A Non-Zero Life

There is an idea about habits and routines that you always want a non-zero day.

A non-zero day means a day where you do something — just so long as you don’t do nothing: Do at least one push-up, floss at least one tooth, write for at least 1 minute, etc.

The value of a non-zero day is that it keeps your momentum always moving forward. As anyone who knows about building habits, long-term consistency is everything.

A few days ago, the thought occurred to me about having more than just a non-zero day — but rather, a Non-Zero Life.

A Non-Zero Life means building simple-but-healthy habits you can do every day that impact every area of your life: Your career, your health, your relationships, your money, your inner-personal life…

Don’t let one of these areas slip away.


This is kinda what the idea behind Hal Elrod’s book, Miracle Morning, is about. A Miracle Morning is when you do a little bit of everything all before 8am.

I also love Sarah Peck’s idea of having a daily recipe that consists of the few things that, if done, make for a good day.


One reason I like the idea behind a Non-Zero Life is that it keeps you from coasting in any area.

Coasting means you are not taking action. And, thus, you are, by nature: (a) going downhill; (b) living off the momentum of your past effort; or (c) being pulled / pushed along by someone else.

A Non-Zero Life

Thinking in Bets

Last week I began reading Annie Duke’s fantastic book, Thinking in Bets.

First takeaway so far is this:

Do not equate the quality of a decision with the result of that decision.

For example: If you decided to drive home drunk and you happen to make it home safely, nobody would say that the “positive outcome” means you made a “good decision” in that scenario.

Yet, we so often apply “hindsight bias” to our decisions: We look back at the decisions which resulted in a poor outcome as being bad decisions and the decisions with a positive outcome as being good decisions.

And so, start to separate the quality of your decisions with the results of those decisions. Then, learn how to get better at making good decisions more often.

Thinking in Bets

See It In Action (May’s TSS Workshop)

Sometimes, if you insist on using “The Best”, it can actually hold you back and slow you down.

For example…

Last fall my company switched project management tools.

We were Basecamp for years, and we switched to Notion.

Notion is on the complete other side of the spectrum compared to Basecamp.

It was not a simple move. And, of course, it took us some time to decide on Notion.

While trying to decide on which PM tool we’d would switch to, I spent a lot of time testing and tinkering with some of the other options (such as Asana, Jira, Monday, Trello, Todoist, et al.)

How did I decide?

The thing that helped the most with our decision to use Notion was when I could see how other people were using it.

Once I saw it in action through case studies and workflow videos of other users, that’s when I knew it would work for us.

(This is also how I was able to discover that Trello and Monday would NOT work for us.)

. . . . .

These days, I no longer try to find “The Best App No Matter What”.

Instead, I look for “The Best App to Help Me Get the Right Things Done”.

For example: Apple Notes. (Sigh.)

Is Apple Notes the best basic note taking app? No way. In fact, I’m really not a fan of Apple Notes.

BUT…

When it comes to collaborating with my friends and family, it’s hard to beat Apple Notes.

And so, for that reason, I’m in.

. . . . .

I’ve spent the past decade researching and using “the best apps”, and then finding the best workflows and use-cases for those apps that I can. And I would love to help you save some and frustration in getting the right apps that work for you.

This Thursday (May 20th) I’ll be going through every critical app I use, how I use it, and why I use it.

At this LIVE workshop, the emphasis will be on my productivity apps and workflows for ideas, tasks, and time.

1. Ideas: Apps and workflows for creating and shipping work day in and day out

2. Tasks: Apps and workflows for handling the incoming tasks and the never-ending lists.

3. Time: Apps and workflows for scheduling time and staying focused.

……

This is one of our premium workshops (about 2 hours) where we’ll be going very in depth. And you’ll be able to ask questions to me or Mike about any of this stuff.

**Register Here** (plus check out all details)

See It In Action (May’s TSS Workshop)

Ray Dalio’s 5-Step Process for Making Progress on your Goals

In Ray Dalio’s book, Principles, he lists a 5-step process for how to make progress on your goals:

  1. Identify your goals.
  2. Encounter your problems.
  3. Diagnose the problems to get to their root cause.
  4. Design changes to get around the problems.
  5. Do what is needed.

In short, you must constantly measure your current outcomes against your desired outcomes and then take action.

You need to know what it is that you want, you need to know what is true right now, and then you need to decide what you are going to do about it.

Side note. Ray’s process of ownership, diagnosis, and action is almost identical to something my wife and I have been working on with our three younger boys. We are trying to teach them to take ownership of their own problems, consider cause and effect for various outcomes and solutions, and then make a choice and act.

Ray Dalio’s 5-Step Process for Making Progress on your Goals

It feels like 2020 deposited a cloud of fog inside my brain.

For one, there is all the crud and trauma that we have all had to deal with in 2020 so far, we’re not even through November yet. And, like many of you, I’ve had my fair share of additional challenges to work through at home and at work.

And it has me longing for clarity. Because I’m not a fan of the fog, the overwhelm, and the lack of focus.

With clarity comes a freedom from busywork. It allows you to bring something into alignment and then actually direct your attention on it.

Moreover, clarity can help with stress, anxiety, and worry. Because you’re confident in the direction you’re going.

You know that feeling of overwhelm when you think of all the things you have to do, all the possible options, all the spinning plates, all the open loops…??

When you take a few moments to step back, look at the big picture, and get clear … well, it’s liberating.

Sometimes clarity can come in a few minutes. Sometimes it takes much longer, and it requires a process

On Nov 10, I’m hosting a free webinar training on How to Plan Your Year.

(Yes, even if you hate planning, think goals are dumb, and would rather not be reminded that it’s almost 2021.)

Here’s what we’ll be covering at the workshop:

  • A walk-through of the systems and tools I use to set goals (and get clear).
  • How to make daily progress on your goals.
  • Get clear on the change you want to see in 2021.

I’ll show you how to then turn your plans and goals into something you can make progress on every single day. Use this system to help you to get clear — and identify what change you want to see in the next year. You can also use this framework to stay productive on your monthly, weekly, and daily goals.

If you want to be there, use this link to RSVP so we can send you the details.

How to Plan Your Year: Webinar Workshop

Just for the fun of it

Shortly after my first son was born, I realized that I did not like the camera in my phone.

And so, in the fall of 2012, I bought my first “real” camera.

Which means it’s been eight years since I began photography as a hobby. And to be honest, I still feel like a huge noob.

I’ve shot tens of thousands of photos; my house is filled with framed images that I’ve taken; I’ve owned a handful of different cameras and lenses; I’ve paid for photography courses and I even made my own.

But yet… there is still so much for me to learn!

I am constantly finding inspiration in other people’s work and learning from other photographers.

And that is exactly what excites me…

Even though I’ve been making photos for the better part of a decade, I still have many more decades to go.

My grandfather was a prolific painter in his old age. It wasn’t until he was in his late 50s that he even began his painting hobby. And he continued on until his death just shortly after turning 100. And in fact, as he got older, he painted more and more.

There are many areas of my life where I need to ship, create, and perform at a certain level. Areas where I am intently focused on growth.

Photography, however, is one of those things where there is no pressure or expectation.

It’s exciting to think ahead, knowing I still have decades to continue learning and enjoying photography.

Just for the fun of it

Give Yourself Time

When I sit down to plan my week, I always write down the two or three most important projects I’m going to focus on.

Sometimes those projects are easy and obvious: fix this; build that; finish the thing.

But sometimes a project’s outcome is not obvious. Or, perhaps I don’t know if I will be able to finish it this week or not because I don’t yet know how much time is left to find the solution.

Instead of committing to a finish line that may not be possible yet, I simply commit to spending time working toward my desired outcome.

Not all goals need to have a specific outcome or milestone right now.

Sometimes my most important project for the week is to spend uninterrupted time working on a project so I can keep making progress.

Give Yourself Time

How to Plan Your Week Like a Boss

If you feel that your productivity has been hitting a slump, I highly recommend planning out your week ahead of time.

Getting clear about what you’ll be doing during the upcoming week will help you stay focused on those things that are most important to you.

Here’s how to plan your week:

  1. Start by writing down everything you need and want to get done this week. From the bigger projects all the way down to the smaller tasks.

  2. Now look over your “master list” and select the 3 most important things that you will actually focus on. This is how you will define success for your week.

  3. Bonus: For each of those 3 most important things, write a a few words about WHY that task or project matters. What is your motivation and reasoning for wanting to get it done? (This will help you follow through later on in the week when you’re not feeling it.)

  4. Lastly, look at your calendar for the week and schedule the various blocks of time that you will spend working on your 3 most important things. Or at least select the day(s) of the week that you will focus on each thing.

I do this process every week, usually on Sunday afternoon or Monday morning. It only takes me about 20 minutes, and it sets up my whole week for me.

I also plan each of my days in a similar fashion: listing out the day’s most important tasks and then scheduling it onto my calendar so that I have time blocks for my main tasks and activities.

Why take the time to do this? Two reasons:

  1. Clarity cures busywork.
  2. Your to-do list should exist on your calendar.

It is liberating to your schedule and your emotions when you know WHAT you will be doing and WHEN you will be doing it.

(That’s why I built weekly and daily planning templates right into the design of our iPad Digital Planner. It makes the above process faster and foolproof.)

How to Plan Your Week Like a Boss

Tommorrow (Wednesday 15 July) I’m hosting a webinar to talk about all the ways I use Ulysses to keep my ideas (mostly) organized.

I’ll be sharing some easy ways you can make the writing process easier and more productive on yourself. And I’ll be sharing some simple suggestions for how to organize all your ideas, and notes, and writing, etc.

RSVP here so we can send you the link to the live room.

The Focused Writer (a TSS Webinar)

Something a lot of folks ask me about with Ulysses if it can be used for collaborating.

While Ulysses doesn’t support “native” collaborative features (such as what you get in Google Docs or (kinda) Pages in iWork), you can sync external documents, which means that if you use a 3rd-party service (such as GitHub) then you can write in Ulysses and then sync and collaborate in the background.

It’s a little bit nerdy to set up. But it’s something that can be very much worth it because, well, Ulysses is the best writing app out there.

And so that is why we put together this step-by-step guide for how to collaborate in Ulysses.

You can read the full guide — or watch the videos that Marius made — right here.

The Ultimate Guide to Collaborative Writing in Ulysses