David Kadavy

David Kadavy is author of Mind Management, Not Time Management, The Heart to Start & Design for Hackers.

Posts from the Newsletter Category

LM: #264: The Platonic week

May 20, 2024

One of the most powerful departures you can make from traditional time management is to quit your daily routine, and start a weekly routine.

With a weekly routine, you follow your energy fluctuations to be more focused in the moment. The length of the cycle also creates a sense of calm urgency that snuffs out “do it tomorrow” thinking that lets procrastination run wild.

But developing a whole weekly routine sounds daunting. How can you possibly have a predictable week when so many things change week to week?

That’s why I like to start with an “ideal week.” If I could predict how I’d use my energy throughout the week to accomplish what I want, what would that look like?

Here’s my latest iteration:

Notice my ideal week incorporates Prefrontal Mondays that keep me in the “Prioritize” mental state I talked about in Mind Management, Not Time Management. But as the week wears on, I start developing and preparing to ship ideas with the Explore, Generate, and Polish mental states.

With every productivity system, there’s the Platonic ideal in the mind, then the Heraclitian reality of day-to-day. I rarely live an ideal week, but it’s there as a template to help me make decisions about how to best arrange the non-negotiables in my schedule.

And if I’m far from my ideal week several weeks in a row, maybe it’s time to revise my ideal week.

Book: Walden and Civil Disobedience (Amazon) contains Thoreau’s two most-famous works.

Cool: Letterboxd is like a Goodreads for movies.


LM: #263: Creativity partners

May 13, 2024

People looking for 5 to 9 motivation often seek accountability partners. But creators should seek creativity partners.

Accountability partners provide “stick” motivation. You agree with your accountability partner you’ll do such-and-such thing. If you don’t, maybe they go to a carnival and send you pictures of themself having fun with your money.

But accountability and creativity don’t always mix. To be creative is to be open to possibilities, and to be accountable is to close yourself off from possibilities so you can complete a specific thing.

That’s why I prefer creativity partners. A creativity partner is primarily there to act as a guide. Like a stick attached to a plant that helps it grow vertically.

I’ve met with my creativity partner every couple weeks for about eight years. We talk about what we’re working on and provide feedback on each other’s ideas.

Like accountability partners, we write down what one another wants to accomplish in the next two weeks. Unlike accountability partners, when one of us doesn’t follow through on his plan, we approach it not with animosity, but curiosity.

Instead of, “You owe me $10,” it’s, “Why do you think you didn’t do this?”

Sometimes it’s because we picked the wrong task for the stage of the project. Sometimes we’ve learned something that made the task irrelevant, or another task suddenly became a higher priority. Sometimes the task needs to be scaled down, or a more motivating task in the same project needs to be chosen. Sometimes we conclude we aren’t excited about the project and should abandon it.

The result is, we don’t dread our meetings, and we’ve become experts on our motivational quirks. And our businesses have grown a lot over the years.

Accountability partners punish for not sticking to a version of a future you can’t control.

Creativity partners act as a sounding board & reasoning check for growing organically from your creative DNA.

Aphorism: “To yell at your creativity, saying, ‘You must earn money for me!’ is sort of like yelling at a cat; it has no idea what you’re talking about, and all you’re doing is scaring it away.” —Liz Gilbert

Book: Why Now (Amazon) is Paul Orlando’s treatise on how a product’s success is determined by its timing.

P.S. Love Mondays now has over 10,000 subscribers! Thank you for sharing this newsletter with your friends and followers.

LM: #262: 5 to 9 motivation

May 06, 2024

The world has no shortage of sources of motivation.

You do your job to earn a paycheck. You use money to avoid starvation and other dangers. Beyond that, there’s a rich ecosystem of products and services, all competing in a Darwinian battle to fulfill, in exchange for money, any desire, whether conscious or unconscious.

Beyond these “carrots and sticks” are rewards and punishments lighting the way. Degrees to earn, promotions to strive for, and ice-cream socials to enjoy.

So how does anyone manage to keep themselves motivated in the unmapped maze of 5 to 9 when there’s the well-lit labyrinth of 9 to 5? If you strive to write your first book or record your first album, nobody’s gonna wield a stick at your rear or dangle a carrot in front.

Certainly much of it comes from a love of one’s craft. I, personally, started on my own by repeatedly dangling in front of myself the carrot of curiosity.

But the threat of punishment, the “stick” if you will, is that it would be tragic to want to accomplish something in your 5 to 9, but fail because you couldn’t motivate yourself as well as your 9 to 5.

Book: Get Better at Anything (Amazon) is Scott Young’s new book on how to practice and make progress.

Cool: Hugh Howey shared the best price points according to the sales of the top 500 Kindle ebooks.

P.S. Three useful motivational tools are carrots, sticks, and blinders.

LM: #261: Procrastilitarian

April 29, 2024

Procrastination can be useful, but not always.

Procrastination is defined by expectations. If you don’t have the expectation you should do something, you can’t procrastinate.

When you feel as if you’re procrastinating, that feeling only has utility if it leads to one of two outcomes.

One useful outcome is if it inspires you to take action. Either do the task, or stop doing some other task that prevents you.

The other useful outcome is if feeling you’re procrastinating causes you to reevaluate your expectations. Maybe what you expect to accomplish is unrealistic, given your current resources. So stop expecting to do the task, expect to do a smaller version of the task, or expect to do a task that will put you in a better position to accomplish the main task.

If you have an ongoing feeling that you’re procrastinating, and that feeling doesn’t inspire either action or reevaluation, feeling you’re procrastinating only serves as self-punishment.

Aphorism: “Success does not lie in sticking to things. It lies in picking the right thing to stick to and quitting the rest.” —Annie Duke

Book: Getting Things Done (Amazon) is such a timeless classic, I’m reading it once again more than 20 years later.

P.S. If you procrastinate on your dreams you’re suffering from aspiration procrastination.

LM: #260: Optimal minimalism

April 22, 2024

Eight years ago, I reduced my possessions to a few suitcases, and moved to another continent.

I now live in a house I own, surrounded by stuff I’ve since bought.

So I have a vivid memory of anticipating, purchasing, and finally receiving every item surrounding me.

This memory alone is a forcing function that helps me talk myself out of many new items. It also helps that most orders take at least two weeks to arrive. It’s a whole to-do to get most things.

Yet somehow I still have stuff I don’t want or need.

In America, there are Goodwill and the Salvation Army to process the glut of junk. You can drop off your excess canvas bags of impulse buys and bad decisions, and guilt. You can even write it off as a donation to charity!

Here in Colombia, it’s not as easy. It’s not hard to find people who have a use for your old clothes, for example, but find them you must. And your extra English-language books? That’s a tougher task.

Some of these items I really love: my recliner and over-bed table where I’m writing this, my standing desk, and my air fryer and Instant Pot.

But even though I love these items, I often wonder at what hidden cognitive costs they come. To what extent am I thinking about them or repairing them? At what point will they wear out or break and cause frustration as I try to replace them but find out they’re discontinued? Should I practice more time gratitude and do without?

I don’t know where the sweet spot for minimalism lies, but no doubt it’s on the side of having less than you want.

Aphorism: “Clear writing gives poor thinking nowhere to hide.” —Shane Parrish

Book: 5-Minute Daily Writing Prompts (Amazon) is 501 prompts to exercise your writing muscles in a variety of ways.

P.S. One thing I recently bought that feels worth it is an e-ink Android e-reader. I wrote about why I love my BOOX Poke5.

LM: #259: Time gratitude

April 15, 2024

Everyone in the modern world saves incredible amounts of time.

We wake in bedsheets we didn’t weave,
In a house we didn’t build,
Out of timber we didn’t cut.

We drink water we didn’t fetch,
Eat food we didn’t grow,
And travel great distances without walking.

We send messages written by predictive text,
Set in letters we didn’t scribe,
Around the world, no pigeons, foot messengers, nor even paper.

Yet we feel we need more time.

I’m trying to practice time gratitude. When I send an email, order delivery from my phone, or even cook a meal at home, I take a moment to acknowledge how little time it takes to meet my needs.

And instead of thinking what to do next, I use that extra time to breathe.

Aphorism: “How many a man has dated a new era in his life from the reading of a book!” —Henry David Thoreau

Cool: I have found a blue light therapy panel (Amazon) to be effective in minimizing jet lag, and, when I lived in Chicago, SAD.

P.S. Thank you Aidan Helfant for having me on the Personal Knowledge Management podcast.

LM: #258: Ante up attention

April 08, 2024

Being busy doesn’t mean you can’t create. In fact, it can be an asset.

The more you have to do, the more there are little moments throughout your day that can lead to big breakthroughs.

If you pay attention to your thoughts, you’ll notice lots of little ideas. It’s easy to tell them to go away so you can focus on what you’re doing. That you don’t have the time to pursue them.

But all it takes is to jot them down. If not in the moment, when you have a moment.

Most won’t be worth much, but the more you do this, the more ideas will come. If you ignore all these thoughts they’ll get buried in your subconscious and will be harder to notice.

But occasionally, an idea will stick with you. You might not have the time and energy to pursue your full vision, but maybe a smaller version of that vision.

In this way, you’re placing small bets with your attention. Once in a while, a bet will hit it big.

Attention pays.

Aphorism: “Salvation often lies not in the writer’s style but in some odd fact he or she was able to discover.” —William Zinsser

Cool: I do not yet have a Tom Bihn backpack but damn, they are well-designed.

P.S. In my conversation with Dr. Robert Maurer, he talked about how small steps lead to big ideas.

P.P.S. Thank you to Kyle Campbell for having me on the Da Vinci’s Discourse podcast, to talk about how I’ve sold 100,000 books.

LM: #257: Alter ego

April 01, 2024

In the early days of the internet, some guy serially published chapters of a story on his website.

Over the years, he published his full novel, got a book deal, and John Dies at the End was made into a movie, starring Paul Giamatti.

He didn’t want his co-workers to know. So all along, he called himself David Wong.

Keeping your creative and professional lives separate is just one use of a pseudonym.

Pseudonyms are also useful to:

If you’re having trouble shipping, ask yourself if a pseudonym would help.

Few wannabe creators consider this. Which is ironic, because pseudonyms, pen names, stage names, alter-egos, etc. are common and even the norm in many art forms.

Pseudonyms are so common, it feels futile to even list examples, but:

I’ve had and still have pseudonyms. I’ve used them to create separate personal brands, cut my teeth in art forms in which I have little confidence, and give myself the creative freedom to embody a different persona.

If I could start over, you’d probably be reading an email from someone other than David Kadavy. I think it’s no coincidence many successful writers in my genre have names much easier to remember, spell, and pronounce: James Clear, Mark Manson, Ryan Holiday, and Joanna Penn are all real names, AFAIK. But damn those are good names.

Nobody says you have to use your pen name forever. David Wong announced in 2020 that he would re-publish everything under his real name, Jason Pargin.

Pick a pseudonym. Use a fake name generator if you have to. Then, start shipping.

Book: The Shadow Drawing (Amazon) explains why Leonardo da Vinci was not a “dual genius.”

Cool: Dextro Energy (Amazon) is convenient dextrose candies that work great for fueling workouts on a targeted keto diet.

P.S. One of my pseudonyms made 150k.

LM: #256: Perfectionism and patience

March 25, 2024

Perfectionism and patience look similar, but are different.

Perfectionists and the patient both take a long time to finish what they start. They both scrap progress, start over, go down dead ends, and make lots of tweaks in the last 10%.

But the patient eventually ship. The perfectionists never do.

The patient understand good work takes time. They know not all ideas and approaches will work, much of their exploration will go to waste, and the finishing touches take longer than expected.

When the patient ship, they know it’s not perfect. Yet that’s what stops the perfectionists. To them, to ship imperfect work means they’re imperfect – and that problem goes deep.

Perfectionists pursue the perfect, while the patient pursue the optimal.

“Perfect” assumes you have unlimited time and money. “Optimal” accepts you don’t.

Aphorism: “I write one page of masterpiece to ninety one pages of shit.” —Ernest Hemingway

Book: In The Fires of Vesuvius (Amazon) Mary Beard unearths myths about Pompeii.

P.S. Sometimes you need to give yourself permission to suck.

P.P.S. I’m visiting Austin March 31–April 3. Want to go hiking with me?

LM: #255: Completing the conversation

March 18, 2024

It’s possible to be too focused on finishing.

I was interviewing a Love Mondays reader who is a successful contemporary artist. She said as much as she doesn’t want to think of herself as someone who doesn’t finish things, neither does she want to think of herself as someone who does.

She explained that when she teaches someone to draw, oftentimes, “five minutes into it, there’s something amazing there, but they don’t see it.”

We’ve all been in a conversation that started out enjoyable, but went on too long. The other person goes on about something that doesn’t interest you. Or you walk away feeling good but later realize you talked about yourself the whole time.

In your creative work, it’s easy to get too focused on arriving at a pre-conceived result. You need to stop from time to time and look at what you’ve got. Otherwise, that great drawing you have at five minutes may turn into a muddled mess by ten.

Creative work is a conversation. Be a good conversation partner. After you speak, you need to listen.

Aphorism: “When talented people write badly it’s generally for one of two reasons: Either they’re blinded by an idea they feel compelled to prove or they’re driven by an emotion they must express.” —Robert McKee

Cool: Fireflies.ai automatically joins your video meetings and writes transcripts, summaries, action items, and more.

P.S. Can I interview you about finishing projects, for my next book? Book a call.