Albert Einstein (14 March 1879 – 18 April 1955) was a German-born theoretical physicist who developed the theory of relativity, one of the two pillars of modern physics (alongside quantum mechanics).
1. NO SOCKS. EVER.
Albert Einstein didn’t wear socks was because, in his childhood, it took him just a day or two to wear out a hole in a new sock. And that says something about Albert Einstein’s mind. His thoughts were so significant that any issue – even annoying socks – wasn’t worth the distraction. He couldn’t stand it, so socks were immediately banned for life.
2. PLAYING THE VIOLIN.
At first, young Einstein couldn’t stand it, but when he was 13, he heard Mozart for the first time and fell in love with it. After that, he never stopped playing the violin again. Despite his first reaction, Einstein was curious enough to change his mind about violin playing.
3. SLEEPING 10 HOURS A DAY.
Despite sleeping for 10 hours at night, Einstein didn’t restrict himself from having naps either.
While he drifted off, he held a metal spoon in his hand and had a metal plate lying on the floor right underneath the spoon. When he fell asleep, he would drop the spoon on the plate, and the resulting sound was enough to wake him up immediately.
4. DAILY WALKS.
Einstein wasn’t a person with a passion for exercise and a healthy lifestyle. His walks had nothing to do with benefiting his health. The thing is, while we walk, we’re not busy; our mind is left to itself. Plus, it’s partially concentrated on the sole process of walking. That’s why a long enough walk can put you in a sort of trance. It’ll allow you to relax and think about things differently.
This is precisely what Einstein was looking for – to switch his way of thinking, to re-set his mind.
Einstein used three simple principles to be productive:
- He had a daily ritual and schedule.
- He lived a minimalist lifestyle, and he focused on his most important work.
Some of Einstein’s productivity methods are still used today since they are highly effective. At Asian Efficiency, several of our core concepts closely align with Einstein’s daily rituals and practices:
- to live a minimalist luxury lifestyle
- to have a morning ritual
- to use the Pomodoro Technique
Although most of us will never develop a new theory, or win a Nobel Prize, using these three tips can help us become more effective in our own lives.
1. The Minimalist Luxury Lifestyle
Living a minimalist life doesn’t mean going without. We’ve discussed this before on the blog as the minimalist luxury lifestyle. Basically, what would you prefer? A closet full of low-quality clothing or a wardrobe comprised of fewer but more durable, high-quality items? The idea is to have fewer but better items.
Albert Einstein embraced minimalism in his lifestyle. He gave most of his Nobel prize money to his wife. He rarely wore socks or suspenders. He couch surfed when he traveled. When he was scheduled to visit a group of prominent scientists, he emerged from the third-class train car to greet them. I don’t know if I could do it like that (I like my luxury hotel stays and first-class seats anytime I can afford them).
Like everyone else, we all have special things that we put no price limit on. So what did Einstein splurge on? Good cigars, coffee, and musical instruments.
Einstein believed it was more important to focus on the things that mattered, whether playing violin with a group of other musicians or drinking a gourmet cup of coffee. He could have embraced a much more luxurious lifestyle, but he chose not to (and I respect that).
When we focus on acquiring possessions that have true value for us, we may end up with fewer possessions and less clutter. Without the mess of objects that physically and mentally block us from our goals, we can free our minds to focus on creating more success for ourselves and others around us.
The minimalist luxury lifestyle is:
- owning fewer things
- owning things of good quality
- valuing our possessions and freeing our time for other pursuits
- de-cluttering our lives to free our mental space
What we can learn from Einstein is how minimalism helped him stay focused on his passions and commune with other people, instead of things. He made a conscious choice to own possessions that had exceptional value.
2. Einstein’s Daily Ritual
By the time Albert Einstein was teaching at Princeton, he was one of the most recognized faces of the 20th century. Rarely could he walk the streets without being approached by the public. He even devised a simple way to explain his theory of relativity to curious people on the street!
Einstein’s daily walk was sacred to him because it was a component of a daily ritual.
There are endless numbers of articles online about rituals and how important they are for productivity. Entire books have been written detailing the daily routines of celebrities and public figures. The reason why this dialogue continues to happen is that routines work.
Albert Einstein had a simple, daily ritual:
- walk or drive to work
- tea time
- more work
As you can see, there’s nothing strenuous or extraordinary about this schedule. Many people may have this routine without even realizing it. With routine, it isn’t always about the components. What’s important is that Albert Einstein could wake up in the morning knowing what the structure of his day would be like.
Some people are not creatures of habit and establishing a daily ritual takes time and practice. For Einstein, I think his need for schedule and ritual was tied to the constant instability of the world around him. Routine allowed him the time and headspace to tackle the scientific concepts that swirled around him.
At Asian Efficiency we talk about the importance of a morning ritual all the time. If you’re new to working on being more productive, this is a good practice to start with. Like Einstein, you probably already have certain things you do every morning, such as walking the dog, eating a certain cereal, meditation, or exercise. We even have a mini-course on this called the Morning Ritual Starter Kit that has a template you can download and use right away.
By creating a dedicated time frame to these tasks and consolidating them, you’ve created a morning ritual for yourself. Let’s quickly review what a morning ritual is:
- a series of steps that form a sequence to help you go from waking up to being ready for work
- a daily practice that sets the right tone for your day
- this can be movement, meditation, meals, or other practices
Looking at Albert Einstein’s daily routine helps us understand that we can create order in our life by following a basic schedule. As you continue to experience success with a morning ritual, you can expand this to implement more daily rituals. As we learned from Einstein’s messy desk, he chose efficiency concepts that worked and ignored others that didn’t. This is a good reminder for people who are intimidated by trying new productivity concepts.
3. The Pomodoro Technique
In 1915, Einstein was in a state of acute anxiety. After three years of work on his new concept of gravity, he realized the mathematical equations were flawed. He was due to give four lectures on his theory that November to Berlin’s Prussian Academy of Sciences. Also, a colleague who had attended Einstein’s lectures was attempting to present the same concept of gravity with his equations.
Einstein was in a race against time and at risk of losing it all. But he did what he always did in situations like this. He focused on the task at hand and worked until it was complete.
For months, Einstein focused on nothing else but the equations that would explain his concept of gravity. He worked in almost total isolation. The punishing work schedule caused his hair to turn white and caused considerable strain on his marriage.
This is an extreme example, but it speaks to Einstein’s ability and willingness to concentrate on one important task and work on the task to completion. Luckily, most of us don’t have to isolate ourselves and work for months on end to complete our work. But we can take away from this example of how staying on track with one task helps us be more Asian Efficient.
The Pomodoro Technique is a method that helps us focus on a task and eliminate distractions. This is similar to the “Einstein principle.” It’s the idea that we are most productive when we focus on a minimal number of projects to which we can devote a large amount of attention. With the Pomodoro Technique, a timer is used to create work blocks where we focus solely on the task at hand.
This may seem strange in a world where multitasking is normal (but really shouldn’t be), depending on your personality and work style. Einstein, in 1915, was in a race to change the way the scientific community would view the world, and his laser focus on finishing his theory is how he made it happen.
How can you stop multitasking and start applying the Pomodoro Technique to your daily life?
- Choose the task that has the most important for you.
- Set a timer for 25 minutes.
- Work until the timer rings.
- Take a break to recharge yourself.
Notice I mention choosing the task of most importance—or, as we also like to call it, Eating Your Frog. Instead of trying to do many things, we can narrow our focus by focusing on our primary goals, whether that be in our work, personal, or academic life. Einstein became known for his wild hair, but he let it grow long for a reason; he could avoid the barbershop and spend more time on his work.
The Pomodoro Technique is great for knowledge workers, but it can work for things like meditation as well. By setting the timer first thing in the morning, you can eliminate distractions and focus better. This is also a great way to see what works as part of your morning ritual.
Einstein was also known for taking time simply to think. Along with his laser focus on his work, he enjoyed just looking out a window and letting his mind wander. Want to daydream? Why not? Set the timer and spend some time observing the birds and trees outside your window. This time of reflection was critical to Einstein, as he keenly understood that his ideas had extraordinary value.
Integrating productivity rituals into our daily lives is a process, and there will be stops and starts since this is ultimately a personal journey. What makes Einstein so relatable to us is his ability to try something, fail, and then try something else. When we look at the rituals of people like Einstein, we can learn how to become more productive and successful in our daily lives. Messy desk included.