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Why The Law Of Attraction Is Bullshit (And What To Do Instead)

I live in Chiang Mai, Thailand at the moment, and there is a whole lot of meditation, yoga, alternative medicine, etc.

Some of that stuff is really great, but there is one massive, extremely dangerous misconception which needs to be rectified.

I have heard way to many people talk about “The Law of Attraction” – otherwise known as “the secret” – in a way that raises all kinds of red flags. A quick formal definition (thanks Google):

The law of attraction is the name given to the maxim “like attracts like” which in New Thought philosophy is used to sum up the idea that by focusing on positive or negative thoughts a person brings positive or negative experiences into their life.

That definition, in itself, is profoundly useful and accurate. Focusing and visualizing positive or negative experiences DOES have the (very obvious and rational effect) of causing correspondingly good or bad things to happen.

Positive Example: If you constantly visualize your goals and ideal self, then you will automatically recognize opportunities to progress towards each, and also catch yourself doing things that are inconsistent with them. (See Cognitive Dissonance).

Negative Example: If you are obsessed with the idea that your significant other is going to leave you, then you will start to inadvertently sabotage your relationship and basically guarantee that it will indeed happen sooner or later.

Great. Use this effect, and use it well.

But here’s the problem…

Too many people misinterpret this principle as some magical, mystical principle which REPLACES taking intentional action to actually achieve what you want.

Yes thinking about it is cool, but you actually have to DO something to make it happen. In. Every. Single. Situation. Even if it’s just recognizing and pursuing an opportunity that “the universe has magically manifested” for you.

I have a really good friend who talks a lot about all the things she wants. I want this relationship, that job, this house, blah blah blah. And she writes about it, visualizes it, and does all the “secrets.” That’s all great, but what I have constantly told her is that you can’t just stop there, you also have take action. And I was listening to a Darren Hardy talk the other day and he framed it really well:

(Paraphrasing) You can’t just think about what you want, you have to understand who you need to be to achieve what you want.

(Thanks to Hugh Bayati for sending me this talk.)

 Go ahead and visualize your perfect spouse every night, and journal about them too…

But if you are not working on YOURSELF to become the kind of person you have to be to attract that kind of person (or client, or opportunity, or income) then it doesn’t matter how much you visualize it, even if you find the opportunity you will be unable to take advantage of it.

If you have the HABITS of a minimum wage employee, then it doesn’t matter how much you wait for the universe to “manifest” for you that 7-figure income… It just ain’t gonna happen.

Ok. Enough ranting about what you shouldn’t do. Let’s talk about what works really well.

Whenever I have a list of things I want to work on, or goals I want to achieve, I always focus on those involved with working on myself first. After all, I truly believe that investing yourself pays off infinitely more than any other investment you could possibly make.

Whether that is in the form of education, correcting some negative thinking patterns, taking care of your health, etc, it is all essential. Your body, your mind, and your character are the foundation for everything else.

Here’s a confession: I don’t like spending money. I grew up pretty poor, so I am pretty frugal.

But I literally spent $87.68 just yesterday on books I will read. I will be reviewing a course about programming and growth hacking that I think I will pick up later today for $149. Over 50% of my current expenses involve self-education, increasing my productivity, or improving my health.

Meanwhile I prefer to cook my own food because it saves a few bucks (and it’s healthier).

Whatever amount of time, energy, money, and social capital you have to invest… always invest as much of it as possible in your foundation – growth, health, and integrity.

If you do this, then…

  • When your dream client shows up, you are professional and skilled enough to work with them (and do a great job).

  • When you have to pull an all-nighter to land a partnership with your dream mentor, you have the physical energy and emotional fortitude to handle it.

  • When that woman you’ve “been looking for all your life” shows up, you can attract her and make her happy in a relationship (versus her thinking you are just another lazy/arrogant/boring/immature loser).

I like concrete action steps, so here are a few:

  1. What is your biggest psychological hangup, and how can you work on it?

  2. Are you currently living the way that the kind of person who achieves everything you want in life has to live? If you want to invent the next Tesla, then either start working as much as Elon Musk or change your vision.

  3. Instead of thinking only about the things that you want, consider who do you want to be? Don’t just talk about how you want to give a Ted Talk next year, but work to develop the confidence, connections, and charisma required to do so.

The most important question:

Who is that person in your mind who is achieving all of your hopes and dreams, and what is the difference between you as you currently are, and that person?

– – –

Mentioned in this post:

The Law of Attraction

Darren Hardy on Success

– My good buddy Hugh Bayati

Elon Musk, Hard Work and Little Sleep

Now that you know you can’t just wait for good things to happen with you, check out my other post on how to make things happenWillpower is Overrated

One Habit To Transform Your Life: Read One Book Per Week

Apologies for the cliché title, but if I made a list of things that I personally find transformative… learning, and especially reading, would be towards the top. It’s a true game-changer.

I have always been a voracious reader. In fact I remember how often I would get called a nerd in school by other kids for reading, or yelled at by teachers when I would get bored, stop listening, and pull out a book in class.

I mean if you’re not going to teach me I might as well teach myself right?

No! Bad student! (Read: soulless mind-slave). Yay for social pressures to stop doing positive things! 🙂

Nevertheless, I still read a ton to this day. I have found the simple act of grabbing a good book when you want to learn about a topic or acquire a skill is transformative. And I use that word without exaggeration.

Isn’t it amazing to think that knowledge on almost any topic is just a book away?

For any topic you could ever want to learn about, there is someone who has studied the topic for decades and condensed all of it into a few hundred pages.

Simply put… it’s really freaking cool when you think about it.

Recently a couple friends of mine started the habit of reading 1 book per week, or 50 books in a year. This wasn’t a long way from what I was already doing, so I decided to jump on that bandwagon!

Here’s my current reading list that I am building out for this year:

Titles

The Power of Vulnerability

Play: How it shapes the brain and opens imagination

59 Seconds

80/20 Sales and Marketing

Breakthrough Rapid Reading

Influence (audiobook)

Personal Development for Smart People

Rich Dad’s Cashflow Quadrant

Ask

Never Eat Alone

Content Machine

Charisma on Command

Little Red Book of Selling + The Secrets of Consulting

Cashvertising

Get Slightly Famous

The One Thing

This Book Will Teach You How to Write Better

Problogger: 6 Figure Blog

The Ultimate Sales Machine

Traction: A Startup Guide to Getting Customers

Brain Rules

Profit First

The Psychology of Selling

Bold: How to Go Big

Losing My Virginity

Execution IS the Strategy: How Leaders Achieve Maximum Results in Minimum Time

The Power of Forgetting: Six Essential Skills to Clear Out Brain Clutter and Become the Sharpest, Smartest You

Fooled by Randomness

Book Yourself Solid Illustrated: The Fastest, Easiest, and Most Reliable System for Getting More Clients Than You Can Handle Even if You Hate Marketing and Selling

Antifragile

Are You Fully Charged?: The 3 Keys to Energizing Your Work and Life

Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World

Speak to Win: How to Present with Power in Any Situation

The 48 Laws of Power

The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

The Gifts of Imperfection

Daring Greatly

Do More Great Work

I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn’t)

(I actually have a full list of books I want to read that is several hundred titles long)

In just a few months, it’s exciting that I will have learned a ton about…

  • Work-life balance
  • Psychology
  • Relationships
  • Marketing
  • Brand-building
  • Influence and charisma
  • Networking
  • Finance
  • Productivity/efficiency

In fact (geek out moment here) I often find myself getting overly excited about books…

“Oh! I can learn more about evolutionary psychology with this book! And how to read facial expressions with this one…Oh cool and I always wanted to learn a bit more about a Buddhist monk’s view on quantum entanglement!” (real examples)

And then I proceed to buy dozens of books that I will never have the time to read.

This is one of the reasons why I think it will be helpful to be more intentional about this goal. I tend to read random books at random times, but this way I will be able to track how much I read, and WHAT I am actually reading.

I’ve created the above list based on which books (out of the list several hundred long) best relate to my current goals.

“What gets measured gets managed.” – Peter Drucker

Great strategies to maximize this goal:

  1. Read 30 minutes every morning and evening (AWESOME way to start and end the day and automatically knocks out 1 book per week)
  2. Listen to audiobooks at 1.5x speed (or 2x if you can handle it) – Thanks Kurt for this suggestion.
  3. Create an Evernote notebook called “Book Notes” and create one note for each book to jot down ideas and realizations.
  4. Make sure to take action on at least 1 thing from every book that you read – it’s not just what you know but what you DO with what you know! (The Evernote tip makes this a lot easier)

 

 One final thought:

I have a weird fear I will run out of things to read/learn some day. The thought is that yes you can learn the basics of everything in a book, and most intermediate level topics, but if you want to learn about advanced particle physics or something, the list of available topics is quite a bit smaller.

Then you have to start picking up textbooks to read. And that just sucks…

What are YOU reading this year?

If you DON’T have a reading list, what is something that you can drop to find an extra 30 minutes per day to automatically have the time to read dozens of books this year

– – –

Not only am I trying to read every day, but I’m trying to *write* every day as well! Check out my newest habit here: How to Create New Habits (And Watch Me Create One Live!)

A really nice Huffington Post article on How to Read a Book a Week

3 Steps To Making A Great Online Course (And The 3 Mistakes That Will Stop You)

[Read all the way to the end for a chance to get a free tool you can use to validate your course ideas!]

As the “online course guy”…I am a big fan out courses (obviously). I was never a fan of old-school traditional educational systems, so I think it is fantastic that education is becoming more open-source and flexible. And it’s a great income opportunity for anyone who wants to share their expertise with other people!

That being said…

It can be quite difficult.

I say this from my experience with creating my first courses, and also having worked with dozens of people, helping them in this capacity. When you don’t know what you are doing, it’s incredibly challenging not feel overwhelmed by the process or insecure about what you end up creating. And these two feelings interact and exacerbate each other. Most people find themselves asking…

What if people don’t like what I am making?

Do I really know as much about this as I think I do?

What if it’s not good enough?

How do I know if this is actually going to sell?

So today I want to target 3 of the biggest obstacles that people encounter with online course creation:

  1. Validation – how do you know this course will succeed?
  2. Creation – how do you turn your knowledge into a product?
  3. Confidence and credibility – who are you to teach somebody?


Obstacle #1 – Validation

A typical mistake many entrepreneurs make is to focus on creating something solely because they want to make it. This causes problems for many obvious reasons, but even more so with online courses.

Sometimes it takes a visionary entrepreneur to create some innovative product or service that the average person in their market would never come up with, but this is almost never the case when it comes to education.

That is akin to telling the person who wants to learn about marketing – “I am going to teach you about chemistry instead because I like it more than marketing, and I am going to teach it in the way that I want to teach it rather than the way you want to learn it.”

Of course you could find someone who wanted to learn about chemistry as well, but you can see the potential problems you would run into with this backwards approach.

Rather than going out and building what you want, instead go discover and build what your market wants.

If you want to build a course for local business owners over 30 from Kansas, there is a good chance there is a common desire to learn a particular skill.

This is especially important because of the effect that some refer to as the “Expert Fallacy”.

This refers to the tendency of an expert to forget what it was like NOT to be an expert and to inadvertently assume others know more than they really do about that topic. So ironically enough, the expert will have a tendency to make content that is totally inappropriate for the people they are trying so hard to teach and help!

Just picture that genius professor you had in college who was actually one of your worst teachers.

Here are some simple steps to get started validating your ideas for your content and online courses:

1. Scout out what already exists:
If there are no current products on your topic, that is bad! Is there are successful products on your topic, great!

Just start looking for…

  • An innovative angle (example: I could easily write another article on this same topic, merely picking a DIFFERENT 3 steps to focus on to create online courses)
  • How you can create a product in the same area that targets a different market (example: marketing FOR ice cream shops)
  • What is the feedback on the product? What do people say it is missing? (Amazon reviews and blog comments are particularly good for this)

2. Pick your target market before your idea
It is much easier to create a product to meet the needs of a market than to find a market for the product you just created. If you create a product FOR the people you are trying to serve, exactly tailoring it to their questions and needs, that is one of the best ways to guarantee success.

So rather than deciding that you want to make a course on Facebook ads, instead realize that you are actually interested in helping local businesses with their online marketing. Now you have your target to reverse engineer the actual product by…

3. TALK to your target market
This may seem obvious, but almost no one does it. If you ask a hundred local business owners about what they want to learn about online marketing, you are almost certainly going to get some interesting answers. And the best part is that you will have a list of people to circle back to later once you create the product, and if you are creating a  product that is basically tailored to their exact needs…how can they turn that down?!

Here are some ways to get started speaking with your market:

  • Create a one question survey, and send to any email list or audience you have asking “If you had 15 minutes of my time what would you want to learn about?”
  • Create a list of 20 people you personally know in your target market, and email them this same question
  • Once you are starting to get a general idea of the direction you want to go, start posting on social media with “I am starting a free newsletter on [your general topic] message me if you want to be included!”
  • Each of these begins your list-building for this new idea, then you start polling the list you are building with questions that get more and more specific. “What would you want to learn about in 15 minutes?” becomes “what would you want to learn about guest blogging?” which becomes “what would you want to learn about sending cold emails to land guest posts?”

Obstacle #2 – Creation

Now you have some ideas about your topic, how do you actually CREATE this beast? I’ll go through your major options and what they are best suited for.

1. Recording your screen and slides

This is the bread and butter of most online courses nowadays. Create some sexy powerpoint slides, start recording your screen (with a tool like Camtasia or Screenflow) and bam! You are now creating your first content for your course.

This is best suited for talking about major concepts during core sections of your course. A good principle is to seek to “show don’t tell” whenever possible, so focus on using this for more abstract points. For anything that can be made more tangible you should use…

2. Recording your screen for walkthroughs

If I AM going to make a course on facebook advertising, then it would make sense to use the above approach to introduce the broad concepts, but then switch to recorded walkthroughs of EXACT strategies of setting up ad campaigns, finding facebook groups to target, etc.

The act of showing this rather than just abstractly talking about it on a slide is clearer and more effective, although combining both will drive the point home even more!

3. Talking head approach

Talking head style

I am a fan of this style, but it also a total pain in the ass! It can look amazing once you create a simple setup for it, but it inevitably takes much longer – you are more likely to run into problems (since now you have to start worrying about external cameras, lighting, how things LOOK as well as sound, etc.) and editing the content also usually takes longer.

On the other hand, it looks much more professional, and there are ways to do it with minimal skill and equipment. Due to the increased complexity and time involvement I typically recommend reserving this for course introductions, sales videos, etc. while relying on screen recordings (mix of slides and walkthroughs) for the core material.

4. Animation

There are some great fiverr.com gigs that allow you to cheaply create logo animations to spice things up with your content, and even some that can create customized promotional videos for you. This one is totally optional and should probably be avoided for your first course for the sake of simplicity.

5. Written material

Including some PDFs with your course is KEY. It adds an additional level of professionalism, and helps you incorporate multiple modalities to drive home important points.

Never underestimate the value of a pretty checklist which summaries some of the main points from your videos!

You can also find plenty of designers on fiverr.com to turn a word doc into a professional PDF handout for around $10 each.

Obstacle # 3 – Confidence and Credibility

There is a definition of expert that I love (although I forget the origin): an expert just means a person who knows more about a given topic than the person they are speaking with.

Think about it.

There are plenty of first-grade school teachers who are extremely mediocre at math, and yet they are fairly the “math expert” as far as those 6-year-olds are concerned.

Compare the teacher with an actual mathematician, and the “expert” status is lost.

The most productive way I have found to maintain confidence is to:

1. Always target a market who knows less about the topic than I do. Some people will inevitably know more than me out there in the world about ANY topic. But that’s fine, I am never targeting them.

2. Create insanely great content. I think people naturally feel confident when they do their best. After all, if you are doing your “best”, then literally by definition you can do no better! On top of this, I have found that students and customers care much more (on average) about quality rather than “official” credibility. As I mentioned above, often the more knowledgeable person with a PhD or MBA will actually be a worse teacher than a dynamic kid who just graduated college who puts in 110% effort.

So just remember…

1. VALIDATE your ideas

2. CREATE awesome content

3. CREDIBILITY comes from knowing more than your audience – that’s it!

Still not 100% your course will succeed? That’s why I built you the….
VALIDATION TRACKER!
Download This Free Validation Tracker To Easily Evaluate Your Idea.

How to Develop True Confidence

Belive You Can and You're Halfway There

Often people perceive me as very “confident.” Over the past two years, I have frequently been on stage in front of large crowds (even once in my underwear), I flew across the globe with $300 in my bank account to start a business, I have chatted with world-famous entrepreneurs, and I’ve even been on television. I put myself out there over and over daily. 

What’s my secret?

It’s surprisingly simple. The truth is that I have no feeling of superiority, nor of confidence, and yet I am confident. What people tend to interpret as confidence (or sometimes arrogance) and what allows me to take risks is not an overwhelming sensation of how I am better than others, or how I will always succeed – the simple secret is: 

I leave my fears at the door.

I made a pact with myself that I will never make a decision or take an action out of fear. Everyone feels fear of course, but we all also have the option of compartmentalizing it, of realizing it for what it is: 

A feeling, not reality. 

There is no such thing as fear in the world. Literally, by definition, it is all in your head, and yet it can become an extremely powerful force if you empower it and fail to recognize it as separate from yourself.

Instead, before every significant life-altering moment, when fear is most likely to rear its ugly head, I reflect on my pact. I feel the fear as a sensation…and then I let it go. This doesn’t mean I no longer feel it, but rather I don’t hold it as part of my perspective. I ask myself “what would I do/say/decide if I felt no fear?” And then I simply do it.

How do you mentally depict the concept of a “confident person”? Likely charismatic and articulate, assertive and maybe even a bit arrogant. In western culture there is a massive emphasis on confident independence. Just look at any movie hero – a charming and attractive character, unyielding in belief and stubbornly relentless in action.

But we’ve gotten it all wrong.

Somehow the word “confidence” has become an elusive trait, reserved for the ulta-successful and almost analogous to a slight sense of arrogance. Why? 

When we think of a confident person performing a confident action, whether that is giving a polarizing political speech or walking up to that dime across the street, what we are amazed by is not any sense of superiority, but rather the lack of limiting belief that person has.

The truth is that anyone willing to admit it would agree that we waste an incredible amount of mental energy inflicting ourselves with self-imposed limitations. And rather than confidence being some rare trait only applicable to politicians, business owners or celebrities, I would argue that confidence is a default trait in all of us.

It is not something to be developed. It is not a positive trait to be added to our neutral selves, but instead the simple removal of sabotaging fears and limiting beliefs. 

It is only the fear of public speaking that prevents most people from giving confident speeches. It is merely the limiting belief that “I am not good enough” or “I will fail. I will embarrass myself” that prevents us from confidently asking him/her out…or confidently asking for a raise…or confidently starting a business.

how to develop true confidence

Most of us think confidence is reserved for someone else. For someone more talented, rich, successful, or good looking.  While competence at something does indeed increase confidence, even this is not a true precursor to confidence. Being skillful makes it easier to ignore limiting beliefs, but just consider the 5-year old performer at that school talent show, who is utterly terrible but adorable in his ignorance of that fact, belting out an energetic (and creatively altered) rendition of Hot Crossed Buns. Alternatively, consider the prevalence of suicide at the most prestigious schools, and among celebrities. Neither skill nor fame correlates with confidence or self worth.

There is only one way to develop true confidence: to eliminate limiting beliefs and to make the DECISION to never make decisions based on fear.

Click here to get my Master Your ADHD Brain ebook for FREE and hack your brain!

New Workflow To 10x Your Productivity

Being in the zone is awesome. In fact, you are actually 500% more effective when you are in a state of flow. The difficulty? Very few people set themselves up to ever work in this state. Part of the reason is environmental, the subject of another day’s post, but the other necessary ingredient is a method of organization and a workflow that is conducive to frequently entering this state.

Awesome focus and productivity

When I was in school, I was one of those crumpled-paper-stuffed-into-my-backpack types. Now that I wear my big boy entrepreneur pants, I’m at the other end of the spectrum. I got sick of what inevitably happens when you aren’t organized and prioritized. Tell me if this sounds familiar:

  • Inbox 0? Try inbox 100
  • You occasionally stumble across emails or notes with information or opportunities that you “missed” because you found them too late
  • A typical day involves switching between half a dozen projects and sub-projects
  • There’s a constant background stress that you are forgetting something important

The problem with typical to-do lists is that the list quickly becomes overwhelmed when you set 3 items for the day and at the end of the day your list has turned into 10. This creates the sensation that you have gotten nowhere and are not doing what is most important. If you manage to avoid that problem then you end up failing to capture ideas and new tasks, and you  won’t have them on hand when you need them.

Personally, I was sick of it. So, upon the recommendation of a friend I picked up Getting Things Done by David Allen. Now I’m going to be honest…it was a terrible book. I have absolutely no idea why it is wildly popular. I couldn’t even get through it! BUT…the overarching point and method (which is extremely simple as you will see below) is golden, even if the book is lacking in the application department.

Warning: if you are lazy you should stop reading here, because you won’t end up following through with this. The system is relatively complex and will take a few hours to set up. You might even have to re-read this post a couple times to get it down. But once you do, it’s easy to maintain and you will end up saving tons of time and see an immediate increase in your productivity.

Summary of Getting Things Done by David Allen

The brain is a beautiful thing, but in some ways it has consistent, systematic failures.  One major shortcoming that kills organization and productivity is how we have a terrible time remembering things at the right time. Instead, we worry, ponder, and have our thoughts race at 3am.

This kind of stress is most often a result of open loops which have 3 causes:

  1. A lack of clarity of intended outcomes
  2. Not knowing the next step for important projects
  3. Not having reminders of the outcome and immediate next step in a system that you trust

The Five Steps To Solve This Problem:

  1. Capture – record thoughts, ideas, and initiatives for all projects, large and small
  2. Clarify – understand what it means and how important it is
  3. Organize – put it where it belongs
  4. Reflect – review frequently
  5. Engage – actually do the task

For you visual learners out there… here’s a pretty flowchart!

GTD+workflow+diagram

If your organizational system is functioning correctly, it should always….

  1. Allow you to have the relevant information on hand
  2. Indicate what you should be working on at any given point in time

If your system does not have these properties you will inevitably lose track of that important note to send an email to your team at 1pm, or you spend all day working just to realize at 10pm you completely forgot to do that main project you originally intended to do.
Pretty simple right? The book doesn’t really give you a way to implement this process, so I’ve created my own system that I wanted to share with you which will completely transform the way you work.

Through months of trial and error I’ve created a relatively advanced organizational system and workflow which has allowed me to be more productive than ever. With this system you will be able to manage dozens of projects and initiatives without letting a single thing fall through the cracks, no matter how small. You will also always know what is most important, and what you should be working on, in any context or situation. Sound good? Great – let’s get started!

The Formula of Super-Achievers

The key to any organizational system is prioritization. This involves always doing the most important things, but even more importantly never doing the less important things. Your first reaction to that sentence might be to disagree with it, but just stop and ask yourself why you would ever do something that is not the #1 most important thing for any given moment! For more on this topic, listen to this great talk.

To summarize the formula of Super-Achievers, and to create a framework of prioritization we will be using later, we will focus on 6 principles:
1. STOP doing more THINGS (this is what fools do)
2. Master the FEW that MATTER (usually 2-3 things in any time period)
3. Out-focus everyone else
4. Outlast everyone else through unbreakable consistency
5. Measure progress
6. FAIL more than everyone else (through failing often and hard you will get the biggest breakthroughs)

We want our system to incorporate these ideas, but in reality few people are able to pick 2-3 things out of everything that they do, while dropping everything else. So instead, we will use a system that allows for focus on the few things that matter, without having to worry about those small odds and ends that will inevitably derail us.

This means our setup should always allow us to knock out those big, important, audacious projects, while keeping track of those less important tangents and distractions so that we can deal with them later.

Creating This System For Yourself

1. We will be using a very specific setup on the Evernote platform. The first step is to set up and account if you don’t already have one, then delete all unnecessary tags and stacks. Chances are you have probably used Evernote off and on but in a relatively disorganized way. I was in the same boat until two months ago.

2. Create a “GTD” stack with the following notebooks: Projects, Processing, and Completed. Also a shared notebook for your team if applicable. It looks like this:

Evernote workflow

3. Create a separate “Filing” stack with reference material for projects, learning, etc. I also keep a notebook for notes with important points from all books that I read. It should look something like…

Screen Shot 2015-04-01 at 5.50.51 PM

4. Create a note for every major project (business and personal) and add to the Projects notebook.

A note on what qualifies as a “project”:
I’ve played around with a couple versions of this system, and one source recommended creating a project note for basically everything – every project and every step of the project. A note for “redesign blog” and “go to store to pick up toilet paper”. You can quickly see the potential problems you would run into – you’ll have 50-100 of these and there is no difference in prioritization between toilet paper and the next major step in your business! This is a total nightmare and best to be avoided.

Instead, we will be creating notes for larger projects, and a few categorical notes which compile less important items which still need to be done. Some examples of current project notes I have are: List of blog posts to write, Plan and run a webinar, Grow my email list, Product launch project, Online course marketing initiatives, Coaching, etc. Each of these notes should begin with an overarching description of a goal or desired outcome for the project (ex: get 3 new coaching clients) and include at least the first step you should be taking.

Finally, create an “Errands” project note that you can throw in the random odds and ends that are conducive to batching, such as shopping, filling up your tires, going by the post office, etc.

5. Create the following notes to add to the Processing notebook:

Screening: This note is for quickly jotting down everything when you are in a rush. Business ideas, to-dos, etc. You will be regularly sorting this, but having an initial place to jot everything down is essential.

Someday: This is where you store things you want to do “someday” but that are not CRITICAL right now. Be very harsh with what is important at this moment, otherwise you will be overwhelmed with too many projects.

Routine: This note is where you store your morning and evening routines, your work routine, as well as your notes on the workflow of this

Priorities: Create a list of ALL your projects. Every. Last. One. Then pick the top 2-3 that are most important this week. It’s difficult but extremely important to do this, and repeat this exercise at the beginning of every week, because often your priorities will shift from week to week.

GTD Method: It’s important to remember to screen your setup regularly to keep it optimized (thoroughly described below). As you are reading this post, take notes on the step by step process of this system, and put it in a note to review once/week for the time being. This way you remember how it works, keep it squeaky clean, and won’t lose track of something important, like forgetting that you even have a Screening note for example. Here is a screenshot of the most important part of my GTD Method note which I use as a checklist during a quick weekly review (to be discussed shortly):

GTD Methodology

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next step…

6. Create the following tag breakdown:

Evernote tag breakdown for GTD system

You can copy the above structure exactly, with the exception of the “.Who” and “.Projects” categories. For these you will want to customize this for your own team and list of overarching categories of projects, such as youtube, blog, product development, course creation, etc. There might be multiple youtube projects, for example, which would all be listed under the “youtube” tag when you click on it.

Note: pay close attention to the exact way the tags are entered. The periods are intentional – they make the tag structure show up at the top of your tag list and in a particular order.

This tag structure is one of the fundamental parts of this system. This breakdown allows you the flexibility to choose what is most important to work on at any moment. If you are at the office, what do you need to be working on? If you have only 15 minutes before a meeting, what should you be doing? Etc.

7. Go through and tag all project notes you’ve made with the appropriate identifiers from the tag list above – when, where, relevant project, etc.

Integrating with Google Calendar:

So far everything that we have set up is great for prioritization and organization, but doesn’t capture events that happen at specific times. For those team meetings, business lunches, and webinar calls we incorporate something like Google Calendar. You can also use this to map out specific blocks of time to have uninterrupted focus on a larger project.

Other optional integrations:

Todoist – an alternative to Google Calendar if you favor list formats over calendar formats

Lifetick – good option for more advanced long-term goals and planning if you’d like something more intricate than a prioritization note

Typical Work Day With This Organization:

Preparation is everything. The night before, I always do a quick review of where I am with my current priorities and which project I want to focus on the next day, as well as any scheduled appointments or interviews I might have.

On the day of work, the first thing I always do is a very specific morning routine – the importance of which will be the topic of another post. Upon sitting down to work…

1. What priorities did I set the night before?

2. How much time do I have until my next interruption? This could be lunch, a phone call, or an appointment.  This will often determine which initial list of tasks you should be looking at. If you’ve only got an hour, you probably shouldn’t be sitting down to write 2,000 words for your next book, as that requires uninterrupted flow.

3. Are there any other special circumstances in the moment? Is there a person at hand I normally don’t have access to, or am I in a location that I need to do certain things in?

4. Pick the applicable framework and get to work!

5. After lunch, process email – all emails should either be archived, responded to (if less than 2 minutes), or added to your “Screening” or “Someday” notes.

As you work – things will naturally come up. Someone asks you for a quick favor, you remember you need to grab milk, or maybe there’s a nasty product review you find that you need to address. Anything. If this new item takes less than 2 minutes, do it right away. If it takes longer and is not related to your chosen priorities for the day, immediately add it to your “Screening” note and don’t look at it again until the end of the day. This takes some practice and self-control, but I promise you will be more productive if you do this.

Towards the end of the day – review your “Screening” list (process below) and set the priorities for the next day, making sure to consider the context you will be working under the next day, in terms of location, interruptions, appointments, etc. Don’t pick a priority that will clash with your day. Set a daily reminder in your phone or calendar to do this step. This will help you add items to this list and immediately move on, because you will have the confidence that they won’t be forgotten. There are no “open loops”.

Maintaining The System:

Like any system, this one requires a bit of maintenance. As mentioned this requires a quick daily look at your “Screening” and
“Prioritization” notes. The final requirement to maintain this system is to do a quick review at the end of the week. For me this typically takes an hour and makes sure I keep kicking butt every single week.

Scheduled Sunday Maintenance:

1. Screening the “Screening” note

Just like at the end of each day, you will want to go back and process anything else floating around on this note. Here’s how to quickly process each item:

  • Does it take less than two minutes? Do it now (you should have already done it)
  • Is it not super important? Add to “Someday” list or “Errands” list
  • Is it important and related to a specific project? Add to that project note, or create a new project note under the same project tag (depending on the size)

2. ” Someday” list review

Have any of these become important? Add to related project note. Have any of these become no longer worth pursuing or thinking about? Great, then delete them! Otherwise, just leave them.

3. Long-term goals

Whatever goal-setting method you use, it’s important to review these regularly, as this helps you prioritize your projects. Incorporate this into your weekly maintenance routine.

4. Prioritization

Here’s where you decide what you will focus on for the week. It’s extremely difficult to work with daily to-dos without getting stressed, but setting higher-level priorities for the week is extremely effective. Relate them to your long-term goals. Maybe you need to work on writing that next book, but landing 3 interviews might be a quicker win for that goal you’ve set to double your email list.

Moving Forward

This system takes a couple hours to set up and about one hour per week to manage, but I can guarantee that it is a worthwhile investment. It forces you to be organized and prioritized, and if used correctly you will always know what you should be working on, even if you are juggling half a dozen projects like me!

I’ve been asked many times how I move so fast and do so many things while keeping track of everything. Previously: I was a stressed-out neurotic mess half the time. Now: I maintain a relaxed, organized focus.

Do you plan on customizing this system in any way? If so leave a comment and let me know! There’s always room for improvement.

Credit to The Secret Weapon for the inspiration for this system.