Today’s episode, number 118, isn’t just a foray into productivity and biohacking, it’s also an inspiring story of beating the odds. Today’s guest is Ari Meisel, he’s the author of Less Doing, More Living, and host of The Less Doing Podcast. Ari’s story starts in 2006 when some unexpected news derailed his booming real estate career, Crohn’s disease. A highly debilitating digestive ailment, Crohn’s barred Ari from leading a normal life. He lost weight, energy, and the ability to work with regularity. In fact, there were times where he could only work 60 minutes an entire day. With a blossoming business to run, Ari knew an hour a day was unacceptable. Against the advice of doctors and loved ones, he embarked upon an extraordinarily painful journey to cure what medical textbooks consider an incurable disease. Now, thankfully, Ari is symptom free and he shares his brilliance with the world through his leverage business and through his Less Doing, More Living book. It is such an incredible honor and privilege to have Ari Meisel on today’s show. Ari, welcome to the show.
Hey, thank you so much for having me.
Let’s start with your story. You had Crohn’s disease and you overcame it. I’m really curious to hear how you did that and how Less Doing came out of that journey.
I was working on a big construction project in upstate New York in 2000. I was working on this large construction project in upstate New York and I was living a pretty unhealthy lifestyle. I was working 18 hours a day. I was drinking. I was smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. I was eating a lot of fast food. I also was under just an enormous amount of stress. Three years later, I was in $3 million of debt. I was 23 yrs old at the time and I got diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. For those who don’t know, Crohn’s is a chronic inflammatory condition that affects the digestive tract. It’s very, very painful, very debilitating and considered to be incurable. I got sicker and sicker. After a long journey of self tracking and self experimentation, I was able to get off the meds and overcome the illness to the extent that I was way more functional that I had been, but there was still this very large element of stress in my life and the illness. My response to that was to create this brand new system of productivity. The idea being that control would be the antidote to stress for me. Also, I was in a situation where I have been working 18 hours a day and now, I could barely do an hour of work a day in some cases. I just had to figure out a way to get more done in less time, quite literally. I created Less Doing. The idea of Less Doing was to help people optimize, automate, and outsource everything in their lives in order to be more effective. I started teaching, consulting, and speaking around the world and that’s what I do today. Now, I have a really, really amazing team that can pretty much solve any problem that somebody might have when it comes to getting things done more effectively.
Awesome. I’m just curious are you a proponent of “Getting Things Done, GTD” David Allen’s methodology?
No, I’m not actually. I’ve had David on the podcast before. I have a massive respect for what he does. The thing with GTD is it works really, really well for the people that it really works well for. But what I have found is that it actually causes a lot of stress to other sub set of people. It’s a great system but the problem with any system is that no system is made for everyone. If you’re approaching it like this is the framework that you need to do in order to be more effective and people have to mold themselves to that, the extrusion effect means you’re going to lose a certain subject and the people who make it through it are going to work out great. All that to say, I think it’s a great program and there’s definitely some similarities, just a few similarities let’s say in terms of the approach. Mine differs quite a bit.
I’d love to hear more about that. I’ve actually had David Allen on this podcast as well. He’s great. I’m a fan for sure and I utilize GTD but not all of GTD. I have the trusted system and I don’t do the weekly review, still. I know that’s a critical component kind of a linchpin in GTD. Yeah, I keep falling off the wagon, so to speak. David says it’s easy to get back on and yet I’m still not doing that. I’d love to hear what is it that is different about your methodology versus GTD. Also, I’d love to know, is this unusual that I keep avoiding doing the weekly review.
No, of course not. See that? That’s what I’m saying. If you’re trying to mold yourself to a system of a way to getting things done, in itself, there’s going to be friction there. If it’s not congruent with the way that you already do things or the way that you function best, it’s not going to work. I think the biggest difference I would say is that Less Doing is not so much of a system per se, where it’s like these are the six things that you have to do to be more effective. It’s really more of a mindset approach to how we are more productive in the first place. I have found over the years and speaking with thousands and thousands of people that there’s so much psychology that goes into what makes somebody more or less productive, efficient, effective, motivated, distracted, focused, all of those things. A lot of it comes down to how we approach in the first place, why are we doing the things we’re doing, what is the end goal in some cases, because there are plenty of people who want to be more efficient just for the sake of being more efficient. They won’t say and they won’t necessarily understand that or know that but that’s what it is in some cases. Whereas, other people, they want to do it because they want more time and that time has to do with whatever they want. Knowing the motivating factor for finding why we want to be more productive in the first place. It’s just like so many people say like, “Oh, I’m overwhelmed. I need to hire an assistant.” But the problem with that is that if you don’t start with optimized processes and then looking at how you can automate things first, hiring an assistant is just like sweeping the dirt under the rug. It doesn’t make the problem more efficient.
Yeah, that’s true, very true. Before we dive into optimizing processes and automating, I’d love to hear a little bit more about biohacking. I know you’re a big proponent of that. You’ve got a book called Intro to Biohacking and you used biohacking supplements and a bunch of different things to overcome Crohn’s Disease. Could you dive a bit into that first?
Yeah, of course. There’s no general fantasy in terms of biohacking, right? There are all sorts of fun hacks and things that you might be trying out in the moment. I will say I had a chronic illness, which is inflammatory so inflammatory processes are a big part. A lot of illnesses that we see, from diabetes to obesity, to all sorts of things.
But I’m also parent of four. I have a five year old twin, four year old and a one and a half year old girl. The first three are boys. There are all sorts of things that go into that. I guess the number one would be sleep. I’m always looking at sleep hacks. The other thing is that I don’t travel a lot. I mean, I travel a decent amount but I travel very intensely. I live in New York City and I spoke in an event in Guatemala a couple of weeks ago and I was in the country for 16 hours. I flew in, did my talk, flew out. That’s pretty common for me. I get a lot done in those situations. There’s things like special glasses, there’s a device called the HumanCharger.
I love that. I use it.
Yes, it’s great for fighting jet lag. Activated charcoal pills are sorts of a go to for me.
Let’s explain to the listeners what human chargers are.
Yes, a human charger, it looks like an old iPod nano. It has ear buds you put in your ears but instead of music, they produce a very, very bright light that shines into your ears to the nerves in there. There’s an app that goes along with it. You let it know when your flight is and everything and it will calculate for you when before the flight, during the flight and also after the flight the probably half a dozen or so of times that you need to put those in your ears for about 12 minutes and it essentially nullifies jet lag if you use it properly. It’s really amazing.
Yeah, I love it. I’ve been using it for my international travels. Even just for domestic travels if I’m going across country. It does help. I would have been super skeptical about it but I heard about it from Christine Peterson, co-founder of the Foresight Institute. She is a scientist, a technologist and all that. If she says this is good, I’m going to give it a try. It sounds really bizarre. You’re shining light into your ears and it actually helps with jetlag but it works.
It can also help with seasonal depression. It’s a really cool device.
Yeah, it was developed by folks in Finland, I believe.
That’s a big problem in Scandinavia because of the lack of sunlight during the winter.
I was actually speaking the BioHacking Summit in Helsinki and that’s where I first discovered it.
Did you attend the Dave Asprey Bulletproof Conference? That’s kind of the place to be.
Not the most recent one, but a year ago and then two years before that. That’s definitely the coolest one. One of my favorite devices, that was the ARX Fit which is the super, super slow resistant machine.
It’s so cool.
Yeah, Dave Asprey, I’ve actually had him on this podcast. What an amazing guy, so, so fascinating and to be willing to service a guinea pig for all sorts of new technologies and stuff. He injected stem cells into his brain, well not directly into his brain but through his bloodstream.
Into his face, yes.
Lowering the blood brain barrier. I’m just fascinated in the stuff he has done. Okay, Intro to Biohacking, it’s a pretty short book. It gives people an intro to what is biohacking and why you should be more kind of an experimenter and willing to try new technologies. Did you cover stem cell therapy? I’m just curious.
No, I wrote that few years ago. It was before that was becoming, I mean it’s not really the mainstream now, honestly, but it was too new at the time.
Yeah. Listeners, if you are interested in stem cell therapy, which is revolutionizing the medical industry, listen to Dr. Harry Adelson’s episode on this podcast. It’s mind blowing. I have two of my daughters that are going to get stem cell procedures just in the next couple of weeks. Getting your stem cells banked, it could be a life saver some time into the future. It’s basically like having a time machine.
Yes, we have cord blood and tissue for all four of our children in cryo storage somewhere, you’ll never know.
Yeah, it’s such a good idea and to have your own stem cells banked as well, I think it’s a must.
I guess the easiest way to collect stem cells from your children is from teeth. When they lose their teeth, there are actually a couple of services that you can store them with and they’ll preserve the stem cell tissue.
Yes, if you’re getting your wisdom teeth pulled, definitely get that stored. Cool. I also read that you did the IRONMAN France and you’ve done other triathlons. Is that something that you continue to do?
No, they’re all amazing experiences and I have plenty of friends who have done multiple IRONMAN. I did one and it was an incredible experience. I trained my ass off for 25 hours a week for a year and a half and I did it. I have no interest in doing it again. I definitely like trying all sorts of new things. I was a competitor rock climber for a while and then there’s IRONMAN. I have done a lot of endurance races like the Tough Mudder, this is really a military combat. I’ve done crossfits. There’s always another challenge. The most recent two for me were Squash and Boxing, not at the same time. I was training for an actual boxing fight for a while. I love just trying different things and see what I can do with my body.
Wow, that’s really cool. My wife, Orion, has done Tough Mudder and she loved it. She said it was amazing, it was really tough, and there’s this thing called the Chernobyl Jacuzzi where it’s ice water and you jump in from high up and then you have to make across. I guess the challenges are all different. The obstacles depend on where you go, which Tough Mudder you do but no way in hell would I would ever do that.
Yes, it’s hard to justify. I’m doing it once but definitely not more than once.
Let’s get back to optimizing processes. You gotta make time for your kids, your wife, free time and so forth and you’re doing all these amazing things, writing books, running businesses and so forth. What are your biggest secrets to success in terms of optimizing and automating?
Well, for what? For personal life, for business?
Well, you have work life balance. I guess that’s one of the challenges that many of us have is we don’t leave enough time for the rest of our life and we over focus on work, whether it’s working for somebody else or working for ourselves.
Yeah. What I would say is first of all, throw out the idea that there is such thing as work life balance. I don’t believe in that. I think it’s more of a work-life integration and that is a subtle but very important difference. At the end of the day, you are the same person that you were at the beginning of the day. Whatever you go through during the day, it’s still you, it’s still your mind, your emotions, your stress levels. All of it relates. I’ve seen that in practice in so many situations where I was working in a company where I was the boss but it was very stressful and that was affecting my home life. The work-life integration to me is A, understanding that, B, understanding of what your natural state is.There are a few different thoughts on the kind of alter ego thing. My friend Todd Herman is really big on the alter ego idea that you take on these different egos and personalities when you are in different activities. I think that that makes a lot of sense if you can sort of compartmentalize really well. That’s the number one thing, being able to compartmentalize what you do and part of that is environmental triggers. For example, I take my kids to school every morning and I pick them up after the day. I basically work from [9:00]AM to [2:30]PM most days and that is an artificially restrictive limit I put on myself because obviously we can hire somebody or my wife could pick them up but I do that. It’s part of my daily routine. The second I drop them off, 3 seconds later, I can be on the phone in the car, going to a co-working space wherever I’m going to work that day and know that that’s sort of the mood I’m in. But other than that, I’m not really interacting with those work kind of things. Having triggers that can be in a physical environment whether it’s like a special pen that you use when you use when you’re writing, or special glasses or even like essential oils. All these things can sort of trigger you if you associate them enough with those specific kinds of activities and then the other thing is sort of from a mindset standpoint. Stephan, do you have a favorite superhero?
Do I have a favorite superhero? Okay, not off the top of my head. I do like superhero movies but I know that they are kind of a fantasy, let’s say Superman.
Okay, perfect example. Superman is naturally super, right? He has to put on a costume to become the normal Clark Kent. That’s one example. That may be an opposite example. That man is a normal person but he has to put on a costume to become the superhero. You can kind of think about yourself that way when you’re an entrepreneur, even if you’re not, if you’re a parent. It’s just that you have different molds in your life. What is your sort of natural state? In my case, I would say that my natural state is the normal guy and I have to put on the costume and put on the persona when I get to stage and speak to people, or when I’m dealing with a team, or when I’m working with clients. That’s a great thing to understand that. That it’s still you but you have this sort of alter ego and that gives you a lot of comfort in some ways. You can experiment and also switch context a lot more easily.
Yeah. I know Todd Herman as well. We were in the Black Belt program, Taki Moore’s program.
I’m going to that in two weeks.
Okay, yes, small world. Taki is a good guy. The alter ego, he has a prop that helps him get into that alter ego. He wears his glasses. He doesn’t need them but when he wears them, it triggers him into getting him into that alter ego.
Getting all educational and value added and everything into a particular mode, which is really cool. I really like that.
Another environmental trigger that I just love, I’ve heard about these from Keith Cunningham, is to have a thinking chair. Do you know about this one?
Yeah, absolutely. People have thinking chair, reading chair and writing chairs too.
Yeah. Only sit in it when you’re going to do deep thinking and bring your laptop and check email or anything like that. It’s strictly only for when you are doing deep thinking.
There’s a really funny one. Did you ever hear of how Salvador Dali used to ideate?
He would basically had a chair like that, and he would purposely use it as his nap chair essentially. But what he had was on the arm of the chair, try to picture this, it is like, leaning on your elbow with your hand on your head. It was like supporting your head like you’re going to fall asleep. He had a little saucer, a porcelain saucer on the arm rest and in his hand he had a silver spoon. Basically, just as he was dozing off, his hand would drop and bang the porcelain thing and sort of rouse him and then he would go paint. Basically thinking like that was sort of like entering the dream state and then he would start to be creative.
It takes all kinds.
Yeah, interesting. You mentioned going into a co-working space. Are you big into that? Is that an environmental trigger for you?
Yeah. I’m able to stretch this a little bit because, this is going to sound weird I guess but I have essentially made my phone my trigger. Because when I am at home, I’m really not on the phone doing work stuff. I can do every single thing I can possibly need in my business and my life from my phone, from controlling smart home aspects to sending an invoice to a client or communicating on Slack. Basically, when I’m having my phone for stuff, that’s essential my trigger. The good thing about that for me is that I can work in the car, I can work at a random co-working space, or at a cafe or outside, at the bench. As long as I’m not doing a podcast interviews like this, which I try to schedule when I’m going to be at home, I’m home right now. And because I have my mic set up and it’s quiet and everything. Other than that, I basically can work in any sort of work environment.
Okay, awesome. You mentioned Slack. Are you a big fan of Slack? Because my team uses it but I actually avoid it like the plague. I used to have it installed in the early days of having my team on it. Wow, this is a complete distraction device and I just can’t handle this. I’m off of it. I’m not using it to communicate with my team. I’m back to using other systems like Asana and email. They use Slack and they enjoy it and get value out of it, but not me.
Yeah, and you might not have been using it right, to be honest. I am a very big fan of Slack. The key thing with companies and teams is that you have to adopt Slack as the exclusive method for internally communicating. Email is a really terrible tool for internal communication because of the nature of those kinds of discussions and Slack is much better. The key is you have to have separate places for communicating with your internal team versus external. Emails become external, Slack becomes internal and then within that how you set it up, the automations integrations are really what makes it so super powered.
What if you have a very personal communication with an individual staff like let’s say, I need to schedule your performance review or why did you not show up the other day. Are you using Slack for those kinds of communications internally too?
Of course. You can send direct messages to people that are private.
I know, but I don’t know, it just seems weird to me.
You would think email would be better for that?
I guess it’s just what you’re used to, I suppose.
Yes, but see the problem with email for most people is that the typical email inbox is a lot of information. There are all sorts of different kinds of information and that kind of context switching is really, really hard.
Yeah, so context switching does mess with you and I think that relates a bit to attention residue maybe? Attention residue, I learned from Cal Newport who wrote Deep Work, another guest. It’s an amazing episode that you listeners, you must consume, and also the book Deep Work is great. Are you familiar with Cal Newport?
Of course, yeah.
Yeah, I figured. Has he been a guest on your show?
No, not yet. I’d love to have him on.
Okay, I can put in a good word for you if you’d like.
Context switching, tell me more about that and the dangers and problems with it.
Multi casting doesn’t actually exist. You always think if they’re good multi casters or they’re not good multi casters. But what we’re really doing is neurologically referred to as context switching, which is really what it is. You’re rapidly switching back and forth between tasks. It’s exhausting. It’s actually physically exhausting on our body and a lot times, when people get to sort of an energy slump at [3:00]PM, it’s because they’ve made about 6,000 decisions at that point of the day. The best thing we can do is to actually give ourselves a tunnel vision and actually focus on one thing at a time. I know that sounds like crazy, right? But if you can focus on one thing for 10 or 15 minutes effectively, you’ll get more done which will be motivating in itself and then you’ll be able to sort of fight that urge to switch back and forth and put out all of the different fires.
What do you think about attention residue, that’s Kiel’s? Actually, I think there is other research before him that he just incorporated into the book, where for like 25 minutes, your brain is partially occupied on the thing that you just quickly checked like a text message.
Yeah, exactly. The funny thing about that is there is a research about traffic. For every minute of stoppage in traffic in America at least, it takes about 25 minutes or so for the traffic pattern to return to normal which is kind of scary if you think about that. If there’s like a 10 minute stoppage, you’re looking at 6 hours basically or 4 hours waiting for traffic to return to a normal pattern. But yeah, it’s very similar. If you take about a minute or something I guess it is right away from your core focus, then it takes about 23 minutes or so to get back to that level of focus. At that point if you believe in peak time theory, which I do, which is that there is a 90 minute period in the day where any of us are 2 to 100 times more effective than any other time, then you’re missing out on a very big opportunity, take advantage of that.There is a 90 minute period in the day where any of us are 2 to 100 times more effective than any other time. Click To Tweet
Well, tell me more about that because I’m actually not familiar with peak time theory. How do you figure when your 90 minutes is and what do you do to maximize?
I’m so glad you asked. Basically yes, it says that there is a 90 minute period. It’s different for everybody and when I say you’re 2 to 100 times more effective, in that context, more effective means that you are more able to get into a flow state. For those listening who don’t necessarily know what I am talking about, a flow state, if you’ve ever found yourself in the situation where time dilated, meaning seconds felt like hours or hours felt like seconds, that’s a flow state. That’s one of the sort of symptoms of a flow state. You sat down to write that manuscript then you banged out 10,000 words an hour, that kind of thing. It felt like it flew by. With peak time, there’s a 90 minute period and there are few different ways to figure it out but one of the ones which I sort of identified is something based on heart rate variability and the central nervous system tap test. You don’t have to worry about those but are you familiar with heart rate variability at least?
A little bit, yes. We’ve talked about it in a few different episodes but could you, for our listeners who aren’t familiar with it, just quickly recap that?
Heart rate variability is the variation in the timing between heart beats. If your heart is beating at 60 beats per minute, it doesn’t mean that it’s beating once every second. As a matter of fact, that would probably mean that you are about to die honestly because your nervous system is just so over tags. What you really want is more elasticity, it’s almost like resilience. You get .94 seconds, 1.0 seconds, and then .93 seconds, and it’s something that you can train through meditation, through breathing exercise, and through a number of different things. What you see as an interesting correlation is that if you have poor sleep or you’re really stressed or you did like a really, really hard workout or something in one day, your heart rate variability will reflect that and it will be less. It will be more rigid, I guess that’s a way to put it. I found this correlation and the central nervous system tap test is basically to put your hand on the table and you tap your index finger as fast as you can for 10 seconds and count the number of taps. Most people would be somewhere between 50 and 80 taps and they have found these to be a direct corollary to the state of your heart rate variability, the state of your nervous system in terms of recovering. The idea I had was that if you could identify on average when in the day your heart rate variability was at its highest regardless of other factors because the averages would change if you were tired in general, you should be able to correlate that with your peak time because that’s the time when your nervous system is basically like firing out on all synapses, for lack of a better term. I tested that, me and lots and lots of people and I created an app actually to do can do that but there are several apps out there now. If you’re on the iPhone, you can get an app called Human Performance and if you are on Android, there is the Less Doing Peak Time app. You do it for three or four times a day for three or four days and it should be pretty accurate in telling you what that part of the day is that you have your peak time. And then you start to protect that peak time, that 90 minute period, and what I mean by protect is you don’t schedule meetings or calls or BS, basically, you use that for your highest and best work, you might be shocked by how much more productive you can be.
I like that. I’m going to try that out. That’s awesome.
Are you using an Oura ring or an apple watch or something to monitor your heart rate variability throughout the day?
I’m not. Obviously, I have the apple watch. I have an Oura ring which I use mostly for sleep tracking. At this point, I know when my peak time is and it’s usually between [10:00]AM and [12:00]PM, essentially, which is unusual by the way. A lot of people you see it earlier or later. It can be anywhere. I mean I’ve seen people with peak time [11:00]PM and [4:00]AM, which is a little unfortunate.
Yes, that sucks.
Well it would, but you know, the funny thing is that I had a client I was working with and she basically kept telling me that she’s waking up at [4:00]AM with all these thoughts running through her head and she can’t go back to bed. I said, “Why don’t you try getting up and using that time for like an hour and a half or so and then go back to bed after that?” It seems silly but she started getting really amazing stuff done. You have to respect that.
Yeah, that’s true. I just bought the aura ring. I didn’t even know that it existed until the latest BulletProof conference a few weeks ago and I am really excited to try it out. I got it. It’s been sitting in this box for the last couple of weeks because I haven’t made the time to play with it. You use it for sleep tracking. Tell me more about how you’re using it and what you’re doing with that information.
Not as much now. The funny thing is that I feel like you get to a point when you’ve done an enormous amount of biohacking. The trackers become less valuable because you start to get a much better sense of things and have a much better awareness or proper reception of what’s going on. At that point, a lot of the trackers become really just fun toys to play with. The exception to that would be blood sugar monitoring because you can really dial that in and it’s not something that you can sense, really. If your blood sugar is on 86 versus a 94, you’re never going to feel that but it is worth knowing. The way that I use it primarily was that I was identified that I am a very low sleep lag, which is a good thing, which means I can wake up in the middle of the night with the kid or something and we back to sleep very, very quickly without an issue. But the other thing that I found from it is that everyone has sleep cycles whether we go from night sleep to deep and rem sleep and back up and you go through those throughout the night. The typical period for those is about 90 minutes and it varies for different people. What I learned through it is that if I get three hours of sleep and then even if I’m interrupted, if I get another three hours, that’s great. But as long as I get a core three hours, which I know sounds crazy, then I’m actually functional the next day. I wouldn’t want to do that long term but it is very interesting to know for me because like I said, when I travel, I can be in those situations, like when I was in San Francisco a few weeks ago to film a course for CreativeLive and I arrived at the hotel at [2:00]AM. I slept for three hours, I got up, and I went and I filmed all day and I was fine. As long as I get those three hours, that core, which is two sleep cycles, I’m good. If you fudge it though and you try to get a little bit more or a little bit less, it’s disastrous.
Right. Okay. Interesting. Are you using TrueDark glasses to help you get to sleep?
Yes, blue blocking glasses has been a huge thing for me but the TrueDarks are next level, not just for sleep. I use the day time ones for using the computer a lot. I started getting really bad headaches last year. It wasn’t my eye. My vision is good. I think it’s the lighting in it. When I wear those glasses, everything is fine.
Wow. I was talking to Chris Keen, the co-founder of TrueDark at BulletProof conference and he said, “If you put on the night time ones, you’ll be practically nodding off, or you would be nodding off within 15 minutes.” It’s pretty amazing.
Yes. It’s like a sleeping pill for me.
That’s crazy, I knew that the blue light was not really disastrous for melatonin but I did not know that it would basically put you practically into sleep state within 15 minutes. I’m really excited to try that out. I’m going to get the glasses. I’ll make sure to have Chris on this podcast too to geek out about sleep and melatonin and all that.
Part of it is also sort of training your body. You get a into state where your body learns like, “Okay, this means it’s night time.” The TrueDark ones, essentially, the way that Dave described is that your mitochondria basically think it’s pitch black out. That’s what they think when you put those on.
Yeah. You mentioned also blood sugar monitoring. Are you doing that throughout the day?
No, actually I wish we were doing video. I can show you right now. I have a kit from Viome which is the Gut Microbiome Testing.
I’m going to have the CEO and founder of Viome on the podcast too.
He was just on the podcast recently. This is really cool stuff and I sent in my stool sample the other day so I’m looking forward to that. They also have a metabolic intelligence. I’m holding right now the blood sugar monitor. They actually have a, well, it’s funny they call it a challenge medium. It’s really just a pack of a sugar basically. You take your blood reading and then you drink that and then you take it four more times. I haven’t done it yet just because I haven’t been in the mood where I want to prick my finger five times in a couple of hours but I will get it done. When I last interviewed Dave he had the constant one on his arm, which is really, really cool. There’s so much information you can get from blood sugar monitoring, everything from your mood, to your mental performance, everything.
Yeah, really cool. I would love to have technology that would, without pricking me, tell me my blood sugar throughout the day. I guess there are some contact lenses that you can wear that monitor your blood sugar or it’s in development?
I would love something like that. I’m not a big fan of needles, even the little ones. Let’s get back to the automation stuff. We’re talking about Slack. What are some of your other favorite tools for automating and delegating and team communication and that sort of stuff? Asana I’m guessing would be one of the tools that you use?
I do not like Asana, actually.
I’m a really big fan of Trello. I think it’s probably the best product management tool out there, even though they don’t call it a project management tool. It’s very flexible and I’m just really good with that. We can automate so much with it and organize sort of whatever you want from a team project, I use it with my wife, keep track of what needs to be fixed in the house and when it does. The next level tool though is Airtable. I really like Airtable. It’s very, very powerful.
Yes, I’ve tried it. I don’t know. I saw the demos, spreadsheets, databases, and I’m like, “Oh that’s kind of cool.” But I didn’t really get into it. I played with it a little bit. What is the next level about it? For what use cases?
Yes, it looks like a spreadsheet but it’s a database, that’s kind of how they call it. Right now, we use it for our content calendar, which is pretty extensive. I’m doing content in seven different mediums, five or six times a week. We have a content calendar in there. We also use it for our pipelines or anybody who’s interested in consulting in Less Doing or having me speak or being a member of the coaching programs, that’s in one database. We also use it for internal task management. You can use it for any kind of database, anything from keeping track of your movie library or you can use it for applicant tracking or bug tracking projects. The calendaring aspects for content planning is really great and it’s very flexible, it’s mobile, it looks really nice. There’s really good templates that you can just sort of drag and drop and use them and it automates really nicely with Zapier. We can update records here and there. For example, if somebody is interested in us and they ask a question on Intercom or on live chat or on our website, that can automatically add them as a lead into Airtable and then we can start working on that. When we have our team huddles, we can go to the process and everything. It works as our CRM. It’s great.
Alright, and you mention Intercom. You’re a fan of that tool as well?
Big fan of Intercom, yes.
I’m going to put all of these tools of course into the show notes with links. When do you decide to use Trello versus Airtable, because I could imagine seeing bug tracking and internal task management in your Trello boards instead of air table but you’re choosing to put them in the Airtable.
You can certainly do it in Trello and Trello’s the easiest place to start. There is a definite learning curve with Airtable but not a big one and you can get it on Trello but there’s a lot more feature pack stuff that you can do in Airtable. You know a very specific example, in Trello, if people are familiar, a task would be a card. In Trello, you have a board which is like a big project and then there’s lists, which usually are phases of that project and then in each list, there is cards which represents individual tasks. With Airtable, you can create a project and have sort of subtasks under that and there will still be an overarching project with a leader on that and a task and a communication on that. In Trello, you can’t really, in an organized way, communicate in a project level within Trello. It’s sort of hard because I tried one when I’m making it visual. Here’s a really good way to put it. In Trello, you can create checklists in a card. Let’s say the card is promote podcast episode and then in that card, you have a checklist. It’s like first, put it on Medium and then put it on YouTube, and then do this. That whole card, that whole podcast promotion thing will be assigned to sort of one person that might have to go through that. The Airtable version, you could basically assign the individual checklist items to different people and have communication around those. It lets you get a lot more granular, I guess that’s one of the ways to say it.
Okay, got it. I’d love to hear how you’re organizing your Trello boards like the honey do list and all sorts of different stuff that you’re putting into Trello. How do you organize it because my approach was very basic. We were using Trello, then we switched to Asana and Asana does support the Kanban. I’m guessing at the time you’re like, “I can’t use Asana. I can’t not have Kanban.”
I think that the visual project management aspects are really important just from the human psychology standpoint.
Can you explain first of all, because there are listeners who are probably getting a little lost in here. What is Kanban?
Yes, first of all it’s Kanban, actually. It’s a Japanese word that literally means billboard. Essentially, you’re looking at lists. The most common thing that people relate it to is if you had seen people organize things with post-it notes on a whiteboard. Usually, have one post-it note, one below it, one below it, and then to the right of it you got different color in one or two and you sort of move things around. The phases would be something like to do, doing, done, some form of that. Kanban is originally a Toyota lean manufacturing principle when they are making cars and looking at the assembly lines. We’re moving through these different phases and that’s really what to do list lack is that sense of movement and the sort of inherent motivation to push things forward to the next phase. That’s potentially what Kanban is.
To do, doing and done are the lists. You got the board, which is a project, for example. You’ve got the list, which are let’s say the three of them. there’s to do, there’s doing, and there’s done, and then there are cards associated with each of those lists. Some things are in the to do column and that list is somewhere in progress, they’re in the doing list and then some are completed. Would you veer away from that model for some of your projects or areas of focus, like your honey do list, or you’re always using those three lists or categories?
Yes I am, but it’s some form of that. It doesn’t have to be three either. It just an art, right? Something that needs to get done, something that we are working on now and something that you have completed. But that could be seven phases or more. You look at real estate brokers who use Trello for example, they’re looking at houses to buy. It could be prospect, negotiating, in contract, closed, listed, sold. That still is to do, doing, done, in some form or another. You just make it through that over arch of what that path would look like. Yes, even in the honey do list, there is the to do’s, the doing. If my wife put something into do and I move it into doing because I’m actually working on it, she’ll know that, and when it’s done, it’s done.
Yes, you’re using Zapier to connect up Trello with other applications?
Yes, there’s a lot of Zapier and also IFTTT.
Yep, when would you use one versus the other?
Between IFTTT and Zapier?
IFTTT is free so we always try to do everything in IFTTT first but because it’s free it’s also limited. Zapier allows you, again, a lot more granularity but there is a learning curve again. If we can’t do it in IFTTT, we’ll do it in Zapier. A very specific example would be IFTTT can certainly create a new Trello card. I could say if I like a tweet, if I heart a tweet, add it to a Trello card in my social media board for somebody we follow up on. Whereas, one of the triggers in Zappier would be if I move a card from one list to the next, that triggers something.
Okay, alright, there’s more capability with Zapier yet you still use IFTTT for many use cases because it’s simpler to use. Is that right?
Okay, got it. I’m thinking like, wow, I would just love to look over your shoulder and watch you use all of your different systems and all the things that you’ve configured. Do you have any kind of tool or training or online course where you walk people through your set up and all the different tools, their integrations and everything, Slack, Trello, IFTTT, Zapier, etc, etc.?
Yes, absolutely. I have a membership site called Less Doing Labs which is on Slack and it has 800 people in there. That’s my sort of my entry level thing for everyone to see. In there, there’s over 200 hours of videos now that we have, that we share, in an organized fashion. I do webinars in there and then we have a premium version of the lab. Less Doing Lab is like $47 a month, the premium one is $99 a month. In there, I do something called Process Hacker Live where I’ll actually take a members’ process or one of my own and actually build it out live on a webinar and show how I set up the Zaps and everything so they can do it themselves or in some cases, I do it for them. There’s a lot of access.
Okay, I’m sold. I want the premium. Do you use ManyChat for Facebook Messenger?
Yes, we do very basically right now but yes, we’re building out some really cool stuff with ManyChat as well. I like this. You know all the good tools.
I do. Yes, I’m a geek. It’s in the name of the podcast after all. Are you using Twilio for text messaging?
I have in the past. We don’t have a need for it right now. We can do Twilio into Intercom if we needed to but one of the main things that we use Twilio for in the past, it was kind of annoying, was for SMS notification for CalendlyAppointments.
So that we can reduce those no shows, but now there’s something call Rodeo Reminderswhich is $6 a month and you just set it up in a minute and does it for you.
Cool, does that work with ScheduleOnce as well?
No, ScheduleOnce has it built in, doesn’t it?
I don’t know. I know it has the email reminders but we’ve been using Twilio to remind people to show up for the webinars. I think we’re also using it to get people to show up for prospect calls. I have an appointment funnel and they were using Infusionsoft and this is for my SEO consulting business. Anyways, we’re getting down the weeds. Let’s get all back up to the 30,000 foot view. What’s been the biggest difference in your life between, let’s say, now and just two years ago. Because I know you’ve had a huge transformation when you went from over worked and all that but you’re continually optimizing. That’s part of who you are, it sounds like. You’re a biohacker, you’re a life hacker. Two years ago, I would guess, you’ve made a lot of progress. You were using a lot of the systems back then too. What would be the biggest change maker in your life over those last one or two years?
I’m very big on idea capture. What I mean by that is we, especially as entrepreneurs, but everybody has ideas all the time and being obsessive about enabling, giving myself as many options as possible for getting idea that I might have I think is one of the key things for me. Everything from having post-it notes around the house, we have three Alexa Echos in the house. I can just say, I can’t say it right now because she’ll respond.
Yes, I’ve got the same problem.
If I say, *Mmm,* remind me to do this later, make a Trello card about this. It’s actually a really, really big thing for me. Recognizing there’s a different time for ideating as opposed to a time for processing information. If I capture information throughout the day and then at night when things start to come down and lighter, I can process things and decide, “Yeah, I want to explore this further. Yes, I want to get back to this person or yes, that was good to know and I can delete that now.” That’s honestly the biggest thing for me.
Okay, awesome. You’re using your Echo as a capture device. Are you doing stuff like ordering books with Amazon with it and so forth?
I would. Quite honestly, I wish I could make more time to read and I’m so bad about it. It’s not saying all the time. I just obviously have not made it a priority. I have used it for that but most of the books that I end up reading now are books that podcast guests have sent me.
Okay, maybe I should send you mine. It’s 1,000 pages though. It’ll be overwhelming. Let’s talk about my book The Art of SEO.
It’s a big book, actually I got a brand new edition of Google Power Surge. It’s coming out this month. That’s only like 120 pages. I’ll send you that one.
Are you coding in your own Amazon Echo skills or you’re just relying on the library of skills or you’re just not using that capability of the Echo?
No, I’m just connecting with IFTTT and I can do it from there.
Okay, got it. I didn’t realize that there’s an IFTTT skill that allows you to connect up with the Echo.
Yes, there is.
That is cool. I’m going to have some fun geeking out. Okay, I know we have just a few minutes left. What would be the most important things that you want our listeners to get from this conversation, something that we haven’t even covered yet? What would be the most important thing for them to take away?
You can look at any process, any challenge that might come in your way, business process or personal process, productivity challenge, and think about that OAO framework, optimize, automate, outsource in that order. We’re looking at optimizing first whatever it is that is there, identifying the steps that are required, all that kind of stuff; automating what we can after that and there’s quite a bit that we can automate now a days; outsourcing is sort of the last step. In a lot of cases you can avoid outsourcing completely.
Okay, that’s your framework. Optimize, automate, outsource. That’s part of Less Doing or is that part of…
That’s all Less Doing.
Okay, the premise behind Less Doing is less doing and more being, or less doing and getting more done?
Less Doing, More Living.
Okay. What would somebody look like after they’ve gone through your program in terms of quality of life?
They’ll have more time to do whatever they want with it, whether it’s just think of new ideas, or spend time with family, or learn a skill, or start a new business.
Do you think they would be more aware of time and life? Or do you think they just have more time freed up? Would there be some meta awareness of their existence that goes along with the framework or is it just like, “I’m able to accomplish twice as much in half the time.”
The awareness is a big part to it. That’s a big element of overcoming the stress.
Okay, do you have a case study example of somebody that’s had a huge breakthrough, a big transformation from going through your program? Somebody maybe in your Less Doing Labs or in one of your other programs?
We have tons of testimonials of that. A lot of them are personal, the business ones. A lot of the organizations that I work with are somewhat private in those regards sometimes. If people go to lessdoing.com they may check out the labs, there’s a pretty cool video with testimonials from Joe Polish, as you know him, and a bunch of other people that I’ve worked with.
Okay, awesome. I guess our next step for listeners is to go to lessdoing.com check out your awesome stuff, maybe consider doing Less Doing Labs, either regular or the premium, and any particular YouTube videos or anything else that you would direct people to as a next step to learn more about your methodology and your awesome everything.
Yeah. When they go to lessdoing.com there’s a pretty good minute and a half video there that gives a bit of an overview of me and who I am and what I am and then everything else is on there. I have a podcast with three books, everything is in lessdoing.com
Okay, awesome. Well, thank you so much, Ari. This was a lot of fun and really enlightening and inspiring too. Listeners, now it’s time to take some actions from this and not just get entertained and enjoy it but actually put it in your life. We’ll catch you on the next episode. This is Stephan Spencer, signing off.
- Less Doing, More Living
- @arimeisel on Twitter
- @arimeisel on Instagram
- Ari Meisel on LinkedIn
- Less Doing, More Living
- Less Doing Podcast
- Getting Things Done (GTD)
- David Allen on the Optimized Geek
- Biohacker Summit
- ARX Fit
- Dave Asprey on the Optimized Geek
- Intro to Biohacking by Ari Meisel
- Dr. Harry Adelson on the Optimized Geek
- Tough Mudder
- Keith Cunningham
- Alter ego concept by Todd Herman
- Salvador Dalí
- Cal Newport on the Optimized Geek
- Attention residue
- Flow state
Your Checklist of Actions to Take
☑ Create systems that involve organization, outsourcing and automation. This can help me fight stress and improve my productivity.
☑ Have a good reason to be productive. Let that reason be my motivation when I am trying to get things done.
☑ Try different productivity processes and systems until I find what’s best for me. What works for others might not work for me.
☑ Have a system in place that I am comfortable with before I decide to expand my company. This will help me train new team members more effectively.
☑ Find my peak time with the help of Human Performance on iOS or Less Doing Peak Time on Android. Do my heavy thinking during these hours for optimized productivity.
☑ Fight jet lag and even seasonal depression with HumanCharger, a device that emits bright light therapy through my ears.
☑ Choose the right devices and beware of biohacking. I can continue living a healthy, optimized life without using too many devices.
☑ Regularly monitor my heart rate and sugar levels so that I can regulate them.
☑ Consider buying TrueDark Twilight and Daywalker glasses for better sleep, performance, and health.
☑ Use project management tools such as Asana, Trello or Airtable not just for work but for personal tasks and household duties.
About Ari Meisel
Ari is the best-selling author of “The Art of Less Doing“, and “The Replaceable Founder.” He is a self-described Overwhelmologist whose insights into personal and professional productivity have earned him the title, “The Guru’s Guru.” He can be heard on the award-winning Less Doing Podcast, on international stages speaking to thought leaders and influencers, and for those who prefer the written word, Ari’s blog posts on Medium offer immediate and actionable advice for entrepreneurs seeking replaceability.