A Major Myth — Most of us believe (wrongly) that to get more work done, we should work more time. Instead,…-->
Author Tony Schwartz (Be Excellent At Anything) had some good nuggets on increasing energy and productivity at SXSW in Austin today.
Talented artist Sunni Brown did this super-cool live drawing of Tony’s talk (below).
Emotional Energy — How you feel influences how you perform. Duh!
A Major Myth — Most of us believe (wrongly) that to get more work done, we should work more time. Instead, Tony says, we should manage our energy better.
The Power of Sleep — “Sleep is the single most undervalued behavior in our lives” because of the myth that if we give up one hour of sleep that will equate to one hour of additional productivity.
Quote from Herbert Simon — “What information consumes is rather obvious. It consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence, a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.”
Multitasking is Bad — It is inefficient to multi-task (technically you can only task-shift). If you shift your attention from something, the cost to you is 25% effectiveness on that first item’s successful completion.
Two Tips On Improving Your Productivity– He cites a study of Berlin violinists by some guy who is an “expert on experts” (they were cited in Outliers)
#1 Practice– The top violinists practiced for 90 minutes maximum in 3 sessions primarily in morning (Schwartz says that it’s been proven that you can only practice 4.5 hours total in a day (that’s the limit))
#2 Sleep — Schwartz said that the superstar violinists slept more than average violinists (typically 8+ hours per night) and that they also napped on a regular basis (about 2.8 hours per week).
Catchy headline, right?
Well, it’s true…and most of it happened over 6 months.
So, here’s my story on how I accidentally lost 30 pounds…maybe you or a loved one can benefit.
It started about two years ago when I was 39 — I weighed 203 pounds at my highest point. The 30 pounds came off over a 12-month period (about 20 pounds within 6 months!).
And, again, I wasn’t trying to lose weight, so this is a weird one.
What’s a weight loss story without before-and-after pictures. I picked a couple in which I’m wearing roughly the same outfit (in this case a suit).
I have bathing suit pics too, but let’s not go there!
So what happened? Well, after the weight-loss, I reverse-engineered the experience best I could.
There are 5 items that stand out.
I like acronyms so I came up with “S.E.E.D.S” to outline the five steps (which are in no particular order).
The SEEDS Approach to Weight Loss
So, SEEDS is:
S = Sleep
I watched an episode on 60 Minutes that showed the effects of weight on Sleep deprivation. One normal looking guy (my age and weight) was put in a lab and woken up periodically so that his sleep was both inconsistent and shorter than it normally was for him.
The effect: he suddenly started eating twice as much food — they showed him eating an entire pizza with multiple toppings (and he remarked that he had never before eaten more than a couple of slices).
In other words, he felt tired and food represented energy to him. Well, the food certainly provided some short-term energy for him but it also added a bunch of calories to his body.
How much sleep do you need? Seven to 8 hours of sleep is widely considered to be healthy (I sleep an average of 7 to 7 and 1/2 hours).
It’s also important to make sure that you have as calm and deep a sleep as you can. One way to do this is to make sure you don’t consume caffeine too late in the day.
A massuese was giving me a massage and mentioned that she was also a nutritionist; I had a soy latte with me when I showed up for the afternoon massage and she told me to be careful as caffeine has a 6-hour half life.
So, for example, if you have a tea or coffee at 3pm and it contains 50 miligrams of caffeine, 25 miligrams of caffeine will still be in your body at 9pm and 12.5 miligrams will be in your body at 3AM.
So that 3pm cup of coffee is the same as having a half-cup of coffee at 9pm! That will effect your deep sleep (you still may fall asleep but you’ll wake up a big more groggy cuz of the caffeine).
I now try to have my last cup of caffeinated beverage at 12noon each day.
E = Eating
I met another nutritionist (a wonderful woman named Minna Yoo) at Samovar Tea House in San Francisco and traded her some business advice (she later launched a cool company called LoveBottle).
Minna’s advice: She drew a circle on my place mat representing a giant plate, and she drew a line in the middle of it and said that that half of your plate should be vegatables; then she drew a line through one of the halves so that there were two quarters — and she said one of those quarters should be protein (any kind you want) and the other quarter should be some sort of grains.
Minna also said that most people (including me) need around 1,200 to 2,500 calories per day (depending on how active you are) and you should spread that out over 4 to 5 meals (there are exceptions to this (if you’re an active athelete, or training for a marathon or Triatholon type event, for instance, you need/burn many more calories).
She told me that if I tried to eat those proportions for every meal, I would feel healthier. I have since adopted those proportions for most of my meals. The key: make sure to keep enough veggies and protein around.
Some other eating tips I found during my weight loss:
The Next E = Exercise
I had previously exercised 4 or 5 times a week and I stepped that up to daily. Some of my approaches to keeping this up:
D = Drinking (as in less alcohol)
I cut my drinking by one-third, from an average of three drinks a day to two drinks a day.
That oesn’t sound like much but beer, wine and cocktails have about 100 to 150 calories in them so if you do the simple math of drinking one less drink per day then that will cause a decline in your calorie intake of about 5% (the average person should have about 2,500 calories per day).
Calories are similar to weight, right, so just think that one less beer or cocktail a day could help you reduce your weight by 5% (since I was 203 lbs at my peak, that could have been 10 lbs right there!)
S = Spirituality (Optional)
This last step is really an optional/bonus round…as I feel the previous four steps are key and this one is more of a multiplier!
I added a form of spirituality to my life during my weight loss period in the form of yoga.
I can’t explain any scientific reason why yoga helped me with weight loss, but my hunch is that it was the icing on the cake to my four other tips (Sleep, Eating, Exercise and Drinking). The main benefits I get are to let go of stress and “just be” as they say.
Since I take a Vinyassa Flow class in 75 degree temperature, it’s also an excellent detox (I break a sweat every time!).
While any one of the 5 SEEDS (Sleep, Eating, Exercise, Drinking and Spirtituality) will help you lose weight, I believe there’s also a compound effect (the lollapalooza effect as investor Charlie Munger calls it) that took place in me improving in all five of these categories, even if just a little.
I was very lucky that I happened to dabble in all five at the same time!
So, that’s how I accidentally lost 30 pounds! I’m still at around 172 pounds and feelin’ great!
The smartest move I’ve made in years was when I began waking up early (around 5:45am now).
So, here’s how you can wake up early:
1) Get Control of Your Alarm Clock
You’ll need to use an alarm clock at first (though you won’t need it two weeks from now!).
What time should you pick? Be gentle with yourself at first — start with just a half-hour earlier than you’re currently waking up.
I recommend you set your alarm to an unusually exact time (I picked 6:07am because I was born in 1967)…it’s been proven that you will be more responsive to unusual times (rather than on-the-hour or half-hour times (e.g. 6:00am or 6:30am) (see The Daily Huddle about starting meetings at odd times).
And try to pick something soothing to wake up to (soft music or a soft voice is fine). If you’re really new-agey then use one of those alarm clocks that has ocean sounds (they also have alarm clock lamps that slowly add light!).
When the alarm goes off, wake up (don’t hit the snooze button!). Trust me: just get your butt out of bed.
Do something affirmative when you wake up. For instance, when I wake up, I put each foot on the floor and say “Thank” (left foot) “You” (right foot) — that starts me off on a positive note.
I promise you that within 5 minutes of waking up you will not feel like going back to bed.
2) Make Your First Activity Warm and Passionate
You should want to wake up earlier to do something you love…so make sure you do!
The first thing I do when I wake up is to have a hot cup of water with fresh lemon juice squeezed into it and some organic honey!
Next, I have a routine for my first activity. I start with my “Hour of Power;” that consists of me sitting in a comfortable chair on the East side of my apartment (where the sun is rising) and writing down a few creative things that I’d like to do for the next hour.
Then I do them! Sometimes it’s reading a book, other times it’s playing guitar and sometimes it’s writing (like this article).
I then go work out for an hour (basketball or yoga).
Whatever you do, don’t start your day with reactive tasks such as reading emails or paying the bills. Go with proactive/creative stuff.
3) Beware Caffeine’s Six-Hour Half-Life
If you consume caffeine (I do), you’re going to need to consume your last sip a bit earlier (I recommend 1pm at the latest).
The reason is that caffeine has what’s called a 6-hour half-life, meaning that if you have a cup of coffee (average of 50 milligrams of caffeine) at 3pm, then you will still have 25 milligrams of coffee at 9pm — it’s the equivalent of you drinking a half-cup of coffee at 9pm at night!
Some of you might say: “I drink caffeine late in the day and still get my eight hours of shut-eye.” I believe you. But your 8 hours probably isn’t very restful sleep…you may wake up groggy (that’s because you didn’t get enough deep sleep).
For those of you hooked on caffeine, just start to wean yourself off of the afternoon habit by switching to decaf (still has some caffeine) or a white tea (has a little caffeine in it) or an herbal tea (no caffeine).
I drink one cup of a black or green tea at about 9:30am and then I have decaffeinated latte (fancy, I know) at about 12noon.
With less caffeine in you at night, you’ll sleep more restfully, and it will be easier for you to wake up early every day!
4) When to Go To Sleep: Have a Book You Love
As you get into this process of waking up early, you’ll begin to naturally get tired earlier at night. This may take about a week.
But what time should you go to sleep? Steve Pavlina recommends simply going to sleep when you’re tired in his terrific How to Become an Early Riser article.
What I do is get into bed 8 to 8 ½ hours before my desired wake up time (e.g. around 9:30pm to wake up at 5:45pm).
I then start reading a book until I’m sleepy.
It’s important to pick a book you love so that you’ll look forward to going to bed! I fall asleep within 30 minutes (that’s how I get my 7 1/2 to 8 hours sleep). .
5) Commit to a Week
Practice your new waking up early for at least seven days…by that time, you will start getting used to it.
You’ll naturally wake up earlier (you won’t even need an alarm clock within about three weeks) and fall asleep earlier too.
You’ll love waking up earlier so much that you’ll test out waking up earlier and earlier until you find the ideal time.
As the saying goes, the early bird really does get the worm.
While I’m a big fan of being an early riser, please remember about the importance of sleep as a form of renewal (see my article on How To Recharge Yourself).
After first writing my How To Be An Early Riser article, I began jotting down examples of other early risers — especially famous early risers.
I thought I’d share those with you: