in Becoming an Expert

How to Improve: 3 Must Read Essays on Getting Better Everyday

Improvement doesn’t come in one fell swoop. Improving takes time, effort, determination, and focus.

Becoming good at things may be considered a lost art, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t always be working on getting better at something everyday.

In this post we’ll showcase three essays from (one of Corbett and I’s favorite sites on the web) that will teach you how to improve in the best way possible.

1. The Key to Creating Remarkable Things

How often do you start your day focused on your inbox instead of your outbox? You wake up and check your email, Twitter, Facebook, etc. and before you know it precious hours of the most productive part of your day are gone.

In this essay, Mark McGuinness lays out a simple strategy for switching your day around.

  1. Creative work first, reactive work second.
  2. Tune out distractions.
  3. Make exceptions for VIPs.
  4. Be really efficient at reactive work.

The thing is, if you want to create something truly remarkable, it won’t be built in a day. A great novel, a stunning design, a game-changing software application, a revolutionary company – this kind of thing takes time, thought, craft, and persistence. And on any given day, it will never appear as “urgent” as those four emails (in the last half-hour) from Client X or Colleague Y, asking for things you’ve already given them or which they probably don’t really need. So if you’re going to prioritize this kind of work – your real work – you may have to go through a wall of anxiety in order to get it done. – Mark McGuinness

2. What Happened to Downtime?

In this age of technology, we have the ability to always be consuming new information. We explored this theory in our post 8 Wastes of Time That Can Actually Make You Smart and we discussed how you could use every waking moment to continually improve yourself.

Scott Belsky, author of Making Ideas Happen, argues instead that we need more downtime in our lives. He lays out five strategies for having more downtime for yourself.

  1. Have rituals for unplugging.
  2. Daily doses of deep thinking.
  3. Meditation and naps to clear the mind.
  4. Self-awareness and psychological investment.
  5. Protect the state of no-intent.

There has been much discussion about the value of the “creative pause” – a state described as “the shift from being fully engaged in a creative activity to being passively engaged, or the shift to being disengaged altogether.” This phenomenon is the seed of the break-through “a-ha!” moments that people so frequently report having in the shower. In these moments, you are completely isolated, and your mind is able to wander and churn big questions without interruption. – Scott Belsky

3. 10 Laws of Productivity

Because there is so much focus around the web on productivity systems, strategies, and theory you might think about just skipping right over this post. Don’t. 

If all of the best resources on productivity got together and had “best of” contest, this post would be the top ten.

  1. Break the seal of hesitation.
  2. Start small.
  3. Prototype, prototype, prototype.
  4. Create simple objectives for projects, and revisit them regularly.
  5. Work on your project a little bit each day.
  6. Develop a routine.
  7. Break big, long-term projects into smaller chunks or “phases”.
  8. Prune away superfluous meetings (and their attendees).
  9. Practice saying “No.”
  10. Remember that rules – even productivity rules – are made to be broken.
With projects that require a serious infusion of creative juice – developing a new business plan, writing a novel, or just learning a new skill – it’s incredibly important to maintain momentum. Just as when you run everyday, the exercise gets easier and easier, the same thing happens with your brain. Stimulate it regularly each day, and those juices start to flow more freely.


What strategies do you use to make continuous progress everyday? How do you improve at what you do?

Corbett Barr

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