Your energy level is as important to your happiness
and success as leveraging your time. Leveraging your energy will allow you to
make the most effective use of that time. Effectiveness is the key. Energy
allows you to be present and focused in the moment. It allows you to be creative
Energy allows you to do more than go through the motions of a
task; it helps you achieve the end goal. Your energy and time are opposite sides
of the coin. By using both, synergy will propel you forward at a faster
A common fault of many people is that they expect to perform
at a high level, but then fail to take care of themselves in a way that allows
them to perform at maximum efficiency. Stamina isn’t the only thing that suffers
because of poor health.
Peak performers in boardrooms, chess tournaments, and video
game contests have all come to the same conclusion. It’s difficult to make clear
choices and operate at a highly effective mental level when your overall health
It may sound strange that one’s health will influence the
performance of non-physical contests and activities, but the ability to think
clearly is more difficult when the body is struggling because of poor diet and
lack of exercise.
By not looking after your basic health, you reduce more than
your ability to think creatively or to reach the highest levels of thought.
Critical thinking and other reasoning skills are impaired because of poor
We often make our worst choices, give in to our deepest
despair, and decide to throw in the towel at times of sickness or when our
health is otherwise compromised. Good habits and robust systems are necessary to
overcome those times when our bodies fail us, so that those habits and systems
kick in to save us when our temple is under attack.
While we can’t control when we get sick, we can reduce the
frequency by making better life choices and being attentive to our health. We
also have substantial control over our weight, strength, and energy level
through what we eat, drink, how frequently we engage in rigorous activities, and
the time we give ourselves to recuperate and rest.
I won’t sit here and preach about what you can’t eat and drink
or tell you when to engage in physical activity. Those are choices you must make
on your own based on what works best for you. I can, however, tell you that
certain behaviors will improve your overall health. Whether you choose to do
them is up to you.
It’s not surprising, then, that Time17 listed energy and
physical stamina as the number one trait shared by most successful people. Forbes18 listed exercise as the
number one thing highly successful people do in the morning. Other studies have
found the same.
The American Heart Association says19 that, “Physical activity
boosts mental wellness,” “improves mental wellness,” and prolongs optimal
health. All three of those references are examples of leveraging time and
increasing the odds of achieving success and happiness.
I can refer to my own experience as an example. Prior to
spring 2014, I’d been struggling to finish my fourth book. It came in fits and
starts, despite finishing the rough draft of my third book in six days.
I was exhausted, both physically and mentally, but after
losing that first twenty pounds, for the first time in over a year, my focus
returned. I had more energy and willpower. When the free time from my teaching
job finally presented itself, I could sit down, put pen to paper, and finish the
I don’t recommend you go on a diet. Maybe it’ll work for you,
but for most people, it doesn’t. The reason is that diets are temporary and when
the diet is over, habits return and the weight comes back, usually in a greater
number than the original amount.
Diets also focus on what you can’t have as opposed to what you
can. People anticipate the end date, which generates more pressure to quit or
cheat, even if they would have been able to keep the weight off in the first
The other issue with diets is that people often attempt to
lose a large or unhealthy amount of weight in a short period. Many times, the
weight lost is water weight that returns quickly.
From my experience and what I’ve learned from others, the best
way to manage diet is through small permanent changes. Those changes can be
things like replacing certain bad food habits with better habits.
Take my experience of adding vegetables in the refrigerator or
packing a lunch instead of eating out. Just those two simple changes alone can
make a great difference over time without having to resort to abstaining from
any food or starving yourself.
The key is that the changes you make are permanent and the
results are lasting. Those tiny changes, over time, will create tremendous
results through new healthier habits.
Engaging in frequent exercise is also important. It improves
strength, stamina, and has other health benefits. It’s up to you how you want to
exercise. When I started my action plan, I made the choice to do push-ups and
sit-ups every morning except for Saturday, when I let my body rest.
I alternated the days when I did each type of exercise.
Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday, I did push-ups, and the other days, I did
sit-ups. Those aren’t the most effective forms of exercise, but I started small
and did them consistently.
I never missed a day, and it only took me about five minutes.
I now only spend 12 to 15 minutes on my morning workout, but I’ve seen improved
strength and definition without using a gym.
You might decide to go for a quick jog, go hiking, or play a
game of hoops every other day. Whatever it is, it’s entirely up to you. You can
start with something that you can easily work into your existing routine. That
will increase the likelihood that you continue.
Even if you never add much time or make any major changes
later, those small gains will accumulate. Consistency is key. Think like the
tortoise and the hare.
What if you’re morbidly obese, and you have almost no
endurance? The answer is to start small. Start by doing some physical activity
for ten seconds. If ten seconds is too long, start with five. Do your five
seconds a day of physical activity for a week, and then add one second every
other day for twelve weeks. After that, add a second daily. In another three
months, add two seconds daily.
In the final three months of the year, add three seconds
daily. By the end of the year, you’ll be at nine minutes and 47 seconds. If it
helps, employ Principle #11 by giving yourself a small reward when you finish.
Assuming you haven’t doubled your food intake, you’ll be in much better
“I don’t want to do that,” you say. “It’s too hard. I
can’t.” The truth is that sometimes you have to do things you don’t want, in
order to get the life that you do want. “But wait,
you said to know myself, and now you’re saying I have to do something that I
don’t want to do?” That’s right. You don’t have to do everything, but knowing
yourself doesn’t mean only doing the things that are easy.
Most things in life that have value take effort. The more
effort you put in, the more value they’ll have for you, and the more joy you’ll
gain by doing them. The bottom line is that life can be hard. It requires
effort. Accept it. Decide that you’ll do what it takes to become the best
possible version of yourself.
“But wait, you titled this book Think
Smart Not Hard, and now you’re saying I have to do something that’s
hard?” That’s right. Thinking smart instead of hard doesn’t mean you’ll never
need to put in effort. It means that you think intelligently to get more gains
and prevent yourself from needing to do more difficult things in the future.
How hard will it be to do a few minutes of exercise and change
a few eating habits compared to a year of intense physical therapy because you
became so obese, you tripped and fell resulting in mobility loss? Which is
If your mindset is that doing five seconds of continuous
physical activity is too hard or too bothersome, not much will help you until
you make a firm commitment to stop letting your short-term desires rob you of
You’ll never be successful until you first change your
outlook. Until you change your mentality and accept the fact that sometimes life
requires of you things you may dislike, you’ll have a hard time developing the
skills needed to overcome the obstacles necessary to reach your true potential.
Not sure how to change your mindset? I suggest reading the principle on changing
Even if you’re pursuing your skilled passion as a career,
challenges will come your way. You won’t like all parts of your business or your
job. That’s part of life. Again, I go back to making the decision to make a
small change and sticking to it.
If the diet and exercise principle is something you can’t do
now, then let’s make a deal. Schedule it on your calendar for five months from
now, and begin it then. For the moment, you can start at Principle #1 and
If you only pick one area of focus between diet and exercise,
you’ll still benefit, but you will substantially improve your results when you
combine both together. In addition, the skills and patience you develop by
creating two good habits instead of just one will transfer to other areas of
Principle #24 Get Enough
Here’s a quick and easy, weird, overnight trick to a
happier life: Get more rest. How much rest is enough? If you’re an adult, seven
to eight hours of sleep is ideal; if you’re a teenager or younger, you should be
getting at least nine hours of sleep20.
The sad thing is that it’s not just work that’s keeping us up
late at night. Our electronic devices and other distractions are keeping us up
later than ever.
What if you don’t have enough time? Reflect back on the
principle of leveraging your time. Make time. Lay down the gauntlet on this one
and demand that your boss or whoever is compelling you to get less than seven
hours of sleep give it to you.
Explain how study after study shows a dramatic decline in
productivity after working beyond a certain level and how mental function and
acuity drop when you don’t get enough sleep.
Here’s a creative suggestion. If you’re in sales, offer to
compare your prior three months’ average to your next three months’ average of
productivity or dollars earned for the company. Make a deal that if the extra
sleep makes the company more money, you get to keep half of the difference.
If your extra sleep results in less money, promise to pay all
of it back. You might want to quickly read the rest of this book just to give
yourself the extra edge, but my guess is that nine times out of ten, you would
win out on that deal. If you’re on commission only, test it out for a couple of
weeks and see how well it works out for you. You won’t be disappointed.
How much does your mental function decline when you’re tired?
If you’re driving while sleepy, you’re more impaired than a drunk driver and you
become the most dangerous type of driver on the road. Imagine if you went to
work drunk. Do you think your productivity would decline? How about your
It took me a while to incorporate this one. Like other people,
I used to let television keep me up too late. More recently, I did crazy amounts
of ghostwriting. I was usually able to function for a week, maybe two with less
than seven hours of sleep a night, but my output slowly declined, and beyond
that, my productivity nosedived. I burned out, missed deadlines, and my health
declined. Why do that to yourself?
Usually it’s greed, arrogance, or sheer stupidity that lie
behind our lack of sleep. There may be occasional instances when you must burn
the midnight oil for an unexpected emergency, but make those the exceptions, not
the rule. Recently, I’ve made the change to get a full seven to eight hours of
rest. It’s made a huge difference.
Whatever you must do to get more sleep, find a way to do it.
It may be doing your own research to see that you produce less when you sleep
less. It may mean watching less television. Just get it done.
I’m a light sleeper. I need white noise or rain sounds to keep
me asleep as well as an eye mask. Ever since I added those two components, I’ve
dramatically improved my sleep patterns. Find out what works best for you and
then do it.
Napping is another powerful way to improve your productivity.
Now, the first thing I do when I get home is meditate and then take a 20 to
30-minute nap. Don’t try to push through for the sake of saying you did. It
makes no sense. It’s self-defeating, lowers output, and reduces focus.
If you have a half-hour lunch break at work and a place where
you can go to take a quick catnap, do it. Otherwise, nap as soon as you get home
or whenever you feel it works best for you.
Napping helps, but still get a minimum of seven hours of
sleep. Refrain from other habits that contribute to poor sleep. Don’t watch
television in your bed or sleep more than nine hours a day.
The proper amount of sleep increases your effectiveness and
has tremendous health benefits. Successful people have known this for a while,
and it’s another common trait of most wealthy people.
Getting enough rest is essential in allowing your body to
recuperate and achieve optimal health and effectiveness. Like diet and exercise,
rest can increase your energy and benefit all aspects of your life.