How I Helped Tim Ferriss or the 52nd Best Benefit of Journaling or How I Procrastinated Yesterday

A few days ago, I was procrastinating. It was a stupidly easy task — a few minutes at most — but it produced disproportionate amounts of anxiety. Finally, I decided to be nimble and do something else.

So I started flipping through old journals. (Made easier because we’re in the midst of a move to New York City and they were stacked in a box in my office.)

I came across one from about two years ago, written right after my fifteen minutes of fame on Twitter.

Here’s the story, briefly: Tim Ferriss posted a really personal story involving suicide. After telling the story, Ferriss presented an argument about why people should not commit suicide. One of Ferriss’s several points is that a person who commits suicide might cause more sadness among friends and family than he or she experienced themselves.

Brian Cuban, Mark Cuban’s lesser-known brother, took issue with the word might, arguing that this suggested that it might not, which in turn means that suicide is an OK option. Cuban and Ferriss then got in a Twitter battle, each side joined by their followers.

I Tweeted something about words being imperfect, and how meaning cannot be derived without the context of other words. By focusing narrowly on might, Cuban was missing the point. Worse, he was extrapolating to argue that Ferriss was arguing that suicide was OK — which was the complete opposite of his actual argument.

Ferriss quoted me as his closing argument and ended the battle.

Mic. drop.

Reading my journal entry, I sensed some vanity. I was on a dopamine high because I’d earned the (brief) respect of the famous Tim Ferriss, a bunch of new Twitter followers and blog readers. And I was absolutely damning of Cuban’s comments: condescending, almost to the point of vindictiveness.

This was disappointing to me. I’d like to think that the Michael Motta of T0day wouldn’t have gloated so much, or been so quick to shit on Cuban. (Or even taken the time to get involved in an ultimately meaningless Twitter debate.)

But the truth is, I’m not sure how I’d react today. I’m subject to the same condition as Brian Cuban and Tim Ferriss: mental models. Ferriss saw one thing. Cuban another. And me a third. We’re all just responding to the world we see, not the world of others, not the world we share.


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How I Prioritize, Plan, and Pivot my Day — Or Why My To-Do List Looks Like This

One of my primary productivity tools is David Seah’s Emergent Task Planner (ETP.) It allows me to prioritize, plan, and pivot my day.

(This method applies equally well to any to-do list — it can be written on something pre-made like ETP or to scrap paper towels — it doesn’t matter.)

This is how I use the ETP (which is only slightly different than the creator intended, so David Seah deserves much credit for my workflow):

1.) I date the top-right.

2.) Moving down, I list the three most important tasks for the day, usually related to my three current long term goals.

For me, the first task is usually “Journal” since it’s my foundational habit followed by “Write X” (because that’s what I am), followed by either running or yoga (because if I don’t make exercise one of my day’s Big 3, I won’t do it.)

Of course, your Big 3 will probably be different.

3.) On the left column, I write out my schedule for the day, using 30 minute increments if my “productive day” is shorter, 1 hour increments if its longer. Before filling in tasks, I write-in things I MUST do at specific times (e.g., drive to work or put daughter to bed.)

4.) Next, I schedule the Big 3 tasks in between those Must Dos. As the day wanes, the short term world rears itself, so if it’s feasible, I try to schedule those tasks for early in the day.

5.) Now I know what gaps remain in my day. With this knowledge in hand, I choose the other four tasks.

6.) And then I schedule those four tasks.

7.) I repeat this process for tasks 8 and upward if need be, but I try to keep things at 7. Longer lists summon the Resistance.

8.) Then I start getting things done.

9.) Then everything goes to hell.

Well, not really, but rare is the day in which I perform my 7+ tasks as scheduled.

Plans are nothing; planning is everything.
— Dwight Eisenhower

Because, as we all know, life rarely unfolds as we envision it. Stuff happens. Curveballs are thrown. You get tired or your focus is thwarted by loud roommates or a friend unexpectedly drops by. Possible interruptions are too numerous to list here.

To get ’em all done, we must be nimble.

Examples of nimbleness:

  • I planned on doing Task X but my car died so I did Task Y instead.
  • Task 1 took much longer than I thought it would, forcing me to lower my ambitions for Task 2.

And then sometimes I just plain don’t feel like doing something at its scheduled time. I feel Resistance or a task is frustrating me or I realize I don’t have enough information to get started. I swap things around, I switch things up. I do what I need to do.

Whatever the reasons, towards the end of the day, my once-pretty task list often looks something like this:

But that’s OK. The most important thing, after all, is to get stuff done, not to live our days exactly as planned.

It’s important to plan your day and it’s equally important to plan your pivot.

To see how the Emergent Task Planner sticky pad meshes with the other components of my workflow, visit and To see the works that influenced the above method, check out this list.