The world’s most innovative leaders have some pretty peculiar daily habits, but Bill Gates‘ productivity hack from his twenties may top the list. The self-made billionaire recently wrote a blog post about his “extreme” habit from his early adulthood: not watching TV or listening to music.
“I stopped listening to music and watching TV in my 20s. It sounds extreme, but I did it because I thought they would just distract me from thinking about software. That blackout period lasted only about five years, and these days I’m a huge fan of TV shows like Narcos and listen to a lot of U2, Willie Nelson, and the Beatles.”
“Back when I was avoiding music and TV in the hope of maintaining my focus, I knew that lots of other people were using meditation to achieve similar ends. But I wasn’t interested. I thought of meditation as a woo-woo thing tied somehow to reincarnation, and I didn’t buy into it.”
Continuing to prioritize mindfulness
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These days, he may be listening to music and watching the occasional TV show, but he maintains a new productivity hack — and it’s the exact practice he shunned as a young adult: meditation.
“I’m not sure how much meditation would have helped me concentrate in my early Microsoft days, because I was monomaniacally focused without it,” Gates says. “But now that I’m married, have three children, and have a broader set of professional and personal interests, it’s a great tool for improving my focus.”
“It’s also helped me step back and get some ease with whatever thoughts or emotions are present. I like what I’m getting from my 10 minutes every few days.”
If you want to try out meditation, Gates recommends starting with the popular Headspace app, “Headspace made the barrier to entry low enough for me,” Gates says. “It’s just 10 minutes a day of listening to Andy’s soothing British accent and trying to stay with him. Andy has taken some heat from hard-core meditators for his low-barrier approach, but he got me to take up meditation and stick with it. I’m glad he did.”
This newfound habit is proof that we all have room to grow and adapt to new practices to better our lives — whether we start them young, or later in life.