Don't kill your creativity with an optimized productivity system
Plan Your Next #118
👋 Good morning from Lake Arrowhead, CA! I'm Nate Kadlac, and this is #118 of Plan Your Next. A Sunday newsletter that connects design, creativity, and how you prepare for your next thing.
💡 What’s new?
😎 Stayed with friends and bebes this weekend in Lake Arrowhead, CA.
🗣 Trying to build a Spanish learning habit with Duolingo. I know this isn’t the best way to become conversational, but I need to build a habit first, then move on. I’m on an 85-day streak and might look into switching to iTalki or something similar around day 200. Have any tips? Hit me.
🎨 The first 80/20 Design Challenge cohort just wrapped up on Friday! I know of two accountability groups who are going through the course together. If you want a crash course to level up your design sensibilities, the next cohort kicks off Monday morning.
Don't dance your productivity to death
A year ago, how I organized my projects and to-do lists looked completely different than what I do today.
And last year's productivity system looked much different than it did two years ago.
In my small part of the online universe, it seems recently there has been a backlash against productivity systems that require too much software. Software should either make things easier or get out of the way.
But what happens when software is so efficient that we lose the analog feel for how things are going?
For example, I know I have thousands of to-do’s sitting in different electronic pockets of my laptop’s hard drive, never to be acted upon again. In some ways, this is because it’s too efficient and hidden for me to do anything about.
So when I come across an example from the opposite side of the spectrum, I can’t help but be enamored.
I’m a huge fan of the creative and artistic world of Van Neistat, and I came across a video of his where he shared his philosophy on to-do lists.
Here’s Van’s philosophy and how he creates and catalogs his life in pure analog style.
Do lists, not to-do lists
“Our todo lists contain the molecules of our achieved goals, but I suspect my todo list is an accomplice to a creeping deep burnout of me.”—Van Neistat
There are 100 different things I could work on each day. About seven to eight make it onto my list daily, and I tend to follow Khe Hy’s advice to dedicate a small portion of that on 10k work.
Van doesn’t talk about 10k work, but the effort he puts into his lists is nothing short of intentional friction.
“To-dos are for p*****s,” he utters early on. “That’s why I stick to DO lists. Things we are working on right now.”
The four quadrants
Van loves to start a do-list with a piece of card stock folded into quadrants. Each quadrant has a general theme, and you could imagine these being project-based or one-offs.
The bottom right quadrant is reserved for things Van needs to buy that day.
Each piece of card stock contains 15-20 post-it notes as a way to subcategorize the do list quadrants.
His do-lists are not strictly for external output but also input. If he goes to a party, he might create a list of people who met so he can remember their names. He might use a quadrant for media he was recommended to consume.
But the bottom right is always for purchases he needs to make.
Van keeps an archive of his to-do lists in albums stacked along a shelf. It’s like a physical journal to look back on.
This is a system I could never begin to imagine using for myself, but I love bits and pieces of it like being able to review your paper lists, making them more tangible.
Throwing away my lists also feels like I’m completing something.
I tend to use software for my longer-term projects, and paper to-do’s for daily tasks I’m doing that day.
Lists should aid creativity, not destroy it
“To much of my creativity comes from my todo list, lately.”—Van Neistat
“Telos” is the Greek word for purpose or goal. This balance is at the core of my weekly schedule, where my purpose and flexibility are given room to breathe.
Last year when I left my full-time role to pursue a more independent creative life, I hoped to mix it with telic and atelic time constraints. Three days a week are devoted to telic activities, mainly client work and goal-oriented pursuits.
Van describes allowing his Do-list to come from the subconscious without a regular timeline or end goal. Atelic activities are what Van hopes to inspire himself with.
At the end of the video, Van mentions that the last line on your do list should be to “enjoy all of the above.”
I believe this is an act of loving kindness to ourselves, to know the pursuit and investment in ourselves is worth it.
There’s no one perfect system to run your life. But whether it’s software or paper, or a hybrid like my own, make sure that it feeds you creatively.
⚡️ Two creative hits for you to check out next
👨💻 According to McKinsey, 41% of those who quit their jobs cite “lack of career advancement and development” as the top reason.
There is an unlimited amount of resources available to grow your skillset outside of an organization. If companies aren’t being strategically selfish in helping you advance internally, I can’t imagine wanting to stick around.
👩🎨 Meditative painting
Sit back and watch James Lewis paint Winnie the Pooh. Incredibly talented.
👋 See you next Sunday
As always, my calendar is open to chat about your next adventure, crazy idea, or if you’re feeling creatively stuck.
My goal is to level up the visual vocabulary in the world through my writing, teaching, and design. If you want to support my journey, the best ways are to:
Sign up for the 80/20 design challenge
Become a sponsor of this newsletter (Starting at $50—Please reach out)
Discover your own unique style by joining my live workshop
Have a great week,
p.s. Words are just words, but if these words made you feel something, would you let me know by tapping on the heart below?