my system for staying focused.

I tend to have a lot on my plate. There are always 5-10 totally different areas of interest in my mind and sometimes I have a hard time keeping track of everything and making sure I actually do all the stuff that matters.

Over the years I’ve tried a lot of systems to stay productive, but I’ve actually developed my own process that works better than anything I’ve tried before, so I thought I’d share it with you.

It works like this…

  1. Each weekend, I take one index card and write out all the subjects / domains / types of work that matter to me (i.e. running, reading, making art, producing music, etc). One subject per line.
  2. After each subject, I draw one empty checkbox for each day that I want to work on the area in the coming week – some areas (like reading) I want to do all 7 days, some areas (like running) get a rest day.
  3. For each day that I make a solid effort on that subject, I check off one of the boxes

For example:

Each day, my work is to make sure I get a check mark in as many areas as possible (ideally one in every row). That’s it. No planning, no scheduling, no to-do lists, just the constant pursuit of checkmarks.

The thing is, this works really well.

The idea was inspired by Jerry Seinfeld’s Red X System. If you haven’t heard the story, a young comedian asked Jerry how to get better at writing jokes:

He told me to get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. The next step was to get a big red magic marker.

He said for each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day. “After a few days you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain.”

If you have just one thing you want to work on, that system is totally magic. But if you have 6-8 areas that you want to stay on top of (like I do), having 6-8 calendars would be a bit ridiculous. In that case, my index system can be a little simpler – it also has the advantage of letting you control the number of days per week for each area (i.e. 6 days of running to account for a rest day). It only takes about 30 seconds of planning each weekend to rewrite / print the new index card for the upcoming week and there’s nothing else to plan or schedule beyond that.

The reason this system is so powerful is because it turns your dreams into routines. Literally 90% of achieving any goal is showing up. No matter what you want to do or learn or improve, if you can simply show up each day and make a sincere effort to get a little bit better, you’re more than halfway there. What you can accomplish today in 90 minutes might not be much, but what you can accomplish in 360 x 90 minutes is pretty substantial.

In my experience, there is no better way to stay on top of the work that matters than this red x / index card system. I always know what needs to be done and, in one glance, I can track my progress and hold myself accountable.

📰 subscribe.

join the 2+ readers who get my label. newsletter featuring the latest in art / music / design / technology delivered to their inboxes every weekend:

📰 subscribe.

join the 2+ readers who get my label. newsletter featuring the latest in art / music / design / technology delivered to their inboxes every weekend:

hi. my name is drew. this notebook is where i document what i’m creating / thinking about right now [art + code + existential crises + etc]. if you’re new here, you can visit my about page to read what i say about myself.
  • if you haven’t already, check out my ‘goldeneye.’ effect in your Instagram camera.
  • this is the homeless camp i installed (via augmented reality) in front of the hermès store on rodeo dr. it’s called ‘skid ro.’ and you can view it through my new label. LA app (link in profile). ⛺️
  • i placed this one near the Santa Monica pier, it's called 'funding for this exhibit provided by the Sackler family.' If you don't know what that means, 👉🏼 please swipe to read the exhibit description. download my free app ‘label. LA’ to see it in person (link in description).
  • @callmekanaa with my goldeneye. filter 💥
  • It's here! My augmented reality art app launched this morning. 15 exhibits throughout Los Angeles, viewable in AR through the app. After months and months of design and coding this, I'm so stoked to share it with you. Augmented Reality street art is the future and this is the first of its kind AR street art experience. Download link in my profile (free) if you want to check it out. 💥
  • it’s here... check out my new filter ‘andy.’ modeled after Warhol’s famous screen print style. really happy with the effect on this one, and you can even tap each frame to make your own color scheme. hope you guys have fun with it. 🙏🏼
  • i'm so stoked to tell you guys that i just got into Instagram’s private program to create filters/effects for IG Stories! 🤖 this is my first one (called goldeneye.) and anyone following me is able to use it in their stories, so check it out and lemme know what you think! (it's really cool in low light too.) these are so much fun to make and dovetail so perfectly with the other augmented reality artwork i'm doing at the moment. addicting. i have about 10 more in the works. 💥
  • do you ever just wake up and feel like you *have* to draw an anatomical knee study before you can start your day?? ... i don’t question the muse, I just do what she says 🤷🏼‍♂️
  • i installed this above Pacific Palisades in my upcoming AR app. it’s called “glistening triangular thing.” what does it mean? i have no idea, just thought it was pretty. my favorite part of this is the way it can accurately reflect the real-world environment as if it is actually there. can’t wait to go see it at sunset someday.
  • You know, it’s been 18 months and ’the column of dirty dishes.’ still hasn’t fallen over. MOMA hasn’t called to make an offer on it (yet), but the fact that it’s still standing is a success in its own right 🤷🏼‍♂️
  • [sneak preview.] i'm building an augmented reality iPhone app where you can walk around Los Angeles and view 15 digital "installations" that I've placed around the city just by pointing the app at them. This one is a total💩storm, called 'hollywood stars.' Of course, it also works with the stars of Michael Jackson and Bill Cosby. The app (label. LA) will launch later this month so you too can make it rain 💩. #StayTuned
  • I always hesitated before signing any of my work because [label.] felt too “expansive” for my own signature. And then I realized that my work made in this spirit was always meant to be stamped with the generic [label.] seal of approval and that feels so much better.