You Know Too Much And You Produce Too Little – A Chapter from The Book

Here’s a free chapter from my newest book, “But I Have No Original Ideas.”

You’re stuck because you have too much information. You’re spending hours on Farnam Street trying to find the perfect mental model. You’re reading essays and articles and books on productivity. You’re building another brain because the first one wasn’t good enough. You’ve filled your portfolio with other people’s work. The problem is that you have too much information.

You need to act like a secret society trying to control the masses. Prevent yourself from knowing any more. Behead the productivity gurus. Burn your business books. Get a job at your internet service provider and block your own IP address from every productivity blog. The only thing you need to know about being productive is that you need to be productive.

The stuck creative spends his days searching for answers. The unstuck creative spends his days working on his craft. To be a more productive writer, write. To be a more productive painter, paint. More doing. Less searching.

A conspiracy theory

You’re not in control. They are.

Not a big pyramid with an eyeball. Not a group of men in suits sitting around a glossy table in a dark room plotting to keep you poor. It’s whoever wrote that outrage tweet. Or that political manifesto on Facebook. Or that comment on your profile picture about how you look like a lizard.

Everyone has dreams. Everyone has values. But not everyone has values that align with their dreams.

Dreaming is easy. So easy that we do it in our sleep.

All you do is fill in this sentence: I dream of _____.  I want to be a writer. I want to sing. I want to see the world. I want to do this and be that.

But coming up with values? deciding what we’re going to ignore? deciding what to say no to, no matter what? That’s difficult. That requires us to set boundaries. And who wants to do that? Who wants to say no to their friends? But it’s a necessary practice, no matter how much we risk looking like a jerk in the short-term.

There isn’t much to fear missing out on when what you’re missing is banal and expedient.

Here’s a better, more useful fear: the fear of missing out on the work that only you can do.

Checking the newest thing isn’t living. If you’re always worried about the newest most outrageous thing, then you’re a puppet. You’re not free to do as you please. You’re letting other people pull your strings.

When your values align with your dreams, they’re no longer in control. You are.


23 minutes

It takes 23 minutes to refocus after being distracted.

By default, opening a new tab in Google Chrome shows you a distraction page – a list of 10 of the websites you visit the most. That’s 10 ways to lose 23 minutes.

Enter Momentum. It’s my favorite productivity app of all time. If you liked Essentialism by Greg McKeown, this is the app for you.

Momentum replaces the default new tab screen with a greeting, a gorgeous photograph, an inspirational quote, a to-do list, and a clock. That’s it. That’s all it takes to have those 23 minutes of focus back.


It’s simple. The photographs are stunning. The layout is perfect. The entire app embodies a ‘less is more’ design choice that helps users circumvent any possibility of losing focus while working online.

And it works. It works because the developers understood that one of the best ways to avoid distraction is to never see that which can distract you. You can’t eat 12 Oreos if there’s no box of Oreos around.

My only complaint is that the photographs are so stunning that I catch myself staring at a fjord for 23 minutes.