In today’s digital world, it’s hard to imagine your day and working on your startup without using any of the technological advancements we have at our disposal. I guess you would rather lose your wallet than your computer or your smartphone. Unless you have all your IDs in your wallet, in which case it’s different … still, you could argue about your wallet or your smartphone, right? 🙂
When it comes down to you performing at your best, it’s important to choose tools and gadgets that help to increase your efficiency.
I compiled a list of apps and gadgets that help me on daily basis to keep rocking the “efficiency boat”.
Focus at Will is scientifically produced music that helps to keep your brain focused. When I first read about it, I was like, this sounds like ‘snake oil’ type of stuff. I was however working full time and wanted to really focus on my side projects, so I gave it a chance. And it worked. The moment I used ‘Uptempo’ (it is one of the music categories and it helps more than coffee, really!), I never put it down. Whenever I need to work on something, I start with firing up Focus At Will web app and off we go to the productivity-land!
Trello is a modern Kanban board. Based on Wikipedia definition, Kanban is “a Japanese manufacturing system in which the supply of components is regulated through the use of an instruction card sent along the production line.” In the language of our mere startup founders/entrepreneurs, it’s a system that visually shows you what are your To Dos, what tasks are In Progress and what tasks are Done. It’s used a lot in modern, agile software development as well.
I use Trello for business and personal tasks. I just dump all the To Dos there and take care of them based on priority or/and deadlines. Dumping all the To Dos you can think of helps your brain to ease off the pressure of pending tasks. Once you know it’s recorded somewhere, it’s good. Next good thing about Trello is that it’s very visual and you can drag and drop the ‘cards’ (=tasks). You can also ‘check off’ the To Do lists and deadlines. This helps your brain to keep the sense of achievement/accomplishment. It’s psychologically very important.
Trello is a cross device compatible and I use it on my Mac, smartphone, and tablet.
Create maximum 4 lists to keep your board clean
Install it on all your digital devices
Use ‘Deadlines’ and ‘Members’ responsible for keeping better track of all your tasks
Use it with Google Drive to keep track of tasks progress
LastPass is just awesome. Do you remember all the 1000 passwords you have to have for every single service you are using? Well, I don’t, and that’s why I have LastPass. It remembers all the passwords and generates super strong ones. All you need to remember is just one, master password.
Install Chrome or FireFox extension
Install smartphone app to retain passwords even if you are away from your own computer
Yeah, yeah, Google owns us. True, and now it’s going to own your documents as well. Jokes aside, when you need to collaborate across remote teams, Google Docs are the way to go. You can use the free version with limited, but pretty extensive function set, or pay $5 per member, per month and have it all in one.
Google Drive for keeping Team folders accessible to everybody
Email collaborators after you do major changes in the documents
Watch out for ‘sharing’ with anonymous hippo or giraffe – that’s the Google’s way of telling you that if somebody discovers your unique link (pretty hard, but not impossible), they can access it. Make sure you only share with certain people
Yes, Skype is a dinosaur, but a Good Dinosaur, indeed 🙂 Voice or Video calls are a breeze, plus if you buy a credit, you can call all around the world for fraction of the costs. I loaded it with $15 credit last year and I still have $8 available … and I used it for many 2 hours calls all over the world.
If you are on slow connection, don’t use the video call or screen sharing – it will kill your call
Ooooh, the big bad brother Facebook now owns Whatsapp. Relax, unless you do some bullshit clandestine activities, you don’t have to worry. Whatsapp is great for real-time messaging with your team or your friends, plus it’s encrypted end-to-end.
BEWARE – what happens in WhatsApp, stays in WhatsApp. You know how you can delete messages in Slack or Skype? Yes, you can delete them in WhatsApp chat, but they will be only deleted from your feed. Everybody else in the group chat sees them. Watch out for those F-bombs if you need to 😉
Mind mapping is great to collect your thoughts and brainstorm. I have used MindMeister because Pat Flynn recommended it in his book “Will it Fly” and have been doing so ever since. It’s great to collect your big picture and vision thoughts and explain them to others. The software gets better when you upgrade to a premium version.
I am a podcast nerd. I listen to a podcast every day, sometimes multiple times a day. I am even thinking about doing my own podcast. The information in podcasts is gold and it’s great with any activity that doesn’t require you to think 2x, e.g. driving, exercising or just doing the dishes or cooking.
Use higher speed to save time – castbox allows you to use higher than recorded speed, e.g. 1.5x speed
Lyft is my favorite ‘taxi’ app. The drivers are very nice people and they even say about Lyft as a company that it’s a human-oriented company that behaves nicely to them. Compared to Uber this is a good change. Unfortunately, Lyft is only available in the US for now.
If you use the link above you will get up to $20 off of your first rides
Talk to the drivers when you get a chance, they all have very interesting stories to share
I am not Apple freak. I don’t have to have everything from Apple. But let me tell you one think … once you go Mac, you never go back … If you switch from Windows, it takes some time to get used to, but once you are good, you are good forever. It boots in less than a minute and does everything with a breeze.
If you work in an office or co-working space with a lot of background noise or your colleagues performing many calls, you need these for sure. They are simply great when used with Focus At Will. You are really in your little world when you have them on. Great for focusing and getting shit done.
They ARE expensive but trust me, it’s worth the purchase and they fit great around your ears
Use them when flying as well – watching movies, sleeping, listening to podcasts or music
As mentioned above, I am a podcast freak. I love listening to podcasts and the audio that my smartphone or tablet provide is not enough. That’s why I got myself one of these portable Bluetooth speakers. They are great for any kind of audio.
Powerbanks, saviors of our digital sanity (or insanity?). You need one if you travel a lot and you know you won’t have access to electricity. Using Waze, Lyft or Google Maps will drain your phone so having one of these close by is a big help.
OK, by now you know I am a podcast freak so when I go running, I obviously listen to a podcast. Having quality sports headset is a must. You don’t want wires hanging around your neck nor under your T-shirt, so invest some money into these great BOSE sports headphones and you will be good.
Let me know
Hey, all. Hope you found interesting points in this article that you can apply to your technological assets. Can you please let me know and share what worked for you in comments below? I am always on a lookout for new apps and gadgets that help with efficiency so any feedback is welcome.
Apps – Screenshots from respective websites
Products – Amazon.com
Trademarks belong to respective owners
15 Apps and gadgets that boost your efficiency was last modified: April 14th, 2017 by Marian
‘Bio hackers’ invented some powerful alternatives to conventional food
Exercise is the king, but nutrition is the queen
In my previous post about exercise, I mentioned that King may rule, but Queen pulls the strings 😉 In your efficiency formula, the exercise may be the king, but nutrition is definitely the queen. If you think about your efficiency, it is proven that 85% of results is what you eat and 15% is about exercise. This is true to any goal you want to achieve – get fit, lose weight, gain weight or become efficient. Eating is being and you need to practice good nutrition.
As mentioned in the previous post about Sleep, if you are a startup founder/entrepreneur you have to do a million things to keep your ‘baby’ running towards the success. There is not much time for anything else. You know that healthy nutrition is important, but you compromise it with something quick and readily available, which is usually junk food. You say you can eat healthy later after you are ‘done’. Then your eyes start closing and you fall asleep … from the sugar rush that 0.5l soda from Mc Donald’s gave you … so much for efficiently finishing up with most pressing tasks. What is more, your body is stressed by all the junk which affects it in long term. Don’t do it!
Think about it. You are building your business, working hard, pushing harder, trying to earn that cash. Well, nothing of that matters if you are not healthy enough to enjoy life, right?
I stopped counting calories
Yep, screw it. It’s just a number. I know that there are whole industries build on calories and you can’t escape them because they are on all food products you buy … or, are they? Do you see calories information on anything natural, like fruits and vegetables or anything that you directly buy from the farmer? And, there is the catch!
After reading a book called “The Calorie Myth“, I understood better what nutrition really makes our bodies to stay healthy, productive and efficient.
The book basically says that each one of us has a weight “middle-point” that belongs just to you. It is a weight level that your body naturally gravitates towards even if you have a high oscillation (too fat / too thin). This weight “middle-point’ depends on our genetics and it is very individual.
What the book recommends is to eat as many ‘unprocessed’ foods as possible to keep your hormonal system ‘unclogged’. They compare it to a water sink. If the water sink is free, then as much water comes in, that much water comes out. The same happens with food. As much food you eat, that much food you use. The catch is that it has to be food that supports your hormonal exchange and it doesn’t ‘clog’ your digestion. Otherwise, you get above your “middle-point” and your body, brain, and efficiency will suffer.
If you get this clear in your head, the nutrition becomes easier. You just need to know what makes your body work towards efficiency and what doesn’t. You don’t need to count calories intake and outtake. You should eat as much as you need and as often as you need. For the sake of efficient sleep, though, don’t eat heavy and anything with too many carbs in the evening.
What should you eat to boost your efficiency
Clean up your shelves …
To achieve a high level of efficiency it is the best time to get rid of all the junk food currently in your possession. Foods high in saturated and trans fats, sodium, and sugar should be the first things you throw out:
high-sodium frozen foods
canned soups, etc.
You think you like them. They’re the problem. Throw them away, and don’t let anyone give you more. Don’t be nice. Say, “Thanks, but I’m not eating that kind of stuff anymore.”
Very important is to realize that if your diet consisted of these foods until now, you can’t and won’t simply throw everything away. That would cause a ‘shock’ to your organism and would deplete the motivation. What you need to do is to be very rational about it and throw out the ‘worst’ foods, like e.g. chips, soda, candies and keep the ‘less bad’ ones to stack on.
The golden ratio is 90/10, so you will have to make hard choices, but only 90% of the time. After you get used to ‘good’ foods, you will naturally switch to 100/0 ratio
… and stock them up with these efficiency boosters
It is important to recognize what foods do good for your brain and what foods boost up your body and heart performance. You need all three to perform at the most efficient level. The rule of thumb is to create a diversified nutrition consisting of vegetables, fruits, animal products, drinks, oils and seeds/nuts that you like and feel good about. Each one of us is different and we all like a different type of foods.
Avocados [salads, guacamole, spread]
Filled with monosaturated (=good) fats, avocados keep your blood sugar at bay and help with concentration and memory function. With their high protein content, they are good for building those muscles as well 😉
Broccoli [side dish]
One of the most famous vegetables, broccoli is the memory and imagination booster. Don’t forget to eat it to be creative 😉
Cauliflower [side dish, combined with eggs can be a main dish as well]
Cauliflower can provide you with good detox after being sick
Dark green, leafy vegetables will keep your brain sharp and your bones strong
Brussel sprouts [side dish]
Brussel sprouts keep your immune system and eyes strong
Yams [side dish]
Yams keep your immune system strong
Tomatoes help to keep your brain cells aging at bay and act as prevention against degenerative diseases.
Raw carrots provide your brain with a steady blood sugar level for sustainable activity. Good for snacking.
Beets have a really bad rep, but it’s not justified. They actually boost your performance and energy. Plus they have a great antioxidant and anti-inflammatory function
Celery is a great antioxidant and anti-inflammatory food. It’s a great snack in between foods
Eggplant [side dish]
Eggplant keeps your brain sharp by enhancing communication between your brain cells. Good for concentration and thinking.
Blueberries [breakfast, snacking]
Blueberries are sexy and they will make you sexy, protecting your body and brain against stress and degeneration.
Raisins provide you with energy and keep your brain working in a top speed
Apples [breakfast, snacking]
One apple a day keeps the doctor away!
Oranges [breakfast, snacking]
Oranges are great source of vitamin C and energy for your brain and heart
Grapefruit or Pomelo are big on vitamin C and help you keep your cardiovascular system in order
Bananas [breakfast, snacking]
The brain works best with about 25 grams of glucose circulating in the blood stream — about the amount found in a banana. If you work and think hard, have a banana. It will keep you focused longer.
Pomegranate is hard to eat, but once you get to it, it rewards you with a lot of vitamins and antioxidants. Helps your body, brain, and heart to stay young
Bone Broth [part of the main dish]
Definitely not for vegetarians or vegans, bone broth is proven to help your body, brain, and heart inside out. Bone broth helps your immune system to stay in shape.
Egg Yolks / Eggs [main dish, part of the main dish]
Eggs have a bad rep because of cholesterol. This is not true and Scientists have had contrary results recently. Eggs are good for your brain and with high protein content for your muscles as well. What is more, if you feel blue, have scrambled eggs … they deliver a ‘happy nudge’.
Salmon [main dish, part of the main dish]
Salmon, full of omega-3 fatty acids helps keep your brain running smoothly and boosts your mood, focus, and efficiency
Probiotic yogurt [breakfast, snacking]
Yogurts with probiotic bacteria help to keep your digestion in order.
Lean meat – turkey, chicken [main dish, part of the main dish]
Lean, nonfatty meat from turkey or chicken is a good source of proteins and B-vitamins that keep you focused and your muscles energized.
Dark Chocolate [desert]
The only ‘sweet’ on this list, dark chocolate (70% and higher) has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory functions and helps the flow of blood to your brain and heart to boost your performance and cognitive functions.
Extra Virgine Olive Oil
Powerful antioxidant keeps your brain cells young and healthy.
All the benefits of avocado in the oil. Alternative to olive oil
Coconut oil will help you with memory retention and kills bad bacteria in your gut
Rosemary is great for protecting your brain against stress and keeping your eyesight healthy
Ginger is great for boosting your immune system and cognitive performance. However, it helps to produce dopamine, the reward hormone. It’s spicy … but goooooood 🙂
Turmeric, ancient root that gives us spice ‘curcumin’ is a strong antioxidant and improves your brain’s oxygen intake and thus increasing your concentration and information processing abilities
Garlic is a natural antibiotic and it lowers blood pressure. It protects your body during the time of stress. Everybody knows the smell so go easy on the others, though 🙂
Walnuts [breakfast, snacking]
Walnuts are a great snack food. Vitamin E keeps your brain and skin young and healthy.
Almonds [breakfast, snacking]
Almonds have similar benefits to Walnuts, though a better taste to some people. Make your pick.
Chia seeds [breakfast]
Chia seeds, dubbed a ‘superfood’, are great for your digestion, heart and cognitive function. They provide energy booster and clean your guts.
Plain, unprocessed oatmeal has a great effect on your heart and brain, plus because it is rich in fiber, it fills you up very quickly so it’s a good alternative when you are on a budget.
Pumpkin seeds [breakfast]
Rich in zinc and magnesium, they boost cognitive abilities and good mood.
Green tea, an alternative to coffee provides you with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory functions. It wakes you up, keeps you calm and focused longer than coffee.
Despite being addictive, coffee increases brain activity andreleases neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. This means coffee actually makes you super focused and smart.
Red wine, the official drink of Romans. Good for heart and good mood. People in regions with wine production tend to live longer. 1 glass of quality red wine per day … cheers!
An alternative to animal milk, soy milk has all the benefits of soy. Provides your body with proteins and vitamins, decreases your cholesterol level and boost circulation, thus concentration.
When to eat what, to boost your efficiency
When it comes to taking care of your body and brain for optimal efficiency, it turns out that good nutrition involves not only what we eat, but when we eat it. Imagine you had a good steak for breakfast. Do you think you will be able to jump into your day with the energy you need to perform all the tasks your business needs you to do? I don’t think so.
Start your day right, eat often small quantities to never be hungry and end your day with nutritious, yet light dinner to sleep well
In regards to what to eat when most sources mention breakfast. It is the most important meal of the day. Your body needs to replenish energy lost during the sleep and stock up for the full day of great work you going to do on your business.
Breakfast is the best time to eat fruits.
The best time to eat fruits is either first thing in the morning on an empty stomach or as a mid-morning snack in between breakfast and lunch. This will ensure that your body digests the fruit sugar evenly and provides you with energy to conquer your mornings. If you don’t like eating fruits alone, try fruit smoothies with coconut, soy or almond milk.
What do I eat?
I am not absolutely orthodox about the diet, except for the breakfast. What you will see below proved to work the best for me and I have no reason to change it. Lunch and dinners are different though and influenced also by different activities. When we travel, we tend to eat in restaurants. When we are at home, we stay in and do something quickly or cook for a longer time.
0.5l orange juice mixed with water
1/2 a bowl of nuts with soy or probiotic yogurt and depending on season either fresh or defrost – blueberries and forest fruits
a plate of fruits, depending on the season – apple, pear, pineapple, orange, plum, grapefruit, pomelo, leetchi, and other
0.5l green tea with or without honey
Main meal with a salad – I am trying to keep my budget tight so I usually look for canteens with wide selection of food so I can choose the healthiest option
Desert – dried fruits without additional sugar
Bowl of salad – green leafy type, arugula, tomato, carrots, cucumber, radish, avocado, champignons
One of these and whatever imagination and the fridge bring together 🙂
Salmon with spinach
Hummus with carrots
Guacamole with turkey meat
Leek with eggs and champignons
Scrambled eggs with turkey ham
Cauliflower ‘pizza’ with ham, cheese, and champignons
What about snacks?
Snacks are good in between main meals when you just need something quickly to replenish lost glucose.
For example, the brain needs 25 grams of glucose to function on an optimal level and you can get that amount from a single banana. Baaam, there is your snack, forget those sugary treats that create glucose spike and later even bigger crash. Turn to bananas, grapes, walnuts, almonds, cashew, dried fruits (w/o additional sugar). Your body will work like “clockwork” and you will finish up all the tasks like a breeze.
What I don’t eat?
I won’t touch these. Sorry, but these foods are crap. Processed, chemically treated, feed them to Terminator, but not the humans.
Soda – Coca Cola, Pepsi and similar
Let me know what foods don’t you eat in the comments below. Thanks!
What about supplements?
There are two views on the topic of supplements. Obviously, yes and no. I will not advise you on what you should do. You can talk to your doctor about it.
The rule of thumb is, if your diet is unbalanced for whatever reason, you may want to consider a multivitamin and mineral complex and an omega-3 fatty acid supplement to help make up a few of the essentials.
If you are on the budget, this is expensive, however, less expensive than later, when you become sick. Make the right choices and educate yourself about pros and cons.
The latest trend in an efficient diet that should help startup founders/entrepreneurs to cope properly with all the growing demands of their businesses, is the supplement type of food. It’s kind of like a mix of everything that I mentioned before but delivered as a powder or a bar. It’s part of a ‘Body-hacking’ movement.
The first time I heard about it, I immediately remembered the scene from the movie “5th element’ with Bruce Willis and Mila Jojovich. Lulu (MJ’s character) puts a pill into a microwave and in few seconds there is a chicken ready 🙂 The food from the future!
I had a look at them and here is my opinion. I may try Joylent and Organifi at least once, but I am not really convinced about Huel and Soylent. We are humans, not machines. Yes, we have to eat healthy and nutritionally balanced food, but it doesn’t mean we turn to some powdered mixes that look like food for Aliens. Let me know what you think in the comments. Thanks!
Heul is from the United Kingdom. Here is what the founders have to say: “Huel is a nutritionally complete powdered food that contains all the proteins, carbs, and fats you need, plus at least 100% of the European Union’s “Daily Recommended Amounts” of all 26 essential vitamins and minerals. So you know you won’t be deficient in any essential nutrients.”
By the first look, it looks like food for astronauts. Very clean, industrial design, powders, bit of bars and focus on accessories like bottles and shakers. If not astronauts, then bodybuilders or high-performing athletes for sure.
It’s all natural, but it surely doesn’t look like. Huel contains a blend of Oats, Pea Protein, Flaxseed, Brown Rice Protein, MCTs from Coconut, Sunflower Lecithin, a bespoke Vitamin and Mineral Blend, Vanilla Flavour and a Sweetener. The only chemical part I see are the added Vitamins & Minerals, which doesn’t have to be necessarily bad.
Their unique selling proposition is that they save time and money. OK … they calculate the price per calories, 1.33 GBP per 500 calories. If you read the beginning of this post, you already know what opinion I have about calories. Their focus on the calories and overall branding of the website makes me think they position themselves for sporty people.
Joylent is from the Netherlands. Here is what they have to say: “Here at Joylent, we create food from the future. All of our products contain all nutrients a human body needs while saving money, effort, time and space. Basically, Joylent’s all about less hassle and more fun! We all like to have a little fun, right? Let’s be honest, eating can be a social thing. Sometimes it can be great to have a long dinner with friends and family. However, most meals are not. They’re a time-consuming hassle. This is where Joylent comes in. Joylent is the most healthy, efficient, tasty and complete way to fuel yourself whenever a meal is getting in the way of life. With less than €2,- a meal it’s also a hell of a lot cheaper than normal food.”
Wow, what a ‘human’ introduction. It makes me want to try it for sure. They realize that humans are social beings and food with friends and family is important. However, they want to help us with all the other meals, like lunch or dinner when you need to work and don’t have time to cook or don’t want to spend tons of money on restaurants or takeaways. 2 EUR per meal is a great price. Where do they take orders again?
Soylent is what started all the fuss around ‘Food 2.0’. Developed in 2013 by a software engineer in the US, it became a big hit in the entrepreneurial community.
Soylent is from Los Angeles, CA. Here is what they have to say: “Soylent™ is a pioneer in food technology, producing convenient, complete foods designed to provide maximum nutrition with minimal effort. CEO/Founder Rob Rhinehart and team developed Soylent after recognizing the need to expand access to quality nutrition by improving the food system through innovation. Soylent’s products are produced with affordability and efficiency in mind to create food focused on our health and environment.”
Sounds really techy. The website, similar to Huel, is very clean, but combining techy images with a few colors and branding around emotional images of people being happy while consuming Soylent. No talk about saving money or time, apparently this is a product focused on the community around ‘Bio-hacking’.
Organifi takes a bit different approach because they focus on the ‘superfoods juice’. This means they focus on being healthy, instead of a food replacement.
They are from Florida and here is what they have to say: “Now you can get your healthy superfoods in one drink … with no shopping, no blending, no juicing, no clean up!. In just 30 seconds a day, you can supercharge your life, restore glowing good health and feel decades younger.” Yep, total focus on your health, which is a good thing. You will become a super human!
Hey, all. Hope you found interesting points in this article that you can apply and eat foods boosting your efficiency. Can you please let me know and share what worked for you in comments below? I am always on a lookout for foods that boost my efficiently even more so any feedback is welcome.
Foods that boost your efficiency was last modified: April 14th, 2017 by Marian
That exercise energizes your body and mind and makes you way more efficient
How much exercise is right
What is my personal exercising routine
Exercise is the king, but nutrition is the queen
Exercise just works
I am an above-average ‘exerciser’. OK, OK, that’s not a real word. What I am trying to say is I exercise 90% on daily basis. I do it for health, not for athletic performance.
I have been working out in a gym from age 14 till 30 with higher and lower frequencies. It helped me get rid of my nerdiness and build up self-confidence. I developed a habit of exercising and it stuck with me.
When I was a teenager, the gym was all about building mass, or as normal people call it, muscles. To be big as Arnold Schwarzenegger was the goal. Yeah, right, go for it. Veggies and steaks … bullshit, steroids baby, pump that iron, pump it …
After I moved to Germany I discovered the sickening business model of German (and, later, Swiss and Austrian) gyms where you have to sign up for minimum 2 years with hefty membership and signup fees and I said: “Nah”. So turning 30 I decided it’s a waste of money and time to go to the gym and I changed for pleiad of exercises – walking as much as possible, exercising at home, running, hiking, cycling, snowboarding, cross-country skiing, and fun sports like badminton and tennis. I now only go to the gym occasionally. It’s so much more refreshing to do different sports and I feel much better physically compared to when I only went to the gym.
Growing older and wiser, the idolized image of huge pecs and ripped arms with 6-pack diminished.
Exercising to stay healthy took over. And I am glad.
I never had a role model of exercising regularly, because it wasn’t a habit in my family. I was somehow drawn to it. I like to get rid of excess energy and calm my mind. Exercise is the only thing that allows me to do it well. And not only that, in contrary to a common belief, after exercise I am more energized than before and I can go on for longer. I am much more efficient. I don’t get sick so often, I have a calmer mind and better focus. It just works …
Exercising is important
“Take care of your body … it’s the only place you have to live in. “
Have you ever noticed that when you go to see a doctor with a health issue or just for a general checkup, they also ask if you exercise? Physical inactivity is the 4th-leading risk factor for global mortality according to the World Health Organization. Regular physical activity is acknowledged to be an effective primary and secondary preventive strategy.
Thankfully, the general education system teaches us to exercise from the early childhood. Exercise also became a synonym of a healthy lifestyle. Everybody who is educated knows that exercise helps to prevent civilization diseases and energizes body and mind.
If you want to go even deeper to the roots, our DNA has ‘movement’ encoded from the time we used to roam the untouched nature of the Earth. Our ancestors had to move and run to find food, hunt, escape and fight. To survive better, we started to live in enclosed groups which limited our ‘moving’ capacities. Convenience took over.
All in all, it has never been about “if” to exercise, but “how much” and “what type of exercise” to perform.
As mentioned in the previous post about Sleep, if you are a startup founder/entrepreneur you have to do a million things to keep your ‘baby’ running towards the success. There is not much time for anything else. You know that exercising is important, but you compromise that time on doing something else, which you think is more important at that moment. You say you can exercise later after all. Then you fall asleep being exhausted without any outlet for your body to regenerate.
This is where you are wrong, however.
Think about it. You are building your business, working hard, pushing harder, trying to earn that cash. Well, nothing of that matters if you are not healthy enough to enjoy life, right?
There is always time to take care of yourself.
In order to take care of your business and your personal relationships, you have to be in an optimal state. You will reach it with a proper sleep, exercise, and nutrition.
What to exercise?
To reach a much-needed balance for your efficient performance on your business, you need to exercise both your heart and muscles. You need to exercise to increase your stamina (=endurance) and strength. They will both help with your focus and hard work you need to perform on your business.
The so-called “cardio” activities – e.g.:
football, ice hockey, basketball
jogging or running,
will exercise and strengthen your heart and burn the fat. They will also define your muscles for those beach photos 😉
Activities involving your muscles, e.g.:
pulling/pushing weights or your body weight
or static strength (isometric exercise) like the plank
will help to build your muscles and core strength. Important here to know is that your muscles act as a factory moving your body and your mind. Both types of exercise activities go together and are complementary.
When I first started to work out in the gym I made a mistake to focus on building the muscles only. I had no fitness, I couldn’t run long distances without feeling exhausted. I couldn’t cycle long distances either. I was too heavy – bulky, but not defined and I didn’t have enough stamina. I am glad I changed to the variety of workouts combining both types of exercises.
To remember the basics, as a “rule of thumb”, a good exercise:
makes your heart pump
makes your muscles fire up
makes you sweat
makes you feel energized afterward
Do it, but don’t overdo it
Just face it, unless you are pro-football, ice-hockey, basketball, tennis, racing or running athlete, you don’t need to exercise as crazy. It’s not your job. You are not getting paid millions to do it. (Would be nice, though, right!? ;))
If you are a startup founder/entrepreneur, you exercise for staying healthy, feeling energized and performing efficiently.
Exercise is very important to keep your mind and body in shape, but you don’t want to overdo it.
Let me give you a personal example. I am the type of a person that either goes to maximum or goes home.
I know it’s dumb to do 15 km of cross-country skiing when I don’t do it frequently at all (first time 2 years ago!!!), but the snowy wonderland is so beautiful. I know it’s dumb to go for a 50km bike ride after a long winter, but nature is waking up, it’s sunny and birds are singing.
Don’t do it.
After you come back home, you will drop ‘dead’ just like I did and your muscles will hurt the next few days. That’s not the worst. A little bit of stretching and yoga and it goes away. The worst is that you lose your efficiency. As your body regenerates, it takes energy away from your brain. You are not as efficient as you would be after a ‘normal’ exercise.
Start small and build up slowly. It trains your muscles and prepares them for something bigger.
How much exercise is right?
Scientifically, it is recommended to engage in a min. of 150 minutes of moderate physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity per week. That makes it ca. 21.5 minutes per day of moderate physical activity or almost 11 minutes of vigorous physical activity per day.
Not much, is it? Beware, though. This number has come from many science studies, averaging the already averaged averages 🙂
Everybody is different. Our bodies respond individually to different levels of physical effort. You should find your own sweet spot. You will know you hit it when you still feel energized after the exercise and you want to take on all the challenges the world is throwing at you. If though, after doing the exercise for few days, you feel tired or generally not well, try something different.
Just don’t mistake feeling tired and not well after you start exercising with prior complete inactivity. If you start from scratch, you will feel pain during the exercise. You will have sore muscles the next days. It is OK. Make sure to rest, but don’t stop. Push through this initial weakness and your body will accustom. It will reward you with higher endurance when it comes to challenges you will need to tackle in your business.
You should exercise as much as you feel engaged. I found out that around 20-40 minutes per day works for me. I also tried the famous 7 minutes workout, but it’s too short. Maybe it’s because I exercise regularly and 7 minutes is not enough. However, I find it as a good starting point. The exercises are basic enough to prepare your muscles for longer exercises.
Experiment in a cheap way by finding a couple of YouTube videos. This is great if you bootstrap your startup and have a tight budget. If you are OK financially, go for classes organized by local fitness centers. Interaction with real people is much better. Makes the efforts extra real and plus can lead to some good conversations and who knows what else.
If you a social butterfly, here is another idea. Learn the exercises from YouTube and create an exercise meetup where you can teach others what works. The community rewards you with new relationships and opportunities.
Refresh exercising routine after some time to avoid mental atrophy
After you do the same exercises for a longer time, you may find yourself being bored. It’s the best time to look for a new exercising routine. Search YouTube for new instructors. There is so much free stuff on Youtube that you can build your own routine in a matter of hours.
New exercises activate your brain. When you first try to learn the routine, it’s activating your mental capacities which can help you be more creative. You know the old saying that you should ‘change your way to work’ from time to time to refresh your brain. Learning new moves or balance routines activate your brain cells and strengthen your inner body core.
Another good point following the instructors on Youtube is to see which one you like. I mean, they are all ripped and good looking fitness people, so make your choice based on who do you like to look at. Trust me, being platonically attracted to the person on the screen helps to push harder when you can’t go on anymore 🙂 If you opt in for real classes with real people, maybe you can bring it to the next level 😉
Shall I go running, just because it’s trendy?
Yeah well, running is the new trend among the ‘classy’ people. Every successful startup founder or businessman and businesswoman are joining the trendy “running-train”. It is true, running is proven to keep your heart and cardiovascular system healthy and it strengthens your stamina.
As mentioned before, we are all different. If you don’t like running, don’t do it. There are alternatives like walking fast, hiking or cycling. If you like team sports, just make your pick – football, ice hockey, basketball or lacrosse. They all make your heart pump as good as running.
What to do in the winter or bad weather?
This is an issue with many outdoor sports. You don’t want to get wet and cold and the ground is all muddy or icy. Plus the winter is usually very dark in the mornings. Team sports are usually easier because you just switch to the indoor sports hall. However, what about running? Let me put it this way. If you are absolute running freak, and you can’t live without it, you will find a way – warm, waterproof sports clothes, headlamp or shoe lamp and off you go. If you have it clear in your head that exercise is important, but you find yourself making excuses about going running out in the winter, then make it easy for yourself, switch to different type of exercise. It’s all about exercising regularly, doesn’t matter what kind.
What is my exercise routine?
I mentioned a couple of times in this post that I try to exercise on a daily basis. I usually exercise 5 or 6 days in a row with a 1-day break when I either go for a longer walk or I do yoga.
I found all exercises on YouTube and I do them at home. I combine it with running all year round and cycling from spring till autumn. Late summer and early autumn are for hiking. Walking is year round activity with shorter walks to and in between public transport and longer walks to clear my mind in nature.
DID YOU KNOW?
Instead of sitting in the office or a meeting room, you can exchange for walking meetings. You wouldn’t believe how refreshing it is to discuss projects while walking. You are more focused and creative. Agreeing on next steps is also a breeze. Thanks Gian for the idea!
Having said that, after 3 years of experimenting with different approaches I read about on the internet, I build up my exercise routine below. You will notice that I am not ‘obsessed’ with it and rather I try to be natural. Even if I can’t exercise because of traveling or I am sick, my body got so used to it that it craves it. It’s kind of on an auto-pilot. Good efficient habit to have, really.
I learned about Mark Lauren from one of my colleagues in previous work. I have been following his routine for a 1/2 a year and then built my own from his exercises. Mark Lauren training is called “Bodyweight training” and it’s about building your core strength and muscles. I invested 5 EUR in his interactive app.
Mark Lauren’s Bodyweight training is great to build your inner core before switching to more demanding exercise routines like Tony Horton P90X, P90X2 and P90X3.
I found out about Tony Horton in the US in one of their 50 minutes infomercial breaks. People shared their ‘notorious’ photos from before and after, which caught my attention. What got me sold, however, was his funny personality. He is a great coach. When I exercise his routines, he makes fun of himself and I chuckle or laugh a lot. On the other hand, he makes me say a lot ‘F*ck you Tony Horton” because it really hurts, and he knows it and he makes fun of it. The whole concept is based on building exercising and nutrition habit in 90 days.
The best about following the instructors on YouTube is that they show you how to do the exercise and you will keep this knowledge for the rest of your life.
Get it straight in your head – commit to exercise every day for min 30 days. Work hard, but have easy days as well to regenerate. Walk as much as you can during the day. Take a bike to work or shopping. Use stairs instead of the elevator. Just do it!
Exercise is the king, but nutrition is the queen
You know that saying, King may rule, but Queen pulls the strings 😉 If you think about your efficiency, it is proven that 85% of results is what you eat and 15% is about exercise.
After reading a book called “The Calorie Myth“, I understood better what nutrition really makes our bodies to stay healthy, productive and efficient.
All about nutrition is coming in my next post.
You exercise, therefore you are efficient!
Everybody is different, and finding your sweet spot takes a little bit of experimenting with different types and lengths of exercising
85% of results is what you eat and 15% is about exercise
Hey, all. Hope you found interesting points in this article that you can apply and exercise more efficiently. Can you please let me know and share what worked for you in comments below? I am always on a lookout for new techniques how to exercise even more efficiently so any feedback is welcome.
How to exercise efficiently was last modified: April 14th, 2017 by Marian
To achieve the impossible dream, try going to sleep.
– Joan Klempner
In this blog post, you will learn
That sleep is the prerequisite for efficiency and productivity
Your mindset has more to do with your sleep than you think
What to do if you can’t fall asleep
How to calm your inner chatter
To be efficient, don’t compromise on sleep
“It is a common experience that a problem difficult at night is resolved in the morning after the committee of sleep has worked on it.”
– John Steinbeck
I will start this pillar post about sleep by quoting professor Stickgold, Associate Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School who writes:
“Sleep is involved in a “multitude of biological processes—from the inner workings of the immune system to proper hormonal balance, to emotional and psychiatric health, to learning and memory, to the clearance of toxins from the brain.”
Losing a few hours of shut-eye depresses various functions, reducing our cognitive and memory powers, souring our mood, even reducing our body’s ability to defend against infections. If we did not snooze at all, eventually we would die.”
That’s why I decided to write about sleep as the first topic of achieving efficient habits.
Sleep is the cornerstone of efficiency.
If you want to be efficient in your life at all, you got to sleep.
And it’s not about quantity, but rather about the quality of your sleep.
I am naturally inclined long sleeper and night owl.
I guess if I have never had to go to school or work I would have never developed the discipline of waking up in the morning. I would have stayed awake late and then slept till 10-11am when the rest of the world is already in their offices and cubicles.
I still sometimes devour longer sleep during the weekend or after longer hiking trips, but after jumping on the ‘efficient sleep wagon’ I tend not to do it anymore.
I find sleep to be the best medicine when I am sick, depressed or just feeling down. And as an absolute must, I always switch my phone to ‘airplane mode’ while sleeping.
It’s all about the sleep cycles
It’s all about 90-120 minutes.
If you don’t remember anything from this post and you only remember this one (plus your mindset :)), you are good!
Remember number 90 minutes. If you want to wake up ready to efficiently take on your challenges, set up your alarm clock so it corresponds with 90 min cycles, e.g. if you go to sleep at 11 pm, it means your alarm should go off shortly before 7 pm. By that time you have finished 5 sleep cycles (25 repeated sleep stages) or recommended 8 hours of refreshing sleep.
What are the sleep cycles, you ask?
As anything on the earth, in nature and in human bodies, everything moves in cycles, sleep included.
When you sleep, your body goes through 5 stages, repeating in cycles. The recommended amount of sleep cycles for an adult is 5. It is higher when you are a kid and lowers when you are getting older.
The time of cycles varies between 90-120 minutes. You need to find your time by experimenting. I found out that 90-100 minutes work for me.
You can test it by calculating the cycle time from the time you go to sleep and seeing how you feel when your alarm goes off. If you are torn out of your dreams or can’t wake up at all, your alarm just went off during one of your deeper stages.
Finding out when exactly to set the alarm can be quite challenging and that’s why there are apps and smart devices great for that.
You have to realize that these devices are not quite perfect and can’t cope with situations when you e.g. need to go to the toilet at night or are sleepwalking.
However, they are better than alarm in situations when you can’t fall asleep. They really try to wake you up in a way that your sleep stages are not compromised. You set an alarm, let’s say for 7 am and specify 30 minutes as a range when to wake you up. The device will track your heart rate and body movements to determine when you will be least disturbed.
What are the sleep stages, you ask?
There are 5 sleep stages recognize by the scientists.
REM Sleep – or ‘rapid eye movement’ sleep – dreams occur here and your memories and learning are consolidated – 25% of your sleep
Non-REM Stage 1 – 5% – transition period between dreams and deep sleep
Non-REM Stage 2 – 45% – restoration of your body organs happens here
Non-REM Stage 3 – 25% – deepest sleep – processing of memories and learning – if woken up here, you feel most groggy and it takes ca 30 min to get to normal
Did you know?
“During the REM stage, dreams are most common. Your muscles are completely paralyzed to avoid any injury that would come from your dreams – running, kicking, boxing, falling out of your bed”
My personal experience with sleep … or no sleep for that matter
Here is one personal story that shows how sleep can make or break your efficiency.
First one is from when I moved to Denmark.
You see, Denmark is a really picturesque country with a lot of lush green meadows, but only maybe 3-5 days a year, when it’s actually sunny. Otherwise, the country is gray in different tones of gray.
The night falls at 3 pm during the winter and at around 11 pm during the summer. Now compare that to Middle Europe and it’s a good 2-3 hours difference.
I love the sunshine, it’s warmth and energy it gives. My mood is immediately better when I see the sun, just for one day a week. Ideally, every day would be the best.
Denmark is very greedy in the sunshine and if you come from more balanced climate you may suffer.
My body couldn’t get accustomed to it and I became an insomniac. I couldn’t fall asleep for anything in the world. It’s not fun, I was stressed from the new job, a lot of demands, deliveries and on top of that, I couldn’t sleep… I was ‘dead’ tired, but I couldn’t fall asleep.
Naturally, my body compensated with craving junk food – a lot of fats and sugars to keep going. This lead to even less sleep, because the diet is very important for a good sleep.
It was a vicious circle.
What is more, I got quickly sick. Little sleep – junk food – not enough exercise – flu season. I acted totally stupid and I kept going to work. I got a terrible cough and couldn’t sleep even more. Fortunately, I didn’t push it to total exhaustion. At some point, I looked so sick that they sent me home from work to rest and get better. I finally released and let it go.
I couldn’t think, I couldn’t exist normally.
My brain wasn’t able to come up with any creative thought or anything substantially productive. That was my lowest point.
This lasted for about 3 months, from the point I developed mild insomnia, got to the point of exhaustion, got sick and finally got rid of the flu.
The sickness, despite being bad, helped me sleep a little more, especially without a schedule. I could sleep in and recharge the depleted energy.
I also searched for a little bit of help in the area of falling asleep and discovered this awesome app called ‘Relax Melodies’. It is based on the research that sounds in certain wavelengths have a positive influence on your brain and can help with concentration, but also relax and sleep. I tried it out.
I think it was a good combination of placebo effect and the app really working, but I slowly returned to normal sleeping mode.
Despite all the insomnia agony, I am lucky that it happened quite early in my life so it motivated me to research and learn about the sleep and how to sleep efficiently.
I am also extremely lucky that this didn’t happen when I decided to run my own business.
When you build your own dreams, stress levels are higher and you have to deliver even more ferociously. Being efficient is a must to finish up all the todos in a quick and quality way to preserve a little bit of life and sanity.
When you are an employee, you are just one piece in a huge machine and if you fall out, it won’t fall apart. If you are lucky with a boss with whom you have mutually respectful and trustful relationship and you work in a country like Denmark then you can rely on a humanistic approach to such situation. You will never become a business owner, but you could end up with a 25 years plaque on the wall in company’s hallway. There are pluses and minuses in everything.
Mindset shift and efficient sleep
Next story is about my resolution in 2014 to learn to program in order to build prototypes or as they are known in Lean Startup methodology – MVPs (= Minimum Viable Products).
I have inclined to programming since I started producing websites and apps in 2007. Getting to it was an act of serendipity, but I quickly became to like it.
A few years later I started working with software engineers directly, as a Product Owner and I totally love it. It inspired me to come up with tons of new ideas for digital products.
The only drawback I have is that I don’t have a technical education.
Engineers don’t like to talk to non-engineers if you don’t prove your worth. You gotta show that there is something they can trust. Talking about your ideas and coming up with investor focused presentations won’t help at all. It can make their eyes glow when you show them financial projections, but they are mostly about facts and what you really bring to the table.
So I said to myself, in order to attract quality engineers and not only them, but any hires that I would need in my venture, I need to prove the business models of my ideas.
How do I do it?
Definitely not by talking, but by doing.
If you have an idea, it’s usually a product/service of both in one. It is something tangible that you are able to show to the people, they either buy it, rent it or rent your experience. You should be able to show some kind of prototype of your idea in order to progress validating your business model.
After all, when you start your business unless you have rich parents or a trust fund, you care about the money and what you create.
You will not spend your time and money on something that you build hoping that people will just use it. You should iterate, build-measure-learn.
And for that approach, prototypes and MVPs are the best way.
In the beginning, it’s more important to validate your business model = how you make money and become profitable, than a super-duper product/service. I don’t mean that the prototype needs to look like crap. It just doesn’t have to have all the blows and whistles. It needs to have great user experience, design, and functionality, but only the core ones. The ones that will prove your product is wanted in the marketplace and people are willing to pay money for it.
OK, the strategy was there, but I had a full-time job.
When should I have found time to learn the software development? Usually, after work, I was too tired to do too much and I couldn’t focus so well anymore. I mean, if you don’t have a chance, any time is better than nothing. However, why not to look for a better solution?
I tried studying after work at home, the proverbial 2nd shift, but I wasn’t efficient enough. Some days I was so tired, that I just went to sleep without looking into studying at all. Other days I just fell asleep being exhausted from a long day. I had my goals and ambitions, but I wasn’t just motivated to do them.
In regards to working today so you have more time tomorrow, I have a separate post coming.
Some of you may say, when I push it today, I gain more time tomorrow. Well, you can, but how efficient you will be the next day? You maybe wing it tomorrow, but if you do it in long-term, the sleep deficit will accumulate, your cognitive functions will falter and you will be less efficient. Just don’t do it. There is a better solution …
The Miracle Morning
“We are at our very best, and we are happiest when we are fully engaged in work we enjoy on the journey toward the goal we’ve established for ourselves. It gives meaning to our time off and comfort to our sleep. It makes everything else in life so wonderful, so worthwhile.”
What’s that? Well, in a nutshell, it’s a book that talks about creating a morning routine and be fueled to perform at the highest level directly from the morning.
It’s about changing your mindset using the simple technique of Life S.A.V.E.R.S – Silence, Affirmations, 5amVisualization, Exercise, Reading and Scribing (writing/journaling). He recommends doing each part in 60 minutes, or 10 minutes per ‘saver’. When you don’t have extra 60 minutes, just reduce it to min. 1 minute per ‘saver’.
I read his book in a breeze and applied it in April 2015. My life has been one helluva ride since then.
It took a month getting used to waking up at or befo5 am, but the ‘savers’ helped, especially morning exercise, affirmations & visualization and scribing.
I wasn’t really sold on meditation, but that was mainly because I didn’t know how to do it. I discovered Headspace just a few months ago and since then, meditation has been a huge part of my morning routine.
In regards to reading, I read during the day extensively (min. 10 pages per day) so I don’t make that part of my morning routine. You see, you can adjust your routine provided you don’t miss any of the ‘savers’ during the day.
I used approximately 30 minutes for Hal’s ‘savers’, or 5-5.30am, then studied programming and did exercises from 5.30-7.30am (2 bananas and orange juice keep the sugar levels up), then had breakfast and at 8.00 I was out of house sprinting to catch the train.
I finished the course in 3 months and started developing on my own. My code is not beautiful, but it does what I need it to do – front-end wth back-end interaction between users and database.
Part of the Miracle Morning concept is about going to sleep as well.
It’s not only about waking up and fueling your day journey. It’s also about mentally preparing for the waking up a night before.
The simplest thing you can do is to ‘affirm’ yourself about the fact that you will wake up full of energy with a smile on your face.
It sounds like hocus-pocus, but it works. Obviously, it takes some getting used to, but after a couple of days, it just works.
No matter that it’s winter and pitch black when you wake up at 5 am. If you tell yourself you will wake up full of energy and with a smile on your face, you will.
It’s a lot about working with your mind.
Don’t be fooled, I am pragmatic as one only can be and I used to be totally skeptic about any of such bogus talk.
What changed me was that my ways just didn’t work and I had to look for an alternative. I just gave it a chance. I had to suppress the ‘naysayer’ in my head and just patiently follow through. It worked.
After I had done Hal’s Miracle Morning for a year I thought about experimenting with it a little bit.
Since January 2016, I have done a slightly different routine.
I still do the exercise, then affirmations and visualization. I added 15 minutes of meditation and gratefulness scribble, which consists of writing down 3 things you are grateful for each day, plus one positive experience you had in past 24 hours.
This positions your mind on positive things happening in your life so you become more grateful and positive. In turn, it fuels your performance, efficiency, and productivity. I needed it very much and it helped me a lot.
I continue in 2017.
What if I can’t fall asleep.
People who can fall asleep quickly freak me out… I mean, don’t they have thoughts?
That’s true. Hal’s morning routine is not really flexible with situations when you can’t fall asleep.
I mean, even affirming yourself that you wake up refreshed and with a smile on your face won’t help you if you spend hours trying to fall asleep.
That’s why my research on sleep continued and again, thanks to JLD’s Entrepreneurs on Fire podcast I discovered Shawn Stevenson and his tips on how to sleep smarter – ‘21 tips how to sleep smarter‘.
Some of the tips are ‘duh, I already know that’ and some of them are completely new, both making you re-think your sleeping habits.
You can read about all of them in Shawn’s book, but here is a quick summary of some of them that worked for me like a charm.
Tips on how to fall asleep more efficiently.
I tried all of them and they worked for me 100%:
1. No ‘blue light’ at least 90 mins before sleep
What is ‘blue light’? – blue light is artificially emitted light from your devices that has the same wavelength as sunlight and inhibits production of melatonin, ‘the hormone of sleep’ and encourages production of serotonin, ‘the hormone of awakeness’
No computer, no TV, no iPad, iPhone, no artificial illumination of high lux quantity before going to sleep. But, but, but I am a night owl and I am most creative working at night, and I just love browsing the internet before going to sleep or reading my Kindle.
Well, I am too and how did I solve it? I installed f.lux on my computer, I dimmed my mobile devices, including Kindle and I don’t tend to watch TV before going to sleep (unless it’s an evening before day-off).
You can set up f.lux so it follows the sunset and sunrise in your time-zone and it effectively dims blue light emission from your devices.
You can also dim your iPhone or iPad, disable backdrop light on your Kindle and use low lux lamp near your bed.
2. Heat up your body during the day and cool it down in the evening
This one was kind of biggest revelation to me, despite it’s the most logical.
If you are heated up, you can’t really sleep… Just think of trying to fall asleep after you run up and down the stairs.
Now think of the last time you had to spend longer time out in the winter when it’s minus. Yep, you started to feel sleepy.
The most interesting thing is that the more your body heats up during the day, the lower the temperature drop will be at night and the easier it will be to fall asleep.
Make effort to walk the stairs instead of taking the elevator, use a bicycle instead of public transport or a car, or make effort to go to a gym to run on a treadmill or do some aerobic exercises, even if only for 10 to 30 minutes.
Your sleep will thank you for it.
3. Get out during the day and expose your eyes to sunlight
But, but, but what if I live in the north and I don’t get enough sunlight?
Well, make it happen. Just because you don’t see it, the sun is still there, just above the clouds. Just think of your last flight when you took off in darkness and just as the plane reached above the clouds, you caught a glimpse of beautiful sunshine.
Take a walk outside – go to the shop, walk to the bus stop, walk from the office for a lunch.
If it’s not possible, especially during the winter months, then buy a ‘daylight’ lamp and use it. I tried it a couple of times – borrowing a lamp from my colleague and it worked for me. It’s definitely not the same as natural sunlight, but it helps to alleviate the symptoms
Another sunshine related fact.
During the winter months, or generally, if you live in the north without enough of direct sunlight, make sure to take vitamin D in recommended doses. Vitamin D is a vitamin that your body is able to produce on its own if you get enough sunshine. It supports the immune system and helps to avoid depression or feeling down.
4. Drink enough water during the day, before going to sleep and after you wake up
Despite common belief, your body ‘works’ during the sleep as well and uses up resources including water.
If it doesn’t have enough, the body is stressed which can affect your falling asleep and sleeping process.
That’s why I have a glass of water before going to sleep. Just be careful not to overdo it as then you will have to go to the bathroom at night and that affects your sleeping cycles.
This is also very helpful when you wake up – drink ½ liter of water just after you wake up.
It’s like fuel for your car, your body will start working after hours of slumber. JLD from Entrepreneurs on Fire recommends Organify, but if you eat enough fruits and veggies during the day, water or juice are enough.
5. Avoid noise
Well, this one is more and more difficult, especially when you have neighbors that don’t respect the night silence, or in case you live next to the main road or train tracks.
In that case, get medical, soft earplugs that will inhibit noises and help you fall asleep. It gets some time to get used to, but better than not being able to fall asleep when you need to.
6. No heavy foods and sugars before going to sleep
No steaks, no heavy cheese – trust me I tried it and couldn’t fall asleep until the wee hours.
The body has to work too hard to digest these and your body heats up. Plus the nightmares are excruciating.
No sugars – artificial or organic.
If you eat a chocolate or candy, or even oranges, bananas or other sugar high fruits before going to sleep, your body will feel like fully charged Tesla with ‘insane’ mode and your body will pump blood so hard that falling asleep will be more of a miracle than a natural process.
7. Limit Coffee/Tea intake
This one can bring a lot of arguments because I know people who drink coffee or caffeinated drinks directly before bed and they sleep soundly like a baby.
I guess it has something to do with genetics.
My body definitely can’t cope with caffeine. If I had coffee at night I would be up like my lemur buddy here …
I would act the same if I had black tea (In England, simply called tea), so no 5 pm tea time for me!
Green tea is different, though, I can have a cup in the evening and I will be fine. I guess it has something to do with how ‘resistant’ I am. I have drunk green tea since I don’t remember.
You should stop drinking coffee before 4 pm to allow your body to process the caffeine and get it out of your body.
I stopped drinking coffee in January 2016 as part of my resolution. I haven’t touched it ever since.
Before, I used to drink coffee as performance help because I never liked the taste. It helped me to overcome the after lunch sleepiness. If I drank coffee after 4 pm I had trouble falling asleep at night, but having last one between 2 – 4 pm worked fine.
8. Limit Alcohol intake
I will not preach about how alcohol is bad for you.
However, effects on your sleep are evident.
The fact that you drop ‘dead’ after drinking too much, doesn’t mean you are getting quality sleep.
You are losing the very important deep and REM sleep. Your body is working hard to process all that alcohol and toxins involved and after you wake up you are more screwed than ever.
Why do you think there is so much written about hangovers?
Same as with caffeine, have a time limit when you stop drinking alcohol so your body has time to process it before you go to sleep.
What worked for me is that after having 2-3 beers, I start drinking water. Dilutes the alcohol in your blood and helps to get it out of the system faster.
Avoid strong lights just before going to sleep. In the rooms that you frequent before going to sleep, install saving light bulbs that are weaker than common lighting.
Avoid lights from the street – use blinds that shut your window completely. This one is arguable, though because, during the summer, it’s great to wake up to natural sunlight.
Avoid lights when going to the toilet. We have really strong illumination in our bathroom and every time when I needed to go to the toilet at night or wash my teeth before going to sleep, I woke up just from the light. It’s great when I really need to wake up :), stimulates the serotonin, but at night, it’s not really needed.
That’s why I was really happy to discover Illumibowl in TV Show Shark Tank. I got it in the US and installed. It comes with different colors so you can choose the one you like and it works enough so you don’t step into your toilet at night 😉
10. Calm your inner chatter
This one is easier said than done, but it’s a bitch.
If you think, you can’t sleep.
If you think you can’t sleep, you won’t sleep.
Your thoughts can be the number one reason why you can’t fall asleep. I mean all the above-mentioned reasons can act as triggers to more thinking, so make sure you take care of them first.
Then take care of your thoughts.
Think about it, you are even afraid of going to sleep because you know you can’t fall asleep because you are thinking too much. This leads to a vicious circle because these thoughts stress you out and you can’t fall asleep thinking how you can’t fall asleep.
And then broad pleiad of all kind of things keep coming to your mind – todos, anxious thoughts, things you forgot to do, things you have to do … what ifs, what if not, etc. Suddenly your mind is racing like a Lamborghini Gallardo on German Autobahn and you don’t even think about sleep anymore.
Eventually, you are so exhausted that you fall asleep, only to wake up way before your alarm to go through the ‘Lamborghini’ process above all over again.
After meditating with Headspace, I learned that you shouldn’t chase your thoughts or try to stop them. Both can create resistance and resistance is stressful. All you have to do is to become a bystander, being aware of your thoughts, but letting go, watching them from the side. In that case, you become calmer and can go on with the fluffy dreams.
Here are few techniques that helped me. You can try them to stop your ‘inner chatter’ when you need to sleep.
Remember ‘Why’ you need to sleep? Because you want to be efficient and productive, plus all your personal goals and ambitions you have for yourself that you want to achieve. If you get a good night sleep you will move closer to achieving them!
Remember – can you do anything about whatever races through your mind right now? Unless you work across time zones with min 6h difference, there is nothing you can do about it. Use your nights for sleeping and days for being efficient with your tasks. Even if you work across time zones with a 6h+ difference, then you can schedule your day in a way so you don’t have to lose your sleep. If you try, you will get.
If the ‘Lamborghini’ situation happens, stop, stand up from the bed and go for a walk in a different part of the house for ca 5 minutes – go to the toilet, have a sip of water, or whatever – you have to ‘dislocate’ your brain from thinking about BS. When you come back to bed, change position.
Scan your body, from toes to top of your head (or the other way around), feeling each centimeter of your body and repeating: “I don’t feel my toes”, I don’t feel my fingers”, etc. Before you get to upper body, you are asleep
Start counting your breaths, fully focusing on your breathing. Count to 10 and repeat. Even better is to focus on your out-breaths only, count them till 5 and repeat. Thoughts will come and go, but let them, focus on your breathing and continue counting. This will help a lot.
Where will I go from here
This post is not all about me, it’s about you too.
Thank you for letting me share my experience with efficient sleep. My sleeping techniques are not perfect by no means so I am always on a lookout to improve whenever I can.
The main point here is awareness and experimentations.
You can’t have everything immediately, so you need to be patient. It all starts with being aware that you want to achieve something and a better sleep will help to achieve it.
After that, let your curiosity take the lead.
High five through the screen!
You sleep, therefore you are efficient!
Clarity of ‘Why’ for your life brings easy sleep
List of 10 tips how to make sure you fall asleep without much effort
Hey, all. Hope you found interesting points in this article that you can apply and sleep more efficiently. Can you please let me know and share what worked for you in comments below? I am always on a lookout for new techniques how to sleep even more efficiently so any feedback is welcome.
How to sleep efficiently was last modified: April 14th, 2017 by Marian
How to efficiently come up with topics for your blog
Day 2 of the Challenge – My brain is tired. I didn’t sleep very well – I kept waking up, maybe too much excitement from Xbox session with my friend Tauras in the evening. I taught him how to play NHL, then we played some football and in the end some first person shooter.
What do you do, when your brain is tired to think and create?
Some immediately say “coffee”. Nope, wrong answer. Coffee screws up your metabolism, it provides a steep rush, and then even deeper crash. We don’t want that. We want constant, sustainable energy outtake throughout the day.
How do you concentrate without using addictive substances (e.g. coffee)?
You push your brain a little bit, with Focus@Will music – Uptempo. It’s better than coffee, it brings up brain waves that help you concentrate and perform.
Now, when settled here we go …
Coming up with the epic topics for your pillar posts is not easy.
What are pillar posts you ask? Pillar posts, that are also known as Pillar articles or Pillar content, are based on the definition by Yaro Starak, posts that create the foundation of your blog.
This content is why people come to your blog in the first place. Yaro lists this content to be evergreen, bringing constant traffic, can be repurposed and has a lot of actionable value for the followers. It can take the form of:
‘How to …’ post
List (e.g. Top 10 …)
Definition of some interesting topic or
Your strong opinion (goes well with politics)
I am strongly apolitical, so I will stay away from the last one.
Coming back to the pillar posts topics. Most efficient is to start thinking about the most important variables:
Who is my audience?
What topics are the most important for the audience?
How much am I able to create in less than 4 weeks?
What is my goal for this challenge?
The simplest thing here to do is to ask the audience.
I have a couple of ideas in my mind, but I am not writing for myself. I am writing to provide value to you, the readers of this blog and I need to serve you.
This brings me to a very important question 🙂 I think you already spotted it as well … Who do I think is my audience? (I told you I will keep adding important things as I go along – important is to start, everything relevant will show itself along the way).
My audience can’t be everybody. At least not in the beginning. As Steve Job used to say (paraphrased): “If you focus on everybody you end up pleasing nobody”.
I need to choose a niche.
I have been in the community of startuppers/business founders for more than 2 years, so logically it’s the best audience.
Or is it? … Let’s think about it …
Startuppers / Entrepreneurs are people who take the leap towards creating something from scratch, without knowing if it materializes, their only driving force being strong belief. They breathe their idea 24/7, never stopping to think how to turn it into a viable business.
When you have your own business, you have to do everything. It’s not like when you sit in a company and you have specified job role.
In a startup, you have to do everything from product to sales, to marketing, to administration, to HR, to operations, to logistics and this is just a tip of the iceberg. On top of this, the founders have to deal with their personal lives, emotional stress, work-life balance (which in this case is more of a life balance). And yet again this is just a tip of the iceberg.
The founders actively look into how to make their days more efficient, how to be more productive, how to achieve more in less time. They know that their ideas are like their babies and they need to be in the best mental and physical capacity to bring them to fruition.
What is more, founders hate mundane tasks and that’s why I think they are the perfect target audience.
Selecting the topics
I just wrote the below email* (*Update 1.4.2017 – since then I ‘rebranded’ to Efficient Daily Habits to make it easier to pronounce and remember) to a couple of people, starting with Michael. Let’s see what they come up with.
All of them are startup founders/entrepreneurs who are very busy so I need to give them up to 72h turn around time.
What to do in the meantime?
I can contemplate on the topics I have in mind:
Sleeping & waking up – I find this topic very interesting in connection with efficient habits. If you get enough quality sleep, waking up is easy and you have enough energy throughout the day to do everything with a breeze. Do the opposite and on top of the gloomy shadows under your eyes, your brain doesn’t deliver to its fullest
Procrastinating on mundane tasks (chores) – something like paying bills late can have severe consequences on your existence, but also things like expense reports, or things like late receivables (payments to you). You can’t cover everything, so as Tim Ferriss (famous author of 4-Hour Work Week) says, you need to let small bad things happen. However, you need to be strategic about what you let slip and what you grab. My philosophy is to take care of everything that endangers personal relationships and either generates or eats money.
Motivation – you know that feeling, you are all hyped about your newest idea or your New Year’s resolutions. You throw yourself into the activity, doing it to its fullest. And, surprise, surprise, few days or weeks later you don’t even remember what was it. The most important thing to get straight in your head is ‘Why’ … Why did you decide to do it in the first place? What do you want to achieve? How does it influence your life? Once you have this cleared, any means will do.
Update after 72 hours
I was lucky to receive feedback from 5 people and researched topics that other blogs about efficiency write about.
All of the 5 people are startup founders/entrepreneurs. The majority of them were quite specific, some provided me with general advice that I can use as well.
Many of you might say that feedback from 5 people is not enough to evaluate the topics. You might be right, but I have a time constraint here – 4 weeks. Ideally, I would talk to 100 people in a qualitative way, discussing in an informal atmosphere, digging deeper. This would, however, take as much as 4 weeks of the time.
I have to be efficient.
What helps is to go with my gut feeling, too. I have to lead the way to make the way. Turns and shortcuts will show themselves later.
What did the audience say?
The overarching topics are:
Exercise, in particular, how much exercise is most efficient?
Diet, in particular, how to eat healthy in the most efficient way?
Sleep, in particular, how to fall asleep and wake up in the most efficient way?
Admin side of their business, in particular, how to set up your business most efficiently?
The great thing is that on top of these overarching themes, they briefly provided me with what they already tried and what works for them. This gave me an idea for another topic – Interviews with Startup Founders about their habits. Why not make an interview/podcast about this? 🙂 Noted!
There is one another topic I almost forgot about …
The trend is evident. There are more and more people having their own ideas for a business.
I tend to go to 2-3 meetups per month to meet like-minded people, exchange ideas and network. There are more and more of them who say, I have this cool idea, but I have a job.
There is also a little bit of ‘fad’ in there. After all, everybody who is in some kind of business is talking about startups. TV shows like Shark Tank or Dragons’ Den help to make this cult even more prominent. When you see entrepreneurs pitching in front of the shrewd investors in TV, you say to yourself: “If they can do it, I can do it as well”. Well, of course. If you are smart and efficient about it, sure you can.
Then, the last topic I need to consider for this challenge is “You don’t need to quit your job to start a business.“
How much content am I able to create in less than 4 weeks?
The question is not really how much content, but how much quality content.
If I went on a writing spree, I could write easily 1000 articles. Yep, you hear that right. I shut myself at home, take care of food, water and off I go. However, will this be the content that anybody wants to read? I don’t think so. The most important point here is quality – in terms of helpfulness for the audience … and applicability. It’s not the most efficient to only read about it 😉 You gotta walk the walk.
I think I can publish 4 high-quality pieces in 4 weeks. 1 per week. I have other things to do as well, so this gives me a good portion of time to create quality, helpful and actionable content.
What is my goal for this challenge?
This is actually a very interesting question that I should have answered already yesterday, before starting to work on this challenge.
Obviously, the goal is to launch … but, I mean … I launched yesterday already.
The goal is to provide content that will make the audience crave for more. Is that it?
Based on the SMART goals framework, your goals should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-based.
Time-based is done – 4 weeks
Relevant – yes, I have gone on a journey of applying learnings from Smart Passive Income to create a Passive Income “Imperium” so this challenge is perfect for it
Attainable – yes, I think so, Point 3 of this exercise answers it in more detail
I am missing Specific and Measurable.
The essential ingredients of a blog are content and audience. My SMART goal has to be built around these two ingredients then. I discussed the context of the content earlier in this post.
In regards to the audience … What type of audience? I think it should be an audience that likes my content, engages with it, shares it with their network and regularly comes for more.
How can I measure that I have reached this type of audience in 4 weeks?
I think I have few vehicles to judge if the audience is engaged – they comment and they subscribe to join the community.
To be measurable, how many comments and subscribers do I want to gain?
Let’s say that each post should ‘provoke’ at least 2 comments from two different people and at least 4 people will subscribe to join the community. Is it too little? Is it too much? I don’t know, this is not set in stone. It’s more like a line in the sand so depending on how it develops, I can adjust. This should, however, be a very good ‘gauge’ of assessing the success.
“My SMART goal for this challenge is to create 4 pieces of pillar content and engage in a min. 2 comments per post, attracting min. 4 subscribers to my blog.”
The outstanding task is to select topics that will help me to achieve this SMART goal in the most efficient way. I need 1-2 days to think about them.
What did I learn from writing this post?
The analysis doesn’t mean paralysis if you know your ‘WHY’ … Why am I doing this?
Giving a little bit of time to other people (= patience) means that you can get quality responses.
I have a SMART goal and a selection of topics that I can write about during this challenge.
What comes next?
Next is all about writing pillar posts about the topics. I will start with the topic of Sleep as that is the core of everything. Human brain and body need quality sleep to perform at the most efficient level.
Based on the challenge from Michael that I described in my first blog post, I didn’t have much time to lose. I had to start making it happen immediately.
This blog is about efficient habits so I decided to create the blog and its content in … surprise … efficient way! What’s that, you ask? This blog post explains it in details.
Today, I will describe, how you can easily setup a blog on WordPress in less than 3 hours, with a good looking theme (*flirting whistle*) and with the most important plugins. Then, I will show you how to decide on the best Blog post structure in order to automate the writing process.
I assume that you already selected topic of your blog. Some bloggers call it ‘your niche’. I chose to write about efficient habits because it’s my obsession. I hate mundane tasks – but I am great at doing them efficiently, so I get more time for doing things I like. It’s kind of like a curse, because when my lazy boss in previous work discovered about it, I had ‘the best time of my life’, NOT!!! 🙂 In any case, choosing a domain name is all about your brand.
Why “Efficient Daily Habits”, you may ask?
A short Google Keyword Planner search reveals that people tend to search for topics around habits – good habits, bad habits, how to develop them, how to get rid of them.
And ‘daily’? As my girlfriend said, it sounds actionable … ok, efficientdailyhabits.com it is. A quick check on godaddy.com revealed it was available.
Don’t forget to search for some promo codes to get a discount. Select ‘privacy’ to avoid spammer’s attention and buy the domain. It will be assigned to your account immediately.
Fast downtime resolution – if your website stops working, you can demand quick turnaround
Risks of shared hosting
As its name explains, you share your hosting with other clients. It means that your website sits next to somebody’s else. If they overdraw the capacity, the whole server can fall and your website with it as well. I wouldn’t worry about this too much, though. Nowadays, the customer service at hosting companies is pretty good, so they will try to help you asap.
19.99/year – the cheapest and very reliable solution
I have been using Virtual Private Servers from this company for a past year without any glitch
You already chose shared hosting with the Control Panel (cpanel) so you should have automatic WordPress installation at your fingertips.
Find the ‘WordPress installation’ text or WordPress icon and follow instructions on the screen
5. Setup Mailbox – 5 min
Find the ‘Mailbox/Email’ set up text or Mailbox/Email icon and follow instructions on the screen
Set up two email addresses in your cpanel
email@example.com – for all accounts with digital service providers
firstname.lastname@example.org – for your communication with other bloggers, partners, and community
6. Find and install a theme – 20 min
WordPress theme or a template is all about how your blog looks to the audience. Try to find something that looks good and is free. Once you start earning money you can switch to a premium theme, but if you are just starting, it’s not needed, especially for a blog where you have just standard features set. If you, however, insist on getting something flashy, try the Template Monster which features huge database of premium templates – http://www.efficientdailyhabits.com/templatemonster
How to find a free theme? Use keywords like ‘free WordPress theme’
My criteria were – minimalist, free, responsive blog, so I was searching for ‘free minimalist responsive WordPress blog theme’.
I chose a theme named Sparkling in the beginning but didn’t like it at all. Themes always look different on your blog compared to the demo site, and this one looked extremely bad.
No worries, installing and activating a new theme in WordPress is a matter of 2 clicks. I browsed some more and chose a theme called Nisarg. I like how it looks and it’s easy to play with.
7. Style your theme a bit – 5 min
Another great thing about WordPress is that it allows you to customize the layout, colors, fonts and other simple design elements of the website. Just press the Customize button and there you go. For this exercise, I will not look into extensive setups. I will just change the site name & icon, tagline, and the header image.
Where to find ‘Customize’
Where to setup Header Image
Where to upload the Site Icon
8. Install and activate necessary plugins – 30 min
Plugins in WordPress are small features that fulfill big tasks, like tracking your visitors and their behavior, helping you optimize your SEO, empowering the audience to share your content or sign up for your Email list.
The basic plugins I recommend are:
Akismet – pre-installed with every WordPress – protects your blog from spammers. All you need to do is to activate it.
Google Analytics– tracking visits, page views, visited pages, time spent on site, etc.
Prettylink – makes your links look more readable – for example, you have an affiliate link that looks like this affiliatesite.com/?affid=xyz, you can change it to yourdomainname.com/affiliate
Disqus – modern and most popular commenting system with related posts
Yoast SEO – this plugin with put your SEO on steroids
AddToAny Share Buttons – adds share buttons and allows the audience to share on social networks, like Facebook, Instagram, etc.
SumoMe – suite of tools that allow you to create popups for Email list signups – the best feature is the sign-up box that shows while you are scrolling down on the page
Collecting Emails from the beginning is one of the most important things you have to do when starting with your blog. People who sign up for your Email list will turn to gold later in the process (literally). You are able to reach them 1 by 1 in personal tone and develop a relationship to build the community.
You should choose an Email service provider.
The most well-known provider among the Passive Income community and the one Pat Flynn recommends is AWeber http://www.efficientdailyhabits.com/aweber. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have a FREE option. The quality and feature set is outstanding, though. If you have money to spend, go for it. If not, then there is …
Another one is Mailchimp http://www.efficientdailyhabits.com/mailchimp. It is free for the first 2000 subscribers. Once you get that many subscribers, you should be already earning a bit of commission so it makes sense to switch to AWeber.
10. Setup Yoast, Google Webmaster, and permalinks – 20 min
Next come small optimizations like configuring Yoast SEO, setting up Google Webmaster tools and setting up Permalinks.
Yoast SEO – follow instructions in the dashboard
Google Webmaster tools– this is mandatory to allow Google to find you and index you in the search results. You need to have a Google Account. Click on “Add property” and follow instructions on the screen. Make sure you submit the sitemap that Yoast plugin will generate for you.
Permalinks – permalinks are all about how your blog post URLs will be shown. Select yourdomainname.com/postname structure to help the organic searches
11. Decide on Blog post structure – 10 min
The blog post structure is important to automate your writing. It decreases the time you need to think about every single blog post because it provides a framework for you to write within. I learned this from the great guide from Nik from “Four minute books” – page 21 from his guide. Once you have the structure set up, writing is a breeze. Keep in mind that even if your structure is not perfect in the beginning, you will improve it through constant engagement with your community.
My structure for the blog posts looks like this:
3 points Summary of what you will learn
Favorite quote related to the topic
What comes next?
Resources and tools mentioned
Let me know
12. This is it
You are ready to go! Remember that this setup is not the perfect by any means. But that’s OK, starting is more important than perfecting something which will never see the light of the day.
But, I had to do it. The best solution that always works for me is “just do it”. No distractions, focus music and here we go. I have the challenge going on, so I can’t slack.
You say that I have the motivation and that helps me not to procrastinate?
Yes, you are right! That works the best – external accountability. Having an external challenge helps, but imagine if I had a family to feed or debts to pay. The motivation would be even higher.
Many people find a lot of excuses.
This video shows why you shouldn’t have excuses at all.
If you are afraid of a big task, break it down to small parts and make the first step, then make the second step…
It’s like a child learning to walk, the moment it does the first step, second has to follow, otherwise it falls. Falls happen, but each fall brings the child up to try it again and again … it’s evolution, there is no way back. So just try it – step by step you get there.
So just try it – step by step you get there.
What didn’t go as planned?
The site crashed while I was working on point 11 – Blog post Structure – fortunately, I worked on it in Google Docs so nothing is lost. I have no idea why the site crashed. The downtime lasted for ca. 15 minutes which is kind of unacceptable in case you have a big community following you. To know if it crashes in the future, I am setting up the Uptime Robot to track the downtime automatically.
What did I learn today?
I am able to have basic WordPress blog setup done in ca 170 minutes, which is 2h and 50 minutes time. I used the Pomodoro technique to work on it – 53+7 minutes, with taking short water and bio breaks. I remind you that I have experience of setting up my shared hosting and also a VPS and dedicated hosting. This makes it more efficient. However, if you follow the guideline and checklist in this post, you are on the best way as well.
There is always something that breaks or something you forget. You can’t predict what, but you should be prepared and plan for it in regards to time allocated. The best way to improve is to start doing it, in my case blogging. While I will be blogging, the ideas will come naturally and I will keep adding plugins or customizing the theme. Best case scenario is that nothing breaks and you can use that saved time for doing something nice.
If you do setups and want to write about it at the same time, it takes more than 2x the time to finish up everything. That’s why, while doing it, I decided to drop the writing and scribbled just notes. Tomorrow, I will write down the details together with the screenshots, and who knows, I may also record a video. These are the basics of effective work – focus on one task at the time. If you try to multitask, it will take you longer.
170 minutes / 2h and 50 minutes spent on basic setup of the blog.
What comes next?
Tomorrow, my plan is to finish up this blog post about Day 1 and come up with the topics for following days. I want to publish quality pillar blog posts before 16.02.2017 that will capture the essence of Efficient Daily Habits. The content needs to be epic and actionable, so when Michael reads it he will crave for more. Challenge accepted!