Developer at large, expert typist, fungineer

A short routine for making awesome things

I’ve said all this stuff before, but I came across some nice writing that highlights people doing it. I’m repeating it because it’s important stuff.

Step one, get on that grind. Making things is about consistently making progress. Consistently making progress is about showing up every day and moving the ball forward. Progress can take different forms, and sometimes won’t even feel like progress at all. The crux of the biscuit is to make the time to do the things that need doing in order to produce the thing you’re excited about making.

Questlove, band leader of The Roots and pretty much my favorite music nerd of all time, spends most of his waking hours thinking about, rehearsing, or performing his music. A typical day for him is 11 AM – 7 PM at 30 Rock rehearsing for Late Night with Jimmy Fallon or writing new music, 8 PM – 2 AM spent performing or DJing, and late nights winding down by studying their performance from that day’s show or doing some crate digging (cool kid speak for listening to obscure stuff in your record collection).

Step two, simplify. You just can’t devote the mental energy to awesome stuff if your brain is going in multiple directions. Close as many of the social medias, chats, emails, and alarm klaxons as possible. If you’re an organized person, clear your workspace; if you’re a clutter person, just roll with your clutter[1]. And, of course, think critically about what you’re consuming and using. If a tool, book, TV show, or application isn’t pulling its weight helping you do or think awesome things, show it the door.

Matt Gemmell on simplicity:

More importantly, I also believe in simplifying my life, offline and online, to let me focus on doing what I want to do – whether that’s writing code, writing words, or helping other people with their work. To do that, I have to reduce the ambient noise.

Step three, stop. Think. You can’t grind and simplify all the time. Your brain needs room to breathe. If you ever wondered why you do your best thinking and problem solving in your dreams or in the shower, I’ll tell you why: those places have no computers, TVs, or internet. Every week, you need to get away from your computers, music, and distractors. Go someplace novel and interesting; a coffeeshop, a park, a busy boulevard, a quiet trail, whatever makes your brain happy. Take a notebook or whatever you can physically think on. Now use that time to take apart what you’re working on, think about how it works, and figure out how to make it work better.

Jacob Gorban on thinking time:

In this state, we may become so reactive to the tasks that need to get done that we just don’t stop, take a step back and reflect on the whole situation. We may just forget to think deeply, strategically about the business and even about the work tasks themselves.

Your brain will thank you for the chance to stop and think. You’ll feel better when you remove the extra crap that’s distracting you. You’ll glow inside when you put the time in every day to make things and end up with something awesome.

[1] Sorry, I’m not a clutter person, I can’t help you here.

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