Zen, Tea, and the Art of Life Management


This is a Zen-focused panel featuring Leo Babauta of Zen Habits, Susan O’Connell of San Francisco Zen Center, and yours truly.

The content starts at tea, moves to daily rituals, and spans many topics related to good living and productive living, which are not always the same thing. It also answers the question: is Tim Ferriss really as organized as you think he is? Short answer: no, and that should make you happy.

Reader Steven Luibrand pointed out an important omission in the video:

Unfortunately the best question asked at the entire Zen and Tea event (IMHO) didn’t make it on the video, so for those readers not fortunate enough to be there, it’s transcribed (read: liberally paraphrased) below:

Q: If you could give everyone here a “homework assignment” so to speak, something to do that would dramatically impact their life, what would it be?

Jesse: “Walk around with your phone turned off. Unplug. I like to spend time unplugged, and its like being in another world. Going down Market St. watching all the people on their iPhones and crackberries makes me feel like I just dropped out of the Matrix.”

Susan: “Earlier Tim mentioned that doing something five times consecutively is the magic number that forms a habit. My assignment is: for the next five days, just sit. Set a timer for five minutes, and just sit. Don’t try to meditate, don’t try to do anything. Just sit.”

Tim: “Earlier I mentioned long dinners, but I won’t count that…
[Take long dinners with >3 friends at least once per week. This is happiness alchemy.]
… everyone here probably uses some form of digital calendar. Put in an event that repeats every Tuesday that says “PLAN WEEKEND.” Then come Saturday you have plans, so no gadgets. Leave the computer off, and get outside.”

Leo: “Do one thing at a time. Just one thing. In other words: Single-Task.”

QOD: Do you have a helpful morning or pre-bed ritual? If so, please share in the comments.


Odds and Ends: Signed 4HB Copies

Thank you all so much for the amazing response to The 4-Hour Body announcement! Just a quick note, as a few people have asked: the only signed copies were those sold via BN.com, which are now sold-out. None of the Amazon copies are signed at this point. If that means you need to cancel orders, I completely understand and apologize for any confusion. Thank you again!

Posted on: October 5, 2010.

Watch The Tim Ferriss Experiment, the new #1-rated TV show with "the world's best human guinea pig" (Newsweek), Tim Ferriss. It's Mythbusters meets Jackass. Shot and edited by the Emmy-award winning team behind Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations and Parts Unknown. Here's the trailer.

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229 comments on “Zen, Tea, and the Art of Life Management

    • I’ve been trying to get myself in morning workout mode.. that never seems to work the way I plan.. I always end up just doing light yoga and stretching, because I’m so accustomed to nightly workouts that in the morning that’s the last thing I want to do… hmm i admire your discipline


      • but to answer the blog, my morning routine consists of stretching every morning for a couple of minutes. I make an organic hemp protein shake with a banana and fat-free milk, or two eggs with only one yolk and some pita bread.. and then I’ll usually hop in the shower, mix up the hot and cold to keep things interesting.. and then I’ll usually get ready for whatever adventures i have planned


  1. Pre-bed is reading of fiction (thanks to your tips on sleep-hacking). Waking up involves a shower that ends James-Bond style with freezing cold water – to get my heart rate up, and to (as I’ve heard from a retired Navy Seal, sorry can’t remember his name) “cut a tough groove in my brain”.

    That’ll wake you up in the morning!

    – Josh


  2. Great vid! Cool to see you guys together. I start my morning by glancing a what I call a morning “cascade” … different levels of encouragement or top level task reminders that I must read through to help refresh my goals and bring some center to my day. They are structured like a venn diagram.


  3. Great vid! Cool to see you guys together. I start my morning by glancing a what I call a morning “cascade” … different levels of encouragement or top level task reminders that I must read through to help refresh my goals and bring some center to my day. They are structured like a ven diagram.


  4. My morning Ritual is the same 7 days a week 365 days a year…yoga and meditation. No fancy studio or anything, just me and my yoga mat on the floor n my room. In my experience, there is no better way than to start the day at 5 am along with my spiritual practices. Sets the tone for an awesome day

    I also find that immediatley following my meditation is a great time to write.



  5. Neat to see you guys together!

    Mornings I have a raw protein bar and 16 ounces of clean water. Of course brushing my teeth, washing up, etc goes without saying.

    I have a hard time sleeping at night so I usually listen to relaxation music off YouTube for 10-20 minutes trying to drift into sleep.

    Looking forward to seeing what everyone else post.



  6. Interesting comment you made about achievement and gratitude. I tend to find the most pleasure in life when I’m “going 100 miles an hour and hit milestones” to then only be disappointed or bored after reaching the goal. Perhaps it’s common to miss out on the ride with only the destination in view.

    Will suggest any books on this topic.


  7. Woot!

    It was great hearing you in person (i.e. Tim is not an avatar of accomplishment but a REAL human being who drinks a LOT of water!)

    Leo’s sardonic sense of humor was sheer delight as well.

    I noticed sometimes you run out of breath as you speak and your voice has a tendency to crack.

    It has to do with allowing your larynx to rise (e.g. – Patrick Stewart’s booming, resonant voice is due in large part to a low laryngeal position) and insufficient breath support. You’re already such a fantastic public speaker and I’d love to see you take it to the next level!

    If you ever decide to hack opera singing and want to get a really commanding speaking voice, I’m at your disposal.

    Best Wishes and keep inspiring us!
    Vic Dorfman

    p.s. if this falls into the obnoxious unsolicited advice category, plz delete ;-)


  8. Pre-bed I read textsfromlastnight.com It’s dumb and hilarious which is perfect for quieting down the brain.  Comedy seems to help me sleep as it gets a good vibe going.  Nothing is worse than having a mental argument while your trying to sleep.

    Other stuff – humidifier for breathing and quiet white noise, water on the night stand, and if I’m feeling super beat up, foam roll the IT band and thoracic spine.


  9. Tim – you are a machine! Clogging up my RSS feeder with your blog posts ;) Have you finally found your creativity button and started churning out blog posts or is it all promotion for the new book?

    Whatever the case I feel a huge sense of enjoyment, bliss, inspiration, awe and wonder reading your shizzle and I soak it up in whatever form in whatever place. I read and re-read most your stuff till the point at which I could recite it.

    Please keep it going – hard and heavy!



  10. Pre bed

    Drink as much beer as possible.


    Take dog for a walk. Drink tea. Eat eggs. Sulk. Go to work.

    I could drink more beer if I could cut out the work.


  11. Night ritual – closing my eyes when I hit the pillow and imagine one of my dreamlines – goregous girlfriend.

    Morning ritual – wake up 11am, eat Tim’s “3 min breakfast”, write down 4/5 things on to do list, turn off digital distractions, listen to music, relax, begin day (..or something like that)


  12. Morning, just get the blood moving. A few minutes of jumping jacks, 40 push ups, a few pull ups. It takes a scant 4-5 minutes, then a glass of water and some mixture of meat and fruit/vegetables.


  13. Nightly ritual – Brush my 4 yr olds Dinosaur teeth after a round of “Go Dino Go!!” Try to get the other 6 kids in Bed. Hopefully stay awake for 2 min of pillow talk with my amazing wife.

    Morning ritual – Work in progress.
    Tomorrow listen to this vid (hopefully) before work.
    Try to avoid the coke and chocolate pie on the way to work.


  14. hi
    my habits:
    4am i wake up and walk with my dog.4:30 i came back and go to run
    5am i breath ….sudarshan kriya and meditate 1 hour….
    6am i work with silva method i focus in one exercise .
    7am i drink 4 glasses of water.
    7:30 take a bath
    8:10 or 8:30 go to work.