30 Productive Things to Do From Face Dragons Founder

Meet Gregory, a writer and the brains behind Face Dragons. He's the go-to guy for getting things done.

Gregory's been living the digital nomad life in Asia for as long as anyone can remember, helping clients smash their goals. He writes on topics like software, personal knowledge management (PKM), and personal development. When he's not writing, you'll catch him at the local MMA gym, nose buried in a book, or just chilling with the family.

Face Dragons is all about productivity. Not for its own sake, to keep the dragons at bay. But everyone has those days when they feel the drive and the motivation. They have the energy to finally start working on themselves and yet instantly get derailed because they just don’t know where to put that energy or where to put their focus. They just don’t know what to do. I’ll give you a couple of tips along the way so this doesn’t happen to you again, but for now, here’s Face Dragons’ list of the most productive things to do.

1. Set an Alarm

I haven’t used Google Calendar or any Google tools for over a decade. But once a year, an alarm I set up fires off and notifies me on my Android Phone: “Anniversary.”

This alarm has saved me a few times over the years. It notifies me the day before and gives me one last chance to buy something or plan a day out. It’s also nice to always be the first to say “Happy anniversary, darling” in the morning.

I don’t even remember setting the alarm, but I have always heeded this advice: ” Smart people have good memories; really smart people don’t rely on them.”

I took Mega Memory as a young teen and completed the American Institute of Memory’s advanced course. Although I use those skills when memorizing something quickly, I have always known the value of writing things down. Setting an alarm is the result of that thinking.

So next time these situations arise, don’t just put them on your calendar. Set an alarm on your phone. It only takes a moment.

  • Important Event
  • Appointments
  • Birthdays & Anniversaries
  • Deadlines for work or School
  • Anything else you don’t want to miss

2. Start a New Book

Unread books on a shelf are no different than unchecked tasks on a to-do list – they are promises you’ve made to yourself, but when will you do them?

Start a new book. You bought it for a reason, and maybe you can’t remember what it was, but get started, and you might remind yourself.

Picking up a new book is not like clicking on a YouTube video. A YouTube video might last 10 minutes, maybe 30. If it sucks, you’ll know pretty soon, and even if you watch the whole thing, it’s not much of an investment to lose. Reading a new book, however, is a commitment. It’s like saying all my free time will go into this one thing for the next few days. And some books only get good halfway through, so you just can’t read the first page and discard it.

Books aren’t really like tasks, though. After you complete a task and check it off, it disappears, and you never see it again. But a book you’ve read will still be on your shelf. But now it will be a trophy of your commitment to knowledge. Imagine if your entire bookcase was like that. Go make it happen!

3. Meal Prep

Meal prep is one of the most productive activities you can do. It saves you time, money, and effort and lets you focus on more important things. A single session can impact your productivity for days!

You’ve got to eat multiple times a day, which means planning, preparing, cooking, and cleaning up. You could spend that time doing something more productive (like anything on this list!).

Here’s a quick guide to productivity meal prep

  1. Go buy ten food containers
  2. Pick two meals you really like (or that simply fit your macros)
  3. Shop for enough ingredients to make five meals for each
  4. Cook the food
  5. Portion it out

You now have a week’s food in the fridge or freezer. Sure, it means eating the same two things every day, but who cares? Have something different next week.

4. Lift Weights

Lifting weights takes time, effort, and money. How exactly is it a productive thing to do?

Let’s forget about the health benefits for a moment (which are the real reason you should be lifting weights.)

The time you spend in the gym will pay for itself, look.

  • Better posture equals more productivity at the computer
  • Looking good equals better work relationships
  • Being healthy means fewer sick days and more work done
  • A higher muscle-to-bodyweight ratio means you have more energy and are still working when everyone else is wiped out

Plus, who doesn’t want to be strong?

5. Write Two Pages of Your Novel

“Everyone has at least one novel in them.”

You’ve heard it said; you’ve probably even said it before and occasionally flirted with the idea of writing a novel. Well? Sit down and start writing!

And don’t say, “I’m not sure what to write yet.” That’s not how it works.

As someone who now calls himself a writer (I tend to write about 2000 words each day), I can tell you that starting to write is the best way to start writing a novel (who knew, eh?)

It’s gonna suck. And most of it won’t make it into the final draft, but it’s part of the process. Not writing will never get you there.

6. Clean Out a Drawer

“When in doubt, clean out a drawer.” I’ve listened to David Allen’s Making It All Work so often that phrases like this come to me at the oddest moments in Allen’s slow but reassuring voice.

In many ways, these little pieces of wisdom, between the big chapter headings and subheadings, make GTD, and it’s two manuals such an Aladin’s cave of glinting treasure. If you haven’t read either one, buy them now!

That cluttered drawer, the full one you just like to throw things into, isn’t just a messy drawer. It really is, as Allen would say, “holding a part of your hostage.”

But cleaning it out:

  1. You suddenly feel like a small piece of stress has evaporated: more creativity/vitality
  2. You find that pen (or whatever) you’ve been looking for: lost items
  3. Something in there reminders you that you need to do something: lost tasks/projects
  4. You can now actually use that drawer again!

I don’t understand the science behind it, but all I can say is clean it out and feel the difference it makes.

7. Organize the Files on Your Computer

Clearing everything on your computer, putting everything in its place, and deleting all those unwanted files will exponentially increase your productivity.

  • Finding the right files will be easier
  • Your computer will run faster
  • You’ll no longer hate turning it on

You work so much better in a library than at home – there’s nothing to do but work at a library. You don’t have your TV staring at you, a pile of washing in the corner of the room, or a fridge full of treats (not to mention beers) at the library. Instead, there are big empty desks and lots of books – everything required to tell you “get working.”

The same is true of our laptops. A desktop full of icons of different files you’ve downloaded and games you no longer play is not what you want to see to get into the mood to be productive.

Organizing your computer isn’t that hard, either. You just need to build a structure for your files or follow along with this article, which shows you how to organize your files best and gives you a simple but helpful structure to set up.

8. Build a Second Brain

Do you need a second brain to be productive? No.

When you think of highly productive people like Winston Churchill, who was a highly prolific writer, ran a country, and defeated the nazis, he didn’t need a second brain to do it all. But there are two things to remember.

  1. You’re not Winston Churchill (remember, this is a man who started his days with a whisky in bed.)
  2. Though he didn’t have a second brain, he did have a system.

The second point is the important one. You don’t need a second brain if you already have a better system, but I bet you don’t.

Academics who read profusely and publish often build their own systems naturally—a way of retaining what they read and accessing it later to put into writing. These systems frequently take the form of note-taking systems, index cards, or memory techniques. But building your own custom-made system takes years of development. You could skip all that and just use a system that’s not only prebuilt but already highly optimized.

My recommendation for most people is to build a second brain with Obsidian, although I don’t use it.

9. Start a Memory Deck

Anki has been popular for ages already (it’s a flash card app), so I’m not going to tell you that it’s some awesome new productivity hack. It works, but it principally serves a purpose in the short term, like when you have an exam or want to learn the first 1000 words in a new language. Don’t expect it to do more than this. It doesn’t.

What everyone should have, however, is a memory deck.

It could be within Anki, but that’s not the point. Here’s the point.

When you’re reading and come across a great quote, what do you do with it? Highlight it? Write it in your journal?

What do you do when you read a new study with some unexpected figures? You think, “Hmm, that’s interesting,” and read on.

Because you don’t have a memory deck!

If you don’t have a laundry basket, you will have dirty laundry on your bedroom floor because it doesn’t have a set place. Give knowledge and information a set place – the memory deck.

It could be a page in your organizer, a note on your phone, or a stack of index cards—it doesn’t matter. Choose a medium to use, and whenever you encounter something you wish was committed to memory, write it on your memory deck.

Then, when you’re sitting on the toilet, or waiting in line, or wherever, pull it out and read it. You don’t need to use some fancy memory technique; just read through the things on your deck, and slowly, you’ll remember them. Do this for a decade, and people will constantly ask you, “How do you know so much?”

10. Enroll in a Class

Learning something new will always be an effective use of your time. You’ll come out the other end with new knowledge and skills that will make a difference in your life that you simply can’t yet see. For instance, I never imagined that a Tibetan language course would lead me to Everest Base Camp, but it did.

There’s no end of classes you could enroll in, and there are different types of classes out there. Check out some of these – the most productive classes you could take this year.

Online Classes

Club Membership

  • Martial Arts Club
  • Golf Club
  • Archery Club

Private Classes

  • Musical Instrument
  • Foreign Language
  • Drawing/Painting/Sculpting

11. Put Study Music on Your Phone

When I wrote my first book in 2017, I had two study music playlists on my phone. I downloaded them so I could play them offline using the regular music player app. Each playlist was about 45 minutes long.

At the time, I was living in the Korea Town in Tianjin, a vast city in China, and I’d go to this Korean cafe to write (because it was always empty and they’d let me smoke cigars in there.) I’d listen to both playlists, puff through a Montecristo No. 2 or a Partagas P2, and usually write about 2000 words.

On the days when I didn’t really feel creative or feel like writing something amazing would happen, as soon as the first bar of the first playlist started, I’d be locked in and laser-focused. The study music had trained my brain that when it played, it was work time.

12. Commit to Midnight Monk Mode

Ever heard of Midnight Monk Mode? It’s a way to do monk mode without dedicating all your time to it. It’s perfect for parents or just busy people (aren’t we all?).

Monk mode is the idea that you can put every part of your life on hold while focusing on making massive progress in one area. This means no socializing, entertainment, or strictly scheduled time to ensure you get the most out of every day.

Most people can only manage true monk mode for a month or two before the other parts of their lives require their attention again. But if you have a wife, kids, or a demanding job, you just can’t drop it all because you want to work on yourself or be a bit more productive.

That’s where Midnight Monk Mode comes in. Get the benefits of a proper monk mode, but start in the evening and work till midnight. That might sound like the last thing you want to do after a long day, but it’s actually pretty doable if you follow the Face Dragons guide to Midnight Monk Mode.

13. Start a Side Hustle

Is there anything that screams productivity more than coming home after work to work on your side hustle or passive income stream? Thought not. Not only will everyone wonder, “Where do you get the time?” But the extra cash is pretty sweet, too.

There are thousands of guides to starting a side hustle (including mine, Google “Face Dragons Side Hustle”), so I won’t rehash them here. Here’s what I will say. Start something today, don’t expect it to make any money, and keep going with it for five years. You won’t regret it.

14. Build a Productivity System

Working on a productivity system might seem a little too meta, but it really is one of the best ways to get more done and ensure you’re doing the things that matter most to you.

How many times do you find yourself unsure of what to do? Wouldn’t having a short list of what you must do next would be better? And all that time you waste on doing unimportant tasks could completely transform who you are if you just started focusing on the things you know matter most.

We’ve all been there: 10 pm rolls around, and you feel guilty that your kid has gone to bed and you never played that game of chess (or Mariokart) with him that you promised. Or you spend a whole day dealing with other people’s problems in the office and never get around to calling that big-ticket customer back—the one who brings in half your revenue.

GTD is the only productivity system you need to consider. Every other one is just a copy or a part of GTD, so just go to the source.

15. Shoot B Roll

OK, maybe this isn’t for everyone, but if you make videos of any kind (or intend to), spending an hour or two making nice-looking B-roll is a great investment. You never know when it might come in handy, so keep it general. Shots of someone pulling a phone out of their pocket or typing on a laptop are easy shots to get and super versatile.

Another way to go is to think of emotions – they come up in almost every video genre, and wouldn’t it be great if you already had a vault of clips that fit with the theme and emotion of your next video?

16. Go to a Therapist

Is there anything better to do than to work on yourself? And is there any better way to do that than with a professional?

17. Analyse Your Personality

Knowing how you tick is the best way to get the most out of yourself. If you know that you’re an introverted extrovert and social events cause you to fatigue and need time to recuperate, then going out the day before you need to do some intense work might not be a great idea. But you wouldn’t know that if you didn’t already understand your personality deeply.

If you wonder why you keep getting passed up for promotions or why women always friend-zone you, your personality is the key. You might be giving off beta or delta male vibes.

If, after some analysis, you work out that your primary motivator is competition and “winning,” you can make yourself do more than you usually would simply by turning it into a competition. “I need to write this boring report, bet I can write a better, longer, more interesting one faster than John in accounting.” By turning a tedious work task into a competition, you instantly engage the part of you willing to work hard and long. But you can only do that if you know your personality.

18. Work on Your Mindset

There are three steps to work on your mindset

  1. Pick Your Suck
  2. Decide When You’ll Do It
  3. Program the Duration or Intensity

I wrote a whole post that will guide you through these three steps and turn you into a stronger-willed version of yourself. Go find it.

19. Practice Your Meet and Greet Skills

It doesn’t matter how smart you are or how loyal of a friend you are if you can’t get past “Hello.”

If you sucked at playing piano, you’d know you needed more practice – it’s the same thing here. You must practice to become better at meeting people and getting to know them.

  • Think of 10 questions you could ask someone you just met, then cross out the boring ones
  • Write down 10 interesting stories you can tell someone about yourself
  • Go out and try them!

20. Learn to Cook a New Dish

Learn it once. Eat it for the rest of your life. Here are three you won’t regret:

21. Do Cardio

You know you should!

22. Practice Your Art

Perfecting your craft, whether it’s photography or the art of making sales calls, is always highly productive. It’s long been my belief that everyone should be known for something. It might be a God-given talent, a skill they’ve honed, or just something they have a huge passion for.

Putting that thing at the center of your lifestyle and being known for it is the difference between people remembering you after you’re gone and not. 

A number no one is talking about.

There will come a day when no one ever again mentions your name and all memory of your existence will disappear. How many years after your death will it be? Think about that.

23. Make a List of Things to Do

Want to guarantee yourself a productive day? Write a list of things you want to do today and carry it around with you.

24. Join the Dragon’s Eye

You’re missing out if you don’t know what the Dragon’s Eye is.

Forget everything you know about email. The Dragon’s Eye isn’t an email. It’s a scroll you found in an old cave which tells you everything you want to know. It’s a quest to make you more capable. It’s a sword to fight off the dragons of life.

It’s one email per month (only one, no spam) and arrives on the first of each month.

With a monthly challenge inside and something extra, click the link above to find more.

25. Build your own PC

The laptop I’m writing this on was $1500, which isn’t cheap. It’s a System76 Pangolin. It does the job, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

Last week, I built a new PC for myself, which cost about $700. It’s more powerful with a better graphics card and has a 27″ 1440p 180hz monitor. Buying a similar PC from a store would have cost at least $1200.

It’s not just that you can save money building a PC, but it will save you time and make you more productive, too. Here’s why:

  • You can build a much more powerful PC for the same money, so it will take less time to turn on or complete intensive tasks
  • You will learn how a computer goes together so when it comes time to upgrade, you can do it yourself instead of hiring someone or just buying a new one
  • If something breaks, there’s a much better chance you can find out what and fix it

If you’ve ever waited (or paid) for a computer repair guy with a computer that doesn’t turn on, you’ll understand how valuable these skills are. You’ll learn them by building your own PC.

26. Learn how to write BASH scripts

Scripting is a way to make your work more efficient. Instead of performing the same task repeatedly each week, why not write a script that does it for you?

Scripting is like the kid brother of computer programming, and you don’t need to be an elite hacker to do it.

Check out this short script.

#!/bin/bash

for f in *; do
    ext="${f##*.}"
    [[ -z "$ext" ]] && ext="none"
    mkdir -p "$ext"
    mv "$f" "./$ext/$f"
done

This seven-line script will sort all the files in a folder by their extension. So, if you have hundreds of .jpgs, .pdfs, .xdocs, and .mp3s in your download folder, this script will instantly sort them and group them together into a JPG folder, a PDF folder, etc.

If you’re interested in getting started scripting in BASH, check out this tutorial, then use Chat-GPT or Google Gemini to help you write scripts. You can make minor edits to them.

27. Do a Brain Dump

Your brain has thousands of thoughts daily, most just rattling around in your head.

By systematically removing all that dross from your mind, your brain will run better, you’ll feel better, and you’ll be more productive.

I recommend doing a brain dump at least once a month.

28. Build a Personal Development Plan

If your life is going nowhere, it’s because you either don’t have a plan or aren’t working the plan.

Most of the productivity tips in this list are for getting more done quicker, but if you’re stuck and don’t know what to do, you must build a plan first.

Follow this guide to making a personal productivity plan. It has what you need.

29. Install a Tiling Window Manager

If you’ve never heard of a window manager, you’re in for a treat!

A tiling window manager is software that controls how windows are displayed on your computer. It tiles windows so you can open multiple windows simultaneously and automatically organize them into a preset arrangement so they don’t overlap or hide behind one another.

Window managers are meant to be used with hotkeys instead of wasting time browsing menu systems with your mouse. This combination makes them killer for productivity.

Here are a few to look into

30. Setup Hotkeys

I love hotkeys, and I have one set up for everything I often do on my computer. I have a hotkey for opening my browser on a new workspace, one that opens my file manager, and even hotkeys that help me navigate my most commonly used folders within my file manager. I have a hotkey that opens a dialogue box for me to write ideas into, and I have hotkeys that run custom-built scripts I’ve made.

I run DWM, a window manager designed with hotkeys, but you don’t need a window manager to make the most of hotkeys. You can easily set up hotkeys on Windows, Mac, and other Linux distributions.