The Kaizen Newsletter #59 (18/08/2020) - What to do when feeling overwhelmed

Thoughts on being overwhelmed, on design and on reusing your past work

Hey friend 👋,

Welcome to the 59th edition of the Kaizen Newsletter ⛩, a weekly newsletter where I share my thoughts, new ideas I learn and make weird connections between self-improvement, productivity, product, tech, sports, anime.

Last week was pretty exciting for me as I got to speak on my first podcast! Paul LeCrone, host of the Penguin Latte Podcast, invited me to talk about my writing process, thoughts on anime, how to deal with procrastination, how to find your audience and how to be authentic on the internet. You can watch it on youtube or listen to the episode here.

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So this past week has been a bit more difficult for me and I started to feel overwhelmed with everything that I had to do.

To give a bit of context, for the past 2 months, I decided to take the plunge and decided to tackle my goal of getting my newsletter to 500 subscribers by the end of the year. And I knew that the best way to get to that point was to start posting more on Twitter.

So start posting more I did.

I was able to grow my Twitter following from ~90 to 318 and I went from 69 subscribers to 143 subscribers in the span of 2 months.

And even though this is obviously pretty good and I maintained this pace, I would most likely be able to get to 500 subscribers by the end of the year, I knew that I would be able to do more than that (greedy, I know).

I recently realized that sending out a newsletter and growing a Twitter following isn't enough.

David Perell explains this well in his tweet.

Everything that I'm working on now is more like postcards. I'm sharing some of my thoughts and lessons learned with all of you, but I also want to be dedicating time to creating permanent assets.

These are the pieces that people will discover months or years after you release them. But it's very rare that you would go back to a previous edition of someone's newsletter.

On top of this, I was consistently late with my newsletters (usually sending them out much later at night) and was felt uninspired when tweeting as well.

And now I just added some more pressure to find the time to start writing essays as well.

So that's when things kinda went downhill for me.

Which is why Saturday I just said "fuck it" and gave myself a mental break and would come back to solving my issues on Sunday.

So how did I solve my issue?

There are usually two things that I do when I want to solve my personal problems.

Numero uno, I write about it.

I've talked about morning pages in a previous newsletter and it's one of the mediums that I use to just write down my problems and brainstorm solutions. I usually write down everything that I'm thinking about and once everything is laid out, I start brainstorming solutions to my problems. So that's what I ended up doing on Sunday morning.

Numero dos, I try to talk about it.

I have weekly calls with my brother where we spend 30-60 min to catch-up and brainstorm solutions for our current life-problems if we have any. I feel that getting an outsider's perspective always helps you see your problem in a different light. I tend to exaggerate the problems that I have and my brother usually calls me on my bullshit and helps me de-escalate it. Other times, I would talk about it with my girlfriend or even brainstorm solutions with my friends on Twitter.

The best thing about writing down your problems and talking about them is that it's also a good way to just de-stress. What's important is to not keep everything to yourself and to vomit everything that's going on in your head.

So I was already feeling better after doing both of these and had a much clearer head to realize that my solution was pretty simple: I was just trying to do way too many things at once.

I wanted to increase the quality of my newsletter by reading more articles, increase my Twitter output AND find time to write.

So instead of trying to fit all of these at the same time, I just told myself that I would focus on 1 at a time.

I decided to only focus on reading more articles while reducing the time it takes me to write my newsletter. By focusing on doing only this, I will be able to maintain the quality of my newsletter, but also reduce the time it takes me to write it. This additional time will then be able to be allocated to writing essays in the future.

And then... I follow exactly the steps I described in my tweet.

Now, I don't think I completely solved my solution. I still get stressed about everything that I need to do, but I already took a step forward by refocusing my mindset to one thing instead of 25.

The lessons learned? Whenever you get overwhelmed, it's usually because you're trying to overcomplicate things.

Write down your issues and talk to others about it if you can. Then, try to zone in on your priorities and focus on doing only a few (ideally 1) at a time.

Now, on to the newsletter.

🤔 Thoughts

📱Thoughts on Design

So this is a pretty spiky point of view, so bear with me on this one before cancelling me.

I prefer the illustrations done by David Perell and Shu Omi more than the ones done by Jack Butcher.

illustration by Shu Omi

illustration by Jack Butcher

If we take a look at both, we can see which one has a better design, objectively. The illustration done by Jack is a lot cleaner, has good spacing between all characters and has a more professional look.

But for some reason, the illustration made by Shu just speaks to me more.

Now, do I think that Shu or David are better designers than Jack? 100% no. So why am I more drawn towards the former sketches than the latter?

Because they are imperfect. It's very possible that it's a style preference, but I feel that these types of designs are more human. There's just something about hand-made drawings that make them more memorable.

As my friend KP told me, we should have strong ideas, but execute them poorly.

My interpretation of this is that people love good ideas, but people love stories even more.

And what are people's favourite stories? Underdog stories of course.

You don't want to root for Mr. Perfect who gets whatever he wants. No. You root for the underdog that although they might not be the best, if they work hard, then they're gonna eventually show results.

And this is why I prefer these types of designs. You're able to express your idea to others, but also show that you're human and that you're not perfect. And doing this makes your designs more relatable and enjoyable.

I'm curious. Which design do you prefer?

Leave a comment

✉️ Thoughts on Reusing your Past Work

I recently stumbled upon this tweet and had to talk about it because I think it's a brilliant idea.

I sent my first newsletter on May 1st 2019 and have since sent out 58 (59 when you'll be reading this) issues. At that time, I didn't have any note-taking system, so I can't imagine all of the gems I would be able to get from reading my past newsletters.

I tackled this point in my main story, but because nobody really goes through past newsletters, most of the writing that I've published a year ago is most likely never going to read by anybody else.

So going through my past newsletters not only gives me good notes for my note-taking system, but it also creates an opportunity for me to reuse my past work and make it better.

It would be a really fun exercise to re-use the concepts that I talk about in earlier issues, re-write them so they are more relevant and publish them as fully-fledged articles.

Curious to know if this is something you might be interested in reading?

Leave a comment

🐦 Tweets

Super brave of Nick to post this article of his on why he thinks progressive summarization is bad. What was really cool is all of the conversations that got created after he posted it on Twitter.

Enjoyed these writing prompts shared by Lenny.

Reason #21398453298 why dogs are the best.

🙏 Shoutout

Shoutout to my bro Michael. I enjoy the fact that we can just scheduled a call and shoot the shit and talk about anything that’s top of my mind while trying to keep each other accountable with our newsletters and (future) essays. Lowkey feels like talking to a younger version of myself (if I was smart enough to get into med school).

👋 End Note

If you want to know what I'm up to now, you can check it on my website here.

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