Richard Branson’s Productivity Hack Isn’t Really A Hack At All
Common sense we can learn from Richard Branson, Tim Cook, Elon Musk, & Mark Zuckerberg
I’ve been following Richard Branson on Twitter for quite sometime. His Twitter feed is almost disproportionately filled with images extolling adventure and sport: surfing, tennis, a thirty day cycling trip from the top of Switzerland to the bottom of Italy. For a man that runs a billion dollar company, he seems to stay insanely active.
Recently, Branson posted a tweet ‘why smart businesspersons take care of their wellbeing’ with a link to a blog post crediting an active lifestyle to his over 50 years of success. This made me think of passage I read in Tim Ferriss’s Four Hour Body.
When Richard Branson was asked ‘how do you become more productive’ he replied, ‘work out.’ Branson said that working out gave him 4 more hours of productivity each day. Deceptively simple, yet incredibly effective.
Tim Cook, Elon Musk, and Mark Zuckerberg all keep a strict daily workout regimen (the list of uber successful & busy leaders who count exercise as a key element of productivity is vast).
“What’s the fastest way for someone to improve their inner game? Improve your outer game.” — Richard Branson
The fact that exercise increases productivity exponentially is not revelatory. Moderate exercise, we’re talking a 20–30 minute walk, can work wonders for energy, stress, focus, and memory. As Tony Schwartz famously said, ‘manage your energy, not your time.’
How Exactly Does Exercise Improve Productivity?
More Energy: Your brain contains something called mitochondria which produces energy. When you exercise your body develops more mitochondria which leads to you having more energy.
Sharper Focus: Exercise improves your brain in the short term by raising focus for 2–3 hours after a workout. In the long term, people who exercise have a higher brain cell growth rate.
Increased Happiness: Intense exercise releases a huge amount of endorphins and serotonin into the body. It’s basically the natural form of Zoloft.
Better Concentration: Those same endorphins are also responsible for prioritization and impulse control. After exercise you are better situated to block out distraction and concentrate on what is most important.
Improved Memory: The American College of Sport Medicine published a study where memory was tested in two groups: one was allowed to exercise, the other was not. The group that exercised scored much higher on the memory test.
Improved Sharpness & Mental Activity: Exercise increases oxygen flow to the brain which increases mental activity and sharpness.
Short of running in the middle of the night or waking up at 5am there are some simple things we can do to hack productivity.
Some Tips To Help You Get Started
On a recent episode of one of my favorite podcasts, Smart Passive Income (#228 Taking Care Of Yourself As An Entrepreneur), trainer Jeff McMahon gives some great hacks to help you get started:
1. First thing in the morning drink a glass of water with squeezed lemon. Lemon in your water is going to help jump start your metabolism and get your body burning fat. It also flushes toxins out of your body.
2. Your body sleeps in hour and half intervals. To maximize sleep and energy it’s best to sleep 6, 7.5, or 9 hours in a night. Waking up in-between those intervals is what causes grogginess. There is a great app called Sleep Cycle that helps monitor your sleep.
3. Start small with little wins. Walking 10,000 steps each day (or roughly 5 miles) burns 500–600 calories. This could be walking your dog, walking to work, or walking during a meeting (Mark Zuckerberg regularly takes meetings while walking).
4. Cardio is good but resistance training is better. You only burn fat for 2–3 hours after doing cardio compared to 16–48 hours with resistance training.
5. Don’t have time for the gym? Buy dumbbells and a stability ball and you have all the gym you need. Thirty minutes 3–4 days a week of resistance exercise will give you the most bang for your buck
Thirty minutes a day to enhance energy, mood, focus, memory, and sharpness…or you could always wait until someone develops the real NZT-48.