Every now and then, we get an email to the support team at Asian Efficiency that goes something like this…
“C’mon guys… what are the REAL secrets to productivity — the ones you don’t share on the blog or in your courses?”
Well, we actually do share our best productivity secrets on the blog, in our newsletters and in our courses, and we most definitely teach them to all our clients. But if you want MORE…here you go.
Ten of the most hardcore productivity secrets that you can realistically implement (but that most people never will) and that you probably haven’t read/seen/heard about before, because they’re not quite socially acceptable.
Note: These are REALISTIC productivity tips that can be implemented with a minimum use of discipline and willpower: there’s nothing here that will endanger your life or require Yoda-levels of concentration to put into practice.
Disclaimer: We are not medical professionals of any sort. Please consult your physician or doctor before trying anything listed on this page.
#1: Eat 1 Meal a Day.
Dinner last weekend.
That’s right, the first hardcore productivity tip I have for you is exactly what it sounds like: you eat only ONE meal per day.
So how exactly do you do this?
It basically means that you “skip” two of your regularly planned meals…and get all your calorie/energy requirements in one sitting (or you can supplement with protein shakes and the sort). You can pick whatever time of day you like to eat feast. I personally prefer sometime in the evening.
Note that this doesn’t mean you get to eat junk. You still should be eating healthy and wholesome foods, aka things that your grandparents would have recognized as food.
Now if you’ve never done any fasting before, you may be asking, “Why on Earth would I want to do this?”
The answer is simple: you’ll spend less time eating and have more time for doing other things.
I haven’t eaten breakfast for about three years now. And that has added an extra hour into all of my days. But recently, I started thinking — well, what if I skipped lunch, too?
After all, I normally eat a big lunch, then get sleepy for about 30 minutes after…and am utterly unproductive during that time.
So I did a little digging, and it turns out there was a popular “diet” a few years back called the “Warrior Diet,” which is a similar sort of concept — fast for most of the day, have one big meal and be done with it.
Now before you say that this is nutritional heresy, go read some of the studies on this, and pay careful attention to the demographics of the subjects as well as what they were eating.
(Again, I am not a medical professional: I’m just putting this here for your own reference.)
By now, I’m sure you’ve Googled “Warrior Diet” and seen both the praise and criticism of it online.
Personally, I am less interested in it from a dieting perspective and more from a productivity perspective.
The simple math works out like this:
- Every meal takes you 30–60 minutes to eat.
- There is usually a period of digestion following the meal where you feel lethargic — this can be 30–60 minutes as well.
- Sitting down at a table for food fewer times per day means less time eating, less time digesting and more energy for the time that you are not eating — and this means more productivity.
My own personal experience turned out something like this:
- 3 meals per day = 1 hour per meal + 30 minutes digestion = 4.5 hours per day spent on food.
- 2 meals per day = 1 hour per meal + 30 minutes digestion = 3 hours per day spent on food.
- 1 meal per day = 1.5 hour per meal + 30 minutes digestion = 2 hours per day spent on food.
That’s a whole 2.5 hours EXTRA per day that I can now put towards other things.
What exactly do I do with that?
Well, 2.5 hours is a LOT of time — just over 10% of your day. I usually put it into a combination of Asian Efficiency work, reading/learning and downtime.
You may be wondering how much willpower or discipline it takes to eat only one meal per day and whether you get hungry, distracted, etc. It actually doesn’t take as much willpower as you think. Yes, for the first couple of days it’ll feel odd, and you may get hunger pangs (especially if you’re used to snacking a lot). My suggestion: stop mulling over the food and just get on with what you have to do. In fact, you’ll find that after the first few days, during your “fast,” you’ll have more concentration, more focus and more energy than before.
Padawan Version: Eat two meals per day.
#2: No TV. Ever.
This one is simple: don’t watch TV.
While TV is good for downtime, it’s really passive entertainment. You’re basically just sitting there and…well, watching.
I’m not saying TV is all bad (there are a lot of great shows out there), but if you’re watching more than one episode (40-ish minutes) a day, you’re really wasting away a significant portion of your day towards just pure entertainment.
Now you may be asking: “Really, Aaron, no TV EVER???”
Well, a lot of people don’t own TVs, and they seem to be perfectly fine. And yes, I know that most of us have computers and tablets and phones with large screens — which is why this productivity tip exists.
“But what about keeping up with what’s showing?”
Believe it or not, I’ve never seen Breaking Bad…and Thanh has never seen Game of Thrones. Somehow, we survive :)
The benefit of this is obvious: less time in front of the screen is more time to do other things. Plus, you’ll have more brain space to fill up with information relevant to your goals instead of random facts about a TV show.
Look, I love good entertainment as much as the next person — but I know that if I let it spiral out of control, it will. I have a deal with my significant other: we tend to watch shows together, one at a time, and we limit it. If we want to splurge…we’ll save that for a long-haul flight (e.g., Asia to the U.S. or something similar).
A couple of pro tips for making this work better:
- Never watch TV while eating — it WILL increase the amount of time it takes you to consume food.
- If you must watch TV, do it in your own time…not the network’s time. This means using Netflix, iTunes or something similar. Don’t let a 40-minute episode spiral into 60 minutes because of commercials and buffer segments.
Padawan Version: One TV episode (40-ish minutes) per day maximum.
#3: No Porn.
There isn’t much to say about this (we’ve kind of said it all here already) — don’t watch porn.
The short version: pornography, especially of the Internet variety, is one of the biggest modern time wasters in existence. You’re literally getting addiction-forming dopamine hits by watching visuals on a screen.
As with TV, the less time you spend in front of the screen, the more time you have for doing other things. Plus, because it’s addiction-forming, there are a whole other host of benefits from no porn: a better sex life, a healthier view of relationships, etc.
Padawan Version: If it spices up things for you and your significant other, have a frank discussion about it and place limiters on it.
#4: Meditate for 40 Minutes Every Day.
The fourth hardcore productivity secret is to spend 40 minutes a day doing absolutely nothing!
It’s seemingly impossible, but if you can manage this…your ability to focus and recover will go through the roof.
There are many, many forms of meditation, and you need to find one that works well for you (I personally practice the Transcendental sort).
Now how exactly does closing your eyes and pretending not to sleep for 40 minutes a day actually make you more productive?
It hones in your focus and discipline. It acts as a clearing house for stress, worries, emotions and other things that just plain annoy you.
I like to meditate before starting to work or write for the day — it clears the mind and creates a state of calm.
Meditation also increases the amount of grey matter that we have in our heads.
I was taught how to meditate earlier this year, and I’ve been doing it every day ever since — and would never go back to not doing it daily.
Padawan Version: A shorter period of meditation, say 10–20 minutes.
#5: Go to Bed Early. Like 9pm Early.
This hardcore productivity secret is the answer to one of the most common questions we get:
“How do I become a morning person?”
Well…in order to wake up early, you pretty much need to go to sleep early. It’s simple sleep mathematics.
The easiest way to figure out what time you need to sleep is to go to sleep without an alarm clock for a week and note down your sleep/wake times.
You may be surprised at how much your body actually needs to rest daily. The truth is, most people do not sleep enough, and it has a huge impact on their productivity.
The true benefit of going to bed early, and subsequently waking up early, is that you’ll be well-rested, and you’ll get to reap that early-morning productivity bonus. There is a HUGE difference between starting your day at 7am versus at 9am — and over days, weeks, months and years, this bonus adds up exponentially.
The key to making this tip work is that you want to be in bed at least 30 minutes before you plan to turn the lights off. For example, I like to be in bed by 9pm, winding down, with lights off at 9:30pm.
Padawan Version: Sleep at 10pm or 11pm. It’s still early, and you’ll wake up early. Not pre-dawn early, but reasonably enough.
#6: Drink 4–6L (1–1.5gal) of Water a Day.
That photo above (6L) shows what you need to be drinking daily.
This is all about hydration — providing your body with the water it needs to function at its best. And in turn, this will make you more productive.
Some people think that it’s impossible to consume this much water in a day — it’s not. Start by testing yourself on a 500ml/16fl oz bottle and see how you do. If you can’t drink that in one sitting, then that’s something you’ll want to work towards.
And you don’t have to drink only water — you can drink anything with zero/minimal calories as well. This means tea is OK, but juices and sodas are not. Coffee is debatable: black coffee has minimal calories, but anything with cream or sugar (or both) does not.
If you drink enough water every day, you’ll probably find that you’ll go to the toilet…a lot.
The benefits are simple — all those mild headaches and mysterious aches and pains go away as your body stays hydrated. You’ll have more energy, nicer skin, be less hungry and generally feel more refreshed.
Here’s how I get my 6L of water in daily:
- 1L first thing in the morning.
- 1L green tea before lunch.
- 1.5L during exercise.
- 1.5L in the afternoon/early evening.
- 500mL with food, give or take.
- 500mL with protein shakes/green drinks.
Padawan Version: Start at 3L a day and work your way up.
#7: Track Every Minute of Every Day of Your Life.
Time Tracking is where you track every minute of every day of your life — with no exceptions.
You collect the data, look over it, review it and use it to make data-driven decisions about how you are spending your time (see the Asian Efficiency Primer for our guide to time tracking).
It’s been a while since we wrote our original article on Time Tracking, and the best app on the market right now is aTimeLogger 2 for iOS. You simply set up your categories (as we outline in the Primer), and off you go.
The benefits are obvious: if you can measure it, you can improve it. You’ll get ruthless, real-world data on what it is you do all day, and you’ll easily be able to see if anything is out of balance, if anything is not reasonable…and be able to make the adjustments that you need to.
EVERYONE who starts tracking their time is surprised by the amount of time they actually spend doing things, be it work, exercise, sleep, eating or general downtime. It’s a great way to see if your goals and time usage are in alignment — or not.
PLUS, the act of time tracking alone forces you to really think about how you are spending your time — right before you hit that button that says “start timer for watching TV,” you’ll think long and hard about it.
Padawan Version: Structural Productivity.
#8: Delete Facebook.
Imagine this: Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. LINE. 微信. All. GONE.
We survived with all these things pre-Internet and pre-smartphone, and we can definitely survive without them now.
(Obvious note: if you do business on any of these platforms, you’ll still have to work with them as part of your job.)
Now why (God, why) would you want to delete all these apps?
There are actually a number of really good, productivity-driven reasons:
- You’ll have less concern over what others think of you — or what you post.
- You’ll have less clutter in your head from miscellaneous data that isn’t relevant. We may be biologically wired to WANT to know what our closest friends/family (aka “tribe”) are doing, but in the modern world we don’t really NEED to know this. Less clutter = more space for better, more enlightened and creative thought.
- Those five minutes here and there where you get lost in the News Feed add up to hours.
- You’ll be more focused as your attention won’t be fragmented every time you open a social media app (yes, that’s what viewing one-second micro-stories does to your focus).
Padawan Version: Delete the apps. Keep the messaging aspects (e.g., Facebook Messenger).
#9: Check Your Email Once a Day, AFTER Everything Else is Done.
This is exactly what it sounds like: check your email once a day, as the LAST THING in your work day.
(Obvious note: if you work in support or anything else email-driven, you can’t do this.)
Email is the to-do list that other people get to assign to you. By not checking it first thing, you don’t get sucked into a deep, dark pit of working on other people’s priorities and not your own.
And that’s really what it’s about: creating the space to work on YOUR important task first, before the not-important (but usually urgent) emails start streaming in.
Padawan Version: Check your email two to three times a day — after your MIT, after lunch, and before wrapping up for the day.
#10: Don’t Buy Stuff.
Don’t buy stuff unless it hurts your productivity not to.
We (especially those of us in the developed/industrialized world) all have too much stuff. And the sad fact is that most of it goes unused, and most of it isn’t actually worth anything as soon as we buy it.
In fact, owning too much stuff causes decision fatigue — we have to work out when/how/if we will use it.
I discovered this recently as I am preparing to go traveling for a year: cutting down my accumulated stuff has been nothing short of eye-opening.
The fewer belongings we have, the less stress we have (about them) and the fewer worries we have (about them) as well. Plus, not buying stuff is good for your wallet and makes decisions simple: you can focus on the important things, not on accumulating more stuff. And this makes you more productive.
Padawan Version: The Minimalist Luxury Lifestyle, which Thanh wrote about in a past Premium Newsletter.
All the productivity secrets in this article are very much doable. These are things that can be done by almost anyone, and they certainly won’t rob you of any willpower or decision-making power to make them happen…if you’re willing to try.
Got your own Jedi Master-level productivity secrets? Feel free to share!
Do you want to see more examples of our personal systems and workflows? We reveal them all on our Personal Systems seminar. It’s completely free and you’ll get to see the exact step-by-step systems and workflows that we personally use to be insanely productive. Register for the next available seminar here.
Darth Vadar and Stormtrooper Photo Credits: JD Hancock
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