If you choose to do everything, you choose to do nothing.

I currently have a lot of opportunities, ideas, and random things on my plate.

Here are a few of the things I’ve got going on.

  • Releasing a mid-century brush pack for Procreate with Brad Woodard on RetroSupply.
  • Working on a better email series for RetroSupply.
  • Putting the finishing touches on a Passive Income for Designers course.
  • Debating going to Adobe Max.
  • Practicing drawing.
  • Trying to create special fall moments with all my kids.
  • Using The Five-Minute Journal every day and night.

I can’t see what’s happening on your side of the screen. But I suspect you have a similar amount of things you’re trying to balance.

The problem is that when I try to execute all these ideas at once, I end up either:

  1. Doing a lousy job on the project.
  2. Being miserable while doing the project.
  3. Neglecting one of the projects and feeling guilty.

It took a long time before this occurred to me but the entire situation makes no sense.

I do this stuff to be happy, but it ends up making me miserable.

So how do we become more productive without feeling overwhelmed, anxious, and unhappy?

The answer is simple and self-evident.

“If you choose to do everything, you choose to do nothing.”

When we condense our creativity into one compact package of energy we see magic happen:

  • Work becomes almost effortless.
  • Our stress level drops (and dopamine goes through the roof).
  • Projects get done fast. People wonder how we do it.
  • So how do we choose what to work on first? Here’s the three-step system I’ve been experimenting with lately.

Step One. Choose two projects each week.

One that requires high amounts of creative energy. One that takes lower amounts of creative energy.

This week I’ve chosen to focus on the Passive Income for Designers premium course. That’s my high creative energy project.

My second project is releasing the mid-century Procreate brush pack. This is low creative energy. I’ve already made the brushes, and my friend Brad Woodard is doing the illustrations.

Step Two. Focus on your high creative energy task first and low creative energy task second.

High creativity tasks require a lot of energy, so work on them at strategic times.

For me, that’s the first thing in the morning. I wake up around 7:30 am and find I have approximately two hours of creative time. That means I can write copy, create videos, and come up with high leverage exercises for my students.

Later in the day, when my energy is lower, I focus on the low creative energy task. For the Procreate pack, that means basic stuff like:
Making social images.
Editing promotional videos.
Packaging the product.
Chatting with partners and affiliates.
Updating my website.

Step Three. Cut your to-do list in half and end on a positive note.

Human beings are horrible at estimating how much we can get done.

Whenever I write a todo list, I only get half of the tasks done. So instead, I’ve been writing my to-do list like I always. But at the end of the day, I am happy if I finish half of it.

It’s a little trick I play on my brain, and it works wonders. Finally, I always end my work for the day when I’m feeling optimistic. The result is a positive open loop that makes me excited to do more work the next day.

Conclusion

We can do all the things we want, but we can’t do them all at once. I can’t remember who coined that quote. But I find myself reminded how accurate it is every day.

What do you do to maximize your productivity? Share it in the comments and let’s create a list of productivity tips.

Why It’s Awesome to Be a Beginner

A few days ago I purchased Shunrye Suzuki’s book Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind.

One of the first things Suzuki emphasizes in the book is this quote:

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities; in the expert’s mind there are few.”

One way of looking at this is the expert tends to become blind to opportunities and stubborn in his ways. The beginner sees opportunity and novel solutions everywhere.

For example, I’ve run RetroSupply for five years now. The business has generated a healthy six-figure income year in and year out.

If I’m honest with myself, this has made me rigid. I tend to believe I know how to make something succeed. I follow worn paths that have worked in the past.

So when I started my daily drawing ritual 30 days ago, I was immediately humbled by my lack of knowledge. I’m a designer and not much of an illustrator.

I quickly realized I was not good. And each day as I drew and posted an illustration I felt humility, saw the entire world from new angles and saw many possibilities for myself.

But what made this almost magical was how having a beginner’s mind changed the rest of my life.

Here are some things that have happened since I started drawing:

  • I see new ways to bring more value to RetroSupply.
  • Everday experiences are richer. Drawing has helped me see the beauty in everyday objects.
  • I find myself going into a flow state when I draw. Something that wasn’t happening nearly as much over the past few years.

How You Can Reignite Your Beginner’s Mind

Do you want to instantly have a fresh view of your business, art, personal life, and the world in general?

Choose a daily practice you can start today. Start developing a new skill that can be done in 30 minutes or less each day. Ideally, the skill should put you in a flow state.

Here are some examples of skills you might try:

  • Gardening
  • Cooking
  • Painting
  • Learn an instrument
  • Play a sport

Once you’ve chosen your activity practice it 5-7 days a week for at least 30 minutes.

Document your process publicly. You could use Instagram if it’s a visual practice or even Twitter (for example, Day 1 | Practiced the transition between the D and G chord in open position for 30 minutes).

Conclusion

I didn’t think this drawing practice would have such an impact on my life. But just a little time each day doing something with a beginner’s mind can rewire the way you see the world (and yourself).

If you have 20 seconds respond to this post. I’d love to know about your experience with beginner’s mind, activities that put you in a flow state, or a new practice you’re committed to starting. 

No Deprivation

I own two hard copies of Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations and an audio version. I probably listen to his words at least once a day.

On quote always stands out to me…

“No one can lose either the past or the future – how could anyone be deprived of what he does not possess? … It is only the present moment of which either stands to be deprived: and if this is all he has, he cannot lose what he does not have.” – Marcus Aurelius

This might be such a common idea as to be a banal platitude. But read it once more.

As I pass it through my mind over and over I occasionally catch the feeling of freedom.

With each passing year, I collect more things that I feel I’ve lost.

I’ve lost the wild adventures of my twenties. I’ve lost touch with good friends. I’ve forgotten the chords to the songs I played in that band for six years.

I also fear losing the future.

I fear I’ll lose the relationship I have with my daughters. I fear my love of Half and Half is going to get payback in a massive heart attack in my forties.

But Marcus Aurelius had it right. We can’t lose either the past or the future. All we have is right now. This exact moment. The past is gone. The future hasn’t happened.

What if each day we do our best to minimize our fear of losing what we don’t have?

We do that by realizing all we have is the present.

Nothing can take that from us.