I tracked everything I did for three days. What I learned about eating and productivity is staggering!
Last year I listened to one episode of Rich Roll’s podcast and they mentioned one concept that touched me deeply. It was about how we can die at any moment but we like to think and behave like we were immortal. We put things off for later, self-sabotage and even wonder why we are not getting results we want in life.
What if, for a moment you truly believed this was the last day of your life?! What would you do differently? One of the guests brought a good point: I would go out and enjoy the life and everything I could! So this question does not lead us to think and act without sabotaging our efforts and leave a mark in this world. Yet, many people use this question with intention to improve their productivity.
Ask a wrong question and you get a wrong answer…
The exercise and why I did it
Instead, a different exercise is much better to get in charge of your life and get a deep insight into your life! Rich mentioned writing down your daily activities in 15 minutes increments. I loved this idea right away!
But for most part, it might be impratical and unnecessary. Therefore, I adjusted it a bit. I logged all my activities to the point of interruption. Sometimes it was five minutes, the other times 15 or 30. But certainly I was not stopping myself every 15 minutes to write down what I had been doing the previous 15 minutes. I mean, that would defy the purpose at times!
What I learned
First and foremost I got instantly more productive. Not when analyzing it, not after analyzing it, but at any moment throughout the day. The exercise lead me to be mindful about my activities. I was more mindful, intentional and productive. I believe it is the biggest value of the exercise – it puts your mind to the present moment.
Now I will go over what I observed in the areas of my eating habits, work & productivity, workouts.
It all started with adjusting my eating habits. My long term goal is to successfully practice eating in alignment with my body. To successfully implement this style of eating you need to be able to correctly interpret your hunger and satiety signals and when to listen to them and when maybe you should not.
What I noticed a long time ago is that I always eat at the TV or in my room interacting with computer. While I don’t have problem with overeating, I was not fully satisfied with this habit. Eating and watching became inseparable acts in my life and it became annoying to me. I could not watch and sit because the thought about food would start bugging me in the back of my mind. Although I don’t act on this trigger, it takes from my whole experience of enjoying food or TV show.
Second thing I noticed is that my day revolves around food. Either I needed to have food with me to be satisfied or I needed to get back to my house to have a meal or not eat at all (I don’t enjoy eating out. If I do it has to be an experience). It was an obstacle I put in front of myself. Again, this was very limiting to my productivity, when i did not have my bento box with me.
I am enjoying eating in the kitchen as opposed at my computer screen. If I am watching at computer I might think I need extra food as I can’t just sit and watch. When I am starting my meal, TV is to compliment the food, but I finish eating before finishing the TV show and the roles reverse. Food is to compliment watching.
Work & Productivity
Mindful spending of blocked time
It is easy to say you don’t have time. I encounter that every day in relation to exercise and meal preparation.
During my time-tracking period I noticed I had multiple blocks of five minutes or less when I was doing nothing. It was while waiting for a bus or a tram. Getting conscious of it lead me to use those blocks meaningfully. I started stretching, answering to emails and to my clients, or do a few sets of pushups.
Like many people do without being aware of it, I also have been spending a lot of time multitasking. I had already known that multitasking is anything but productive, yet the actions I take daily lead me to multitask. You probably make similar decisions.
Let’s have an example!
I prepared a breakfast,turned on the computer and launched Netflix. With it, I opened Facebook, emails and before I knew I had twelve tabs open. I was not watching the TV series at that time, I was not eating my breakfast and definitely I was not mindful about any of it!
Being mindful about it by putting my attention to the present moment allowed me to be more productive. Now I try to focus on one thing at a time and although it is challenging, it is what I need to get used to.
I also get out of house and stay out till it is time for rest. The flat is a cave, a retreat. It is place where I can have a nutritious breakfast, a dinner, where I can prepare my food and have no stress associated with it. But when I am out, I am out. I have no distractions in form of computer and I remove myself from certain triggers that lead me to activities unrelated to work.
Having had breakfast in the morning before the meeting set me up for productivity because I did not need to go back home for breakfast. Get out and stay out ! This is a trend I noticed long time ago. My productivity is directly tied to being out of the house and having food accessible.
Conclusions and Changes I made
I started to use my surroundings to my advantage. I eat in kitchen, work in office, coach and relax in my room. (I will change that in future as well).
During work-week, I get out of house and stay out till it is time for rest.
Changing the environment you are in is one of the most powerful interventions.
Over time you create triggers,reactions, and associations connected to the environment you spend time in.
You enter the kitchen and you feel certain way. You come to your work place and you experience different feelings. That is why each room has it’s purpose.
Having breakfast in the kitchen lead to another change in my behaviour. I used to turn on the computer in the morning and spend time on it, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but the way I spent my time did not lead to productive mornings.
While I can be productive in the presence of computer (like when writing this article), it is much easier to avoid it and not turn it on in the morning at all.
This does not apply to everybody. For example I can be productive on phone and many people can’t. My direct association with phone is – work, get better and be productive.