For those focusing on developing themselves, managing time effectively is extremely important. After all, if we want to be excellent, then we have to use our time in an excellent manner.
This means we have to use our dead time effectively. To be clear, dead time is unavoidable time that isn’t typically productive, such as our daily commute to work or time spent doing housework. These things are unavoidable. But that doesn’t mean they have to be unproductive too.
And this is where podcasts come in. They’re the perfect way to make your dead time a little more useful and a little less… well, dead.
All you need to do is listen. You can continue turning the steering wheel or washing dishes. But now you’re absorbing information as well. On that note, audiobooks serve the exact same purpose. But this article is going to ignore them and focus on podcasts.
I’ve found that listening to a good conversation between two brilliant people can do several things for you:
Firstly, it grounds you. Because while you listen, you realize that even successful people have problems just like yours. You realize how much you have in common with them. You realize that they aren’t special. This realization is important for effective learning.
Secondly, hearing about their methods and the struggles that they’ve had to overcome can be very inspirational. I can’t count how many times I’ve finished an episode and been immediately motivated to do something difficult or important.
Lastly and most importantly – they’re a well of information. The people on these podcasts are successful for a reason. It’s rare that an episode won’t have at least one piece of information that could be incredibly useful to you in your own life.
Finding Mastery is hosted by Dr. Michael Gervais – a high performance psychologist that’s worked with the world’s best high-stakes performers, from Olympians to CEOs.
And these are exactly the kinds of people that he interviews.
The conversations are very thoughtful and Gervais really tries to zoom in on the behaviours and mindsets that has led to these people finding success. Simply from the style of conversation and the questions he asks, it’s quite clear that the host has a background in psychology. It provides a unique, important perspective.
The episodes are available on the Finding Mastery website as well as most major podcast platforms including Apple, Android, Spotify and Stitcher.
Kwik Brain is hosted by Jim Kwik and his story is nothing short of inspiring. To summarize: he’s had to overcome not one, but two separate brain injuries throughout his life. These injuries left him with learning difficulties.
So, he learned how to learn. And now he’s passing that information on.
Kwik Brain differs from the other podcasts on this list because its episodes are quite short. Averaging at around 10-20 minutes each, the episodes aim to provide simple and practical advice for specific problems. Personally, I prefer longer episodes that dive into the content a bit deeper. But Kwik Brain is practical and you’ll always be able to fit an episode in. Many of you will love it.
The episodes are available on Jim Kwik’s website as well as most major podcast platforms.
The James Altucher Show is hosted by… you guessed it – James Altucher. And he’s one talented dude – an entrepreneur, investor and best-selling author.
He has a wide range of guests many of whom are extremely successful in their own right. And his forthright personality creates interesting conversation.
The episodes are available on James Altucher’s website as well as most major podcast platforms.
Jordan Harbinger is a former co-host of ‘The Art of Charm’, one of the oldest self-improvement-style podcasts around. But now he’s moved on to hosting his own show and it’s awesome.
Harbinger focuses on delivering actionable information, even including worksheets to be completed for each episode. Obviously, this isn’t ideal if you’re driving to work, but the option is there.
The episodes are available on Jordan Harbinger’s website, YouTube and most major podcast platforms.
Aubrey Marcus is the founder and CEO of health and supplement hot shot – Onnit – and has recently written a book that I highly recommend.
His style is quite different to many of the other podcasts on this list. Where others are scientific and analytical, Marcus opts for a more emotional approach. It makes for something different, but it’s a good different.
The episodes are available on Aubrey Marcus’ website, YouTube and most major podcast platforms.
Regular readers will already be fairly familiar with Impact Theory. I mention it a lot. The host is Tom Bilyeu, co-founder of multimillion-dollar company – Quest Nutrition. Bilyeu has moved on from Quest and is now working on building Impact Theory – which aims to be much more than a talk show.
Bilyeu is an inspiring person to follow for self-improvement fanatics. He opens his interviews with the belief that human potential is nearly limitless and the questions he asks reflect that. It’s all about learning and absorbing information.
The episodes are available on the Impact Theory website, YouTube and most major podcast platforms.
The Life Coach School is my most recent discovery and I’m enthralled by it. Hosted by life coach Brooke Castillo, the school aims to not only teach people how to improve at life but to teach people how to be so good that they can coach others through life as well.
The content all seems to be widely applicable and insightful. Many of the episodes are on the shorter side, so I’d recommend listening to one or two and deciding for yourself.
The episodes are available on the Life Coach School website, YouTube and most major podcast platforms.
The School of Greatness is another recent discovery of mine and I’ve loved every single episode I’ve listened to. The host former is former athlete and now entrepreneur, Lewis Howes and that range of expertise is clear when he interviews.
Initially, it struck me as very similar to Impact Theory in its interview style. But something about Howes’ personality and the questions he asks is able to draw out the most useful insights that a conversation has to offer.
The episodes are available on Lewis Howes’ website, YouTube and most major podcast platforms.
For those unfamiliar with Joe Rogan, he’s a talented man. He’s found success in stand-up comedy, martial arts, business and television (Remember Fear Factor… Yeah, he was the host).
Perhaps due to his background in comedy, Rogan is able to effortlessly flow with and bounce off his guests. It makes for conversations that are less one-sided and more entertaining than many of the other interview-style podcasts on this list. And it does all of this without losing any potential for informational value. The episodes are also much longer, often reaching the 3-hour mark.
In general, the Joe Rogan Experience is both the most natural and the most entertaining of all of the podcasts on this list.
The episodes are available on the Joe Rogan podcast website, YouTube and most major podcast platforms.
Tim Ferriss is one of the most well-known self-improvement icons in the world. He’s seen incredible success in business, investing and writing, the last of which he uses to pass on what he’s learned.
It’s only fitting that the Tim Ferriss Show takes the top spot for self-improvement podcasts.
The sole reason it trumps the Joe Rogan Experience is due to Ferriss’ absolute mastery of drawing out unique insights and helpful information. He’s spent years experimenting with methods, efficiency and failure. And this is exactly the angle he brings into his interviews. If you want to learn from the best, you can’t do any better than the Tim Ferriss Show.
The episodes are available on Tim Ferriss’ website, YouTube and most major podcast platforms.
For anyone interested in learning from podcasts, these 10 are a good place to start.
You can easily access all of them via phone apps as well. If you have an iPhone or iPad, you can use Apple Podcasts which comes installed on your phone by default. Those on Android can use Google Podcasts. Or you can download Spotify on either.
If there are any podcasts I’ve missed, let me know in the comments. I’m always looking for recommendations.
I’ve been fascinated with endurance challenges for a while now. Something about the combination of physicality and mental resilience draws me in.
But despite my interest, I’d never attempted one. I have completed Tough Mudder, but it doesn’t fall into the category of an endurance challenge for me. It’s not quite the test of mental grit that I’m after.
I’d considered running a marathon, but the legs and feet require training to be able to manage such a distance. And running bores the hell out of me. Spending several hours a day training for a marathon is something I’m simply not willing to do. So, for a while, the endurance challenge idea was left on the backburner.
But in late 2018, while listening to an episode of the Joe Rogan Experience, entrepreneur Jesse Itzler mentioned a concept called ‘misogi’. It’s a Japanese practice of ritual purification that typically involves people drenching themselves in freezing cold water.
But this wasn’t exactly what Itzler meant when he used the term. You see, it’s been adopted as the name for a certain kind of extreme challenge. Itzler’s explanation makes it a bit clearer:
“The notion around the misogi is, you do something so hard one time a year, that is has an impact the other 364 days of the year”
Upon hearing this line, I was immediately captivated and wanted to know more.
A quick google search led me to the men that originated this new misogi concept.
Among them are a Harvard-trained sports scientist, an NBA player, a real estate investor and a former Olympic skier. And all of them come together to push their limits in insane ways.
To date, they’ve completed two misogi challenges:
Both of these challenges took hours of relentless grinding. And that’s the point.
For a clearer picture of the misogi, I’d recommend reading the article.
But for those that don’t have the time or can’t be bothered, there seems to be several main principles behind a misogi challenge:
“This is about testing your abilities in a foreign environment,” he says. “The more blind, the more bold and adventurous the effort.” There’s no entry fee. No spectators. “It’s not a ride at Disneyland or a Tough Mudder,” he says. “It’s a personal quest designed by you. And it’s really fucking hard. You have a 50 percent chance of success, at best.”
I fell in love with this idea while I was reading. A little while later, I’d contacted some friends that I knew would be interested and we began to discuss ideas.
Eventually, we settled on one – a 5km bear crawl along the beach.
For those who are unfamiliar with the term, bear crawling is an exercise used in the fitness industry that involves walking on hands and feet… like a bear.
We planned out a 400-metre course along the beach, and planned to do 12 and a half laps in order to complete the 5,000 metres.
Myself and my friend Miles arrive on the beach at the beginning of our pre-marked course. It’s around 10am on a gusty, overcast Saturday. The howling sea breeze is blowing sand in our faces and it’s freezing cold.
It’s meant to be the middle of Summer. We can’t help but laugh at how ridiculous this all is.
Already, things aren’t going as expected. But there’s no backing out. We get down on our hands and start walking.
I travel about 10 metres and stop. Miles has stopped as well. The soft sand is unstable and doesn’t support our weight properly. The result is painful pressure on the wrists. We didn’t plan for this. Hell, we didn’t plan at all, other than the distance we’d travel. And we’ve hardly managed 10 metres; 5km will be downright impossible.
Eventually, Miles suggests that we move onto the firmer sand near the water. It works. Our wrists still hurt a little, but the sand is stable enough to work with now. Unfortunately, our bodies simply aren’t used to moving like this for extended periods. We’ve overcome the wrist problem, but our shoulders and legs are still only able to support us in 15-20 metre bursts before we need a rest. The stop-start progress is slow going.
Several hours later, we’re both sore and exhausted. In that time, the clouds have rained on us and cleared into the sunny day that we’d been hoping for. My hands and wrists are bruised and a recovering shoulder injury vehemently protests each step. But the worst part? We’ve only completed 1,600 metres.
5 kilometres seems impossible now. We’ve given up. But we agree to go for one more agonizing lap to make it an even 2 kilometres.
Miles walked alongside me for the final 30 metres– he’d already finished, he was ahead of me all day. Upon reaching the finish line, I dropped to my knees with a groan – something I’d done many times that day. But none felt as good as that final time. Because it meant the ordeal was over.
As advertised, uncertainty was a huge part of the challenge. The lack of wrist support, the crazy weather and the fear of injuries were all things that we had to try to overcome in the moment. This only emphasizes the need for people to confront uncertainty. Life is uncertain. Things will happen that can’t be prepared for. We all need to learn to embrace it.
Looking back now, I’m happy with how far we went. But at the same time, I’m convinced that we could have gone further. I’m convinced that we could have pushed through that next layer of pain and limitations.
As a result, I consider our 2-kilometre bear crawl to be a trial run. I plan to attempt another misogi within the next 6 months.
I’m open to suggestions. Leave them in the comments!
Are you doing enough exercise?
We’ve all heard this question and others like it many times. We’re told over and over again that we need to be exercising, almost as if we’ll be punished if we don’t.
But we’re rarely told why.
And that’s my reason for writing this article. I want you to know the benefits that you’ll receive from regular exercise. I want it to be clear.
There are more reasons to exercise than we could count. Which is why this list will focus on the prominent ones.
They’re all benefits that are common motivators for people and supported by scientific research. In fact, I’d say that at least one of these would apply to every single person that finds themselves routinely exercising.
Exercising makes you stronger. This is particularly the case when doing exercise that is specifically designed to that end, such as weight lifting and calisthenics. However, it’s true of other forms of exercise such as team sports as well. Quite simply, using muscles regularly makes them stronger and more durable.
But this is common knowledge. What many people don’t realize is that it can strengthen your bones as well.
I first heard of this during a personal training course a few years ago. The material actually recommended resistance training for people over the age of 65. Now, it wasn’t suggesting that Gladys should be thrown on the bench to start pumping her own body weight. But it did advocate the principle that subjecting our body to resistance increases the strength of the entire musculoskeletal system – including the bones.
We do not stop exercising because we grow old – we grow old because we stop exercising.
On a similar note, research on bone health in athletes between 10 and 30 years of age found that participating in sports that involve high or odd impact lead to bones that are denser and have higher mineral compositions. This reduces the chances of breaking or fracturing a bone – which is extremely important as we get older.
However, forms of exercise without impact, such as swimming and cycling did not receive any noticeable improvements in bone strength.
Spending more energy on exercise actually leads to feeling more energetic. It seems quite counter-intuitive doesn’t it? But it’s real.
Most people have experienced the inverse – spending an entire day on the couch and expending very little energy, only to feel tired and sluggish.
The reality is that regular exercise increases how energetic you feel. And this is supported by science.
Studies into feelings of energy and fatigue found that, there was a strong and consistent relationship between amounts of physical activity and feelings of energy or fatigue.
There’s even research into chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) that shows that exercise can help in a variety of ways. For sufferers of CFS; physical activity led to an improvement in sleep, physical function and self-perceived general health.
Going for a run can actually make you happier. It’s true, I swear.
Why? Because of endorphins. In simple terms, endorphins are chemicals in our brain that make us feel pleasure. They’re released due to certain triggers, such as food or sex.
And you can probably guess what one of these triggers is: Exercise.
Physical activity actually makes us feel happier. So much so that research has found that it can have positive effects on those experiencing anxiety or depression. And while exercise produces endorphins, it also reduces stress hormone levels. Yep, it relaxes you too.
All of this might seem a bit too good to be true. But it actually makes perfect sense when you think about it. Human beings aren’t designed to spend hours on the couch or behind a desk. We spent thousands of years evolving to run, hunt and forage. Our bodies are designed to move. So really, it’s no wonder that moving makes us feel good.
Movement is a medicine for creating change in a person’s physical, emotional, and mental states.
Not only does exercise make our waking hours more enjoyable, but it also improves our time spent asleep. It makes sense that moving our body more should mean that it has a greater need for repair and therefore sleep.
In any case, the research on the relationship between physical activity and sleep can be aptly summarized via a quote:
“Regular exercise has small beneficial effects on total sleep time and sleep efficiency, small-to-medium beneficial effects on sleep onset latency, and moderate beneficial effects on sleep quality.”
It’s pretty straightforward. Moving your body during the day results in you resting better at night. Again, when we consider how humans have evolved over thousands of years, information like this is hardly a surprise.
I deliberately left this reason until last, because it’s almost certainly the most common reason people begin exercising. This is especially the case with modern trend towards gyms.
When we use our muscles regularly, they grow in size. When we burn more energy than we consume, the body fat melts away. The natural result of this combination is a more attractive body. But it’s not just the attractive body that you’re gaining here. The real reward is the confidence that comes with it.
It sounds quite vain, but it’s anything but. Because it’s not simply about receiving more attention from the opposite sex. Where the confidence really comes from is the understanding of what you’re capable of. Anyone who’s ever tried to drop down to 6% body fat knows that your greatest enemy is yourself.
Achieving the body that you desire requires discipline and sacrifice. Anyone who’s able to get it learns a great deal about themselves and what they’re capable of. And that creates a much firmer confidence than what’s received from attention.
It is a shame for a man to grow old without seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable.
These are all great reasons to get your body moving regularly. I’m confident that at least one of them gave you some kind of motivation.
For anyone that was inspired to start exercising more but doesn’t know how to begin, here are a few ideas:
Running and home workouts can be done practically anywhere. The others will all have locations near you that can let you get your feet wet.
Above all, you should aim for something you can enjoy. It’s much easier to exercise consistently when you enjoy it.
The world around us is made up of only two factors: The things we can control and the things we can’t.
Everything falls into these two categories. From the people and objects in our environment to the problems we face each day. Stephen R. Covey referred to these in his book – The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. His explanation used two circles, the circle of concern and the circle of influence.
The circle of concern covers everything in our life that affects us. The circle of influence, on the other hand, includes everything within our life that we can impact or effect.
A typical person’s life represented by these circles would look something like this:
We can influence a lot of different aspects of our lives, but not everything. We don’t have control over the weather. And we don’t have control over whether or not our boss comes to work angry because of a fight with their partner.
In case you’re wondering, it is possible for people to have a circle of influence larger than their circle of concern. But it usually only happens when the person holds significant power such as billionaires and celebrities. A movie star might hold sway over what thousands of children wear when they go to school – but he probably doesn’t care. He’s focused on making movies.
It’s important to understand the difference between what we control and what we influence. To control means that we have complete authority over. For example, we can control whether or not we eat a donut.
But I can’t control whether or not my friend Amy eats a donut. I might be able to convince her not to eat it. Or she might be inspired when she sees me resisting the donut. We can influence Amy, but we can’t control her.
That’s the difference. There is no ambiguity in control. If we can control, we can get exactly what we want. But influencing means we can impact it, but can’t guarantee the results we want.
If we add that circle inside the circle of influence, then we have this:
We’ll come back to these circles in a moment, but for now, let’s talk about why this concept is important in the first place – our tendency to worry.
We’re all familiar with that feeling. Something has gone wrong and we’re not sure how it’s going to work out. That uncertainty is what creates the discomfort. We don’t know if we’re going to be okay or not.
It’s a horrible and often unnecessary feeling.
So, why do we worry?
According to Dr. Seth Gillihan from Psychology Today, the main reason that we continue to worry in uncertain moments is simple. In the past, we’ve worried about something and everything has turned out okay. The result is our brain pairing that feeling of worry with a positive outcome. The brain becomes convinced that worrying helps us get the result that we want.
And sometimes it can. That dreadful feeling can certainly motivate us into action and might help solve the problem.
It reminds me of the fight or flight response that the human body takes towards fear. If we compare them, it seems likely that we evolved to experience worry in order to push us towards action when we need it.
But just like the fight or flight fear response, it often doesn’t help at all in our modern lives. Worse than that, it actually makes our lives harder. Severe worry is stressful. It prevents us from resting and relaxing. It hinders our ability to go about our day and take care of our lives. It takes control of our thoughts and saps our energy.
“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
It seems pretty clear now that most of our time and energy should be spent on things within our circle of control.
We should be conscious of and spend a moderate amount of time in the circle of influence as well. We have to interact with other people and communities on a daily basis – it’s important to pay quality attention to it.
But the circle of concern should be ignored. We should aim for it to have no power over us. Easier said than done of course.
This attitude isn’t just appropriate for combating worry. It’s also a solid principle to take into all areas of your life. After all, what better way to be productive than to cut out the time spent on things that you have minimal control over.
You can find the first step to solving almost any problem, by asking ‘what can I control?’. I love this approach, not just because of how comforting it can be, but also because it has several other benefits:
A proactive mindset involves being aware of what you want out of life and the kinds of behaviours that are important to get there. The linked article will go into more detail, but it’s definitely something worth thinking about.
The ability to recognize and ignore the things that you can’t control is an important step towards developing it.
Proactivity also happens to be the first of the 7 habits featured in Stephen Covey’s book.
The hardest part of worrying about uncertain situations is the point where you start to spiral. Your mind runs away with the worst-case scenario and you feel worse and worse.
This is where determining a course of action within your control helps significantly. In my experience, actually doing something productive forces you to focus on that activity and interrupts the spiral. It also allows you to ease some of the pent-up tension through activity.
Of course, the most important benefit of worrying less is simple – happiness. And that at least, is something worth pursuing. So, take a moment to think. How much time do you spend in your circle of control?
“If there is no solution to the problem then don’t waste time worrying about it. If there is a solution to the problem then don’t waste time worrying about it.” ― The Dalai Lama
Procrastination can be a nasty demon to overcome. It’s a constant threat. And it’s capable of destroying our productivity.
This is especially the case in the age of computers and phones. We’re always hooked up to millions of potential distractions. I couldn’t tell you the number of times I’ve been writing or researching an article only to give in to the temptation and click on a YouTube video. It might only be 10 minutes long, but a few of those and a terribly unproductive hour has passed.
It may not seem like a big deal, but if you lose an hour each day, it quickly stacks up into a big pile of wasted time. And that’s time that could be used for something more productive. It also happens to be a compounding problem. Each time you give in to temptation, you’re reinforcing it. Procrastinating is becoming a habit. And that leads to even more time being wasted.
We can’t afford that. Luckily, there’s a brilliant solution – the Pomodoro Technique.
The technique was created by Francesco Cirillo, during his university days while looking for ways to be more productive. Now, many years later, he’s the owner of Cirillo consulting and has worked at the peak of the software industry for over 20 years. Seems like it worked.
When I first heard of the technique, I was apprehensive. I thought that taking breaks so frequently would hurt more than it would help. But, after using the technique myself, I can safely promise that it’s an extremely effective system for both time management and efficiency.
The technique is a simple 6 step process:
The first step is easy. Pick something you want to complete. Be specific. If you’re studying, you might complete chapters 1-8 of the book. But don’t just work mindlessly. Have a goal.
Set your timer for 25 minutes. This can be done using a phone or an egg timer. Or, if you’re on a computer, you can use Google’s in-built timer.
Now comes the important part. This 25-minute period is the core of the technique and is referred to as a Pomodoro. Move the timer to somewhere you can’t see it, and focus on your task. Keep working until you hear the timer.
Every time you feel the need to check your phone, go on YouTube or eat some chips; stop and file that away for your next break. If somebody wants to speak to you, ask them to wait 25 minutes. If you think of something important, quickly write it down and then wait until the next break to attend to it.
You can’t pause the timer – the Pomodoro period stops for no one.
Once the timer rings, congratulations, you’ve completed your first Pomodoro. To celebrate, you’re going to put a checkmark on a piece of paper. You’ll do this after each Pomodoro in order to keep track of how many you’ve done. Why will become clear in step 6.
Easy right? You’ve done this thousands of times. You can now give in to all of those temptations that popped up during the pomodoro. The key here is that you’re giving in to them on your own terms. You’ve earnt them.
The hard part is keeping the break period short. The recommended break time is 5 minutes, but mine often go closer to 10. Try to avoid that – aim for 5.
I mentioned earlier that you’re keeping count of your Pomodoro’s. It’s because every 4 (around about every 2 hours) will earn you a longer break.
This break should be around 30 minutes and really gives you a chance to loosen up after a long period of work. The longer break will give your brain a chance to digest and commit the important information to memory (This is especially important for studying).
When it comes to the rewards that you earn during your breaks, you’ll need to be careful. A long YouTube video can often lead to others and end up wasting a lot of time. In the same vein, returning a phone call could easily lead to a 15-minute conversation.
The aim of your break is to provide a small reward for your efforts and to give your mind a chance to unwind and refresh. 5 minutes should be the aim.
The method is fantastic. But I think it’s also important to understand why it works. To that end, here are several key principles that make the Pomodoro technique so effective:
The Pomodoro technique converts work into a sort of game.
Now, you have a clear objective in finishing the Pomodoro, which will be immediately rewarded with the break and distraction. This is important because of dopamine – a feel good chemical in the brain.
Dopamine is released whenever we do something that has historically made us feel good. In some cases, this might be bad habits too such as drinking alcohol or eating foods high in sugar.
It also happens to be released when you give in to that urge to procrastinate by checking Facebook or reading a text. Which is why it’s so difficult to stop yourself.
But the technique uses this to its advantage by ensuring the chemical is released at break time. The Pomodoro technique cannot stop dopamine, but it can ensure that you associate the dopamine hit with your regular break periods.
And, now that you’re playing a game, choosing to procrastinate outside of your break period becomes a failure – a negative experience.
We all know what it’s like to be so intimidated by a monumental task that we avoid starting altogether.
Which is why 25-minute work periods are so effective. Anyone can tackle an unpleasant task for less than half an hour. It’s short enough that getting it over and done with seems to be the better option.
Perhaps the most important benefit to the technique is how it trains you to be able to focus for short periods.
Spending frequent and consistent 25-minute chunks working will build neural pathways and habits to that end. As you use the Pomodoro technique more and more, you’ll become increasingly able to focus for short periods. Your work will be less likely to be interrupted by procrastination and you’ll stay on topic.
And that’s all there is to it. The Pomodoro technique gives you the power to control your tendency to procrastinate. You can delay distractions and gratification. Which means that you call the shots.
And it’s easy to implement. I recommend trying it for a day or two. See how much you get done. Especially if you’re sceptical. As I mentioned earlier – I was at first.
Let me know how it goes in the comments.