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Being Accessible, Dreaming While Awake, & Creating Easy Wins

Resource: You Are Here by Frank Chimero


Attention is an increasingly scarce resource and it behooves us to manage it by creating boundaries, but the end goal of these boundaries is to give us the freedom/power to tear down other kinds of boundaries: the boundaries that make us too busy and overwhelmed to be playfully available to what truly delights us. Guarding your time and attention is a tool for creating a lifestyle where you primarily occupy spaces that reward you for being unguarded with your time and attention.

The best questions to answer are the ones that are being asked. The best people to teach are the ones pleading to be taught. The best time to educate is when the curiosity of the learner intersects with availability of the teacher. This is what it means to teach by “fated appointment.”

Instead of looking at yourself as a communicator, see yourself as a gift-giver. You are here to share something of value. Your moments of teaching and creating are moments of generosity.


On knowing who you’re writing/creating for:

“In Stephen King’s On Writing, he talks about the concept of an ideal reader, the exemplary person for whom you’re specifically writing. There can be others, and other people can enjoy it, but this thing is for them.” -Frank Chimero

On being available in response:

“There’s an important distinction to be made here,” [Irwin] continued, “between organizing and proselytizing, on the one hand, and responding to interest, on the other. I was and continue to be available in response. I mean, I don’t stand on a corner and hand out leaflets. I’m not an evangelist. I’m not trying to sell anything. But on the other hand, if you ask me a question, you’re going to get a half-hour answer.’” -Lawrence Weschler, Seeing Is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees (biography of the artist Robert Irwin).

On teaching as the art of being available to questions that asked at the right time:

“I only teach by fated appointment.” -_why the lucky stiff, ART && CODE Symposium: Hackety Hack, why the lucky stiff

On accessibility as a key to the experience of delight:

“I’ve defined delight as the space where clarity and surprise overlap. I still think that’s true, but there may be a third element at play. I’ve a sneaky suspicion access fits in there somewhere. Delightful things are accessible.”

On how creating boundaries is about paying more attention, not less:

“I’ve said before attention is the most limited resource we have. We’re spread too thin, like too little butter over too much bread. I still believe that’s true, and there are a lot of people talking about how to alleviate that situation. But, often times the discussion stops too soon: we wrongly think that we’re just here to put up fences around certain areas so we’re not spread too thin. We forget that the opportunity isn’t just to build up walls in certain areas, but to tear them down in others to give us the opportunity to care, to teach, and to just be present for a little while. Bad writers give mediocre advice that tell you to build up walls. The best writers tell you to tear walls down in the areas that matter to you. Because being available leads to incredible things…” -Frank Chimero

On the gift-giving mindset as the formula for creating delight:

“As attention gets more and more scarce, we need to move from a mental model where we’re acting as communicators towards a mindset where we believe ourselves to be gift-givers. It’s a way of thinking where we are rewarding the gift of attention by relaying thoughtful, nourishing messages we believe to people we care about. That’s as close to a formula I can muster up as to what makes delightful, compelling work.” –Frank Chimero

Resource: The Art of “Creative Sleep”: Stephen King on Writing and Wakeful Dreaming
Description: Stephen King’s insights on writing and daydreaming


Your creative state is analogous to your sleeping state. You’re sitting still, but your mind is moving. Your body is at rest, but you are dream new worlds into existence.

To write effectively, you need to tune the world out. “Shut your door” and show the world you mean business. You have to temporarily get rid of the world in order to create your own world.

When you discipline your mind to sit down and write just as you do your body for sleep, it responds to you. It learns how to create and imagine on demand.


On creativity as sacred and writing as a discipline:

“Like your bedroom, your writing room should be private, a place where you go to dream. Your schedule — in at about the same time every day, out when your thousand words are on paper or disk — exists in order to habituate yourself, to make yourself ready to dream just as you make yourself ready to sleep by going to bed at roughly the same time each night and following the same ritual as you go.”

On writing as a kind of Wakeful sleep:

“In both writing and sleeping, we learn to be physically still at the same time we are encouraging our minds to unlock from the humdrum rational thinking of our daytime lives. And as your mind and body grow accustomed to a certain amount of sleep each night — six hours, seven, maybe the recommended eight — so can you train your waking mind to sleep creatively and work out the vividly imagined waking dreams which are successful works of fiction.”

“The space can be humble … and it really needs only one thing: A door you are willing to shut. The closed door is your way of telling the world that you mean business. . . .If possible, there should be no telephone in your writing room, certainly no TV or videogames for you to fool around with. If there’s a window, draw the curtains or pull down the shades unless it looks out at a blank wall. For any writer, but for the beginning writer in particular, it’s wise to eliminate every possible distraction. If you continue to write, you will begin to filter out these distractions naturally, but at the start it’s best to try and take care of them before you write. … When you write, you want to get rid of the world, don’t you? Of course you do. When you’re writing, you’re creating your own worlds.”

Resource: Getting Things Done by David Allen


Make a list for things that can done in 10-15 minutes. When small breaks and pockets of downtime open up, use them as windows of opportunity to get after the things on that list.

There’s no reason to ever be unproductive. There’s always something that needs to be done, including things like resting or relaxing or meditating or sleeping, and the key is to create and maintain a system that gives you confidence that you’re doing the things you ought to be doing and not doing the things you don’t need to be doing.

Make your energy work for you, not against you. Create an “easy wins” list of things you need to do, but that are easy for you to do in any state. Then when you’re in a low mood/energy state, do things from that list.


On the rewards of being meticulous:

“If you are a novice to this process, these details and distinctions may seem unnecessary or overwhelming. Just keep in mind that when you actually identify all the next actions you are committed to taking to fulfill your commitments in life and work, you will likely have many more than a hundred. To truly implement an effective “external brain” and garner its amazing results, managing this ground-floor level of your work with this degree of sophistication will pay off immeasurably. ”

On making time-sensitive next actions lists:

“The second factor in choosing an action is how much time you have before you have to do something else. If your meeting is starting in ten minutes, you’ll most likely select a different action to do right now than you would if the next couple of hours were clear. ”

On knowing your limits:

“We all have times when we think more effectively, and times when we should not be thinking at all.” —Daniel Cohen

“Although you can increase your energy level at times by changing your context and redirecting your focus, you can do only so much. The tail end of a day taken up by a marathon budget-planning session is probably not the best time to call a prospective client, start drafting a performance-review policy, or broach a new and sensitive topic with your life partner. It might be better to call an airline to change a reservation, process some expense receipts, step out on your patio and watch the sunset, skim a trade journal, or just clean up a desk drawer. ”

On matching action with energy:

“Just as having all your next-action options available allows you to take advantage of various time slots, knowing about everything you’re going to need to process and do at some point will allow you to match productive activity with your vitality level. ”

On creating an “easy wins” list:

“I recommend that you always keep an inventory of things that need to be done that require very little mental or creative horsepower. When you’re in one of those low-energy states, do those things. Casual reading (magazines, articles, catalogs, Web surfing), contact data that needs to be inputted, file purging, backing up your computer, even just watering your plants and filling your stapler—these are some of the myriad things that you need or want to deal with sometime anyway. ”

“There is no reason not to be highly productive, even when you’re not in top form. ”

“This is one of the best reasons for having very clean edges to your personal management system: it makes it easy to continue doing productive activity when you’re not in top form. If you’re in a low-energy mode and your reading material is disorganized, your receipts are all over the place, your filing system is chaotic, and your in-tray is dysfunctional, it just seems like too much work to find and organize the tasks at hand, so you simply avoid doing anything at all and then you feel even worse. One of the best ways to increase your energy is to close some of your loops. So always be sure to have some easy loops to close, right at hand.*

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