How to Be Productive When Traveling

In the past year, I’ve been to Austin, Chicago, San Diego, Atlanta, Breckenridge, Denver, Boise, Portland, and Nashville. It’s the most amount of traveling I’ve done in a 12-month period in the past 10 years.

It used to be that I would step on to the plane with the excitement of having a few hours to work on whatever I want — I figured that I would have several hours to put on my headphones and just write. But over the years I’ve learned better. In reality, when it comes to doing creative work such as writing, I am just not productive on flights.

Some folks can write an entire novel over a series of airplane flights. Not me. Though sometimes I will edit content that I’ve already written (such as moving an article from the “idea” folder to the “edit” folder).

If you’re looking to be productive when you travel, my best advice is this:

Have a specific goal in mind and be prepared for it.

(That advice goes for quite a bit beyond just travel productivity, btw.)

In short, don’t step onto that plane with a blank canvas and the hopes of being inspired. Instead, know your desired outcome and prepare ahead of time. What are you hoping to get done? What do you need to do to make it happen? What will you be doing on the flight?

A little bit of preparation goes a long way. Because then, once you’re on the flight, all that’s left for you to do is get to work.

Here’s What I Do

As I said, I’m not good at creative work or inspirational thinking when on a plane. Therefore I have found other ways to still make the most of my time (though I’m also not above watching a good kung fu movie).

Before my flight, I download a few podcast episodes or an audio book. Then I listen (with my B&O H7 headphones) and take copious notes.

Listening to a podcast or audiobook while taking notes is a great way to learn the material. It’s also a more passive form of creativity and work. It’s been helpful for me, and the results from the notes are always a huge asset. For example, my book club articles for Rhinoceros Success and The Dip both came about from times I was traveling this past year.

After listening to my podcast episode(s) or audiobook, I’ll then watch a movie or read a novel and just relax. Or sometimes I skip the note-taking altogether and get straight to the movie.

How to Be Productive When Traveling

Christmas Photos from Castle Rock, Colorado

We were in Colorado for Thanksgiving weekend, and downtown Castle Rock is just amazing during the holidays.

My family and I spent this past Saturday evening walking around the downtown area, and I took this nighttime photo with my iPhone X and then edited a bit with the VSCO app…

Not bad! Especially when you compare it to this next pic, that I took few years ago on that very same street corner. Except that this one I took with my fancy Olympus camera and the Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 lens:

Christmas Photos from Castle Rock, Colorado

How to Tell You’ve Created Something Worthwhile

There will be some people who strongly dislike it.

I’ve always felt that great design is polarizing. There will be some who love it and others who hate it.

For example, I recently received a request for a refund of the Focus Course from a fellow stating that the content was “inane, generic, bland and full of nothing but buzzwords.”

Negative and vile feedback like that used to really throw me for a loop. I’d worry, What if they’re right? What if I’m selling snake oil I and don’t even realize it?

There is a difference between constructive feedback and angry feedback. If the former, I’m all ears. I am happy to learn from genuinely unsatisfied customers who tell me they were expecting one thing but got another. That is a great way for me to improve my marketing, products, and more.

But angry feedback just comes from angry people. They feel entitled to something and they want you to know just how angry they are. Angry, hyper-negative feedback is not a reflection of you nor of your products. It is a reflection of the person giving the feedback.

And so, in times like that, I choose to politely refund their money, delete their email, and go about my day creating new things and working toward what’s next.

(As a side note, I’d rather get negative feedback than no feedback at all. Perhaps the worst response to a product would be indifference.)

It’s not easy to make something and put it out there.

Another way to tell you’ve created something worthwhile, is to look at the people who are talking about it, sharing it, and using it.

Look around at the people who are gladly doing business with you. Are they people you respect? If so, then you’re doing it right.

Sometimes it’s hard to get a clear picture of the work you’re doing. You’re so immersed in the product and the message that you can’t easily step back and see it all with fresh eyes.

But if there are people who you find awesome, and they are happy to be around your work and they actively seek you out, then you are on the right track. You’re serving the right people doing something worthwhile. Good job.

How to Tell You’ve Created Something Worthwhile

The Creative Focus Online Summit

Early last week, I peeled back the curtain to finally announce something I’ve been working on for months.

It’s The Creative Focus Online Summit.

creative-focus-summit-1300

It’s an online event that starts in two weeks from tomorrow. And, to be candid, this is one of the biggest things I’ve ever done. I think you’re going to love it.

For one, the summit is completely free.

Secondly, it’s all online, so there’s no travel required.

You sign up. I email you each day with links to that day’s videos (which, by the way, will be available fully on demand).

This is somewhat similar to the free Elements of Focus class that I ran last year. In that, this is a chance to put something together around the topics of creativity and focus just in time for the New Year.

But what’s different is that this year I’ve invited 13 brilliant speakers to participate. (Seriously. Check out that lineup.)

Over the course of the summit, you’ll walk away with ideas and advice related to time ownership, working on your passion, balancing your work life and your personal life, showing up every day, doing your best creative work, growing an audience, and so much more.

So go check it out, and then register for free.

The Creative Focus Online Summit

What’s Next?

As I type this note, it’s a crisp Friday morning and my hot coffee is keeping my keyboard company.

Here in Kansas City the weather is beginning to cool down, and it finally feels like fall.

It’s in these final weeks of the year that my thoughts always turn to the next year, and I begin to think about what’s next. What will the upcoming year hold for my work? For my family? What hardships will we have? What adventures?

As you may know, I was recently in Austin where I had the privilege of speaking at the seanwes conference. While there I had some fantastic conversations with my friends Sean McCabe and Nathan Barry. They both gave me some excellent advice and new ideas for The Focus Course.

Combined with the nearing of 2017, and needless to say I’m excited about what’s to come for my work, my family, and many other areas of life.

And I hope you can say the same as you look ahead to what’s next.

To give you an idea of a few things we’re working on for you:

We’ll be hosting our first Focus Course winter camp in January. And it’s going to be awesome.

But…

Before that, I have something else in store.

Something my team and I have been working on for months.

Something that is unlike anything I’ve done before.

To be candid, I was nervous about this new project. But now that it has come together, I can’t wait to pull back the curtain.

While I can’t tell you what it is just yet, I will be announcing it this coming Tuesday, November 15th.

In the meantime, here is a clue…

november project

What’s Next?

Little Things Add Up: The Effect of Details in Aggregate

It’s the little things, in aggregate, that can make the difference between something being exquisite and delightful, or else being full of friction.

When done well, the little things add up to make an overall positive impression. And, on the flip side, when ignored or done poorly, the little things add up to leave a negative impression.

This is why “good enough” can be the enemy, and why implementing many features poorly is actually a worse plan than implementing a few features very well. Though the princess slept on many mattresses, just one pea under the whole stack ruined her night’s sleep.

* * *

A few years ago I was replacing all the flat slab doors in our home with new 6-panel slab doors. A slab door is just the door itself — I wasn’t replacing the jambs and frames, which means for each door I hung I had to cut out the grooves for the hinges. These are called mortises, and I used a router to cut them out.

Over several weekends I worked my way through the house, doing one door at a time. And as I did, I became acutely aware of all the shortcuts the previous owner had taken when they were framing and painting the doors I was now replacing. All the doorknobs had paint around their base, the door hinges were painted over, and so were the strike plates.

After I had hung about half the doors, I began to understand why there was so much sloppy work I was replacing. When you’re in the middle of a project like this it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the little to-do items, and thus begin cutting corners in order to speed up the completion of the project.

As I was routing out each mortise and measuring the spot for each new strike plate, I felt the temptation to sidestep a detail here or there. I’d have to remind myself that I couldn’t take a shortcut — not even once. What would seem like a negligible issue in the moment would soon snowball into another sidestepped detail and then another, until there was an overall feeling of sloppy work.

When you’re in the middle of the project, you think, “well, a one-off here and a one- off there is not the end of the world.” But shortcuts add up, and those little details — for the good or for the bad — come together in aggregate and make the difference between something that is either exquisite, ordinary, or poor.

When I was done with my project, the difference was significant. Just as the sloppy work on the previous doors and knobs and hinges had added up to exude an overall “cheap” feeling, having new door knobs that weren’t tainted with paint slops, new door hinges that were clean and not painted over, and having doors that were free from scuff marks, all added up to an overall “classy” feeling that was greater than the sum of the parts.

And so, when you’ve committed to not take shortcuts, you quickly learn that sweating the details is where most of the hard work lies. Like I’ve mentioned before, it’s that 80/20 rule: 80-percent of the project gets completed with the first 20-percent of effort, and then it takes the remaining 80-percent of the effort to complete the final 20-percent of the project.

But it’s worth it because in these details lies the overall feeling of the product. The underlying “truth” of our product is found not in the feature set but in the details we implemented well. The details make the design.

* * *

This article was from my book, Delight is in the Details.

I wanted to share it with you because it serves as one side of the coin.

When it comes to our goals, our projects, and/or our businesses, it is important to sweat the details.

However, there is another side to the coin: perfectionism will kill your project. We’ll get into that next.

Little Things Add Up: The Effect of Details in Aggregate

Blanc Media Core Values

When you’re living a focused life, it’s your personal vision and values that serve as the foundation for how you spend your time and energy.

Start with what’s important to you, and then use that to direct where you spend your time, energy, and attention. (Many people do it backwards, and they allow their time and energy to be spent on things that are important to other people.)

When you have core values as a business, they too can help drive the choices you make as you grow.

As you know, there are so many options for how you can grow your business or side-project…

Do you focus on awareness, traffic, conversions, subscribers, followers, opt-ins, downloads, customer lifetime value, customer satisfatcion, membership churn, new products, networking, hiring, or something else altogether?

And since there is no singular path to success, it’s not a cut and dry roadmap. Each business or side-project is unique in terms of why it exists and what stage of growth it’s in right now.

When you’re not sure what to do in a situation, your business’s core values can help.

Moreover, as your business grows, new opportunites will present themselves. Your core values can help you choose what to say yes to and what to decline so that your success doesn’t end up leading you to failure.

Our Core Values

Until recently, we didn’t have Blanc Media’s core values written down or articulated. Now that we do, I wanted to share them with you.

Practice Integrity

We follow through on our commitments. We put our audience and customers first and condisder it our responsibility to take care of them on an ongoing basis.

Be Transparent

We are honest. We teach what we know in order to help others who are on a similar path. We do not overhype or overexagerate our work, but neither do we downplay or undervalue it. By being transparent we hope to earn the trust of our audience and build customers for life.

Pursue Generosity

In business we always seek to provide value first and foremost, without expectation of return. We also seek to increase charitable donations every year so our giving grows along with our business.

Build Community

We create opportunities for people to connect in a vibrant community where they can connect with one another by sharing their challenges, opportunities, and successes; building a creative career is challenging, and a strong community can help mitigate the fears that go along with that. We are also building an internal team of employees and contributors who practice integrity and pursue generosity in order to create something greater than the sum of their individual abilities.

Blanc Media Core Values