Lessons in Execution and Self-Discipline

Last week I listened to a presentation from SXSW called “Stop Dreaming, Start Doing: Tips For Execution.” The presentation is from Scott Belsky, CEO of Behance, and he offers many practical tips for creative people who need help being more productive. I took quite a few notes while listening, so I wanted to post them here – for my benefit as much as for anyone who might be reading. Here are some of the tips he shared:

Get out of the era of reactionary work flow.

Instead of reacting to everything in your inbox, make time to work on your own projects. When we have our email open 24/7, it’s like we’re constantly fulfilling everyone else’s to-do list and never making it to our own agendas. I experience a small but constant level of stress due to having my email on all the time. Turning off email, twitter, and any other outside communication will probably be the most difficult for me to implement at first, but I’m becoming convinced that it’s a necessity. Preserving windows of non-stimulation may in fact be akin to drug withdrawal, but I’m hoping it pays off with a greater level of productivity.

Oh, sure, we delude ourselves into thinking we’re being extra-productive by obsessively checking and responding to our email, but in reality we’re attending too frequently to our own desire for gratification and sabotaging our own productivity in the process. – Jeff Atwood

Spend energy on being organized.

This is a simple one – putting energy into being organized will give you more time to get things accomplished. Instead of spending time sorting through the confusion, you come to work already on target. I just got a new desk, which has initiated a new era of organization in our office. We now have matching trestle desks with plenty of room for organizing work-related items.

Create a culture of capturing action.

This essentially involves voicing what you’re going to do next, especially outloud to others, because that makes it more real and more likely that you’re going to make it happen.

Create a ritual for recording and returning to backburner items.

This is one of the few that I’ve already got down. With the help of my favorite online productivity app, TeuxDeux, I have already recorded 36 “Someday” items underneath my normal daily to-do list. I’m able to revisit these when I have time, but I never lose an idea this way. Now, if they’d only make an Android app… 🙂

Make your office a monument to progress.

The inspiration to come up with a new idea comes easily, but the inspiration to take action is more difficult. It’s like falling in love – the part where it’s so new and everything is glowing is always the most fun. However, a never-ending stream of new ideas is nothing but a pile of rubbish if you have no forward momentum. Urging yourself on to progress means life or death for your idea.


Don’t put every project on high priority.

Accept the fact that you cannot do everything and don’t prioritize too many projects at once. You’ll make more progress and find that your stress levels will be much lower.

Give up “insecurity work.”

Insecurity work is defined as those things we do to try to feel like things are moving. These are things that do have their time and place but not all the time throughout the workday, such as checking your analytics, finding out news, researching things on Google or Twitter, etc… just because information is available to you instantly through a couple clicks does not mean that right now is the right time to access it.

Recognize the power of communal forces.

Community plays a strong role in pushing our ideas forward. Competition can be a very healthy motivator. Stay connected to positive relationships that help you to move your objectives forward.


There are a few people in life who I admire as the “Get shit done” type of people – high levels of initiative combined with efficiency. I’m trying to move more in that direction, instead of getting overwhelmed and buried under hundreds of emails.

Achieving Inbox Zero is one of my first priorities, followed by a number of important changes in how we run our business. I have to admit, I’m a little scared to let go of control, but I’m desperate to be more effective, so I’m pushing myself to remember this:

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” – 2 Timothy 1:7

1 Comment

“Now, if they’d only make an Android app…” // Seriously. I vote in favor of starting an online petition to send to Fictive Kin && Swiss Miss (:

Also, great article [ I’m addict’d to you’r WP work, so I finally made the leap && check’d our your blog ] !

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