I use this to take all of my ideas, no matter how irrelevant or how low it is as a priority and I write them all down into swipes. Then I just "later" those ideas far into the future so future me can be reminded. Maybe then I'll decide to actually take action on those ideas when its a better time.
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Mailbox is an App by Dropbox that syncs with your laptop and your phone. The best thing about this app is that you can boomerang emails to yourself so that when you want to reply to an email later you don't have to do it right away.
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If you've followed my blog so far, you'll notice productivity patterns. One pattern, or habit, if you will, is the ability to just work on one single task or one single project for a set block of time.
Naturally, as the day progresses, we open up more and more tabs as work and other interesting content gets shared with us.
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As a creative or strategist, there seems to be a never-ending flow of good ideas. Ideas that we are really hyped up for, but for some reason we just don’t execute.
What tends to happen to me is that during times where I’m driving, showing, or when I’ve just had coffee, I get flooded with ideas and visions of things I could do. I immediately start actioning them in my head. It goes something like:
Okay I’m going to set up this joint venture program, what does that look like. Okay, this works and this works but I don’t have these resources to actually make it work.
Then I get distracted before I fully develop the strategy in my head. This is detrimental because while I’m spending energy half-determining the upside and resources involved, I waste a ton of mental energy thinking about what those action items will be for myself. I don't write it down because I’m not fully convinced — because the concept isn’t thought through.
After reading Getting Things Done, I’m convinced that this is the reason why I often feel mentally drained. If, when you’re planning out the strategy and don’t fully plan out the action items, you actually waste will power by halfway thinking through implementaion task even though you aren’t actually implementing. Meaning, you spend energy “implementing” when you haven’t actually implemented anything.
I started habit tracking on pen and paper a year ago. It has been one of the biggest (if not biggest) influence on my productivity and my ability to habit stack.
But doing daily tracking is hard, because who wants to check off stuff on a piece of paper and print out sheets for next week? I even made it easy by printing 4 weeks at a time, and I bought a clipboard on my desk for easy organization. I still didn't do it.
But now I do it, because its a game. Something about human nature and us seeing a character representing us level up is very very addicting.
“Why don’t you just do it? It takes like 10 minutes”.
There are those tasks that we know we should get done, there’s a clear benefit to completing them, and we can probably finish them very quickly but for some reason we just don’t. Why? Because even though those tasks don’t require a lot of time to do, it requires a lot of focus.
If we scan our task list the tasks we procrastinate on are ones that we don’t really want to do, aren’t very clear in which action steps to take, and require a ton of focus to complete. For example if you had a task that said “automate follow up emails”, this task might actually only take you 20 minutes to go on infusionsoft, write a few emails, and sequence them together and it would be highly valuable for you — but if you just put that into your task list you’re not going to do it because it takes you twenty minutes of concentrated attention. Working in infusionsoft is very different compared to a task like cleaning your room where you can sing along to music while you pick up your dirty laundry.
According to Eben Pagan, the ability to focus on a single task is one of the most rare and valuable states. And I would agree to that statement because we really do only have a limited amount of energy every day to spend on focusing our attention. Personally I think we get about 3 hours a day of mental energy (maybe 6 if we train in this area), so to be effective, we have to choose wisely what things we’re going to spend our precious attention on.
Its really hard to open up a word doc and start writing. But I want to write because I come up with so many ideas that I want to share. Below is what I’ve found to be easiest way produce a blog post.
1. Voice Memo App. Every phone has one and its really easy to just open up the app and record. Actually, it’s relieving to be able to express yourself (even if it’s to your phone) and to describe realizations, epiphanies or personal theories while I’m still excited, in the moment of having them. Another good thing about speaking compared to writing is that you never just sit there waiting for the right words to come to you, you’re forced to just blurb out something coherent in order to finish your sentence.
2. Evernote: I like to have a backup of everything I write and I store almost everything with Evernote anyways. Basically, I transcribe what I spoke in the Voice Memo App to Evernote word for word. When you’re writing, the last thing you want to do is think about what you’re writing about as this leads to writer’s block. What you want to do is to flow as much words onto paper as possible and refine later. This process might trigger other ideas that you want to note down as well, which you should. Just remember that when you do, don’t try to write them out, just note the phrases that came to mind.
3. Editing: Here’s the hardest part. The unedited words are essentially in the form of a stream of consciousness and I have to take all these separate ideas and connect them into one train of thought. In each rough draft there are multiple concepts that are seemingly related to the main topic, and it takes discipline to cut out those sentences on topics that aren’t 100% relevant. The editing portion is the opposite of the "record-in-voice-memo-app" portion as you are no longer simply expressing yourself but you’re taking everything related to the main topic linking them congruently so the reader can understand. If your reader can’t understand what you’re talking about because you’re talking about too many things then they’re not going to read your post.
Gary Vaynerchuk has a really inspiring video where he was speaking to a group of USC students about entrepreneurship. One of the key points he made was to focus on your strengths and don’t give a crap about your weaknesses. That’s a hopeful mindset to have but one of the reasons why I’ve never completely focused on my strengths is because at my current level, my inadequacies take away most of the gains that I get from my strengths.
For example, I’m really good at opening loops and starting connections. A while back I had a weakness of being being disorganized and showing up late to meetings. This generated very little value since people only give you one chance to show up prepared and on time to a meeting.
A good way to think about this is through thresholds and Sebastian Marshall talks about this thoroughly in his book Roguelike. The basic premise is that if you were in the middle of a desert with no food and you don’t have the competency to get food, then you’re gonna die. As you get better at getting food, you can find food with great nutrients, and the ability to acquire food goes from very important to not very important very quickly.
Sebastian’s book Roguelike is about the parallels of building a successful character in a video game and building success in life, and he explains this concept with a related example:
I couple months back I was listening to Kevin Kurgansky aka “The Breakup Doctor” (not because I’m going through a breakup but because he was at the same business event) give a short talk on how he lives a completely new experience of life ever since he’s changed his framework to “all love and all sex…all the time”. His perception and interpretation of his life is completely through loving energy and sexual energy (when interacting with girls), and because of this, his relationships with people are filled with love and his relationships with girls are filled with sex.
One of the things that stood out in his talk was when he said that people interpret life as events but he began to interpret life as energy. He gave the example that most guys want a girl so that they can then have sex — but sex is just an act, its an expression of sexual energy. When you look at it that way everything is sex, you’re either expressing a smaller or bigger amount of sexual energy.
I thought this was fascinating, but I still couldn’t quite understand it, and I couldn’t understand how someone can just perceive it, so I asked him during dinner to explain it further.
“How do you do this? How do you create loving energy all the time?” I asked.
He thought about it. It was still a new concept for him to explore.
I’m a generalist and I know better than to be one because I get a lot of advice from people telling me to specialize. So I ask them, “What should I specialize in? From your experience, what areas are you seeing demand for?"
They tell me “A lot of people are looking for pay-per-click managers or SEO, or web design, but it depends, Lawrence, what do you you want to do? What are you passionate about?"
I’m passionate about leadership, project management, strategy, creativity and product design, but those aren’t entry level skills. I have to work my way up from doing a lot implementation work in order to get the opportunity to do management/strategy.
I was stuck on this mental block for the longest time. Essentially, the areas I’m passionate about and good at require a lot of experience — a lot of “paying my dues”.
Ryan Moran gave a talk that really stuck with me. He basically said that in order to succeed, you have to think only in the long term and that the short term goals are irrelevant. You shouldn’t even chase short term goals if they aren’t aligned with your long term goals because it wouldn’t matter, it would only waste your time. He also made another point: that your long term goals might change every so often and that that’s okay, you just need to adjust your short term decisions accordingly, and plant seeds into areas that meet the long term.