Blog Productivity

My productivity system and how I process ideas.

The modern day knowledge worker’s job is to solve problems. Doing this without a process is like swimming using only your arms. You will get where you are going, but it’s going to be slow and exhausting.

I have been working to diversify my income streams which means I not only have more projects, I also have more unrelated projects on my plate than I am used to. My old systems for staying productive no longer work due to multiple problems competing for space in my mind. It is difficult to stay focused on one project at a time, especially when a great idea for another project pops into my head. I needed a system to stay focused and keep my energy level up.

The system I came up with (which I am still tweaking) is a solution to these problems. This article will cover my system on a high level. Please let me know if you have any questions or want me to go into more detail on any of these items.


It’s necessary to have a set of guiding principles to serve as my decision making framework. This way, when a situation comes up, I have a ready made response to how I am going to handle it.

Know my target.

This is one hundred percept copied from “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen R. Covey. He puts it this way:

“Begin with the end in mind” is based on the principle that all things are created twice. There’s a mental or first creation, and a physical or second creation to all things. Take the construction of a home, for example. You create it in every detail before you ever hammer the first nail into place. You try to get a very clear sense of what kind of house you want. If you want a family-centered home, you plan to put a family room where it would be a natural gathering place. You plan sliding doors and a patio for children to play outside. You work with ideas. You work with your mind until you get a clear image of what you want to build.

I waste time and energy when I skip this step. While there are multiple solutions to a problem and multiple ways to do something, anything that does not take me directly towards my goal is wasted energy. Being laser-focused on the outcome I want means I can be more precise about the inputs that will create that outcome.

Reverse engineer the problem.

Did you do mazes as a kid? I did. I loved them, but I have a confession to make. Instead of starting at the beginning, I worked my way backwards from the finish. Do you know why? There are fewer dead ends when you work a maze backwards. The same is true in almost every problem you want to solve or goal you want to achieve. If you start by working backwards, it’s easier to discover the path.

Capture random thoughts.

I will be the first to admit that most of my ideas are terrible. That being said, I believe every idea is valuable. I also believe that every idea is a major distraction to the important work I need to accomplish. It’s like my brain serves them up as a last ditch effort to procrastinate. For both of these reasons, I created a system to capture ideas for later the moment they enter my thought. I simply open my task manager, Apple Reminders, enter the idea as a task in a list called “Inbox” and go right back to work.

Hold a daily and weekly review.

Every day and week starts and ends with a review. First, I look at all of the ideas I entered in my “Inbox” list and decide to either take action or add it to a project. Next, I look through my individual projects to determine if tasks are important and need to be scheduled or unimportant and need to be cancelled.

I also use templates in the Day One app for a morning and evening reflection routine. In the morning I write out what I am grateful for, what will make the day great, and an affirmation. In the evening I write 3 things that happened and how I could have made that day better.

Turn on Do-Not-Disturb while working on important tasks.

This one is simple. I don’t want notifications distracting me when I am working on important work.

Organizational rhythm

My rhythm helps me make sure I actually get work done. It also helps me make sure I am working on the right things. This structure has been tweaked over time, and I feel like I finally have it tuned to really help me be actually get things done.

Create weekly priorities.

This starts on Sunday night. I sit down and write out the things that must get done this week. These become projects with deadlines set for Friday in Apple Reminders. It’s really this simple. I make sure I know what I need to absolutely complete.

Dump my brain out every day.

I compare this process to cleaning out a closet or garage. You have to take everything out before you can figure out what needs to stay or go. This clearing out process creates room for me to think the rest of the day. I open up Day One and start writing anything that comes to mind until I reach 1,000 words. Most of it is junk. Some if it turns into ideas that I capture and consider later, and an even smaller part gives me clarity over how I feel or a problem I am working on. When I miss a day, I am noticeably more distracted.

Create daily priorities

I do this the same way I create weekly priorities. I look at my projects in Apple Reminders and add assign 3 major tasks for today. Sometimes I do this at the end of the day for the following day, but most often I do this immediately following my morning brain dump.

Schedule my time in blocks.

I am most productive when I schedule important tasks on a calendar. Since I am morning person, I block out my problem solving and creation related tasks for the morning and I save the afternoon for admin and other tasks. Also, it is very important that I allow for open time and free time. If I pack my day with back to back blocks, I get less done because I end up giving in to distractions. Brains need breaks too.

Problem solving framework

I approach everything I do as a problem to solve. This is not a negative statement. It’s simply a thought framework which helps me be more effective. Going back to my principles, I state a goal (know my target) and then get started on an outline (reverse engineer the problem).

My favorite way to do this is with a mind-map and for that I used MindNode. I love it because I can easily export a Markdown file in outline form into my favorite writing app, Ulysses. I start with the problem, create a branch for the goal, and then start brainstorming to reverse engineer the problem. If I get stuck, I use a powerful question I picked up from Tim Ferriss: “What if…?” This gives me permission to come up with stupid solutions which can lead to good solutions.

I end with creating a project in Apple Reminders with a task for the next best 3 steps. Or, if it’s a writing project, I export a Markdown file into Ulysses to serve as my outline for writing out content.

Content writing framework

I covered a little bit of how I start a writing project in the previous section, so go back and read it if you skimmed.

I used to wing it when I wrote, but thanks to some great instruction from Donald Miller, I have a more effective means of writing copy.

First, I make sure I have a controlling idea. I need to make sure you, the reader feels a certain way after reading what I wrote. In this article, I want you to understand how I organize my time and tasks so you will gain some ideas of how you can do the same. Other times it may be that I want someone to buy something, sign up for something, or learn a lesson.

Second, I use the rules of story. There is too much information to go into here, but the simple explanation is this. There is a proven framework that captures human attention and keeps them reading more. Story principles are what make click bait so irresistible.

Third, I move from outline to messy draft to revised draft to final draft. Notice I say messy draft. This is important because again, it gives me permission to write poorly, get ideas out, and come back again. Often, my messy draft is a list of ideas. Revised drafts are where my controlling idea comes into play. Anything I wrote that does not support the controlling idea gets cut.

Once my writing is as clear as possible, I publish and move on.

I hope this helps you. Let me know on Twitter if you have any questions or would like me to dig into any of these areas in greater detail.


How to buy Greenland.

James Altucher launched a Kickstarter to buy Greenland. I listened to him tell the background story on Rich Roll’s podcast this morning. It’s hilarious, but more than that, it got me thinking more critically about how I consume content.

When I first got into reading blogs in the late 00’s, I read to learn. I would search for a something I needed to research and then subscribe to the people talking about it. I actively consumed content.

As social media began to take over and suggestion algorithms improved, my active, learning-based consumption turned into passive consumption. Every new refresh was like playing the internet slot machine. I became addicted to seeing what would be served up next.

What struck me about James’ story is when he saw a tweet from President Trump talking about buying Greenland he chose to go down the rabbit hole of why one would want to by Greenland and how one would go about it to begin with. This all led him to conduct a crazy social experiment and publicity stunt around raising money to buy Greenland himself. (Spoiler alert: he was not able to buy Greenland.)

James Altucher asked questions. Each question led him to more questions and more answers. In the end, he learned a lot about Greenland and a lot about Kickstarter. Both of these are small successes which added to his skillset.

This led me to the the realization that I am consuming incorrectly. I am learning nothing. I am flipping through the channels on the internet, seeing what’s on.

I am a hypocrite. I wrote a line in a marketing email for a client the other day that said, “Learning something and not putting it to use is like buying something new and leaving it in the packaging.”

Later in the day I saw an announcement on Instagram from YouTubers I follow called Colin & Samir announcing there upcoming course on storytelling. I love courses. I buy them like I buy books…more than I can keep up with.

But immediately I realized, I could probably take notes on how they structure their videos and learn 80% of what they are going to teach in their course. All I need to do is ask questions about why they are doing what they are doing instead of only consuming the content. (I will probably still buy the course too.)

The point is…I have access to all of this information. There is so much to learn. But I can only learn it if I pay attention and operate with curiosity instead of passively consuming.

As Ad-Rock said, “I’d rather be a hypocrite than the same person for ever.”


The cursor and iPad modularity.

I have dabbled with trying to make the iPad Pro my main computer several times. The part that holds me back is usually screen size limiting some of the web apps I need to use. With the addition of the cursor, I am very excited about the prospect that the iPad Pro will soon have REAL external display support which will make the iPad Pro the perfect modular computer.

Even more exciting, what if the iPhone could become the only device you need?

Check out this article from MacStories:

Looking ahead at the next decade of iPad, I believe Apple will continue to evolve the iPad Pro line with a focus on modularity. A modular computer enables a new kind of fluid, versatile user interaction – one that can scale across different contexts, input systems, and form factors.



The 2020 Focus Course Digital Planner.

I am a big fan of what Shawn Blanc does with The Sweet Setup and his personal blog.

I’ve been looking for a way to bring my planning to my iPad. I have traditionally found it cumbersome, even with great apps like Goodnotes.

This PDF planner looks like it will give some structure to an iPad based planner, especially with the page linking. I am going to give it a shot, and I will let you know if I stick with it or go back to pen and paper.


The ladders of wealth creation by Nathan Barry.

Here is a great article on learning how to build wealth over time. I love how Nathan Barry breaks down the path between employee to marketplace. The reality is, making money is a skill that can be learned like any other skill, and it takes more time for some than others.

I especially resonated with the parts on:

  1. Turning hourly freelance work into recurring packaged priced work.
  2. Increased earnings don’t often translate into increased wealth.
  3. Moving to a business that affords a higher degree of wealth building often means a temporary decrease of income.
  4. It takes longer than you think it will. (I am experiencing this personally.)
  5. The questions towards the end about where in the process you are.

Learn about Stoicism.

Ryan Holiday writes excellent books. Ego is the Enemy and The Obstacle Is the Way are my two favorite. These books are influenced by Stoicism, and ancient philosophy of mental toughness and being present.

What I love most about it is the idea that we can control our behavior and the framework it provides to be intentional.

He wrote aseries of emailsteaching about the basics of the philosophy, and it’s definitely worth signing up for and reading.

My two favorite emails are about daily journaling and remembering that we can die at any moment.

Go check it out.


A Good Country Mile, Kevn Kinney & The Golden Palominos (2012).

I had the opportunity to see Kevn Kinney play a singer-songwriter set a few weeks about. I’ve always enjoyed Drivin N Cryin, but I only knew their hits.

I was struck by Kinney’s story telling in the songs that he played. I found him brilliant and comfortable on stage. He wasn’t trying to prove anything. He seemed like he was doing what he loved and was simply sharing his experience and feeling with everyone in the room.

Before the set wrapped up, one of the other performers told a story about Kinney. He said he was on tour with him and and woken up in a bad mood, hungover from the night before. He walked to the front of the bus, and Kinney was standing there holding little chocolate figurines. Kinney said, “Hey man. I was at the dollar store, and I saw these little chocolate figurines. They made me think of you, so I bought them for you.” The other performer said, “That’s the day I knew I would know this man forever.”

I couldn’t wait to listen to more of what Kinney had written.

I’ve been listening to “A Good Country Mile” frequently since that day. I’m in love with it. It captures a nostalgic feeling that I will try to explain:

It feels like sitting alone in a room, feeling the weight of all that’s good and bad, knowing all of that is for good, and knowing we are never really alone. I close my eyes, and I feel the room expand infinitely. There is so much space around me, and that weight I was feeling is off of me. It’s now in the air around me…expanding as the room expands. I open my eyes and the weight comes back to me, but not like a weight. Instead it is warm like a hug.

This is where great music, great art, great food, great books, and great conversation take me. It’s not sad. It’s not happy. It just is, and it’s right now, and there is so much comfort in that feeling. I wish I could sit in it always.



My mom made this soup for me as a kid. I was craving it, so I did my best to recreate if from the flavors I remember. It’s incredible how food tied to a memory feels exactly like love. I think it actually is love, so I am sharing it with you.

Bowl of albondigas


  • 1 chopped onion
  • 2 cups chopped carrots
  • 2 chopped potatoes (1/4” by 1” strips)
  • 2 sliced celery stalks
  • 4 minced garlic cloves
  • 2 smashed garlic cloves
  • 1 lime washed and halved
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro
  • 16 oz can of roasted diced tomatoes in juice
  • 32 oz beef broth
  • 32 oz chicken broth
  • 1 lbs ground beef
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 2 eggs
  • 1.25 oz taco seasoning
  • 1.5 cups rice
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 jar Goya Sofrito
  • 4 tbsp oil


  • Goya Adobo
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Soup Base

  1. Heat a soup pot with 1 tbsp of oil on medium-high 
  2. Add onion and cook for 4 minutes stirring occasionally
  3. Add carrots and cook for 4 minutes stirring occasionally
  4. Once the carrots and onions are softened, move 1/2 cup of mixture to a mixing bowl
  5. Add potatoes, celery stalks, minced garlic, lime halves, half of the cilantro, half of the taco seasoning, half of the Sofrito, can of tomatoes, beef broth, and chicken broth. Cover and bring to a boil.

Meatball prep

  1. Combine ground beef, eggs, remaining taco seasoning, half of the remaining cilantro, and bread crumbs to the mixing bowl with the carrot and onion mixture until everything is evenly distributed.
  2. Set aside to allow mixture to thicken.


  1. Heat remaining oil in a medium pot.
  2. Add uncooked rice to heated oil. Cook, stirring occasionally until the rice turns light brown.
  3. Add smashed garlic, remaining Sofrito, and three cups of water to the pot.
  4. Once the water is boiling, cover, reduce heat, and cook for 18 minutes.

Finish soup

  1. Roll meatball mixture into 1 inch meatballs and add them to the soup.
  2. Allow the meatballs to cook for 15 – 20 minutes.


  1. Place rice in the bottom of a bowl, top with soup and meatballs. Garnish with cilantro.
  2. Brag to your friends.


Best of season one.

The team behind the Top Restaurateurs podcast and I published the season one finale which consisted of moments we loved from the show. It’s got me thinking about a new format with more commentary for season two of the show.

I love hosting this podcast because I love interviewing people who run businesses, especially in the spaces my companies products serve. It’s opened up doors to speak to and get to know people who I never would have met had our team not decided to start a podcast.

Take a listen, and do yourself a favor: go back and listen to all of the season one interviews.


It wasn’t about landing on the moon.

Prior to going to the moon, a computer took up an entire room. In order to land on the moon, a computer had to fit inside the cockpit of a rocket. In the end, they got it to fit inside a one square foot box.

If the goal was to make a small computer, I don’t think computers would have developed as fast as they did. But, the goal was beat Russia to put a man on the moon. Americans were scared of Russia having better technology and more power than the United States. As a result, the mission had purpose.

Now we have computers in our pockets that are more powerful than my first laptop.

Some of the best advancements, ideas, and achievements are the byproducts of working towards a goal.

So, pick a goal and work relentlessly towards it, and be sure to pay attention to the byproducts.