Through his studies, Shetty learned how to set intentions, be mindful, and overcome self-doubt. Equipped with his newfound tools, he turned to the business sector with the goal of spreading wisdom. Since then, Shetty has found success as a purpose coach, podcaster, and as a New York Times #1 bestselling author of the book, Think Like a Monk. Jay Shetty has led a life of radical pivots: at 18, he left his life as an undergraduate business student in London to become a monk. In his Office Hours episode with host Suneel Gupta, Shetty discussed gratitude, silencing fears, and selfless service. In a bonus Q&A, Shetty reflects on meditation and forming meaningful connections.
Workspace & Routine
If you’ve spent more time than usual at home this year…
Do you have a workspace or office at home? Tell us about it. Did you have this space before the pandemic?
Jay: I do have a workspace at home, and I absolutely love it. I’ve found that I’m more productive and my work is of a higher quality when I’m by myself. So even before the pandemic, while most of my team worked at our office, I spent a fair bit of time in my home office.
Are you someone who needs an organized workspace, or are you comfortable with a little clutter?
Jay: I’m someone who needs an organized workspace, as I find clutter distracting. As a monk, I learned that our external space reflects our internal state, and vice versa. When I walk into my office and it’s nice and clean, I feel full of possibility. The open space feels like an invitation to create something new.
What bad work habits (if any) are you guilty of & how have you overcome them?
Jay: Like so many of us, I’ve struggled with how often I check my phone. I saw a statistic that Americans check their phones 96 times a day, and I’m sure some of us do it even more. We’ll think, “I’ll just pop in and check email for a minute,” but it’s never just a minute. At one point, I actually started to lock my phone in my car at night so I would have to take a break. Now, I find that turning off my notifications helps, along with setting a timer and knowing I can’t check email or social media until the timer goes off and it’s time for my five-minute phone break.
Do you consider yourself more of an introvert or extrovert, and how does that affect the way you work?
Jay: When it comes down to it, I’m more of an introvert. I love to dive deep, whether I’m alone reading a book or in a conversation with someone. In terms of how I work, I make sure that I have focused blocks of time where I can work without interruption. If I’m switching tasks too frequently, answering too many emails or calls, I don’t get to go really deep where I need and want to, and then I’m not as satisfied with the work product.
Time & Organization
How do you approach time management for a workday? Is it one solid block of time that’s over at 6 p.m.? Or is a workday a few blocks of scheduled tasks with personal time interspersed?
Jay: Generally, I try to work in blocks, such as setting aside entire days to focus on the podcast and recording videos, or days to focus on technical aspects of my business, and so on. I find that creativity, especially, needs space and time to blossom. I carve out longer blocks for creativity, and where I have shorter spaces I do more task-oriented work.
What are three things you do to gear up for your workday?
Jay: When I get up, I prioritize TIME: thankfulness, insight (learning something new), meditation, and exercise. Certainly, there are days when I have to start working early and can’t do my preferred two hours of meditation, for instance, but in that case, I make sure I find blocks of time later in the day to meditate so I stay in alignment with myself.
What’s one thing that motivates you to get to work?
Jay: When I lived as a monk, we split our days between learning in the morning, and serving others in the afternoon, and these are still the two things that excite me most about my work. I love that every day, I get to meet new people and to learn new things, and I am so motivated and moved by the opportunity I have to serve through my work.
Can you name a few ways that you keep yourself organized during the day—an app, a planner, a physical to-do list?
Jay: Before I dive into work, I’ve found it incredibly helpful to set my intention and my attention. Instead of just getting started on that first item on my to-do list, I pause and set my intention for the day. I turn my attention to how I’m feeling inside, and the spirit and mindset that I want to bring to my work that day. That reminds me that work isn’t just about completing tasks, it’s about fulfilling my dharma. It’s about doing my work in a way that’s filled with meaning and purpose.
How do (or don’t) you separate business tasks from personal ones?
Jay: My wife, Radhi, and I have an appointed time when we’re done with work for the day and it’s time for us. We put aside our phones and computers and give each other our full attention so we can catch up and reconnect.
Quick Takes: Meditation
You are a big supporter of meditation and taking time to reflect. Give us your quick take on how meditation helps & your best tips for how to meditate effectively.
Jay: I think one of the most powerful things that meditation does for us is to divorce us from distraction. With everything that’s competing for our attention today, it’s increasingly difficult to hear ourselves. And when we can’t hear ourselves, we can’t live a life in line with our values and beliefs because we don’t know what our values and beliefs are. Meditation turns down the noise and invites us to come home to ourselves.
In terms of how to meditate effectively, I’d say to just focus on consistency and beyond that, resist the urge to judge. For starters, make a concerted effort to carve out 10 to 15 minutes every day for one week. It’s easiest if you tie it to an event that happens every day, like doing it right after you brush your teeth when you wake up or just before you go to bed. One of the reasons some people find meditation hard is that they think that the only way to do meditation “right” is to totally clear your mind of all thoughts. We are thought machines, and I can tell you that even after all this time with a dedicated meditation practice, I still have times when my mind is filled with one distraction after another. The key is not getting upset about it when it happens. Just notice the thought, then release it. If another arises, notice it and release it. That’s at least as much a helpful and beneficial practice as being able to clear your mind completely—being able to let go.
If My Phone Could Talk…
Since so much of our lives—business and personal—are administered through our phones, perhaps we can use it as a device (no pun intended) to gain insight into their routine, the people they rely on and how they remain productive. What is:
the last thing you looked at last night (e.g., email, texts, news, etc.).
Jay: The last thing I looked at last night was a Post-It note that I keep on a table by my bedside that asks: “What are you grateful for?” I find that gratitude is the perfect way to start and end my day.
· the first thing you looked at this morning
Jay: The same note! Sometimes, I wake up and just want to sleep a bit more, or I think about how busy my day is, and I want to reach for my phone. But instead, I see that note and shift my mindset to gratitude, and it always gets me going.
· something you recently listened to (e.g., podcast, music)
Jay: I’m really into a practice that I call sound designing my life, so I’ve been playing around with all kinds of different music to set the tone for whatever it is I’m doing, whether it’s working, meditating, cleaning the house. It runs the gambit from upbeat rap and hip-hop to the relaxing sounds of singing bowls.
· a destination you recently mapped your route to
Jay: Pause West Hollywood. I go to Pause once a week to boost my immunity, physical and mental health by using their infrared sauna, cold plunge and sensory deprivation tank. The studio has really helped me slow down, reflect and be able to take a break from all the noise and my hectic schedule. Taking time for myself allows me to show up at my best everyday for my team, Radhi and everyone around me.
· a call you recently had lasting more than 5 minutes
Jay: Aside from quick questions from my team, most of my calls last more than 5 minutes. I really like to take the time and connect with people by asking them a question that elicits a meaningful answer. So instead of saying, “Hi, how’s it going?” and getting a “Fine,” or a “Pretty good,” I’ll ask something like, “What are you finding most enjoyable or exciting about life right now?” or “What’s something that’s challenging that you’re dealing with?” Again, it doesn’t have to take long, but it’s worth the bit of extra time to feel that real connection with someone, and then we can get on to whatever it is we were going to discuss.
Just for Fun: Out of Office
We business professionals devote much of our lives to our careers. But what we do with our time off from work can tell us a lot about who we are as people. Please tell us…
In your spare time, do you prefer winding down – meditation and movie nights – or gearing up, e.g., rock climbing, traveling, etc.?
Jay: I really enjoy new adventures, but I have to say that I’m also a big movie buff, and I love winding down with Radhi and watching a movie when we have the opportunity.
What does an ideal vacation look like to you? What activities are you most likely to engage in?
I love going to new places where I can have the opportunity to explore new cultures and do activities with Radhi that involve water sports and hiking. My favorite part is learning and studying the history of the place we are staying in.
What’s one thing you’ve done in your time off that has stuck with you as a defining moment for you?
Jay: At the start of each year, I make time to go back and spend a few weeks at the ashram where I was a monk, reconnecting with my teachers and with myself. During COVID, I couldn’t go back, so I decided to take some of that time and dive into all the reading I’d been wanting to do but hadn’t had the time for. I read all kinds of books across a variety of genres, and it really got me thinking in new ways. I felt completely refreshed and inspired, and it impressed upon me how important it is not just for my spiritual life, but for my work life to step out of the stream of constant activity and focus and expose myself to different ideas and ways of seeing the world.
What’s one place – a country, vacation spot, landmark, etc. – that’s high on your bucket list?
Jay: Marcel Proust said, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but in seeing with new eyes.” I’ve been fortunate to travel the world, and there are loads of places I haven’t been yet that I’d love to visit. At the same time, wherever I go, I try to be fully present and to see and experience that place with new eyes, even if it’s just an outing across town.
This interview is part of Office Hours, a series that connects you with entrepreneurs and experts with tips for running and growing a business right now. Find other can’t-miss conversations by visiting our Events page.