I was in Nashville last week and snapped these photos on my trusty Olympus E-M10 with the 20/1.7 pancake.
I was in Nashville last week and snapped these photos on my trusty Olympus E-M10 with the 20/1.7 pancake.
Listen to the ideas that don’t let go.
You have ideas. The frustrating part is usuaally having more ideas than time.
That’s why you have be okay with letting most of your ideas go. But sometimes an idea doesn’t let go. So maybe you should listen to it, and that’s the one you act on.
Here we are. It’s 2018.
Suppose this year you’d like to eat more apples and less potato chips.
Regardless of what your goal is, there is an awesome little trick that can help you with these small micro-habits that you do every day.
When it comes to the apples and potato chips, it’s as simple as buying some apples and setting them on your kitchen counter. And then — you guessed it — don’t buy any potato chips. Boom.
By making apples easily available, you have lowered the energy required to eat an apple. It’s right there. Sitting on your counter, ready to go. And those pesky potato chips are nowhere to be found. They’re at least a trip to the store away.
This trick goes for anything…
And the converse (for things you want to do less of)…
If your books are hiding next to the lamp on your bedroom nightstand, no wonder it’s easier to just pull out your phone and check Facebook when you have a few minutes of down time.
This stuff applies to more than just healthy micro habits, by the way.
If you want to get advanced, think of ways to lower the activation energy for doing the next step on your current project.
In his book, Getting Things Done, David Allen says that you cannot do a project, you can only do the next step. There is a lot of wisdom and maturity required to take a bigger project or outcome and boil it down to one step at a time.
And by picking that one action ahead of time, you’ve already lowered the activation energy required to doing it. When you put a desired behavior onto a path of less resistance, it will take less energy to accomplish it.
Take it one step further by getting into the habit of doing something now that will make your next step easier to begin. And then repeat in perpetuity.
Shawn Achor writes in his book, The Happiness Advantage, that “the more we can lower or eliminate the activation energy for our desired actions, the more we enhance our ability to jump-start positive change.”
As always, thanks for reading. Next week we’ll talk about how to define meaningful progress (and recognize that progress) so you stay motivated as you work toward your goals.
It’s the New Year and it’s exciting. Something my wife and I were talking about over the weekend was the desire to focus on just a few things that truly matter.
I’m 36, and over the years my tendency has usually been to bite off way more than I can chew. I want to do all the things!
Lists certainly help me to focus. So I write it all down. Everything that seems important or exciting or necessary goes onto the page.
Once its out of my head and onto some paper, it’s quite a bit easier to edit and focus and make choices about what I actually have time and energy for.
I think it was David Allen who said you can do anything you want, but you can’t do everything you want. It’s ironic how an attempt to do everything will actually keep you from doing anything.
Instead of focusing on everything, focus on one or two things that matter most. It’s amazing how liberating that can be to your own quality of life as well as your ability to get things done.
If you want to start something in 2018, then I hope you will go for it!
It doesn’t have to be huge or awesome or perfect or brand new. Give yourself permission to start small, to be honest, to go slow, to make mistakes along the way, and to do it in your own way. That’s where all of the fun is anyway.
Pre-S #2: Plan Your Year is now available. Check it out here.
Today I want to share with you a simple-yet-powerful structure for attaining your goals.
And what’s special about this little process is that it’s free from any particular productivity system, app, or methodology.
It’s as simple as this:
That’s it. You’re looking at the fundamental formula for planning and accomplishing.
Here’s why this little process works so well:
You’re taking one big thing, and breaking it down into something small and simple that you can do today in incremental steps.
You’re taking a goal, and your then moving on to focus on the system that will get you there.
Contrast that against something that is more common: coming up with an idea or a goal, and then instantly thinking of all the big hurdles and “unknowns” related to that goal, and then quitting before you even get started.
You’ve no doubt heard the adage: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
It’s important to focus primarily on steps 2 and 3 — identify the one thing you can do to make progress and then go do it.
But instead, many people focus mostly on step #1 — the goal itself. I’m all for having clear goals, but staring deeply into the eyes of those goals will not make them come about. You’ve got to take action.
If you remember from last week we talked about the two camps of goal setting, and why it’s so important to focus on the system that keeps you moving and taking action.
When you’ve identified one single action and one single result, then the focus is no longer on managing your tasks — the focus is now on doing them.
There’s nothing wrong with systems and methodologies. In fact, once you have the wisdom and the skills to identify the most important thing to do next, then you can use any system or methodology you want. Use whatever makes sense for your personality type and your work environment.
Once you have the wherewithal to define what meaningful productivity looks like for you, then your productivity tools become a slave to your priorities, not the other way around.
Next we’re going to talk about how to lower the barrier of entry to your goals so you can finally get started on them. It’s a little something I like to call “activation energy”.
And in the meantime, you may be interested in my brand-new workbook: Plan Your Year. It’s simple and will help you get a clear, birds eye view of your year so you can focus on what is most important.
A few weeks ago I stumbled across an old Christmas wish list from when I was about 10 or 11. And there were 60-some-odd items on it. At the top of the list was a CD boom box with dual tape decks. I remember getting that boom box for Christmas, and I remember my wild excitement.
There was another year when I was obsessed with getting the new TMNT arcade game for my Nintendo. Even now, well over 20 years later, I still have clear memories of opening that gift, freaking out, and then playing video games nonstop for about a month or twelve.
But as I’ve gotten older, it’s not about the items any longer.
I can buy pretty much anything I want. (If not for cash, then at least with credit which would be dumb but that’s not my point right now).
I think about this every year. What I have always wanted most has always been what is beyond my ability to buy. It was true when I was a boy, and it’s still true now that I’m a man.
The things I want most are a healthy family, the time to play with my boys, and a thriving marriage. It’s Christmas morning, and I got what I wanted.
As I mentioned last week, I’m going to be taking the next few Fridays to talk about how to make progress on your goals.
And, next Thursday, December 28, I have a new, Plan Your Year workbook coming out.
That said, let’s dive in…
These folks say that if you don’t have a goal, it’s like having a bullet with no gunpowder — you’re shooting blanks and so you’ll never hit your target.
These goal-setting aficionados are very intense about having very specific, detailed goals and keeping short accounts. You practically need an abacus to live over here because they expect such a huge level of detail and organization.
These folks are very non-goal centric. They say that it’s best to live in the moment — to live each day the best you can.
To these folks, progress is found in your commitment to excellence: You should be 100% present in the moment, rather than focusing on the future, because who knows what the future may hold.
I have lived in both of the above camps — for years in each actually — and there is wisdom in both sides.
Which is why I prefer to live in the middle, with aspects of both coming together. When you bring them together then you get both the quantitative and the qualitative aspects of life.
And thus, when you combine these two, the result is a goal to move toward and a daily system to actually get you there.
A goal without a system is just a dream. Something you’d love to see happen but which you’re not taking any meaningful action toward.
And a system without a goal is just a rote discipline that’s not taking you anywhere in particular.
Goals give you a direction and help you make decisions.
When you can get clear about your goals, you can get clear about the action you need to take.
A little bit of decisiveness goes a long way. By making a decision, you will get a spark of motivation to begin moving. That motivation becomes action. And that action will bring about clarity (thus allowing you to make more informed decisions as you go).
As you begin to make decisions about your year — the goals, events, projects, etc — then it will bring with it a spark of motivation.
From there, the motivation will lead you to take action. And, as you start taking action, then you will get an increase in clarity.
This is why it’s always best to quickly make the best decision you can with the information that’s available to you, and then to move on. Knowing that once you start going down a path, you will get additional clarity.
Because goals don’t complete themselves. We all have ideas, dreams, hopes, and desired outcomes. But in order to make them a reality, you’ve got to do something about them.
Having a system — or a habit — is one of the most powerful ways to ensure your daily progress (and even your daily happiness).
While goals give you a direction to head toward, it is through your systems that you will actually make progress.
By focusing on your system, you’re able to focus on incremental improvement. And slowly, over time, your habits and disciplines become a source of joy and delight.
Next Friday I’ll share a simple (and obvious-in-hindsight) approach for attaining your goals.
As your business grows, there are two options for how you’ll lead and how you’ll spend your time:
Both come with risks and rewards.
If you control everything, you risk wasting your time. By having a hand in everything, you’re not able to focus on what only you can do and what you do best. You’re doing it all and spreading thin.
But, as the master controller, you will be able to make sure mistakes are never made and that everything is up to your personal standards. The members of your team will be interchangeable and dispensable, because each one works as a cog to do the tasks you assign.
If you delegate, you risk giving a job to someone who can’t do it as well as you. And over time, the members of your team will become critical assets who are not easily replaced.
When you delegate, you may be surprised to find that when someone else does the job, they do it even better than you would have. And now, thanks to them, you have time and energy to focus on the things which you do best.
. . .
I used to think that in business politics, knowledge was power. I felt powerful and important if I knew what everyone was doing all the time, and if I was the one with all the answers.
But I now believe trust is better than knowledge when it comes to business culture and business politics.
I choose to trust that the people I work with are capable. And they trust me to empower them and get out of their way.
It doesn’t always feel like it in the moment, but growing a business that delegates and trusts is far less risky than it seems.
Recently, when I posted my iPhone X’s home screen, I shared about how Simplenote had just been replaced by Bear on my iPhone’s bottom row*
And as I was writing about that, it dawned on me that I’d been using Simplenote for nearly a decade. (!)
It’s already pretty incredible that the iPhone is 10 years old. But it’s even more wild to me that there are some iOS apps — such as Simplenote — which were available on the App Store in those very early days and have stood the test of time.
With my move from Simplenote to Bear, it dawned on me just how rarely I change up the apps I use. For the most part, I am settled in with my day-to-day apps and workflows. Like a pair of well-worn sneakers, I’ve become quite comfortable with what I’m using.
Sticking with the same apps and workflows has its advantages and disadvantages. The good is that you get really used to things, and you can just kinda fly around getting stuff done. The bad, is that you could totally be using an outdated set of tools and not even realize it.
This year I made a few big changes to a few major apps. And after years and years of using certain apps, a few new-to-me apps in particular really transformed the way I work…
I (re)discovered Ulysses this year, and it has massively transformed my daily writing routing.
Having a single spot for all ideas, articles, research, thoughts, notes, quotes, and more has been a huge benefit. Moreover, I’m just a big fan of the app. It’s well designed, easy to use, and extremely powerful.
My team and I went all in with Basecamp earlier this year after attending one of their workshops in Chicago and it’s been so helpful. We used to be on a combination of Dropbox, Slack, email, an iMessage. Now we are entirely on Basecamp and it’s so much easier.
After 7 years with OmniFocus, I switched back over to Things when version 3 came out earlier this spring.
I realize that no task-management app is perfect. There are great features about OmniFocus that I wish Things had, and vice versa. Also: Ditto for Todoist.
Things 3 is beautiful, and there are a lot of very helpful details all throughout it. I’ve really been enjoying it, and have re-written all of my OmniFocus Applescripts to now work with Things.
While I haven’t yet gone all in with iCloud Drive (from Dropbox) I’m just about there. There are 3 huge competitive advantages I see with iCloud:
Fortunately, it’s not that hard to use Dropbox and iCloud Drive. You just have to remember which folder exists on which cloud service when hunting for it on iOS.
Right now the only big competitive advantage that Dropbox has is shared folders, and so I’m having a hard time wondering how much longer I’ll be paying that extra $99 each year for Dropbox Plus.
So I kinda got into gaming a little bit this year. I still don’t own a Nintendo (sigh), but here are a few games on iOS that I discovered and that are a lot of fun:
* I’m not yet sure I’ll stick with Bear, there are a few things that irk me about it, but it does to a LOT of stuff right. But more on that another day.
I️ came across the above diagrams when reading Jinny S. Ditzler’s book, Your Best Year Yet.
I️ love the visuals they give — and not to mention the irony that, if you feel as though you’re on the hampsterwheel, then maybe you actually need to stop shortcutting the productivity cycle by skipping one or more of the segments.
In her book, Ditzler writes about how this fourth step of recognizing and celebrating progress is what contributes to our overall motivated state:
By far, the most important lesson of the Cycle of Productivity comes in segment four. Too many of us simply go straight from the end of the third segment back to the starting line without taking a pause for acknowledgment, pats on the back, thinking about what happened, or learning from it. Our eye is always on what’s next or what isn’t yet completed, and before long we feel as if we’re running on fumes — below the empty mark! We don’t feel like we’re getting anywhere and we experience little satisfaction.
This model reminds us to take time to appreciate what we’ve accomplished…
This is exactly what Teresa Amabile teaches in her book, The Progress Principle.
When we want to be super productive, we often think that speed and efficiency are what matter most. But when we shortcut ourselves, it actually slows us down in the long run. We are less productive when we don’t take time to rest and recharge and when we don’t acknowlede and celebrate our wins.
A few days ago I️ wrote about how 2017 has been a very successful year for me personally and for my work and business. As I️ said in that article, having a successful year is most certainly the result of many moving parts and lessons learned over the years.
But if I had to boil it down to what one thing had the most impact, it was, without a doubt, our 8-week work cycles.
Here’s what they look like:
The emphasis of this 8-week work cycle is usually on the 6 weeks of focused work time. We pick one or two projects that we believe will have the most impact and that can be completed within 6 weeks.
But something else that has proven to be so beneficial is that every single work cycle we take time to review what we did, recognize the progress we made, and celebrate it. It has taken me almost this entire year to embrace our buffer week and sabbatical week — I️ usually want to get right to the next thing and not take time to pause and reflect. But skipping those last two weeks of the cycle are akin to working within an incomplete productivity model.
This past Sunday, my wife and I hosted an end-of-year dinner for 6 of our closest friends. It began just last year and is now officially a new tradition for the 8 of us.
I was in charge of the main course, and so we had prime rib roasted to perfection.
Here it is, just about to go into the oven…
During dinner, we all went around the table and shared our highlights and lowlights from the year.
For me, I had two big highlights to share, one of which was all things work-related.
In 2017, I took an unprecedented 8 weeks of vacation (including the 2 weeks at the end-of-the year that start tomorrow).
Moreover, Blanc Media generated more revenue than last year and we retained more of our earnings than last year; we created a brand new product; and I traveled more than I have in the past decade and was able to build many new relationships. Plus, I can’t recall a single night or weekend where I needed to work (though I’m sure there were at least a few).
My point is that, work-wise, this was a very successful year (and I’m not really talking about the financial side).
It was successful in the areas that matter most to me: time with family, a life outside of work, time to rest well, doing meaning work, and still being profitable without being stressed out.
The big question is: How? What contributed to this?
Obviously having a successful year is the result of many moving parts and lessons learned over the years. But…
If I had to boil it down, the single most impactful thing this year was our new work cycles.
In short, this new schedule was our attempt to simultaneously increase focus and productivity at the office while also increasing time away from our desks.
These 8-week work cycles forced us to focus on only the essential.
They helped us realize and define our boundaries.
They kept us free from work debt.
They forced us to take time off, rather than to just keep on working and working and working… until… For years, I used tell myself that I only needed to work through just one more difficult week / project to get to an important milestone. But I did that over and over for years. There was always just one more thing. This year, for the first time ever, I prioritized stopping points, rest, and breaks within our work cycles. Not allowing work to infringe on my personal life.
What’s crazy is that so much of this approach to work overlaps with something I’ve been doing with my family and in my personal life for the past 6 years…
Every January, my wife and I take an evening or two and we map out our upcoming year. And year after year, this time of planning is always a highlight.
Through it, Anna and I are able to define what matters most to us for the year and see what obstacles we may encounter. It helps us maintain margin in our family life and it helps us to focus on what is most important so we can say no to everything else.
(It’s a very similar mindset and approach to what I began doing this year with work.)
For the next few weeks I’m going to take Friday to talk about how to make progress on your goals.
We won’t be talking about how to hustle harder. Rather, we’ll be talking about how to move at a sustainable pace so you can enjoy life in the process.
Here are the topics:
Next week, we’ll get into the two big “goal setting” camps…
Some folks say that need to know your goals inside and out or else you’ll never accomplish them. Others say you should not set goals, because who knows if you’ll even accomplish them or not, instead you should live in the moment.
Which is the right approach? We’ll dive into that next week.
Side note: This January, I’d love for you to be able to go through the same year-planning process that Anna and I go through. Which is why I finally put something together for you. It’s brand new, it’s very simple, and it will be available on December 27th.
A bunch of folks went through it this past week and their feedback has been super positive. More info on that later. For now, just wanted to give you the heads up.
My favorite feature of iOS 11 has been Do Not Disturb While Driving.
At stoplights, it’s almost universal that most folks will be looking at their screen. While annoying, at least this isn’t life-threatening behavior.
But stoplights aside, it is uncanny just how many people I see texting while driving. I often want to honk at them and remind them to put their stupid phone down, but I’m afraid that I’d just cause a wreck.
Needless to say, Do Not Disturb While Driving is a feature that will undoubtedly save lives. And so, in that respect, DNDWD is my favorite feature that everyone has who is using iOS 11.
But it’s also my personal favorite feature as an iPhone owner.
It has now been months since I received a notification while driving. And I have absolutely noticed how much more calm and present I feel when driving.
I love that my phone never buzzes and my watch never notifies. And there is no fear of missing a truly important message or phone call because people can get through if they need to. But so far, I have received exactly zero “urgent” messages while driving.
In addition to the the “While Driving” part, Do Not Disturb is a pretty great feature in general.
Both my iPhone and my Mac are scheduled to stay in Do Not Disturb mode until 11am every day. This gives me a good 3-4 hours every morning to do my work without any incoming notifications.
For about two days I tried turning off internet access for my iPhone in the evenings (using the settings of my Eero). But it was very short lived — since I quickly realized that without internet access I couldn’t control my Sonos nor our Nest. Also it meant my iPhone wasn’t automatically backing up at night and updating.
However, I liked the idea of having no internet access in the evenings. There was no “pull” to just check stuff.
Some folks recommended that I just turn off all notifications and put my phone down somewhere else.
But I already do both of those things. For years I have had notifications turned off; I only get pings for incoming text messages and DMs. And my phone is usually by the fridge in the kitchen.
My no-internet evening experiment wasn’t so much about cutting off the incoming distractions as it was about giving myself the mental breathing room (similar to DNDWD) that accompanies the complete absence of something.