I recommend you read the book. But in the meantime, here are my 8 things I learned.
1) Teach now
You should not wait until you master something to teach it.
When I was learning to make a website all the tutorials took a lot of things for granted. As a novice I felt like there should be 10 more bullets between every step in the guides.
The guide would be like “Write X in the terminal”. And I would go “What the hell is the terminal?” and then “Why can’t I type X into it?!”. It was unbelievably frustrating, a rabbit hole of stack-overflow tabs.
A good teacher would have been a recent student. Not someone who have worked as a web developer every day for the past 10 years.
There is quote in the book that reads.
“The fellow-pupil can help more than the master because he knows less. The difficulty we want him to explain is one he has recently met. The expert met it so long ago he has forgotten.” – C. S. Lewis.
And another one.
“I saw the Sex Pistols,” said New Order frontman Bernard Sumner. “They were terrible. . . . I wanted to get up and be terrible with them.”
2) How to start sharing your work
Make a public commitment to learning something infront of others. – Austin Kleon
I like that. That is exactly how I started this blog. It also pairs up nicely with the first point. Be an amateur and write about that. It’s unique lens from which you can view a field. After a few weeks of studying something, you loose the touch reserved only for an amateur.
3) Don’t “build your CV”. Build things.
When I started university my dream was to get a job at McKinsey or some similar firm. I did a ton of research. I made a list of things they wanted from applicants.
Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with the list. It’s an okay list. What’s wrong is trying to blindly chase things you think someone else wants from you, which I’ve done a lot.
“You have to make stuff,” said journalist David Carr when he was asked if he had any advice for students. “No one is going to give a damn about your résumé; they want to see what you have made with your own little fingers.”
4) 90% of everything is crap
It’s hard to know what’s good. Business ideas, art, blog posts, books, you name it. No one knows anything. A lot of people like to pretend like they do, but they don’t.
Harry Potter was rejected 19 times – by people who make a living FINDING GREAT BOOKS.
A lot of PROFESSIONAL INVESTORS said no thank you to AirBnB.
Michael Jordan got cut from his High School basketball team.
Okay maybe the last one is not really the same thing, but it popped up when I googled. And still, MICHEAL JORDAN CUT FROM A BASKETBALL TEAM. Common.
So the lesson is, make a lot of stuff and ship it. Put your work in front of people.
Don’t worry about everything you post being perfect. Science fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon once said that 90 percent of everything is crap. The same is true of our own work. The trouble is, we don’t always know what’s good and what sucks. That’s why it’s important to get things in front of others and see how they react. “Sometimes you don’t always know what you’ve got,” says artist Wayne White. “It really does need a little social chemistry to make it show itself to you sometimes.”
5) Start out small
You don’t have to know the context for everything you do. If it’s exciting and fun – do it. It does not have to fit into a master plan. You connect the dots looking back.
This book started out as tweets, which then became blog posts, which then became book chapters. Small things, over time, can get big. – Austin Kleon
6) What to share
Don’t know what to write about?
Austin shares a great list.
Where do you get your inspiration?
What sorts of things do you fill your head with?
What do you read?
Do you subscribe to anything?
What sites do you visit on the Internet?
What music do you listen to?
What movies do you see?
Do you look at art?
What do you collect?
What’s inside your scrapbook?
What do you pin to the corkboard above your desk?
What do you stick on your refrigerator?
Who’s done work that you admire?
Who do you steal ideas from?
Do you have any heroes?
Who do you follow online?
Who are the practitioners you look up to in your field?
Any of these things can be interesting and valuable. They can turn into blog posts, books and businesses.
7) Quality, quality, quality
Stop worrying about how many people follow you online and start worrying about the quality of people who follow you. Don’t waste your time reading articles about how to get more followers. Don’t waste time following people online just because you think it’ll get you somewhere. Don’t talk to people you don’t want to talk to, and don’t talk about stuff you don’t want to talk about.
“What gets measured gets done” is an old management saying. In the world of social media quantity is measured more than quality. Number of followers, number of likes, number of shares.
People rarely talk about WHO these mysterious followers are and WHY they are following you.
Make stuff you love and talk about stuff you love and you’ll attract people who love that kind of stuff. It’s that simple. – Austin Kleon
8) Avoid vampires
Vampires steal your energy and kill you. Don’t hang out with them.
[The vampire test] is a simple way to know who you should let in and out of your life. If, after hanging out with someone you feel worn out and depleted, that person is a vampire. If, after hanging out with someone you still feel full of energy, that person is not a vampire. Of course, The Vampire Test works on many things in our lives, not just people—you can apply it to jobs, hobbies, places, etc
This might be the single most important lesson. If you don’t follow it you wont be able to follow the other advice. You’ll be dead from all the vampire people and projects in your life.
Entreprenur, musician and author Derek Sivers puts it plain and simple:
“Whatever excites you, go do it. Whatever drains you, stop doing it.” – Derek Sivers
Those are my lessons learned from “Show Your Work!”. Now go read the book.
It tricked us to take care of it. It tricked us to protect it from animals, to water it and just for the hell of it – cover it in feces.
Wheat made us its servants. All along we though it was the other way around.
Then it spread. It spread fast. If Forbes where to run a story on the three most successful grains in history, wheat would be on the cover. One week it’s Elon Musk. The next: Wheat.
We went from spending our days taking walks and picking flowers to carrying buckets of water and stool under the scourging sun. We went from being hunters and gatherers to farmers. We had a new Lord.
We did anything to please the Lord. We worked HARD, we suffered and we died young. But we owned more stuff. More bread, more land, more houses. And enough wheat to bathe in it, Scrooge style.
However, we did not have more food per capita, but as a species. Homo sapiens owned more stuff.
But who cares? It was THOUSANDS of years ago. Today homo sapiens is much smarter. Many of us are lucky enough to not have to spend our best years carrying buckets of shit.
Instead we sit sloughed over laptops eight hours a day. Then we go home and fight with our spouses because we’re stressed about email. What a life.
So, how can we break free from the power of wheat? What can we do today that our wheat-loving brothers and sisters could not?
I’ll tell you.
We must become hunters.
That’s right. We must once again become hunters.
A hunter is free. A hunter is present, studying the task that lays before her. Then she executes. She goes out and gets what she needs. Not what she happen to crave for the moment. A hunter does not want anything she does not need.
How to become a hunter
We posses the tools to once again become hunters. To control our own fate. Stop being slaves of grain.
1) Delete your wishlist
Think about all the stuff you want. A bigger apartment. New sneakers. A slightly flatter and curved TV. New iPhone.
Write down the things on a piece of paper. Then boil the paper and eat it like porridge. You don’t need it. It’s just wheat.
2) Stop being an idiot
I’ve spent the majority of my years being an idiot. Nowadays I try to do be less stupid every day.
Let me define stupidity:
It’s stupid to apply for jobs that make you miserable.
It’s stupid to work so hard you burn out.
It’s stupid to spend your free time mindlessly scrolling social media.
It’s stupid to think “If I only had X everything would be great.”
It’s stupid to not exercise. Hunters must be in shape.
It’s stupid to waste time wishing for other peoples blessings.
It’s stupid to drink so much you don’t remember anything.
I was half naked on the cold plastic floor, shivering.
Lonely, scared and more sick than I’ve ever been in my life I thought to myself “At least I have a roof. And a toilet.”
I was very grateful for the toilet.
But it’s hard to be grateful. We’re not programmed for that sort of behavior.
If you are a grateful caveman you walk around with a stupid smile on your face instead of killing mammoths. Then a tiger eats you and you die. (Please don’t email me and tell me that cavemen, mammoths and tigers never co-existed)
All of us are stupid cavemen and cave-women. That is why we must practice being grateful.
And that is what I’ve been doing the past 30 days, along with some other things. If you want to know exactly what I’ve been doing, read my previous post.
Cool things that happened the last 30 days:
I increased my happiness from 4.1 – 4.8 on the Oxford Happiness Questionnaire
I increased my dead lift with 15kg
I increased my bench press with 5kg
I published my first 4 blog posts
I shared my posts in a group on facebook (Was scared but did it anyway)
I shared posts on linkedIn (Was scared but did it anyway)
I took the first step to starting on my first book
I wrote down 300 ideas
Three people have contacted me and told me they like my blog
My french room-mate said “Manne, you look so HAPPY!!” when I randomly met her walking down the street.
I had dinner at an amazing secret restaurant
I took the first step to launching a new IT-product
Got my first email-subscribers that I don’t know personally (yet)
I’ve come up with new ways to make money on an old business idea
I’ve scored at least three complementary hotel nights in Buenos Aires
These are just the tangible things. I also feel happier. I feel more energetic. I feel more creative. I feel more confident.
Below I go into some details about the three biggest improvements.
Like I said, I do feel happier. I feel more at peace. I don’t dwell in the past or obsess about the future as much.
The index I’ve used is not perfect. Every step of my “scientific” method can be criticized. The graph does not prove anything. Happiness is hard to define etc.
But the daily practice seem to make me a better person. All I can say is that it worked for me and that it might, or not, work for you.
I’ve been writing down 10 ideas every day for 30 days. I’ve been giving birth to 300 idea babies. It hurt and they mostly came out weird and ugly. But I love those little bastards.
Four idea-lists I made
10 things I learned from Ramit Sethi
10 scenes for a hidden-camera show
10 ideas to improve the SEO of a site I’m building
10 thirty-day challenges I can do
If you want to see any of the lists, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll send it to you.
Writing down ideas creates energy for the brain. My brain is becoming an idea machine.
And if I find myself in an elevator with a TV-producer I can now pitch a hidden camera show.
James says that it takes 6 months to become an idea machine. I’m excited to see the effects of doing this for more than 30 days
It’s hard to meditate. I don’t follow my breath. Instead I think about weird things. But then I come back to the present and don’t judge myself. Just like Tara tells me to.
And then I become happy.
Sometimes I did meditations for 2 minutes. Sometimes for 25. Sometimes I walked down the street and observed my thoughts.
I have a saying:
“Anything that makes me grateful while throwing my guts up stays in my life.”
Feel free to Tweet that.
I will continue with my daily practice. I can already see positive changes in my life. I’m excited to what will happen if I continue to do it every day for six months. And then a year.
If you want to follow my journey, sign up below and I’ll show you what happens when you do something every day for year.
What if I told you there is an optimal number of characters for your headline you can start using today to increase open rates with MORE than 50%?
I’ll tell you what. Then I’d be a liar. A liar who knew that’s exactly what you want to hear. I’m sorry but I can’t give you that number. Neither can anyone else. But I can give you something better. I can give you a system.
You know how you get some questions over and over again?
“Should my emails always be shorter than 100 words?”
“Should I send the email at on Tuesday at 2 PM or Wednesday at 3PM??”
“How tall are you??”
The answers are: No, it does not matter and 6.5” thank you very much.
These are not great questions. Not if you want to become better at email marketing. Better questions would be:
How do I get to know my subscribers?
How do I give them value?
How do I write a great headline?
These are the questions I will be answering in this post. I’ll give you detailed steps you can follow to answer each one of these questions. Then I’ll show you how I’ve used them to CONSISTENTLY get +50% open rates on my lists.
1) Know your audience
I’ll walk you through three methods to get to know your audience better. Once you have a profile of the reader we’re going to dig in to how to make them tell their friends to SHUT THE F** UP because they want to salvage the moment of opening your email. But first things first…
1.a) Who are your subscribers?
It’s possible to segment the subscribers in an infinite number of ways, which is a subject for another post. The point is to start thinking about who you are writing to. Then you can get INSIDE THEIR MINDS and make them open your email.
However, there’s no need to get fancy just yet. I’m sure you already know some things about your subscribers. Maybe you have customer data from your business or you can make a good guess based on your industry/content of your website.
Estimate the following parameters for your subscribers, a simple profile will do fine for now.
I’ll do it for two businesses I’m involved in right now:
Job board for university students
Age: 18-29 – Because most students are that age
Occupation: Students – Reasonable assumption considering our service
Nationality: 80-90% Swedes – Typical rate at the school.
Rating system for the Swedish housing market
Age: 25-45 – The age of people who are researching buying an apartment in Sweden
Occupation: Diversified, full-time employees – The kind of people who can get a mortgage.
Nationality: 100% Swedes – The opt-in is in Swedish.
You don’t have to write it down. But it helps.
We will use this simple data to get more specific later. Then I will show you how to read minds.
I know you want to learn that so for god sake please continue reading.
1.b) What are the subscribers thinking about?
It’s easy to know what your reader is thinking. All you have to do is to read her mind.
I know what you are thinking, “I don’t know how to read minds!”. (See what I did there?)
Do not worry my dear aspiring email-writer. I will teach you how to do it. There are three methods you can use to systematically read minds.
I)Personas + thinking (yes, thinking)
A persona is a generic example person from your subscribers. We’ll create our persona from the previous step. All you have to do is elaborate on each data point and you got it.
Here is an example:
Hanna is 23 years old and is studying her third year on the program Industrial engineering. She is from a small town in Sweden and moved to the capital Stockholm to start her studies.
Once we have established a persona for the subscribers it’s easier to GET INSIDE THEIR MINDS. Simply ask “What is Hanna thinking about?”. Then try to think about the answer. Thinking is a rare and underrated quality.
If you feel stuck, try to think about what is going on in the persons life form different perspectives of time.
For our persona Hanna it might look like this:
At this point in life: Did I choose the right education? When will I get rid of my student debt? What career will I go into?
This year: Where should I go to vacation? What master program should I choose? Which internships should I apply to?
This month:What food should I make for Easter? When do I need to do my taxes? How will I get this small salary to last all month?
Now we have a solid base to work from in the next step, giving your readers value.
If you need more help with ideas about what your readers are thinking about, read the two paragraphs below.
A really fast way to get inside the minds of your subscribers is to pick up the phone and call them. Just call someone who fits the profile and read this:
Hi! Do you have a minute?…
I’m writing an article and if you can answer one question that would help me a lot. “Tell me three things you are worried about this month and/or this year”.
If you want to avoid direct integration with humans, send out the following email.
I want to write an amazing article and need your help. If you could reply to this email with an answer to the following question that would help me a ton. Of course I’ll send you the article when it’s done.
“What are you worried about this month?”
Have a great day
What if you don’t have any friends, family or email subscribers?
First, stop reading this and go do something with yourself. Get a daily practice. Then comeback and continue reading.
III) Read what they read & Go where they go
Maybe you are just starting out and don’t have access to anyone. Then think about where your targeted audience hangs out. Both online and offline. Online can be forums such as reddit, news-sites and blogs. Take a look at the popular threads and stories. Those topics will be things your future readers are thinking about.
Find offline sources too. Go to meetups. Go to fairs. Go to seminars. Go where your audience are.
1.c) What are they expecting from you?
If you have a list with subscribers you have expectations from those subscribers.The readers might be or might not be aware of these expectations. To get an idea of what your subscribers are expecting, answer the following three questions.
I) What does your Opt-in say?
If your opt-in says “Monthly updates”. Don’t send emails every week. If your opt-in says you are going to send them an amazing guide of something, make sure you send it. And make sure it is amazing.
II) What style are they expecting?
If the content on your blog/website is dense and long-form. Your emails should be too. Or refer to texts of that nature. If you run a B2B site and your articles are formally written and very technical, follow that pattern in the emails.
III) What topics are they expecting?
You probably ask different friends for different things. I do. I have one friend who knows everything about sneakers. I ask him about sneakers. Not about programming.
If your site is about dog training, your emails should be about dog training. Or how other topics relate to dog training.
If you want to create things in a large set of categories you can do two things.
I)Use a broad definition for your site. Like Tim Ferriss “Lifestyle design” (Travel, health, business, investing, writing etc.) or Ramit Sethis “Rich life” (Getting a dream job, negotiation, starting an online business, generating passive income, being more social etc.)
II) Set up multiple sites for the different themes you want to address. One site for creating a business, one site for learning spanish and one for travel.
Now you are a fully trained jedi-mind-reader. Let me show you how to put your super powers to good use.
2) Give value to your audience
How often are you eager to open an email?
My guess is, not that often. Maybe 0,5% of the time. Let me show you how to become that 0,5% in the inbox.
Try to remember the last time you kept updating your inbox to see if an email had arrived.
This usually happens when you’re expecting replies that can make your life more than 20% better. For example:
Reply from someone you like
Reply from a potential customer
Reply from a job interview
These emails contains (hopefully) incredible amount of value. Life-changing value. And they are also feedback from an action you have taken. You are CURIOUS to see the reply.
Of the hundreds companies and people who email you every day, how many give you something of value? How many talk about themselves and their new updates?
In the previous step we figured out what our subscribers are thinking about. One of the most powerful things to write about is a concern of theirs. I used this with the following email:
This was a short email sharing tips for doing taxes which was due the same month. I new this was a topic all of the subscribers worried about and had TOP OF MIND. These tips was super valuable for the list.
Notice how important the timing is. The same email sent in the middle of the summer would have performed awfully.
2.b) Hopes & Dreams
Look through your mind-reading list and look for something your subscribers are dreaming about. The more concrete the better. I used this for a weekly update from a job-board-site.
Who does not want to see jobs they have been matched with? This appeals to the dream of being found by a dream employer. And also, super valuable.
I once sent out an email that got 500 people to unsubscribe within fifteen minutes. Want to know what headline I used?
Of course you do! You are just as curious as everyone else.
Use this in your emails. Think about what your subscribers are curious about. What are they gossiping about with their friends? I used the curiosity here:
The headline was “The 3 worst courses at [school name], do you agree?”. What student would not be curious about this?
If you are wondering how I came up with that headline, I’ll tell you right now.
3) Write a great headline
Open rates are clicks. Clicks on your headlines. You want to make it IMPOSSIBLE for the reader to not hit that touch pad.
There is a simple system for this. I’ll cover it briefly here and if you want to read more about it I recommend you check out the site Psychotactics. They have some great free content on this topic.
The goal is to integrate as many of the three following points as possible in the headline. Use a question, hide information and problematize. There is research to back this up. But this post is already running too long so you’ll have to take my word for it.
3.1) Use a question Straight forward. A question creates an incentive for the reader to take action.
3.2) Hide information Use words as These. For example. “Do you also do these mistakes?”
3.3) Problematize Instead of “Three tips to do better.” use “Three things 90% people do wrong.”
If you’ve found anything useful in this article, please don’t let it slip away. Use it. Today. Something small and simple. Think about what your readers are thinking about.
Challenge: Use one of the ideas I covered next time you write something. A newsletter, an article, copy for your website or a power point. Then email me at email@example.com with the results. I read and reply to everything.
You don’t need to be a great writer to write great copy. What you need, my friend, is a system.
It turns out copywriting is not rocket science. It’s copywriting. And you can use tested rules and guidelines to do it better.
Why should I care?
Maybe you’re thinking “Why should I care?” or “I don’t work for an ad agency!”.
My answer to the first question is twofold: I) Conversion and II) Retention.
Conversion – If you have an email-list with 1000 subscribers and sell a product for $50 dollars and have a 0.3% conversion rate you make $150. With a few tweaks on you copy you can easily double that conversion. Double conversion => Double revenue. Are you interested in doubling or tripling your revenue? Good, then keep reading.
Retention – You probably have a few sites you regularly visit. I’m guessing that they are less than five (excluding email and social media). You may count them on your fingers right now.
If you write engaging and personal copy people will come back to your site over and over again.
Now if you don’t mind, please let me tell you what you probably are doing wrong.
1) You’re too formal
You are not a robot. And you are not a company. You are a person, a human. And guess what, your readers are humans too. Unless you are reading this and it’s 2045 and robots are your main audience. And maybe you are a robot too. In that case just ask your robot friends what to do already. Anyway, I digress.
When I look at old copy I’ve written for my websites the awfulness makes me shudder. I sound like a government trying to impress an instruction manual with fancy language. It’s so general and vague. And BORING. A good test is to read the text out loud. If it sounds weird and formal – change it.
2) You are too general
In my high school people used to get good grades by forcing as many difficult words as possible into the reports. I think the logic behind it was: If a sentence is so complex no one can understand it, then it must have been written by someone super smart! Right?
The problem is that people don’t relate to what they don’t understand.
Here is an example of being concrete. Compare example A and B below, which one do you think resonates strongest with a parent of a struggling student?
These are to example paragraphs for a math-tutor business.
A (Not concrete)
Does your child struggle in school?
Are the grades not as good as they could be?
Does your child have low self-esteem because of it?
Last time you asked your son if he did his math homework, did he avoid eye contact?
Does he slough and sigh when you’re sitting down working on a problem together after dinner?
Do you feel the frustration boil up inside of you when he can’t understand the simplest addition?
2.1) How to get concrete
Go out and find out about your audience barriers, hopes, dreams and fears. Then make sure to address each one of them throughout your copy.
Here is an example of writing with this system:
My 12-year old son slammed open the door and ran in to the kitchen. His shoes spread mud all over the hallway floor and the door was left open.
He came running into the kitchen and threw off his backpack and pulled out a paper. He held it up to me. For the first time ever he had gotten an A on his math test. He was so proud he couldn’t stop smiling. (Hope and Dreams)
I know what it’s like. Maybe the teacher has been telling you that your kid is not good at math since he was seven years old. It’s hard to make time to help out with the homework. There are groceries to be bought, work do be done and dinner do be cooked. (Barriers)
On the other hand, there is the guilt from knowing that your son might fail math. He might not be able to go to the same school as his friends. Maybe he wont go to collage. (Fear)
3) You write short and selfishly
Everyone is busy. We get hundreds, maybe thousands, of email every week.
Therefore it’s common advice that you should write super short copy. Just a few bullet points. Almost excusing yourself for trying to take the readers time.
I’ve learned the opposite to be true. IF what you are writing is great. Go on for several pages. Some of the best people I’ve seen has sells pages that are longer than 50 pages. Who reads these pages? The buyers.
I know you think you are an interesting special snowflake. I think that I am too. Don’t worry, It’s okay.
But since everyone else thinks so too, you should write about THEM. Not about you and your amazing features, pricing and technology. I don’t care about that stuff. I want to read about myself. And more importantly, so does your audience.
Closing thoughts and YOUR next step
All of these points are easy to apply. And with practice it will become natural.
I’ve learned most of the tactics in this post from Ramit Sethi. If you want to read more on the topic I recommend you check out his site here.
Now, go to your website, power point presentation or marketing content. See if you can improve one paragraph. Don’t re-do all of it. Just re-write a small paragraph. Then comment what you changed below.
Do what you are great at. Become the best in the world at something.
That advice makes sense and I hate it.
What if you’re not great at anything?
I have friends who knew they wanted to become doctors when they were five years old. Other friends started coding when they where nine. One friend was always best in the soccer team and now plays professionally.
I don’t have an amazing talent.
I was not best at selling cookies for the football team. I did not win talent shows. I was comfortably average. Most people are. That’s the way it works. Ask any statistician. A few of us are great and some are awful. We are trapped inside the Bell Curve.
Breaking out of the Bell Curve
I know I’ll never be one of the best programmers in the world. But I learned how to build a website by myself. I know I’ll never be a famous guitarist. But I know a few songs and solos. I won’t write the best book ever written, but I’m quite sure that I can write a book.
Does this mean that I’m doomed to forever trample water in the pool mediocrity? Or rather, in several different pools of mediocrity?
Maybe. But I don’t think so.
The reason I don’t think so is because smart people told me otherwise in a podcast.
“If you are okay at one thing, and okay at another thing. You are probably one of the best in the world at the combination of those two things.” – James Altucher
Maybe it is possible and even smart to invent things to be great at. You can do so in two easy steps. First, make list of ten things you are good at. Then randomly mix 2-3 of the things to make new categories.
Step 1: Things I’m good at
coming up with ideas
Step 2: Things I could be great at
writing + changing habits
I’m good at starting new habits and dropping old ones. Most people are not. It’s hard to change habits. And I like writing. I could probably become great at writing about habits I’m testing and changing. I don’t think a lot of other people want to or can do it.
Coding + Communication
I know a bit of web development. And I’ve got quite a bit of experience in sales, marketing and communication. I might be great at being a solo entrepreneur.
Listening + Marketing + Coming up with ideas
Maybe I can become top 5% in the world in interviewing people in a podcast about ideas. Who knows.
If you feel stuck and need inspiration, make a list of ten things you are good at. Then mix them in different combinations. Maybe you’ll find your new passion, project or business. Either way you’ll have a list of things you are good at. That’s not too bad. You could show it to someone you like. Maybe they’ll like you more.
For 6 months I had been a full time engineering student, managing an early stage company while trying to get another startup off the ground.
I felt like I was drowning. I could never beat my to-do list. It was like the Hydra from Hercules, for every thing I crossed off two more would pop up.
My mind was spinning every night before I got to sleep. When I met my girlfriend all I though about was email. I got annoyed when she told me about her day. I felt guilty for not replying to friends. I got frustrated when people I LOVED called me just to chat. I was so busy. I had become a selfish douche bag.
Something – many things – had to change.
And they did.
The solution – What did I change?
I started managing my time. I set up a system to manage my time in an easy and effective way. The system consists of three simple steps.
I ) List your tasks
Monday morning: Make a list of your tasks for the week. Don’t prioritize yet. Just list all of them. Everything that gives you stress. In my case I would divide the tasks for our different categories: Company 1, Company 2 and School.
Tasks company 1
Answer customer support emails
Random coffee meeting
Tasks company 2
Meeting with potential partner
II) Urgency and Importance schema
Writing down the anxiety drivers can be helpful in itself. Now, draw what management consultants call a 2-by-2 matrix on a paper or white board. Two intersecting lines that is. One axis symbolizes urgency. As in When is the deadline for the task? The other is importance. As in How bad would it be to miss this?
Top Right – Urgent and important
This is the golden square. These are the only tasks to do this week. You do these and you’re all good.
Bottom Right – Urgent but not important
It’s easy to confuse urgency for importance. Don’t be scared to cancel stuff. Just because something is urgent does not mean it’s important. Don’t do the random coffee.
Top Left – Important but not urgent
There are things that have to be done. But not this week and not this day. Forget about them for now.
Bottom Left – Neither important nor urgent
These items probably shouldn’t make their way into you to-do list. But it can be tough to say no. I used to have a bunch of items in my calendar that really had no business being there.
In the next step I will show you how to CLEAR your to-do list in record time.
III) Pomodoro technique
Time to start executing on the new list. Don’t freak out if the previous steps took some time. You will get it back 10X, at the very least.
Set a timer for 25 minutes and start working. For the 25 minutes turn of everything you don’t need for the task. No email, no facebook, no texts and no phone calls. After 25 minutes, take a five minute break. Stand up, stretch, go to the toilet. Whatever you want. For five minutes. Then back to the task.
Try keeping track of how many sprints you can do in a day. It will change your perception of time and productivity.
Closing thoughts and next steps
These are the exact tactics and tools I used to get out of time debt and overwhelm. It helped me sleep better and laugh more. I stopped checking email on nights and weekends. And I got more done than I ever thought was possible.
Now it’s your turn. Try these three steps and report your results in the comments.
Today my happiness is 4,06, and in 30 days I expect it to by higher.
Entrepreneur and best-selling author James Altucher wrote an article about how to be the luckiest guy in the world. First, I recommend you go read it. It’s way better than this post.
James tells us that, to be happy and successful, you have to practice four disciplines on a daily basis:
James practice those things every day. When he do get those things right he starts million-dollar businesses, writes books and launches podcasts. That’s what I want to do as well. So I’ll shamelessly copy him.
I will follow James practice but modify it a bit. I have at least one exercise for each area of improvement.
Physical – I will engage in some kind of workout every day. If I’m sick/hungover I’ll do a lighter workout or stretching. The majority of the workouts will be weightlifting or kick-boxing. I will also follow a high-protein diet.
Light or heavy work out every day.
High protein diet.
Emotional – This is the one I find hardest to systematize. Most of the exercises consists of reactions to other peoples behavior. It is also by far the scariest one. But I will do my best. Lets break it down.
Be honest – I will not lie. Not even white lies to avoid uncomfortable situations. As long as I’m not mean to other people.
Remove energy drainers – I will not spend time whith people who are draining my energy.
Not make explanations. This might be a weird one. For example, if someone asks me if I want to have dinner I would reply “Sorry, can’t tonight.”. Instead of “Sorry, have to work.”.
Mental – This is a new one to me. I’m excited to try it out. It will be interesting to write down bad ideas to practice not to censure oneself. I heard somewhere that the key to great ideas are bad ideas. The ratio is constant, more bad ideas => more great ideas.
Write down at least 10 ideas every day.
Spiritual – I’ve done meditation on and off for the last year. And I’ve also done exercises to be more grateful. This is a big one. You can’t be happy if you’re not grateful. And you can’t be grateful if you don’t practice it. Atleast I can’t.
Meditation – I will meditate for minimum 10 minutes every day.
Being Thankful – I will write down three things I’m thankful for every day and visualize them.
looking forward – I will write down three things I’m looking forward to every morning. (Inspired by The Five Minute Journal)
I will do my daily practice first thing in the day. Some days I might change it around but this is what my standard morning would look like.
7 wake up + breakfast
8 work out + shower
9.40 Write three things I’m grateful for and visualize them.
9.50 Write three things I’m looking forward to and visualize them.
10.00 Write down at least 10 ideas.
Who doesn’t like a good before-and-after-photo? I want to be able to track the results.
Happiness is a complicated concept. Trying to define the term is better suited for another blog post or book. I’ll use The Oxford Happiness Questionaire to measure my happiness before and after the 30 days. And as a complement I will journal about the experience. Happiness 28/8 2016: 4,06
Ideas – I will write down all the ideas and a note on how i felt doing it. I don’t think the point is to improve the quality of the ideas, but rather becoming better at generating ideas.
Physical – I will log all my workouts and performance.
I’ll use some software to keep track of everything. You can use all the tools for free, except maybe the gym.
Evernote – For writing journals and notes.
Habits – Easy way to track habits
Calm – Meditation timer
Tarabrach.com – guided meditations
Gym – For working out.
FitNotes – For tracking workouts.
If you want to copy this and try it out I recommend adding one of the habits at a time. I do most of these things on a weekly or daily basis already. So for me it’s an incremental increase. I would suggest starting with a daily meditation practice. Five or ten minutes a day. Do it for ten days.
I will be posting about my progress during these 30 days and summarize everything when I’m done.
I did not know that I was average. Not until my best friend just told me.
We were on the phone, talking for hours. We used to do that often. Sometimes we could be quiet for minutes without it being weird at all. Maybe we watched a clip on youtube. Then we started talking about a mutual friend.
“How’s Michael?”. I asked.
“He’s fine. Studying at an average school, getting average grades. Pretty much like you I guess.”
That sentence stuck with me for years. I always felt like I deserved better results than I got. I knew that if I applied myself I could accomplish great things. Ironically, that became an excuse for not doing my best. I would tell myself “I could probably get the highest grade in this course”. And then I did not. I did OK. I did more than OK sometimes. But rarely did I do my best.
I had to face reality. After that phone call I became obsessed with doing my best.
I think that working towards realizing your potential is essential if you want to live a good life. “Realize your potential” sounds a bit cheesy. It’s not very clear. This is what I mean when I say realize your potential:
Get accepted to your dream education
Get your dream job
Write a book
Start a business
Learn to play guitar
Learn to dance salsa
If I could give my 16-year old self some advice.
You can’t use your potential for anything except getting better. What you can do does not matter. No one cares. Work hard and smart. Don’t be scared of doing your best. Then you will become confident, happy and tall.