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Becoming A Day Smasher, Making Sense of Life, & Closing Your Open Loops

Resource: How To SMASH DAYS When You Don’t Feel Like It – Jocko WillinkLink:
Description: Jocko Willink addresses the challenge of getting things done on days when our feelings don’t cooperate.


When it feels difficult to write, that’s the most important time to write. When it feels difficult to work out, that’s the most important time to work out. When it feels difficult to study, that’s the most important time to study. When you make the decision to work when your work is hard to do, you send a message to your inner self that says “My life is dictated by willpower, not feel power. My actions are governed by conviction, not comfort. My plans are executed according to my mission, not my mood.” The moments of greatest resistance are the moments when we have the biggest opportunity to kick convenience off the pedestal and put our deepest values in its place.

Sometimes the resistance we feel is an indicator that we truly do need to take a break and refill the well. Even when that’s true, don’t give in to the impulse to take your break right here and now. Do some work first. Even if it’s just a little bit of work, do something first. Take a break later on. Make it clear to yourself that you’re going to rest and relax on your own terms. When you take a break, do it for the same reason that you work: because you believe in what you’re doing, not because it’s the easiest thing to do.

This is how you set the tone for your day. This is how you take charge of your life.

Resource: The Quicksand of Existence: Sylvia Plath on Life, Death, Hope, and Happiness
Description: Maria Popova shares some poetic musings and stream of consciousness writings from Sylvia Plath’s efforts to grapple with the meaning of existence.


One excerpt strikes me in particular:

“Not to be sentimental, as I sound, but why the hell are we conditioned into the smooth strawberry-and-cream Mother-Goose-world, Alice-in-Wonderland fable, only to be broken on the wheel as we grow older and become aware of ourselves as individuals with a dull responsibility in life? … * to go to college fraternity parties where a boy buries his face in your neck or tries to rape you if he isn’t satisfied with burying his fingers in the flesh of your breast. * to learn that there are a million girls who are beautiful and each day that more leave behind the awkward teen-age stage, as you once did, to embark on the adventure of being loved and petted. * to be aware that you must compete somehow, and yet that wealth and beauty are not in your realm. … * to learn that you can’t be a revolutionary. * to learn that while you dream and believe in Utopia, you will scratch & scrabble for your daily bread in your home town and be damn glad if there’s butter on it. … * to have won $100 for writing a story and not believe that I am the one who wrote it. … * to know that millions of others are unhappy and that life is a gentleman’s agreement to grin and paint your face gay so others will feel they are silly to be unhappy, and try to catch the contagion of joy, while inside so many are dying of bitterness and unfulfillment. * to take a walk with Marcia Brown and love her for her exuberance, to catch some of it, because it’s real, and once again love life day by day, color by color, touch by touch, because you’ve got a body & mind to exercise & use it as much as you can, never mind whose [sic] got a better or worse body & mind, but stretch yours as far as you can.”

This is profoundly disillusioning and comforting all at once. Life does seem to come crashing down on our childhood dreams and fancies at times. Adult life is far less romantic than many of us thought it would be. We seem condemned to work hard in an effort to earn a living and make our way, but not equally fated to succeed and be happy. And yet there is something settling about knowing that this isn’t a rare experience. The existence of powerful and privileged people aside, there is a great cloud of witnesses who empathize with our plights and dark nights of philosophical unrest.

Resource: Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen (Book)


Open loops are the primary cause of stress.

An open loop is any task, obligation, or plan that hasn’t been properly defined and delegated.

When we have open loops, our mind uses lots of energy to nag us about them. This hinders creative thinking and creates cognitive overload.

“The mind is for having ideas, not holding ideas.”

When you close your open loops, you free the mind up to do what it does best.

Close open loops by building a second brain.

A second brain is a well organized and reliable system for capturing, clarifying, organizing, reviewing, and executing your open loops.

Your systems needs to be something that you know you can trust. If you input data into a system you don’t trust (ie. just writing something on a to do list), your open loops won’t close.

Our lives are filled with too much stuff.

“Stuff” is anything that takes up physical/psychological space and hasn’t been designated/classified.

When you clarify, classify, and properly designate the “stuff” in your life, it transforms into a concrete plan.

Stuff crowds your life and clouds your thinking. Plans give you a sense of purpose and inspiration.

Two key aspects of getting things done: 1) Define what “done” means. 2) Define what doing looks like. Outcome and Action.

You can’t manage time or information. You manage action.


“Your ability to generate power is directly proportional to your ability to relax. ”

“Anything that does not belong where it is, the way it is, is an “open loop,” which will be pulling on your attention if it’s not appropriately managed. In order to deal effectively with all of that, you must first identify and capture all those things that are “ringing your bell” in some way, clarify what, exactly, they mean to you, and then make a decision about how to move on them. ”

“First of all, if it’s on your mind, your mind isn’t clear. Anything you consider unfinished in any way must be captured in a trusted system outside your mind, or what I call a collection tool, that you know you’ll come back to regularly and sort through. ”

“You must use your mind to get things off your mind. ”

“People think a lot, but most of that thinking is of a problem, project, or situation—not about it. If you actually did this suggested exercise, you were required to structure your thinking toward an outcome and an action, and that does not usually happen without a consciously focused effort. Reacting is automatic, but thinking is not. ”

“Here’s how I define “stuff”: anything you have allowed into your psychological or physical world that doesn’t belong where it is, but for which you haven’t yet determined what, exactly, it means to you, with the desired outcome and the next action step. The reason most organizing systems haven’t worked for most people is that they haven’t yet transformed all the stuff they’re trying to organize. As long as it’s still stuff, it’s not controllable. ”

“Stuff is not inherently a bad thing. Things that command or attract our attention, by their very nature, usually show up as stuff. But once we allow stuff to come into our lives and work, we have an inherent commitment to ourselves to define and clarify its meaning. ”

“you don’t manage five minutes and wind up with six; ”

“Things rarely get stuck because of lack of time. They get stuck because what “doing” would look like, and where it happens, hasn’t been decided. ”

“There is no real way to achieve the kind of relaxed control I’m promising if you keep things only in your head. ”

“There is no reason to ever have the same thought twice, unless you like having that thought. ”

“A big problem is that your mind keeps reminding you of things when you can’t do anything about them. It has no sense of past or future. That means as soon as you tell yourself that you might need to do something, and store it only in your head, there’s a part of you that thinks you should be doing that something all the time. Everything you’ve told yourself you ought to do, it thinks you should be doing right now. Frankly, as soon as you have two things to do stored only in your mind, you’ve generated personal failure, because you can’t do them both at the same time. This produces a pervasive stress factor whose source can’t be pinpointed. “

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