Touching is believing. That’s why bullet journals are all the rage. People want to slow down and get everything from their worries, random thoughts, weekend plans, shopping lists, gift ideas, blog topics, exercise schedules etc., all down and out on paper.
Paper works because it is only limited by what you’re willing to put on (and into) it. Paper provides an escape from your devices and does so without compromising your ability to get things done. Paper is safe and secure in that it can be both lifesaving and disposable depending on the circumstances. Paper is versatile, compatible and portable. Paper — simply put — just works.
Boring is the new interesting. We can’t think with clarity with candy-colored apps flashing at us tempting the latest scroll.
A simple pen and paper ask for our attention. And we give it.
Longform doesn’t squander our best thoughts the latest social media refresh. The handwritten word complements the learning process.
Digital is where we source the ideas and paper is where we write them down and connect the dots.
When we use analog and digital tools with intent, they tend to complement each other.
When it comes to compliments, you accept them but you do not inhale.
Compliments are as ephemeral as a Facebook like. They acknowledge your existence and provide a dopamine boost. But they also turn the ego into an enemy. Praise takes no responsibility for the passion and head work at play.
Rather than seeking social validation, you should be cranking up the work.
Passion helps bring your hobby to the job. “In the long run, we find what we expect,” Henry David Thoreau wrote. “We shall be fortunate then if we expect great things.”
Autonomous in your choices, the magic number of greatness precedes you. Remember to pace yourself and slow down the breath.
If you use Powerpoint, a few principles and tips to keep in mind when using type on a slide:
Don’t read the words. It’s bad enough that people use Powerpoint as a sort of teleprompter. Much worse that you don’t trust the audience enough to read what you wrote. If you want them to read the precise words, stand quietly until they do. If you want to paraphrase the words, that can work.
Big font, few words. And use pictures. Your narrative is the message.
The biggest trick about email is that it gives you the feeling you’ve done something. Every time you open an email, your head lights up like a Christmas tree.
Can you imagine sitting outside your snail mail mailbox and opening it up twenty times a day? That’s a waste of time.
Running on the dopamine trail disrupts your productivity. What you could do instead is structure your procrastination so you get other stuff done. The father of structured procrastination is Stanford professor John Perry, author of The Art of Procrastination (Amazon). He writes:
All procrastinators put off things they have to do. Structured procrastination is the art of making this bad trait work for you. The key idea is that procrastinating does not mean doing absolutely nothing. Procrastinators seldom do absolutely nothing; they do marginally useful things, like gardening or sharpening pencils or making a diagram of how they will reorganize their files when they get around to it.
Procrastination does not mean doing nothing!
Don’t beat yourself up for avoiding things at the top of the list. Chew on them while you go to work on something else. It’s the overthinking and doing nothing that tears you apart.
Note that staying busy does not mean checking Facebook. Social networks and their variable rewards are even more addicting than email.
Keep in mind that you’ll have to put your ass in the chair and dance with the anxiety at some point.
Procrastinators can be finishers. Until then, reframe procrastination by doing important smaller things.
Your best ideas come when you’re not trying your best but when you’re not trying at all.
Ideas hit you when you’re resting, when your mind is at ease. This is because the mind never shuts off. It’s always processing knowledge, thoughts, and experience even in a perceived dormant state. Says composer and playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda:
“A good idea doesn’t come when you’re doing a million things. The good idea comes in the moment of rest. It comes in the shower. It comes when you’re doodling or playing trains with your son. It’s when your mind is on the other side of things.”
Creativity is always awake
Creativity is always awake but it needs time to bloom. It takes in new information and gets feedback along the way. Furthermore, there’s no such thing as a eureka moment. A good idea is an accumulation of bad ones, cleaned up and simplified through trial and error.
Above all, something magical seems to happy though when you step away and let the brain do the work. It makes its own unforced connections.
How to be more creative 1. have many ideas 2. hate them all 3. accept that you’ve failed in life 4. abandon project 5. suddenly, miraculously, a good idea comes when you least expect it 6. repeat until you lose your mind
“Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember our rule of thumb: The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it. The more fear we feel about a specific enterprise, the more certain we can be that that enterprise is important to us and to the growth of our soul. That’s why we feel so much resistance. If it meant nothing to us, there’d be no resistance.”
Stop working from home and get some rest. Even better, plan some unscheduled time.
On January 1st of this year, France passed the ‘right to disconnect‘ law which enforces a digital diet outside working hours. The rule prohibits employers from calling or emailing employees during personal time. France already imposes 35-hour works weeks.
It’s still too early to tell if French citizens are actually abiding by the rule meant to restore sanity in our always-on culture. But the intent is the right one: we need to create more space for relaxation. Keep in mind that our brains are working even when they’re powered off 💤. Disconnecting is a right, even if it feels a little foreign to put to rectangular glow aside
“The law of linchpin leverage: The more value you create in your job, the fewer clock minutes of labor you actually spend creating that value. In other words, most of the time, you’re not being brilliant. Most of the time, you do stuff that ordinary people could do.
A brilliant author or businesswoman or senator or software engineer is brilliant only in tiny bursts. The rest of the time, they’re doing work that most any trained person could do.
It might take a lot of tinkering or low-level work or domain knowledge for that brilliance to be evoked, but from the outside, it appears that the art is created in a moment, not in tiny increments.”
It often appears that discoveries come out of the blue when in fact, they are the result of consistently doing the work. In other words, big results are the upshot of small things with focus and with care. There is no such thing as overnight success.
Technology is not neutral. FANG (Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Google) not only want to make all decisions for us, they want us to dissolve into all-consuming bots while the machines do all the thinking and making.
Humans are meant to work, not to be hedonistic jobless throwaways. We seek meaning and identify ourselves through our labor. But our biggest misconception is presuming that the job we don’t like also defines us.
The only benefit to people becoming tools is that they open up the opportunity to do what they’re really meant to do.
‘Try not to get a job.’
The artist Brian Eno advises us to ‘Try not to get a job.’ By not working for cash, we can follow our deepest passions, thereby subverting the Sex and Cash theory that says that we must toil in our office cubicles so we can do what we’re meant to do on the side.
“Men have become the tools of their tools,” quipped Thoreau, who was able to leave his job for Walden’s pond because he enjoyed the relief of a big bank account. As Frank Chimeo tweeted, “Thoreau had enough money to go to Walden Pond because he revolutionized production methods at his father’s pencil factory.”
Undoubtedly, there will also be a concurrent emergence of cyborgs, man blended into machines. The amalgam makes not only a brain without a body, but a machine without a soul. What will doing anything mean a world of automatons, a premonition of programmatic and unthinking disaster?
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What would the world look like if everyone was guaranteed a basic income?
For musician Brian Eno, that society would put a lot more emphasis on time well spent.
“Try not to get a job. Try to leave yourself in a position where you do the things you want to do with your time and where you take maximum advantage of wherever your possibilities are.”
Of course, not everyone can afford to remain jobless; the harsh reality is that work pays the bills and keeps us alive. But as more jobs get outsourced to robots and artificial intelligence, humans will need new ways to think about their responsibility.
What will we do when there’s no work to be done?
Work defines who we are. It forms the nucleus of our identity. However, a jobless world may encourage more innovative thinking about ourselves and our role in a secular, globalized world. Perhaps it’ll compel some people to pursue more passionate work, the type of vocations that choose them instead of the other way around.
In such a world, we’ll be makers instead of cogs, thinkers instead of algorithmic lemmings. Writes Oliver Burkeman in The Antidote:“There is a positive correlation between the fear of death and the sense of unlived life.”
To work on something we actually enjoy is to live.