), here's the more interesting part.

How can we break this down so that you can also turn your guilty pleasures into a productivity tool the same way I did?

Pick a guilty pleasure

First, you need to pick your guilty pleasure. The more you like this guilty pleasure, the better it will work. In my case, if I hadn't chosen Haikyu, then I know it wouldn't have worked as well.

If you're having a hard time finding one, here are some examples off the top of my head.

  • Any unhealthy foods/drinks (McDonald’s, poutine, chocolate, dessert, ramen, ice cream, candy, coke, beer, wine)

  • Any show that you would want to binge-watch in one sitting (Haikyu, Tiger King, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones) - The more seasons there are, the better since the show will last you longer

  • Naps (I mean some people LOVE sleeping)

  • Games (Animal Crossing, COD, NHL, Valorant, Fortnite, Pokemon)

Choose your goal

This is where you choose the peanut butter to your jelly, the salt to your pepper, the Carol to her husband (too soon?). You want to select the goal that you will be pairing with your guilty pleasure.

Some examples to choose from:

  • Increase overall productivity (like I did)

  • Improve your fitness

  • Learn a new language

  • Learn a new dance

  • Improve your cooking

Introduce a condition

You now need to give yourself a condition on when you can reward yourself with your guilty pleasure that is based on your goal.

In my case, whenever I finish one task, then I can watch one episode of Haikyu.

My suggestion is to start with a pretty easy condition (to give yourself very low friction) so that you can start making it a habit. If you try and make it too hard, then you'll just abandon this whole challenge and go back to what you were doing before.

Some examples:

  • Whenever I finish one task

  • Whenever I learn one new word

  • Whenever I run 5km

  • Whenever I cook one meal

Piecing everything together

Once we have each individual component, we can piece everything together.

I find it's a lot easier if you format it this way:

Whenever I _insert condition_, then I can _insert reward_

Here are some examples based on the guilty pleasures and goals from earlier:

  • Whenever I finish one task, then I can watch one episode of Haikyu

  • Whenever I run 5km, I can buy myself one fry at McDonald's

  • Whenever I post one new TikTok dance, I can play Animal Crossing for 30 min

As you can see, I tried to be as specific as possible with my statements so that I know exactly what my "reward" is and what I need to accomplish.

Now that everything is set - the only thing you have to do is NOT CHEAT. The more important this guilty pleasure is to you, the harder it will be to not cheat, but trust me it's worth it.

You will most likely feel bad the first time that you "fail" at your tasks, but if you play fair, your brains will be rewired to think that every time you do complete your condition, you will be happy afterwards.

If you feel that you're starting to miss your conditions over and over, then it's most likely that it's too hard. In that case, I would recommend making it even easier and try again.

Yes, there are definitely other ways to have fun during the quarantine, but I actually enjoy testing myself and if being more productive is the result of that, then it's even better.

If you ever try this out, would love to know what challenge you guys made!

As always, if you enjoyed this story and it made you think of someone you know, feel free to share this post with them.


Now, on to the newsletter.

Weekly Favourites

📃 Articles

  • Curating Information and Improving your Learning - Like me, Shanu also writes a weekly newsletter and in this article, he explains the importance of selecting what you consume and how it can affect your learning. The better you're able to at curating information, the better you'll be at getting a good quality of information back and the better you'll be able to improve. The proof is that it takes him only 2h each week to write out and properly format his newsletter (which is always jam-packed with interest graphs and facts).

  • Scared to Finish your Work? Here's what to do - Read this awhile ago, but stumbled back on this article from one of my twitter friends, James. As I mentioned in my last newsletter, I sometimes get paralyzed when I have an idea and just leave it to simmer and never end up doing it, but I'm trying to change that and this article further helped me to reinforce the mentality of just doing stuff. Usually, the main reasons why we don't finish a project are because of self-doubt, perfectionism, too many things going on at the same time and procrastination. In this essay, James gives us some tools on how to overcome the "Resistance" and complete our work.

📚 Books

  • Millionaire Teacher - I've always wanted to learn about investing and if you're a complete noob like me (aka you have no idea what stocks are), then this is the perfect book for you. This book teaches you how to properly invest in the LONG term. In this book, you are taught investing principles that you should've been taught at school and if you follow them properly, it will allow you to be wealthier in the long-run. What this book is NOT is a book that teaches you day-trading or a way for you to become a millionaire in the next year or two.

🛠 Tools

  • Roam Research - I've been using Notion as my go-to note-taking tool for the past year or so until I've discovered Roam earlier this year. What put me off at first was the bad UI/UX (especially compared to Notion), but after learning how to use it a bit more through Nat Eliason's online course, and playing around with it, I can't see myself going back. The biggest reason why Roam is so much better than Notion is that it doesn't force you to categorize your thoughts into a certain "folder" or "box" because it has bi-directional linking.

    So instead of having something like this:

You would have something like this:

  • If you’re in trying out Roam (which I fully encourage you to do), you can read this article here or you can watch this video here if you're more visual. Although I really do love Roam, I still use Notion for (mainly because the UX/UI is so nice) to complete my newsletters, articles or other work-related write-ups.

  • - Lunchclub started as a "grab a coffee IRL" platform with people from your city but recently pivoted (because of the virus) to virtual meetings. I've been trying this out for the past two couple-weeks and it's been really sweet. My favourite encounter so far has been with Anastasia, who's Elizabeth Warren's social media director 🤯.

🐦 Tweets

  • I know a few friends that I've talked within the past couple of weeks that are looking to eventually break into the PM world. Thought this was good advice for them.

  • I didn't realize that I felt the same way until I found this tweet. My life is a bit more "boring", but I also feel a lot more relaxed and less stressed than before. I get into flow much easier during the day as well.

  • Coolest trick I've learned this week.

  • Cutest video of the week by far. These type of videos always get me.

🎧 Music



🙏 Shoutouts

  • Shoutout to my friend Micah! We've been exchanging emails and Twitter DMs since mid last year and finally had the chance to hang out (virtually).

👋 End Note

If you want to know what I'm up to now, you can check it on my website here.

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