I’ve been following Nat Eliason and his blog since 2015. He’s extremely realistic, practical and constantly produces mind food you need to chew to understand. You might remember Nat from one of my newsletters where I shared his writings.
Today, I’m happy to share the habits and routines of Nat Eliason, a young and promising author and entrepreneur tackling topics such as self-improvement, sex, longevity, diet, entrepreneurship, self-education and more. I’m sure you’ll learn a lot from this interview.
Nat Eliason is an author and entrepreneur living in San Francisco. He runs a popular blog at nateliason.com, and his recent book, Come Again? tackles improving sex for men in a straightforward, conversational, in-depth manner. In addition to his writing, he also helps people teach themselves new skills through his platform: Be Self Taught.
What are the most influential habits in your life and why?
Weight lifting, this is probably my most consistent habit. It started as an aesthetic thing but now it’s more about maintenance. Everyone needs to stress their body, but you don’t realize it until you start doing it. Now if I stop I can feel myself getting weaker and my body getting restless, but I didn’t experience that until I’d developed some muscle mass.
Cold showers. I started it for the testosterone benefits, but now it just feels good. It wakes me up and kicks me into a post-meditative focused state, and there’s just something fun about learning to endure the cold. Like when I went to Antarctica I was able to stay in the ocean there for a bit over 3 minutes, largely from getting used to the cold by taking cold showers.
How do you set goals and manage time?
Right now, the system I’m on is a hodgepodge of different systems (which I should probably write an article on). Basically, I start with Tony Robbin’s “yearly goal setting” technique from Awaken the Giant Within which helps you pick one personal, one professional, one fun, and one service goal for the year. Then based on those high-level goals, I set quarterly goals, so right now I’m in my “Q1 Goals” for 2017 which are derived from my yearly goals. These are, again, pretty high level, but a bit more focused than the yearly ones. I keep those quarterly goals in my Trello, then each Sunday I set weekly goals and do a reflection on the past week.
Each morning, I pick a daily FOCUS (not a goal) based on those weekly goals. I think daily goals are too micro, and lead to more disappointment than happiness, especially since my weekly goals typically take multiple days. As I complete things, I move them into my “weekly accomplishments” to record them in my weekly reflections, where I just record big things I accomplished, and any other fun things that happened that week. Then I do monthly and quarterly reflections based on those weekly reflections, which gives me a quick way to look back on what I’ve been getting done.
Here’s what my Trello looks like right now.
I don’t really manage my time at all, I’ve just developed a lifestyle based on Deep Work that makes it extremely hard for me to get interrupted or distracted.
First, I’m extremely good at ignoring people and not feeling guilty about responding to things slowly. That might sound rude, but come on, no one needs immediate responses to their text messages, including me. So I have no notifications for anything: the only time any of my devices make a noise is if someone calls me in the evening, otherwise, nothing.
I also don’t use Twitter, or Snapchat anymore, I’ve unfollowed everyone on Facebook so that it’s one-directional, I follow few people on Instagram, and don’t use any other social media, so I can’t really go there to kill time. My default response to emails is to ignore them, unless they sound interesting, and only check it a couple times a day. This isn’t scheduled, I just typically won’t think of it until 2 pm or 3 pm since I’ll be immersed in something. So as a result of being so disconnected, it’s extremely easy to manage my time.
I work on whatever my daily focus is, and when I need a break or get bored I work on something else or read or longboard or go to the gym. By being uninterruptable, I’m essentially always in some level of deep work, and that’s what lets me get significantly more done than most people.
How are you modeling your life?
I suppose I do more anti-modeling than modeling. I used to think that other people had it all figured out and I needed to emulate them… but I’m pretty confident now that everyone is just making it up as they go and any indication of a “master plan” is just the narrative fallacy.
So I try not to follow anyone too closely, just pick and choose at their ideas that make sense to me and refresh the books I really enjoyed as necessary. I don’t create rules or anything like that, I’m not good at following rules.
Can you describe your work process and thinking behind it?
I think I’ve covered this in 2, but for the most part, I don’t have a work process. I have my rough weekly and quarterly goals but those change based on my interests, and for the most part I just do whatever I feel like doing. I find that as soon as I impose structure, I get annoyed by it and break it anyway, so I’ve stopped trying to pen myself in and just give myself a loose direction to move in and things have been going pretty well.
What do you eat for breakfast?
Nothing. The mental high from fasting is amazing, and the research supporting its benefits for longevity is very compelling. I just wake up and drink tea until ~1-3 pm when I break for lunch.
How do you train your body and mind?
Weight training is the big one. I meditate irregularly, but I’ve found that as long as I cultivate a low-stress lifestyle I don’t need it so much. Aside from that it’s just eating well. I keep a pretty clean diet (a priori diet) and I haven’t found anything that comes close to eating well, moving, and not sitting for improving mental clarity. I don’t buy into nootropics or shortcuts–there are no free lunches in biology until we get into genetic engineering, so the best you can do for now is keep your body as healthy as possible and your mind will follow.
How do you meet and connect with people?
I try to do group events that encourage friend groups to merge. Second Degree Dinners is one example, since at those I’m guaranteed to meet 3 interesting pre-vetted people. I also like hosting parties, or going to non-professional events like Charlie Hoehn’s Recess Project in Austin. I don’t go to anything “networking” related because those events will mostly be filled by people with nothing better to do than go to networking events.
What are your sleeping rituals?
Usually 11 pm-7 am or 12 am-8 am depending on the schedule I’m on. Weekends it can get later, like 2 am-10 am, but I try to always sleep 8 hours unless I absolutely can’t.
What are your investing habits?
I talked about this a bit in Entrepreneurial Personal Finance but essentially I keep 6-12 months of “runway” in my checking account, then hide the rest in a variety of places. I put a basic amount into an IRA and Personal Investment Fund on Wealthfront, I let Digit.co pull money out on its automated schedule, and then the rest goes into a savings fund that I use to fund projects like my app, book, site, etc. I’ve been able to utilize my money much better than investing it by spending it on my own projects, but I also hedge against my own hubris and any Black Swans with the IRA.
What books, people, experiences shaped your thinking?
I’m going to answer this focusing on the people who are influencing it most right now, and in the last 6 months or so. Top people who come to mind are Nassim Taleb (Antifragile, specifically), Bertrand Russell (Idleness, Happiness), Peter Drucker (Effective Executive), Ralph Waldo Emerson (Self-Reliance), Seneca (Letters from a Stoic), Robert Greene (Power, 50th Law, Seduction, Mastery), Will and Ariel Durant (Lessons of History), Victor Frankl (Man’s Search), Tim Urban (Elon Musk Blog Series), Sam Harris (Lying, Waking Up), David Foster Wallace (This is Water, Infinite Jest), Paul Graham (any essay).
Originally published at tomaslau.com on February 14, 2017.