As Showrunners we spend our time honing our interview skills, tweaking our recording gear, and promoting ourselves on social media. What if we are missing out on a crucial aspect of being a Showrunner?
This crucial aspect is thinking. Are you doing enough of it?
Any podcast is in one of two businesses: the idea business or the story business. Often they overlap. Both get better with rumination. But suffer without it.
If all we are delivering to our audience is our first impressions, our gut reactions, our surface-level thoughts … then we aren’t giving our audiences the best of ourselves.
Thinking helps us to clarify our thoughts, our positions, our ideas before we send them out to interact with the world.
We are like parents for our ideas. We’re comfortable sending an 18-year old into the world, but not so comfortable letting a 5-year old do whatever she wants to do.
The same holds true (or should hold true) for our ideas. Is this idea mature enough to be put out into the world? If it’s not, it shouldn’t be.
And if you’re doing that too often, then you need to spend more time thinking.
In this episode, Jerod and Jonny discuss:
- Becoming Warren Buffett (An HBO Documentary)
- Why Warren Buffett was never worried about being first
- Proven ways to remove distractions and get clarity
- Use vigilance in prioritizing your time
Listen, learn, enjoy …
The Show Notes
- If you’re ready to see for yourself why over 201,344 website owners trust StudioPress — the industry standard for premium WordPress themes and plugins — just go to StudioPress.com
- Why Your Greatest Asset May Be Slowly Eroding (and How You Can Rebuild It) by Jerod Morris
- Brian Scudamore’s article on Inc.com: Why Successful People Spend 10 Hours a Week Just Thinking
- Follow Jerod on Twitter: @jerodmorris
- Follow Jonny on Twitter: @jonnastor
- Showrunner FM
No. 090 Are You Spending Enough Time Thinking?
Voiceover: Rainmaker FM.
Jerod Morris: This is Rainmaker.FM, the digital marketing podcast network. It’s built on the Rainmaker Platform, which empowers you to build your own digital marketing and sales platform. Start your free 14-day trial at RainmakerPlatform.com.
Welcome to The Showrunner, where we have one goal: teach you how to develop, launch, and run a remarkable show. Ready?
Welcome back to The Showrunner, the podcast for people dedicated to creating remarkable audio experiences for their audience. This is episode No. 90. I am your host Jerod Morris, VP of marketing for Rainmaker Digital, and I will be joined momentarily, as I always am, by my not-yet-as-wealthy-as-Warren-Buffett co-host, Jonny Nastor, the host of Hack the Entrepreneur.
The Showrunner is brought to you by the all-new StudioPress Sites, a turnkey solution that combines the ease of an all-in-one website builder with the flexible power of WordPress. It’s perfect for bloggers, podcasters, and affiliate marketers, as well as those selling physical products, digital downloads, and membership programs. If you are ready to take your WordPress site to the next level, see for yourself why over 200,000 website owners trust StudioPress. Go to Rainmaker.FM/StudioPress right now.
Becoming Warren Buffett (an HBO Documentary)
Jerod Morris: Jonny, do you have HBO?
Jonny Nastor: I do not.
Jerod Morris: You do not. Well, Heather and I, we actually recently got rid of cable, but one of the things that we kept is a subscription to HBO. They have Vice News on there. We like John Oliver’s show. We were watching Westworld, as I mentioned I think on the last episode that we did.
But something that we found on there was a documentary about Warren Buffett, and it’s called Becoming Warren Buffett. It was really, really interesting. As you might imagine, a man as successful as Warren Buffett is quite the complex figure. This documentary does a really, really good job of drawing out, showing Warren Buffett as a three-dimensional person, not just as this really rich guy and not just as, “Oh, he’s this sweet down-home guy who stayed in Omaha and still lives in the same house,” and all of that.
It showed how, basically, for a guy to accumulate this level of wealth, certain things had to be sacrificed.
It was really interesting how he talked with his family. His kids are very candid about how, especially growing up, their dad might have been home, but he wasn’t really there. Always thinking and always off considering the next stock that he was going to invest in.
I thought one of the most interesting parts of it is, he talked about how he never accumulated wealth to buy stuff. His accumulation of wealth was always more a challenge to himself, enjoying the game, and using money as a scorecard. He was a really competitive guy, even from when he was a child. He basically said he spent far less than one percent of the money that he ever accumulated — far, far less.
One of my favorite quotes was he said, “I’m uniquely qualified to acquire money, but I should find someone who is uniquely qualified to do good with it.” That brought up all the work that he’s doing now with Bill and Melinda Gates and giving so much of his fortune away. Anyway, really, really fascinating documentary of obviously one of the most successful people in terms of wealth accumulation that the world has ever seen.
But my biggest takeaway from the documentary — and it’s something that has been talked about a lot about Buffett as people have studied what has made him so successful — is how much time he spends thinking, considering, studying, and ruminating before he ever acts.
I want to use that as a jumping off point for this episode of The Showrunner because I think, I have a suspicion, that a lot of us, as showrunners, spend a lot of time doing, a lot of time talking, a lot of time producing, but maybe note quite enough time thinking — or certainly as much time thinking as we could. What do you think? Good idea for an episode?
Jonny Nastor: I’ve never thought about this before.
Jerod Morris: Wasn’t that ironic?
Why Warren Buffett Was Never Worried About Being First
Jonny Nastor: Warren Buffett, interestingly enough, I read an article, it was, I guess, Bill Gates did something last week, something to do with the charity and what they did in the last year or something. He had a picture back from, I think it was around 2001, when Warren Buffett made the big billion-dollar whatever investment in the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Apparently, Bill and Warren had met or something in Tokyo for a day or two to discuss. Warren had seen Bill speak about it and was like, “Oh wow. What you’re doing is totally is in line with me.” They actually went for lunch at a McDonald’s, and he had posted a picture, Bill Gates did, because his wife had sent it and said like, “This is like the start of it.” It was Bill Gates. He wasn’t yet a billionaire, but he was super, super wealthy at the time, and then the billionaire Warren Buffett.
They were standing in line at McDonald’s. Warren Buffett had said, “Let’s go to McDonald’s. I’ll take you there, and I’ll get you lunch.” He had reached out into his pocket and pulled out, he had two coupons for McDonald’s that he used.
Jerod Morris: That is awesome.
Jonny Nastor: It was crazy because he was talking about this, his accumulation of wealth and how he’s really good at it, but he’s just not a spender. He wanted to make sure that his money was going to go to where it would be the most beneficial. There’s these two, they’re worth almost two billion dollars these two guys, with crumpled up McDonald’s coupons in their hand. I was like, “There’s something wrong with this picture, but at the same time, it’s really fascinating.”
Jerod Morris: Yet it perfectly explains how he made so much money. This documentary actually talks about how from when he was young, he just would accumulate dimes and quarters doing odd jobs and stuff, but just the value of compound interest and how it’s worked out for him. Anyway, fascinating, fascinating documentary. I highly recommend it.
There’s actually a funny part in the documentary that deals with his obsession with McDonald’s because he goes there every single day for breakfast. It’s funny because, at the start of the documentary, he’s talking to a group of students and he tells them this parable where the lesson is you need to treat your mind and your body as a temple because it’s the only ones that you’re ever going to get. Then the very next scene he’s pulling up to McDonald’s for his daily McDonald’s breakfast.
Jonny Nastor: Every single day.
Jerod Morris: But hey, it works out for him, so that is all good. We don’t want to talk about Warren Buffett and McDonald’s because that won’t help you as a showrunner. But what will help you as a showrunner is possibly finding more time to think and really asking yourself this question, “Are you spending enough time thinking?”
Why Thinking Matters So Much
Jerod Morris: In our distraction-ridden world and in our world where so much of our time is accounted for and there is so quickly other things to come in and suck up any extra time that we have, thinking can seem like this worthless, maybe, or unproductive use of time — but it really isn’t.
You think of a guy like Warren Buffett, and sure, he’s got all the money in the world now. He’s obviously had people in his life to basically take care of everything else so that he could really work on doing what he’s uniquely qualified to do, which is think, study, and make decisions about stocks.
But there’s still something that we can learn from a man who wasn’t really ever worried about being first. He just wanted to be right. In a social media-driven world — and in a world where there really isn’t even a 24-hour news cycle anymore, it’s like a 30-minute news cycle — being first is so important and wanting to get things out there quickly. But are we thinking enough and spending enough time really focusing on being right?
That’s what our audience comes to us for — is not for our initial reactions, our gut reactions. They come to us for our best thoughts, our deepest thoughts, our most useful and meaningful thoughts. In this episode of The Showrunner, I want to talk to you about why this is important and then also give you five really specific ways that you can fit more time to think into your life. I know they work because I’ve been doing them myself, and I’ve really found a lot of benefits from all of them.
Jonny, if you’re ready, we will hop in and start talking about thinking.
Jonny Nastor: Let’s do it.
Are You Thinking Enough?
Jerod Morris: Are you thinking enough? I want to begin my quoting an article. This is from Inc.com, and this is an article by Brian Scudamore, the CEO of 02E Brands. We’ll link to this in the show notes of course. He actually begins his article talking about Warren Buffett.
He says, “Buffett’s schedule may seem like an anomaly. In reality, he’s a trailblazer. Thanks in part to his example, over the last few years several high-profile CEOs have come out against the norm of constant busyness. They argue that critical thinking time is essential in a complex, rapidly changing digital economy. AOL CEO, Tim Armstrong, for instance, makes his executives spend 10 percent of their day, or four hours per week, just thinking. Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn, schedules two hours of uninterrupted thinking time per day. Jack Dorsey is a serial wanderer. Bill Gates is famous for taking a week off twice a year just to reflect deeply without interruption.”
That’s the end of the quote. It seems clear, talking about Warren Buffett and all of these highly successful CEOs, how thinking can impact our business and our ability to lead a business. That makes sense, right? As a CEO, your job is to make sure that you are steering the company in the right direction. Your job is to make decisions. It requires time to think to make good decisions.
But how can this impact our podcasting? How can this impact us as showrunners? I believe the way that it can impact us is when you think about it this way. Any podcast is really in one of two ‘businesses.’ It’s in the idea business, or it’s in the story business. We’re always either putting ideas out there, expressing our ideas, defending our ideas, doing interviews with other people to draw out their ideas, or we’re telling stories. You think of This American Life.
Obviously, these can overlap because stories can present ideas. But both of them get better with rumination and with careful consideration. Both of them, ideas and stories, will suffer without it. If all we are delivering to our audience is our first impressions, or our gut reactions, or our surface level thoughts, then we aren’t really giving our audiences the best of ourselves.
What thinking allows us to do is to clarify our thoughts, to clarify our positions and our ideas before we send them out to interact with the world. One way that I like to think about it, it’s almost like we’re parents for our ideas. We’re comfortable sending an 18 year old out into the world if that 18 year old has obviously shown that he or she is ready for the world, but not so comfortable letting a five year old go out and just do whatever she wants to do in the world, right?
Well, the same holds true (or should hold true) for our ideas. Is this idea mature enough to be put out into the world? If it’s not, then it shouldn’t be. If you’re doing that too often — putting ideas out there that aren’t mature enough — then you really need to spend more time thinking.
It doesn’t mean that you can’t ever have a discussion and work things out on the air, maybe with a podcast, but if you do it too much … and again, if all your audience is getting from you are these non-mature, surface-level gut reactions, they’re never actually getting the best of you. And that’s what we want our audience to get.
Again, I believe thinking is the path to getting there, and it’s the easiest thing to overlook and the thing that I think, my hunch is, that most showrunners overlook because it’s not content production. It doesn’t seem productive. In the long run, that can really hurt our ability to deliver a good product to our audience. What do you think, Jonny?
Jonny Nastor: Yeah. The idea of taking the time to think, there’s even going a step beyond that, which is the not thinking, like mediation. Going for a walk with the intention of actually not thinking about your show, not thinking about what you’re going to say, not thinking about what you’re going to do next even. That sort of just allowing even a couple minutes of space sometimes to not only not fill your ears with either music or somebody else talking, but to also not fill yourself with thoughts of like, “What should I be doing next?” Or, “What should I be thinking?”
Allowing that space, it’s notoriously why showers are where we come up with brilliant ideas. It’s usually that one time where we aren’t occupied with something. We’re just washing our hair and not thinking about anything. Literally, we’re so preoccupied with thoughts that we allow ourselves like 12 seconds of not thinking about something, and our greatest ideas come.
To me, that’s just like, “Wow, we have like a serious problem where we really need to expand that 10 or 12 seconds out to 10 or 12 minutes a day if we could even, just for the benefit of it.” You’re right. To scratch away the surface level of our thoughts and get into the deeper recesses and where you want to be and where the real connections of ideas, that’s creativity in its simplest form. Just connecting two disparate ideas into one. You need that space to do it.
I know especially in the entrepreneurship space, there’s that whole just, “Hustle, go for it,” and it’s totally just a pile of crap. It’s completely counterintuitive to actually being productive, to actually coming up with good ideas and executing well. It’s just busy for busyness sake. It’s just so you look like you’re doing a ton of stuff.
To me, I’ve talked about this over the last few weeks, but just tracking my time with what I work on has been so eye opening to me. I work so much less than I thought I did, so I already think that like, “Wow, I’m not working 40 hours a week or 50 hours a week. I’m working 20.” I worked 13 last week, and I got so much done. It was unbelievable.
To me, if I can work 10 hours a week and get a month’s worth of work done that I thought I was doing when I was just trying to do a whole bunch of different stuff, that’s how it should be. It allows that space. I think it’s absolutely crucial. That’s why I’m so happy we’re covering the topic because it’s hard. It was even why I didn’t even want to read over your notes too much of this. I didn’t want to think about it. I wanted to have it come to me and then just see where it goes.
Even just leaving those few seconds. In the most basic sense, as a showrunner, sometimes just leaving those pauses after saying something for your audience to maybe contemplate it for like four seconds. If you put four seconds of dead time on this show right now, people are going to almost look at their phones and see if it’s still playing. We should try it right now.
See, and the problem is, that an editor, lots of times, if you don’t specify, they’ll cut that out. Editors, lots of times, when I’ve worked with other editors in the past — and I’ve seen people do this when they edit their own shows — any bits of dead space in their thought because they think that it sounds like you’re not authoritative enough if you’re thinking as you’re speaking.
To me, that’s where the impact comes. It’s like with storytelling, if you leave a pause in the right spot, it allows that emotion or that depth to sink in, rather than cutting everything out. Then we also, beyond that, if somebody does that too much, then we listen to it at two times the speed or three times the speed. Not only do we not want time to think, but we want more thoughts condensed into a small timeframe. We’re our own worst enemies.
Jerod Morris: A couple things to unpack there. Number one, hold the thought about what you said about time because that’s going to come back later. In the five steps that I’m going to talk about, time tracking is really, really important.
The other thing is, you mentioned the pausing. I think you’re right — that pause can be very impactful. I think what it depends on is whether you are just BSing and searching for the next word that makes sense, or whether this is something that you’ve considered, and you’re just trying to pick the best word, the best phrase, to articulate an opinion that you’ve thought about and that you’ve considered.
I think your audience will have a certain level of trust with you as they get to know you over time to know, “Okay, there was a pause there. Now is he just searching for the next BS he’s going to give me, or is this something that he’s thought about, and he’s deliberately trying to choose the correct words to do this?”
If you BS, and again, just give your audience too much of the surface-level stuff and you haven’t stepped back over time and spent enough time really thinking about and considering what you’re going to say, I don’t think that you will build that long-term trust with the audience. I think this is where thinking and having well-thought-out positions can be very important.
Directed vs. Undirected Thinking
Jerod Morris: The other thing with thinking, too, there is a difference, I believe, between directed thinking and undirected thinking. I think sometimes you want to get in the shower, you want to go out for a walk, and maybe you’re trying to think about a name for your show. You’re working through some things in your head and maybe you’re going over, “Okay, this word would work well. Does anything else go with this word?” It’s free thinking in a sense, but it’s directed in one direction.
Then there’s also just totally free thinking where you’re just going out to think and maybe even just to watch your thoughts, to come in and out, see what happens, see what kind of idea synthesis is going on in the background.
There’s those two different types of thinking. They’re both worthwhile. You can be strategic with when you use them. There’s sometimes I’ll get in the shower, and I know that I’m writing an article for Copyblogger, and I use that time to just say, “Okay, I know I’m thinking about my topic. Let me just direct my thinking in that direction and see what happens.” The flow of ideas that comes in and out is always surprising and interesting, but it’s directed in a certain direction.
Then sometimes you’re just in there thinking, and the most amazing idea will hit that you never even thought about. And it draws these two things together that you hadn’t even been thinking about together, but there can be great value there, too. I think either mode of thinking has its place and is totally useful, and we need to do more of it.
The big idea here is just do more of it. Do more thinking where you’re not actually sitting down writing. You’re not talking into a microphone. You’re more preparing for the next time that you’re going to do that. When we get in this constant state of Twitter updates, Facebook messages, blog posts, show notes, and all of this stuff — at what point in there are we actually thinking to make our next point or our next discussion more useful, more interesting, to allow the different ideas to synthesize that we’ve been working on. It’s so easy to overlook that.
I really want this episode to be a step back. Jonny, for you and me, individually as showrunners, and for you, the listener, to really say, “Am I thinking enough, and can I find more ways to put thinking into my schedule because it will make me better?” It will make you better as a person in your personal life and in your work life and as a showrunner. I think it’s a very scarce resource, the time to think.
Jonny Nastor: Yeah, I absolutely agree. I guess I’ve never really had it put into words. As a family, we’ve always worked to leave space in our lives so that we’re not just frantically rushing around from one thing to the next and constantly occupying. I think it’s for that reason. It’s just slowing things down allows for you to get deeper on not just your thoughts but on your relationships, on everything. It just allows depth.
There’s no room for depth when you’re just spinning from one thing to the next. Unfortunately, everything around us now is set up to keep us just scrolling and going through and not really … just reading a headline and reacting to it in a superficial way. Then just moving to the next thing without ever analyzing what’s real, what’s not. What’s necessary for us to take it? What’s not? What’s just entertainment? What’s actually news? What’s real?
It’s against us. The Internet especially, but just in reality is all set up — it’s fighting against us, stopping to think. It’s not that it’s easy to do. It’s hard to break those patterns. It really is.
Jerod Morris: It is. You have to be very intentional about it.
Jonny Nastor: Yeah. Usually, I think, for me, you just have to go cold turkey. Otherwise it doesn’t work. I think we’re going to get into those in the five ways.
Jerod Morris: Yeah, we are.
Jonny Nastor: I think we should jump through to them.
Jerod Morris: We are. We’re going to talk about five proven ways to think more.
Before we do that, real quick, I do want to give you something else to think about and that is StudioPress Sites, which I mentioned at the top of the show. If you are ready to see for yourself why over 200,000 website owners trust StudioPress, the industry standard for premium WordPress themes and plugins, then you want to go to Rainmaker.FM/StudioPress.
What’s new at StudioPress, again, is StudioPress Sites. There are two different options for you when you go to StudioPress Sites, based on what you’re going to use your website for. If you’re just using your website for a blog or for a podcast to put content out there and develop an audience, there’s one choice for you. If you’re going to do a little bit more, if you’re going to have a course and conduct digital commerce on your website, there’s another choice for you.
You can go to StudioPress Sites, study the different options, choose the one that’s best for you. But what’s great about StudioPress Sites is that it helps you make the process of building a good website easier. You want a good website. When you’re here doing a podcast, you want a call to action that sends people back to your site, which we’re going to do at the very end of this episode when we send you to Showrunner.FM.
You want a site that is attractive, that is easy to navigate, and one that’s secure and that has good hosting and that you can trust, but that removes some of the heavy lifting of design, hosting, and all of that stuff so that you can focus on the relationship with your audience. You know as well as I do, as a showrunner, that’s the most important thing.
So you want a website solution that helps move the technology to the side for you, takes care of some of that, so you can get back to focusing on your content, your audience, and even having extra time to think. Check out StudioPress Sites. It’s Rainmaker.FM/StudioPress.
5 Proven Ways to Think More
Jerod Morris: With that said, Mr. Nastor, let’s hop in to five proven ways to think more. I know that they’re proven because I have been doing them myself for the past several months. They have been helping me immensely. That’s one of the big reasons why I want to share them here. Let me run through these five, Jonny, and I want to get your take after each one.
#1: Remove Distractions and Get Clarity
Jerod Morris: Step one, I believe this is foundational, is to remove distractions and get clarity. As you just mentioned, it seems like everything, not just on the Internet but even just in our lives away from the Internet, in our online an our offline lives, is conspiring against us to distract us and not allow us to think. We’ve got to remove distractions and get clarity.
Just a few things that I have done that may be things that you want to consider. Removing Twitter and my web browser from my phone has been huge. I did not realize how many times, just in the normal course of my day, I was popping open my phone and looking at Twitter or looking at the web for something that 98.7 percent of the time was worthless and a waste of time.
Removing those from my phone, I immediately got more time. I found myself like, “Okay, wait, I’m going down. Wait, no Twitter. No web browser. Oh my god, what do I do? Holy crap, I have to think.” That was really, really uncomfortable, literally, for the first couple of weeks. Then I got comfortable with it again and enjoyed having the extra time. Far less TV as well. I mentioned Heather and I got rid of cable. We’re much more intentional about how and when we watch TV. There are some days it never even comes on.
It’s not background noise for our lives anymore, which I think for a lot of folks it can be and certainly for me in the past it has been. That has enabled more silent time. It’s amazing when there’s just more silent time and you allow yourself to be alone with your thoughts, they come in. That can be uncomfortable if you haven’t done it in a while, so prepare for that. But it gets easier. It gets more comfortable. It gets fun, and it gets interesting.
When you have a lot of inputs — books, conversations, podcasts you listen to, and things that you do — it’s really interesting how your mind will synthesize them. Whether it’s focused thinking or unfocused thinking that just lets your unconscious mind go, it really does start to become surprising, amazing, incredible, and inspiring what your mind will come up with. You just have to shut everything else off so that you have time to pay attention and to listen.
So removing distractions and getting clarity is absolutely, to me, the number one most fundamental action that you should take to be able to think more.
Jonny Nastor: Yeah, I have to totally agree with this. Yet again, thank you for that post you wrote in January on Copyblogger because that day I removed Facebook and Twitter from my phone, and it’s still gone. It’s amazing.
Jerod Morris: Isn’t it awesome?
Jonny Nastor: Yeah. To me, Twitter, to a certain degree I miss. I actually want to get something sort of to replace it that can aggregate news and a feed that I can read. I don’t have anything like that right now. I do like to read the news a bit, like for interesting stuff. I’ve been going to New York Times a lot more and just reading more in depth articles, which is cool.
But Facebook for me, I’ve found, is a real cause of anxiety and/or just anger. Where I would open it, I’d just be lying in bed in the evening, just trying to relax. Just there it is, just open it up. I would scroll, and I would see something that somebody had posted, usually about politics from the United States. And it would anger me. It would just anger me.
I would just close it, and I would be like, “Why do I do this to myself?” I don’t know why I kept doing it until finally I read your post, and I was like, “There we go. I just got to get rid of it.”
Jerod Morris: It’s mindless habit. It’s just being unintentional. That’s what we’ve been trained to do.
Jonny Nastor: Yeah, so definitely remove those distractions. This is what I alluded to earlier when I said sometimes for me, and this might be the same for you out there listening, is cold turkey. Not, “I’m going to keep Facebook on my phone because I like it for work or whatever, but I won’t open it.” You will.
Jerod Morris: You will.
Jonny Nastor: You will. You absolutely will. It’s there to be opened. It’s there to scroll mindlessly through. There’s thousands of developers working to make it so that you just sit there and scroll endlessly. I know you’re smart, and I am, too — but we’re not smarter than thousands of Facebook developers. They know how to get us to continuously use this stuff.
It’s one of those things where you just got to get rid of it. Worst-case scenario, if you freak out in the next three days, you can always put it back on your phone. It’s really easy. To me, it’s the act of just getting rid of it, and then it allows that space.
Jerod Morris: Yeah and that doesn’t mean that I never get on Twitter or Facebook anymore. I just do it at my computer, and I have to be accountable for a reason that I will explain here in just a moment. But yes, I wholeheartedly agree.
The other thing to mention about this, have you ever heard that when people have a limb amputated, they actually can still feel the sensations from it as if that limb is still there?
Jonny Nastor: Ghost limb?
Jerod Morris: Yeah, I think it’s called a ghost limb. When I first did this, I mean literally, it’s like I removed Twitter, but it’s like, “Okay, but Twitter is still on my phone.” I would just open it up and go to the place where Twitter was before I could catch myself. It took me about a week to stop doing that, to stop just going and looking for it.
My phone, a lot of times at night now, I won’t even know where my phone is, and it is the greatest feeling in the world to have to go look and find your phone. There is something so empowering about your phone having to call out for help, needing you to rescue it from being lonely and being lost. Much better than the other way around where it feels like you’re constantly tethered to your phone. Anyway, that one, huge. Let me reiterate it again. Remove distractions, get clarity.
#2: Be More Vigilant and Vicious in Prioritizing Your Time
Jerod Morris: Number two is to be more vigilant and vicious in how you prioritize your time. Two things, two actions that I have taken that have really, really helped because I have always struggled with time management. It’s just been a weakness. There are so many days, I end up at the end of my day and look back and say, “Why did I spend my time on that? Why didn’t I do this more? This was the most important thing I should have been doing. Why didn’t I do it?”
I didn’t really know how much time I was spending on any given thing or any given project. I added two things. I added RescueTime to my computer and to my phone, which basically tracks everything that you do and shows you what you’re doing. You can actually go in and categorize it as very distracting, distracting, neutral, productive, or very productive. It holds you accountable to the different sites.
For me, Facebook is always very distracting. Even if I’m in there doing work, it’s very distracting because I’ll get caught doing something else. I want to know how much time I’m spending in there. For example, like Skype, I think I have that as productive because, for the most part, it’s very productive. When I’m in here in Skype, it’s typically because I’m recording. So you can get a read out of how much time you’re spending in these five different categories.
The other thing that’s been even better is literally tracking every minute that I’m working. I’ve even kind of dabbled in tracking every minute of my life, which is interesting. I went through a number of different programs, starting with just a simple spreadsheet to some other programs. I settled on Toggl as the one that I liked the best, Toggl.com.
And I have it running right now. I’m currently 36 minutes into working on The Showrunner because I hit this as soon as, Jonny, we got on Skype. I’m 36 minutes in. As soon as I’m done, I will hit stop, and I will hit play on the next thing that I do. I will tell you, this has made such a big difference because now I have to be accountable for what I’m doing next.
Instead of just blindly opening up Twitter and going and checking my Assembly Call Twitter account, if I’m going to do that, I go over to Toggl, and I hit play on Assembly Call Twitter. That is part of marketing and research for Assembly Call. I’ve got it categorized. But that time is not accountable. I can go look at reports, and at the end of the day, say, “Holy crap, I spent 37 minutes on Assembly Call Twitter today.”
Now, is that too much? Is that too little? It depends on the context of the day, but at least now I know. And at least now I know, “Okay, how much time have I spent on my Rainmaker Digital products? How much time have I spent on side projects? How much time did I spend with family?”
That accountability has absolutely changed for me, and getting back to the point of time, it’s allowed me to build time into my day to think. Before, I was constantly bouncing from one thing to the next and thinking that I didn’t have enough time. But the truth is, I just wasn’t prioritizing properly. This has shown me where I’m spending too much time, where gaps are that I can fit other things in.
I don’t know if you need to go as extreme as I have, literally tracking everything I do with RescueTime and beginning to track every moment of my day, even family time and sleep. But for me, going that extreme has really, really helped. It has, again, given me more time to just think and do other things that I was meaning to do but never got around to. But by being more intentional, I’ve enabled myself to do them.
Jonny Nastor: So you’re using Toggl on your phone.
Jerod Morris: I have Toggl on my desktop and on my phone. If I’m away from the computer, and let’s say I’m getting ready for dinner, I can type in ‘family dinner.’ That’s actually one of my projects because I wanted to treat family time as seriously as I treat work time and actually see where I’m budgeting it. And see if everything is in line. I can hit play on Toggl, hit stop when I’m done doing it, and then choose the next thing that I’m doing. It’s worked out well for me.
Jonny Nastor: So Toggl, I’ve been using it. It’s brilliant, but I use it way differently than you. I only use it on my desktop. I was like, I’m working on getting things off my phone. I don’t want to be picking up my phone to check my Toggl because I was like, “It’s defeating my purpose of what I’m trying to do.”
Jerod Morris: I will say, I’ve kind of found that. I don’t use it as much on my phone. Actually, what I have started doing is at night, I won’t track stuff as much, but I get up and one of the first things I do in the morning when I plan my day is I’ll go back on Toggl and enter in my time stuff from the previous night so that I keep track of it. I just do it a little bit more from memory, which has actually been an interesting little memory game for improving my memory, which I’m enjoying.
Jonny Nastor: Right now, my Toggl’s running. I’m at two hours two minutes, and it’s under HTE, just because I just didn’t switch it. Normally, I would switch it to Showrunner if I was working on a Showrunner, or what I’m working on, but not down to what I’m working on within it. To me, that’s not the purpose of it. I wanted actually to use it to not waste time when I’m sitting at the computer. If I’m going to be here, I want to be working.
If I end up on Facebook or on Twitter and that Toggl’s running, it’s kind of like, “Ah, it can’t be running because I’m not actually working.” Unless I’m actually doing something on there for work, but it then just gets you back like, “No, I don’t want to press stop. I’m just actually going to go back to work.” It’s cool. It’s impressive.
Like I said, I’ve noticed that I work a lot less than I expected, which makes me feel better about what I’m accomplishing, but I’m accomplishing a ton for the time that I’m there. To me, I don’t want to be working the full week necessarily, but I want to be accomplishing a ton. So it feels awesome.
Jerod Morris: No, it does.
Jonny Nastor: It feels really, really good.
Jerod Morris: It does. Consider those tools. I use Toggl Free. I don’t need to pay for it.
Jonny Nastor: So do I.
Jerod Morris: RescueTime I have to pay for, but it’s been totally worth it so far. Really those first two are about finding the space to think. Now, these next three are about giving yourself the ability and the motivation to think.
#3: Change Locations
Jerod Morris: Number three is changing locations. This is so important when it comes to thinking and changing your perspective. Go for a walk. Go to a coffee shop. Just go someplace new outside of your office. Obviously, there’s going to be certain types of thinking that you want to do at your computer while you are producing.
But if you’re trying to do some of the thinking that we’re talking about, the bigger picture, the not necessarily attached to a specific project right now, that kind of thinking, get the heck out of your office. It’s very hard to actually change the trains of thought that you’re on when you don’t change your physical location or don’t do something different physically.
That’s why going someplace different can really be helpful. Going for a walk, there are sometimes that I will listen to a podcast, but there are other times that I just I don’t listen to anything — or I listen to music because I want to think. Again, this is about being intentional. If you want to spend time thinking, and if it’s going to be directed thinking, then set that intention before you’re walk and say, “Okay, I’m going to think about the name for my show,” or, “I’m going to think about next week’s episode.”
You walk out the door, that’s what you’re going to think about, and that helps you set the intention or be very intentional to say, “I’m not thinking about anything.” Just let thoughts go in and go out, and see what happens. But don’t put a podcast on if your goal is to think.
Sometimes if you’re listening to that podcast and you go down a train of thought and you realize that you’ve just spent the last two minutes not paying attention to the podcast but thinking, turn the damn podcast off and follow the train of thought. Don’t be afraid to do that. Don’t think, “Oh crap, if I do that, now I’m not being productive because I’m not listening to the podcast.”
No, the most productive thing that you may be able to do right now is think. That podcast, that showrunner did you a great service by inspiring a thought in you. I guarantee you they would rather you turn that off and follow that thought than continue just not really listening but keeping it on play. I’m telling you right now, we would appreciate you doing that as showrunners.
If there’s a thought that comes on right now, follow that thought. Turn us off. You can always come back to us later. You might not be able to recover that thought later. It’s very important.
Jonny Nastor: Yeah, the change of location can really help. I was going to mention it earlier, and I’m glad you brought that up, how it’s counterintuitive. As showrunners and talking about running shows, but to get podcasts our your ear sometimes. As valuable as they are, they’re not more valuable than that space for you to just think and to come up with those ideas for your show.
It’s that whole idea of when you get into the really creation mode is to really, really pull back from things that you’re consuming for this reason. Then the coffee shop and some place, you’ve been doing that, you’ve been going to coffee shops and using them?
Jerod Morris: I haven’t been doing the coffee shop as much. I’ve done it in the past, and I know that it helps.
Jonny Nastor: I’ve done it in the past.
Jerod Morris: For me, it’s more walking and just getting out of the office, but I haven’t done the coffee shop as much. I want to do that one more.
Jonny Nastor: Right. The idea of walking, if you walk and listen to podcasts all the time, which you probably do, or music, which I do, I found a great way, a middle ground. I do it when I’m working too now. It’s call Brain.fm. It’s a free website where you just put in how much time, so if you want 30 minutes to an hour, to two hours, to three hours, and then you choose either, I think it’s focus, relax, meditation, or nap.
You choose what you want, and apparently there’s this science behind it. It’s just sounds and things. If you give it two hours, it’ll take a while to build up into its intensities. To me, that’s a great middle ground from just turning off everything, which I’m telling you to do things cold turkey, but sometimes we’re so used to having something going. This is really good because obviously there’s no words. There’s no real sounds or music. It’s just things going on.
It’s supposed to scientifically allow thought and things to come to you and clarity. I use it a lot when I’m writing, but I’ve also used it just while walking. You can download it for free on your phone at Brain.fm. I’ll link to all the stuff we’re talking about in the show notes.
That, to me, is great for when you’re just like, “Oh, I don’t want to be just listening to nothing,” sort of thing, or if you happen to be in a noisy place, working in a coffee shop, sometimes that’s what I find. It’s too loud. I like to have this in the background, but it’s not something that occupies my thoughts or needs my thought. That is a mid-ground between total silence with thoughts and something that’s absolutely occupying all of your thought.
Jerod Morris: Yeah. The other thing that I’ll do around the house, too — again, just getting out of the office — doing dishes, folding laundry, or just doing something around the house that gets me doing something different physically and in another room, which helps.
Now, I will tell you this, and I think this is very important, too, and kind of a little sidebar here. Time when I do not spend thinking, especially about anything other than the actual moment I’m in, time when I’m hanging out with my baby, time that I’m spending with my wife, time when we’re all having dinner together and doing that.
I have always someone where my mind has wandered in those moments, and I have really, really, tried to be intentional about letting go of that and making sure that I am focusing, when there’s a person there with me, focusing on that person. In training myself to think in some of these other ways, I’ve found that it has helped me really focus when I want to focus.
It’s not like, “Well, now I’m just thinking about business all the time, or thinking about ideas.” No. Because I know that I’m going to have the freedom to think about it in the future, I don’t feel that stress to like, “Oh crap, I got this thought right now. I’ve got to follow it through.” It’s like, “Sorry. I’m with my baby. I’m focusing on her.” That’s helped a lot.
Jonny Nastor: It’s so counterintuitive, but you’re absolutely right because you’ve already given yourself time to think about the things that you need to think about. When you’re so busy that that’s when those things carry through — through your night, through your dinners, through everything — because you’ve never stopped to actually give yourself time to just process that information.
But once you have, it’s like emptying out things. It’s gone. Also, the act of just writing stuff down or note-taking it, just getting it out of your head, that whole dumping things, really allows when you want to just hang out with your kid, or play Legos, or do something, you can just do that. It’s just there. That’s all you’re doing. It’s not you’re trying to juggle all these other thoughts and things because they’re gone. You’ve dealt with them, or else you know that you will deal with them.
#4: Build In Systems for Recording Ideas
Jerod Morris: Yep. That kind of goes along with number four, which is to build in systems for recording ideas. These systems don’t have to be, and actually probably shouldn’t necessarily be, immediate because you really want to remove the pressure to remember every good idea. A lot of times that will stifle your thinking.
Have you ever been on a walk, or doing whatever, and you have some great idea? Immediately you have this great idea, and you feel this immense pressure and anxiety to not forget the idea. You’re fumbling in your phone and trying to get Evernote out real quick before you forget it, or you’re afraid to think about anything else because you’re afraid that you’re going to forget this idea.
Building in systems to help you remember, again, especially if they aren’t immediate, will give you peace of mind long-term to just engage in longer-term thought and allow thoughts to follow a natural progression in your mind. Instead of being cut short because of this anxiety or feeling like you’re going to forget them.
I remember Demian and I did a series on this back when we were hosting The Lede together. He told me this system that he used, where when he had an idea when he was out mowing his lawn. He would basically try and take that idea and attach it to something. I’ve tried to do that, too. I’ll be walking, and I’ll have an idea. I’ll let the idea go through a little bit, come to some sort of reasonable, natural endpoint, and then I will try to attach that idea to washing the dishes.
What happens, then, is later that night when I’m washing the dishes, the idea comes back to me, and I remember it. Now by remembering it again, it solidified it, and I’ll remember it again in the future when it’s time to go write it down. You can also build in systems to where you know that you’re going to be at a place to record your ideas, so you know that, at worst, you just have to get it to that night when you do your journal entry or that morning when you do your journal entry.
This is where attaching the idea can really be helpful. So I get up every morning, and I write in my journal. A lot of times, I’ll remember ideas from the previous day. I’ll stop and think, “Okay, what were some of those ideas that I really made note of, that I wanted to remember, and that I tried to attach to writing in the journal?”
By attaching, like sometimes I’ll literally just try and, in my head, say the idea and journal entry over and over, like 15, 20 times to put it together. Or I’ll visualize myself sitting down with my journal, writing, and the idea — some sort of visual representation of the idea, right there with me. That helps to lock it in. That has really helped me remove the anxiety of, “Crap, I’ve got this idea. I’ve got to remember it,” which stifles thinking — which is the absolute opposite of what you want to be doing in the first place.
You’re going to obviously have to think about what ways will work for you and process of elimination and try some different things, but figure out those ways. Maybe it is going right to Evernote because you want to record that idea, and that’s the only thing that works for you. Totally fine. Whatever works for you and allows you to do this and keep your ideas.
That’s part of helping to motivate you to think is knowing that you’ll be doing something important with the ideas. We’ll get to that in step five. But recording the idea so you don’t forget the best of the bunch, have a system for doing that, so it’s just part of what you do and you’re comfortable with it. That will help you to do more thinking and then do more with the thoughts that you have.
Jonny Nastor: Interestingly enough, I do it for completely different reasons. I carry a physical paper notebook with me everywhere, in my bag or in my pocket, and on my phone. I don’t even know why some ideas end up in here and some end up just on my phone in the notes thing, but I don’t do it to keep them. I literally just do them just to get it out of my head and stop thinking about it.
Jerod Morris: That too, yeah.
Jonny Nastor: I literally just like clarity in my head of just not trying to remember anything. I don’t even want to worry about, “Do I have to keep this?” It’s cool to go through later and see. It’s like, “Oh, this idea came back like four times. Okay, I should probably do something with that.” But I’m not thinking about that.
I’m from the school of thought, I guess like James Altucher, which it’s a muscle — that the more you use it, the more ideas you create. Then that abundance mindset where there isn’t one idea that that’s it. That’s going to end all, be all my career, and if I don’t save this one, it’s over. It’s literally just I love the idea that boom, that spark, that feeling of an idea and then get rid of it, and you’re instantly back to just clarity and space.
Jerod Morris: Do you go back and review them later, so you can see which is good and which isn’t?
Jonny Nastor: No, I don’t.
Jerod Morris: You just assume that it will come back to you if it was good enough.
Jonny Nastor: Yeah, or else when I’m going back to write it, and then I see that at the top of the page, it’s like, “Oh, that was there.” You might notice it, but that’s not the point. I’m literally not doing it to keep the idea. I’m actually doing it to get rid of the idea.
Jerod Morris: Interesting.
Jonny Nastor: And not let it stay in my head longer. There’s ideas that will continually come back and back and back. It’s like, “Oh cool, interesting,” or I’ll think about it in a different way. But it’s not to keep it at all. I feel like when I try and hold onto it, it suffocates it. It’s literally just get it out of my head, be done with it, and clear the thoughts again. They’re there. They’re places. They exist.
To me, that was the whole reason for the idea was to have it exist somewhere around if I want it or need it. Or if I feel like I’m stuck, it really makes me feel more confident going into writing or doing something. It’s like I have a book full of ideas if I want them. They’re there — which really just gives me, I think, the creativity to come up with more ideas.
I’m not like, “Well, this is it. It’s either I need to come up with something now or there’s nothing.” It’s like, “Well, there’s a ton of stuff. I could dig through it if I want, but eh, actually let’s do this instead.”
Jerod Morris: That’s interesting. I think the big point here, no matter what method you use, is this is about peace of mind. This part right here is about peace of mind. For you, Jonny, it’s getting that idea out. I guess it’s probably important to note that part of coming up with a strategy for me is I’ve been studying how to improve my memory. I’ve had a secondary goal of improving my memory. Doing some of these things has been helpful as a memory exercise.
But I should say there is a common thread. The idea here is to take the idea, attach it to something in the future, so that when it’s reached its natural progression in the present moment, I can move it aside. It’s just trying to do it mentally and remember it later rather than pulling out a notebook or pulling out Evernote and writing.
That, in part, is because, to me, doing that in the moment a lot of times is distracting, so I tried to find a way out of that. This is going to be a personal preference thing, but the idea is the same. You’re doing this for peace of mind and so that you can get through to as many ideas as you can and follow the important ideas through to their natural concluding point.
That is the first four. So remove distractions and get clarity. Get vigilant and vicious in how you prioritize your time. Change locations, and then build in systems for recording ideas that aren’t necessarily immediate, but may well be immediate. It just depends on you, how you operate, and what works best for you.
Jerod Morris: Let me add a few honorable mention ones and ones that I’ve thought about just while we’ve been talking here. Sleeping more — a great way to actually think more. When you have time, you won’t be tired, and you’ll be more engaged in your thoughts. Eating better can actually help you do this as well. I would not ignore those.
And we shouldn’t overlook the importance of consuming ideas. You do still need to be a consumer of ideas. That can be podcasts. That can be reading books, but just be intentional about the ideas that you’re consuming. I had a boss, and I have mentioned this on the show before, but he always used to say to me, “The input equals the output.”
What you put into your brain is going to be what you can output from your brain. If you’re reading garbage, your thoughts are going to be garbage. So make sure that you’re putting good stuff in so that the ideas that can be synthesized, they have good raw materials to work with. All of that is very important.
#5: Do Something Meaningful with Your Ideas … and Do It Consistently
Jerod Morris: Finally, the fifth proven way to think more, and I think this is so important, is to do something meaningful with your ideas and to do it consistently. Nothing will encourage you to spend more time thinking than feeling that thinking is an investment, not an expense.
Why don’t we spend more time thinking right now? We mentioned this at the top of the show. We struggle with thinking because we think that it’s not productive time. We’re not producing something. There’s not a blog post at the end of it. There’s not a thing, a widget that we can sell at the end of it. We don’t look at it as productive time, but thinking can actually be the most productive time that we spend.
But we do need to have something meaningful that we do with the ideas. It doesn’t need to be the blog post that we write right now or the ebook that we have right now. But knowing that in the future we have places, we have opportunities to do something meaningful with these ideas, that’s going to encourage us to view thinking as something valuable.
The beautiful thing is you listening right now, whether you are thinking about starting a podcast, you’ve launched a podcast, or you’re just in the process of doing it, you are on the path, or you already have a place to do something meaningful with your ideas. Because you’re hosting a show. Because you’re building an audience. That should give you empowerment, enthusiasm to think and to spend time with your ideas. You’re going to have a place to do something meaningful with them because you’re building an audience.
It doesn’t mean that you always have to run to your audience or run to that place with the first idea that you have. Spend that time investing in those ideas, making sure that they’re well thought out and that they are meaningful. Man, there are a few things, to me, as motivating as that. I think when you do that, it will help encourage you to spend this time on thinking, like we’ve been talking about.
Jonny Nastor: Yeah. One of the reasons why I think we don’t spend enough time thinking is that it’s kind of frightening sometimes. It’s so much easier to avoid the big questions to yourself if you’re just bouncing around through things and not really taking that time.
This, I think, is probably, now that we’re talking about, a big reason why either we don’t take maybe our shows or something to where they should be or where they could be, or we don’t even launch the show. The surface fears that we all fear, or feel, about either launching a show or taking it up and building that big audience, I think they’re mostly, not that they’re superficial, but if you took the time to really think and analyze what’s holding you back from doing what it is you want to do, I don’t think that there’s any logical reason for them.
If you take that time and literally just think about like, “What’s the one thing stopping me from doing what it is I want to do?” Just spend a week — in your time walking, in your time just hanging out that you’re not occupying your mind with something else — think about that one question. You will find ways around all of this stuff.
I think it’s when we fear that question, then we just mask it with other thoughts that are not necessary and aren’t standing in our way from actually getting to it. It’s that actual main question. I’ve answered so many emails of people and of listeners and Tweets and things of people with those fears of even launching the show.
Those fears, it almost always seems that as the fear is brought to us, or to me, people disclaim it with, “These probably aren’t even real fears.” We know that, but we haven’t spent the time to think about it. Then to go deeper into that fear, and then find our way around it. It’s crucial. It’s crucial to creating good things. It’s crucial to creating meaningful stuff to us and to our potential audience — working our way around these fears and not to discard them.
They absolutely are necessary, and they’re real. They are what are holding you back, but take the time to really think about why and how those fears are holding you back. Then use that space to find your way through it, around it, over it — whatever it takes. I think facing those and feeling the depth of those fears is the way to really conquer them and then move forward with how you want.
Jerod Morris: I agree wholeheartedly, and it actually leads me to a final reason why spending time thinking is so important, especially for showrunners — especially for showrunners who have any type of podcast where they are discussing or interviewing with other people. We’ve talked about, when Krys Boyd was on the show, she talked to us about the importance of listening. Jonny, you’ve talked about the importance of listening to your interviews.
Well, I believe that the single best way to become a better listener is to actually learn and get comfortable listening to yourself. I think you are going to have a really hard time respecting the words and the time enough of someone else that you’re talking to if you can’t even do that to yourself.
It may, again, seem like a counterintuitive type thing. Really, that’s what you’re doing when you’re thinking. You’re just listening to yourself. Listen without judgment. Listen with patience. Listen with empathy, and listen with kindness. When you can do that for yourself, you’re going to be on the path to doing it much more easily and naturally for other people as well.
All of those reasons, and I’m sure there are more, are why you should spend more time thinking. However much time you’re spending thinking right now, you probably should spend more time doing it. Hopefully these tips and techniques that we have given you in this episode will help you on that path.
Jonny Nastor: That was fun.
Jerod Morris: That was fun. It was actually a lot longer too than we anticipated. But hey, it was worth it I think.
Jonny Nastor: There was lots to think about on it. It was good. It was cool.
Jerod Morris: It was. Hey, real quick, we do want to let you know that if you go to Showrunner.FM/Report, we do have a free report for you. It’s the Beginner’s Guide to Launching a Remarkable Podcast. It is obviously great if you are in the process of beginning a podcast, if you are just thinking about beginning a podcast, but it can even be helpful if you’ve already launched. Sometimes when you launch, you get episodes out there, and you get down the road a little bit, you forget about some of the basics.
This free report will get you back to the basics along with the email sequence that goes along with it. We highly recommend that you go get this. It’s Showrunner.FM/Report. Plus, once you get on that, you will also get our weekly newsletter with updates and insights on our latest episodes and everything else going on in The Showrunner universe. We would love to have you join us. Go to Showrunner.FM/Report to do so.
Jonny Nastor: We’ve been promoting this report for three weeks, Jerod?
Jerod Morris: Yes.
Jonny Nastor: Over 950 people have already downloaded it.
Jerod Morris: 900. Wow. That’s fantastic.
Jonny Nastor: That’s awesome. If you have, thank you, hope you enjoyed it as much as we think you will because we put a lot of time and effort into it. If you haven’t, there you go. Join 950 others. Apparently, it’s The Showrunner report to get right now.
Jerod Morris: That’s right.
Jonny Nastor: That’s awesome. Yeah, it’s a lot of people. It’s cool. I’m happy. That’s cool. We worked hard on it, so I’m glad we’re getting it into people’s hands.
Jerod Morris: We did. Well, thank you for being here and listening to this episode of The Showrunner. Now go and spend some time thinking. You’ll be glad you did.
Jonny Nastor: It’s been fun. Thanks.