After interviewing more than 200 of the world’s most fascinating people for The Tim Ferriss Show, I believe more strongly than ever that 10x results don’t always require 10x effort. Big changes can come in small packages. To dramatically change your life, you don’t need to run a 100-mile race, get a PhD, or completely reinvent yourself. It’s the small things, done consistently, that are the big things.
Want proof? For my new book, Tools of Titans, I sifted through hundreds of hours of interviews with billionaires, icons, and elite performers to discover some of their most successful (and sometimes surprising) tactics, routines, and daily habits (all of which I vetted and tested in my own life in some fashion).
More than anything, I longed for the chance to distill everything into a playbook. Here’s a small sample, designed to help you address three everyday problems. Borrow liberally, combine uniquely, and create your own bespoke blueprint:
The Problem: You Woke Up in a Bad Mood
The Tool: Meditation (or 5-Minute Journal)
The Titan: Tony Robbins
Oftentimes, people make meditation or mindfulness harder than it needs to be. Tony Robbins simplifies the process by suggesting that you focus on something simple near you or within sight. I use two types of journaling and alternate between them: Morning Pages and The 5-Minute Journal (5MJ). The former I use primarily for getting unstuck or problem-solving (what should I do?); the latter I use for prioritizing and gratitude (how should I focus and execute?).
The 5MJ is simplicity itself and kills a lot of birds with one stone (including forcing me to think about what I have, as opposed to what I’m pursuing): 5 minutes in the morning of answering a few prompts, and then 5 minutes in the evening doing the same. Each prompt has three lines for three answers.
I am grateful for…
What would make today great?
Daily affirmations. I am…
The gratitude points shouldn’t all be “my career” and other abstract items. Temper those with something simple and concrete— a beautiful cloud outside the window, the coffee that you’re drinking, the pen that you’re using or whatever it might be.
The Problem: You Feel Anxious or Stressed
The Tool: Stargazing
The Titan: BJ Miller, palliative care physician at the University of California at San Francisco and an advisor to the Zen Hospice Project in San Francisco.
“When you are struggling with just about anything, look up. Just ponder the night sky for a minute and realize that we’re all on the same planet at the same time. As far as we can tell, we’re the only planet with life like ours on it anywhere nearby. Then you start looking at the stars, and you realize that the light hitting your eye is ancient; [some of the] stars that you’re seeing, they no longer exist by the time that the light gets to you.
Just mulling the bare-naked facts of the cosmos is enough to thrill me, awe me, freak me out, and kind of put all my neurotic anxieties in their proper place. A lot of people— when you’re standing at the edge of your horizon, at death’s door, you can be much more in tune with the cosmos.”
The Problem: You Can’t Get to Sleep
The Tool: Tetris
The Titan: Jane McGonigal, a research affiliate at the Institute for the Future and the author of the New York Times best seller Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World.
Having trouble nodding off? Try 10 minutes of Tetris. Recent research has demonstrated that Tetris—or Candy Crush Saga or Bejeweled—can help overwrite negative visualization, which has applications for addiction (such as overeating), preventing PTSD, and, in my case, onset insomnia. As Jane explains, due to the visually intensive, problem solving characteristics of these games:
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“You see visual flashbacks [e.g., the blocks falling or the pieces swapping]. They occupy the visual processing center of your brain so that you cannot imagine the thing that you’re craving [or obsessing over, which are also highly visual]. This effect can last 3 or 4 hours. It also turns out that if you play Tetris after witnessing a traumatic event [ideally within 6 hours, but it’s been demonstrated at 24 hours], it prevents flashbacks and lowers symptoms of post- traumatic stress disorder.”
The Problem: You Don’t Have Time for Breakfast
The Tool: Intermittent Fasting
The Titan: Dr. Peter Attia
Peter rarely eats breakfast and has experimented with many forms of intermittent fasting, ranging from one meal a day (i.e., 23 hours of fasting per day) to more typical 16/8 and 18/6 patterns of eating (i.e., 16 or 18 hours of fasting and only eating in an 8- or 6-hour window). Going 16 hours without eating generally provides the right balance of autophagy (cellular regeneration and healing) and anabolism (muscle building). Plus, an added benefit (if you adjust to hunger pangs) is increased mental clarity.
The Problem: You Have Difficulty Completing Tasks
The Tool: Write Your Plans
The Titan: Paul Levesque (a.k.a. Triple H)
“[Evander Holyfield] said that his coach at one point told him, something like his very first day, ‘You could be the next Muhammad Ali. Do you wanna do that?’ Evander said he had to ask his mom. He went home, he came back and said, ‘I wanna do that.’ The coach said, ‘Okay. Is that a dream or a goal? Because there’s a difference.’
“I’d never heard it said that way, but it stuck with me. So much so that I’ve said it to my kid now: ‘Is that a dream, or a goal? Because a dream is something you fantasize about that will probably never happen. A goal is something you set a plan for, work toward, and achieve. I always looked at my stuff that way. The people who were successful models to me were people who had structured goals and then put a plan in place to get to those things. I think that’s what impressed me about Arnold [Schwarzenegger]. It’s what impressed me about my father-in-law [Vince McMahon].” If you want to stop dreaming and start planning, write down what you hope to achieve and what you’ll do to accomplish your goals.
The Problem: You Have Trouble Feeling Happy
The Tool: The 10-Second Test
The Titan: Cheng-Meng Tan
In many of my public talks, I guide a very simple 10-second exercise. I tell the audience members to each identify two human beings in the room and just think, “I wish for this person to be happy, and I wish for that person to be happy.” That is it. I remind them to not do or say anything, just think—this is an entirely thinking exercise. The entire exercise is just 10 seconds’ worth of thinking. Everybody emerges from this exercise smiling, happier than 10 seconds before.
This is the joy of loving-kindness. It turns out that being on the giving end of a kind thought is rewarding in and of itself. . . . All other things being equal, to increase your happiness, all you have to do is randomly wish for somebody else to be happy. That is all. It basically takes no time and no effort.
Tim Ferriss is the author of Tools of Titans, and has been listed as one of Fast Company‘s “Most Innovative Business People,” one of Forbes‘s “Names You Need to Know,” and one of Fortune‘s “40 under 40.” He is an early-stage technology investor/advisor (Uber, Facebook, Shopify, Duolingo, Alibaba, and 50+ others) and the author of three No. 1 New York Times and Wall Street Journal best sellers: The 4-Hour Workweek, The 4-Hour Body, and The 4-Hour Chef.The Observer and other media have called Tim “the Oprah of audio” due to the influence of The Tim Ferriss Show podcast, which has exceeded 100 million downloads and was selected for “Best of iTunes” in 2015.