Shorts are small essays that I publish every day. They usually only take 2-5 minutes to read, and touch on all the same topics that my blog covers.

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No More To-Do Lists

The to-do list is a staple of modern productivity.

But it shouldn’t be.

To-do lists are endless. The number of tasks increases faster than we can ever cross them off.

And yet, life goes on without them done.

There are several better alternatives.

Don’t write everything down: important items keep coming back—if they don’t, they aren’t worth of being there in the first place.

Focus on one thing per day: most productivity advice focuses on accomplishing more in a limited period of time. The more important problem is figuring out which work to do in the first place.

Choosing a single focus each day gives more emphasis to the latter question. It asks: if I could only do one thing today, what would it be? The highest priority task will always bring better results than several low priority ones.

Set a time and place: studies show that planning a time and place makes us much more likely to do that task.

In the modern world, this means one thing: use your calendar.

Your calendar replaces your to-do list, or at least takes items from your list and makes them a reality.

So, what should you be doing instead of keeping a to-do list?

  1. Rely on your brain to resurface the important ideas
  2. Choose one thing to do each day
  3. Set a time and place for each thing on your calendar

Losing the to-do list is the key to working on high-value tasks, and avoiding the disappointment of an endless to-do list.

Ship 30 for 30: Round 4

Ship 30 for 30 is a cohort-based course.

Every month the course starts fresh. A new, motivated, talented group of people start writing atomic essays for 30 days straight.

And that is why I’m joining for a fourth time.

Don’t get me wrong—social proof works.

The group pressure to ship every day has encouraged me to write more in the last few months than I ever have.

But the real value—that comes from the people.

The motivation boost when someone replies or enjoys your essay.

The camaraderie in pushing through the tougher mornings and the resistance to writing.

The inspiration from exceptional essays and new twists.

And of course, the workshops and learning that happen each cohort.

I’m joining yet another cohort of Ship 30 for 30 for the people.

If you want to join me, you can sign up here and get $20 off.

Getting Stuck

The feeling of being stuck sucks.

It’s a place where things happen out of habit and routine, but nothing feels quite right.

It can take on an almost surreal quality. Things are happening around you, but it feels like you’re an outsider observing your own life.

Your actions are your own, but you seem to have little input on initiating them.

Procrastination becomes the norm. Days and weeks slip by.

It’s a hard place to be. It’s harder to figure out why or how you got there. Thinking about it makes it more frustrating.

Here are some ways to help break the spell:

Get outside: a little sunshine, wind, or rain always helps make you feel alive.

Meditate: meditation takes work, and time. As the saying goes: “if you can’t find 20 minutes, you need 2 hours.”

Change your body: Tony Robbins is fond of saying “to change your mind, change your body.” Find a way to exercise. Change up your routine. Go for a run outside. Use your body to change your mind.

Change your environment: take that weekend trip you’ve been thinking about. Go visit your parents. Spend a day with the friend you haven’t seen in a while. Change up your routine and environment to disrupt your own patterns.

Act: “it’s easier to act your way into thinking, than to think your way into acting.” In other words, start doing something, and often the right path will become clear.

Getting stuck is never fun, and everyone has a different way to get through it.

But the faster you can change your circumstances, the faster you’ll find yourself unstuck.

Finding Solutions

It’s easy to point out problems. 

But it’s far less useful than providing solutions.

Problems are everywhere. Pointing them out is helpful when they aren’t obvious. It’s annoying when they are.

Pointing out problems costs nothing. At worst, the problem isn’t as big as you think it is. 

Finding solutions is hard.

There are lots of options, many of which need time, money, and resources to solve. 

There’s an opportunity cost to choosing one over the other. 

Choosing the best solution requires deep thinking. Making that choice might put your reputation on the line.

Finding solutions is hard.

Which is exactly why it's so valuable.

Finding Weakness

We spend a lot of time attempting to identify personal strengths. We should spend more identifying our weaknesses.

It’s difficult to know what your strengths are. Relative to what?

If you are the best in your class at math, you can’t say with any confidence that you’re a math genius. You may be in the worst math school in the country, which may in turn be poor compared to other countries.

However, if you are the worst in your class at math, you can say with some confidence that you are weak at math. Of course, context matters; perhaps you are in the best class, in the best school in the world for math.

But the fact remains: you know with certainty that there are others better.

There is another reason we should seek to find our weaknesses more than our strengths: we are wired to believe we are better than we are.

It is difficult to admit when you are bad at something.

It is not difficult to admit you are good at something.

Being biased in this way helps make us happier. But it also makes it harder to identify things we are bad at.

Of course, once you manage to identify a weakness, you must decide what to do with it.

This is also difficult.

You could choose to improve it. This will be easier for some things than others. It may be your only option, if you need the skill and you lack money, time, or access to others to do it for you.

You could choose to outsource it, or hire someone else to cover that weakness. This requires money, but is often the better choice. Even if you improve a weakness, it’s unlikely that you will become as good as someone else.

Before you can make those decisions, however, you must first know your weaknesses.

To find them, look for objective measures.

Do you know others that are better? How many? Can you ask others who are less biased what you are weak at? What consistent feedback have you received across your career?

Finding your weaknesses is a difficult task. But it is often easier than finding strengths. And more valuable.