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Monday, March 14th, 2011

Tony Schwartz Tips on Managing Energy & Productivity

4 Comments 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, …


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).

Some Of Tony’s Energy & Productivity Tips

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).

If any of this sounds familiar, it’s because I wrote about Tony Schwartz’s previous book The Power of Full Engagement in How To Recharge Yourself and The 20 Best Business Books Of All Time.

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Thursday, June 17th, 2010

How To Recharge Yourself To Make It Through Life (Happy)


I was discussing ‘recharging’ with some friends over pizza in the Italian North Beach neighborhood of San Franciso the other night.

The concept of recharging caught my eye when I read the amazing book: The Power Of Full  Engagement by Tony Schwartz & Jim Loehr.

I was captivated by the stories that Tony & Jim told of how they studied professional tennis players.

I must have lent my copy of the book out so I’m going by memory here…as I recall, Tony & Jim studied two groups of tennis pros:

  • Group A: The Top 10 Tennis Pros (e.g. 1 to 10) (who make millions per year) and
  • Group B: The Lower-Ranked Tennis Pros (e.g. ranked 100 to 500) (who just scratch their way by career-wise)

When they studied videos of the two groups of tennis pros, they noticed something odd: there was no real difference in the talent of the two groups (a guy ranked 200 had essentially the same quality serve, forehand, backhand, etc. of a guy ranked #1).

Amazing, right?

So, what WAS the difference between the two groups

Answer: careful analysis showed that the main difference was the way the two different groups “recharged.”

Examples of recharging were:

What the players did between points

Group A had a a nice steady breath and a casual glance at their racket (perhaps adjusting a string or two) or looking up at place in the crowd or sky

Group B, on the other hand, spent time in between points getting angry with themselves or an umpire (e.g. about the last point they may have lost), distracted by someone in the crowd, or were otherwise fidgety.

A look at what the players did in between games and sets was similar: Group A player was relaxed and regrouping while Group B player was talking to himself or a fan or the umpire.

I recall that the authors may have also mentioned that they observed differences between how the two groups acted (or recharged) between matches too.

So, how does this relate to you?

Well, Tony & Jim pointed out that business-folks need recharging even more than athletes (because we typically don’t have coaches to help us out, structured training or dedicated time off (such as Spring/Summer for most professional basketball players or Winter for baseball players).

Reading Power Of Full Engagement inspired me to be more conscious of how I recharge my batteries.

So, I set up a new recharging strategy…it’s been a couple of years now and I thought I’d lay out my schedule of recharging.

Here’s a typical day for Rob Kelly:

  • 6:00am to 7:15am:  I wake up and focus on creative works (I read about concepts or play guitar or map out ideas on giant post-it notes) (Check out my article on 5 Easy Steps On How To Be An Early Riser.
  • 7:30am to 8:30am: I work out (yoga or basketball) (RECHARGING)
  • 9:15am to 11:30am: I work my job (and I get up at least once during this time to stretch my legs, drink water, etc.)
  • 11:30am to 12noon: I drink a caffeinated beverage and read the San Francisco Chronicle (RECHARGING)
  • 12noon to 2:30pm: I work more on my job
  • 230pm to 3pm: I take a 30 minute break for food and read the Wall Street Journal (RECHARGING)
  • 3pm to 5:15pm: I work my job
  • 515pm to 6pm: I pick up groceries for dinner (RECHARGING)
  • 6pm to 7:45pm: I work more on my job and do some light other work (perhaps write a blog posting)
  • 7:45pm to 8:15pm: I cook dinner
  • 8:15pm to 9:15pm: I watch quality TV (RECHARGING)
  • 9:30pm to 10pm: I read low-intensity books (usually fiction…so as to ease my way into sleep)
  • By 10:15pm, it’s usually light’s out (7 to 8 hours of sleep — RECHARGING)

I’m also trying to apply consistent recharging to longer time periods such as:

  • Weekends — I recharge through at least one visit to nature
  • Every Quarter — I try to take a long weekend at least once a quarter
  • Summers — I try to spend two weeks each summer with my family
  • Annual — I try to do one off-site family vacation per year
  • Bi-Annual — I try to leave the United States once every two years (that’s something I learned from How To Innovate: 5 Tips From Leading Innovators.

I’m really happy with the results so far. A consistent recharging has made me feel healthier and more balanced.

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Sunday, May 3rd, 2009

5 Simple Steps Of How I Accidentally Lost 30 Pounds

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Catchy headline, right?

Well, it’s true…and most of it happened over 6 months.

This was a picture of me circa 2006

Before Rob: Me at 200+ lbs circa 2006

After Rob: This is me at 173 lbs in 2008

After Rob: This is me at 173 lbs in 2008

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:

  • Read Ingredients
    • Read ingredients and keep a special eye on calories and try to keep your calorie intake to 500 calories or fewer for most meals if you can.
    • Watch for Sugar Versus Fat in Snacks — A good rule is to pick the lowest sugar snack option as sugar equates to calories. Fat is actually less important to weight loss. On sugar, I try to eat only snacks that have 10 grams of sugar or fewer  per serving– this is hard to find but two of my favorite slow sugar snacks are Z Bars and MOJO Bars (both by Cliff Bar).
    • Beware of energy bars in general — Energy bars often contain 20 to 30 grams of sugar per serving.
  • Dark Chocolate Rules
    • Pick as high a percentage of cocoa as you can tolerate as there is exponentially less sugar in the higher dark chocolate. I eat 82% cocoa dark chocolate and I’m able to have 1/3rd of a large dark chocolate bar each night and it’s only about 70 calories!
    • Beware Popular Candybars as a Habit — You will find triple the amount of calories in a Hershey Bar or Reeses Peanut Butter Cup as my 82% bar — i.e. you can eat three times as much of my dark chocolate bar than a Hershey’s Bar!
  • Many Meals
    • Four to 5 Meals Per Day — I believe that when I went to 4 to 5 meals per day at 400 to 500 calories each (versus 3 meals a day (at about 800 calories each) ), that my weight started coming off.
    • Bread — A typical slice of bread has 100 calories in it and a bagel has about 160, regardless of whether it’s white bread or whole-wheat or rye. I love bread but what I now do is eat mostly NON-white bread (the reason is that it has more nutrients and fills you up faster (so you don’t need as much).  Another trick I use is that I try to eat bread only when it’s fresh or when it’s in a favorite sandwich of mine (I like BLTs!).
    • Bread OR Pasta (not both) — I try not to eat bread in a meal if I’m already having a starch such as rice or pasta.
  • Fruit
    • A modest amount of fruit (or juices) any time is great.
    • Beware of too much smoothie! For instance, you could have the Orange Dream Machine smoothie at Jamba Juice and that’s 750 calories (the equivalent of over one meal worth of calories for yourself). Note: The largest size of Peanut Butter M’ood at Jamba Juice contains over 1,000 calories! (two meals worth of calories!)

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:

  • Break a Sweat — I try to do something to break a sweat at least once a day (a good sex life is the easiest way!)
  • Drive Less– I try to walk or bike (instead of drive) to something wherever possible (bonuses: it feels better AND helps the environment)
  • Enjoy It — I focus my exercise on something I enjoy (i switched from treadmill jogging (boring for me) to basketball playing; I also try to do one walk/hike by the water at least one day a week.
  • Make it a habit — I find it’s easier to exercise when I’ve made a habit out of it (same time of day, every day, etc.)
  • Early Rising — I find that it’s easier to exercise early in my day — Read How to Be An Early Riser to learn tips on waking up earlier (it has changed my life!).

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!

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Sunday, April 26th, 2009

5 Easy Steps On How To Be An Early Riser


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:

Famous Early Risers

  • Leo Babauta (Blog Writer) — 4:30am
  • Mary Higgins Clark (Writer) — Often began writing at 5:00am.
  • Winston Churchill — He would wake up at 7:30am and work from bed until 11:00am.
  • Thomas Edison
  • Ian Fleming
  • Benjamin Franlin (famous for his quote: “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.”
  • Steve Pavlina (Writer ) — Wakes up at 5:00am (and says he’s already exercised, showered and had breakfast by 6:30am).
  • Sylvia Plath (Writer) — Often began writing at 5am.
  • Margaret Thatcher
  • Walt Whitman


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