Why You Need a “Deloading” Phase in Life

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deloading phase

I’ve written about my morning journaling routine once before.

But my journaling–think of it as freezing thinking on paper–isn’t limited to mornings. I use it as a tool to clarify my thinking and goals, much as Kevin Kelly (one of my favorite humans) does. The paper is like a photography darkroom for my mind.

Below is a scan of a real page. Both entries are from October 2015.

The first entry (top half) is simply a list of “fun” things I felt compelled to schedule after the unexpected death of a close friend. Since I’ve ticked all of the bullets off. You’ll notice that I blurred out a few sensitive bits, and I won’t spend time on this entry in this post.

The second entry (bottom half) was written in Samovar Tea Lounge in San Francisco after a two-hour walk. The gestation period during walking and subsequent entry lead me to re-incorporate “deloading” phases in my life. “Deloading” is a term often used in strength and athletic training, but it’s a concept that can be applied to many areas. Let’s look at the sports definition, here from T Nation:

A back-off week, or deload, is a planned reduction in exercise volume or intensity. In collegiate strength-training circles, it’s referred to as the unloading week, and is often inserted between phases or periods. Quoting from Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning: “The purpose of this unloading week is to prepare the body for the increased demand of the next phase or period,” and to mitigate the risk of overtraining.

So, how does this relate to creativity, productivity, or quality of life?

First, I’ll give a personal outcome — In the last 12 months, I’ve used “deloading” outside of sports to decrease my anxiety at least 50% while simultaneously doubling my income.

Deloading for business, in my case, consists of strategically taking my foot off the gas. I alternate intense periods of batching similar tasks (recording podcasts, clearing the inbox, writing blog posts, handling accounting, etc.) with extended periods of — for lack of poetic description — unplugging and fucking around.  Oddly enough, I find both the batching and unplugging to free up bandwidth and be restorative.

The unplug can still be intense (here’s a personal example in Bali), but you shouldn’t be working on “work.”

Let’s dig into the journal entry, as it provides much of the reasoning.

I’ve provided the scan (click to enlarge) and transcribed the entry below it, including many additional thoughts. The journal itself (Morning Pages Workbook) I explain here:

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Now, the transcription with revisions and additional thoughts:

– TUES – SAMOVAR @ 5:40PM –

The great “deloading” phase.

This is what I’m experiencing this afternoon, and it makes a Tuesday feel like a lazy Sunday morning. This is when the muse is most likely to visit.

I need to get back to the slack.

To the pregnant void of infinite possibilities, only possible with a lack of obligation, or at least, no compulsive reactivity. Perhaps this is only possible with the negative space to–as Kurt Vonnegut put it–fart around? To do things for the hell of it? For no damn good reason at all?

I feel that the big ideas come from these periods. It’s the silence between the notes that makes the music.

If you want to create or be anything lateral, bigger, better, or truly different, you need room to ask “what if?” without a conference call in 15 minutes.  The aha moments rarely come from the incremental inbox-clearing mentality of, “Oh, fuck… I forgot to… Please remind me to… Shouldn’t I?…I must remember to…”

That is the land of the lost, and we all become lost.

My Tuesday experience reinforced, for me, the importance of creating large uninterrupted blocks of time (a la maker’s schedule versus manager’s schedule), in which your mind can wander, ponder, and find the signal amidst the noise. If you’re lucky, it might even create a signal, or connect two signals (core ideas) that have never shaken hands before.

For me, I’ve scheduled “deloading” phases in a few ways: roughly 8am-9am daily for journaling, tea routines, etc.; 9am-1pm every Wednesday for creative output (i.e. writing, interviewing for the podcast); and “screen-free Saturdays,” when I use no laptops and only use my phone for maps and coordinating with friends via text (no apps).  Of course, I also use mini-retirements a few time a year.

“Deloading” blocks must be scheduled and defended as strongly as–actually, more strongly than–your business commitments. The former can be a force multiplier for the latter, but not vice-versa.

So, how can one throttle back the reactive living that has them following everyone’s agenda except their own?

Create slack, as no one will give it to you. This is the only way to swim forward instead of treading water.

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Did you enjoy this? Please let me know in the comments.  I’d also love to hear of how you “deload,” if you do.

If you’d like more on my morning routines, here are five habits that help me tremendously.

As always, thanks for reading.

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Learn How to Triple Your Reading Speed in 5 Minutes (Seriously) [VIDEO]

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This short (<5 minutes) video will teach you how to triple your reading speed in less than 20 minutes. It works nearly immediately, and there is zero loss in comprehension.

No voodoo, no pseudoscience — just two tricks for optimizing eye movement.

Some of you learn better with text, and some of you learn better with video. As one commenter who watched the above video put it:

“Tim, thanks so much for this video. I read your blog post about this like four times without being able to get it. With a video, it’s much easier.”

Have fun, and I’d love to hear your results in the comments.

If you enjoy this, you might also like my posts on rapid language learning, or my interview with champion memory competitor, Ed Cooke. You can stream the latter below:


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Rick Rubin on Cultivating World-Class Artists (Jay Z, Johnny Cash, etc.), Losing 100+ Pounds, and Breaking Down The Complex

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500-358492-894__1Our conversation took place in a barrel sauna like this.

“It’s [about] getting closer to the source and not being distracted by any nonsense…”
– Rick Rubin

Rick Rubin has been called “the most important [music] producer of the last 20 years” by MTV.

Rick is also revered as something of a Zen master, and he is as deep as he is soft-spoken. He rarely grants interviews, and one condition of doing this one was the setting: his hyper-heated barrel sauna at home.

In this episode, we delve into how Rick helps artists (e.g. Jay Z, Shakira, Johnny Cash, etc.) produce their best work. Not only that, we also discuss Rick’s step-by-step experience losing 135+ pounds. He describes underwater weightlifting stories, training with Laird Hamilton, testing different diets, and much more.

Rick’s resume includes everyone from Johnny Cash to Jay Z. His metal artists include groups like Black Sabbath, Slayer, System of a Down, Metallica, Rage Against the Machine, and Linkin Park. He’s worked with pop artists like Shakira, Adele, Sheryl Crow, Lana Del Rey, and Lady Gaga. He’s also been credited with helping to popularize hip hop with artists like LL Cool J, The Beastie Boys, Eminem, Jay Z, and Kanye West.  And that’s just a small sample.

This conversation teaches a cohesive lesson in breaking down complex skills with deep and subtle problem solving.

The sauna caused the microphones to burn our hands and us to nearly pass out. DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME, folks! I think it adds a hilarious element to the whole thing, but it’s not without risks.

[Last but not least, if you haven’t seen my new TV show, which is #1 on iTunes as I write this, please check out The Tim Ferriss Experiment! There are 13 episodes, including ones with surfer Laird Hamilton and “top 10 drummer of all-time” Stewart Copeland.]

Enjoy!

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Interested in learning more about world-class musicians? — Check out my interview with Amanda Palmer who left her record label and raised more than $2 million via crowd funding. (stream episode below or right-click here to download):

Also, don’t miss Justin Boreta of The Glitch Mob, one of the biggest electronic groups on the planet. In my conversation with Justin, we play their never-before-heard draft versions of their songs and then explore what it takes for Justin to move that draft through 300+ versions to a final version which will knock your socks off (stream below or right-click here to download):


This episode is sponsored by OnnitI have used Onnit products for years. If you look in my kitchen or in my garage you will find Alpha BRAIN, chewable melatonin (for resetting my clock while traveling), kettlebells, maces, battle ropes, and steel clubs. It sounds like a torture chamber, and it basically is. A torture chamber for self-improvement! Ah, the lovely pain. To see a list of my favorite pills, potions, and heavy tools, click here.

This podcast is also brought to you by 99Designs, the world’s largest marketplace of graphic designers. Did you know I used 99Designs to rapid prototype the cover for The 4-Hour Body? Here are some of the impressive results.  Click this link and get a free $99 upgrade.  Give it a test run…

QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: Rick Rubin cites “heart work” as critical for creatives. What is the balance of heart work and head work in your creation process? 50/50? 70/30? How did you realize what works best for you? Please let me know in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes… Read More

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Ed Cooke, Grandmaster of Memory, on Mental Performance, Imagination, and Productive Mischief

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Ed Cooke on the Tim Ferriss Show

One tiny favor! If you’re enjoying the podcast, could you please take 30 seconds now to leave a brief review on iTunes? Just click “View in iTunes” under my pic here. Once I pass 2,000 reviews, I’ll reciprocate by writing a massive, behind-the-scenes post on everything I’ve learned about podcasting. I promise tricks of the trade galore, just as in-depth as the “Hacking Kickstarter” post. Speaking of which…

Ed Cooke is a dear friend and a Grandmaster of Memory.  In 2010, he was interviewed by a journalist named Joshua Foer. Under Ed’s Yoda-like training, Joshua became the very next American Memory Champion in 2011.  It took less than a year for Ed to transform a novice from unknown to world-class.

But how?!?

Aha… This interview explores Ed Cooke’s brilliant techniques (many of which I use), strategies, and practical philosophies.  To boot, he’s also a wicked funny bastard!  If you enjoyed the epic interviews with Kevin Kelly, Josh Waitzkin, or Maria Popova, you’ll love Ed.  He’s one of a kind.


This podcast is brought to you by 99Designs, the world’s largest marketplace of graphic designers. Did you know I used 99Designs to rapid prototype the cover for The 4-Hour Body? Here are some of the impressive results.

QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What’s one mental feat you’d love to accomplish in 2015? Any tips or tricks you can share? Please share in the comments by clicking here.

Scroll below for links and show notes… Read More

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Can You Rewire Your Brain In Two Weeks? One Man’s Attempt…

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Can you rewire your brain in two weeks?  The answer appears to be — at least partially — yes.

The following is a guest post by Shane Snow, frequent contributor to Wired and Fast Company and author of the new book SMARTCUTS: How Hackers, Innovators, and Icons Accelerate Success.  Last year, he wrote about his two-week Soylent experiment, which went viral and racked up 500+ comments.  He knows how to stir up controversy.

In this post, Shane tests the “brain-sensing headband” called Muse.

It’s received a lot of PR love, but does it stand up to the hype?  Can it make you a calmer, more effective person in two weeks?  This post tackles these questions and much more.

As many of your know, I’m a long-time experimenter with “smart drugs,” which I think are both more valuable and more dangerous that most people realize.  This includes homemade brain stim (tDCS) devices (I wouldn’t recommend without supervision) and other cutting-edge tools.  If you’d like to read more on these topics, please let me know in the comments.

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy Shane’s experimentation!… Read More

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The Art of Strategic Laziness

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David Heinemeier Hansson ("DHH")

David Heinemeier Hansson (“DHH”)

The following is a guest post by Shane Snow, a frequent contributor to Wired and Fast Company.  Last year, he wrote about his two-week Soylent experiment, which went viral and racked up 500+ comments.

This post is adapted from his new book, SMARTCUTSand it will teach you a few things:

  • How to use strategic “laziness” to dramatically accelerate progress
  • How “DHH” became a world-class car racer in record time, and how he revolutionized programming (they’re related)
  • A basic intro to computer programming abstraction

Note: the technical aspects of programming have been simplified for a lay audience.  If you’d like to point out clarifications or subtleties, please share your thoughts in the comments!   I’d love to read them, as I’m thinking of experimenting with programming soon.

Enter Shane Snow

The team was in third place by the time David Heinemeier Hansson leapt into the cockpit of the black-and-pink Le Mans Prototype 2 and accelerated to 120 miles per hour. A dozen drivers jostled for position at his tail. The lead car was pulling away from the pack—a full lap ahead.

This was the 6 Hours of Silverstone, a six-hour timed race held each year in Northamptonshire, UK, part of the World Endurance Championship. Heinemeier Hansson’s team, Oak Racing, hoped to place well enough here to keep them competitive in the standings for the upcoming 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Tour de France of automobile racing.

Heinemeier Hansson was the least experienced driver among his teammates, but the Oak team had placed a third of this important race in his hands.

Determined to close the gap left by his teammate, Heinemeier Hansson put pedal to floor, hugging the curves of the 3.7-mile track that would be his singular focus for the next two hours. But as three g’s of acceleration slammed into his body, he began to slide around the open cockpit. Left, then right, then left. Something was wrong with his seat.

In endurance racing, a first place car can win a six- or 12-hour race by five seconds or less. Winning comes down to two factors: the equipment and the driver. However, rules are established to ensure that every car is relatively matched, which means outcomes are determined almost entirely by the drivers’ ability to focus and optimize thousands of tiny decisions.

Shifting attention from the road to, say, a maladjusted driver’s seat for even a second could give another car the opportunity to pass. But at 120 miles per hour, a wrong move might mean worse than losing the trophy.  As Heinemeier Hansson put it, “Either you think about the task at hand or you die.”

Turn by turn, he fought centrifugal force, attempting to keep from flying out while creeping up on the ADR-Delta car in front of him.

And then it started to rain… Read More

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How to Learn Any Language in Record Time and Never Forget It

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Preface from Tim

Back in 2012, Gabriel Wyner wrote an article for Lifehacker detailing how he learned French in 5 months and Russian in 10, using mostly spare time on the subway.  That article went viral.

But don’t run off! That was nothing but version 1.0.  This post gives you version 2.0 and more.

He’s spent the last two years refining his methods and putting them on steroids. Kevin Kelly, founding editor of Wired, was the one who told me, “You have to check this guy out. His new book is amazing.” Keep in mind that I’d previously told Kevin that I thought most books on language learning were garbage.  I took his endorsement seriously, and I wasn’t disappointed.

This post gives you Gabe’s new blueprint for rapid language learning:

  • A revised and updated version of his original post
  • New techniques from the last two years of experimentation
  • How he learned 6 languages in just a handful of years
  • Tips and tricks you won’t find anywhere else

Read More

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