Jocelyn Glei from Unsubscribe divides her email contacts into five lists: VIPs, key collaborators, friends, potentials and random.
VIPs include your most important 3-5 relationships, like your partner, your boss, and your biggest client. You would like to be really responsive to these people, within hours, or at least within the same day, so that they feel taken care of.
Key Collaborators include people you work with, and depend on, on a regular basis, include close colleagues, friends, family and advisers. You would like to respond to them in a timely manner within 1-3 days to move projects and relationships forward.
Fun People include friends and colleagues you engage with for laughter and relaxation. You can respond to them within a week or two when you have time.
Potentials include people who could be important in the future, including prospective clients, employees, collaborators and friends, who need to be sorted into one of the other categories. You would like to respond to them within 1-3 days to keep the momentum going.
Randoms include people who have written to you uninvited and unverified. You have no obligation to respond to them, unless you really want to accept an opportunity they are offering.
Jocelyn recommends creating a short list of VIPs, key collaborators and fun people, and using this hierarchy to decide which emails are really urgent and important, which emails to pay attention to, and which emails to ignore.
I have a more extreme approach to email myself. With my own 80-person team, I try to use face-to-face meetings to build alignment, along with Basecamp to record next actions, instead of email. Since I have stopped sending email, my team has also learnt not to email me, and my inbox volume has reduced dramatically.
As a result, I am able to keep email notifications off on all my devices. I process my email inbox three times a day for about 15 minutes: an hour into work, an hour after lunch and the last thing before I leave work. I use David Allen’s2 minute rule to answer and all emails I can handle within 2 minutes, defer action on some emails by moving them into my @action and @waiting folders, and create corresponding actions for them in OmniFocus. When I need to draft a long response, I do it in Ulysses, instead of AirMail, by blocking time for all such emails.
The only exceptions to my email workflow are emails from my VIP contacts: my boss and my girlfriend. AirMail has a nifty feature that lets you turn on notifications only for your VIP contacts. This lets me filter my email inbox to focus on the most important people in my life, and always respond to them immediately, even as I remove the distraction of constant email notifications from my life.
I would encourage you to turn off all notifications on all your devices for a week, to see firsthand the difference between a life full of distraction and a life without them. You might still be tempted to check your email and social media apps every 15 minutes, so removing notifications will only be the first step towards a life of intentional focus. And, if you can’t imagining ignoring emails from your family members, key colleagues or important clients even for a few hours, use an email client like AirMail to classify them into VIPs and selectively receive notifications from them.
If you already use a variation of this tip, and have had success with it, I would love to learn about your experience. And, if you have been inspired to turn off your notifications or create a VIP contact list after reading this post, I would love to know what impact it has had. Do share your experience in the comments below or on Twitter @gauravonomics.
Todd creates a new index card for every book he reads and every meeting he attends. Every morning, he reviews his notes from the previous day to identify questions, ideas and action items. When he picks up a book again, or goes to a meeting, he reviews his previous notes from the book, or his notes from previous meetings, to refresh his memory.
I follow a similar system, but instead of index cards, I use Ulysses app. When I am reading a book on Kindle, or reading a web article on Instapaper, I save my highlights on Ulysses. Similarly, when I am writing my morning journal, or taking meeting notes on MyScript Nebo, I convert my handwritten notes to text and save them on Ulysses.
Then, every evening, before I go to sleep, I process my notes from the day. I edit some notes to makes sure that I have captured the essence of what I needed to record. I add my own thoughts to many notes, including whether I agree or disagree with it. If the note triggers a question, idea, or action item, I add them to the note. Then, I add tags to the note, including the author, the source, and 3-5 free-flow topic tags. Finally, I add tags for whether the note has questions, ideas or action items attached to it. Finally, if the note needs to go into my work, personal or writing to-do queue, I duplicate it and put it there.
Given that I journal everyday, participate in back-to-back meetings at work, read 100+ books a year, and subscribe to 100+ blogs, I take a lot of notes. It takes me at least an hour every night to process my notes from the day. If I miss a day or two because I am eating out or attending an event, I put aside an hour or two on Saturday morning to process my notes, and clear my Ulysses inbox. Then, I set up filters for questions, ideas and action items from my notes, and review them every week.
Collecting, clarifying, organising and reviewing my notes is a significant time commitment, but I feel that it’s as important as collecting, clarifying, organising, and reviewing my to-do lists. In fact, managing my Ulysses notes inbox is at least as important as managing my AirMail email inbox in my Getting Things Done (GTD) setup.
If you don’t yet have a habit of reading books and blogs, listening to audiobooks and podcasts, or watching conference talks or video courses, I would highly encourage you to create a learning plan for yourself. If you already read, listen to or watch content that helps you learn and grow, I would urge you to create a note-taking system that works for you.
Use a Moleskine notebook, or a stack of index cards, if you like paper. Or, use a note-taking app like Evernote, Ulysses or Bear. Or, use a hybrid digital-analog system, by taking handwritten notes on MyScript Nebo and converting them to text.
Process your notes every day or every week, and organise them into a structure that works for you. Divide your notebook or index card stack into sections, if you are using a paper-based system. Organise your notes by folders and tags, and automate the workflow between your email, notes and to-do apps, if you are using a digital system. Then, review your note-taking system every month, to get the most out of it.
If you already use a variation of this tip, and have had success with it, I would love to learn about your experience. And, if you have been inspired to create a note-taking system after reading this post, I would love to know what impact it has had. Do share your experience in the comments below or on Twitter @gauravonomics.
Jocelyn Glei from Unsubscribe highlights the reason we spend far too much time in our email inbox: the ”progress paradox”.
By dint of technology, it’s easy to see our progress when we’re doing relatively meaningless short-term tasks, while it’s quite difficult to see our progress when we’re engaged in the long-term, creative projects that will ultimately have the most impact on our lives.
Jocelyn recommends inventing “progress hacks” to make your meaningful work as addictive as email. Progress hacks might include: breaking up big long-term projects into a series of small short-term projects, creating a daily “small wins” journal, tracking your “habit streak” on a calendar, or creating physical artefacts for your digital projects to make your progress more visible.
I use all four of these progress hacks, and I’ll write about each one of them in separate posts. The interesting things about these progress hacks is that you can use them both as an individual creator, and as a team leader.
For instance, you can maintain a daily small wins journal to track your own progress on long-term projects. You can also create a culture in which every member of your team shares their daily small wins, and celebrates other team members’ small wins.
At work, my 80-member digital team uses Basecamp for team collaboration and project management. Basecamp has the usual collaboration software features like group chat, message board, to-do lists and shared documents, and we use them as part of our regular workflow.
My favourite Basecamp feature is automatic check-ins, which lets us set up an automatic daily, weekly or monthly question for the entire team, or a smaller team within it. At the pre-set time, Basecamp sends out a notification or an email to the relevant people, and reminds them to share their update.
One of the ways we use the automatic check-in feature on Basecamp is to share our top three achievements every day and every week. I share my own achievements with the entire team. I also read through and applaud every single update from each one of my team members. Most team leaders, and many team members, also read and applaud each others’ updates. In essence, we have created a team-wide small wins journal to make our progress more tangible to ourselves and to each other, and celebrate it.
If you are finding it difficult to keep yourself motivated about your long-term projects, I would encourage you to start a daily small wins journal to track and celebrate your progress. You can use a Moleskine notebook, a journaling app like Day One, or a notes app like Evernote, Ulysses or Bear. At the end of the day, note down your top three achievements for the day. The next day, write down your top three achievements for the day below your achievements for the previous day. Then, review your daily achievements every week and every month to find patterns, celebrate success, and refocus priorities.
If you already use a variation of this tip, and have had success with it, I would love to learn about your experience. And, if you have been inspired to start a daily small wins journal after reading this post, I would love to know what impact it has had. Do share your experience in the comments below or on Twitter @gauravonomics.
Todd likes to schedule his ideation hour early in the week and early in the morning, when he is the only person in the office, and before his energy has been drained by the demands of the work week. This also helps him share his new ideas with the team first thing on Monday morning, and get them started on it, instead of waiting over the weekend to share his ideas.
Todd likes to use his ideation hour to work on a specific challenge, ideally a challenge related to this he top three projects he needs to make progress on. He likes to frame the challenge as a “how might we…?” question to focus on the possibilities.
Todd follows a specific structure for his ideation hour, and starts by writing down the words that come to him when he thinks of the challenge through the lenses of future, past, conceptual and concrete.
Future: What are the specific characteristics of the future state in which we have solved this problem?
Past: What are the assumptions we have made about the problem that might be false?
Conceptual: What lessons might we apply from other problems and solutions to solve this problem?
Concrete: What are the specific characteristics of this he problem that we need to solve?
He spends the first 15 minutes listing down around ten words under each lens through free-association. Then, he spends the next 30 minutes combining these words to spark new ideas. Finally, he spends the last 15 minutes capturing all his ideas, so that he might develop them later, or share them with his team.
I have started coming into office an hour early on Monday morning, so that I can schedule an ideation hour first thing in the morning, before I get into a day of weekly review meetings. I start with a “how might we…” question related to one of my three goals for the week. Then, I use MindNode on my iPad Pro to create a mindmap. I go back and forth between coming with ideas, and arranging them on the mindmap, until I feel like I have captured all the objectives, assumptions, solutions and dependencies. Then, I save the mindmap to share with my team, or to develop it further.
If you feel that you have reached a gridlock on a project, or that you are writing your wheels at work without making progress on all your projects, consider scheduling an ideation hour first thing on Monday morning. Sit down in your cabin or a conference room with a pen and a notebook and ideation for an hour. Start by recapturing the objectives of the project and ask yourself what you are trying to achieve and why. Then, list down all the assumptions you have made about the constraints you need to work within and question them. Then, list down all your ideas for possible solutions, and recombine them to create new solutions. Finally, list down all the dependencies between your solutions and identify ideas to remove them. Finally, capture, clarify and organise your ideas, so that you might share them with your team, or return to them later.
If you already use a variation of this tip, and have had success with it, I would love to learn about your experience. And, if you have been inspired to schedule an ideation hour on your calendar after reading this post, I would love to know what impact it has had. Do share your experience in the comments below or on Twitter @gauravonomics.
Learn to ask “what is the next action?” when you are setting your goals, reviewing your project and task lists, writing emails, or wrapping up meetings. This will help you clarify what needs to happen to move the project forward, and decide if you and your team can really commit yourself to the next action.
Sometimes, you need to ask “what is the next action?” more than once, to get to the real next action.
For instance, if you want to create a daily writing practice, the next action is not to create a daily writing practice. The next action is to design a plan to create a daily writing practice. This might involve deciding the topic you will write about, doing enough research on the topic enough to get you started, breaking down your topic into smaller sub-topics that you can finish in one sitting, creating a content calendar for three to thirty days, blocking time in your calendar to write, and creating rituals and prompts that help you write.
Similarly, if you work in a media company and want to diversify your revenue streams beyond advertising, the next action is not to create new consumer revenue streams. The next action is to design a plan to create new consumer revenue streams. This might involve understanding your consumers’ needs from behavioural data/ focus groups/ surveys, researching what consumer revenue streams other media companies are creating, scanning what new technology startups have emerged in your market, listing and scoring all possible opportunities on their desirability and viability, shortlisting the most attractive opportunities, and designing pilot programs to test them.
The key here is to ask “what is the next action?” with a bias towards action, not as a proxy for procrastination. If you already know what you broadly wish to write about, the next action might simply be to sit down and write the first 300 words. If you already know what the broad market opportunities are, the next action might simply be to pick one and design a prototype.
As your next action, pick up a project you haven’t been making progress on, because you are procrastinating on it, because it seems like an intimidating time sink, or because you simply don’t know how to start, and ask yourself the question: “what is the next action?” Then, do it.
If you already use a variation of this tip, and have had success with it, I would love to learn about your experience. And, if you have been inspired to start asking “what is the next action?” after reading this post, I would love to know what impact it has had. Do share your experience in the comments below or on Twitter @gauravonomics.
You can use the rule of three at multiple horizons, by setting your top three goals for the day, week, month, quarter, year, and even your life. This helps you focus on and work towards what’s most important to you, instead of spending all your time on doing tasks that don’t add up to much.
Setting your top three goals at multiple time horizons also helps you telescope in and out of each time horizon and see how these goals are connected to each other. And, if your short term goals and long term goals are not aligned, it gives you the ability to course correct.
You can set these goals from both the bottom-up and top-down directions.
David Allen from Getting Things Done recommends starting with a bottom-up approach to personal productivity, in which you start with the projects and tasks that have your attention now, and organise them into longer-term projects and areas of responsibilities. This will enable you to master your current game and build the confidence to play a bigger game.
The other approach is to start with a top-down approach, and start with your top three life goals. Then, you outline what you might achieve this year, in whatever context you are, to set you up to achieve your life goals. Then, you define three goals for the quarter that will help you achieve your year’s goals, and so on. Of course, you will have to do short-term projects that don’t add up to your longer term goals, but at least you have a structure for deciding what is important, and what isn’t.
I am a top-down thinker. I am intuitively drawn to the bigger picture, to the long-term, to the 20,000 feet helicopter view. For most of my life, I have set my goals top down, starting with a vision of who I want to become in the future, then aligning my actions in the present to that future.
However, I have learnt (the hard way) that top-down visioning is only useful when its supported by bottom-up execution. This time, I am following a bottom-up approach to goal setting, and starting with getting my current tasks, projects and areas of responsibilities under control. In GTD language, I am focusing on becoming better at closing my current open loops, before I create even more open loops.
So, I am focusing on what I might do to write and publish a blog post every morning, instead of thinking about how every word I write will add up to a book. I am focusing on what I might do to empty my mind every morning, so that I might engage with the day most effectively, instead of worrying about how my days are leading to my life goals. Of course, since long-term planning comes naturally to me, my long-term goals are always at the back of my mind, quietly guiding my day-to-day actions.
Getting back to the rule of three, start by thinking about whether you are a top-down thinker, or a bottom-up doer. If top-down is your natural mode, you might benefit most by focusing more on your short-term goals, and putting them together like pieces of a puzzle so that they add up to your longer term goals. If bottom-up is your natural mode, you might benefit most from taking a weekend off for yourself, and thinking about what your long-term goals are and how your short-term projects might add up to them. In either case, the rule of three can help you stay focused on what you need to achieve, both in the short-term and in the long-term.
If you already use a variation of this tip, and have had success with it, I would love to learn about your experience. And, if you have been inspired to start using the rule of three after reading this post, I would love to know what impact it has had. Do share your experience in the comments below or on Twitter @gauravonomics.
Every morning, first thing in the morning, you handwrite three free-flow stream-of-consciousness pages in your journal.
You write them free-flow because they are meant to take whatever has your attention from your mind and put them on paper. You handwrite them so that you might resist the urge to go back and edit your writing. You write them first thing in the morning to empty your mind, so that you might get on with the work of thinking and creating, with focus and clarity.
You might find that your morning pages are a messy mishmash of disconnected thoughts; so are the thoughts in your monkey mind. You might find that your morning pages are filled with fear, doubt and negativity; good, those thoughts are out of your mind now. You might find yourself repeating yourself in your morning pages, day after day, week after week; let yourself empty your mind of your thought patterns over and over again.
When you start writing your morning pages, for the first 30 days, you just need to write them, and put them away. You don’t need to reread them, and you don’t need to show them to anyone, even your closest friends and family members. Every month, you put aside a weekend to go over them, find patterns in your thought, distill actionable ideas, and build upon them.
If you think of yourself as a writer, you’ll have to resist the urge to ‘write’ in your morning pages, instead of merely recording your stream of consciousness thoughts. If you don’t think of yourself as a writer, you’ll have to resist the thought that your morning pages don’t look like ‘real writing’. The most important thing about the morning pages is not how well you write them, but that you write them every morning.
If you already use a variation of this tip, and have had success with it, I would love to learn about your experience. And, if you have been inspired to start writing a morning journal after reading this post, I would love to know what impact it has had. Do share your experience in the comments below or on Twitter @gauravonomics.
Everyday, I am sharing a small tip on how to become more productive, effective and creative.
David Allen from ‘Getting Things Done’ recommends doing a mind sweep to empty your mind of all the woulds, coulds, shoulds running as background noise and draining your attention and energy.
Start by identifying all your inboxes: physical ‘in’ trays at office and home, Moleskine notebooks, work and personal emails, RSS feeds, podcast feeds, and so on.
Then, look around your office and home, and collect everything that is not in its appropriate place in the inboxes: invoices, post-it notes, letters, unread or unreeled emails, and so on.
Then, do a mind sweep and capture everything that has your attention into your inboxes. Write it on paper, enter it on your phone, leave voice notes to yourself. Capture everything: things you need to buy or fix, projects to start or finish, tasks to do or delegate, books, articles, podcasts and videos to read, listen to or watch.
This is the first step in the five-step Getting Things Done process: capture. The other steps are: clarify what your projects and next actions are; organize your calendar, task list and reference system; reflect on your progress and priorities in a weekly review; and, engage with your moment-to-moment actions with a mind like water.
I have recently implemented the ‘Getting Things Done’ system for myself, and I do feel like I am living and working at a higher level of energy and clarity. I’ll write more about my GTD workflow once I feel that it has settled into a sustainable routine.
The GTD system is not only a time management or a task management system; it’s a system to manage your attention. So, if you wish to become more productive, effective and creative, I would highly recommend reading David’s GTD book or taking his GTD course on LinkedIn Learning. Or, simply start with doing a mind sweep and emptying your mind. Even the first step can help you release new reserves of energy into your life and work.
If you already use GTD, and have had success with it, I would love to learn about your experience. And, if you have been inspired to empty your mind after reading this post, I would love to know what impact it has had. Do share your experience in the comments below or on Twitter @gauravonomics.
Every night, he decides what he wants to write next morning, finishes all the research, and leaves a post-it note to himself on his writing desk, with the topic of the post he wants to write when he wakes up. He goes to bed with this intention, and gives his subconscious mind a 12 hour head start to process all his research, and structure his thinking.
In the morning, when he sits down at his writing desk with his cup of coffee, he doesn’t have to think about what to write. He has already decided the topic, he has already done all the research, he has already slept on it, his mind is fresh and uncluttered, and he can simply get to work and start writing.
I have adapted this practice in my own workflow. Every night, I decide what I am going to write in the morning, and create an outline in Ulysses, with all the research, quotes and website links that I want to use. I even decide the title and write the first sentence as a prompt to myself. Then, first thing in the morning, I sit down on my writing desk with my coffee, and write.
You can adapt this tip in your own life, even if you are not a writer. Every night, review your calendar and task list, and identify one to three important actions you would like to work on the next day. Visualise what’s the desired outcome and the immediate next steps. Perhaps, write them down in a Bullet Journal, to strengthen your intention. Then, sleep on it, and let your subconscious work on it for 8 hours.
If you already use a variation of this tip, and have had success with it, I would love to learn about your experience. And, if you have been inspired to start using a note to your morning self after reading this post, I would love to know what impact it has had. Do share your experience in the comments below or on Twitter @gauravonomics.
Sometimes, we discover books exactly when we need to read them. I feel like I needed to read these books now, when I am beginning to (re)build a daily writing, sketching and blogging habit.
When I was reading these books, I felt like I was reading letters to my present self from my younger self. I spent my late twenties and early thirties living, learning and creating in public, and benefiting from the network effects that Austin talks about. I have been asking myself if these practices are still valid five years later, in a post-blogging, selfie-obsessed world, and Austin’s books reassure me that they are.
Sometimes, you need to throw out old work to make room for new work. Sometimes, you need to take a month, or a year, or five years off to clear your head. Sometimes, you need to go away and grow up, perhaps fail a few times, before you begin again, with newfound humility. The good news is that when you do begin again, you are not really starting over. The lessons you have learned from your old work, and the lessons you have learned while you were away, will seep into and shape your new work.
I took almost five years off from this blog, and deleted 1500+ blog posts I had written over the previous five years. Now that I am writing again, I know that I don’t want to write about things that change constantly (like emerging technologies). Instead, I want to write about things that never change (like human behavior). While I won’t be able to reuse the 1 million+ words I have written before, I will be able to use the lessons I learned through writing them.
Lesson 2. Design an Apprenticeship
You can’t choose who your parents and ancestors are, but you can choose who your teachers are. Create a list of creators who inspire you, immerse yourself in their work, find out who inspired them in turn, and then immerse yourself in the work of those who inspired them. If they are active online, follow them, and follow the people they pay attention to. Going back in time, find patterns in how they built upon each others’ ideas. Then, connect the dots in new ways, and find ways to build upon their ideas, in turn. Go beyond their specific idea, or their specific style, and try to learn their way of thinking, their way of seeing the world, and apply it in your own work. Design a long-distance apprenticeship for yourself, watching them practice their craft, learning from their process and their products and improving upon both. When you share your work, share it as a public fan letter to your heroes, acknowledging their contribution, adding new dimensions to their work and introducing them to your own networks.
Here’s a short list of my own creative heroes: world-builders (George R. R. Martin, J. R. R. Tolkien, Neil Gaiman, Neal Stephenson, William Gibson, Stephen King), culture-mappers (Pico Iyer, Steven Johnson, Malcolm Gladwell) and life-hackers (Alain de Botton, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Timothy Ferris). As I design my own creative apprenticeship to learn from them, I’ll share what I am learning, so that you might learn along with me.
Lesson 3. Contribute to Communities
You don’t only need mentors, you also need peers. Seek out talented people who are asking themselves the same questions as you are, become a member of the communities they belong to, learn from the answers they have found, and share your own answers with them. Build upon each other’s work, introduce each other to your own networks, and help each other grow. Brian Eno calls these communities a ‘Scenius’ (versus lone genius), Seth Godin calls them a ‘Tribe’. Find your communities, join them, nurture them and contribute to them.
Here are some communities I am exploring at the moment: niche publishing, self-publishing, and life-hacking. As I map these communities and identify where their hubs are, I’ll introduce them to you, so that you might get an insider’s view of them.
Lesson 4. Collect Inspiration
You are a sum total of what you are curious and passionate about. You become the things you spend your time and attention on. You are shaped by the books you read, the artifacts you collect and the ideas you follow. Expose yourself to inspiration from a wide variety of sources. If you have multiple unrelated passions, nurture them all. Collect everything that inspires you, every creative work you want to steal, in an ‘swipe file‘ or ‘commonplace book‘, which can be digital or analog. Then, go through your file regularly, try to find patterns, connect previously unconnected dots, and remix your inspirations to create new creative works.
I collect things that inspire me in two places: an Evernote account on all my devices to save web stories, reports, photos and videos, and a Bullet Journal to note down quotes, sketch ideas, list resources, and write (sketchnote) book summaries.
Lesson 5. Become an Amateur
The best way to learn something new is to become an amateur again. When you behave like an amateur, you think of your work as a hobby instead of a profession. You free yourself to have fun, take risks and make mistakes. With a beginner’s mind, you allow ourself to be curious, ask silly questions and seek help from peers and mentors. You switch your focus away from perfecting the final product to the process of learning your craft. You look at criticism as feedback that will help you improve, not as judgement on your talent. When you become an amateur, you open yourself up to possibilities that are closed to the professional and the expert.
I am writing this blog as an amateur. I have hosted it on WordPress.com and used a free starter theme. I am writing about learning how to create a daily writing and sketching practice, instead of digital transformation or social innovation. My daily sketches feature my Persian cat Leela perched on various pieces of furniture in my house, and not sketchnote book reviews. My aim is to develop a daily writing and sketching habit, not to position myself as an expert. So, I focus on creating, instead of asking myself if what I am creating is substantial, or profound, or professional.
Lesson 6. Find Your Voice
You should think of the internet as a self-invention machine, instead of a self-promotion machine. Your website can be much more than a platform to distribute your ideas; it can be an incubator to develop your ideas. You don’t only share in public when you have something to say; you also think aloud in public when you want to find something to say. Thinking aloud in public will help you clarify your thinking, get valuable feedback, make new connections between ideas and find your voice.
I started blogging again partly to find out what I am curious and passionate about at this stage of my life, what life skills I might learn which will add meaning to the second half of my life, and what I might contribute in return to the communities I am learning from.
Lesson 7. Learn in Public
When you learn something in public, you end up becoming a teacher to others who are learning the same thing at the same time. When you wonder about something you are fascinated by, others join you to wonder together. When you share your obsession with something you love, you connect with others who love the same thing. Make a commitment to learning in public and, if your own work is not ready to share yet, begin by sharing your influences.
I am reading books and taking courses on writing, self-publishing, sketching, thinking visually, forming habits and lifehacking, and applying them in my own life. I’ll share my successes and struggles, but I am beginning by writing about my influences: Julia Cameron’s ‘Artist’s Way’, Ryder Carroll’s ‘Bullet Journal’ and Austin Kleon’s ‘Steal Like an Artist‘ and ‘Show Your Work‘.
When you are developing a creative habit, having a routine is more important than having unlimited time or resources. Use your constraints to channel your creativity, perhaps even create artificial constraints. Set ridiculously simple, easily achievable goals that you can consistently hit (Stephen Guise calls them ‘Mini Habits‘), create a chain of daily victories, and make a commitment to not break the chain. Start a daily journaling practice and use your journal to track your habits.
I have set myself a goal to write, sketch or blog daily. Some days, I do all three; other days, I do one or two of the three. For the first month, I have not set myself a goal to reach a daily or weekly word count; even one paragraph is enough, as long as I am writing (or sketching) every day. I am tracking my writing and sketching habits, along with other habits I am trying to develop, in a Bullet Journal.
Lesson 9. Become Findable
You can be found only when you become findable. You become findable when you do work that you love and then share your work. When you share your work, people who are interested in it will find you across geographical boundaries, and share it forward with their own networks. Over time, the network effect will kick in and your connections with likeminds around your work will create serendipitous opportunities that far exceed the benefits of traditional networking over cocktails.
I have experienced the benefits of being a part of global community of likeminds, and the network effects it creates, firsthand, and I am writing again party because I have missed it over the last few years.
Lesson 10. Tell Your (Back)story
Your creative process is as important, and as interesting to your community, as the product you create. Document your workplace, your process, and your work-in-progress product daily. When you finish the day’s work, share a snippet from it, and add context. Equally important is your own backstory; people want to know the person behind the creative product, and even value your product differently based on how they connect with your story. Learn to share your own story and how it has led to your current project, and learn to connect your story to your audiences’ stories.
Here’s my story and here’s what I think your story might be. Of course, all our stories are work-in-progress and I hope we can play a part in moving forward each other’s stories.
Lesson 11. Mix Analog and Digital
Your brain works differently in digital and analog modes, so learn to use both. Perhaps, create an analog workspace with paper, post-it notes, Lego blocks, pencils, pens and markers to think through your ideas, find connections between them, and figure out how they fit together. Then, use a digital workspace with a smartphone, tablet, scanner and laptop to create your work, publish it and share it. Or combine digital and analog in your workflow in different ways, by making part of your work digital and part analog.
I don’t have the space in my tiny apartment to have two workspaces, but I use a similar hybrid creative process. I sketch in my Muji sketchbook, then take a picture from my iPhone and post it on Instagram. Or, I write on my Moleskine notebook with a smart pen and the writing gets synced with my M+ Notes app. I am hoping to develop my sketching in both analog and digital modes, by learning to sketch in charcoal and learning to edit my scanned sketches on my tablet.
In Summary: Begin Again
Let me end this post with the lesson I started with. If you used to have a daily creative practice, if you used to learn in public, if you used to share your work, and you stopped, begin again. I would love to hear your stories of beginning again on Twitter or in the comments below.