50% Rule

Human beings are reliably awful at predicting how much time something will take.

“We all know that person who thinks it takes 5 minutes to get to the store because she made it there in 5 minutes once.”
– Greg McKeown, from his book Essentialism

Even if it does take 5 minutes to drive somewhere, how long does it take to: gather your things, turn the lights off, put on your jacket, lock the door, walk to the car, start it, pick your music…drive there…find a parking spot, get out of the car, and walk to your destination? Never 5 minutes.

Surprisingly, our estimates are off time and time again; yet we continue this pattern of running late…of needlessly stressing as we rush to get ready or get work done.

I’m a punctual person but naturally I still fall into the traps of time delusion. I’ll give myself an hour to finish working on a web page and at 45 minutes I’ll think, “How the fuck did I think I could finish this in an hour?”

In order to remedy this, I’ve started implementing the 50% rule (also from Greg McKeown).

You simply give yourself an extra 50% of however long you think it will take you.

10 minutes become 15 minutes.
An hour becomes an hour and a half.
Two hours become three.
A week becomes a week and a half.

You get it. Worst case scenario: you have extra, stress-free time on your hands.

Try it out. And stop being 3 minutes late to everything.

Multitasking

…is the bane of getting shit done.

Our brains are not designed to focus on more than one task at a time. Even people who claim to be great multitaskers; all they’re doing is rapidly shifting attention from one thing to another. Nothing is happening simultaneously.

I built a website for a client last week. It was an arduous, ungraceful process. I thought that was because I had to teach myself a set of skills of which I wasn’t privy. However, looking back, I realize my inefficiency was due to a weak process.

I would start my work at 9am, look at my schedule, and read “Work on Website.” It was chaos.

What the hell does that mean? Work on Website???

I would be working on the layout of the home page, realize I need more interesting buttons, then need the social links to those buttons, then proper descriptions of those social accounts, then the right picture placements…until eventually, 4 hours would go by.

Rather than feeling accomplished for working on several aspects of the site, I felt tired and confused because I did maybe 20% of each task. Looking up, the site barely felt any different.

What if I just focused on the layout of the home page? Well, I certainly would’ve completed it. Then, with that real sense of accomplishment, I could build momentum and carry that with me to the next step.

Multitasking is not productive; it’s the exact opposite (unless you’re a server). Spend quality, mindful time focusing on the one thing you’re doing…and it’ll get done (well).

3 Questions

These are questions I ask myself and write down at least once a month:

• What are the most important things in my life right now?

• What am I doing each day to put effort into those things?

• What is getting in the way of these efforts?

No Hurry, No Pause

I started writing this at the top of pages of my notebook. It’s a beautiful reminder…

“No hurry; no pause.”

Creating a better life for yourself doesn’t have to be done as quickly as possible. There’s no rush. You’ll find peace by getting 1% better each day.

And at the same time, peace will only come if you give it effort each day.

You can pursue a better life everyday without destroying yourself.

No hurry; no pause.

Teaching Yourself…

…is fucking hard.

Learning is difficult to measure, so it’s tricky to grasp where you stand in the midst of teaching yourself new skills until you can apply them.

This week, I began teaching myself principles of design, various video editing tasks, and chess endgames. Interestingly, I found many lessons which can be carried through all three of these.

The biggest takeaways from this week have been:

• Creating well-defined goals in learning is essential. “What gets measured gets managed.” The goal can’t be “learn more web design…” What do you want to be able to do at the end of today that you couldn’t do yesterday?

• Trying to juggle multiple learning/practice sessions in the span of a few hours is a recipe for chaos and unproductive sloppiness. There was one day where in two hours: I read an article on design theories, edited a section of a YouTube video, brainstormed for a podcast, and went through two online chess lessons…At the end of those two hours, I didn’t feel accomplished; I felt confused. Batching learning into hours of deep, undistracted (no phone) focus is the most effective and satisfying way to develop our knowledge.

• Despite the difficulty, teaching yourself things is incredibly rewarding; and once you sit down for about ten minutes, you get lost in the flow of adventure.

Learn good.

Strengthen Your Tribe

I certainly can’t provide an accurate formula for how one rids toxic people from their life. I’ve written about it in the past, but cutting someone out of your life is an incredibly uncomfortable and confusing process.

What I can touch on with more clarity is: the importance of surrounding yourself with friends you admire and people who contribute to your growth as a human being.

I firmly believe that in some way, shape, or form, you should be inspired by your friends. That’s not to say that every single one of them has to have the exact same values as you do; but if they’re not encouraging you to give fire to your own values, this should give you pause.

It can sound incredibly cheesy (especially for a guy [but I think those standards are eroding]), but I want a friend in my tribe:
• to laugh and make me laugh
• who is interested in the world
• who cares about their own improvement
• to give me feedback and hold my feet to the fire
• to help me and ask for my help
• with whom we can share our fears, struggles, and appreciation without judgment

This list makes me sound like a needy bitch, but I’ve been lucky to accumulate a tribe over the years which meets these standards. I live a healthy and fulfilling life and I have my tribe to thank for that.

10 Minutes In

Yesterday, I filmed my next silly sketch video. I had been putting it off for days; writing it in my schedule of things to do, then agreeing that I’d do it the next day.

I tend to put things off which give me anxiety, and I get anxiety when I’m doing something of which I’m incredibly unconfident. I’m not a good filmmaker. I don’t know how to light a shot properly. I’m clueless when it comes to the editing process. Every time I make a video it feels as though I’m stumbling my way through to the end.

However, yesterday, I just said ‘fuck it.’ It was hypocritical of me to avoid the task when I preach constantly for people to just jump in and do things before they’re ready. “Your first anything will be shit…so you might as well just keep making shitty things until you get better.”

On a final note: I’ve found that when you stop thinking and just start something (e.g. writing, practicing an instrument or language, exercising…), after about 10 minutes in, you pick up momentum and enter a sort of flow state. It’s as if Resistance gives up and goes “Fine, I guess we’re doing this.”

It’s way harder to start doing something than it is to keep doing something. I’ll leave you with the brief story of my first Jiu Jitsu lesson:

Coach and I get down on the mat to spar.
Coach pulls me into his guard.

Me: (laughing) “I don’t even know how to start.”
Coach: (calmly) “So just start.”

A New Way to Look at Discipline

I did a podcast with my best buddy Scott Clampet this week. We discussed his passion for creating music and his process for doing it in a disciplined and productive manner.

The big takeaway for me was how he looks at discipline. We often think of discipline as stuff we have to do everyday because it’s good for us. His take goes a little deeper, and to him, is not nearly as arduous.

By clearly defining his values and why he wants to do the things he wants to do, Scott’s routine isn’t full of tasks he’s forcing himself to do; it’s full of tasks he’s glad he gets to do because he knows they’ll make him a happier person.

Scott sits down each and every day to develop—in some way, shape, or form— his ability to create music. He doesn’t do this because he has to everyday to “strengthen the habit” or because “it’s good for him to be so disciplined.” He does it because he knows that if he were to stop, he would begin to become less happy.

Write down your values, then write down why you want those values to be a part of your life. This will make discipline ten times easier, because then you’re not pushing through pain; you’re fighting to do the things which make you a happier, more fulfilled person.

Knowledge Isn’t Power

…Until you do something with it.

You may have heard the impressive (or patronizing) statistic that CEOs read an average of 52 books each year—a book a week. That’s great, really, but for our own mentality it may mar our perception of what it takes to be successful.

Naturally, you should listen to as many podcasts (like mine), read as many books, and consume as much useful content as you can…but be cautious in getting lost in your consumption.

Read three amazing books on a specific topic you’re interested in, then just dive in. There’s a plethora of valuable information out there, and you’ll get to it eventually; but you don’t need to read a sixth book about filmmaking…just start making some god damn films.

Fear of poor quality holds you back from diving into creating or pursuing whatever it is you have a taste for. One more podcast isn’t going to make you ready. Doing the thing, failing, making mistakes, and improving upon them is the only process in which you can improve.

Use resources to give you a decent starting point, then start before you’re ready.

Here’s a lovely short video of Gary V, articulating this perfectly.

Doing

The combination of every choice you have ever made led you to where you are right now.

Everything you do right now will lead you to where you will be a year from now.

What are you doing?

Self-Awareness for Decision-Making

My friend and collaborator, Colin Smith, just released his first online course! The course takes us through psychological and neurological terms which may seem complicated, and defines them in easy-to-understand, short videos. By better understanding our minds and the nature of how we think, we can set ourselves up to be way more effective in accomplishing our goals and making great decisions.

I was lucky enough to be a beta tester, and I loved it. It’s short, digestible, interactive, and yes…it’s free.

Please check it out! It takes very little time and I guarantee you will get a lot out of it. I certainly did.

Self-Awareness for Manifestation

Procrastination

It’s a defense mechanism.

We have tasks and duties which will most likely give rise to stress, anxiety, and discomfort. So, we tell ourselves “I’ll do it later.” Then we get that wave of relief as if the responsibility has fallen on someone else’s shoulders.

Meanwhile, the ‘later’ time comes and we question why we didn’t just get it done before.

You’re not lazy for procrastinating. You’re just being defensive.

When Does a Habit Become a Habit?

When it’s easier for your body to do it than to not do it.

This morning, I woke up to nothingness because I forgot to set my alarm. I woke up at 6:58. My alarm would’ve been set for 7.

Humans are excellent at adapting—to the good and the bad.

Here’s how I developed the habit of flossing (my teeth) everyday:

Floss > hate it, gums bleed, uncomfortable, worst 30 seconds of my life >
(next day) floss > still hate it, don’t want to do it >
(a week later) floss > don’t love it but can get it done in 20 seconds, gums don’t bleed anymore >
(a month later) floss > don’t even think about it.

That’s a habit. Doing something over and over no matter how uncomfortable it is until eventually—and inevitably—you don’t even have to think about it.

Don’t Feel Like It

Feel violently groggy this morning.

Didn’t sleep well. Tossed and turned all night. Much work to be done today…

Shopping for the apocalypse. Spreadsheets for work. Taxes. Moving shit into the attic. Building furniture…

Don’t feel like doing any of it.

Just want to watch Avatar: The Last Airbender.

Can see my bed…Could just walk over and lay.

But can’t. Not feeling like doing a thing says nothing about ability to do the thing.

Do the thing.

Finding the Opportunity

Since beginning a new full-time job at the start of the year, it has taken the front seat of the majority of my time and energy. I don’t see it as a new burden which has taken me away from my passions. Instead, I perceive it as a challenge in which I must adapt to severe change.

Keeping up with short, daily blog posts has been easy enough. However, I’ve stepped away from my weekly newsletter, created zero YouTube videos in four months, and haven’t recorded a new podcast in over a month. That’s on me.

For better or worse, my stuff isn’t huge enough for any significant number of listeners to complain. But everything on this website embodies the clearest picture of what matters to me.

So, it’s time to come back to home base; i.e. it’s time to get my shit together, practice what I preach, and develop routines and schedules which allow me to pursue my passions.

As always, let’s begin with my favorite list—What I can control vs. What I can’t

Can’t control:

• Everything being closed/cancelled (gym, events, work)
• The fact that I’ve slipped up in the past
• Other peoples’ time-availability and interests

Can control:

• How I take advantage of the opportunity of more down-time (spending more time with my mother, getting more work done, reading more, saving money by not going out)
• Creating the best possible work I can right now (In the beginning, it makes more sense to be consistent and improve rather than obsess over people liking your stuff)

Matt D’Avella (my favorite YouTuber) made a great video on batching—a productivity technique where you have a certain time on a certain day where you complete certain tasks. Using this as well as creating checklists for myself, I’ll get the train moving again.

It’s easy to let things slip away when you have an excuse of something else necessary and seemingly gigantic.

”How can I film a video each week when I have to hit my numbers for work?”

”How can I write this essay when I have to reorganize my entire closet??”

You can always do both. Just sit down, breathe, and plan it out.

Final note: This is naturally a strange time. I’m aware that finding the opportunity during the spreading of this virus and the closing of businesses sounds like a privilege many people do not have. I have many friends working in the service/entertainment industry who will be massively affected by the closing of restaurants, theaters, and other organizations. If this applies to you then I wish you nothing but the best. Much love.

Checklists

Matt D’Avella, one of my favorite YouTubers, made a video recently on the awesome productivity power of checklists.

This comically simple system can make us 50 times more productive.

While I have a strong morning routine, lately I’ve been skipping some things depending on what time I leave for work. And while I set an evening wind-down ritual for myself—if I’ve used all my willower by the end of the day—I find myself watching YouTube videos instead of meditating and reading before bed.

With the life-changing power of checklists (*salesman voice*), I’m put straight to work and don’t give myself time for any distractions.

EVERY Morning:
• Water + vitamins
• Journal/plan
• Read at least 20 pages
• Daily blog
• Stretch/body weight exercises
• Meditate

I must do all these things regardless of how much time I have to complete them.

EVERY night:
• Journal/reflect (what I did well that day vs. what I could’ve improved)
• Meditate
• Read 20 pages

Life is often so tumultuous. We’re expected to juggle an infinite number of responsibilities, perform well, be patient, love everybody…These are all great but when we get off track they can feel impossible. Add some simple structure to your days and realize that most of the craziness that’s going on is only happening in your mind.

Don’t

You don’t need to be in a good mood to be kind to others.

You don’t need to like someone to listen to them.

You don’t need a certain job title to be a leader.

You don’t need a degree to be educated.

You don’t need to be a musician to jam.

You don’t need to be a novelist to write everyday.

You don’t need to be a scholar to study everyday.

You don’t need social media to connect with people.

You don’t need the approval of others to pursue your goals.

You don’t need drugs to stay focused.

You don’t need to be an athlete to be in shape.

You don’t need anything to show up, avoid distraction, and do the work.

Amateurs and Pros

The difference between amateurs and pros is simple:

It’s not level of talent or quality. This comes with time…

It’s that the Pro shows up each and every day and does the work.

The amateur does the amount of work they feel like doing at a given time.

Be a pro. Do the work.

2 Tests

Steven Pressfield’s two tests of Resistance from Do The Work:

1) “How bad do you want it?”

Dabbling-Interest-Intrigued but Uncertain-Passionate-Totally Committed

If your answer is not the one on the far right, stop doing this thing.

2) “Why do you want it”?”

• For the babes (or the dudes)
• The money
• For fame
• Because I deserve it
• For power
• To prove my old man (or ex-spouse, mother, teacher, coach) wrong
• To serve my vision of how life/mankind ought to be
• For fun or beauty
• Because I have no choice

If you checked 8 or 9, you get to stay on the island.

2 Lives

In between you and the life you were meant to live—the body you want, the job you’re passionate about, the skills which would give you meaning, the beautiful friends and family who support you, all the goals you wish to achieve, the amount of money you need to have the freedom to do as you please…

In between your life and this one stands nothing…Nothing but Resistance.

Steven Pressfield lists the following as the most notorious forms of Resistance:

• fear
• self-doubt
• procrastination
• addiction
• distraction
• timidity
• ego and narcissism
• self-loathing
• perfectionism
• rational thought
• friends and family

Do yourself a huge favor and buy his book The War of Art. It will show you how to identify Resistance, conquer it, and fight your way to earn the life you were always meant to enjoy.

For a Month

What if for the next month, you were the best you could possibly be? What would that look like?

What if you only spent money on what you absolutely needed?

What if you exercised three times a week?

What if you ate well and didn’t lose yourself to cravings?

What if you got 7-9 hours of sleep each night?

What if you got up each morning and destroyed your routine for an hour?

What if you wrote down your short-term and long-term goals?

Who would you be after that month?

3 Mantras

These three things have been a serious help in my stressful life lately. I wrote them down in my phone notes so when I’m feeling overwhelmed I can easily revisit them and remind myself:

• The thing you least want to do is probably that which you most need to do.

• Ignore the voice that’s tempting you with comfort.

• Some people can go straight from A to Z. Others must take the long road—A, B, C, D…all the way up to Z. In the end, both end up at the same place. But those who take the long road have grown more and have learned more about themselves.

Continuing

Last night, at my Brazilian JiuJitsu class, I rolled (sparred) with blue, purple, and brown belts…i.e. people significantly better than my white belt ass.

What strikes me each class is how humble those who are skillful are. In BJJ, humility and skill seem to be positively correlated. I mentioned this to one of the brown belts (second highest belt) after he got done manhandling me. His response was simple and inspiring:

”It’s because I’m not better than you [man],” he said. “I’ve just been doing this 1000 times longer than you have. If you continue, you’ll be the same as me…maybe better.”

It’s arrogant to expect to receive fulfillment and quality from something you’ve just started. Professional comedians didn’t begin their careers with Netflix hour-specials. They spent years and years grinding it out in clubs with four audience members…bombing until they crawled their way to opportunities.

No one should do what they hate. But things we want from our lives and careers (e.g. creativity, impact, and control)…we must earn these things. And we earn them by showing up everyday and putting in the work. That’s how he got his brown belt.

For more on this type of philosophy, check out Cal Newport’s incredible and mildly controversial book, So Good They Can’t Ignore You. In chapter two he shares a quote from Ira Glass, the producer and host of This American Life:

“All of us who do creative work…you get into this thing, and there’s like a ‘gap.’ What you’re making isn’t so good, okay?…It’s trying to be good but…it’s just not that ‘great.’ The key thing is to force yourself through the work, force the skills to come; that’s the hardest phase.”

The Danger of Discipline

Once you experience a disciplined, organized life…you’ll never want to go back.

I’m not saying you’ll be structured forever. God no. That takes blood, sweat, and tears each and everyday. But once you taste the sweet nectar of even remotely having your shit together…falling through the wayside will put you in a depression.

This happens to me, for example, when I go on vacation.

Time away from responsibility is rejuvenating and necessary…but too much time away from my routine—drinking often, getting irregular sleep, exercising infrequently, not doing my morning rituals—make me feel like a shell of myself.

As awful as it is, it’s a damn good motivator to get things back on track.

With my new job, I battled this idea for weeks…but I’ve finally accepted the realization that to get everything I need done in the day, I have to change my sleep schedule. This means waking up earlier and going to sleep earlier.

The result: Sacrificing the short term pleasure of my comfort this week and the ability to stay up late with my friends on weekends, for the long-term satisfaction of taking care of everything which makes me feel fulfilled (getting a full exercise in 3-5 times a week, going to JiuJitsu, sitting down for deep work on the podcast, showing up early to get better at my job).

I’ve been up for several hours. I’m sleepy. My bed looks so inviting and cozy. But once I finish this paragraph I’m heading to the gym…because laying in bed for an extra hour doesn’t make me look better or feel better with my shirt off. It won’t make me fit. Be your own personal trainer. Once you live a disciplined life, you’ll find that you’re a pretty good life coach.

To-Not-Do Lists

We’ve all made to-do lists…most of them on a little post-it notes which never get accomplished.

Let’s start with something more obtainable: To-not-do lists.

Write down the things which are not a valuable use of your time, distractions, and any other poison you’d like to detox from your time and energy.

Kevin Hart

I had the absolute pleasure of seeing Kevin Hart speak at the annual kickoff for my company yesterday in Philadelphia. He was incredibly inspiring, humble, and of course…hilarious.

Aside from his comedy, he deals heavily in productivity and following one’s dreams.

Check out this beautiful video to hear a few of his mindsets/philosophies.

Choices, Not Talent

• Exercising regularly
• Reading everyday
• Setting goals and accomplishing them
• Creating a budget and becoming financially secure
• Feeding a passion (a hobby or dedicating yourself to it)
• Being disciplined even when you feel like garbage
• Being the absolute best you can be each and everyday (kind to all, a great listener, respectful to yourself and others, working your ass off, being helpful)…

None of these are talents. It’s not like people either have these traits or they don’t. Each one of these are choices. They can be trained and practiced if you want them to be fused with your being.

What do you choose?

Do Great Work

Who sets out to be mediocre?

What reasons do you have for not doing the best work you can? How’s that working out for you?

If You’re Good

“If you are good at something, other people will say it about you.”

Just like on a resume, don’t tell people what you’re good at…Let your history, accomplishments, and results speak for you. If you’re amazing at kickboxing, don’t say so, just be fucking amazing at kickboxing. Other people won’t be able to deny your talent and ability.

Why You Can’t Stay Disciplined

I did a podcast this week about why we struggle living a disciplined life [#19 – Why You Can’t Stay Disciplined].

In a nutshell:

1) We’re impatient. We want results and progress immediately and get discouraged when we work hard and nothing happens…but it will if we keep going.

2) We sacrifice long-term satisfaction for short-term pleasure, instead of the opposite.