If you can spend 8 hours building someone else’s dreams, you can spend 1 hour building your own.
One of the most powerful ideas I’ve been thinking about recently is this:
Bringing your ideal future into the now.
That is, dedicating time to the lifestyle you will be living, but performing the same actions on a smaller timescale.
As an example, I want to write for 2 hours every morning for the rest of my life.
It generates a base income, clears my mind, and allows me to cultivate my creativity every morning.
First, the only way I realized this is by experimenting with it.
Second, you won’t learn what you want unless you experiment with what you want now, just to realize what you don’t want. This is the process of lifestyle iteration.
When you bring the specific actions from your ideal future into the now, you invest energy into that lifestyle.
From my law of conceptual survival, you will make decisions to maintain those daily habits.
Conceptual survival: The human phenomenon where our survival instincts have transcended the physical realm and are included in the mental. We work to survive ideas, concepts, and beliefs that form our sense of self.
If something threatens your ability to maintain your desired lifestyle, you will perceive that as a problem.
Your mind will view situations through that lens and register potential solutions for the problem. You can find these solutions on social media, in books, or anywhere really.
This is why I encourage people to read their favorite books again.
My guess is that you have refined goals. You will read the books through that lens and find lessons that will aid your current endeavors.
If you aren’t working toward your ideal future, you are working toward someone else’s.
Your time will be filled according to perceived importance, so create the importance by investing energy in your goals.
The Holistic Daily Routine
You need dedicated time each day for creativity, productivity, and experimentation.
The first objection that comes into people’s minds is “but Dan, I don’t have enough time!”
I’m not asking you to do this all day.
I’m asking you to do it for the minimum amount of time you can. 15 minutes or so. Because the health of your psyche depends on it. You aren’t wired for modern life, and if it has become normal to you, you are by definition trapped in “the matrix.”
Many of you are familiar with how I structure my days, so I’ll make this brief.
You need 3 activities to pursue your goals with full force:
- One that fills your mind – you need education, ideas, and novel resources you can apply toward your goals. This leads to intrinsic motivation.
- One that empties your mind – you don’t want to be trapped in a chaotic bubble of thoughts and useful ideas. That’s exactly how you make zero progress. Write things down.
- One that uses your mind – you need a vessel to focus your efforts. With your ideas and the clarity to execute, build your future.
This letter will be focused on the last one, using your mind with deep work.
The Need For Deep Work
Who you are, what you think, feel, and do, what you love—is the sum of what you focus on. ― Cal Newport
Productivity is about getting the most effective work done in the least amount of time possible.
Productivity is not about seeing who can work the longest and wearing it as a badge of honor.
We’ve discussed an important concept called the perception threshold in a previous letter.
The perception threshold is where what was once difficult becomes effortless after pushing through resistance.
When we invest energy into a goal through work, even if we do not perceive it as something we are passionate about, we reach a breakthrough where we become passionate about the work.
If we invest energy in something that results in a desirable future, we feel as if we are wasting that energy when we lose momentum. And momentum feels good… incredible, to be exact.
In a world of notifications, ample options, and overwhelm, deep work is no longer an option.
It is a necessity if you want to change your life.
Deep work is how you build out your dreams in record time.
The Priority Ladder
You can drastically change your life in 6 months with 1 hour a day of pure focus.
That’s all you need.
So that’s what we will start with.
First, I want to introduce what I call the priority ladder.
The priority ladder is a way to structure your focused work sessions.
We start with a high-priority project that is based on a future goal.
After that time block, we move on to harnessing our creative ability with high-leverage tasks… the ones we don’t, and shouldn’t outsource.
Next, we move on to meaningful tasks that coincide with our creative work.
Fourth is for maintenance tasks and exposing yourself to the world.
All of these time blocks should last 60-90 minutes before taking a break.
With each time block, you gradually introduce the potential for distraction. The first block should be absolutely distractionless.
Priority 1 – Vision Building
If you don’t have a lot of time in your days, this is the only block you should pay attention to. No excuses.
If you can’t set aside one hour to build something meaningful to you… something needs to change. Fast. Sacrifices hurt but are necessary.
In this 60-90 minute time block:
Create a project that is a puzzle piece to your ideal lifestyle.
For most people, this will revolve around learning new skills to advance their career or starting a one-person business.
The actions you take in this time block should move levers.
Levers = something that actually moves you toward new insight, progress, or results.
If you are starting a business, it would be silly to start writing a newsletter first (unless you use my system).
You don’t have readers.
You don’t have an offer to monetize with.
You don’t have a way of actually getting readers.
Instead, you need to educate yourself on what the levers are through courses, books, or internet content.
A much better place to start would be the classic social media growth formula:
- 10-30 replies on larger accounts (because their audience is a traffic source that can click on your profile and follow you).
- 5-10 DMs a day using the non-needy networking process (so you have friends that can share your content, you need eyes)
- Practicing writing short-form content that can be spread to new readers.
Once you have that down, you are building traffic.
Then, you need a minimum viable offer you can iterate on. That way, you can monetize the traffic.
As your processes become more efficient they will demand less time and you can start to play around with your deep work schedule.
Priority 2 – High Leverage Creative Work
In the new economy, your ideas are what set you apart.
You must distribute them on a daily basis if you want to generate attention, income, and authority.
If you outsource you’re idea generation, you impose a wall on your growth. Content agencies can generate traffic, but again, you all know my philosophy on this.
During my second time block, I prioritize my newsletter writing.
Long-form writing is like fleshing out the depth of one massive idea.
Think of it as deconstructing a big idea, writing it out, and reconstructing it into a new one.
Creativity is alchemy but with ideas.
For those just starting out, you are better off focusing your efforts on writing content for social media platforms to generate traffic.
But I wouldn’t put off writing long-form content, because it will determine the future quality of your ideas, and hence the future quality of your brand.
Priority 3 – Meaningful & Spillover Tasks
My third time block is when I write social media content or record videos.
Sometimes, I have enough content from random ideas that come to mind that I pop into TweetHunter (where all of my content starts that I cross-post to all platforms).
In that case, I try to catch up on other work, or I’ll check in on other ventures that I’m working on (like the idea capture software I’m building).
In short, this time block should be for the meaningful tasks that you don’t plan to outsource.
And I would recommend that you never outsource your idea development.
I don’t think I will ever outsource:
- My newsletter writing (which turns into a YouTube video)
- My tweet writing (which turns into Instagram, LinkedIn, reels scripts, etc).
That’s really it, those are my fundamental levers.
Priority 4 – Maintenance Tasks
In my case, it’s around 9:30-10am at this point.
I’ve knocked out all of the work that keeps my business healthy and growing.
Now, I focus on tasks that will maintain my products and services, like checking in to Modern Mastery, responding to messages, and checking email.
I leave this for the end of my work sessions because even one message can throw your entire deep work session off.
Absolute focus allows you to get 8 hours of work done in 2, and you don’t realize this until you do it.
This newsletter is about 1000 words shorter than my others, but I feel like I got the point across.
Test things out, experiment to see what works for you, and enjoy the rest of your day.