Productivity Guru Chris Bailey on What Works, What Doesn’t, & Living Purposefully
Greetings, Superfriends! This week, we’re going to be revisiting that big, scary word: productivity. In a past episode with Rory Vaden, we learned a TON about the strategies and theories behind productivity and “time management.” So now, how about seeing the other side – diving deeper with someone who has literally devoted every waking hour to testing and applying these techniques in a practical setting? Sound interesting? Keep listening.
My guest this week is the well-known blogger behind “A Year of Productivity,” where he blogged daily about his one year experiment to find, study, and apply all the productivity tips and tricks he could get his hands on. After the year was up, his blog had attracted such a following, he continued with this passion project, turning it into A Life of Productivity, and becoming a renowned expert on all things productivity.
This episode is a bit different in nature and tone than other ones, as you’ve probably already picked up – and I think it’s improvement! There’s plenty of humor – some of it crude – and lots of entertaining discussion. With that said, we also uncover what I think are some of the most important habits, behaviors, and practices that lend themselves to leading a happier, more joyous, and more productive life. I’m not going to spoil the fun… just turn up the volume and enjoy some wisdom from the delightful Mr. Chris Bailey.
In this episode, we discuss:
- Chris Bailey’s journey from turning a “side project” blog into a full-time gig
- What are the surprising and impactful lessons that Chris learned on his one year journey?
- The differences between managing your time, managing your attention, and managing your focus
- Mindfulness, meditation, and how they play into productivity
- Which works and books most impacted Chris during his journey?
- What challenges did Chris face when it came to productivity
- What are the 7 criteria that make a task more susceptible to procrastination?
- What does Chris Bailey suck at?
- Comparing cheeseburgers to orgasms (wait, what?)
- How nutrition and processed foods affect productivity, including thoughts on hyperglycemia/glycemic index
- Self-talk and the importance of monitoring our internal dialogue
- Intermittent fasting, and how it can affect your productivity
- “Burning Man” type events, and the incredibly powerful personal growth that you can achieve there
- The power of the “why” behind the activities you do
- An experiment where Chris woke up at 05:30 every morning, and what happened
- The science behind waking up early (or not)
- Being truly, fundamentally honest and compassionate with yourself
- Napping, meditation, and nootropics for focus
- What tools (if any) are must-haves for Chris and his productivity?
- The rule of 3, and why our brains are trained to think in threes
- A very useful thought exercise for convincing yourself to meditate every day
Resources Mentioned in This Episode:
- Chris Bailey’s new book, The Productivity Project (coming in January)
- My course on productivity (with a 90% off discount code)
- Getting Things Done by David Allen
- Our interview with Rory Vaden
- A previous episode with Dr. Kirk Parsley (where we talked about 5-HTP)
- In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto by Michael Pollan (highly recommended)
- Camp Quality, where Chris mentors child cancer patients
- My recommended meditation Zafu and Zabuton (so comfortable)
- Matcha Japanese Green Tea
- Momentum for Chrome
- Chris Bailey’s blog, now named A Life of Productivity
- Chris Bailey on the Twitter machine
Favorite Quotes from Chris Bailey:
Chris Bailey: Yeah. Are you having a stroke? You've gone silent. Stroke sounds kind of dirty. If you say like, yeah, I'm going to have a stroke. Sorry. You can go silent.
Introduction: Welcome to the Becoming SuperHuman Podcast, where we interview extraordinary people to bring you the skills and strategies to overcome the impossible. And now here's your host, Jonathan Levi.
Jonathan Levi: Before we get started. I just want to let you guys know that this episode is brought to you by my Best-selling online course Become A Speed Demon Productivity: Tricks To Have More Time. The course is the culmination of over a decade of my own experience and research into productivity theory, strategies, tips, and tricks. From how to prioritize and structure your life to computer hacks and tips to automate your daily work and even ways to shave time off the basic tasks we all do every day, the course is guaranteed to save you at least three hours a week or your money back. So for a 90% off coupon, check it out at jle.vi/productivity. That's http://jle.vi/productivity.
Greetings my SuperFriends. So I have a little bit of, yeah, bad news. Before I give you guys the good . The bad news is this week. We're going to be revisiting that big, scary word, productivity. In a past episode with Rory Vaden, we learned a ton about the strategies and theories behind productivity and time management.
So now the good news, how about we see the other side? How about we dive deep with someone who's literally devoted every waking hour to testing and applying these techniques in a practical setting for an extended period of time. Does that sound interesting? Keep listening. My guest this week is the well-known blogger behind A Year Of Productivity, where he blogged daily about his one year experiment to find, study and apply all the productivity, hacks and tips that he could get his hands on.
After that year was up, his blog had attracted so much interest and such a following. He continued with this passion project, turning it into a life of productivity and becoming a renowned expert and author on all things productivity that might sound a little bit boring, but I assure you, it's not, this episode is a bit different in nature and tone than other ones.
And you've probably already picked that up from the intro, but I think it's an improvement. There's plenty of humor. Some of it crude and lots of entertaining discussion. I want you guys to give me feedback on Twitter. If you enjoyed the more lighthearted format with all that said, we also uncover what I think are some of the most important habits, behaviors, and practices that lend themselves to a happier, more joyous and more productive life.
I'm not going to spoil the fun. Just turn up the volume and enjoy some wisdom from the delightful Mr. Chris Bailey.
No, no, that's a fair point. Why don't we just dive right in Chris. Welcome to the show today. You already cracked me out. We just started to get all that. I did get all that.
Chris Bailey: Good. I think that's one of the best openings. I haven't listened to all your shows, but I think it might be one of your best.
Jonathan Levi: It is certainly the best opening we've had on this show.
Good start. Okay. So Chris, I hope you've had, Oh man. I hope you've had your stroke. I hope we're good. I hope you're ready.
Welcome to the show, sir.
Chris Bailey: I am calm. I'm relaxed. I'm good to go. Yeah, what are do?
Jonathan Levi: I'm fantastic. I just left the gym to start this thing. So I'm barely standing, but I'm standing. I'm ready.
Ready to get productive. Or did you get excited about it?
Was it leg day today?
Every day is like day.
Chris Bailey: Every day is leg day. You can't spell legendary without leg day. What do you think about it? But I broke my leg a few months ago and so I can just start doing leg days again. It's just been all upper body.
I'm almost. Falling over wherever I go.
Jonathan Levi: Yeah. Triangle men get the gorilla thing going on.
Chris Bailey: Yeah, yeah. Gorilla. Yeah, exactly.
Jonathan Levi: I love it. So, Chris, I want to point out actually real quick that I think it's interesting that you and I both left school. We both got degrees in business and we both decided, Hey, I'm going to work on a side project instead of going for the high-paid corporate gig.
I think it's even more funny that we both ended up being like, you know what? The side gig kind of kicks ass, I'm going to keep doing the side gig.
Chris Bailey: It worked out didn't.
Jonathan Levi: It did. So tell me about that. Like first off, how did you have the stones to be like, yeah, mom and dad. I'm not going to get a job. No big deal. Like I'm just going to write a blog for a year. Tell me about that.
Chris Bailey: It's, it's the kind of career path. That's a bit hard to explain to your grandma and as people in your life that get, you know, the whole gradient, they get progressively older, they understand less and less and less of what you do right now.
I have a book on the way I have a book right around the corner that I just finished. It's with a big publisher and like still, I don't think anybody in my life. In these circles that isn't in these circles knows what the hell I do, but yeah. So my story is I graduated from University with a business degree a few years ago, two or three years ago.
And when I graduated, I had a couple of full-time job offers that came my way. But when I started looking at the meaning behind them, I realized that like, you know, it's kind of a cushy problem to have, right. But I figure, you know, if there was a time in my life where I could really follow my own path and carve out my own future, that sounds kind of corny carving out your future, but that's exactly what I wanted to do. I figured, you know, that was the time to do it. You know, those job offers. Maybe they would wait, maybe they wouldn't. But if there was a time to kind of follow, my passionate was then. And so I looked at how much money I had in the bank.
I had about 20 grand of student loans when I graduated 20,000. Yeah. Canadian, which is like $20 American right now, just for scale, it's about $200 in monopoly money on the current exchange rate, I'll have to check etsy.com. The next time I have a chance. Right, right. But I had about 12,000 also saved up in my bank account because I'd worked internships and co-op terms throughout University in kind of these big companies to save up 12 grand.
And I figured, you know, if I spent. A thousand dollars a month. I can make it through a year of exploring my passion, which was productivity. And still is. I looked at where I'd been passionate the most on for the last decade. And it was, you know, getting as much done as possible in a shorter amount of time as possible and studying human performance, especially in a workplace type environment.
And so that's exactly what I did.
Jonathan Levi: Oh man, we're going to get along. We are definitely getting to get along because I'm all about the human performance. I'm all about getting the. Most done in the least amount of time. In fact, I teach a course on the matter, so I'm pretty excited to dive into, I guess, well, what did you learn?
Chris Bailey: One word and want more of that, right? Right. That's the thing about productivity is the way I kind of see it. I kind of equate it with human performance. So a lot of people equate productivity, I think with busy-ness and just producing as much as possible. But I don't think productivity is how much you produce, it's how much you accomplish.
And when you kind of look at it through that lens, I think you can kind of filter out the tactics, like the stupid tack, like tactics, like, Oh, you should highlight this blue in order to prioritize it. The priority number four is worth more than a practice. Like that's all bullshit versus, you know, the real stuff that has handles that you can grip onto these with tactical things that you can do every day in order to actually accomplish more.
So, you know, who wouldn't want more of that. Right. Absolutely. Oh yeah. I should talk about my project and that's yeah. That's where the decline jobs led to, you know, I figured I had about a year of financial runway and so I started and I was in a productivity and so I named my website A year Of Productivity.
And so the idea behind that was for a full year, I would devour everything. I could get my hands on about productivity and write about everything I learned on the site. So. I read all the books. I interviewed experts and I conducted these kind of weird productivity experiments on myself, where I used myself as a Guinea pig to explore what it took to become as productive as possible.
And I didn't have ads on the site. I didn't have sponsorships on the site. You know, my intention wasn't to make. Any money. It was just to spread these ideas as foreign, as wide as possible, which made the project even more difficult to understand, you know, for all the old people in my life, but it made it more meaningful to me because my words spread that much further.
Jonathan Levi: I love that almost immediately. I want to get into, you know, what did you learn in one year being someone who's so interested in productivity? I mean, what are some lessons that stood out? What were some surprising things that. You took away from the experience.
Chris Bailey: There's just so much, it's hard to kind of clot, but maybe on a high level, we can start from a high level and work down.
I think productivity is a kind of three quarters of the way through my year. I realized something kind of, uh, that's pretty profound in hindsight. I think that sounded kind of douchey, but it was a big kind of light bulb moment insight where I realized that. Every single thing I'd experimented with and researched and interviewed people about over the course of the year, it fell into one of three categories.
It was either about, you know, managing your time, managing your energy or managing your attention. And that's when I kind of realized productivity is the confluence of those three things. Productivity is, uh, where your time, your energy and your attention meet in the middle. And I think that's a powerful way to think about productivity these days, especially.
You know, we used to work in factories, making widgets, and all we had to do was manage our time. Right? If you're just making widgets all day, you don't need a lot of focus. You don't need a lot of energy. You just need that time. You come at nine, you leave at five, then you go home and you have a stroke, but these days it's so different.
The workplace is entirely different. We need as much attention and energy to devote to our tasks as we possibly can. As just a couple of examples, our work doesn't live in that kind of nine to five bucks anymore. You know, we spend attention on it throughout the day we wake up. And the first thing most of us do is check our email.
Oftentimes when we're still in bed, on our phone, even though our work takes attention to, and it takes energy too, because our brains burn off more glucose, doing this mental lifting, uh, regardless of what we work on, you know, if you're making widgets all day, you don't need much of it. But if you're managing information all day and organizing information in your head and you know, the kind of working in this knowledge economy, that a lot of people have coined it as being called.
I think. You know, you need as much attention and focus and energy as you can possibly muster, you know, time is important too, but attention and energy are also important. And I think, you know, behind all of productivity behind it, everything that you do on a daily basis or in a moment to moment basis, the other lesson that I learned of kind of the two larger overarching lessons was that, you know, productivity is very much the same as being deliberate.
About what you work on, you know, about the work you take on in general about the work you take on every week and every day. And even in the moment, you know, a lot of people talk about mindfulness and it's become almost kind of cliche. You know, I meditate every day and, you know, even, I think mindfulness has become kind of cliche, but.
It's insanely powerful at the same time, because all it is is basically bringing more attention down to the moment and working more deliberately in the moment. So I think that's kind of the second big nugget that I learned about productivity.
Jonathan Levi: I absolutely love that. And I think it's important to note time is probably not your most valuable resource because time without attention, time where you can't do anything, but sit and stare at the TV is really not that valuable at all.
Chris Bailey: So thing, right? You need all three, all three are so intertwined that you can't really separate them at the same time. Like if you can't manage your time, you'll procrastinate all day.
If you can't manage your energy, you'll burn out. If you can't manage your focus, you have ADD, or you're distracted and there's no coincidence in the fact that the mentions of ADD and cultural deficit disorder and burnout are recent mental constructs that came along with the advent of the knowledge economy.
When we step out of the factories and start working in offices, these are new constructs. We've had the potential to get them for a long time, but I think they go to show just how intertwined everything today.
Jonathan Levi: Absolutely. We who are some of the kind of really influential thinkers that guided you along in this journey. I mean, whose work really impacted you?
Chris Bailey: The very first book, I picked up about productivity, I think it was about a decade ago was Getting Things Done by David Allen. Have you read that book?
Jonathan Levi: I haven't read it. I'm actually trying to get David on the show as a matter of fact, but he's quite a busy guy.
Chris Bailey: Yeah, and he just relaunched his book too.
He's a fascinating guy to talk to essentially the nugget behind his ideas is that you, you benefit mentally the more ideas you get out of your head and the more thoughts and to do as you get out of your head and into some sort of external system where you can manage it all because your head is for having ideas, not for holding them.
He was. Looking back. I think that was kind of the tipping point of productivity with me. That was what got me into productivity in the first place. And it all kind of snowballed from there.
Jonathan Levi: Interesting. What are some of the challenges you faced or continue to face?
Chris Bailey: The challenges, in what way?
Jonathan Levi: I mean, for me, one of the biggest issues in productivity is just the motivation. To be honest, I come off as very motivated, but at the end of the day, I'm really bad at doing things that I don't want to do. So I delegate, we talked to at Rory Vaden a couple of weeks ago on the show and he was talking about delegate things or put them off. Procrastinate them on purpose. So I'm really good at delegating, but at the end of the day, there are things in my life that I'm challenged by just not wanting to do and not being able to delegate.
Do you have any kind of similar challenges that you face when it comes down to being productive?
Chris Bailey: I think everybody has things they don't want to do. One of the folks I talked to in my project, his name is Tim Pitcher. You should have him on the show. He's this procrastination researcher he writes for Psychology Today.
He's written a book or two, I think. And his research has shown that. And I find this fascinating that there are certain attributes that a task can have that make you more likely to procrastinate with it, to put it off. Hmm. And there's seven of them. And those are whether a task is boring, whether it's frustrating, whether it's difficult.
Whether it lacks personal meaning whether it lacks intrinsic rewards, whether it's ambiguous or whether it's unstructured. And so there's a concrete reason and you can look at the neurobiology behind this too. Why people procrastinate on their taxes, right. And it's because the mind finds doing your taxes a lot more, versus it puts up a much bigger fight to them.
It finds them more boring and frustrating and difficult and ambiguous and unstructured. And so you put off doing them, but you look at doing something like email or these kind of low-return activities in your work. And. They set up hardly any triggers. Maybe they're a bit of Versive, but email isn't really boring.
It's not frustrating. You know, it's incredibly structured. You even get it's so structured. You get notifications every time you get a brand new email, it's definitely not ambiguous. And the same with things like watching Netflix, these tasks are so much more attractive mentally than for example, writing a book.
And so I think that's the biggest nugget that I learned about motivation throughout the project is it's about these triggers. It's about how averse of your limbic system, which is it has your fear sensors. It has, it's basically the emotional part of your brain. Yeah, how much resistance it has to tasks is dependent on those seven triggers.
So I bet if you looked at the tasks that you find less motivating in your work, you'll find that they tick off. Most of those seven triggers, like writing the book, like editing podcasts, they like doing all these sorts of things. And by kind of running your way through that list. Take doing your taxes for an example, doing your taxes.
It's one of the most diversive things out there, but if you kind of run your way through the list, your case, so it's boring. What can you do to make it less boring? Maybe you can go to a cafe and get a fancy latte while you do it or something, you know, it's frustrating. Maybe you can hire a firm to do them.
That's why there's this multi-billion dollar tax industry that people hire in businesses hired to do their taxes for it because it's so unstructured and so ambiguous. And so by kind of running your way through the list, you can flip that, but that's a huge tangent. Some of the stuff that I struggle with, most of them orbit around the energy, not quadrant third drink.
What's like the, uh.
Jonathan Levi: I don't know the word in English. There's a word in Hebrew. I know, but what is it slish the third? Well, it's like third Shlishi. I would be like a set of three Shalisha is like the, the third, like the nice little, third piece of the pie. Okay.
Chris Bailey: So the third, the slish that I have trouble with selfies that is attention.
You know, I have no problem managing my time. As you know, most people don't, you know, a lot of people can, they have room to grow in terms of what they work on in the moment, how they prioritize, what they're working on. But the thing I suck at is the energy third trend or sheesh because I just love food too much.
I came across this study the other day where it found that. If you eat two cheeseburgers, your brain produces the same amount of dopamine as if you just orgasms isn't that if you just had a stroke, it's incredible. And I struggle with that more. I think I'm at like one cheeseburger equivalent, you know, I get off so much on the food that I eat.
Yeah. And so that's something that I struggle with because food actually has a huge impact on your productivity and on the surface, that sounds like bullshit. But the thing can I swear by the way, am I allowed? Okay.
Jonathan Levi: That was a couple of words we'll bleep out, but the ones you've been saying are totally fine.
Chris Bailey: Okay. If I said like, No, I'm not gonna.
Jonathan Levi: Don't worry. Our editor is fantastic.
Chris Bailey: She's just going like, Oh, let's see. Going to say.
Jonathan Levi: Oh no, it's cool. Let's go. Well, well, we'll leave you here and there you'll be fine.
Chris Bailey: Okay. Sounds good. Just like an oil refinery. Turns oil into gasoline. My hope this analogy works.
Your body turns, whatever food you eat into glucose. Right? So glucose is to the body. What gasoline is to a vehicle? It's what your brain runs on. The only fuel that you're brain and happy that analogy worked out by the way. That was a good analogy. A good one. The only fuel that your brain burns throughout the day is glucose.
And the ideal amount of glucose that you can have in your brain is 20 grams. If you have less than that, you have lower energy. If you have more than that, you have lower energy or the exact number doesn't matter so much. You don't have to be too scientific about it. But the point is that there's an amount of glucose that you can have in your brain.
That's either too much or too little. And so when you don't eat enough, when you're hungry, you might notice that you have trouble focusing and your attention scattered, and that's because your brain doesn't have any glucose left to burn off to that has kind of thinking juice, but the same happens. And this is where I struggle with is when your brain has too much glucose in someone, you have a huge meal, a huge Turkey dinner, and you feel like falling asleep.
But part of that is because the, I forgot. Thank you. Yeah, the trip defendant in the Turkey. Thanks for bailing me out on that.
Jonathan Levi: We just talked about it in a previous episode and it converts in that physiological pathways. So yeah, it's fresh in my memory.
Chris Bailey: Okay. So that wasn't like knowledge that you had?
Jonathan Levi: The tryptophan. I did. I didn't know that it converted to five HTP and how that broke into melatonin and stuff like that. So I recently learned that, but yeah. Yeah.
Chris Bailey: Yeah, it has some crazy effects, right. But even if you hit like a massive, massive, massive salad, you know, that'll be too much glucose for your brain to burn off and it becomes kind of overlaying you get this huge energy crash when you eat too much as well, same with processed foods, right?
Because processed foods are basically pre-digested for you by machines. And so your body doesn't have to do much to burn off a cheeseburger or a BigMac at McDonald's. It has to do a lot less work there than it does burning off a whole chicken breast with a whole week pass on the side or something along those lines.
And so that delivers a huge spike to your brain as well, because it doesn't have to chew on the food for that long in your stomach. And so food is something that I struggle with because it's something that it's not like an immediate fix in terms of. Well, productivity. It's not like making it a to-do list where you feel all super Uber productive after you capture everything in your head like David Allen's methodology would have you do.
It's more nuanced. It's more kind of fragile though. At the same time in that, you don't really understand the negative impacts food can have on your productivity. But when energy is so important in terms of productivity, if I didn't have much energy, For writing a book, for example, that's kind of on fresh in my memory because I just, I turned it in.
Jonathan Levi: It's a recent trauma.
Chris Bailey: It's a recent trauma is still recovering from, show me on the stall where the book touched. You know, if I did make it through that challenge because it was a challenge. If I didn't eat well through it, I think I'd still be writing the book now because I wouldn't be able to focus or I wouldn't have enough energy, or I would use that as kind of as an excuse to not do it.
Absolutely. Another thing I suck at is something that everybody on the planet sucks and that self-talk, and we're kind of, maybe this is moving into kind of self-help territory, which I'm not really comfortable waiting into because I find it kind of a corny space sometimes, but this self-talk, we have this.
Internal dialogue that we have with ourselves over the course of the day, for example, like, what am I going to say next? So, you know, w I mean, what am I going to do after this interview? We have this dialogue that goes off in the back of her head throughout the course of the day. But the studies on that phenomenon on this interpersonal communication, they show that it's overwhelmingly negative.
That 80% of the thoughts that we have in our head are things like I can't do this, I shouldn't do this. I won't be able to do this, or I suck at this, or do I really need to shave? Or am I rambling on in this interview? Thoughts like that? That are negative. And we have this dialogue that happens in our heads over the course of the day, day in and day out.
And I think that's huge for our productivity too. Especially you mentioned motivation. I think the more independent somebody is in their work, the more that their self-talk has a tendency to erupt. Yep. One of the first things and this is, it's hard to admit every time I talk about it, but one of the first things that I felt after I got the deal to write a book, my book deals with Penguin Random House is I'm a fraud who am I to get this book deal? When people have been working years to get a similar book deal. But when I kind of stepped back and kind of labeled that as part of this way, that my brain was programmed, you know, of course, we evolved to perceive threats in our environment.
That's how we've survived millions of years to be around podcasting today. Podcasting would be the most. Luxurious is the thing that somebody in the stone age totally we've survived all this time because we've evolved to perceive threats in our environment. I received 50 emails this morning when I woke up, when I opened my inbox and 49 of them were positive or a neutral, and one of them was really negative, really critical.
And that one stuck out at me. Throughout the course of the day. And I think most people experience this phenomenon as well, where we evolve to perceive threats in our environment. We have this negative dialogue that runs off at us over the course of the day in her head. And I think that holds people back.
From productivity too. And I struggle with that as well. Something that I found, especially after I achieved some success in the work that I did and on my blog, after my grandma started to understand it stuff, once the ball started rolling forward is that self-talk went up. You know, I, I thought that once I had the validation coming in from every direction, things would be good.
They would just be good, but the self-talk went up the negative self-talk went up when I expected it to be the other direction. So I think just recognizing that self-talk, and that it's something that is perfectly human and exists in us because we evolve to be a certain way and perceived threats in our environment.
I think that's huge too. But again, I ramble sometimes.
Jonathan Levi: No, I love that point. I love that point. I especially also love the point. One of the things I put so many people on the paleo diet that have come to me for dietary advice and actually one of the first things. I asked them, well, what changes do you feel?
And it's rarely body composition. It's always, I have so much more energy. I have so much more focus. Yeah. One thing I wanted to ask you about that though, is have you experimented at all with intermittent fasting? Because I find that my most, most productive days are days that I'm not bogged down by needing to eat at all.
And it's a long about in that 12th hour when you're no longer hungry. Your body kicks into this kind of hyper-drive mode. There's a little bit of adrenaline. There's a little bit of cortisol kicking in trying to get your mental faculties to figure something out, find some way food will come to your mouth.
And I find those are the most productive days I have. I don't recommend having them every single day, but. Long about that 12th hour. I'm crazy productive.
Chris Bailey: I tried that and I've done that a few times and I found the productivity gains, but I just love food too much. As, you know, as hard as that is to admit, I want to experiment with that in the future, but I just love food too much. Yeah.
Jonathan Levi: What dietary changes did you make? I mean, are you also on a kind of low-glycemic index paleo or low-carb diet?
Chris Bailey: Only the low glycemic index because the glycemic index is basically how much a certain food will spike your glucose levels. That's all it is. And so like that's how much of a dent it'll put in that brain juice.
And so I try to keep an eye on that. A little bit, but I don't really follow it to a tee. I think most people out there, especially as far as productivity is concerned, if they do two things, the first thing is eat less processed shit, basically. Um, that's pre-digested for you eat less processed stuff and stop when you're full.
You know, I think if everybody followed those two rules, obesity would vanish off the face of the planet because we would need to pass the point of being fall. We wouldn't eat this food that was pre-digested for us. And so I'm a huge fan of as much as I love soaking in the complexity behind a lot of these productivity tactics, I'm a huge fan of what are the essential things that we can reduce something down to.
And I haven't really gotten lower than that. If you stop eating when you're not full and you eat slower. So your stomach as time to send the signal to your brain, that it's full, you're going to stop when your fall. And you're not going to have that energy crash later. And the exact same is true with the unprocessed fruits.
So, so those are the two rules that I try to live by. I've experimented with the other stuff. I've tried vegetarian. I've tried paleo. I've tried fasting a little bit, but not enough because I love food too much, but those are the two rules that I keep coming back to that I think impact productivity more than anything else.
Jonathan Levi: Have you read an Eater's manifesto by Michael Poland? I haven't no, you essentially just summed up the book.
Chris Bailey: Oh really?
Jonathan Levi: Yeah. It has three sections.
Chris Bailey: So people don't have to read that book.
Jonathan Levi: Now I'm going to tell you that there's like one sentence that he summarizes the entire book, which is eat food. Meaning eat real food, not food-like products. Wonder bread is a food-like product. It's not food. Yeah. So eat food, not too much. Mostly plants. Super simple stuff. Perfect. Right. Which is basically paleo. I mean, besides the fact that paleo is eat your body weight and meet every day, but I don't have a problem with that.
Chris Bailey: It's like 20 pounds of meat every day. That's paleo, right?
Jonathan Levi: It's about the prescription at 18 eggs.
Chris Bailey: Like a bit of spinach, asparagus?
Jonathan Levi: And your paleo. You're paleo. So we covered GTD we covered the dietary changes.
Chris Bailey: I want to harp on the self-talk thing. Do you get that?
Jonathan Levi: I totally get that. I was just going to say. And the third thing we covered is the importance of the self-talk and keeping a positive mentality.
Chris Bailey: I want to open you up a little bit for your listeners.
Yeah. I don't know if you've cracked yourself up. Can you name any examples recently? That you've felt out.
Jonathan Levi: So really interesting thing. I recently got back from a regional burning man event. Okay. Yeah. So I don't know if you've ever been to a burn as they call it.
Chris Bailey: Does it have to do with paleo?
Jonathan Levi: No. No. It's like a burning man, so radical self-expression radical acceptance, all this great stuff. Right. And you go into this experience thinking that you're suffering the confident person that you're so put together and you're not at all insecure. And then the bottom drops out from below you, which is to say that.
Nobody is judging anything. I mean, you want to walk around nude, you want to dance like an idiot. You want to stand on your head in the middle of a crowd of a hundred people. Anything goes, there's no judgment and there's no insecurity necessary. And then you realize, wait a minute, I feel different than I normally do.
And then you realize after that point, like, wait a minute, I must be carrying around way more insecurity and having a lot more negative self-talk. If I feel so differently now than I normally do. And then you start to ask yourself why don't I feel like that all the time and since that's happened, my self-talk and also friends have told me just my overall demeanor is very different, apparently.
Chris Bailey: Really?
Jonathan Levi: Just by virtue of once walking around nude. Well, yeah, I think once you've experienced five days of complete, absolute, not giving a shit what anybody thinks. Cause nobody cares what you're doing. And as long as you're not harming anyone else, really nobody minds, and people celebrate your kind of individualism.
It's really hard to go back and be like, I'm super worried that there's this a stain of wine on my pants. I really don't care. I'm going to the next party and I could give a shit. You know, if there's something dangling from my beard.
Chris Bailey: So peanut butter. Yeah.
Jonathan Levi: Indeed, indeed. So that's been a really interesting experience to me and I strongly recommend just to anybody who wants to do some really interesting self-exploration.
These burning man events are out there and they're really powerful opportunities for personal development.
Chris Bailey: You talking about the freedom of self-expression that immediately jogged a memory. There's a summer camp that I volunteer for every year called Camp Quality. And have you heard of Camp Quality?
Jonathan Levi: I have not.
Chris Bailey: Okay. It's this summer camp for kids with cancer. And so I'm teamed up. I'm kind of a mentor to one of the kids at the camp and throughout the year. So week-long summer camp, but they also have, when the kids become teens, they have this leadership development camp. Called Camp Quality, NewHeights, where across Canada, they fly in these cancer survivors.
And these volunteers like myself and we run leadership activities, stuff like that. It's kind of the traditional format of a leadership camp, but everybody has this one thing that makes them vulnerable that they have in common. There's some of the most inspiring people I've ever met. Of course, if a lot of these teenagers and they share this kind of thing that makes them really interesting and really vulnerable and really proud together. You look at them and you think like, okay, it's a team development camp.
What's so special, but then you learn about this story that every single person at the camp has behind them. And there aren't many weeks of the year.
Or weekends of the year where I like paint my nails and go up and like rap in front of a group of people usually. But at this camp I always do. Cause it's kind of that common shared thing that we're kind of veering way off topic on productivity. So I'll try to pull it back in. No problem it at the end, but that shared thread that everybody has.
That's my favorite week. And weekend when I do the leadership camp out of the entire year, you know, I look forward to it more than any conference, more than vacation. It's like a vacation, but for like half of you. Like for the half of you that works and like has responsibilities, but it's like not a vacation for your soul, I guess.
I think maybe to connect it to productivity a little bit, or at least to try, I might fail at this, but we'll see, you have to have this. Why behind whatever it is that you're doing. That's what the most productive people have. That's what the most passionate people have. If you have this common sense of purpose, there's a reason to experience.
I said, hi, when you go to burning man, or when you volunteer at Camp Quality. Or when you do whatever a similar thing in your life is. When you look back and it's because you're connected to this bigger purpose, whether it's even, you know, religion and it's a lot of its best forms, you know, it has a lot of bad forums, but it has a lot of incredible forms too.
And it brings these people together as this common thread. Um, I think there's something to be said about that, about the meaning behind what you do and also valuing the things you do in the first place. One of the experiments I did during my project was to wake up at five 30 every morning for three months.
And I tried that right when I started the project and I failed at it for the first three months of my project, trying to shoehorn this habit into my life. But I suddenly a few months after that, I did it. I perfectly integrated this ritual, this routine into my life and. It was this stuff that productivity dreams are made of.
I woke up at five 30 every morning. I prepared a coffee at 6:00 AM. I walked to the gym. I planned out my entire day when I was working out at 7:15, I made a huge breakfast. I showered, I meditated at 8:15. I reconnected to the internet because I had been disconnected that entire time from 8:15 to 9 every morning I read.
And at 9 and onwards, I began working. But after three months into my project. And after I settled into that routine, I realized a few months into doing this experiment six months into my project that, and you might've bleeped this, but that I hated that ritual. It was the least favorite part of my routine.
And so please bleep that. And so I dove into a bit of the research and the research around waking up early is, is fascinating. And of course, there's all these blogs on, you know, you should wake up, you should totally wake up early and this is why, but the science behind it. And I think when you start with the science and work backwards to how you should behave, you stand on pretty firm footing.
You know, the science shows that there's no difference. And socioeconomic standing between somebody who wakes up early and somebody wakes up late. It's what you do with your hours after you wake up that matters, you know, everybody's different. And maybe if you have kids, you know, waking up early, we'll give you that ultra-productive time to focus and daydream when you wake up.
But it really depends on the individual and the individual situation that you're in. And when I realized that I hated it, I settled back into a routine. I shifted this entire ritual up an hour or two. And they loved it because I was doing these things that I valued the ritual of waking up at 5:30, wasn't connecting with a single thing that I valued.
These deep core held things that, because I valued friendships and I, I had to pack it in at 9:00 PM. I'm sorry.
Jonathan Levi: I was going to say there must not have been a lady in your life at this period in time.
Chris Bailey: There was, we lived together and we like spent hardly any time together because this ritual sucks so much.
And it was either that it was either, you know, fail at the relationship or fail at the experiment because, in order to not, if I stayed up later, I would fail the experiment the next day. I would have to wake up later unless I wanted to slog through the entire day and try to accomplish a lot.
Jonathan Levi: Then you'd have to have a stroke because you missed out on quality time. Right?
Chris Bailey: That's right. Yeah. And you know, there would be no brain cells left because it would just be all strokes all the way down and. Yeah, I think that just goes to show. And I found this with a lot of the expand talking about your values. I think for a lot of people it's when you hear about values, at least I was this way.
It was like hearing about a mission statement. I immediately shut off and stopped listening, but. I think, you know, there's just an incredible amount of time and energy and attention that you can save when you make sure that what you do is aligned to what you value. You can get much deeper than your values. I think.
Jonathan Levi: Absolutely. And another thing I took away not to harp too much on the burning man stuff was just the level of honesty that you think you have and the level of honesty that you can actually have. Right. And not just with others, but also with yourself. And I think that comes down to the self-talk as well that you were mentioning, be honest with yourself.
It's okay to be like, you know what? I'm not very good at this, but be honest, don't say I'm terrible at this. I'm the worst. And also don't say, you know what, I'm pretty good at this when you're not.
Chris Bailey: I think a lot of people are afraid of themselves. Yeah. They're afraid of what they might think.
Jonathan Levi: That's a lot of honesty to be like, I hate getting up at 5:30 in the morning and that's it.
Okay. I know I should work out every morning. I hate it. I love to go to the gym at seven o'clock and being honest and compassionate with yourself. I think that's a huge takeaway skill. Not just for productivity, but for life.
Chris Bailey: Yeah. Oh, absolutely. You know, people hit snooze 10 times every morning without stepping back, and considering maybe I don't want to wake up this early or maybe I should just set my alarm for 30 minutes or they do things like we were talking about Netflix and the procrastination triggers.
They do things like, oh, I'm just going to watch one more episode tonight, or I'm just going to play one more level or I'm just gonna do one more of whatever of X without stepping back and being compassionate, being honest with yourself and saying, you know, you deserve the night off, you don't, you're going to crush all the levels and all the episodes of house of cards or orange is the new black tonight and have no regrets as they say.
And I think that's huge. I think that's huge to take that step back and be compassionate, have that self-honesty because when 80% of the things that you're saying to yourself in your head, that sounds like a huge percent. And so I dug really, really deep into the science behind that. And the lowest number that I found was I think 65 or 70% of your thoughts are negative. And even if they're 30% of them are negative because you evolve to perceive threats in your environment. That's too damn high too. And so, yeah, I think the compassionate part is huge.
Jonathan Levi: I love that. I want to ask if I can, Chris, I want to hit you with some rapid-fire questions. You can give me a yay or nay a quick explanation sentence. Let's do it. There's so much stuff that I want to get out of that Brittany yours.
Chris Bailey: This is the thing, time, energy, and attention. It's such a holistic idea, right? Oh yeah. I saw one article on my site. It's like a hundred tactics that will let you manage your time, energy tension better, or something along those lines.
And in several, a hundred thousand people check that out. And I think people are dying for this stuff to manage all these three things better, but those hundred tactics are a part of thousands of tactics that you can do because when you kind of look at productivity holistically time, energy, and attention, which I think you have to it's so big. It's so massive. It's so all-encompassing. There's just so much so.
Jonathan Levi: Absolutely. To the lightning round naps. Yes or no.
Chris Bailey: Hmm. What?
Jonathan Levi: Napping. Do you nap?
Chris Bailey: Oh yeah. Love to nap.
Jonathan Levi: Every day?
Chris Bailey: Well, it depends on how much energy I have. If I find my energy waning in the afternoon and nap, it's like a cup of coffee without the caffeine crash.
Jonathan Levi: Bingo! I'm all for it. How about meditation? You said you meditate, but I don't know if that was a speaking in another person's voice or if you're actually meditating every day?
Chris Bailey: Yeah, half an hour, every day.
Jonathan Levi: Awesome. TM or Vipassana?
Chris Bailey: Vipassana.
Jonathan Levi: Ooh.
Chris Bailey: So for the folks that don't know what that is, it's just being mindful of your breath.
Jonathan Levi: Bingo.
Chris Bailey: Observing its abs it's flows, it's in and it's out. And it sounds so stupid, right? Meditation on the surface?
Jonathan Levi: I've harped on meditation on the show. If anyone listening still isn't sold on meditation, I'm not sure why they're listening. I actually just picked up, I'm destroying the lightning round, but I just picked up a new meditation zafu.
Oh, cool. I forgot what the other thing under it is called zabutons. Yes. And I picked up one and one a set. And let me tell you, it just completely changed my meditation experience. I have like no pain and that's so amazing to meditate with no pain.
Chris Bailey: Yeah, it makes it easier. Doesn't it?
Jonathan Levi: It sure does.
How about we mentioned coffee, but any newer Tropic stimulants, any stuff you use, are you a fan of like the ginseng, the coffee, the urban Montay. What's up?
Chris Bailey: I love matcha. If I want to have caffeine, matcha is my favorite caffeine vehicle because of the antioxidants. But yeah, other than that, just a ton of water.
With water so much. It's so boring, but I think it's so powerful at the same time.
Jonathan Levi: I've put down literally a leader while we've been sitting here. I'm just hitting the mute button, taking huge chunks of water.
Actually. I love it. I love it. Well, there's no gulping on the soundtrack, so it's good. What else?
There we go. We got it. What's one tool actual tool, whether it's an app or something like that, that you took away from this experience that you can't live without?
Chris Bailey: None.
Jonathan Levi: None. That's none. That's the best possible answer.
Chris Bailey: I don't think at the end of the day, you know, an Apple let you organize what you have to accomplish, but it won't really lead you to accomplish more every day.
How I start things out is I define the three things I want to accomplish by the end of the day. You know, an app can make you care about what you have to do. We can let you prioritize things. You can let you label things and where it really helps is letting you capture things. I've a ton of apps for capturing things.
I had those before the project though, and like simple note, like the notes app, whenever I have an idea or a thought or something that comes to me, I capture it. Right. But an app can't make you care to make you care about what you have to do. And only you can make you care. So that's kind of my favorite tactic is, and again, I suck at lightning rounds cause I ramble.
But at the start of every day, I fast forward mentally to the end of the day. And I think K what three things will, I want to have accomplished when the day is over and, you know, productivity isn't about how much you produce it's about how much you accomplish. And so that perfectly aligns productivity with that.
It gets you thinking about wins. It gets you thinking about accomplishments. It gets you kind of focusing all your time, your energy, and your attention in the right direction and step back, figure out what's important, but also figure out what's not important because by deciding so few things to accomplish, you decide at the same time, what you don't want to accomplish.
And I do the same at the start of every week. There's no app that'll make you care.
Jonathan Levi: No, that is so true. Although I will say that I love the setting, the goals every day, and there's this great browser plugin for Chrome called momentum. Right? I don't know if you've heard of it. No, basically what it does is you open it up in the morning.
It gives you a beautiful picture, gives you the time, says good morning, it gives you the temperature. And then it says, what is your main focus for today? It also syncs with your to-do list and whatever, but what is your main focus for today? And then every time you open a new tab, it's there. So like you open a tab to go to Facebook.
It's like your main focus for today is inbox zero, or get out that signed copy of the book you need to send to that. It's brilliant.
Chris Bailey: Because it lets you step back and decide is it lets you step back to and give you the space to care.
Jonathan Levi: Exactly. And it's got quotes. It's got like some nice little quote. It's very, very dramatic. The whole thing.
Chris Bailey: Be the Cinnabon you wish to eat in the world.
Jonathan Levi: Bingo. Bingo. I love that. That's Gandhi, right?
Chris Bailey: Yeah. I think Gandhi said that. I think he did. I might be getting that wrong.
Jonathan Levi: Potentially, let me ask you this. Chris, are there any questions I should've asked you that I did not?
Chris Bailey: Oh man, there are so many questions that you could have asked, but, and showed him and all of them you did not ask.
Jonathan Levi: I did not ask any of the questions.
Chris Bailey: I should have asked. Man. What was your intention with this interview? Maybe we should start there.
Jonathan Levi: Oh, that's but I liked that. That's the Jewish philosophy. Answer a question with a question.
Chris Bailey: Yeah. When you, when you don't know the answer, just to ask another question.
Jonathan Levi: And if you've ever seen a rabbi, well, what, what are you trying to get out of the experience?
Well, you know, as always, we want to give a clickable. Things that people can kind of hang up the iPod, get out of the car today and make it one or two changes in their daily life. Based on this episode that make an impact that helped them do more, be more, feel more.
Chris Bailey: Live, more loved more. Well, I think people got at least two things like.
Jonathan Levi: Oh yeah.
Chris Bailey: The rule of three men. That's massive. That's so massive. It's so simple. Right? Celebrities dying. Well, I mean, your brain thinks in threes, right? We have the three little pigs. We have three blind mice. We have gold, silver, and bronze for metals, our brains. I don't know what the evolutionary psychology behind this is, but there are examples of threes everywhere.
Our brains are trained to think in threes and we remember threes. Well, and so it's not necessarily that celebrities die in threes or things always happen in threes. It's just that when we connect the dots, looking backward, maybe this was a quote on one of those pages. Like Steve Jobs, you can only connect the dots, looking backward.
Not far. Yeah. No, when we look backward, we kind of group things into threes. I think that's one of the reasons the rule of three works so well. I really have three being mindful of that. Self-talk and knowing that it's human, the triggers for procrastination, I think we talked about a little bit, you know, being mindful of when you're procrastinating or when you're not motivated to do something and thinking, you know, how boring, how frustrating, difficult, meaningful, rewarding, ambiguous, unstructured as this task, making a plan to flip that too. And men, if you don't meditate already, even if it's just for like, whatever, we'll get you to start.
But one of my favorite tactics around meditation is. If I don't feel like meditating for half an hour on a certain day, which happens a lot of days because my brain is a normal brain and it resists everything like everyone. What I do is I shrink how long I'll meditate for in my head until I don't feel resistance to it.
And this tactics comes from my buddy, John. John has the coolest story. He was an ADHD, screw up his words, not mine. And he started meditating. He got really, really into meditation and his grades went up in high school and he graduated top of his class. And a few years after that, he graduated with a law degree from Harvard, what a turnaround, but all because he meditated so often one of his favorite things to do.
And one of my favorite tactics from him, Is, if you feel really resistant to meditating, maybe kind of have a conversation with yourself in your head. So instead of saying, I'm going to meditate for 30 minutes today and then keep putting that off, you know, shrink that and think, okay. Do I feel like meditating for 25 minutes?
Okay. What about 20 minutes now? The thought of it puts me off, kid. What about 20 minutes? Do you know? We're getting okay. What about 15 minutes? 15 minutes. Sounds good. I could do that. You know, I'll meditate for 15 minutes. Oh, I love them. What I like to do is I like to have one of my biggest kind of meditation tricks that I do is instead of having a timer count downwards, I have one count upwards.
There's no kind of limit. And that way you can kind of observe how resistant your mind is to meditation itself. It's kind of meta meditation where you can think like, okay, my mind is really resisting. This. My mind is really focusing on other things. Maybe I should sit here. And keep bringing my attention back to my breath until that stops.
And so, yeah, I think meditation reel of three plastination triggers and most importantly, the self-talk that we all have, at least when you step back enough to observe it awesome. Whether that takes burning man for you or a cancer camp, like whatever it happens to be, or just a nature walk, letting your mind get into that mode is crucial.
Jonathan Levi: I love that. And those are great points to end on Chris. I want to ask if people want to get in touch with you, learn more about your work, read the blog, check out the book. Where do we send them?
Chris Bailey: Yeah, my book is coming out on January 5th.
Jonathan Levi: Now what's that called?
Chris Bailey: It's called the Productivity Project.
There'll be published through Crown Business, which is a part of Penguin Random House. I'll have. Uh, blast out like a newsletter is stuff like that. If people actually want to check out my site, you know, there's no ads, there's no sponsorships. There's one of those annoying newsletter pop-ups that pops up from time to time, but you can click that X and never see that thing again.
Jonathan Levi: Cool.
Chris Bailey: That's probably the best place to find me.
Jonathan Levi: So ayearofproductivity.com.
Chris Bailey: Oh yeah, alifeofproductivity.com, a ayearofproductivity.com will go the exact same place. On Twitter as well, if people are into Twitter, my personal one is @wigglechicken and my professional one is at aloproductivity. It stands for a life of productivity,
Jonathan Levi: Love it. Chris, thank you so much. It's been such a pleasure laughing with you and learning with you today. And I do hope we keep in touch.
Chris Bailey: That was fun, man. Thanks for having me.
Jonathan Levi: A pleasure. Take care.
Chris Bailey: You too.
Closing: Thanks for tuning in to the Becoming SuperHuman Podcast. For more great skills and strategies, or for links to any of the resources mentioned in this episode, visit www.becomingasuperhuman.com/podcast. We'll see you next time.