I have an embarrassing secret: I love self-help books, whether they’re the usual cheesy “believe in yourself” drivel, or coated with a veneer of business or professional material. I don’t think this obsession is all that different from “life hacks” or the motivational posts that litter Hacker News from time to time, except for two points: they might contain fresh insights that the life hackers haven’t covered yet and they usually pad out these insights with walls of text. They need to fill in an entire book somehow.

I recently read 99U’s “Maximize Your Potential: Grow Your Expertise, Take Bold Risks & Build an Incredible Career”, and took down a few notes. To save you the trouble of reading the book, here are some of the big takeaways:

  • Post long term goals by your workstation to keep them in mind.
  • Let go of email/social media to reduce your mental list of “things to do”.
  • Compulsive decisions != Conscious decisions
  • Breathe deeply while you work.
  • Drink lots of water.
  • Instinct > Technology
  • Set aside specific time each week/day to work on spare projects to nurture your imagination.
  • Always carry a spare notebook for questions / ideas.
  • Let your mind wander when stuck.
  • Do creative work at beginning of day, and save reactive work for afterwards.
  • Have a routine.
  • Establish associative triggers for work. (e.g. different hats for different activities)
  • Consistent intervals for work (e.g. Pomodoro. 90 min bursts then take a break.)
  • Don’t wait to be in “the mood” for work. Just do it!
  • Spend time by yourself in a day.
  • Block off periods of times with no distractions (These are meetings with yourself.) Start off w/ 1 h meetings, and add 15 mins every two weeks.
  • Remove even the option of being distracted.
  • Finish tasks so you stop thinking about them!
  • Save iterations and POST MILESTONES.
  • Alternate creative and mindful work.

You might already do some of these things, and some of these suggestions may be overwhelming. Just take a step at a time! I’m currently doing well with my ‘drinking water’ New Years’ resolution!