Billionaire Richard Branson’s Shares His #1 Productivity Secret

A small group of business owners and entrepreneurs sit impatiently, waiting for Richard Branson’s productivity secret.

“Richard, how do you stay so productive?”

“I work out.”

That’s it. No weird smoothies, supplements, or mind hacks. Work out.

Watch it here.

This isn’t just a random video from someone’s phone. Richard has talked about how strongly he believes in working out with Inc, and even brags about it on his blog. He has started over 400 companies, most notably Virgin (music, mobile, air), and could easily be one of the busiest people on the planet. Yet, he credits working out as his biggest way to stay productive and healthy.

Richard Branson's Productivity SecretIf one of the world’s richest and most productive people can find time each day to work out, maybe we can start to push ourselves a little bit more in terms of physical fitness. Many of the world’s most powerful and productive people make sure they take time each day to focus on their bodies and energy.

Realize that the majority of them are not professional athletes, and are just as time-crunched as you and me. It’s not uncommon to see a boost in personal fitness correspond with productivity. People begin running half-marathons, cycle 50 miles, join CrossFit, or sign up for the Simple Gym.

A 2011 study even showed that employees could work out on company time. They showed no loss in productivity compared to employees who weren’t exercising, but working more hours! This flies directly in the face of our tendency to believe that more hours = more productivity.

Tony Schwartz goes to so far as to say that we have the whole idea out of whack. He is famous for saying, and practicing, this mantra.

 Manage your energy, not your time.

Forward thinking companies like 37Signals and Buffer are becoming famous for making this a part of their company culture. The answer to a problem is rarely to sit at your desk or stare at the computer screen. Managing your energy, the amount of brain power you can throw at a problem, is usually not found in the same place you’ve been for the past several hours.

Richard Branson’s Productivity Secret isn’t a Revelation…

…and isn’t that a good thing? The answer to solving those problems and boosting your productivity is simple, but challenging. Start working out, go exercise, dial up one of our workouts, or even just do 10 pushups. Just start moving. Want to know what happens when you start moving, what triggers in your brain?

It turns out that just 20 minutes of walking gives you a boost of happiness, increase your lifespan, and lower your risk of disease. The cost/benefit almost seems absurd, yet we struggle with it. John Medina, author of Brain Rules, gives strikingly similar advice. In fact, he lists exercise as the #1 Brain Rule, because it boosts brain power.

The optimal environment for processing information would include motion. That is exactly what one finds. Indeed, the best business meeting would have everyone walking at about 1.8 miles per hour.

Imagine groups of executives walking around town, having their high-powered meetings. People would be less likely to nod off, that’s for sure. From a productivity perspective, exercise increases oxygen flow to the brain, which always increases mental activity and sharpness. Medina himself isn’t what you would call a fitness buff, but makes time every day to at least go on a 20 minute walk. It seems even neuroscientists need to stay fit and boost their productivity!

So with all of these examples from billionaires and brain scientists, why do we have such trouble getting on board for a workout routine?

Our Definition of Exercise is Wrong

cap-pushupWe often equate exercise with the big box gym, treadmills, machines, and heavy weights. Cleanse your mind of this picture. Exercise is movement, period. When you were a kid, playing outside was exercise, climbing trees, riding a bike, or whatever got you moving. While the loss of unstructured play is one of the great losses of growing up, it’s not all gone. Going for a walk, playing with your kids, taking the stairs, parking far away, all of these little choices accumulate towards making you a little healthier.

I know having kids changes everything in life, but it’s actually a great opportunity to re-frame your definition of exercise while showing your kids a great example of how important moving is. Your kids probably won’t care to do burpees with you, but they can kick the soccer ball, wrestle, you pick!

We Have High Expectations

Setting goals and having high expectations are not bad things, but they can be an obstacle to starting your workout plan. It’s easy to forget that 1 > 0. Doing anything is better than doing nothing. So if you find it difficult to stick to a workout routine, the answer is probably to start smaller. Instead of a 20 minute run, try 5. A 10 minute workout becomes 4 minutes, or the length of one song. Don’t think about running a 10k, just run around the block.

Congratulate yourself at the end! A little celebration will teach your brain that what just happened was a good thing, and worth doing again. High-five yourself, raise your arms above your head like Steve Holt, or a little fist pump will do the trick.

We Make Excuses

It’s too cold, too hot, I’m tired, there’s not enough time, my workout clothes are dirty, my shoes are too tight/loose, too early, too late, and more. Leo Babauta of Zen Habits obliterates your excuses in this challenging post. He makes it clear that fit, productive people have many or all of the same challenges as unhealthy people. The key is to realign your priorities and start small enough to make it a habit.

It’s Uncomfortable

6a00d83451b31569e20120a646d8d7970b-320wiAnything that pushes you is uncomfortable. New jobs, new friends, new cities, new ways of living. Our brain is entrenched in the status quo, and is perfectly happy staying there. The cool trick about the brain’s love of routine is that it can be re-wired to be in a healthy routine just as easily. Our challenge is to push through the initial discomfort until we reach a new bliss, where we’ve killed the lizard brain and created a new way of thinking and acting.

Richard Rohr, a Fransciscan priest, likes to say:

We don’t think ourselves in to new ways of living, we live ourselves in to new ways of thinking.

Time is Short

This is understandable, to a point. One of the reasons I stopped going to CrossFit was because of the time it took. 30 minute drive, 30 minute workout, 30 minutes back – I didn’t have 1.5 hours to dedicate solely to working out 4 days a week. Going to the gym is costly, both from a time and money standpoint. While that’s a fine reason not to go to the gym, it’s not an excuse to not exercise at all.

The Simple Gym exists to bridge this gap. Do one of the 65+ workouts we’ve written, or pushups, squats, burpees, jump around, or go for a run/walk/hike. We’re even working on a solid routine of 5 minute beginner workouts, to completely sweep away any of your remaining excuses.

Exercise is a one of the cornerstone habits in our lives, says writer and researcher Charles Duhigg. It’s a habit that jump-starts positive traits and actions in other parts of your life. You would be hard-pressed to find a more powerful way to boost productivity, feel better, be more energetic, and live longer.

So what are you waiting for?

Ten Everyday Items to Use as Fitness Equipment

gallon_of_waterAt the Simple Gym, I try and look at fitness a little differently than most. Your health doesn’t have to come with the expectations of an expensive gym membership, personal trainers, or truckloads of fitness equipment. I believe we need to start simply, and look at our own bodies as the best mechanism for change!

But sometimes we need additional weight to continue challenging ourselves. Sometimes we use weights in the workouts, but I always look for everyday items which can be used instead of traditional fitness equipment. When I recommend fitness equipment, I spend a lot of time researching how affordable and useful the it is. I prefer tools you can get the most out of, valuing utility over all other features.

However, buying fitness equipment isn’t always in the budget, and it certainly isn’t necessary! Here are ten household or everyday items we can use to help take our workouts to the next level!

Six Alternatives to Traditional Fitness Equipment

  • Gallon of water (8 lbs) – use for lifting, curling, pressing
  • Bucket of sand – use for lifting, carrying
  • Rocks – use for pressing, carrying
  • Books – use for lifting, carrying, pressing
  • Logs or large branches – use for lifting, carrying, pressing
  • Canned goods – use for lifting, carrying, pressing

Four Other Alternatives

  • Rolled-up towel = AbMat
  • Beach towel = Yoga mat
  • Partner resistance = Resistance rubber bands
  • Steps = Jump box

I encourage you to keep an eye out for ways you can use common items as a way to challenge your workouts and get healthier. Ways to become fit and healthy are all around us, we just need to keep our eyes open.

Question: What other everyday items do you find useful in helping workout?

All Day Baby! – Workout #53

If you’re just looking for the day’s workout, scroll down past all my ranting.

We’ve all been there. You sleep in a little, or something happens at home or work, and you miss the day’s workout. Bummer, right?


We’ve tricked ourself in to thinking a workout is something you have to do in a 10-30 minute time block. While a dedicated block of time is preferable, research has shown that short bursts of energy throughout the day also have surprising health benefits.

So if you miss your workout block, don’t despair and resign yourself to a sedentary day!

Set a timer to of off every 30 minutes. When it beeps, do five pushups, or even ten! When the timer goes off the next time, do ten squats. At the end of an eight hour work day, you’ve done 80 pushups and 80 squats! Realize the cumulative effects of getting up and moving around regularly pay off!

Ok, I’m getting off my soap box.

Today’s Workout

4 Movements

5 Rounds

10 reps each movement/round

= 200 total reps!

The Movements

  • Burpees
  • Squat to press
  • High knees
  • Wingtip pushups

Want to see what the movements look like? The video will guide you. Thanks and have a great workout!

Eating Like a Caveman (woman)

Organic vegetable Boxes

Photo Credit: Creative Commons

        April 1st was day numero uno. Matt and I embarked on a new adventure. We started  eating like cavemen, women. We are always excited to try new things and see how it makes us feel, hopefully for the better, but not always. I love to test myself and just see how long I can withstand from the foods I love most in the world. So without thinking about it further and triple guessing myself, we began the Paleo diet.


Photo Credit: Creative Commons

       I love the idea of getting back to our roots, and yes,  you can find enough information anywhere to support your theory, whether you are vegan, veggie, Paleo, or none of the above, there is enough information to support whatever you think is right. I’m not saying that Paleo is the way to go, I’m just saying, “let’s give it a try”.  I tried out vegetarianism before, lasted almost a 2 years. I also was a vegan for a substantially less amount of time, approximately 22 days. But, none the less, Paleo full throttle is next on the docket.

      What is the Paleo Diet?  I have kind of dumbed it down for myself, so I’ll share my theory with you. The Paleo diet is eating foods that our old old ancestors ate. There were no refined sugars, so sorry, their out. There were no processed snack foods back in the day of hunting for your meals. There were no alcoholic beverages (oh my! I may play around with this one a bit).  Not even starches or grains were present in the Paleolithic period.  There was meat, fish, poultry, fruits, veggies, and nuts. I’m probably missing something :). So, I will keep you updated on our progress and  symptoms from the lack of every day added in sugars.  To bad the cavemen hadn’t discovered chocolate.




The Red Month

Red Velvet Heart 021409

photo credit: creative commons

        It only seemed fit that there be a writing on heart health to close the heart health awareness month.  So, back in the day, doctors thought that heart disease was a mans’ disease. This is not the case. It only seemed that way because women do not generally display the same “heart attack signs” that have been produced by men.

Some quick facts about heart health

  • More than 1 and 3 women dies from cardiovascular disease
  • Cardiovascular disease causes approximately 1 death every minute among women in the U.S.
  • Heart disease causes more death than any other cause of death for women in the U.S.
  • 41 million American women are living with the disease right now

I know these facts sound incredibly freighting, but knowledge is power! You can do so many simple life changes to keep this disease at bay. Doctors stress diet and exercise are the best tools to fight back. One of the myths about heart disease is that people think it is just a part of growing old. Not true! If you take the time now to learn about heart disease you might very well never face it!  

What you can do about it

  • know your family history, find out if there is heart disease in your blood line
  • live an active lifestyle, move!
  • be aware of changes in your body
  • schedule physical exams and be a partner with your doctor
  • eat fruits and veggies!

Heart disease does not have to happen. Take responsibility of your heart’s health today!

I got my facts on heart disease from AHA Complete guide to women’s heart health.

How do you focus on the Goal?


Photo Credit: Creative commons.

For the past 16 weeks, I have been training for a marathon. I can hardly believe it is here. All of that time and energy will accumulate to, hopefully no more than 5 hours. It’s taken a lot of focus and commitment. But, don’t the greatest things in life take focus and commitment?  I guess my question for you this week is, how do you stay focused? Where do you go to stay committed to your goal?

Not everyones goal is a 26.2 mile run up the face of a mountain, but we all have our own mountains, they just appear differently.

I urge you to think of your marathon, your fitness goal, your 5k, your weight loss goal, and share with us how you stay committed. A  wise man once said “the mountains are calling and I must go.” -Muir. Where will your mountains take you?

10 Simple Fitness lessons I’ve learned from my Dog


Abby cooling off in the lake.

10. Always be ready to move

9. Don’t be afraid to cool off in the lake

8. Exercise unattached

7. Enjoy the company of others

6. Explore new territory

5. Know how to rest, and rest well

4. Reward yourself

3. Get Dirty

2. Have a goal and be determined (Abby’s goal is a squirrel, what’s yours?)

1. Have fun

Is your job making you Unhealthy?

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Photo Credit: Victor1558, Creative Commons

The word “obesity” seems to be fresh on our tongues these days.  Although there are many reasons for the obesity epidemic, researchers have started to notice a new trend in what may be a root cause.  According to the New York Times,

Jobs requiring moderate physical activity, which accounted for 50 percent of the labor market in 1960, have plummeted to just 20 percent.

This means that 80% of the Americans working today, are sitting on their bottoms.  The work force is no longer  in factories or physical production businesses, instead we work and labor around a computer. Being sedentary for 8-10 hours a day can cause  dramatic health declines.

How can we change this?  I’m not saying quit your desk job. But I am suggesting we change these motionless moments and become more active. These simple changes in your work day can have a great impact on your health:

  • Set a timer for 30 minutes and move:  Whether it is a brisk 5 mintue walk around the building or the desks, just give yourself time to be active and clear your mind.
  • Take a band: Exercise bands are a great tool to have in the office. They are light weight and inconspicuous. Simply place it under your foot to work on your biceps.
  • Big Ab Ball: Who wouldn’t want to bounce at there desk?  Big “ab” balls promote squat movements, are better for your back and glute muscles,  and think of the conversation starters.
  • Push ups: Don’t need much here. Just set a goal for your work day and crush it.
  • Co-worker Competition: Having a friendly competition among co-workers is a great way to stay motivated.  You can have weight loss goals, speed walking races, or push up contests. Be creative here.

These simple steps can change the way Americans see the workplace. It doesn’t have to be the way it is now, 8-10 hours of sitting. Being physically active also helps your brain be more mentally active,  just tell your boss that.


Winter Woes: Conquer those cold months

Discovery Cabin

Photo By Glacier NP

I find it extremely difficult to stay focused during the winter months. Depending on where you live, this can play a huge role in your fitness. So how are we supposed to maintain any level of motivation? I have a few ideas. I hope they help you:

  1.  Have a buddy: This is an incredibly helpful tool. Having someone you workout with makes you more likely to get the job done. When you workout with a buddy you are accountable for your time. You can motivate each other and have fun too.
  2.  Get to it: Sometimes the toughest thing to do when it is cold and dark out is to start. I know as soon as I start a workout, I never regret it. So just, get to it!
  3.   If you can, get out: Sometimes the winter months can produce a “cabin fever” feel. I suggest you get outside as much as possible. Even if you just go for a 10 minute walk and then rush back in for the 2nd half of the workout. There is just something to be said about the outdoors.
  4.  Reward yourself: Winter months mean sweets are lurking in the back corner. Don’t be consumed with fear. If you had a great workout, reward yourself. Humans are biologically made to enjoy treats (just don’t get out of hand).
  5. Get Pumped Up: Nothing works better for me then listening to some great tunes.  Music can enhance your mood and get the blood flowing. So pop on your ipod and have fun.

Unfamiliar Territory

Note: Wednesdays are blog post days at The Simple Gym. However, if you’ve just signed up in the last couple of days and would like a workout to do, check out our YouTube page for last week’s workouts. Thanks!

bw-road-simplePushing yourself beyond your previous limitations can be a bit daunting.  It is scary to completely change the way you think about your body. It can be overwhelming to know that you no longer have to be afraid of the way you feel and look. Unfamiliar territory can make us uneasy, we like our small comfort zones.  Yet, unfamiliar territory can be so refreshing and essential to our human needs.  Challenging yourself is one of the most valuable and completely human things we can do. I challenge you to know those restrictions, know those things standing in your way, and bust through them. Do not let your mind dictate something your body is so very capable of doing. Unfamiliar territory can be frightening, but it can also be the best thing you can do for yourself.

 Only the weak attempts to accomplish what he knows he can already achieve.

– Stella Juarez