A lot of people think they lack motivation. They feel lazy. They listen to Gary Vaynerchuk or Tony Robinns. It might help for a while but why not solve the problem at the root cause? What these people really lack is a big enough “why”. They become complacent because most of their needs are met. Simply take on more and larger responsibilities and you’ll be motivated. Get new bigger problems to solve. Find a new job, get married, start a family, have kids, sign a book contract, start or buy a business. You’ll see your motivation will skyrocket, and the complacency will decrease!
The title of this post is really a misnomer because a stress-free life is nothing good. Stress helps us grow and it’s usually a good thing when there’s enough time to recover, recuperate and heal. Think going to a gym. You exercise, which is a form of stress, but after a recovery period you become stronger. Humans evolutionary evolved to thrive under this type of acute stress followed by recovery (catabolic and anabolic processes).
However there’s another type of stress which is called prolonged or chronic stress. This type of stress is detrimental because it does NOT allow for a recovery period. For example, thinking about an up-coming test for your final exam, a job interview or not being able to pay your mortgage because you got fire.
The best way to avoid this bad chronic stress is just to avoid thinking about it. Most problems are not even real. They are products of our imagination. The longer you procrastinate and overanalyze, the worse the overwhelm, fear and stress become.
What makes it worse is that our brains can’t handle more than 4-5 items in our conscious minds. When you day dream or analyze in your mind (like in a shower or before going to bed), most likely later you’ll forget whatever the ideas, steps or details you thought about. This will add to stress.
Have a dedicated time to think. Mark it in your calendar. Write the steps, details and questions in a notebook or in an application. Looking at a todo list or a high-level outline will bring you calmness and clarity.
In addition, you can take action which will clear and dispel the fears and imagined problems. All you need to complete a big task is just to know what are the next actionable steps, and take them.
One of the best way to deal with procrastination is to tell yourself that you’ll just start on a task or see how to write the first page (for a book) or create the first file (for a program). The mind will want to continue by inertia once you get into the flow and pick up momentum by seeing results. So you can trick it by just starting.
Pomodoro technique uses 25 minute chunks to trick the brain into starting by limiting to “exposure” to a task to 25 minutes which will typically turn into another 25 minutes and then to another 25 minutes until you get to some milestone on a project.
The last tip, don’t load your mind with tasks or problems unless you can either solve them right away or make a note to work on them later. Doing so will occupy your mind but you can’t accomplish the task right away. Remember, your brain can hold only several items in the conscious mind at the same time.
For example, don’t check your email on your phone in a metro, because there would be emails which will require you to use a computer. It’s easier to read an email and do the task right away, than to read it, mark as “todo later” or unread, then come back to it, read again and do the task.
To sum up, avoid chronic stress by taking action and avoiding over thinking especially thinking without taking notes. Planning and taking action beat any overwhelm and procrastination. At the same time, indulge in acute stress once in a while to continue to grow.
Needless to say that cafes, open offices, commute and slow internet all impede productivity. To increase efficiency, distraction-free flow and productivity, I stayed home for a few days over the weekend to work on a project.
I finished the project and made some money all digitally and remotely via the Internet and phone. I ordered food (groceries) using food delivery services. I worked out in a gym in my building and got fresh air on my patio.
The result was an wierd feeling that I don’t need to leave my home at all. It’s almost magical to realize the digital inflow of money and digital outflow (to pay for food). Also, I was healthier because I cooked at home instead of eating out, and I didn’t listen to gossips or read/watch news even in passing on a gym’s TV or in metro.
It’s fascinating that all can be done digitally witout leaving one’s home and it’s peculiar how little humans needs sometimes for productive, satisfactory and healthy live.
My main jobs are software engineering and writing. They are crafts and as with many crafts they are harder to delegate. Think mass produced car vs. designing a car and the factory to mass produce it. Software and books are scalable because they can be replicated infinitely without any loss, but the actual act of writing them is a creative hard-to-scale process.
Over the years of writing software and books, I’ve been learning to identify and delegate some repeatable tasks. I learned that the right way to delegate is to find a repeatable task which you know a) cannot be easily automated b) needs to be performed 100+ times or 2+ hours, and c) straightforward to document and explain.
There’s a cost of review. Do not skip reviewing the end work and either fixing mistakes yourself or sending it back for a re-work (in this case always review again). Reviewing helps not only to make a better product but it’ll give you the confidence in your product and your team (or not but then you at least know and can fix issue later).
Some leader say, never delegate things you are not willing to do yourself. It’s B.S. Everything is situational. I delegated things I dreaded doing and they got done. If I didn’t delegate them, they could have taken longer (procrastination) or would have never materialized at all. Done is better than perfect in this case. However, running at least the first 3-4 times through the routine will help you greatly in writing instructions and standard operation procedures (SOPs).
Do not delegate to perform things which do not make sense financially and don’t be cheap on things which will generate revenue.
Delegate at things you think you are okay or good (even worse), but in reality you suck at. For example, a lot of programmers think they are good at design and their confidence leads to terrible websites, book covers and software which prevents them from making more sales.
To summarize this post, do:
- Delegate to get better supplemental skill to your own and don’t be cheap, e.g.,design
- Change process to eliminate or automate, e.g., create a self-service instead of customer support or use AWS RDS instead of maintaining a database
- Delegate repeatable tasks by having detailed easy to follow instructions
- Always review before the final step
- Delegate scary for you tasks but only after you’ve done them a few times and they’ve stopped being scary
- Constantly re-evaluate, i.e., look for opportunities to change to a cheaper provider or simplify the process
- Delegate to get a second opinion, e.g., tech review, copy editing
Example of things you probably shouldn’t be doing yourself:
- Design (for programmers or writers)
- Scheduling appointments by phone
- Fixing formatting, links, code, fonts, etc. in MS Word, Markdown, and other formats
- First pass at creating captions and transcriptons
- First pass at video editing
- Spinning up and maintaining your own database instead of using BaaS
- Spinning up and maintaining your own servers (virtual machines) instead of using PaaS
- Importing, exporting, enrolling instead of automating
- Submitting to any forms: job boards, conferences (request for proposals), clients, etc.
- Posting to social media
- Deploying code instead of having CD
- Testing code instead of having CI
Do not delegate (or automate) things when one or more applies:
- It will faster for you to do it and it’s not a repeatable task then to train and review (review can take a long time)
- It’s a last step review
- It’s hard to describe (means creative)
- It’s a core function for you
- It requires extremely high standards which will cost you too much or hard to find people to do
- It’s marketing/sales
As I was reviewing transcripts for one of my Node University courses, I was surprised to see so many “so”, “um”, and “ah” filler words. It was a very painful experience to realize that your speech is far from perfect. Of course, with training most people can improve their speech: avoid filler words, accents and improve intonation. This is what professional voice actors, news anchors and movie stars did. And they are in high demand and popular!
Think of it, a lot of improvements to the unconscious actions such as speech, language, writing, personal finance (it’s defined by habits not logic), eating and fitness are the hardest, but they bring the most rewards once you make the changes. Unconscious changes are the hardest, but at the same time they are the easiest to maintain once acquired. The reason is that there’s an autopilot effect. The reward part comes from the fact that there are fewer people who can change those unconscious things in or around them.
For example, if you train yourself to speak well, you can become a Pluralsight course author or a paid public speaker. If you invest time and effort in Spanish, you can speak it without translating from English to Spanish. Not many people can do either of them.
Unconscious autopilots are great, but tweaking them takes time and efforts. Ego is crushed which makes for less competition. There are no traffic jams on the extra mile. The good thing is that once you applied the change, everything can go back to the autopilot: now you eat healthy without thinking about it, focus quicker and read more of good books.
It’s funny how things work but knowing that there’s a big reward ahead if you can tweak a bad unconscious habit into a good one creates a good motivation.
I’m almost done listening to an audiobook A Man for All Markets read by its author and I’m fascinated by two things. First, the parallels between risk, casino, gambling and the stock market. Second, the fact that the author was innovating and constantly moving forward into areas which are still not saturated and still unproved away from techniques and areas which became more competitive and mainstream. Natural curiosity and data-driven non-emotional approach helped the author a lot! These are my notes about the book which I highly recommend reading, so if next time someone tells you that the casino always wins, your can refer them to this book which proved otherwise.
Being busy has became a badge of honor. For me, it’s just plain stupid. I do a lot of things but I’m not busy. In fact, one of the questions people ask me a lot is “How do you find time?”
First of all, you cannot find it. It’s not a pair of sun glasses which you left at a beach. You can’t find time or lose it… but you can spend it on stupid things or lasting valuable good things.
Let me give some examples of stupid thing that I generally avoid doing and some time tips:
- Avoid texting with friends - just freaking call or talk in person when you want talk, and use text is only for scheduling hangouts
- Use activities which do not require focus like folding laundry, washing dishes or writing HTML to listen to audio books and good podcasts. That’s how I was able to consume over 200 books in the last three years.
- Avoid reading Facebook timeline or looking at Instagram news feed. Only post, don’t consume.
- Avoid checking Twitter feed and when you do only subscribe to a handful of people, no more than 200 people and look into “In case you missed it”
- Watch movie trailers instead of full movies. I only watch movies trailers in planes that’s enough to see all the good scenes and in 80% of the cases understand the plot… but even that makes me want to puke either because modern movies are so brain-dead or full of loser-oriented propaganda (e.g., Hangover)
- Pretend TV and cable do not exist and skip commercials by getting Netflix or Amazon Prime if you want some dumb entertainment
- Ignore surveys or providing feedback beyond stars or thumbs on hotels, flights, books, apps, services
- Avoid writing reviews unless I really want for my own notes/thinking as I did with Managing Humans or Antifragile
- Avoid being tired because when you are tired you want to take a break, a long weekend or a vacation. Don’t get tired in the first place! To do so, eat property, exercise and have a good sleep every night.
- Avoid reading popular magazines, Medium, blog posts, news—ignorance is a bliss in these cases
Don’t confuse activity with results. Being busy is not equates with achieving a lot. Observe what things are wasteful and not productive. Just the act of observing will help you to gain more time to be more productive while spending less time and being less busy and tired!
Before I wrote that success is boring. It still sounds true to me now, but I noticed a simple yet powerful formula for success. It works in almost all cases as far as I know based on dozens of biographies and autobiographies I’ve read and heard.
Success is talent plus hard work plus luck.
Talent is about up-brining and genes. It’s related to luck but the luck formula component itself is more about present and future than predetermined past of early childhood, country of origin, language or culture.
The luck in the formula could be generated by more hard work (more activity leads to more opportunity), but it’s not a guaranteed linear relationship because statistically numbers could be low for the cause and effect to play out.
Hard work is self explanatory. More talent can require less hard work and vice versa if you are less talented you could compensate to a certain degree with hard work.
So three components are related and might affect one another but as a general direction this formula clear and universal. It makes going for success in any area straightforward.
Most people use social media wrong. They scroll through what seems to be a never ending timeline…down, down, down. They come back in half an hour and scroll again to see something new. Down, down, down… and when they see the posts they’ve already seen earlier in the day, they switch to another app: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google +, Vine, Snapchat, WeChat, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger or Skype. When they’ve checked everything they have installed and signed up for… it’s time to repeat the cycle.
People check social media on their phone, but then they are on their laptops or desktop computers. It’s time to check everything again because, you know, something new might have happened or after all, Facebook website and Facebook mobile app are so different from each other! 😏
Wrong, wrong, wrong. You are just consuming low quality content for a thrill of dopamine released by your novelty seeking lizard brain (Amygdala) 🐲. You are a gambling addict, a slot machine junking pulling the lever down, down, down. You are wasting time, getting full of ads, and losing your brain cycles (where the focus goes energy flows).
The right usage of media about harnessing the power of social media to your benefit, here are some of the examples:
- Message, video, chat with friends and organize in-person meetings. Connecting has never been so cheap and easy.
- It’s not what you know, it’s whom you know so keep your contacts saved for future interactions (your rolodex), both business (Twitter, LinkedIn) and personal (Facebook, WhatsApp)
- Post valuable, useful and interesting updates. Sorry but what you ate for breakfast or what is the view form of your window does NOT count unless you are a celebrity (they are forgiven).
I check my social media accounts just once a week. I almost never look at the timeline and never for a long period of time. I proactively reach out to people, search topics and hashtags, and then message and comment. I check my notifications and reply to the ones that need replies. I deleted all the social media apps from my phone and don’t miss them. It helps me to focus on important matters and act instead of reacting. 😇
Use social media to your advantage and don’t let social media consume you!
Create an online course to learn something yourself, to promote one of your other products, to help others and to make millions. Here are the five simple steps.
First, pick a topic. To create an online course, you are NOT required to have expertise in a topic. Although having it will speed up the process from a few weeks, or even months, to a few day, or even hours. Seriously. It took me 0 time to create my first online course on Node. I just invited a friend to record my workshop. I already knew the material. The course has close to 20,000 students now.
Then, create an outline. Give it to someone who is not your lover or close friend because they are NOT likely to give you an honest feedback. Even better, ask someone to pay you for the course based on the outline. It’s called MVP and pre-sales. It’s the best way to test an idea.
Third, create slides. I use Deckset but you can use Powerpoint or Keynotes. Whatever you already know or the fastest to learn. Google presentation is the best choice after Markdown.
Fourth, find a quiet place, and then record voice overs. If you’re on macOS, then you can just use QuickTime. I use Screenflow which is just $100. You might need to re-record a few times before you get it right. It’s normal. No pressure. No one will see your failures.
Fifth, upload videos somewhere. You can use simplistic YouTube or Vimeo, or more advanced Teachable or Thinkific. It doesn’t matter at this point too much, so don’t spend hour upon hours on research. The goal is to find at least 10 customers for your course and get their feedback. After that you can always update slides, re-record videos or change platforms.
- Pick a topic
- Create an outline
- Create slides
- Record voice over videos (slides + audio)
- Upload videos
What are you waiting for? Your students need you. Go and create a course!
PS: If you are interested in hearing my full story on how I transitioned from writing coding books to being an online course creator, then I wrote a book about it. Check it out. It’s called ProgWriter 2.