Thoughts on improving productivity and creativity.

“Why the f*ck do I feel so unproductive and uncreative?”

It was August 2017 as I wrote these words in my notebook. I was sitting in my quiet room in an old guesthouse in the small town of Zao Onsen, overlooking the mountains of Yamagata Prefecture.

I was on holiday, a slow trip on local trains through rural Japan. I thought it might be nice to get a break from fast-paced Tokyo for a few days, explore Japan a bit more, and get a fresh perspective. It wasn’t an attempt to escape, I didn’t feel like there was anything I wanted or needed to escape from. I thought everything was…

Noble Leisure

Rediscover an ancient concept to fight off stagnation and start flourishing again—by getting into flow

Hands holding a fishing rod and reel.
Hands holding a fishing rod and reel.
Image credit: Kamonchai Mattakulphon.

Mental health is a continuum. Not being mentally ill doesn’t necessarily mean you are healthy.

Usually, we don’t really think or talk much about mental health, except in the context of serious issues (and even then we, unfortunately, have a tendency to ignore it).

But the pandemic has put a spotlight on mental health — and not just on the extreme ends of the spectrum.

While anxiety, burnout, and depression have certainly been on the rise over the past year, even more pronounced (albeit less obvious) has been the increase in people — myself included — who are just feeling…

Noble Leisure

What you find when you open your senses to the new experiences just around the corner might surprise you—no reservations required

A map of the world placed on a desk with a camera and money.
A map of the world placed on a desk with a camera and money.
Photo by Chris Lawton on Unsplash

Yes, there is tremendous enjoyment and value to be found in visiting a faraway destination and checking out the main tourist attractions, relaxing on a beautiful beach with an exotic cocktail in hand, or doing a long road trip trying to cover as much ground as possible.

But often the best kind of travel happens at a more relaxed pace — and it doesn’t even have to be far.

It’s not an escape from the daily grind and work, but something that weaves directly into our everyday life and lets us truly explore a place — as well as our…

Noble Leisure

Innovation happens at the intersection of wonder and rigor — child mindset and adult mindset

Kids playing in a field
Kids playing in a field
Photo by Robert Collins on Unsplash

Where do you think the most innovation is happening within a 20-mile radius of you?

If you’re now thinking something like “the university,” “our local startup accelerator,” or “my corporate innovation lab,” you are probably in good company. But even at the most forward-thinking institution, the scope of innovation is limited by funds, bureaucracy, risk aversion, or just plain lack of imagination.

There is, however, a place where innovation is truly boundless, often even bending or exceeding the laws of nature.

Somewhere near you is a playground.

Yes, a place with monkey bars, screaming kids, brilliant ideas, and anything-is-possible mindsets.

Noble Leisure

More deliberate learners might be stronger at innovating and applying what they’ve learned to even more creative work

Male sitting on a dock looking out at the world
Male sitting on a dock looking out at the world
Image credit: Merlas.

“I’m a fast learner.”

— Every candidate I ever interviewed for a job

It’s a statement that is so ubiquitous in resumes and job interviews that it has almost entirely lost any meaning.

Everyone seems to be a self-proclaimed “fast learner.”

But we know something is fishy when most people claim to be above average at something, just like in the often-cited example of 73% of US drivers thinking they are better than average drivers.

Part of the reason so many people are claiming to be fast learners might be a manifestation of the Dunning-Kruger effect, a genuine tendency to…

Noble Leisure

A critical lesson for leaders about elite performers

Football player tackles another on the field.
Football player tackles another on the field.
Photo by Chris Chow on Unsplash

Imagine an elite athlete showing up to a key competition, completely exhausted from back-to-back performances in the previous days and pulling an all-nighter to work out in the gym the previous night in order to “prepare.”

This athlete would certainly get crushed by competitors, and reprimanded by the team and the coaches.

Yet for professionals in most other fields — from doctors, lawyers, and consultants to leaders, entrepreneurs, and creatives — this seems to be almost the norm, and in far too many cases even something to brag about.

I recently saw a room on the social media app Clubhouse…

Noble Leisure

Using permission, prioritization, and persistence to unlearn the harmful guilt we associate with time off

A person crosses their legs as they relax on the beach.
A person crosses their legs as they relax on the beach.
Photo by Veronika Nedelcu on Unsplash

Most of us are becoming increasingly aware of how critical rest and time off are for our mental health, our overall wellbeing, and even our professional performance.

Many of us have come face-to-face with the negative consequences of not getting enough detachment, and we’re aware of the danger. Yet actually disconnecting and taking time off seems to be more and more difficult.

We just can’t shake the guilt that we associate with not constantly working. It’s been too deeply ingrained in our culture and our psyche.

My business partner John Fitch and I recently collaborated with Deloitte’s chief well-being officer…

A 10-week program to alleviate stress and achieve peak performance

A person runs on a tree-lined trail.
A person runs on a tree-lined trail.
Image credit: Popartic.

I tried a ten-week program of resonance breathing to see if it would make a measurable impact on my anxiety. With the combination of hard data and more subjective analysis of the results, I would go as far as to say that the sense of anxiety I experienced last year is now completely gone again, and that the resonance breathing practice played a role in this.

2020 was a stressful and anxious year for many of us, and I’m certainly no exception to this.

Besides the pandemic, I also published a book, which at times made me feel like a…

The results of two years of self-tracking with the Oura Ring and personal logging of caffeine and alcohol consumption, HRV, and other data

A smiley face mug placed on the sea shore.
A smiley face mug placed on the sea shore.
Image credit: Enes Evren.

I’ve been trying to quantify, understand, and improve my sleep for many years now, and in the following, I want to share with you my longest and most in-depth self-study yet.

So let’s take a look at what effects caffeine, alcohol, and exercise have had on my sleep.

I started this analysis in mid-2018 when I wrote about the results of tracking and modeling my blood caffeine concentration for a month.

Towards the end of 2018, I shared the results of a more detailed experiment, covering around three months of sleep and related data and attempting to find correlations.


Noble Leisure

Journaling doesn’t have to be complicated; simply giving shape to your thoughts and feelings can have profound effects.

Two pages in the author’s notebook, written in August 2017.
Two pages in the author’s notebook, written in August 2017.
Two pages in my notebook, written in August 2017, that would lead me to reinvent my life and create an entirely new career path for myself. Photo by the author.

“The unexamined life is not worth living.”

— Socrates

Frequent reflection and a strong self-awareness are common amongst many of the world’s top performers. And few methods of introspection are simpler or more powerful than taking pen and paper and writing down your thoughts and feelings.

From morning pages to reflection prompts, the techniques for journaling are numerous and can help us gain much needed calm, clarity, and growth.

Rather than add another theoretical exercise to your arsenal of journaling techniques, I want to give you a concrete example of how a single journaling session brought me clarity in a…

Max Frenzel

AI Researcher, Writer, Digital Creative. Passionate about helping you build your rest ethic. Author of the international bestseller Time Off.

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