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Mind recess

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Inactivity cultivates new insights.

It’s not so much as being bored than it is the value of pausing.

It’s a good thing we can’t write everything our brain says down on paper. Most of it would be jibberish.

Even when we dictate our thoughts onto the computer, we’re impeding the darts of words from overwhelming our head.

We make a lot more sense when we slow down and edit.

When it comes to writing or speaking, that little skip of disfluency creates just enough space between the mind and the mouth or the pen to produce something a bit deeper, a bit clearer, in some cases cleverer.

Even the space after a period gives us just enough of a break to our eyes.

Breathe and stop: Persistence follows the fundamental urge to rest.

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The simple but effective Pomodoro Technique 🍅

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Thirty years ago, college student Francesco Cirillo used a tomato-shaped kitchen timer to help improve his productivity.

Working for 25-minutes intervals with 5-minute breaks in between, he called it the Pomodoro Technique. Pomodoro translates to tomato in Italian.

The time-management method intends to help people focus on tackling projects uninterrupted, grouping pomodoros together to track their efforts.

I’ve used the Pomorodo Technique in the past as a placebo just to get me started on a blog post. There are plenty of apps out there like Focus Keeper to track your performance. But you can also buy a physical tomato timer on Amazon to recreate Cirillo’s original experience.

To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the system, Cirillo is also publishing the official The Pomodoro Technique book. Writes the creator:

“Time passes, slips away, moves toward the future. If we try to measure ourselves against the passage of time, we feel inadequate, oppressed, enslaved and defeated more and more with every second that goes by. We lose our élan vital, the life force that enables us to accomplish things.”

We may not be able to control time but the least we can do is try to take advantage of the time we have. As Jerry Seinfeld says, ‘don’t break the chain.’

You can find out more about Francesco Cirillo and the Pomodoro Technique on his website here.  

Happy Bullet Journal Day!

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If you look around Pinterest and Facebook groups, you’ll see that bullet journalling is all the rage but what most people don’t know is that Ryder Carroll is the originator of the Bullet Journal Method.

Today marks five years since Carroll introduced bulletjournal.com to the world, helping millions of people like myself organize and prioritize the right stuff in our personal and work lives in the face of the dopamine homing missiles of the distraction age.

I’m happy to share with you that he’s giving away two free chapters from his new book which comes out October 23.

You can download them for free here.

If you want to learn more about “intentional living” with the Bullet Journal Method, I encourage you to watch the video below:

Trust the routine

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The writer, blogger, or boxer must always keep in training. The artist or athlete can’t wait for the muse to inject them with productivity serum.

Routine is much more compelling than inspiration, which is fickle, comes in flashes, and rarely sticks.

On the flipside of consistency, is also imperfection. The practician not only faces the resistance, they also face human error.

Showing up every day is one thing, doing it again knowing that a positive result won’t yield is yet another habit to develop.

Error is human. You need some form of struggle to remind you what needs tweaking. However, when the going gets good, you’ll want to maintain it.

If you’re wondering how you’re going to do it all again tomorrow, build off the confidence of yesterday.

I’ll leave you with this advice from thought leader and psychologist Benjamin Hardy.

Get this clear: confidence is a direct reflection of past performance. Hence, yesterday is more important than today. Luckily, today is tomorrow’s yesterday. So, even if your confidence today isn’t optimal, your confidence tomorrow is still within your control.

The courage to believe

If you don’t believe in yourself, who will?

Faith drives action. Faith drives results. Without faith, nothing works.

Indifference and pessimism are attractive because they’re the easiest to obtain, the most accessible to deploy and practice.

“Ask yourself this: would your childhood self be proud of you, or embarrassed?” — Julien Smith, The Flinch

Pursuing the good stuff requires work that’s never easy. The game of goal-setting aks for obstacles. But that’s where excitement and expectation push you forward.

Beliefs are mere guesses

Wouldn’t you prefer to cultivate courage and confidence rather than cowardice and negativity? Never blind to outcome, but never sold on the end-game of hurdles either.

Always remember that where your attention goes, your energy flows. — Kevin Horsley, Unlimited Memory

Appreciate the grind. Remaining perpetually interested should become part of your mind.

Until belief exists, action has not really begun.

The Bullet Journal: An analog system for a digital age

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You can count me in as one of the people that succeeds from an analog to-do list. I’ve tried countless to-do apps, and none of them push me to get stuff done like the written word.

Keep yourself honest by adopting the bullet journal system, if only to remind yourself what actually deserves your attention.

How a Bullet Journal Works

Here is how it works: you take a blank notebook, any blank notebook. You can, if you wish, buy a special one, but the notebook isn’t the point – the Bullet Journal is a method, not an object. You number the pages as you go along, having set aside a few pages at the front that over time become your contents list. Then each month you handwrite a calendar called the “monthly log” followed by a “daily log” of tasks, events and notes, marked respectively by bullet points, circles and dashes. Each day you manually cross out tasks you have completed and then rewrite the undone ones for the next day.

Read How the Bullet Journal stopped me lying to myself

Fleeting motivation


Here today, gone tomorrow. Motivation is fickle.

But what if you promised yourself you’d get it done regardless of how you felt?

Going to the gym, doing homework, emailing the boss — there is no time like now time.

You’ll feel incentivized if, under no circumstance, you have to do it anyway.

Good habits are non-negotiable.

The plethora of neurocognitive connections that empower your actions know that you don’t always have to like what you do.

You just have to stay grounded in the experience, to avoid leaving the box unchecked. As Jerry Seinfeld encourages us, “Don’t break the chain.”

Productivity occurs when what you must do no longer needs to stay determined to complete it.

Through repetition, you can sculpt your brain to stave off the opposable mind.

PS. If you want to track your progress, consider the bullet journal system.

A little more audience, a little more action

It’s rough and ruthless, but criticism saves you time. People aren’t trying to be mean. They’re just trying to keep you from banging your head into the same wall.

Scientists can’t continue publishing the same paper over and over again. Apple can’t just release another iPhone without drastic improvements. As they say, sameness destroys creativity.

Instead of giving up, what critical advice does is redirect you. Writes Tom Standage in Writing on the Wall:

“Adam Smith. He wrote much of his book in the British Coffee House, his base and postal address in London and a popular meeting place for Scottish intellectuals, among whom he circulated chapters of his book for criticism and comment.”

In search of a little audience, you get the feedback you need to keep iterating until we get it right. Naturally, the process is frustrating for all artists. Writes Fred Kaplan on John Coltrane’s experimental determination.

In a backstage interview with Coltrane during intermission at the Stockholm concert, a local jazz DJ noted that some critics were finding his new sound “unbeautiful” and “angry,” then asked, “Do you feel angry?” Coltrane replied, in a gentle, deliberative tone, “No, I don’t,” adding, “The reason I play so many sounds, maybe it sounds angry, it’s because I’m trying so many things at one time, you see? I haven’t sorted them out. I have a whole bag of things that I’m trying to work through and get the one essential.”

The fear of messing up is good quality control. The feedback loop is a critical ingredient to success. Otherwise, you may just be making something that never sticks.

Freedom is slowing down

It’s a canard to think that you must use an electronic device for everything productive. A computer is a doing machine, not a thinking machine.

Your best thoughts happen when you’re disconnected, in the shower or on a walk. They also happen when you slow down, pen in hand letting each idea match the pace of the ink.

“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.” — Lin Manuel Miranda

Human beings aren’t meant to operate in high gear for long periods of time.

There’s a reason commas exist. They prompt intentional interruptions to bring you back down to earth in a mental pace that’s more tortoise-y and less hareish.

The obsession with speed is self-defeating. It thinks without thinking, aiming for security that leaves you more emotionally insecure.

Permit your reptilian brain to breathe into your inner experiences. The key to security is the freedom to be insecure, to live and let go, even if that means doing nothing but float at any moment. The best device is the rest.

Field Notes: One small step for notebooks

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The new Field Notes ‘Three Missions’ Edition is out of this world, literally. Because when you’re out in the field gathering string, you don’t want to miss anything.

I’m not writing it down to remember it later, I’m writing it down to remember it now.

Field Notes

The hidden power of less

Less isn’t necessarily better than more. However, it appears that in most scenarios that it is most often the case.

  • Less participants, more effective meetings
  • Less worry, more action
  • Less ownership, more renting
  • Less eating, more exercising
  • Less internet, more human interaction
  • Less Instagram, more non-filter
  • Less stuff, more happiness
  • Less hate, more love
  • Less cheating, more honesty
  • Less work, more play
  • Less time, more focus
  • Less wishing, more invention
  • Less global, more local
  • Less volume, more silence
  • Less driving, more carpooling
  • Less fighting, more cooperation
  • Less success, more failure
  • Less men, more wom-en
  • Less print, more trees
  • Less self, more generosity
  • Less lizard brain, more confidence
  • Less lateness, more punctuality
  • Less shipping, more digital delivery
  • Less jpegs, more studio visits
  • Less quantity, more quality
  • Less sadness, more laughter
  • Less blindness, more realism
  • Less fright, more audacity
  • Less seeing, more insight
  • Less impulse, more abstraction

If you flip these around with more preceding less (e.g. more lateness, less punctuality), they reflect a bitter insight. Presentation predetermines the prism of observation.

Do you deliver?

Consistent love, consistent work ethic, consistent timeliness.
 
Consistency is all people want. It is an expectation of delivery.
 
“Show up on time. It is the basis of everything.” Anthony Bourdain
If we know you’re consistent in serving our needs, then we’ll subscribe to you. We’ll become fans, customers, etc. because we know we can depend on you again and again.
 
Starbucks is the most consistent decent cup of mediocre coffee. It’s always there despite our wishes to find something else for the sake of novelty.
 
Consistency ensures satisfaction. It doesn’t demand perfection, but the service needs to appear committed. If showing up and doing the work are prerequisites, the delivery is an emotional clincher.  

From idea to “I did it!”: Seth Godin’s ShipIt Journal

Seth Godin updated his ShipIt journal in collaboration with Moo.

The Shipit Journal works for a simple reason: It’s difficult to write things down. Difficult to break a project into small pieces and take ownership over each one. Mostly, it’s difficult to announce to yourself and to your team that you’re actually on the hook to do great work.

I’m delighted to let you know that the journal is back, but it a much more beautiful format. Created in conjunction with my namesake moo.com, you can find it right here.

It’s a blank book, but one with words in it. Designed to have you add the rest of the words, to write in it, to commit, to share, to ultimately make a ruckus.

Because ‘later is not the way you will ship.’ Do the work.

Note: You can find still find Seth’s original ShipIt Journal Five Pack on Amazon.

Take action while you can

“Impatience with actions, patience with results.” — Naval

Inspiration is not a prerequisite for action. You don’t need emotional fuel, just as you don’t need a cup of coffee to start your day.

The mystical spark inside you thinks that placebos fuel motion. But they’re the excuse.

Excellence is the next five minutes. Small efforts drip over time. Little actions create waves.

Now if you could only never get tired of waiting…