Become a Writer Today

Manage Your Mind, Accomplish More and Increase Your Creativity with David Kadvy

July 26, 2021 Bryan Collins
Become a Writer Today
Manage Your Mind, Accomplish More and Increase Your Creativity with David Kadvy
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Become a Writer Today
Manage Your Mind, Accomplish More and Increase Your Creativity with David Kadvy
Jul 26, 2021
Bryan Collins

I recently read  Mind Management, Not Time Management by  David Kadvy.

It made a big impact on me because David has thought a lot about popular productivity methods like Getting Things Done and considered how they can apply to writers and creatives. 

He breaks down how creatives can organize their day so they’re at their best when it’s time to write or work on a project and how they can also find time for all the administrative stuff that could come with running a writing business. 

I was interested to know more about his writing process. He also has a very specific early morning writing routine he describes in this week’s interview. 

I started by asking David about the key ideas in his book and how he came to write it in the first place. 

In this episode, we discuss:

  • Getting your mind ready to write
  • Review what you're going to write the next day
  • David's morning routine
  • Using The Zettelkasten Method
  • How many hours a day David spends in a creative state 
  • Deciding how many books to write each year

Resources:

Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/becomeawritertoday)

Show Notes Transcript

I recently read  Mind Management, Not Time Management by  David Kadvy.

It made a big impact on me because David has thought a lot about popular productivity methods like Getting Things Done and considered how they can apply to writers and creatives. 

He breaks down how creatives can organize their day so they’re at their best when it’s time to write or work on a project and how they can also find time for all the administrative stuff that could come with running a writing business. 

I was interested to know more about his writing process. He also has a very specific early morning writing routine he describes in this week’s interview. 

I started by asking David about the key ideas in his book and how he came to write it in the first place. 

In this episode, we discuss:

  • Getting your mind ready to write
  • Review what you're going to write the next day
  • David's morning routine
  • Using The Zettelkasten Method
  • How many hours a day David spends in a creative state 
  • Deciding how many books to write each year

Resources:

Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/becomeawritertoday)

David: I thought that I could just sit down and put one word after another. I was trying to do all four of those stages at once, but once I started to recognize, “Okay, wait, this isn’t something that you just sit down and do all at once. You have to do it one piece at a time and be patient with it,” that’s when it started to get a lot easier to keep projects moving forward.

Introduction: Welcome to the Become a Writer Today Podcast with Bryan Collins. Here, you’ll find practical advice and interviews for all kinds of writers.

Bryan: What’s the best way to manage your mind so you can accomplish more and become more creative?

Hi, there, my name is Bryan Collins, and welcome to the Become a Writer Today Podcast. Now, a few months ago, I read one of the most thoughtful and insightful books I’ve come across in a long time. The book is called Mind Management, Not Time Management and the author is this week’s interviewee. His name is David Kadavy and he’s currently writing and working in Colombia. This book made a big impact in me because David has thought a lot about popular productivity methods like GTD or Getting Things Done and considered how they can apply for writers and for anybody in creative work and he also breaks down how creatives can organize their day so they’re at their best when it’s time to write or to work on a project that requires deep work and how they can also find time for all the administrative stuff that could come with running a writing business or with basically trying to create a book or get something out into the world that you’re a little bit unsure about.

So, when I caught up with David, I asked him all about his writing process and how he gets ready for his day, for his early morning writing routine each morning, which is worth checking out because David has quite a specific routine which he describes in his book and also in this week’s interview. I was also fascinated to talk to David because he also uses zettelkasten. Now, I’ve previously talked about the zettelkasten on the Become a Writer Today Podcast and if you’re interested in learning more about how to create your zettelkasten, check out my previous interview with Sascha Fast. 

David also uses zettelkasten to research his nonfiction articles and his books. Basically, zettelkasten, which is also known as a slip box, involves writing short notes about articles you come across and about interesting ideas and interlinking all of these notes. It’s not about clipping articles into Evernote. No, it’s much more than that. So, for example, if you come across a quote about getting things done, you would record that quote on an index card or into your zettelkasten, which can be software, it doesn’t really matter what the software is, and then you would write a reaction to that note about what it meant to you and what lesson or takeaway you got from it. You have one quote or one idea per note and your job is then to interlink these notes and the idea is that, eventually, or at the end of the week, you’ll read through all of your notes and you’ll be able to see connecting ideas from one note to the next.

And this is how I currently research and write non-fiction at the moment. I started building my zettelkasten back in early 2020 before the coronavirus pandemic so this was a project to keep me busy and right now I have over 1,500 notes in my zettelkasten. Some of them are only a couple of lines long, some of them are quite a bit longer, but it’s really helped me write quicker and this is something that David also describes in this week’s interview. 

He gets into his process for keeping his zettelkasten or personal slip box. David also talks about the seven mental states of creatives, and if you’re wondering what’s the best time to write and what’s the best time to research and what’s the best time to edit and what’s the best time to check your e-mail, David’s approach or insights into these mental states will help you find answers to all of those questions.

Now, if you enjoy this week’s interview and you find it helpful, please leave a short review or just hit the Star button on iTunes. It only takes a few minutes but your reviews and your ratings really do help more people find the show, which I really appreciate. Or you can share the show wherever you’re listening, on Spotify or Overcast or Stitcher. I’m also tweeting a lot more these days. 

Basically, I use Twitter after I’ve produced my 500 or 1,000 words for the day. The reason why I’m saying this to you is if you want to get in touch with me, Twitter’s a good place to do it at the moment. It’s @bryanjcollins. Basically, if you’ve got questions about writing, if you’ve got suggestions for the show, if you simply want to check in and say hello or let me know what you’re up to, then check me out on Twitter. Actually, if you’re not on Twitter, Twitter is a fantastic place for networking with other writers. 

To be honest, I’d stopped using Twitter for a long time because I was more focused on writing books and writing articles, but I was surprised by how much Twitter has changed since I used it for more than just sharing links to my latest blog posts and articles. It’s become a lot more conversational and the algorithm has definitely gotten a lot better. 

So, if you’re a writer and you’re wondering what’s the best place to find a writing community and perhaps you’ve got some issues with Facebook, like I do, then I would say Twitter is a good place to connect with other writers. 

Some hashtags you might want to check out include #writingcommunity and #ASMSG and #writing. You’ll find writers using any of those hashtags and you can jump into a conversation and ask them questions about fiction, non-fiction, your books, self-publishing, and people are really very responsive. So, Twitter is definitely worth checking out if you want to connect with other writers. But, like anything with social media, only do it after you’ve hit your word count or you’ve done what you wanted to do for the day because you don’t wanna waste all your time on Twitter.

Now, let’s go over to this week’s interview with David, and I started by asking him about the key ideas in his book and how he came to write it in the first place. 

Bryan: Welcome to the show, David.

David: Thank you so much for having me, Bryan. It’s an honor.

Bryan: So, years ago, I probably did something that you might have done, I went down the rabbit hole of Getting Things Done and it did help me get a lot of things done but I did find that GTD and creative work maybe have a few little incompatibility issues. So, when you think about getting things done or even productivity for creators, how do you approach it or how did you start to approach it when you were researching this book?

David: Yeah, I also love Getting Things Done. I was a pretty early adopter of Getting Things Done. Maybe 2004, 2005, something like that, is when I started using that, but I have found, over the years, that it’s not so great for this creative stuff where you don’t know exactly what it is that you’re doing, like getting a thing done is great when you know what the thing is and what done means. 

And with creative work, oftentimes, it’s emerging from this inductive process and you don’t necessarily know what it is that you’re creating until you actually do create it and especially when you’re trying to tackle some sort of new creative endeavor that you’re not super experienced with, you don’t know what the steps involved are so identifying, say, like a next action for like, “Oh, you’re gonna write your first book. What’s the next action?” right? Like if you —

Bryan: Write first sentence.

David: Yeah, write first sentence or maybe you do think of it that way and I know that that’s kind of the way that I try to think about writing my first book. I wasn’t an experienced writer, I’m not somebody who like grew up dreaming of becoming a writer. I wanted to be an artist or a designer and I got my first book deal roughly 10 years ago or so and started writing that book and I did look at it as, “Oh, okay, well, I have to write, what? 50,000 something words. I’ve got this much time to write it. 250 words a day, that should probably do it. I’ll just put the writing sessions on my calendar.” Oh, doesn’t work that way. Turns out, you can’t just like sit down and just one word after another, especially when you’re not really experienced in the process of writing. 

So there can be these sort of errors of next action with Getting Things Done where you think that the next action is one thing but it turns out like that’s just not the way that creative work gets done. It’s not this step-by-step process. And so that, actually, that experience of trying to write that first book and running into that issue of, “Ooh, this is — it’s very hard to get things done in this manner. I’m banging my head against the wall 12 hours a day and suddenly getting this 15 minutes of flow, why can’t I just sit down and do my 15 minutes of writing, get on with the rest of my day?” So that’s where I started to step back and say, all right, well — and there might be something — some better way for me to arrive at that point where I am sitting down and doing that 15 minutes of writing and having it come easily and getting on with the rest of my day.

Bryan: And a lot of that boils down to incubation and preparation where you’re reading books related to whatever you’re going to write about or going to museums or having experiences that you can use in your work.

David: Yeah. You have to have your mind ready in a couple of different ways. One is just being in that right state for the type of work that it is that you’re trying to create and that’s something that I started to see patterns in. It is that, sometimes, we are in this creative mind state where we can sort of make those connections and make this creative work happen and that depends upon us having knowledge, though. That depends upon us having the raw materials stored in our brain ready to go to be connected to create whatever it is that we’re creating. Now, I mean, when I say “raw materials that are gonna be connected,” that might sound a little bit like I’m catering to nonfiction or something but that could be something where if you’re writing fiction and you haven’t figured out what your characters are like, what your world is like, what sort of themes you’re talking about in the story. 

When those things are in place, you can start to make those connections, you can start to put one word after another. That starts to make it a lot easier. And it turns out that there’s been a lot of research on creativity going back like a hundred years or so showing us that there’s these stages to creativity. I call ’em the four stages to creativity. There have been various interpretations of them, but it’s basically preparation, incubation, illumination, verification.
 
And preparation is that getting that raw source material ready in your mind or, like I was saying, exploring who your characters are, exploring what your world looks like, doing your research so that you know exactly what gun model it is that the killer has or whatever. And then there’s incubation, which is that there is this — we know instinctively that if you have a hard problem that you’re trying to solve, you should sleep on it, that there’s this time — that there is this way that your mind starts to absorb information that it’s been exposed to and also starts to do what they call fixation, forgetting what psychologists call it, sort of the bad ideas, the things that are, “Oh, that was a little bit too on the nose,” or, “That connection didn’t make very much sense,” they think your brain starts to let those things fall away just with the passage of time, whatever you’re doing, whether you’re sleeping, you’re working on something else. 

Sleep is especially effective for that sort of thing. But that helps get those things embedded in your mind. And then there’s illumination. That is that aha moment, that is that moment when those connections really are being made and you are putting one word after another. And that’s pretty far in the process. And then, finally, there’s that verification. That’s where you’re checking the facts, you’re making sure the punctuation and the grammar and all that stuff is right. And those are all separate stages and I think, for myself, when I was an inexperienced writer trying to write a book, I thought that I could just sit down and put one word after another. I was trying to do all four of those stages at once, but once I started to recognize, “Okay, wait, this isn’t something that you just sit down and do all at once. You have to do it one piece at a time and be patient with it,” that’s when it started to get a lot easier to keep projects moving forward

Bryan: Makes sense. Makes sense. One of the key takeaways for me from your book was that perhaps, at the end of the day, I could review what I was going to write the next day. So, at the moment, I’m doing outlines for a book I’m working on using bullet point tools. I just look at the bullet points that I have for what I want to write the next morning and then, hopefully, if all goes according to plan, I’ll turn up and write it.

David: The mind is so incredibly powerful in that way. I mean, think of it — I live in Colombia, I’m not a native Spanish speaker, but like one thing that people do very often here is they like to use the voice memo feature on WhatsApp and they’ll leave a voice memo and they’ll just talk super fast and I have no idea what’s going on and I’ve learned that if I just listen to that voice memo and then I just like wait ’til the next day or maybe even wait ’til later on in the day and I listen to it again, suddenly, I can hear the pattern.

Suddenly, it makes sense. Suddenly, it’s coming out clearly. And so our mind has this way of finding these patterns, even without our conscious awareness of it. They’ve done the study where they had people type in these patterns on keyboards and they seem like random patterns to the people who were typing in the patterns but — well, one of them actually was random, the other one seemed random but there actually was a pattern. Well, the ones for whom there was a pattern, they, after a break, were able to type the sequences faster and still they — neither group had any awareness that there was a pattern. But we have this sort of pattern recognition we have. When time passes, we consolidate memories, we create connections in between things, something called relational memory, and so it’s really magical. I call it the passive genius. So, like you were saying, you could review your little outline of what you’re gonna write the next day and then go to sleep and wake up and somehow it’ll be a little bit better.

There was a playwright, Lillian Hellman, she used to do this. She would read the dialogue out loud of all her characters before bed and then she’d wake up the next day and review them again and, what do you know, it just like comes out so much more crisp and it’s amazing that we don’t — that this isn’t a normal thing that we all do because, like I said, we know to sleep on it. We kind of instinctively know but very few of us actually design our work in a way so that this incubation takes over and I think part of it is — like I’ve called the book Mind Management, Not Time Management, I specifically wanted to address time management because it seems to be this obsession that we have where we think that the time put into something equals our output and that’s kind of left over —

Bryan: Which comes from work and from corporate companies and factories before that.

David: Especially factories. I mean, if you just take it back to the birth of scientific management and Frederick Taylor sitting there with a stopwatch, saying, “Do these exact motions in this exact sequence and it should take you this much time. If you work this much time, you should create this many widgets.” 

Okay, well, with what we know about creativity, with what we know about the way the mind works, it doesn’t work that way but we still have that obsession. We still think that it’s gotta be you put in this amount of time, you get this amount of output, but if you actually design your work in a way so that you’re giving yourself that sort of what I call a minimum creative dose, just like enough information to feed your brain so that it works not just on an unconscious level, sometimes it works on a conscious level too, while you’re showering, you’re cooking, whatever, you just happen to be thinking about that thing that you loaded your brain with and then you return to it and suddenly you’re able to create this incredible amount of progress with very little active work.

Bryan: Yeah. And in terms of sitting down to do the work in the morning, you describe in the book quite a specific morning routine. I have an AlphaSmart, by the way, but would you be able to describe what that is?

David: Oh, yeah, I mean, it changes a bit from time to time but I think at the time I was writing the book, it was basically just get up and write as soon as I possibly can. And, yeah, I mean, I was pretty strict with it where, in the beginning, I was — there’s like a little bit of a tradeoff here in that there’s things that help us be more creative but then there’s sort of your mental state in the morning.

So, sort of the beginning of the explorations of this book or beginning of this experiment where I lived down in Colombia where I redesigned my life, basically, around creative output, so morning time is a time when I’m a little groggy, a lot of people are a little groggy, and the research is kind of surprising in that whatever is kind of your lowest point of the day, when you’re not so sharp, that happens to be the best time for broad thinking sort of creativity.

And also research shows that wide open spaces enhance creativity and so when I first started building my routine, I had these windows that were floor-to-ceiling windows and I would get up in the morning and they looked out over the treetops and I set up over that and tried to write. But I found that I really had a hard time getting focused and actually producing work that way so I actually did something a little counterintuitive that maybe hinders creativity a little bit but at least kept me more disciplined which was that I just turned my desk into this little cove where it was just a blank wall.

So it was just a blank wall on three sides and I found that that was able to get me focused but it was sort of a tradeoff there where if I wanna be creative in an afternoon when I have a little bit higher energy and maybe I’m a little bit better suited for sort of the editing type of work, that’s the time when I might need to be like in a busy cafe or have like a view, those sort of things that tend to enhance creativity.

And a lot of this stuff also depends upon sort of the level of creativity that you’re going for, you know? There’s like the little c and the big C creativity. So big C creativity would be like, “What’s my next book gonna be about? What direction do I wanna go in terms of my creativity and whatever it is that I wanna explore next?” Like that’s a big C. That’s the type of thing where I will go to a cabin and just isolate myself and have like a wonderful view or go to a retreat with friends and really talk things over for like a week and just try to get into this really relaxed state where I’m not trying to produce anything in particular and I’m just trying to let my mind open and get into this creative state because it’s a difficult state to get into —

Bryan: And not one you could solve or not a problem you could solve while sitting on a desk.

David: Right, not a problem — I mean, you can try but your solution is probably not gonna be your best possible solution. Now, the little c stuff, that’s when, at least in the beginning of my exploration with this, I was trying to get myself into a writing habit of, “Okay, we’re gonna write and publish a 500-word blog post first thing in the morning.” Now that’s a little bit more — that requires a little bit more discipline where you’re sort of — there’s that emotional component to that too where you are a little bit of having that mentality of, “Oh, I’m just a bricklayer. I’m just gonna detach myself from the idea of quality here and try to just lay down words,” and, oftentimes, you surprise yourself with the level of quality that you come up with.
 
And so there’s these different sort of pieces that you can put together based upon how experienced are you with this particular type of problem? What level of creativity are you trying to get out of this problem? Like are you trying to come up with just an idea today or are you trying to ship something? And that’s where you can start to design your routine based upon your level that you’re at and what it is that you’re trying to get. So, for me, morning is a great time for being creative. That’s true for a lot of people because a lot of people are quite groggy in the morning. And I don’t drink coffee so maybe I’m biased here, but —

Bryan: And you’re in Colombia.

David: I’m in Colombia, I know. So, this just doesn’t make any sense. But I’m a big advocate of just like embrace that grogginess. I, in fact, you were talking about the AlphaSmart, and maybe this is what you were referring to as far as morning routine, because before I even do that writing in the morning, the first thing I like to do is I’ve got the AlphaSmart, that’s a portable word processor, they’re discontinued, they’re available used on Amazon for like 50 bucks, just a little battery-powered thing, amazing device, definitely go check it out. I have a blog post on my site you can see on that, and I have one in my nightstand and I grab it first thing in the morning.

I still have my like sleep mask on, my eyes are closed, I turn it on and then I just type a hundred words. I type a hundred words on whatever, could be a dream that I had, it could be something that makes me mad, it could be something that I’m thinking about that I’m gonna work on later that day and that’s just a really wonderful time because I’m really kind of disconnected from my own consciousness in that moment.

And congruent with this idea of there being various stages of creativity, when I’m done with those 100 words, sometimes it’s 1,000 but it’s at least 100 words, sometimes it’s 552, whatever, I delete everything that I just wrote. So, why would I do that? Because it’s about the connection. It’s about exercising the thoughts in your minds and then letting them bounce around and seeing what comes out later. Because, again, this isn’t just an assembly line. This isn’t every word that you type needs to become a finished product, like the words that you type are really just training wheels for thought and even when I am writing a book, I’m a big fan of rewriting because it just gets better and better each time that you step away from it and go back to it. So, anyways, that’s a lot of stuff about morning routines but that’s a couple —
Bryan: Yeah, no, just pretty interesting routine you described in your book, and what I like about the AlphaSmart is there’s no notifications, no internet, it’s just an LCD screen that you can only see about five sentences. Like I’m also curious, how much of the day do you spend engaged in creative work and in writing?

David: Again, it varies. I would say a couple hours of what I call like hard creative work and then a couple hours of looser creative work and then maybe, throughout the rest of the day, when I can, even looser. And the hard creative work is like I’m trying to produce something right now. That’s not always gonna be — sometimes it is like I’m in a shitty draft mode, sometimes I’m in a mode where I’m creating something a little bit more presentable, but that’s how much time I would like to be pushing myself cognitively in trying to make the work as good as I can and trying to make all the thoughts fit together and get them to make sense. And then there becomes, more in the afternoon, a “Let’s clean up some of the stuff that we’ve created.” 

That might be editing, that might be thinking about the marketing for a book. And then, a lot of the rest of the day might be reading or managing my zettelkasten which is this — we talked about it a little bit before we began which is this great note-taking system for synthesizing the things that you read and capturing that knowledge so that you can connect that knowledge with other pieces of knowledge and create finished works and that’s something that sort of gives me — you can only spend so much time in that really difficult, I guess what Cal Newport calls deep work time where you’re really pushing yourself cognitively —

Bryan: Two to three hours, I would say.

David: Two to three hours, sometimes four, sometimes an hour, and sometimes you can get quite a bit done in that hour. But how long can you lay down on your couch and read? Maybe another couple of hours. How long can you — what I like to do is export the highlights from my reading of a book and then highlight the highlights, like what are the most interesting parts of this highlight? 

So I’ll just export to markdown, bold the parts that I think are really interesting. And then another separate thing I might do is just have those highlights on one side of the screen and on another side of the screen, go through them and say, “Oh, this one’s really interesting,” and just type in my own words what that thing was about.
 
So, it sort of breaks reading up into these sort of separate — reading and writing, into these separate activities that allow you to inhabit different mental states which actually increases the amount of time throughout the day that you’re able to spend doing some kind of creative work and feed your brain with that raw material that when you’re not actively trying to produce something helps things get seeped into your brain so that when you are sitting down and producing something that it just comes out a lot crisper and a lot easier.

Bryan: When you’re writing reactions to those Kindle notes or those book notes that you’ve highlighted and bolded, are they going into your zettelkasten?

David: Yeah, usually. That’s what I call — hopefully, we don’t get too esoteric for people but that’s sort of the literature note is what they call that where I will kind of just make a bullet point list of all the most important points from a book written in my own words and as I write that, I might say, “Oh,” just in parentheses, “that reminds me of this or that,” and that associative engine just turns on. It seems like the most pointless thing in the world. 

This is one of those things I think that — one of the reasons why I think I resisted note taking or using zettelkasten previously because I thought that it just meant, “Oh, you’re just gonna sit and mindlessly write all this stuff that you already read,” but it’s really amazing. You’re just like rewriting this thing and then you just have these ideas that you wouldn’t have had otherwise. And so, yeah, those become a literature note where it just becomes, “For this book, here’s all the most important points,” and then, from that, I might take out a few of the very most important points and turn those into individual notes that are called permanent notes in the zettelkasten parlance, just one idea per note. 

And I don’t do that for every single book that I read. I also use Readwise which is a great tool that syncs with all my Kindle highlights and it sends me a random batch of highlights every day and so even if a book is not a book that I want to absorb so deeply that I end up doing one of those big, long literature notes and then eventually maybe even a book summary on my blog or my podcast, even if it’s not a book like that, there still becomes an opportunity for every little piece that I have highlighted to come back to me at some point, at which point, I may then turn it into a note or write a tweet about it or what have you, just allowing that stuff to constantly resurface.

Bryan: I also use Readwise. It’s a good service for servicing old Kindle notes. Yeah, I was really into the zettelkasten entries. I’ve only been keeping one for a year but I was amazed by all the notes I had on how creatives can earn money. It’s for an article that I’m writing at the moment. Basically, all the stuff I’d forgotten and I had all this research for the article. 

David: They’re so amazing now. You can just like take all those notes and make an outline with all those notes and you already have your article mostly written. It’s amazing.

Bryan: What — do you use text files or do you use some other system?

David: I really am a big fan of text files. I, like many people, I think have grown to regret the Notes app that I have become dependent on because of whatever proprietary server they have and maybe the software gets bloated and you get sick of watching it sync and not all of my notes are in the same place but zettelkasten is more like that’s my research and reading things I’m interested in. It’s not gonna have necessarily my business processes in it. That might be in another place. 

So, I have — I’m really a big advocate of just plain text files. Don’t get locked into some specific vendor. Use markdown for formatting. And it’s really nice because I can use a number of different programs without vendor lock-in. 

I use Obsidian on my desktop to access and link and edit the notes and I use 1Writer on iOS so even if I’m waiting for friends to show up for dinner, I can just pull up one of those files that has all my highlights from a book and I can go through there and start highlighting highlights. It’s like it becomes a thing — a great alternative to social media and that’s one of the wonderful things about the zettelkasten is that it gives some of the most interesting things that you’ve ever read a fighting chance against, “Oh, I’ve got a few minutes left. Let’s scroll through social media,” which can be super fun but the alternative is that you can just go through your notes of all the most interesting things you’ve read and fidget around with little things here and there and it all adds up to something in the end. It’s really amazing.

Bryan: How many notes do you have?

David: I don’t actually know. Probably a few hundred.

Bryan: Yeah. Yeah, okay. And how long have you been keeping the zettelkasten for?

David: See, I first discovered it roughly about a year ago and then I’m amazed that I even persevered to figure out how to build one because I was so confused at first. And I hope that —

Bryan: There’s a lot of lingo around the zettelkasten but once you get past that, it’s actually quite a simple concept.

David: Yeah, it’s quite a simple concept but I watched so many YouTube videos, I read so many different books, finally, like How to Take Smart Notes did give me a nice sort of first principles view of how it should work and so then I stepped back from that and said to myself, “All right, well, how — given my workflow, how would I design my zettelkasten?” 

And so now, I’ve been doing it for maybe nine months since I like really started or so and, actually, I’ve gotten so excited about it and enjoyed so much finding my own sort of abstract first principles view of how to manage the zettelkasten, especially with digital tools as opposed to sort of the original is with paper, that I even have a short book coming out soon about that. So, that should be out pretty soon here. I don’t know, I’m just gonna drop it, but it’s been a nice exploration personally for myself to formalize my own thinking about how to manage one.

Bryan: Do you decide in advance how many books you’re going to write and published in a given year?

David: I don’t — I have, right — the zettelkasten book sort of jumped in front of the line, in front of the book that I wanted to write after Mind Management, Not Time Management but, hopefully, once I’m done with the zettelkasten book, I’ll go on to that next book. I have that idea already.

And then I kind of have various other ideas that are sort of big C where I’m in these situations where I’m like, “Ooh, I would really love to write a book about this topic but I’m not ready.” I don’t know enough about this topic to write that book so it’s gonna be lots of exploration to get to the point where I am ready, whereas something like the zettelkasten book, I’ve been able to write that in a few short weeks because it’s sort of a thing that I’ve already been learning, it’s a relatively simple thing but a lot of the information that’s out there I personally find confusing and that sort of thing comes out faster.

Or Mind Management, Time Management, the idea originated with trying to write my first book in 2010 and then I wrote a blog post in 2012 and then I worked on that app with Dan Ariely and sold to Google in 2015 and then I moved to Colombia shortly thereafter and, just recently, was able to turn all that into a book. So that’s a decade-long project and then some of them take weeks. It’s really whatever is interesting to me. That’s actually the — sort of the goal of my business is just to be able to explore what is interesting to me.

Bryan: Yeah, I certainly got the sense that Mind Management, Not Time Management was a journey, like I could see the years going by as you wrote it. Just one last question is writing books and publishing articles on your site, is that the main focus for your business? Just many non-fiction writers tend to have courses and coaching or public speaking.

David: You know, I have some courses but I’m not a big — I don’t take a lot of courses myself and so I have — it’s been a long process to come to this decision to realize and accept that I love books. 

People say that writing and publishing books isn’t — you can’t sell enough, it’s not a good enough business, but I love books and so that’s what I’m doing. I’m writing and publishing books. And then, along the way in that process, I’m writing and publishing articles on my blog, on my podcast, bringing in search traffic that way, exploring in public on Twitter. Yeah, that’s pretty much my main focus. I do some consulting, just short calls with self-published authors, from time to time. 

I’ve got a profile on Clarity. I have a Superpeer account as well and sometimes people call me and we have a consultation for an hour or so because, I mean, it’s such a jungle. I have learned how to navigate this all on my own pretty much with the help of some folks like Joanna Penn and her content but a lot of it has just been trying to figure it out and there’s so much out there and it’s so confusing that, just through the process naturally of publishing books and selling them and building a business around that, I find that I do have ways to help people and so I do take calls that way. Don’t really do speaking, just mostly I’m concerned with like writing books, doing exploration and I love books, I publish books.

Bryan: That’s a good mantra. I like that. I like that a lot. David, where can people find your books or find more information about you and your work?

David: Yeah, just grab your smartphone, type in kdv.co. That will take you directly to my site and you can find my newsletter, Love Mondays, there, find a lot of great articles there, and you can also find me on Twitter, @kadavy.

Bryan: Thank you, David.

David: Thank you, Bryan.

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