Hunger is a global problem. If you are reading this, hunger is not your problem. You won’t starve to death. It is sad to know that estimated “300 million children go to bed hungry each night“. Be grateful you don’t. Goddammit be grateful that you can play using hunger as a toy for productivity and have fun doing so. I tell you how.
When you are hungry you want to stop being hungry. You don’t want to be hungry anymore. Like when you need to pee, you want to urinate. Or when you are horny, you want to have sex. These are very basic, instinctive and existential needs to guarantee your existence.
While it is hard to not go to the toilet when you really need to, you can delay satisfying your hunger. You can extend the time without food. You can intentionally starve and keep doing what you are doing. You did not know you can? Possible. Maybe because you have immediate access to food all the time. There is no barrier, no obstacle, nothing that can hinder you to get cheap and fast food. What if there was? What would you do? What if you put yourself into this position with intention? What if you decided how high the wall to climb up would be?
That is the point of intentional starvation as a productivity tool. You know you want to finish this task, but what would make you finish it when you are in a comfortable place, your home office, café or wherever you work best?
Starve. Be hungry. Fast. Stretch how much you can last until you know: „No more, I gotta eat now!“ You need to be 100 % convinced that you have to eat now. If you are still questioning whether your level of hunger is high enough, you still have enough power. Continue working until it is clear that you cannot continue and need a pause to eat.
Since you are reward-driven person you do not want to enter the food break without having reached something. That is why this kind of conditioning can work for you. An example:
- You want to finish your task. You do not know how long it is going to take you.
- You start getting hungry but you continue working because you are not hungry enough. You still have sufficient energy.
- You are getting hungrier but the task is not finished yet. The idea of eating becomes more appealing.
- You do not think you will finish the task soon but your hunger has almost reached its peak. You continue because pausing now would just feel too early (and you are not a quitter).
- You decided to eat now. No more postponing. You did not finish the task and you are sad about it. Still, you are proud you made it that far.
Even if you did not accomplish everything, at least you pushed yourself further and extended your scope of what you are actually able to do. You stretched and expanded your horizon of productivity. If you do it more often, you will train your productivity muscle like any other physical or virtual muscle.
Also, you just used hunger as a tool. At first, you planned to finish the task for example before lunch break. Then you got hungry and it became harder to continue. At the same time the hunger was driving you to push it because now you not only want the hunger to end but to finish the task. In order to end the hunger you need to finish the task first — as if finishing the task before lunch break was not enough of a pressure. If you read this text and think about applying it, in fact the time pressure for lunch break (assuming you have a scheduled time for lunch) was not enough of pressure.
One question stays open: How do I make sure I can use hunger as a productivity tool at the time I need it?
Answer: You eat less, you do not over-eat at all. For breakfast, lunch and dinner you never eat until you are full. You always leave space in your belly. Also, at dinner you eat less because the evening before is the preparation for the morning after so you have a starving breakfast.
I know it can sound like self-flagellation and to some extent it is but you use it with intention and only to help you get done what you set yourself to get done. If it means pushing a bit more and harming yourself with wounds that will heal in the end, it is worth the risk, isn’t it?
When I was in Morocco in July 2016 I tried to do fasting for one day during Ramadan with a family in Agadir. It was a challenging experience but having had dinner at 8pm, breakfast at 3am and the whole day until 8pm again was a fun experience. I only fasted one day, so people have my deep admiration for doing it a whole month.
If you had your first intentional fasting clap yourself on the shoulder — either in a religious context or as a productivity tool you can use for your private and business life.
Fasting is fun when you don’t have to. Starving, however, can cause death. Remember. You are in a very lucky, extraordinary position. If I hear you complain about provoking to be hungry for a limited amount of time, read the text again or get out of here to get into the wild so you can learn being grateful again.
This was episode 17 of the #weekendpunchline 👊. Every Saturday and Sunday.
Also published on Medium.