orish8 months ago
What a wonderful article! I've been struggling with many of the points you raise, both for myself and when advising others (I develop minimalist-but-effective strategies for learning and healthy living).
Points 1-6 are so *right*. I've been advising the same thing about managing (or increasing) your energy rather than time... a little along the lines of The Four-Hour Work Week (except the book misses the main point of how to *make it happen* in real life).
Preparing the night before is so important. If you don't then it either takes you a good hour to faff about getting started in the morning... or you don't get started at all. Same applies if you want to get more exercise: prepare your kit and clothes in advance, so no matter how cold or wet or dark it is outside, you just have to pick up your pre-prepared sports bag and go!
Don't open your mail till noon is my personal Achilles' Heel. I usually have important customer enquiries and I tend to deal with them at length, but then the whole morning is gone and I'm exhausted, and then hungry... and then I'm sleepy from eating a big lunch, and it's hot all afternoon - and my day is gone.
I'm going to try this from now on... my customers can wait an extra half a day. And I'm far more inclined to deal with emails in the afternoon because it isn't quite as mentally taxing as my other projects - which require a lot of creating thinking "energy" and could be more effectively done in the mornings! Thanks for that kick-in-the-pants...
Turning off phones and communication devices is something I've managed to do. It takes some effort to wean yourself off this (distracting) links to the outside world. I don't start up Skype automatically for instance, and keep logged out of facebook, etc. These are HUGE distractors - particularly if someone pings me a message and is expecting an immediate reply. If I'm simply not online then I won't get sucked into idle chat with my various friends and colleagues and customers... and if it's important then I can deal with it in writing later on.
I live in a hot country (Thailand) and I can't stand the heat, nor do I have air conditioning. I've toyed with the idea of having one room with aircon, but it's kind of expensive because of the high running costs. It may be false economy because I might get a lot of (paid-for) work done if I had a cool place to work in. The previous president of Singapore Lee Kwan Yew made a famous remark that air conditioning was the greatest invention of the 20th century: it's the key success factor of Singapore's economy.
Saying that, I could probably get just as much done if I did it in the morning, and dealt with emails and communication in the afternoons...
Simple aerobic exercise - oxygenating those brain cells - is pretty obvious, but one has to read it as in your article for it to sink in. I'd like to add one small point: every few minutes or so (or whenever you think about it) allow your eyes to focus around the room because we can get quickly tired by staring at our computer screens for too long. A short, brisk walk outside of your regular work room for 2-3 minutes every hour is a good habit to get into. Our attention flags after about 45-50 minutes (which is why psychiatrists and school lessons tend to be this length of time). So chunk your work times to be no more than one hour maximum - ideally 50 minutes with a 5-10 minutes break to "regroup".
Fasting is good, but I don't really do it. It's not always as "healthy" or "cleansing" as some people say. The caveat is that you need to understand how to fast. Long periods of fasting are not helpful, but fasting between your evening meal and lunch time the next day is OK. That's the routine that I've got into. I'm only slightly overweight, but only because I really enjoy eating, and I make up for not eating breakfast at breakfast time by eating lunch AND breakfast at lunch time (actually around 2pm by the time I get around to it). It's 2.30pm now as I write this and I haven't started lunch yet (!)
One thing I can say in favour of "fasting" is that I really enjoy being hungry, because it means that I enjoy eating that much more. I really don't like to eat if I'm not hungry. And I *really* enjoy going to a great buffet after I've made sure not to eat for a good 16 hours or so before I go. I'm a buffet restaurant's worst nightmare: they always make a loss on me LOL!
HOWEVER, you *must* drink! And I don't mean coffee or colas. Plain water is ideal. You body flushes itself out naturally during the night (special detox programs are *not* necessary and have been proven to be totally ineffectual). If you still want to "eat" before noon then it's usually a good idea to stick to water-based foods like fruit and vegetables. Have a fruit breakfast or snacking on fruit in the mornings (NOT fruit cereal bars: they're just sugar/carbohydrates). Or fruit/vegetable juices or smoothies. Cereals are totally useless, except for a quick energy spike, like the rush you get from coffee. It's very short-lived and - indeed - can deplete you of energy because of the action of your pancreas.
Caveat: if you are in a profession where you are exerting a lot of physical effort then go ahead and eat a huge breakfast full of proteins and carbs. Fasting won't help you to work optimally at all. One study with athletes and fire-fighters did show, however, that if you liquidize your food and drink it as a tasty soup then you will feel far more energetic than if you eat the same food as solids.
Using food as a "reward" doesn't work for me - and I'm not sure it works for many people. I do, however, find it useful to make a learning task more palatable by creating a ritual time with a (very) good coffee and cake/donuts/etc. I develop self-study language learning products that require 15-20 minutes every day to become fluent. And the best way to motivate yourself to study is to look forward to your coffee-and-cake time (where you happen to work through the language exercises while enjoying your coffee break).
In general, the whole issue about food is contentious. It's certainly not healthy to overeat (and it would explain why I'm so sleepy in the afternoons because I eat a big lunch). One of the most fascinating studies that I came across was where mice were slightly underfed and they lived TWICE as long as their normal life expectancy. The (middle-aged) researchers immediately tried it out on themselves and discovered that by eating slightly less than the "RDA", they felt and looked at least 10 years younger and seemed to have a great deal more energy in their everyday lives. I can't do it, but if it makes you live longer and gives you more energy then why not give it a go?
I can't comment on your last point (the "pre-game" routine). It sounds like a great idea and I'm gonna give it a try...