Like brushing your teeth and combing your hair, you probably view your daily shower as just another step in getting from your bed to your desk. You likely haven't innovated on it since the age of seven.
And that's losing a lot of potential, well, down the drain.
Depending on how you approach it, the time you spend under the shower head, or immersed in a bath, is an opportunity to get clarity, access your creativity, or tap into a deeper state of thinking. It can boost your energy or put you in a tranquil mindset.
Here are 9 different types of showers that are part of the daily routine of world-class entrepreneurs and leaders. Whatever your goals, there is a shower for you. Grab your soap and towel and read on.
1. The Ice Bath
It may not sound like fun, but an ice bath can help boost your focus. About 2 years ago, Tasso Roumeliotis, founder and CEO of Location Labs (acquired by AVG for $220 million in 2014), began regularly taking the plunge into an ice bath.
"I spend a lot of time talking, meeting and managing, and I need physical challenges to counteract all that mental work," Roumeliotis said. "Now I take ice baths about 4 days a week. They focus me so that I can thrive and be productive in challenging circumstances."
If your teeth are chattering at the thought of a tub with ice cubes, fear not. The temperature does not need to be freezing to reap the benefits. New research shows that immersion in cold water for 2-3 minutes at 68 degrees Fahrenheit is enough to release a flood of noradrenaline (a hormone beneficial for sustained concentration and alertness) and create an uplift in one's mood. And if submerging your body in 68 degree water is too much, then consider just submerging your your face in ice water as it can have the same effect.
Roumeliotis was inspired to try out ice baths while reading about the Stoic philosopher, Seneca, who despite his riches, would live as if he were in poverty one day a month, sleeping outdoors and denying himself basic necessities. "This reminded him that he didn't need his material abundance," Roumeliotis said.
For Roumeliotis, the practice has become such a part of his routine that if he doesn't do it on a particular day, people notice.
"Folks on my senior team who know me well, can tell," he said. "I'll hear, "Hey, Tasso--did you skip your ice bath this morning or something?"
Editor Note: I was curious about Seneca and looked him up. Apparently, Seneca committed suicide (which he was coerced into) by slicing his wrist and sitting in a hot bath. So there you have it...ice baths have other benefits.
2. The Hot-Cold Contrast Shower
Alternating blasts of cold and hot will give you a burst of vitality and energy to kick-off your day alert and ready to focus, according to Phil Dumontet, the 27 year old CEO of DASHED, a Inc. 5,000 company that recorded $7.5 million revenue in 2014. Once he finishes his normal bathing routine, he starts his contrast shower, which goes like this:
- Start with 30 seconds of "ice-cold" water, as cold as it will get.
- Switch for 30 seconds to steaming hot water.
- End with 30 seconds of cold water.
If you find it too intense, Dumontet recommends "trying it on your leg first." He swears by this routine, which he has done every morning for the last 15 years, regardless of season or if he's at home or in a hotel.
3. The Creative Shower
For Ann Herrmann-Nehdi, CEO of Herrmann International (12+M revenue), a boost of cardio followed by a long shower with a waterproof pad is a foolproof way to unhinge a mental block. Herrmann-Nehdi strategically uses this technique whenever she is mentally stuck as a way to reach a more relaxed alpha/theta brain state and tap into deeper thinking.
"I've found that the quality of my thinking in the shower is significantly better than any other technique I might use, like exercise or driving," said Herrmann-Nehdi. "Doing some cardio first -- I go outside for a quick power walk -- seems to improve the quality even more. I think that's because it provides both stimulus and relaxation at the same time.
The waterproof pad is key too, because once in the deeper alpha/theta brain state as we shower, our memories are limited to about 15 seconds!
4. The Post-Workout Reward Shower
Adam Gilbert, founder of the weight-loss program MyBodyTutor, has made a commitment to himself to "never waste a shower.'" Gilbert uses showers only as a reward for working out and getting sweaty, and since he's going to shower every day, that means he's also going to work out every day. The positive reinforcement also helps train his mind to enjoy the experience of working out.
This philosophy gives him (and his clients) that extra push to do even a quick workout on the days they are least likely to.
But what if you really need that shower and you haven't gotten to your workout yet? Here's a 6-minute routine that Gilbert recommends that he calls "20x4":
- 20 pushups
- 20 jumping jacks
- 20 squats
- 20 crunches
5. The Salt Bath
While Tim Ferriss is a longtime advocate of ice baths, he also regularly does pre-bedtime hot baths with 4-8 cups of epsom salt. According to Ferriss, the combination helps "for systemic magnesium supplementation and muscular relaxation" and "speedy recovery after workouts." Researchers estimate that 75% of the US population is deficient in magnesium. Epsom salt baths are a simple way to increase magnesium levels without supplementation.
Invested in his approach, Ferriss buys epsom salts in big quantities. As he explains in his recent email newsletter: "Rather than buy small boxes at CVS or Safeway, I buy in bulk and store it in rolling dog-food containers."
Ferriss's routine is steeped in his own research as well as tradition: regular hot baths as short as 30 minutes per night - otherwise known as ofuro, a respected Japanese bathing ritual - are found to increase melatonin, subsequently increasing deep sleep and lifespan in the long run.
6. The End Of Work Day, Eyes-Closed Shower
As soon as Jason Duff, founder and CEO of the multimillion dollar company COMSTOR Outdoor, gets back from work at the end of the day, he hops in the shower for 20 minutes. This helps him create more of a boundary between work and his home life, so he can focus more on his family.
"During the shower, I actually keep my eyes closed," Duff said. "This lets my eyes rest and helps me have more 'aha moments.'
Research shows that having your eyes closed increases alpha waves, which is closely associated with relaxation. According to research, reducing visual inputs can help new ideas go from your subconscious mind to your conscious mind.
After the shower, Duff feels clean, refreshed, and re-energized for the rest of his evening.
7. Turn Bathing Into An Experience
For renowned talk show host Oprah Winfrey, bathing is a way of life; something to be done for the joy and relaxation it brings. In an interview on her OWN network, she revealed, "For years, I've said I need a hobby. I was thinking, 'I think this (bathing) is my hobby. I'm really good at it!'"
While most of us rush through our showers in order to be productive, actually slowing down and taking the time to appreciate the experience can lead to all the benefits of a leisure activity without having to find more time in your schedule for one.
"I love creating bathing experiences--bath gels, bubbles, crystals, salts, lavender milks ..." she told Bazaar in a 2012 interview: "I go prune," she says. "I go waaaay prune. I've gone to sleep."
8. The Pre-Sleep Shower
Night-time showers are special because we can take our time since we don't have to rush anywhere. Also, it can help us jump right into the next day come morning.
Right before Ryan Simonetti, co-founder of Convene (150+ employees), goes to bed around 11 p.m., he takes a 15-30 minute hot shower to let his mind wander and prep his body for sleep.
New research by Scott Barry Kaufman and others shows that mind wandering provides many previously unappreciated benefits such as self- awareness, creative incubation, and future planning.
"I close my eyes and let my mind wander," said Simonetti. "It's also a great time to practice visualization for different outcomes that I have in my life. If I'm focused on a specific problem or upcoming meeting, I will do more targeted visualization work around that moment and how the process will play out."
"Being able to see the conversation happen, the people in the room, the body language, and the desired outcome is really powerful for me."
9. The Intuition Shower
Many profound ideas that have shaped our society have come from the shower or bath. So we shouldn't discount its ability to spark new ideas. For example, the Greek mathematician, Archimedes, realized a fundamental math principle when taking a bath, now known as the Archimedes principle.
Rohit Anabheri, founder of the firm Circa Ventures($10M+ revenue), finds the privacy of shower time to be the perfect time to focus, reflect and listen to his inner voice uninhibited.
Anabheri forgoes the extreme temperatures, but opts for classical music. As he listens, he focuses his thoughts on big decisions or any challenges he may be facing. "Throughout the day, my thoughts are influenced by the world around me," Anabheri notes. "By contemplating big decisions in this quiet, private moment, I can tap into my intuition and ensure I'm making a decision that I will be happy to stand behind."
There you have it. If you can't have a good shower and bath after these 9 ideas, then I don't what can help.
Finally, if you are a true shower superstar, you're probably thinking, "What gear should I get?" Here are some creative shower products such as a moss bathroom mat, caffeinated soap, vaporizing shower cubes, and Vitamin C shower filter to top off your shower experience.
Enjoy your 15 minutes of heaven! You're welcome.
Special thanks to Rachel Zohn, Sheena Lindahl, and Ian Chew who volunteered their time to edit this article and do research.
Disclosure: Some of the contributors featured in this article are members of Seminal, a selective council that distills research-backed, actionable insights from world-class entrepreneurs and leaders.