Not Eating for Productivity.

Eat-Stop-Eat-Intermittent-FastingBefore I get to the core of this post I’d like to share a little back story.
I left University with a Bachelor of Music, a stack of unread books, a catalogue of lecture notes and a to-do list the length of my arm. I was overwhelmed with the enormity of my ambition.  I contemplated my options and made a plan.  I decided to invest one year of full-time study/practice at home, working only weekends and nights.  This was for the year 2010.
My first task for the year was to study the process of learning.  I figured that if I could improve my quality of learning I could get more done in less time.  Under the umbrella of learning I studied health, nutrition, fitness, sleep, meditation, happiness, task management, goal setting, art and art related theory, Alexander technique, presence and nootropics amongst other things.  Although I did get a lot healthier and a lot happier I wasn’t getting anything done.  I knew exactly what to do and how to do it but study itself became a form of procrastination.
So, my brain working the way it does, I decided to study productivity…….
Then, about two years later I started to get things done.  I started writing my own music.
Regardless of your goals and ambitions, how you think and process the world around you has a huge impact on your life and how you go about getting things done.  Clarity of thought, focus and energy can all be enhanced with small considerations to your diet and nutrition.  I’d like to share a few things that I have experimented with that may help you stay sharp and be more productive.
First things first, you’ve got to get your base-line diet under control.  The aim is to eliminate peaks and troughs and maintain consistent energy though out the day.  Avoiding sugar, grains and high GI carbs should do the trick.
Plan your meals.
If you know what you are going to eat (and roughly when you are going to eat it) you don’t have to waste energy thinking about food during the day.  Like will-power, decision making is a limited resource and when it’s up for the day – it’s up. Save your brain power for your work.
Bulletproof Coffee. 
I’ve been drinking Bulletproof Coffee every morning for the past two months now and it’s had the most impact on my day-to-day productivity than anything I’ve ever done.  Coffee stimulates the brain, the butter gives you energy (about 6 hours) without affecting the balance of your hormones and the MCT oil cranks your body into fat burning mode (the key to intermittent fasting).
Intermittent Fasting.
When you fast you tell yourself you’re not getting any food until a specific time, and until that time, work gets done. Different people recommend different periods for fasting based on an eating window. The most common is 16-8, 16 hours of fasting and 8 hours of eating.  Whatever 8 hours suits your schedule.
If you are interested in intermittent fasting I would recommend taking a look at Dave Asprey’s Bulletproof fasting, Leangains, Paul Jaminet or James Clear.
Supplements and Other Specific Foods.
I find that most supplements that claim to boost memory, focus and clarity of thought are not really measurable.  Because you are sitting down and doing your work, you’ll never know if the supplements are helping or you are just practicing the process of focusing your brain.  This is similar to specific foods recommended for brain health, like blueberries, wild caught salmon or mixed nuts. They’ll get you on the right track to a clean diet but they won’t make you sit down and do your work (what is actually important).
Once you have your diet and sleep under control you may need a little help getting the work done.
The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. 
Regardless of what you are trying to get done this book will help.  It’s short and beautifully written.
The Seinfeld Method. 
James Clear wrote this excellent post on the Seinfeld method and it is well worth a read.  Basically, your aim is to do your task every day and be accountable.  Seinfeld recommends a yearly calendar, when you start crossing off days with a red X you won’t want to stop.
 
If you would like any more information or recommended reading leave a comment and I’ll get back to you.
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On Knowing Too Much

I’ve been experimenting with intermittent fasting (fasting for sixteen hours then eating within an eight hour window) over the last couple of weeks. I thought it was going great. I felt good, I rarely felt hungry outside of the eight hour window, I had plenty of energy and I was sleeping well … until I started listening to podcasts and reading articles about how intermittent fasting isn’t good for women. Hearing all of the horror stories about persistent acne, disordered eating, smashed up hormones and adrenals and other ‘side effects’ freaked me out.

(Image via ninapaley.com)

All of a sudden, little things started to turn into bigger, more sinister things. The pimple that appeared out of the blue became an omen that my hormones are out of whack and I am going to get acne that would never go away. The bad night’s sleep due to nightmares when I usually sleep well and rarely have nightmares equals stressed out adrenals. Not losing any weight from fasting – not that I really care about weight loss – equals a screwed up metabolism. A rare headache … something fishy is going on here.

When you start paying attention to what you eat and how it affects you, you notice the tiniest changes within yourself. The problem is that sometimes the cause of the change isn’t always clear.

Is it the fasting, or did I accidentally ingest some gluten when I went out for dinner? Am I just tired from work? Pushing it too hard at CrossFit? Am I being slowly poisoned because I drank tap water when I ran out of spring water? Is it because I can’t afford to eat 100% organic and I have been eating more vegetables, thus more pesticides, herbicides and who knows what else?

It’s very easy to over-complicate these kinds of things. Instead of listening to other people’s stories, I’m getting back to basics, listening to my body and doing what it tells me to do. Thankfully, there have been no more pimples, nightmares or headaches. I’m staying away from the scales because I don’t want this to turn into an exercise in weight loss. I eat when I’m hungry, and it just so happens I am usually only hungry in the eight hour window. If I am hungry in the sixteen hour fasting period, I eat. I stop when I’m not hungry anymore.

Trial and error. What works for me might not work for you. Experiment, document, research and explore, then do it all over again until you find what works, what is true for you.

What experiments have you undertaken to improve your health? What is your truth? I’d love to hear about it!