I talk to David Kadavy about his new book, Mind Management, Not Time Management.
David is an author, podcaster, and self-publishing coach. He believes one of the biggest challenges we face in the age of AI is the ability for humans to tap into their innate creativity.
In this conversation, we talk about structuring the four stages of creativity according to your mental state, how to generate creative insights and ideas, note-taking and creating an ideal working environment, especially for those that are currently working from home.
Find David online:
Getting Things Done
Thanks. Thanks for having me.
So, what got you started on writing this book about mind management?
Yeah, the new book is my management, not time management. And the way that I got started on was writing my first book, about 10 years ago, almost exactly, I got a book deal to write my first book. I was not a writer, I hated writing as a kid did not think of myself as a writer. But I’d written some blog posts, and got a book deal.
quickly realized that nothing that I had learned about productivity, had prepared me to write a book, I had been a productivity enthusiast, I love to getting things done, and was always trying different tools. But when it came time to write a book, I realized it was just banging my head against the wall for 12 hours a day. And just to get like, 15 minutes of writing that that came easily. And, you know, I tried to clear away my whole schedule, I fired clients, I kind of a lot of my social life, I outsource things, you know, my meal preparation, household chores, cleaning the house, all this stuff. I just cleared out my whole schedule. And I just still couldn’t really get the book, yet it progress going on the book. And I even had a friend say, you just look at the data on your contract and break it down. It was like 250 words a day. Okay, cool. I put that on the calendar and everything. No, it doesn’t work that way. You can’t just like, sit down and write 250 words a day, you have to have the thoughts behind those 250 words, first, you have to like get that all organized. And I did suffer through writing that book. But when the smoke cleared on that process, I wanted to figure out how I had managed to accomplish this, I had started to develop patterns and routines to make that sort of moment of flow happen to make those insights happen. And I started to dig into the neuroscience and the psychology of creativity. And I started to see patterns there. And so I wrote a blog post in 2012, called mind management, not time management. And that prompted Dan Ariely, the behavioral scientist to reach out to me and he was working on an app called timeful. And we collaborated on that app, I was the design advisor to the team, helping them integrate sort of a mind management philosophy into that app. And then an app sold to Google. And I all along been experimenting. I’ve even redesigned my entire life around my creative output. I moved to Columbia five years ago, where I now live. And so during all that time, I’ve really been trying to tweak this system to have a consistent way to manage creative energy toward having those moments where you have the ideas come easily to you. And so I think I’ve I think I’ve got it. So the book just came out. And I have like a far more healthy approach to creativity now, thanks to the things that I’ve learned.
Or how do you think the being creative engine has helped you? And what about creativity is so important in today’s world?
Well, I mean, as far as right helping me, I think that I had sort of settled into unhealthy patterns of getting creative work done, I wanted to create my own thing. But I it just became, it just became very unsustainable, which is working around the clock, damaging relationships, of just being obsessed with trying to create things and trying to deal with the day to day world along the way. And so being able to have the confidence that I have a system to manage the energy to manage my project, so they go forward consistently, is just great for my mental health in general, because Take, for example, something like writing that book, it was just, it was just this huge single to do item that was never done. And I didn’t know or have a confidence that I would arrive at the point where I would get it done. But now I have a better perspective of how the creative process works, how my energy works, along with that creative process, how the cycles in the world are there that you can harness to propel your creative projects forward. And so it’s just day to day a lot more relaxing, to be me than it was before. And I think that my work improves as a result of it. Now, as far as why creativity is so important, this wasn’t the reason that I became a creator. But, you know, in this age of AI, where if you can teach a human how to do something, or you can automate it, or you can outsource it, and it will soon be automated, you know, Kai Fuli, who I was, who was a AI expert, work for Google projected 40 to 50% of jobs being replaced by AI in the next 10 to 20 years or so. And a lot of people think it is kind of scary, in a lot of people think that is scary. And you know, there’s a whole other conversation about whether that should happen. But it’s happening there, it appears to be happening. And it’s actually very freeing for us as humans because it means that well now we can go back to being creative. And in fact, if you want to have an edge as a human, you need to be creative. So you can sit down and you can type in 50,000 nonsense words in a day or so. And but you your computer could generate 50,000 nonsense words in you know, instantly fashion you could blink. So you know what the where the value is in is in writing that novel or 50 the thoughts behind the words not in the words themselves?
Have you seen the stuff on GPT three, and they they’ve produced content that has apparently like full people? Well, some of the some of the content produced by GPT three ranks like on the top page on the first page of Hacker News.
Yeah, I haven’t seen that level of GPG three I have seen some experiments from sage and l Shane who is messing around with, with ay ay ay. Ay ay ay ay weirdness, calm and, and it was, you know, it was not that impressive, actually, like, how many how many eyes does a horse have? And it just like kept saying for? Like, I don’t know, I think that who knows, I guess I could be wrong like the way that some people were writing and cranking out formulaic say, mystery novels or something I could see AI doing that at some point, but I think there’s always going to be a place for becoming you because there’s only one you and and, and finding a way to present that to the world. So I could be wrong. But I defer to Kai Fuli on this, he doesn’t seem to think that that’s gonna be happening
terribly soon, if ever.
So I think that, I guess that
in terms of the the last thing to be automated by AI would be harnessing that creativity. A lot of the followers on, on this, on this channel are into, into writing and note taking, how do you think that? What What’s something that? How do you think they can benefit from changing, changing their perspective on focusing only on, you know, being busy and focusing on like managing the time and getting as much as possible out of time, as opposed to focusing on mind management and on creative energy management?
Yeah, so one of the things I’m a note taker, as well, I’ve sort of built my own little zettelkasten. And I think one of the things that makes it work is a lot of the similar to what I’ve found in writing this book, which is that you don’t arrive at great insights or you don’t arrive at learning All at once, you know, taking notes makes, it just reduces the cognitive load for thinking about, say, what is this book about you just like write one little note, another note, another note, another note. And then eventually, you can connect those things. And, you know, make a summary or you can check for new project ideas from different places and make new ideas. But this is kind of like one of the things that I’ve discovered. In dissecting creativity, there is this sort of framework for understanding the stages of creativity, I’m calling it in the book, the four stages of creativity is based upon a speech by a German scientists from the late 1800s, which was then picked up by a guy named Herman Bell, von Helmholtz. And then there was a social scientist named Graham Wallace, who called the four stages of control, and which I just adapted to the four stages of creativity, and their prep your preparation, incubation, illumination, and verification. So preparation is the collecting of information. incubation is the sort of pulling away from the problem space. And there’s all sorts of subconscious incubation, that happens, that makes things easier to later Connect for new ideas. illumination is that moment of having an insight. And then verification is preparing something to verify that it’s ready to be shipped or that it actually is a valid idea. And so this is something that happens when you’re you’re taking notes, as you’re doing the preparation, you’re just collecting these short, little notes. And that is, as you’re doing that you’re exercising those connections in your mind. And so as you sleep, or as you do other things, your brain is sort of testing out connections, it’s any sort of bad dead end connections that you came up with along the way. Are, those are falling away, it’s a it’s called fixation forgetting. And then later on, when you do sit down to say, write the summary of the book that you just took a bunch of notes on it, suddenly, it’s way, way easier. Because that stuff has sunk into your mind. We very easily forget, when we sit down and say, Oh, I’m gonna try to write a summary of this book, or I’m gonna try to write an article or a blog post. And oh, gosh, this is hard. Why? Why is that hard? Well, one thing that we’re trying to do when we do that is we’re trying to use our short term memory, to do all the work at once. So if we don’t have the knowledge sunk in to our long term memory, and remember, our short term memory, holds very little, it’s like four to seven digits, plus or minus a couple that you can remember. And, you know, when it comes to information, language information, it’s not a whole lot more than that. And, and so when you’re taking in new information, and at the same time and trying to connect it to make new insights, that is a tall order for your short term memory. And so one thing that is helpful, of from taking notes is that you are holding that information in in your short term memory, it’s getting a chance to pass into your long term memory. And then, you know, you go rest, you come back. Now, when you sit down and try to come up with the insights, try to connect the ideas. There’s something to pull from that from your long term memory and your short term memory is freed up and has available resources for you to make the connections instead of trying to both take in new information and make the connections at the same time.
How have you so what have you changed in your kind of daily or weekly routines to to take this into account? So how have you changed the way that you write and do your research to gain more insights? And Yep.
So one thing I do is I work according to mental state, and this is something that I have discovered in the creative process is, is I discovered that I found like seven different mental states that I saw myself inhabiting in the process of general life and creating things. So seven mental states is kind of a lot for audio sometimes don’t want to like overload people with it, but but just take take for example. A couple of mental states are generate and explore, generate explore and research are a few. And these have kind of fuzzy boundaries to them. And one thing I discovered was that a lot of things where I thought I was sitting down to
a thing, it actually better broke up into a few different things. So if I am
trying to write a blog post,
now I will give myself permission to write really, really crappy, just like some some bullet points, some free prose, putting things in brackets, where,
when are you when, when during the day, you’re usually doing this? Is this a particular time of the day or just
I’m sorry. So
I actually have an entire, an entire weekly routine that I follow. That goes according to sort of what I decided I want to accomplish. And again, this that’s difficult to picture and audio, you know, two people talking. But but so. So for that, let’s explore mental state. And that will typically be either in the afternoon, or after I’ve already done some, some more pointed creation, which I call the Generate mental state.
So where you’re kind of like, like, stream of consciousness kind of writing?
Well, so the Generate mental state, is I’m trying to create something that actually stands some chance of becoming usable, I’ve got the general connections made in my mind, and I’m just trying to weave things together. And yeah, there’s going to be some misspellings, there will probably be some facts that I don’t have handy, that I want to look up later. And I’ll put those in brackets, because I’m trying to stay in state. And that’s one of the valuable things about having these mental states to work with is it makes you realize, this is this is where I found myself, getting cognitively caught up was when I was, you know, same writing a thing and on what was the year that that thing happened. And so now I’ve got to go look it up. And, and one that’s a distraction risk, too, though, it’s sort of, it’s sort of, it’s changing states, like I’m trying to connect these ideas. And now there’s like some facts, which isn’t actually consequential to what I’m writing necessarily. And I go fetch it. So now instead, it’s like brackets, or let’s say, I’m writing something and I say, Oh, I need some stories or examples. To illustrate this thing. And I just type brackets stories or examples to illustrate this thing. And like separately, at some other time, I can sit down in my recliner with my favorite drink, and brainstorm examples or stories for that. So it’s like changing body position, changing my time in my environment. And, and, and working according to the ebb and flow of my energy, to do the right type of work, do the right type of thinking during the right time, according to my, to my energy. And so. So as I was saying before, that generate state that will, I’ll typically do that first thing in the morning. Because it’s very important to me to generate work, especially if I’m working on a book, sit down, spend an hour at least on Generate state, and then I get like a little, I’m a little fatigued at that point. Like, I could still think a little bit, I can still write a little bit. So that’s a little that’s a good time, then for some explore mental state, as I was talking about, which is I’m writing but I’m not trying, I’m not expecting to be able to use this. I’m just sort of barfing out the things that I might want to talk about or think about for this. Now, explore also shares a fuzzy border with research, which is that, you know, exploration is isn’t just, you know, creating sloppy things. It can also be that you’re reading something, and you’re not looking for anything particular. But there’s maybe some chance that you’re going to find something here for me that’s like reading a lot of artists biographies and just highlighting as I go. Or when I was working my first book, which was about design, I might be writing about the history of typography and say I’ll read it about the Protestant revolution, which is connected obliquely The history of typography. And I don’t know where to find, but it’s an open minded state. Because
insightful, the insightful state of mind is different from the analytical state of mind. The more that you’re driving toward a goal, the more that you are trying to make a certain thing happen, the more closed your neural activity becomes. And then the less likely for you to have insights. To like people who have damaged prefrontal cortices are really good at solving insight problems in a lab setting, they have other problems, you don’t want prefrontal cortex, you don’t want people with a cortex damage if you can help it. But because there’s diffused activity in the brain, it makes it easier for them to make connections. And so this is why I make a distinction between say explore and research research is Oh, that fact that I need to fill out where I had the brackets. Now I can sit down, I can look for the exact answer to that question that I had. And that’s different from exploration. Right? So breaking things down this way, and being mindful of cognitively What is it like to switch between these and can I stay in one versus another. And based upon what’s important to me, and my energy fluctuations throughout the day, and throughout the week, and throughout even longer cycles, even the year, or for me even it can be periods of three years, where I’m in a dominant Lee in a certain state. And, and working that way to propel things through the four stages. That sort of works like this creative productivity, you know, perpetual motion machine,
you know, why? What state are you in now? In this like, year long kind of
perspective? Right. Okay, so right now, I just finished a book. Yeah, I’ve been working on that book for like, basically, for 10 years. But the last five years or so has been a lot more intense. And especially the last year was when I was working on the iteration of the draft that actually became the book after trashing two or three full drafts. Or, at least completed drafts. In some cases, I did trash one full draft. So now I am trying to get a little bit more open, I’m not doing the wake up every morning and and work on a generate thing. I’m trying to be more exploratory
and so I’m in sort of marketing mode as well. So looking for different channels that I can write things in, but also we’re coming. We’re coming up on the end of the year. So New Year’s coming up. And I think what a lot of people do, they wake up on New Year’s Day, and they’re like, Oh, I should think about what I’m going to do this year. I usually try to start that process. weeks and weeks before the the new year even happens. And as neuroscientist john cuyos has, has told me, who’s an expert on one of the leading researchers on the neuroscience of insight. The insightful state is very difficult to get into, it’s very easy to get out of. So if you go on a vacation, and you lie on a beach for a week straight. You know, after that, you’ll start to have ideas all of a sudden, but then if you’re like crossing the street on your way to a restaurant, and a car almost hits you and you like have to jump out of the way. Well, now you’ve just been ruined pretty quickly. And now you’re in more of a hyper vigilant state, which is a little bit more conducive to analytical thinking. So think I’ve often try to do as I approach the new year is to try to take as many things off my plate as I can. I often take a break from my podcast, I’ll do that this year. And you try to just disconnect and give myself a chance then to get into as the new year begins a prioritize mental state, which is seeing things from 30,000 feet, getting an idea of what’s important, just as just as important as what’s important. What’s not important, what’s the stuff I’m not going to do. Because you you can see this the cycle in the natural world where Try, try making just like random coffee meetings with somebody in January that you have no business talking to, versus in November or December, you’re going to probably get more people accepting that random coffee meeting in November, December, the January, because January, people are focused on their goals. If it’s not going to meet these goals, I’m not going to do it. And then entropy starts to set in, you start to see that happen. What is it, people use resolutions last three months or something like that. And, and people aren’t getting less organized, they start doing more things that don’t meet their goals, which has its place. But this is a cycle that you see, when you look closely in something I noticed, in organizing my podcast.
When I do interviews,
I try to do them in sort of three month
blocks. And so January, December, January, February, all hard times to get somebody to agree to be interviewed one December, The holidays are happening. January, February, people are really focused on their goals. And then also, you know, late summer, people are on vacation things like people think or they want to spend time outside because it’s nice, and you know, sitting inside and, and being on zoom or something isn’t isn’t, isn’t as much of a a priority. And so this is another thing that I look at then is there’s these cycles in your your day, your week, your month, possibly your quarter, your year. And these can go along, you can you can harness these cycles to work with the four stages of creativity. So for example, there’s a playwright, Lillian Hellman, who says, she said that she would review the dialogue of her characters before bed each night. And then she would sleep and then in the morning, she she’d write again. So that’s using incubate that’s using the night’s sleep as incubation. You know, when I lived in Chicago, and I had to go through these brutal winters,
this brutal winter was a good time for
I guess you could call it preparation, like saying and staying inside learning a new programming language, reading some stuff that you’re interested in, or, or it can be a time for.
for verification, you’re finishing up a project and you need to, like, buckle down and buckle down? And and would you say that your your last few years has been predominantly like one of verification? And you’re in that kind of analytical mindset? Because you’re, you know, like, revising a draft, getting rid of them, making it better polishing it up?
Um, no, there’s been a lot of, I’ve been sort of consistently going through those four stages. And that’s one great reason why I’m in meta gene is that meta gene is very consistent. And so it’s better for having not so much. The consistent sorry, yeah, many is very consistent, because it’s the same, it’s the city of eternal spring, you know, it’s room temperature all year long. And the sun rises and sets about the same time all year long, basically rises around 6am, sets around 6pm all year. Now, contrast that when you if you are living in Chicago, or growing up where I did in the Midwest, where in the winter, it’s dark at 4pm.
And the reasons that you move to medion.
I came to one of the reasons I moved in meta game was basically just I was looking back at the work that I had done while I was here, I was like, Well, I’m just doing way better work there. And I’m generally happier when I’m here, as well. And so as I was trying to figure out how to optimize my creative output, I was then attracted and met again. But then looking at things I started to realize certain patterns like that, or I could see, okay, I could see how this is good for consistent, consistently going through these four stages on a daily weekly. I mean, the weeks just melt by because my weeks have been basically identical for for five years. Now contrast that to when I lived in Chicago, and you have summer where you’ve got to go outside, everybody’s outside all the time.
You get FOMO if you don’t go out,
you do Yeah, you do. And and so and that can be you know, that’s the time we can have the big ideas because you’re you’re out you’re in the open space. Is your it’s always a good time for illumination. And then fall comes and maybe you’re going to do some verification.
What do you think is the most important thing for that’s for generating insights on that? Okay. What do you think is the most important things in terms of consistently generating insights?
Or what do you think has helped you the most, I guess, in terms of generating insights, and, you know, the big ideas on a consistent basis.
Yeah, I think being patient with results, respecting those four stages, to to like when you’re sitting down, and you’re like, trying to have that, make that insight come, and it’s not coming, and you get frustrated over it. That doesn’t happen so much. Once you understand that there are these four stages. I mean, yeah, you still do the whole, maybe you don’t feel like writing today, but you sit down and you do it. But you can at least understand that Oh, if I’m, if I’m blocked right now. And it’s not a strictly emotional thing, then something’s missing. I haven’t done that preparation. And so maybe it’s time to step back and do and get into explore mental state, and allow myself to just barf out some stuff extemporaneously, and to hold it gently. Like, I think I keep thinking of like, there was this jack Nicklaus golf. Golf my way, VHS cassette that I used to watch as a kid learning how to golf.
And I didn’t know he had.
and he would always talk about the hold the club like a bird.
Like, if you were holding a bird,
you got to you got to be like, really gentle with the bird. Like, it’s you can’t fly away, but you’re not crushing it.
And, and so I think I think the same way with with ideas is like, yeah, you’re holding on, you’re getting your mind focused on it. But you can’t just be like,
I like that analogy. And I
also think of it in terms of sort of a surround and conquer strategy I’ve been, I’ve looked at military strategy and tried to find it perfect analog to this, the best analog I could find that I’ve only heard and haven’t verified just basically that when, when Facebook was trying to infiltrate, I think it was University of Michigan, with like they was they were starting just with universities. Yep. The University of Michigan had a competing social network. And everybody was already on that social network. And Facebook’s like, well, how can we get those students to sign up for Facebook, if they’re already on this Michigan University? social network. So what they did was, they started concentrating on all the universities in Michigan, the little the smaller universities, because all the people who go to those small universities went to high school with people in the big university. So it was easy for them to to get people to sign up to Facebook at the smaller universities. And so suddenly, these people in Michigan, start getting all this is my fifth friend request I’ve gotten now for this new network, Facebook. So it’s like a surround and conquer thing. And I try to think of creative problems in the same way. In that if there’s an area that I want to focus on, right, I really have trouble getting any insight there. Try to sort of go around it. And, you know, for example, I’ve wanted to learn more about storytelling, say fiction writing. But I don’t really, I don’t naturally I like to write. I like to read fiction now. But I don’t naturally want to read I was one of those people who never read fiction. I only read nonfiction. And so I said to myself, well, where’s the easy Where’s like an easier place for me to attack that will sort of through spreading activation might maybe would be the right term that would eventually spread to where I would start reading fiction.
And I realized, well, I watch a lot of movies.
And so I said, Well, I’ll start reading books that are made in the movies that I like, that I’ve already seen, you know, so I’m like read election. I read the story that The Shawshank Redemption is based off of that Stephen King wrote, there’s another one for the movie stand by me. So I started reading these stories. They’re stories that I know that I like, because I’ve seen the movie, and I’m not so. And I’m bored enough that I’m not gonna want to read the story. I want to see how, how did things change, and then even extended that to reading screenplays of the movies that I liked. So I’d be like reading I’m reading and I’m reading stories. And so now I’m to the point where I’m like reading. I’m most I’m still reading fiction that is mostly movies that I like. But but then that, that maybe got me to like read screen, screenwriting books, such as story by Robert McKee. And so I’ve learned a lot about story through that. And I think that my storytelling has gotten a lot better. And hopefully, that’s apparent in my management, not time management, there’s a lot of there’s a storytelling arc to the book. And so I think that not trying to attack directly, this thing that you’re trying to have this great idea about keeping an open mind, yeah, sort of going for the areas that the paths of least resistance that are adjacent to it, and allowing that to spread. Eventually, it saturates to the point where you’re either attacking this area that you wanted to attack, or maybe more often, you’re in this other place that you never expected to go. But that, oh, nobody else is here. And this is a cool idea. So that’s the whole that’s the whole, you can’t connect the dots moving forward type of thing that Steve Jobs, quote from the commencement address, to follow curiosity, to trust that it will take you down these different paths, and that those paths will eventually converge. And you’ll be in this amazing place.
You think that in terms of generating insights, you think that’s the environment, your surroundings these things? Do you think they make a difference?
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think that can cut both ways. I think it’s probably a mindset thing, where if you just tell yourself, Well, I don’t like this environment, but I need to get this done and do it. And that can that can, you can do that. But being comfortable. Being in a relaxed state, being having a positive mood, these things are shown over and over again in in the lab to lead to insights. And so I’m constantly altering my environment, I have a standing sitting desk, I have a recliner with an overbed table. So I can lay back and write on my iPad or I can sketch on a little whiteboard. I even take my recliner to my desk, sometimes I’m like laying back on my computer, I have a I have a hammock that I will lie in. And it really depends on what sort of state of mind I’m trying to, to think. And I think that we especially as people are working from home and having a little more control maybe over their environment than they did in the office. It’s a good time for us to recognize that Oh, you don’t have to be sitting at your desk at your computer to be quote unquote, working. I try to remind myself very often to to Oh, I need to check some emails I need to respond to some emails. Well why not lay back in the hammock with your phone? And and do that instead of trying to do it at your computer or I need to research some media outlets that I want to pitch. Again, why are you sitting at your computer doing that you can get your iPad out and sit back in the recliner and read and maybe take some notes and and you’ll be more relaxed you’ll be more open minded and and you’ll have better ideas that way too. So you another way that I have altered my environment in sometimes sometimes you’re limited. So when I was first starting on my own and I was living in San Francisco, I this tiny bedroom at the end of the shotgun house that I was sharing with a bunch of people and are with a couple of people Tiny bedroom. And I was I was working, when I was working, the cafes were closed. So I was like, didn’t want to, you know, it’s like kind of bad to work next to your bed. And it is bad to try to sleep next to where you work for your for your mind, because you’re you are programming yourself to be in these states by the environment. And so I had a soji screen that I kept around my desk. And so I had a routine, when it was time to work, I set the soda screen in a certain way, I clipped a lamp on it, I bounced the light in a certain way, I had a aroma therapy diffuser, that it put a certain scent on, I had a certain album that I would play. So I’m using all my senses to create some kind of trigger to get myself into a certain state. Now, you can create, you can create your own personal placebo for this. It doesn’t have to be certain there’s research that supports, you know, certain things. But it can also be if you just tell yourself that this is going to make me be in this state, if you do it enough times, like it’ll probably eventually work.
Nice. I heard about some writing for that. Some of the writers who are working from home before, before, you know the lockdown and pandemic, whatever, they would go outside, take the tram circle, the blocks come back to the house to create this kind of mental delineation. to kind of say that, hey, I’m about to start working on that’s kind of a signal to the brain, their commute? Yeah, that’s a thing. So they’re just like commuting, you know, one station, forward and back.
Yeah, I like that. That’s really good. And even do to create some some kind of separation. I’m reminded of a story told by Josh waitzkin in the book,
The Art of learning.
Yeah, right, where he was talking to this executive. And this executive is saying, I’m really distracted in meetings. I wish I could concentrate better in meetings, I wish I could be in a flow state. And Josh says, well, when are you in a flow state, or when I’m playing catch with my son, we can’t play catch with your son in meetings. But Josh created this series of triggers, for this executive, do these stretches, have this snack, listen to this Bob Dylan song, then play catch with your son, and do that over and over again. And then eventually start taking things away, where you do these stretches, have this snack, listen to this Bob Dylan song, go to your meeting, to eventually eventually be moving these things to where he could just think of the Bob Dylan song, and go to the meeting and be in the mental state that he wanted to be in.
I think this is really relevant now, especially with lockdown coming back in a lot of countries around the world. And a lot of people may not have the option of you know, like, working like my favorite settings to work in cafes. And so I don’t have that option at the moment being in Europe. And it’s kind of I’ve had to kind of experiments with different triggers, as you say, and playing around with different things inside of the of the apartments. And I played around with like working on the blog, you know, trying, trying a bunch of different stuff to create this distinction. And also to get into this flow state.
Yeah, so definitely going for walks in the park, make a really big difference. So I always start my day. Now with either a walk in park or a jog in the park, I noticed that exercising makes a big difference. But if I’m doing like creative stuff, and I find that exercising actually takes a little bit of brainpower. So if I know that I’m trying to do creative work that morning, then I’ll just go for wife walk around the park, come back, and then pen and paper just starts kind of writing and I find that that’s kind of been the most effective thing. Previous to that. I found that cafes where I found the perfect cafe where I always got like my best ideas and stuff which is it’s it’s on the second floor. It has like huge glass pane windows from ground to ceiling and it’s very high ceilings, bookshelves everywhere, like wooden furniture as well. And kind of warm lighting as well. And you can see like the whole city as well. Well, not the whole city but parts of the city and traffic as well. And some reasons that just that setting always kind of relax me.
Yeah, I think open space, soft lighting activity. These things can can help with creative creative ideas, I do think that it sort of depends upon your particular mental state at the time. So for me, I like to write in the morning, I’m quite groggy in the morning. And the, the research suggests that if you’re groggy, that you will be a little bit more open to having insights.
why wouldn’t groggy make you more open to inside?
Oh, that’s interesting. So
basically, kind of what I was saying about the prefrontal cortex that if your prefrontal cortex is damaged, that you’ll be more prone to having insights. Well, first thing in the morning, your prefrontal cortex, if you’re groggy, isn’t working particularly well. So you know, you think about it, like a racquetball court with blue balls bouncing all over the place, and your prefrontal cortex is like sitting there trying to hit the balls, the front wall the whole time, like wanting to follow the rules. And but then when the blue balls collide, then that’s a, that’s an idea. You know, you have more collisions, when you’re when you’re kind of groggy. And so I tried to take like advantage of that. But because I’m groggy, I’m also not super disciplined. So for the first couple years that I was trying to redesign my life around writing, I had just a plain desk, you know, Cove, white walls on three sides. And that’s what I wrote in the morning. Now, that’s not the best, that’s not a good environment that is necessarily encourages creative thinking. But given my mental state at the time, it was a compensation for that rockiness. So I could still be creative, but I wouldn’t get distracted so easily. Now, for me my energies, late afternoon is more on peak. And these, this is
kind of a typical.
This is kind of typical for a lot of people is groggy first thing in the morning, sort of a mental peak, a couple hours after waking up, and then a dip in the afternoon. And then late afternoon. Back again. So for me more late afternoon, when my energy is a little higher. That’s where if I will go to a noisy cafe, if I have, you know, more of a view, that sort of that’s why I’m a little bit more more ready for for that sort of stuff. But it’s also a different type of creativity. Where that’s more of a big seek creativity for me, where if I’m going to brainstorm about what new ideas Should I pursue? or How can I better organize my business? That’s a good time for the like. Yeah, more of an exploration exploratory thing, rather than than a generate. State, which is what I’m typically using my mornings for.
Nice. Okay, we’ve, we’re at the end of the interview. What’s. So the last question I like to ask is, what are your the top kind of three books that you most recommend, or that you kind of love the most?
Well, I’ve been writing some books summaries lately. And so I guess these are kind of my favorite books, getting things done. You know, my top three, my top three productivity books are getting things done getting things done, and getting things done. Now, I’ve got other books for you. So getting things done, I actually made a summary of my podcast recently and article is up as well. I’m writing a summary right now for the Black Swan, by Nassim to lab. I think that in the creative age, as creators, we need to think about
crazy ideas that
are likely not to work. But that if they do work, have a chance of a really big upside of being positive black swans. And we need to organize accordingly and make our decisions accordingly to account and and provide space for that serendipity to happen. Number three, I’ll again there’s a recency effect to all of this. But I’m I’m reading. I’m reading Marshall McLuhan’s understanding media and I had heard the expression, the medium is the message. And I never really understood it until I started reading his book. And it’s, you really see it everywhere. So it’s been interesting to To study his perspective on media, it is a book that is 50 years old. And it sounds like it was written like 10 years from now. Sounds like it’s from the future. Wow, his insights are really incredible about especially as we’re talking about approaching this creative age, he talks a lot about mechanization versus electrification. And how, as we mechanized society, things got categorized. And made to have B cogs that fit with one another, and humans to we became cogs of get this degree and you can do this job. And if you leave this job, this other person can do it, we can just slide that person right in there. But he talks about how electrification actually swings us back to a more organic, more tribal culture. Because Oh, interesting, in part because it just allows for a more organic organization of things that doesn’t have to be top down the way that a cog works, it can be the way that an electrical network works, or the way the internet works. And he’s writing this brixi or the way the brain works the way the neural connections are on. Yeah, right. Yes. And you can think about the, the Greeks before there was writing, they conveyed knowledge through oral stories, you know, things like the alien. And that’s where the knowledge was. And so now you go read a business book. And it’s like this boring ass bullet point, list of piece of information, piece of information, piece of information. That’s like peak mechanization, right there. I can hardly stand to read these things. And so one of the things I’m doing with my management, not time management that I know a lot of people are going to hate is that it is more story. And the information is packed within these stories. And it is these layers that interconnect that, that build upon each other throughout the book. Because that’s the only way I can understand the information organic. It’s more it’s more organic that way. And, and so reading McLuhan’s understanding media is making me see today’s world in a very different way, as I think about this idea of mechanized versus electrified.
For interesting, yeah, with the with AI, automating so much about too many of the things that we can do. It’s not a straight line anymore, right. So it’s much more chaotic. And I think that’s extremely sad. Yes, it’s a talent thing, right? Yeah. Yeah, exactly. Cool. Any last words? Anything that you want to add before we finish up?
No, I mean, I’m sure that a lot of your listeners are very well versed in managing and managing their own mental energy. Already, I’m hearing a lot of people saying, oh, gosh, you know, I’ve already was doing some of this stuff. But if you’d like to hear my perspective on it, my story what I’ve discovered and and, and maybe find some ways that’ll help you refine the things that you’ve already thought of, then do check out my book, my management, not time management, I’ve worked really hard on it, very proud of it. And I’m really excited to have it out there with with the world taking it in and doing what they whatever they will do with it.
Awesome. Well, that’s mine management, not time management. Congratulations again on the book. Thank you. Thank you for being here.
Yeah. Thank you for having me. It’s been an honor
Transcribed by Otter