One Question for Barrett Brooks: How Can I Be More Creative?

Barrett Brooks is the COO of ConvertKit. He writes fantastic articles about leadership on his website, and he’s on the Twitter.

I was in Portland having breakfast with Barrett, and I asked his advice to someone who is interested in improving their creative routine in life. Below is his answer (that yes, totally recorded and transcribed).

Barrett’s Advice to Improve Your Creative Routine

Exercise every day.

I’ve been tracking with a lot of folks who are creative people and they’re in the technology space, or in startups, and I hear so much about how anxious they are or that they’re feeling depression. Just mental health challenges.

And I can’t help but wonder how many of these people are exercising every day? How many are moving their body every day?

So I think about removing the things that are making daily withdraws from our creative energy, and doing things to replenish that creative energy instead.

That’s why I encourage people to get into an exercise routine. It doesn’t mean You have to go to the gym and hiring a trainer. It can be as simple as just going to play outside for an hour. But it’s important to do those things that will give space to think and replenish your creative energy.

Because it can be so easy to get into a pattern of check Twitter, do some work, talk on Slack, do this, do that, do that… And there is so much stuff going on that there is no space to be crative.

For example. The other night I was thinking about an article I just published: “Am I enough?

I knew the title of the article. But I was agitated. Because, though I somewhat knew the direction I wanted to write, I just needed enough space to think about what was it that I want to say in this article and how do I want to say it?

And I think in the end, I really did capture it. But to get over my mental hurdle I had to just stop for a minute. I had to step away from it in order to get the space I needed to think clearly about what it was I wanted to say.


Barrett’s advice reminds me of something I once heard that we often over-emphasize the importance of exercise for our physical health, and under-emphasize the importance of exercise for our mental health.

One Question for Barrett Brooks: How Can I Be More Creative?

Photos and Takeaways From Atlanta’s Focus Course LIVE

A couple weeks ago I was in Atlanta for one of our live, public training workshops for The Focus Course.

Here are a couple of photos I snapped during the week.

The name badges, set out ahead of time.

Artsy photo of the venue, taken from outside the front door.

What it looked like for me to be reviewing my notes in my hotel room the evening beforehand.

My view from the front of the room.


One of the big, overarching pillars of the Focus Course LIVE is this:

To help folks (1) get clear on the vision they have for their work and life, and then (2) create the space they need in order to walk that out every day in the small things.

In short, the aim is to begin building habits that manifest the vision and values of your life.

Like this:

What is an important value in your life?

What would it look like for you to build it into your every-day life?

Here are some examples of aligning values with regular actions in your time and energy:

Generosity: Incorporate charitable giving as part of your monthly budget.

Creativity: set aside time each day to write / take photos / draw / etc.

Health: Adjust your diet; have an evening shutdown routine for better sleep.

Relationships: Schedule and protect intentional time with the most important people in your life.

Building habits around your values is a profound way to radically change your life.

It will help you to constantly focus on doing the actions that matter and that will lead you to the outcomes you want.

. . . .

All that said, our Atlanta workshop was so much fun!

It is such a joy and honor for me to walk people through this process. I absolutely love it!

And my team did great! Isaac and Joanna handled all the event details and logistics and have helped develop an event brand that is classy, warm, and full of the little details. Plus, our senior editor, Jeff Abbott, was able to come join us as well!

Isaac, Joanna, myself, and Jeff.


Our next Focus Course LIVE workshop will be in the Spring of 2020 here in Kansas City. I’ll share more once the dates are landed.

Photos and Takeaways From Atlanta’s Focus Course LIVE

I’m Blogging Daily During November

Here in the United States, November is known for three things:

  1. Thanksgiving
  2. Not shaving
  3. Writing a novel

Starting today — Friday, November 1 — I’ll be writing and publishing something every day for the whole month of November.

Though, instead of writing a novel in a month, I will be simply be focused on publishing something — anything — every single day. From photos, links to interesting things, articles, reviews, etc.

And apparently this is a thing.

I’ve already heard from several other readers who will be writing and creating daily this month as well. Which is awesome! And my friends CJ and Om are also both doing the same thing.

I’m Blogging Daily During November

I can’t remember the last time I used my iMac to edit a photo. All my photo editing happens on the iPad Pro.

The iPad is an ideal tool for perusing and editingyour photos. So, in a sense, picking the best photo editing app for the iPad is actually picking the best photo editing app, period.

Two other personal side-notes about Lightroom:

  • If you are using Lightroom, you should check out the presets that Rebecca Lily has to offer — they are fantastic. I have sets IV, V, and VI. As a long-time VSCO user, there are several bold and moody presets in Rebecca’s Pro Sets V and VI that I think are great.

  • Paying a few bucks a month for Lightroom cloud storage syncing and backup is worth the price alone to have a second layer of cloud backup for my entire Lightroom catalog.

The Best Photo-Editing App for iPad

This morning, over on The Sweet Setup, I published a pretty hefty guide to iOS Shortcuts.

Basically, there is so much you can do with the Shortcuts app on your iPhone and iPad — especially so with iOS 13 and iPadOS. And so I wanted to create a central spot for folks to grasp the the why behind why Shortcuts is so awesome, and then also have some clear next steps for how to start building shortcuts and automations of their own.

There are links to all sorts of incredible Shortcuts resources, including examples, Shortcuts libraries, and even stuff around home automation.

I’ve found that as people start to get familiar with how Shortcuts can help them, then they start having all sorts of light-bulb moments. (And no, that’s not a HomeKit joke, but it should have been.)

For example: The gym I go to makes its members keep and scan one of those small, plastic barcode keychain things whenever you check in at the front desk. And if you forget to bring yours then they charge you $1.

But… if you have a photo of the barcode card on your phone, then that works, too.

So I snapped a photo of the barcode card, dropped that photo into its own photo album on my iPhone, and then created a location-based automation Shortcut that gets the most recent photo from that album whenever I arrive at the gym.

Which means that now, when I am walking in the door of my gym, Shortcuts has automatically pulled up the photo I need for me. So simple, but also so handy.

Anyway, you should check out the iOS Shortcuts Guide here.

iOS Shortcuts: The Ultimate Guide

Today is a Tuesday in September, and September is the new January, and we’ve just opened up registration for The Focus Course.

This is the best stuff I’ve got for those of you who want to improve how you spend your time. Perhaps you’re just feeling overwhelmed. Or maybe you’re in the midst of a big life transition. Or, maybe you’ve got some creative work and ideas inside you and it’s a struggle to show up every day and do your best creative work.

The Focus Course is for you. Registration is open for just a few days. So if you want to get in and get access, this is your chance. On to the day!

The Focus Course: Fall Registration Now Open

If you want to use your iPad more, GoodNotes is a tool you will want in your iPad tool belt.

As I’ve been sharing lately, I am using this app more and more — even as a full-on replacement for my physical notebook.

We just opened up doors for our brand-new GoodNotes course that also includes a slew of custom templates that I’ve designed. I think you might really enjoy using these, and even get a spark of inspiration for how you can use GoodNotes — and your iPad — more often.

Custom Productivity Templates and Video Training for GoodNotes

A Small Observation About the iPad and Note Taking

A couple weeks ago I hosted my third annual Breckenridge mastermind retreat.

And I noticed something was different this year compared to the previous years: The most common note-taking tool was an iPad (with GoodNotes).

There were 11 of us there. And of the group:

  • 6 were using an iPad.
  • 2 used Macs.
  • 2 had a pen and notebook.
  • And one odd bird did not take notes at all (that I noticed).

Of the 6 on an iPad, only one had a 3rd-party keyboard (Brydge). The rest of us were using GoodNotes and an Apple Pencil.

A Small Observation About the iPad and Note Taking

My good friend Havilah Cunnington recently shared on her Instagram about the pain of choosing to turn down a huge opportunity because it conflicted with her boys’ first days back in school.

I so appreciated Havilah’s transparency on this. Especially sharing about how sometimes, when you say no to an opportunity, it doesn’t come back around.

The truth is, we can’t do everything. Sometimes we can’t do everything because we literally don’t have the time and energy.

But sometimes we can’t do everything because something that’s great has to give way to something that is essential.

Living into our values means there will be trade-offs. And sometimes those trade-offs are not easy to accept.

Trade-Offs in Real Life

Seth Godin:

When you live in surplus, you can choose to produce because of generosity and wonder, not because you’re drowning.

And the wonderful thing about choosing to live in surplus is that it’s up to you. Your definition of surplus — and the actions you take in order to live that way — are your own.

Living in Surplus

Mike Schmitz, writing over on The Sweet Setup:

We’ve noticed that the way people use their technology has changed over time.

In short, we’re consuming instead of creating. By default, we’re constantly chasing “more.”

The Sweet Setup will be six years old later this fall. And we have been thinking and talking a lot about how we can better serve our readers. We will continue to find and surface the best apps. But we are also wanting to find more ways to help you use your apps and gadgets with efficiency and intentionality.

A Mindful Approach to Technology