What comes to mind when you hear someone say “Japan?”

Mt. Fuji? Toyota? Sushi?

Japan is famous for many things. Despite being a relatively small country in the world, it was at one point the second strongest economy in the world. (It’s still in the top 5)

Companies such as Toyota are synonymous with quality. And who can forget Sony and its Walkman?

For many people though, Japan remains mysterious, unexplored.

Most of my friends couldn’t believe I ended up in Japan because back in my school days all I wanted to do was live in California.

What can I say?

People change. I changed.

I came here on a study abroad program back in college and was blown away by it. It wasn’t what I expected at all. I fell in love with its culture, the people and the language so when I graduated, I decided to return to start my career.

Hard to believe that was more than 20 years ago.

Over that time, I’ve learned very important thing: Japan does things differently.

Here are three ancient Japanese “secrets” that reduce stress and improve productivity.

1. The Bath – In the West, we love our showers. Every morning, we crawl out of bed and jump in the shower and five minutes later we’re getting dressed, ready to rule the day. In and out. Japanese people take a different approach. Instead of a shower in the morning, they take a nice, slow bath at night. When I first started taking them I couldn’t believe what a difference they made. Each night the stress of each day drains away. I sleep better and wake up fresh every morning ready to rock. Oh, and the best thing, it’s all automatic. You push a button and baths run themselves and not only that, they actually add hot water over time to keep the exact temperature you set.

2. Green Tea – At meetings in Japan, it’s common for guests to be served green tea. It’s the Japanese version of coffee in the West. It contains numerous compounds and antitoxins that allow our body to burn fat, reduce cancer and kill bacteria. And that’s just the start. You can read more about the benefits of green tea here.

3. Miso Soup – Growing up, soup meant chicken noodle. Today, it’s miso soup, and I’m not alone. Nearly every person that spends any length of time in Japan, will find themselves missing miso soup if they ever leave. The best thing about miso soup is the sheer variety that is available and the ability to use any number of vegetables. Children here absolutely love miso soup which ensures they get their daily dose of veggies.

As a time management expert, I’m always looking for ways to improve productivity and on the surface, these three “secrets” don’t seem to do that.

However, what I’ve learned is that we are only able to operate on an optimum level if our mind is relaxed and our body is given the right fuel. As such, these three fit the bill.

The best thing is that they become part of our daily routine meaning they become automatic. Simply by doing my daily routine, I am giving myself a dose of goodness.

They fit what I consider the three E’s – easy to do, effective, enjoyable.

So what are you waiting for?