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.
You ever been in a conversation and you either didn’t feel like talking or you’ve prejudged the person you’ll be talking to, or it just happens to be one of those days where you’re feeling analytical? Most of the time the conversation quickly becomes stale, but occasionally there have been times where you end up really enjoying the conversation without realizing it — you’re fully engaged, interested in what the other person has to say, and wanting to share more. In those cases, it’s almost always not something you consciously try to do or notice, why is that?
I think the same thing that happens to a person interacting with a good conversationalist is the same thing that happens to a person reading the writings of a good copywriter. Most people have their guard up when they read a sales letter/sales page. They’re feeling skeptical, trying not to get tricked by the ad. A good copywriter makes you forget that what you’re reading is an advertisement.
There are other marks of a good copywriter, like being able to understand the market, being able to tie features to benefits etc. But the core of good copywriting is to be able to suck the reader into the content.
Same thing with a good conversationalist. You could make the case that good conversationalists are charismatic, tell good stories, speak with a range of vocal tonality, keep good eye contact, etc, but the biggest factor in a conversation is the fact that both people tend to be aware that they are in one. They are aware of the context, the way they’re presenting themselves, the way the other person is presenting themselves; they are evaluating whether or not they’re bored or nervous, or if they find value in it. Because of this, the core of a good conversationalist is his ability to make you feel so comfortable that you get sucked into the interaction, and you focus on nothing else.
I’m going to use “getting organized” as the main example for this post.
We look at our messy room and think “hmmm, it would be nice if this place is organized…I’m feeling rather motivated today. Let’s do it”.
So we drive to Target or Ikea or for you fancier people — Crate and Barrel — and we look at all the nice filers and document cases, pencil cups, paper clip bins, cord containers, and paper weights. They’re beautifully designed and the paper weight is on sale so we buy em all — get home. Okay, time to start tidying up.
What first? Well, since we have a document case, we put our messy written notes in it. We also have a nice filer, so we take our credit card statements and put it in there. It takes all afternoon, but we managed to use everything we bought from target and our room looks neat.
Fast forward 3 days and our room is a mess again. All of our stuff is out of their respective containers that we bought. We don’t feel like organizing anymore and think “Why did I spend so much money on containers when I’m not even going to use em?"
When you’re consuming content, you typically value the practical stuff more. Stuff that teaches you how to do things, or gives you techniques on improving things you’re already doing. We value this stuff because its applicable..
But you hear people tell you that you shouldn’t focus on tactics, you should focus on strategy. Personally, I agree and I think we’re trying too hard to look for the implemental things. Really, its not just tactics vs. strategy, there are a lot of different levels.
From philosophy to mindset to habits and theory to strategy all the way to tactics, we should aim to consume the entire spectrum of content. Each level is important and learning from each level helps you understand the whole picture.
I run a video production agency. What I would like is an action guide on doing Linkedin lead generation or google adwords. These things would benefit me right away, but I would be missing out if I didn’t read Built to Sell and learned to productize my services. I would be missing out if I didn’t attend a mastermind about systems and scaling. It doesn’t stop there. I could take it a step higher and listen to Tony Robbins talk about mindset. I would be missing out, yet still, if I didn’t watch Tristan’s videos on Purpose and Spiritual balance.
Each piece of content has merit on its own level. Knowing this, the best way to consume content is to think about where you are in your trajectory and what pieces of information you’re missing, then fill in the gaps in that information. Funny enough, the only way to realize which info is missing is to consume content on life balance from a woo-woo life coach guru (I’m being slightly facetious). What I mean is to pull back to a hyper birds-eye-view of your life and understand what true balance is. Only then can you zone in on your business and know that the actions you’re taking today will benefit you the most long-term.
Headspace and My Fitness Pal.
Headspace: I've tried for months to get into consistently meditating everyday. It seems easy right? Take 10 minutes everyday, and just sit there and breathe. Problem is I would just forget about it. Even though I have a push notification telling me to do it everyday. I wouldn't. So I downloaded Headspace and I put on headphones to listen, and for some reason it feels effortless. I don't have to try to meditate or concentrate on my breath, I just listen to the bloke guide me in meditation.
My Fitness Pal: I've tried hard to eat more and gain weight. I thought I ate a lot, all my friends tell me I eat a lot. But without a calorie tracker you don't realize you're not eating enough. I was only eating around 2000 calories a day when I need to be eating a 3000 calories. Also I never realized how little calories there are. If you buy a quart of milk (4 cups) thats only 600 calories! Its hard to eat that many calories and its uncomfortable to be eating that much food. But you know what? I'm trying to gain weight. It's a goal -- Its suppose to be hard. Its suppose to take effort when you're tired at night and you want to go to sleep and you've only tracked 2400 calories that day. So you open your fridge and eat half an avocado and two eggs to make the 600 you need. Without a calorie tracker I would not even know that I was falling behind.