I recently read Manage Your Day-to-Day created by the good folks at Behance. Check it out on Amazon here. It was a welcome recommendation from one of my colleagues, and one of the few books I’ve actually felt compelled to take notes on. Below are those notes along with the passages and ideas that really hit a chord with me. Following my notes are personal recommendations for me, though I thought it could potentially help readers, as well:

Manage your Day-to-Day

Build your routine, find your focus, and sharpen your creative mind.


by Scott Belsky (founder of Behance)

  • There are so many distractions, it sometimes seems like you’re “at the mercy of everything around me.”
  • Stop blaming your surroundings and start taking responsibility.
  • It’s important as a team to step back and discuss the  work process, to “retool your doing” on a regular basis
  • The biggest problem we face is “reactionary workflow”
  • Audit the way you work and fix it. (For me, this is reminiscent of an analytics audit)

Ch.1 Building a Rock Solid Routine

Laying the Groundwork for an Effective Routine

by Mark McGuiness (author of Resilience)

  • If you want to create something worthwhile with your life, you need to draw a line between the world’s demands and your own ambitions (deep, bro)
  • Switch to creative work first, reactive work (emails, anything that can wait) second. That means blocking off a large chuck of time every day for creative work on your own priorities, with phone & email off.
  • It may feel uncomfortable or get some people upset, but don’t surrender your dreams for an empty inbox
  • Set up a routine, triggers
  • Capture every commitment you make (Evernote?)
  • Establish start and stop points in your day

Harnessing the Power of Frequency

by Gretchen Rubin (the Happiness Project)

  • “A small daily task, if it be really daily, will beat the labors of a spasmodic Hercules” – Anthony Trollope
  • By doing something every day, you keep momentum giong
  • “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” -Aristotle
  • Habit leads us toward our goals much more so than sprints

Honing your Creative Practice

by Seth Godin (the Seth Godin)

  • Find a consistent place to do your work
  • It’s hard to tell others you know what you’re doing because it opens you up to criticism and you’ll likely feel like a fraud at first
  • Fake it till you make it? Kind of

Building Renewal into your Workday

by Tony Schwartz (CEO of the Energy Project)

  • Sleep is more important than food
  • Schedule breaks throughout the day
  • “It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you hold it.” -Lena Horne

Making Room for Solitude

by Leo Babuata (Zen Habits)

  • Make time to be by yourself
  • Either early morning or late night is usually be since no one will bother you
  • Try meditating

Ch. 2 Finding Focus in a Distracted World

Scheduling in Time for Creative Thinking

by Cal Newport (Georgetown Prof.)

  • We work in a paradoxical world where we’re expected to focus but also be available all the time
  • How much of this expectation is in our own head?
  • Create daily “focus blocks”, booked on your calendar
    • People are used to the idea that they cannot demand your attention during times when you already have a scheduled appt.
    • Never allow distraction in those times
    • Consider a different physical location for “focus blocks”

Banishing Multitasking from our Repertoire

by Christian Jarret (Psychologist)

  • Creative minds are highly susceptible to distraction
  • Remove all distractions when focusing (mostly email, phone, and social media)
  • Try not to leave tasks unfinished, they will eat at you (nom!)

Understanding our Compulsions

by Dan Ariely (Duke Psych. Prof)

  • Tthe morning is usually your most productive time but many people waste it on email, which many times doesn’t require as much focus
  • Calendars inherently represent tasks that can fit into half-hours or hours, not something large like a 50-hr project
  • Email & social media is exciting because of random reinforcement. Usually emails are pretty boring, but once in a while, we get really exciting ones
  • Out of sight, out of mind
  • “Creation is in part merely the business of foregoing the great and small distractions.” – E.B. White

Learning to Create Amidst Chaos

by Erin Rooney Doland (unclutterer.com)

  • “Waiting for inspiration to write is like standing at the airport waiting for a train.” – Leigh Michaels
  • Have positive reinforcements after completing milestones
  • Self-control is a skill that can be practiced and developed
  • “tell me what you pay attention to, and I’ll tell you who you are.” – Jose Ortega y Gasset

Tuning in to You

by Scott Belsky (Adobe VP of community & co-founder of Behance)

  • Preserve unstructured time
  • Focus on yourself and don’t worry as much about the needs of others (be selfish at times)

Ch. 3 Taming Your Tools

Making Email Matter

by Aaron Dignan (CEO of Digital Strategy Firm, Undercurrent)

  • “I don’t simply beat back my email every day like a pointless enemy.” I want to ensure that the time spent with email adds up to something
  • To make the most out of email
    • Know your complex goals (long vs. short-term)
    • Connect the dots
    • Let things go
  • “The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say ‘no’ to almost everything” – Warren Buffet

Using Social Media Mindfully

by Lori Deschene (tinybuddha.com)

  • It takes a concerted effort to be mindful with social media
  • Ask yourself why you’re using social media and if it adds value to your life
  • The power of any tool lies in the intentions of its users
  • “You can do anything, but not everything” – David Allen

Reconsidering Constant Connectivity

by Tiffany Shlain (founder of Webby Awards)

  • Know when tot turn technology off
  • The idea of Shabbat and the Sabbath…one day a week
  • Your brain & soul need a “reset” every now and then
  • “Nothing vast enters the life of mortals without a curse” – Sophocles

Awakening to Conscious Computing

by Linda Stone (tech writer)

  • Being sedentary, sitting, and screen time are all negative
  • Look for opportunity to stand and walk throughout the day
  • Watch for screen apnea- the temporary cessation of breath or shallow breathing while sitting in front of a screen
  • Sustained stress causes us to fall back on familiar routines
  • Focus on breathing & posture while at desk, especially when looking at screens

Reclaiming our Self-Respect

by James Victoire (author, designer, filmmaker)

  • We’ve been fitted with an electric leash for bad bosses, demanding clients, and bored friends
  • We are losing the distinction between urgent and important
  • “If it’s important, they’ll call back.”

Ch. 4 Sharpening Your Creative Mind

Creating for You and You Alone

by Todd Henry (founder of Accidental Creative)

  • “Unnecessary creation is essential for anyone who works with their mind” (e.g. writing 3 pages of free-flowing thought each morning.
  • Keep a running list of projects to work on during your free time
  • We need regular reminders of our capacity to contribute something unique
  • “The pressures of the ‘create-on-demand’ world can cause us to look sideways at our peers and competitors instead of looking ahead

Training Your Mind to be Ready for Insight

by Scott McDowell (consulting and executive search firm)

  • Lay the groundwork for ideas to germinate
  • Many times, people undervalue the times they are apparently ‘doing nothing’
  • Constraints historically have resulted in a flowering of the imaginations
  • Exercise and get regular sleep
  • meditate
  • “Your mind will answer most questions if you learn to relax and wait for the answer”

Tricking Your Brain Into Creativity

by Stefan Sagmeister (designer & typographer)

  • Try to do the most difficult things in the morning
  • If stuck on a problem, try thinking about it from a totally different point of view
  • Carve out time that is always untouched no matter what

Letting Go of Perfection

by Elizabeth Grace Sanders (author of effective time mgmt books)

  • Don’t let perfectionism control you
  • Perfectionism can hold you back if you refuse to be put in asituation where you might deliver an imperfect performeance and receive proper feedback
  • Many times, there is no ideal starting to, so start ASAP and know ti’ll be messy at first
  • Don’t over-invest yourself in insignificant areas – focus on your goals
  • Be open to honest feedback and use it to become more skilled

Getting Unstuck

by Mark McGuiness (creative coach)

  • Everyone gets creative blocks
  • Ask yourself what kind of block you’re facing
  • If in need of more inspiration, take a break
  • Don’t be embarrassed – get everything out, then decide what should be public
  • Be ready for bumps in the road

Coda. A Call to Action

How Pro Can You Go?

by Steven Pressfield (author of The War of Art)

  • The first step is just being able to work for a whole hour
  • Realize that expertise takes time – strive for it
  • “A professional is someone who can keep working at a high level of effort and ethics, no matter what is going on.”
  • “Inspiration is for amateurs, the rest of us just show up and get to work” – Chuck Close

Key Takeaways:

  • Ch 1 Building a Rock Solid Routine
    • Great work before everything else
      • Do your most meaningful creative work at the beginning of the your day, and leave “reactive work” – like responding to email or other messages for later
    • Jump-start your creativity
      • Establish “associative triggers” – such as listening to the same music or arranging your desk in a certain way that tell your mind it’s time to get down to work
    • Feel the frequency
      • Commit to working on your project at consistent intervals – ideally every day – to build creative muscle and momentum over time
    • Pulse and pause
      • Move rhythmically between spending and renewing your energy by working in ninety-minute bursts and then taking a break
    • Get lonely
      • Make a point of spending some time alone each day. It’s a way to observe unproductive habits and thought processes, and to calm your mind
    • Don’t wait for moods
      • Show up, whether you feel inspired or not
  • Ch 2 Finding Focus in a Distracted World
    • Defend your creative time
      • Book time on your calendar for uninterrupted, focused work – and respect those blocks of time as you would any client meeting
    • Focus when you’re fresh
      • Tackle the projects that require “hard focus” early in your day. Self-control – and our ability to resist distractions – declines as the day goes on
    • Kill the background noise
      • Turn off your phone, email, and any apps unrelated to your task. Event he presence of background activity (and temptation) can drain your focus
    • Make progress visible
      • Marking progress is a huge motivator for long-term projects. Make your daily achievements visible by saving iterations, posting milestone, or keeping a daily journal
    • Give your brain a break
      • Alternate challenging creative work with more “mindless” tasks to give your brain time to rest and refuel
    • Tap into transitional moments
      • Take a break from checking your smartphone during transitional moments, and open yourself up to opportunity and serendipity
  • Ch 3 Taming Your Tools
    • Keep the long view in view
      • Post your complex, long-term goals by your workstation to keep them top of mind when prioritizing your tasks
    • Be conscious of your bandwidth
      • Practice letting go of certain email and social media conversations. There will always be more opportunities than you actually can take on
    • Check yourself, or wreck yourself
      • Distinguish between compulsive and conscious behaviors. Are you acting out of boredom or blind habit when you could be serving a higher goal?
    • Hit the reset button
      • Make a ritual of unplugging on a regular basis. Turning everything off is like hitting the ‘reset’ button on your mind – it gives you a fresh start.
    • Don’t hold your breath
      • Be conscious of your body. Breathing deeply and regularly can decrease your stress levels and help you make better decisions.
    • In imagination we trust
      • Don’t trust technology over your own instincts and imagination. Doing busywork is easy; doing your best work is hard
  • Ch 4 Sharpening Your Creative Mind
    • Practice unnecessary creation
      • Use personal creative projects to explore new obsessions, skills, or ways of working a low pressure environment
    • Wander lonely as a cloud
      • Make time for your mind – and body – to wander when you’re stuck. Disengaging from the problem allows your subconscious to do its work
    • Define “finished” from the start
      • Keep your inner perfectionist in check by defining what finished looks like at the beginning of a project. And when you get there, stop!
    • Don’t go on autopilot
      • Repetition is the enemy of insight. Take unorthodox – even wacky – approaches to solving your stickiest problems and see what happens.
    • Search for the source
      • When the well runs dry, don’t blame a lack of talent. Creative blocks frequently piggyback on other problems. See if you can identify them.
    • Love your limitations
      • Look at constraints as a benefit, rather than an impediment. They activate our creative thinking by upping the ante.


For me, here are my top personal takeaways:

  • Get up early – all the greats, do it
  • Have set time for email, SM, and phone and set them aside when it’s not that time – out of sight, out of mind
  • Plan out time for necessary work (usually at the beginning of day/week) and leave time to be creative
  • Take walking breaks to get a change of scenery and get some fresh air/perspective
  • Wind down at night – take a walk before moving to bed, and don’t stay up late unnecessarily

Here are some ideas on what I’m planning to do more of:

  • Running/racquetball
  • Writing
  • Language practice (German, French)
  • Coding
  • Marketing (projects like SocialPiq, FindSalsaDancing.com, etc)
  • Ambidextrous practice – writing w/ opposite hand
  • Illustration
  • Practice guitar