Speaking of notebooks, if you like the idea of using an analog notebook but you do not like the idea of filling in all the details on your own, you should definitely check out Michael Hyatt’s Full Focus Planner.

In my office I’ve got one each of the Freedom Journal, Mastery Journal, Best Self Journal, Passion Planner, and a Cultivate What Matters planner.

Of all of these, I think the the Full Focus Planner is the best one. Though I don’t use it personally — I prefer the blank pages of my Baron Fig — the Full Focus planner emphasizes the things that matter most for managing your day and doing the things that matter. I basically follow a very similar structure in my own notebook, but I fill it in myself.

The Full Focus Planner

Matt Ragland’s Minimalist Bullet Journal for Productivity

A few weeks ago my friend, Matt Ragland, posted this video showcasing how he uses his notebook for planning out his day, week, and month.

There are two things I like about this video. For one, Matt’s journal is not a picturesque scrapbook. While I love the gorgeous lettering and sketches that so many people do with their notebooks, for me, I need something more basic and pragmatic.

Secondly, and most importantly, I found many really interesting ideas in here. Particularly, I love how Matt maps out his week with 10 time blocks of 4 hours each (see below and at the 08:29 mark in the video). These time blocks help him gauge if he is spending too much time in one are (such as meetings) and not enough time in another area (such as reading).

Matt Ragland Minimalist Bullet Journal for Productivity

If you’ve never taken a week to track how you are spending your time, you should try it. If you dare.

Anyway, speaking of notebooks, it’s no secret that I’m a big fan of the Baron Fig Confidant notebook. I’ve been using one to plan my day for almost four years now, and I have some thoughts on the analog planning approach that I want to share about, particularly as it relates to the seeming tediousness of it.

In the next few weeks you can expect me to dive in to the nerdy details of how I use my notebook to take action and keep moving forward.

Matt Ragland’s Minimalist Bullet Journal for Productivity

The Law of Diminishing Intent

This is a principle that Jim Rohn taught. It goes like this:

The longer you wait to take action, the less likely you are to take action.

Meaning, when you get clarity about something because of a lightbulb moment when in the shower, or you get advice from someone that just makes sense, that’s when you have the most energy to take action.

Thus, whatever it is, you should take action as quickly as possible. Immediately if possible. Why? Because, over time, your intention and motivation for taking action will diminish.

Michael Hyatt, whom I first learned this from, says to “never leave the scene of clarity without taking action.”

For the sake of taking action, the best thing you can do is act now. If, for some reason, you cannot act now, make a note to yourself about what you need to do and then follow your own advice as soon as possible.

Many folks, for whatever reason, are prone to waiting. Why? What purpose does it serve to sit on it?

Often we delay because of fear or doubt. In his book, The Obstacle is the Way, Ryan Holiday writes:

Life can be frustrating. Oftentimes we know wha our problems are. We may even know what to do about them. But we fear that taking action is too risky, that we don’t have the experience or that it’s not how we pictured it or because it’s too expensive, because it’s too soon, because we think something better might come along, because it might now work.

And you know what happens as a result? Nothing. We do nothing.

Choosing not to move forward has the same result as being stuck, unable to move forward at all.

Holiday continues to say that courage, at its most basic level, is really just taking action.

Once you are clear on what needs to be done, there is no advantage in procrastination. Take action and move on.

The Law of Diminishing Intent

Okay, this is going to be a lot of fun.

In about a month from now, on February 14, I’m hosting a live, interactive, virtual workshop. (i.e. the whole thing will be online, and it’s not a webinar).

During the workshop, we’ll be going through a good amount of the material from The Focus Course, with an emphasis on getting clarity about the things that are important to you right now and taking ownership of your time.

A few things you should know:

  • The cost is $20.
  • It is limited to the first 50 people.
  • There will be no replay.
  • 100% of the proceeds will be donated to Operation Broken Silence, which is an awesome non-profit that serving the people of Sudan.

Sign up here.

Live, Interactive Workshop with Yours Truly

Jordan Critz Playlist on Apple Music

A few weeks ago, thanks to the “Pure Focus” playlist put together by Apple Music editors, I discovered some new music by Jordan Critz.

Critz is a composer and has done quite a bit of work for movies and television. But last year he stopped writing for licensing and began to write his own music.

(The MusicBed blog has a great behind-the-scenes look with photos and information about the recording and production of his most recent EP, which was done at a church-turned-studio with a 30-piece orchestra.)

On iTunes there are now several of his original works in the form of singles and EPs. And they are all just fantastic.

I’ve complied everything he’s put up on iTunes into a single playlist and it’s what I’ve been writing to lately.

Loving This Music by Jordan Critz

Just wanted to give you all a heads up that right now is your last chance day to get access to Plan Your Year. This evening I will be closing the doors and you’ll have to wait until 2019.

What makes Plan Your Year so cool is that it’s a “done for you” approach to mapping out your upcoming year. It is quite a bit more than just putting events on a calendar and making an unordered list of hopes and dreams.

The Plan Your Year workbook has nine sections. And through them I’ve removed all the guesswork for you — all you have left to do is fill in the blanks. (I even recorded a video that walks you through every single section of the workbook, explaining in more detail what that section is for and how to fill it out.)

Through the workbook, I help you write out goals that are actually achievable and that align with the areas of life that matter to you. (Raise your hand if you’ve ever set a goal because you felt obligated to, and then it was like an annoying woodpecker on your shoulder constantly nagging at you.)

This is the exact same process my wife and I have been going through every January since about 2011. In fact, we’ll be sitting down to do our own 2018 Plan Your Year session later this week. (See? It’s not too late!)

I think you’ll be surprised at how liberating it is to write down your goals for the year. Not to mention, once you have your goals written down, you are significantly more likely to accomplish them.

All that said, if you’ve been on the fence, today is your last chance to get the Plan Your Year workbook. After tonight I will be shutting down access until 2019.


Last Call for Plan Your Year Access

David Heinemeier Hansson writing for the Basecamp blog:

You’re not very likely to find that key insight or breakthrough idea north of the 14th hour. Creativity, progress, and impact does not yield easily or commonly to brute force.

I love that last line. Which is why I emphasized it.

Coming back to yesterday’s link about the Warren Buffett documentary, one of the things Buffett said was that he enjoyed spending time to just sit and think:

Many people would see [sitting and thinking] as totally unproductive. But many of my best business solutions and money-problem answers have come from periods of just sitting and thinking.”*  Some folks do need to be told to get off their butts and get moving. But some folks need to be told the opposite — to take a break, to sit down, go take a walk or go to bed. I have to tell myself the latter almost every day, because I’m an “all-in” sort of person and so my tendancy can be to work all the time.

Creativity, progress, inspiration, and impact are things which require action as well as inaction. Give yourself time to think and rest, as well as time to do to work.

Let’s bury the hustle

An excellent list of things to consider and think about and nod your head in agreement of. I haven’t even seen the documentary yet, but it sounds excellent.

You can watch the whole documentary on YouTube here.

Here are a couple of excerpts from Bourke’s list that especially stuck out to me.

15. On Focus:

One time Warren was at Bill’s house for dinner and Bills dad asked them to write down on a piece of paper what was one word to describe their success.


They both wrote down the exact same word.

Amen to that.

5. On Investing:

[Buffett] learned the two rules of investing from the same Benjamin Graham mentioned above.

  1. Never lose money.
  2. Never forget rule number one.

These two rules can be applied to many aspects outside of investing. Set the system up so you always win. Whatever your goals may be, alter the first rule to suit you.

Nearly seven years ago I started writing full-time. And since that time I’ve created a handful of other websites and products. My rule has always been to spend less on the creation of the product than what I was confident I could earn back. As a result, everything I’ve ever done has been profitable. The investments I’ve made back into my business have been the best investments I’ve made.

Points 7, 8, 9, and 13 are also brilliant.

(Thanks Mike, and Dan, and Jason)

21 Things Daniel Bourke Learned From Watching ‘Becoming Warren Buffett’

Plan, Act, Acknowledge

This article is the last in a series I’ve been writing about goal setting. You can find the previous articles here, here, here, here, and here.*

As I write this, it’s been nearly 7 years since I quit my job to begin working for myself.

In the early days, I felt as if my task list was never-ending. There was always one more thing to do.

The norm for me was to finish the day with a sense of dissatisfaction. As I would wrap things up, I felt as if I didn’t really get anything done because there was still so much to do.

The problem was that I was looking toward what was still to be done rather than looking back at what had been accomplished. If you are defining success by what is still left to do, you will never win. Because there is always something more to do.

My approach has changed over the years, and it has given me two huge advantages…

For one, I am clear on each day’s tasks — knowing the few most important things I need or want to get done — and I am able to focus on them.

Secondly, I now end the day feeling accomplished and satisfied. Thanks, primarily, to the fact that I have a clear definition of what a successful day looks like (because I am defining success ahead of time).

Lastly, I have also begun to simply recognize and acknowledge the work I do each day. This has been so great at helping me maintain motivation day to day. Because, sometimes, let’s be honest, the work is work and it’s not fun.

In short, it looks like this:

1. Plan

My productive day actually starts the evening before. At the end of my work day, I take a few minutes to prepare for the next day. This is when I choose ahead of time what my most important tasks will be, and how I will “define success” for the upcoming day.

Some folks do this in the morning, but I prefer to have it done the night before.

This is helpful because you’re making a decision and a plan apart from urgency and emotion. By making the choice ahead of time, you can think clearly. You’re not yet emotionally invested in tomorrow, nor are you feeling the urgency of any of tomorrow’s pressing matters. With a clear head you can make a good choice about tomorrow’s most important tasks as they relate to your goal(s).

2. Act

Planning is actually quite easy. It does require a little bit of effort, so don’t be lazy about it. The hard part is — as always — in the doing.

And that is why the first step of planning is so powerful. It helps you to overcome the paralyzing state of indecisiveness.

One of the most common challenges when it comes to focus is people feeling paralyzed from indecisiveness. They finally make some time to work on something important, but when they sit down there are so many thing they want to work on that they don’t know where to start. They spend all their creative energy deciding what to do that they don’t have any willpower left to actually do the work.

If you are waiting until it’s time to begin work before you make a choice about what to work on, the choice is much harder. Instead, make the choice for yourself ahead of time.

As I mentioned at the start, so often I used to end my day with a feeling that it was a waste. I would get caught up in the many urgent and pressing issues of the day. Things didn’t go as well as I’d hoped they would. I’d try to make progress on a meaningful task but just kept hitting a wall. And then I’d see all the things that still needed to be done.

Some days, that can just be the way life is. I definitely have days where everything seems to be against me. But those are exceptions, not the rule.

When wasted, unproductive days feel like the norm — you need to bust out of that routine.

3. Acknowledge

Recognizing and celebrating your progress is critical. When you accomplish a goal, or make meaningful progress, take a moment to acknowledge it.

For the little things, it can be as simple as checking off a box. Perhaps you can write about your wins in a notebook or journal app.

When you see that you are making progress — even small victories — then it strengthens your emotional and motivated state. You are happier and more motivated at work. And therefore, we are more likely to be productive and creative.

This is one reason why having regular times of review can be so beneficial. It reminds us of the tasks and goals accomplished and the projects we’ve completed. It keeps things in perspective, reminding us that the oftentimes seemingly-mundane and difficult work we do every day is actually adding up to something of value.

A New Plumb-Line for Meaningful Work

By identifying one task or outcome you’d like to see happen each day then you have a quantifiable way to measure if you’re making progress on your important activities and doing the work that matters to you. This is so much more beneficial than the subjective and arbitrary metrics we are used to holding ourselves to.

And when you do accomplish those tasks, awesome! No matter what else happened, at least you made progress on something that mattered. And if you don’t accomplish that task, don’t freak out — you have a chance to learn and improve so that next time you’ll be able to do better.

Lastly, take a moment to acknowledge what you got done. Pat yourself on the back, at least for a moment, before you move on to the next thing.

Plan, Act, Acknowledge

Survey Results

A couple days ago I linked to a productivity survey that we are running for The Sweet Setup.

We’re working on something brand new related to task management and productivity. We wanted to get some feedback from folks before we began finalizing the contents of the new course.

In about a day and a half, the survey gathered 2,000 responses. I wanted to share some of the results with you.

  • Pretty much everyone has a system for keeping track of their to-do items. Only 5-percent of folks said they don’t.

  • Things and OmniFocus are virtually tied as the two most-popular apps/tools for task management with 23- and 24-percent of people using them respectively. Todoist is the third-most popular with 13-percent.

  • More people use a paper notebook — Bullet or other journal — than use Apple’s Reminders app as their primary task management system (9% and 7% respectively).

  • 79% of people use their iPhone to regularly manage their tasks; 72% use a Mac regularly; 48% use an iPad.

  • Just a little over half of respondents feel in control of their task list. Which naturally means that there is another half of folks who do not feel in control.

  • And yet, 63% of folks feel as if their day is spent mostly on busywork, rather than important work.

  • When it comes to being productive and doing meaningful work, the most common obstacle people face is being overwhelmed by urgent issues. Secondly is a lack of focus during the day, followed by a lack of clarity about what to do next.

If you’re curious, you can view the full results breakdown via Typeform here.

The aforementioned new course we are working on for The Sweet Setup will be coming out next month.

It will focus on using a particular task management app, but it will also have in-depth training on productivity, time management, and task management. A one-two punch if you will. Because, as the survey results show, even though more than half of people feel in control of their task list, they are still mostly dealing with busywork during the day.

If you’ve got anything in particular that you’d like to see me address in the course, let me know on Twitter.

Survey Results

How to Beat Fear and Doubt

It was when I was in fifth grade that I was given a drum set. My loving parents let me keep it and never once did they complain about the noise, let alone my complete lack of rhythm.

By the time I was in high school I was practicing hours a day. I was in several bands during high school, college, and into my late 20s. Many of those bands recorded some albums — some of them we recorded in the basement, others in a studio. I played at local shows where just a dozen kids were there, and at big conferences with 15,000 in the crowd.

Somewhere along the way I stopped being nervous. I stopped doubting my skills as a drummer; I had confidence. Though my fears didn’t go away altogether, I was the one in control of my nerves (rather than the other way around).

In his book, The Obstacle is the Way, Ryan Holiday writes about the importance of being able to control your emotions when in the midst of a stressful situation.

“Uncertainty and fear are relieved by authority,” Ryan writes.

It is through training, practice, and expertise that we gain authority.

With enough experience you can increase your tolerance for fear, doubt, and uncertainty.

The fear never fully goes away. And that’s a good thing. Fear can serve as a mile marker, letting you know you’re on the path to doing something worthwhile and valuable.

But don’t let the fear or doubt dictate your choices in the moment. Don’t forget your wits and your calm when you hit that wall.

When we aim high, pressure and stress obligingly come along for the ride… The risk of being overwhelmed is always there.

In these situations, talent is not the most sought-after characteristic. Grace and poise are, because these two attributes precede the opportunity to deploy any other skill.

How to Beat Fear and Doubt