Last Call to Plan Your Year with @shawnblanc

One of the sites I’ve been reading for years has been Shawn Blanc’s. Good thought provoking content.

Over the holidays he released Plan Your Year which is a course and worksheets to help you have a good plan for the year.

I bought it and went through it with my wife. Good stuff.

Today is the last call for access so Plan Your Year.

PS: Yes I’ve done code work for Shawn. Yes I paid for the course. No I don’t get any affiliate income.

Celebrated Talent is Not The Good Stuff

Are you talented?

What makes you talented?

Typically, we associate talent only with celebrated excellence — with a strong emphasis on the word celebrated. – First Break All The Rules

It’s easy to look at some well-known programmer and say they’re talented. Maybe you’ve never seen their code though, and it’s crap.

I can think of a few ‘popular’ coders that fall into that category. They’re vocal, and many times philosophically right, but man their code is crap.

They get a pass on terrible code that others have to clean up because they’re celebrated for their voice.

You are talented

There is something you can do that I can’t. Something you do better, much better than I do.

You are talented. You can do amazing things. You are Gandalf.

I was at Starbucks recently, and the barista noticed that I was on my bike, so she asked how far I had ridden that day, about 20km.

This distance impressed her. She was amazed that I would commute around that far. My answer was to minimize it because I remember the days a few years ago when I would easily ride 100km or more in a day and 1200km in a month.

You do the same thing with your talents. You live them all the time, so you think little of them. You forget how rare it is to have the skills you have. You discount how awesome you are because you know someone that might maybe be a bit better in some far-flung scenarios.

You are talented! Don’t forget it!

Have an awesome day!

Curtis

Photo by: clement127

Writing in Exotic Locations via @ryanholiday

“It was a time everyone was pressing wonderful houses on us. ‘I have a perfectly marvellous house for you to write in,’ they’d say. Of course no one needs marvellous houses to write in. I still knew that much. All you needed was one room. But somehow the next house always beckoned.” – Want To Be The Best Writer On The Planet? Do These 27 Things Immediately

Yup the title is click-bait but I really like Ryan’s writing so I’ll overlook it.

I keyed in on this quote today because of my morning. I had three kids on the bed. My 7-year-old was reading to the other two kids while I read (also see Jams Altucher in the same article) and wrote.

Then the 1-year-old fell off the bed. There was tears and so, so much blood. She split a lip and had a bloody nose.

I had 3k words to write for February on personal productivity and by the time it ended an hour less to do it. In a recently bloody room.

One hour and fifteen minutes later I looked up surprised to see 3200 words written and I was at the end of writing time.

While I dream a bit of an office that’s not in my bedroom. Specifically one that’s above a 3 bay garage (not for cars but for a climbing wall and workout room) just beside my house with windows surrounding it so I can look at the forest on my few acres of property. I don’t need that to write.

Stop wishing for the ‘ideal’ conditions and just get down to work.

Behaviour or Goals – Which Matters Most?

Many people set goals, particularly at this time of year, but don’t focus on the behavior that leads to achieving those goals. You have far more control over your behavior than any outcome. And if you focus on your behavior, it’s possible that you’ll end up with an outcome that exceeds your expectations. – Focus on Your Behavior, Let go of Outcomes

It seems easy to say this for someone that seems to have “made it”. Not that I think the author, Srinivas Rao, has a money pit to swim in ala Scrooge McDuck, but he has a level of success and attention that many of us want.

Still he’s right.

I asked myself this question as I planned for the first quarter of 2018:

What would it look like to have a thriving membership site and higher site traffic? What would I need to do to make that happen?

Then I changed the structure of my week to make those actions possible.

I changed how I blog to make it possible.

At least as possible as I can envision right now.

Your job is to go as far as you can see. You will then be able to see far enough to go further. Eat That Frog

What would it look like to go as far as you can see right now? How are your behaviours making that possible?

Mark Schinnerer and The Success Grower

Today I talk to Mark Schinnerer about his book The Success Grower. I read the book the week it came out, and I very much enjoyed the content. The 8 Elements might be something you’ve heard before, but the way Mark threads story through the book, sets it apart from the standard ‘business’ or ‘self-help’ book out there.

We talk about many things, but here are the three quotes I bring up with Mark. Watch for my full written review of the book coming in a few weeks.

If your not continually preparing your mind to accept new information and ideas, you’ll just become an old dried-up field full of weeds.

Success isn’t measured in the end result, it’s measured in the little progress you make every day, and the course changes or corrections you make when faced with an obstacle.

As in all things, a choice will be required of you. Will you choose to let the storm destroy your life and plans, or will you choose to build a shelter from the storm and pick up after it is over to keep moving forward? The only way to weather a storm is to go through it.

Links

How to Craft a Better To-Do List over at Bullet Journal

A well-crafted to-do list acts as a guiding light for your day. It helps you overcome that feeling of overwhelm and the anxiety of wether or not you’re being productive throughout the day. – How to Craft a Better To-Do List

The highlights are:

1. Have a top “3” tasks

Not sure why 3 is the magic number. If 3 is too much, go to two or to one. I like asking “What is the one thing I can do today to make the rest of my work easier or irrelevant.

I’ve written about this before.

2. Be Actionable and NOT Vague

“Write Book” is a bad task. “Write GTD & Bullet Journal Section of Book” is better. “Read research material for GTD & Bullet Journal Section of Book” is best because I have to do that before I write the section of the book.

Don’t write down “Ted” write down “call Ted to book coffee – propose Monday @ 1500”

3. Plan to Plan

Every Friday I block out two hours to go over my projects and plan the next week in my Bullet Journal. It almost never takes 2 hours. Usually only takes 30 minutes but the rare times it does take 2 hours, I don’t feel like I’m rushing though it.

You should read it, but don’t feel discouraged by the absolutely beautiful Bullet Journal shown. Mine doesn’t look that pretty, nor will it ever, nor will I put that time into it.

Also watch for February, where I’ll be walking through how I do my Bullet Journal with pictures and…so so much more.

Read How to Craft a Better To-Do List

Before You Can Do It Well, You Must Be Able to Finish

Chris Bowler writes on quality after quantity.

The same thinking can apply to writing. Before you can write a good book, you have to learn to write a good 500 words. And before you can do that, you need to write 500 words consistently, period. And you have to learn to finish a book before you can focus on writing a good book.

If you want to run an awesome business, you first must be able to finish a project.

Then you can worry about finishing a project well.

Then you can worry about knocking their socks off.

The problem is that most people try to jump to the “knock your socks off” end and end up getting stuck at the mediocre beginning.

What are you doing to earn the right to knock people’s socks off?

How is Eating an Ugly Frog the same as getting your work done?

So, who wants to eat a big ugly frog? Not me, and probably not you. That’s why you should be eating it first thing every morning. Wait, really you should be doing your biggest ugliest task every morning first off because if you don’t it’s probably not going to get done.

Well if you need help with this, then Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy, has 21 things you can do to make sure that you eat your big ugly frog first every day.

An average person who develops the habit of setting clear priorities and getting important tasks completed quickly will run circles around a genius who talks a lot and makes wonderful plans but who gets very little done.

Because, you will aways have more to do in a week than you can possibly do. Even reading around 80 books a year, my reading list only ever grows. I know if I read 200 books a year my list would still grow.

No matter how many personal productivity techniques you master, there will always be more to do than you can ever accomplish in the time you have available to you, no matter how much time it is.

Knowing this rule happens all over, you have to decide that some things just won’t get done. You have to decide what is the most important work to do and then make sure you execute on that day in day out1.

You must focus on those key things, and let other things slide because you can’t do everything. In fact, many of the tasks that steal your time most, aren’t worth doing at all. Don’t even bother doing them poorly, just forget about them.

Focus only on the key tasks that bring the most value in your business.

Throughout my career, I have discovered and rediscovered a simple truth. The ability to concentrate single-mindedly on your most important task, to do it well and to finish it completely, is the key to great success, achievement, respect, status, and happiness in life. This is the key insight and the heart and soul of this book.

What is a Big Ugly Frog and How Do you Decide which One I Ugliest?

Your ‘frog is your biggest, most important task, the one you are most likely to procrastinate on if you don’t do something about it. It is also the one task that can have the greatest impact on your life and results at the moment.

While I agree in principle with Tracy, that you must do your most important task, I don’t think that it’s the one that you will procrastinate one. My most important tasks are writing blog posts, writing books, reading, and getting more content out.

I almost never feel like avoiding that work. I think that procrastination serves as a great weather vein for the things you think are of value. If you say a task is worthwhile but don’t do it for months, you’re saying that it’s not worth your time.

Tracy seems to feel that if you have a big task, you’ll procrastinate on it. He also feels that if you have two tasks, one will be uglier and that one is the one you should do first.

The first rule of frog eating is this: If you have to eat two frogs, eat the ugliest one first.

Where I’m 101% on board is that you should plan your tasks out and then focus exclusively on them until you’ve executed. If you can do that day in day out, then the odd day where you just don’t feel like it is fine.

Successful, effective people are those who launch directly into their major tasks and then discipline themselves to work steadily and single-mindedly until those tasks are complete.

The 21 Ways in Eat That Frog

The goal of Eat That Frog is to help you stop procrastinating and eat your big ugly frog every day. While Tracy has 21 of them, they break down into five categories.

Deal with Technology as a Tool to Get More Done

First up is item 15, 16, and 17 which all deal with how one addresses technology. Not all technology is good, in fact some of it is terrible2.

Technology can be your best friend or your worst enemy. Technology becomes the enemy when we give in to an obsessive need to communicate continually. This compulsion to stay plugged in leaves us all psychologically breathless. We have no time.

Technology is our enemy because so much of it is designed exclusively to steal our focus, to steal us away from the good work we should be doing. If you’re not focusing, you won’t eat your frog. You won’t do the great creative work you know you should be doing. The work that has a chance to change the world.

The “attraction of distraction,” the lure of electronic and other interruptions, leads to diffused attention, a wandering mind, a lack of focus, and, ultimately under-achievement and failure.

But it’s no all doom and gloom on technology, it just has it’s place in our workflow and that place is as a tool. To make our work easier.

The purpose of technology is to make your life smoother and easier, not to create complexity, confusion, and stress.

This harkens back to Cal Newport’s “Any Benefit” idea. The idea that we shouldn’t adopt something new just because it has some benefit. We should only adopt it if the benefits out weigh the costs.

Don’t blindly accept something new because it’s shiny.

Be Proactive to Accomplish More Work

@todo add link in footnote below

One of the best ways I know to get more done is to plan ahead. Plan your tasks the night before and plan the next week on friday. Be proactive3. If you’re suffering from a bunch of waffling around and wasted time, it’s likely because you’re not sure what you should work on.

A major reason for procrastination and lack of motivation is vagueness, confusion, and fuzzy-mindedness about what you are trying to do and in what order and for what reason.

You should know exactly what the single task is that you can work on in a day that will bring the most benefit to your life and business4.

On top of planning ahead you need to know where you should be working. It’s no good for the president of the company to be cleaning all the bathrooms. It’s even worse if they are spending hours doing an amazing job at it.

One of the very worst uses of time is to do something very well that need not be done at all.

Not that cleaning the bathrooms is a poor job, but the president has other items that produce much more value for the business. She should be focusing on those items and let the bathrooms take care of themselves.

Only Do The Tasks That Bring The Most Value

All time is not the same. You need to manage your tasks based on the energy you have. I know that if I start my day dealing with email, the rest of my day is shot. I focus my effort in the mornings on the tasks that are the most involved and the most solitary.

Recently, I decided to suck at every other part of my job for a week while I worked on a video course for Asian Efficiency5. I spent 3 days only working on it because when I asked myself what was the only task I needed to do to make the rest of my job easier or irrelevant, it always came back to this task.

Often, a single task can be worth more than all other nine items put together. This task is invariably the frog that you should eat first.

It was by far the task that had the highest possibility of bringing value to my business.

I created large chunks of time to focus only on one task so that I could do it well. I did it so well, that they didn’t even have edits for my videos.

Most of the really important work you do requires large chunks of unbroken time to complete. Your ability to carve out and use these blocks of high-value, highly productive time is central to your ability to make a significant contribution to your work and to your life.

If you want to get awesome stuff done, you need to live be willing to say no to many things. So you have long hours of focus so that you can get awesome work done.

Think About Tasks and Their Consequences Fully

Along with planning your day, you need to think fully about your tasks not just in light of what happens when their done, but what are you giving up when you focus on them.

The mark of a superior thinker is his or her ability to accurately predict the consequences of doing or not doing something.

Like I said earlier, I decided not to do email and client work for a week. I figured I might annoy a client because I didn’t respond and I decided that it was worth it.

Turns out, no one noticed. No one said a thing. But I still took into account the possible negatives from my focus.

You also need to think out the tasks over the long term. In fact, if your daily work doesn’t have long term consequences, you’re likely doing little of value. Does your task list consist of work that will address and mitigate your key constraints? Will it help ensure that those constraints will stop being constraints?

If you don’t have enough people that follow your content, which items on your list are only about expanding your audience? If there are none, then you’re not addressing your key constraints.

Now that you have a task that addresses a key constraint, how do you break it down so that it’s manageable? “More readers” is not something you can do. “Make a list of sites to guest post on” is something you can do. You must slice your tasks down in to little components that are actions.

If you’re suffering from procrastination, it’s likely that you don’t have a clear focus for your work. You’re not sure what the next step is.

Then it’s all about getting things done.

Perhaps the most outwardly identifiable quality of high-performing men and women is action orientation. They are in a hurry to get their key tasks completed.

It doesn’t matter how awesome your lists are if you never sit down to do the work at hand. Successful people get up and get to work. They write their 1000 words every day. They get down to code, and don’t bother with social media until that frog has been eaten.

Now, I don’t love everything Tracy has to say about tasks in Eat That Frog because after talking a bunch about focus and single handling tasks, he starts talking about priorities.

Tracy wants you to create A, B, C priorities. Then inside that you might have A-1, A-2…This is not what you should be doing. Always ask yourself “What is the ONE thing I can do with my available resources to make the rest of my job easier or irrelevant?”

That task is your priority. When it’s done, ask the question again and do the next task that is the best answer to that question.

Everyone has admin tasks, so block out an hour or two a week do to those tasks, and don’t think about them until they’re scheduled.

How Do You Motivate Yourself to Get Your Tasks Done?

The final category we’ll address is motivating yourself to get your stuff done, or procrastination.

A major reason for procrastination is a feeling of inadequacy, a lack of confidence, or an inability in a key area of a task feeling weak or deficient in a single area is enough to discourage you from starting the job at all.

One big reason that you might procrastinate is imposter syndrome, that feeling that at any moment someone will discover that you’re a fraud. The solution to this is to continue to upgrade your skills6.

A second key to getting work done is the realization that there is no one to bail you out on your personal productivity journey. You have tasks to do, and you have to do them. Adults aren’t waiting for someone to come along and kick their ass, they do the work.

The world is full of people who are waiting for someone to come along and motivate them to be the kind of people they wish they could be. The problem is that no one is coming to the rescue.

Finally, watch how you talk to yourself. Your language is one of the big factors in how much work you get done.

Most of your emotions, positive or negative, are determined by how you talk to yourself on a minute-by-minute basis. It is not what happens to you but the way you interpret the things that are happening to you that determine how you feel.

You can choose how you react to what life throws your way. Stop blaming something outside yourself, start making better decisions.

Recommendation

This is a fairly quick read and if you haven’t done much reading around productivity and focus, you need to read this book. It’s going to give you the best primer around on getting focused, and staying focused in the midst of distraction.

It’s going to give you a good look at how to choose the most important task.

If you’ve read books like The ONE Thing, Deep Work, 12 Week Year then you may feel like this book barely scratches the surface of the topics.

In that case, head to the library and read the Conclusion of the book. It summarizes every point for you. Then you can decide if you need to invest the time to read the whole book.

Get Eat That Frog on Amazon

PS: I’ve got a course that’s currently on sale so you can join me and build these habits. It’s called The 8 Week Business BootCamp. Eat more frogs with me.

photo credit: legozilla cc


  1. This is also what The ONE Thing is about, and I think it’s better. Here is where I looked at The ONE Thing
  2. Deep Work is all about making better choices about your time and the technology you use. I wrote about it here, buy Deep Work Here
  3. Despite NOT liking The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People this is Habit 1 and Covey gets it right. He just buries so much of the book under buzzwords and stories that aren’t even plausible. See my look at 7 Habits, but don’t buy it. 
  4. The ONE Thing is a whole book about this idea. I looked at The ONE Thing here
  5. You’ll find this course on Analogue Productivity in their membership community
  6. Yes that means you need to read people. Read and read and read and not Twitter or Facebook. In fact, not even blogs for most of your reading. Read books that go deep into a topic. 
Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time Book Cover Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time
Brian Tracy
Berrett-Koehler Publishers
3rd Edition April 17 2017
145

There just isn't enough time for everything on our to-do list—and there never will be. Successful people don't try to do everything. They learn to focus on the most important tasks and make sure those get done. They eat their frogs.

There's an old saying that if the first thing you do each morning is eat a live frog, you'll have the satisfaction of knowing you're done with the worst thing you'll have to do all day. For Tracy, eating a frog is a metaphor for tackling your most challenging task—but also the one that can have the greatest positive impact on your life. Eat That Frog! shows you how to organize each day so you can zero in on these critical tasks and accomplish them efficiently and effectively.

Ignore the Algorithm

It’s a small resolution we’re gonna ask you to make that will help us make better things, for you. It will help us avoid making garbage for you. It’ll give you better things to read. And it’ll definitely give you nothing if not more choice.
And the ask is simple:
Use your browser bar.* > – Stop Reading What Facebook tells you to read

This goes on to talk about how Facebook and social media in general are all about stealing your attention. They don’t care about that great work you can do, they just want eyeballs to sell.

I first wrote about staying away from services you don’t pay for in 2012.

I won’t be using your service if you have no business model. I’m glad the product is free but I have no way of gauging your end game so I’m simply not interested no matter how cool it is.

I amend that to say that I won’t put any business critical stuff on a service I’m not paying for.

The other thing to note, in light of your value being decision, is that the algorithms bring you more content that you agree with. They reinforce your beliefs.

They encourage confirmation bias.

They build poor decision making tool in our brains.

I use Facebook as a dip in and mostly broadcast medium now. I use the groups I’m a part of1 and then I close it out.

Find the sites you love and support them. Find a few opposite your views and read them. Keep a fresh view to keep your decisions making engine primed for bringing value to clients.


  1. Which is only one that not a local hiking group.