• Gates’ Law [Sketchnote]

    “Most people overestimate what they can achieve in a year and underestimate what they can achieve in ten years.” – Bill Gates

    Gates law

    The works on a smaller scale as well. People often plan more than they can possibly manage to do in a day, but then underestimate what they can do in a week or month. This is due to our poor natural ability to predict how much time a task will take to complete so we calculate that we could complete more tasks. On the other side, we fail to take into account The compound effect which leads to incredible results in the long run (even if we don’t complete as many tasks).

    Improving our day to day predictions

    Two time management techniques can help us avoid overestimating what we can do day to day.

    • the big rocks system where we set only three main tasks to complete
    • Estimating the time of tasks before we attempt a task, and then time tracking to evaluate our predictions so we can improve our predictions in the long run.

    Making the most of the compound effect

    Understanding the compound effect should encourage us to focus on regular small actions (or Atomic Habits) that we regularly do and provide these compound benefits. If we do that, we can gain the long term benefits of tiny actions.

  • The Big Rocks is a Productivity framework to help you get the most important tasks done. It is sometimes called the Most Important Tasks (MITs) system.

    The analogy of filling a jar with rocks

    It is based on an analogy of filling a jar with rocks of different sizes

    • large – Important tasks that take a long time
    • small – less important tasks that take less time
    • and sand – small things that take only a minute or two.

    If you start with the sand, then the small rocks and finally the big rocks, you’ll discover that your jar can’t fit everything in. That means that one of the most important tasks you have will not get done in a day.

    But if you start with the big rocks first, then the smaller ones and finally the sand, you can fit everything in.

    The reason the real example works is because the smaller rocks and sand fill the gaps between the bigger rocks. When you put them in first, they form a compact layer with the rocks sticking out.

    It’s the same with our time.

    When we put unimportant tasks first, they consume our time, energy and attention from important tasks.

    How the Big Rocks system works for Productivity

    Like the rocks in the jar, you should start by planning when you will do your most important tasks.

    You need to make time in your day to focus on them. Once you have prioritise these tasks, you can let the smaller tasks fill in the available gaps left.

    In practice, I find that some smaller tasks don’t get done and fall by the wayside. But as they are less or unimportant, it doesn’t matter.

    How to apply the Big Rocks Productivity System

    1. Every morning (or the night before) set the three most important tasks that you must complete for that day.
    2. Estimate how long each task will take to do.
    3. Block time on your calendar to do them
    4. DO what you planned.

    That final point is the trickiest, especially if you have limited control over your time. But my experience has been that prioritising and trying to follow this approach has benefits even if I suddenly find that my time table is ruined for the day with unexpected meetings.

    Give the Big Rocks Time Management System a Go

    Now you have all the information you need to start doing this system. You can do it with a digital app but I like keeping a small, index card size piece of paper on my desk. It provides a constant reminder all day long.

    Give it a try and let me know if it helps.

  • 4 Simple Sketchnote Banners Anyone Can Do

    Banners are a great way to show what is a header without learning a fancy font and they work with those too. In this short post, I’ll go through the simplest way to create a banner for a header in your sketchnotes and then share a few variations you can try.

    Step one: write the header

    You could make the banner first, but for beginners it’s far better to start with the text. It takes time to develop an instinctive knowledge of how much space text will take up and even then, things can go wrong.

    By writing the heading first, you know how much space your banner will need to take up.

    Write the heading text

    Step two: draw a rectangle around the text

    In theory, you could stop at this step. That really would be the simplest banner! But we’re going to add a couple more steps to create something a bit more interesting.

    add and outline

    Step three: Draw some offset parallel Lines

    If you have a dot grid notebook or paper, you can offset your banner exactly. In a plain notebook, you’ll need to go with your eye. Try to keep them the same height and more or less even.

    Step four: connect the lines diagonally

    Now, add diagonal lines from the front part of the banner to the background elements. This should form small triangles which are the fold in the banner.
    With this step, you’re basically done.

    Step five: finish it off!

    At this point, all you need to do is close of your banner and add any final touches you want. This can include filling in the “folded” section to add some depth, or adding some shadow below the banner to make it appear like it is floating.
    If you are a using a digital tool, it’s easy to add multiple shades of colour with the front of the banner the lightest, the back layer slightly darker and the fold the darkest.

    More simple sketchnote headers and upgrades

    While this is a very simple way to create banners for sketchnotes, there are some alternatives and small upgrades that can enhance your headlines.

    1. The wavey banner

    Instead of a straight rectangle, create a wavey banner that looks like it is blowing in the wind.

    A couple of points to note:

    1. Make sure the waves are in parallel
    2. If you can, make the text warp to the banner coming closer or further away.

    2. The sign

    This headline uses a rectangle as well, but instead of making it look like a ribbon, we add posts to make it look like a sign. For smaller text, you can add one pillar, or you can use multiple for larger one.

    You might want to change the signs shape to match the message such as pointing in a direction.

    3. The cork board

    This time, we’re putting paper on a cork board. Start with an outline that represents a piece of paper with the information. This “paper” can be flat and even, or it can bend and flex as it comes of the board — it’s your choice.

    Next, add pins to each corner (and optionally, the middle) of the paper before finally adding the cork board behind the “paper”.

    Time to apply!

    There are hundreds more styles of banners, some subtle variations and some more complicated styles. The most important thing to do is to practice them. Once you’ve nailed these, see if you can emulate the styles of other sketchnoter, or create your own stock sketchnote header template.

  • The Alter Ego Effect Sketchnote Summary

    Last year I finally decided to do something about my imposter syndrome. I picked up the most recommended book I had heard of “The Alter Ego Effect”. Little did I know that once I had finished reading it, I would have come to the conclusion that I don’t really have imposter syndrome (though sometimes suffer from self doubt) and that this book would have helped me greatly.

    Table of Contents

      Sketchnote summary of the Alter Ego Effect

      Core Idea

      You should use a different persona or “Alter ego” for different areas of your life to help you perform at your best. This helps you have emotional distance and get over the hangups you might have with acting the way you need to be the best in this area.

      Key concepts

      • Fields of play
      • Ordinary world & Extra-ordinary world
      • The trapped and heroic selves
      • Alter egos
      • The enemy
      • totem or artefact

      Why do we fail to live up to our potential?

      There are always moments when we fail to perform at our best or don’t fully apply ourselves to a task. Sometimes it comes from an external source such as an incapacity but internal forces can also hold us back.
      These internal issues can be far more frustrating as they can be both more opaque and/or easily preventable. And yet, they have a nasty tendency of sticking around and become entrenched as part of our identity.
      This is how a sport person can become known as “skilled, but missing the killer instinct” or a employee

      Fields of play

      The athletes field of play is the arena where they test their skill. This is the time and place where their performance is measured. But all of us have different areas of our lives where our performance matters. It might be in how we relate at home with our families, or how we do our core jobs at work. We may even require very different skills for different tasks we have at work (such as leading a meeting vs creating a report).
      Each different arena of life is a field of play with its own criteria for success. What make us excel in one field may hold us back in another.
      This is where an alter ego can come into play. An alter ego allows us to apply the right traits in one area of life, and apply different traits in another without any conflict.

      The Ordinary vs the Extra-ordinary world

      There are two worlds, the ordinary and extra-ordinary world.
      The ordinary world is full of negative self-talk and a destructive place. It’s the place where most of live, listening to the internal monologs that say we shouldn’t, can’t and won’t do what we long to. That’s why Todd says our “Trapped self” live here. This is the version of us that fails to perform, that is held back.
      The Extra-ordinary world is a positive environment and is an enjoyable place to be. It’s a place of flow where we get lost in the task without conscious thought. This is where the “heroic self” lives: the version of ourselves that fully applies itself to the task.

      To create an alter ego, we need to define what our heroic selves look like from the deep levels of our beliefs up to our core actions. It can be helpful to both identify when things have gone well and how we acted differently then, as well as when they went badly and the negative beliefs, thoughts, feelings and actions we want to avoid.

      The Enemy and Negative Self-talk

      “The enemy” is the personification of our negative self talk. It is the dark voice that says we can’t, shouldn’t, won’t or don’t deserve to do something. It can appear in four common ways.

      • Imposter syndrome – the phenomena that makes experts feel worried they will be found out at fakes.
      • False narratives – stories we believe that prevent us from doing something. I.e. “[people like me] don’t/can’t do this.”
      • Past trauma – when past events cause us to worry about next events. For example, “last time I failed to… I bet it will happen again.”
      • Conflicting values – some of our values may hinder ourselves in other fields. For example, if we value justices, we may struggle to win in competitions.

      By identifying an enemy (giving it a name) and making it an external force, it provides us with something to fight again that is outside of us.

      Creating an alter ego

      This is an iterative process and may follow different paths usually refining as it goes along. However, the first steps are consistent.

      1. Define a field of play

      You need to pick an area of your life to build an alter ego in. The largest divisions are home and professional but you can narrow either of those down to a particular relationship or activity.

      2. Identify the goal and key actions

      What do you want to achieve in this field of play? What would success look like in this area? With that identified, break down the key actions that bring that success as well as the underlying thoughts, beliefs and values required to create those actions.

      Either 3a. Identify your desired traits

      With your goal and attributes identified, you can list out the traits you need and what they look like. You should describe them as vividly as possible. If you start with this step, move to the next one, if you start with the next one, come back to this step.

      or 3b. Identify an alter ego

      Sometimes it’s easier to jump to an alter ego straight away as your subconscious resonates with someone or something. If that’s the case, it’s worth going back to the previous step and identifying the attributes that make this alter ego a good choice.
      Some possible candidates for an alter ego include.

      • Real people
      • Fictional characters
      • Animals
      • Concepts
      • Images of a person
      • Combinations (merging aspects of two previous items)

      Activate with a totem or artefact

      A totem or artifact helps you to “activate” (put on the personality) of your alter ego. It should be a tactical item that you can touch and can even have a ritual associated with it to help “get in the right mind”.
      This works through “enclothed cognition” where we take on a trait due to associations with an object. An example is glasses which people perceive as for smart people, so we feel and act smarter with them. Or wearing a suit often causes people to be more confident.
      When our totem matches our alter ego, it helps enrich that association.

      Grab a copy of The Alter Ego effect

      If this summary has interested you and you’d like to learn more, use the button below to get your own copy so you can work through the whole process.

    1. In Procreate 5.2 they introduced Brush Size memory, a new feature where you can save multiple sizes for the same brush. Here’s why Brush size memory is great for sketchnoters.

      Procreate is great for sketchnotes…except

      I love procreate for making sketchnotes. While it can be a bit feature heavy and cumbersome when you first start, the beautiful brushes, multiple layers and powerful export options help me create sketchnotes I like.

      why sketchnote with procreate

      The only issue with Procreate is that it gives you TOO many options. There are so many brushes and colours that they can get in the way for people who prefer a simpler app like Paper by WeTransfer.

      One of my ways around this was to use a single set of “sketchnoting” brushes with about five pens for normal text, headlines, brush lettering, filling, stippling and airbrush effects. This worked well but if I ever adjusted the size of a brush (to move between headline text and subheading, or to add more detail in an icon) it would be near impossible to return to my previous brush size.

      My solution was to duplicate brushes but that made the interface more cumbersome and wasn’t perfect either. I could still adjust these brushes and then not be able to return to my previous state.

      This new feature from Procreate has solved that challenge.

      How Brush size memory works

      The brush size slider has been around for a long time and allows you to increase and decrease the size of your current brush.

      Now you just tap the plus icon that appears in the top right corner of the brush size preview and it will add a marker.

      This marker has some “magnetism” to it, so as you move up and down the slider in the future and get close to your saved point, the slider will stick there.

      Why the brush size memory feature is great for sketchnotes

      Let’s say you have a good brush to use for a headline and subheadline, you might want to keep your sub headlines roughly the same size but lose it when you change between canvases.

      Not an issue anymore, now you just put two markers down and you can just between the headline and subheadline size.

      This can work for sketching and having different size details or to have a tool to fill in large sections or colour in details.

      Thank you procreate!

      Honestly, this has removed one of my biggest frustrations with procreate and removed the need for my old duplicate brushes. Now I can have fewer brushes in my sketchnote set, more size variety, more consistency of style and jump to the option I want faster.

      Thank you procreate.

    2. Creating and using a stock sketchnote header template

      Sketchnoting under pressure can be a real challenge. Having ready to go ideas and templates can help you make something good, quickly, without thinking. You can use templates for the whole sketchnote, but you can also use templates for part of the sketchnote. Recently I came up with a simple stock sketchnote header template that has helped take decisions out of my sketchnoting process and raise the quality of sketchnotes I can create under time pressure.

      What should you include in your sketchnote’s header area?

      Depending on the topic you are sketchnoting, you may want to include or exclude certain elements. For example, a date may be important to include for a sketchnote on a talk, but not as useful for a sketchnote on a book.

      • Title or topic
      • A picture of the speaker(s) or author(s)
      • The name of the speaker(s) or author(s)
      • The title of what the topic is connected to. (The event, a sermon series, book)
      • A logo (of the event, or the speaker,
      An example stock sketchnote header template
      An example stock sketchnote header template

      What header text should you use?

      There are lots of different types of text you can use for your header.

      The simplest is to use a “heavier” font, or bold text. This will make it stand out and be clearly legible.

      However, depending on the topic, you might want to use a font that is

      • more elegant
      • more futuristic
      • more formal
      • more causal

      There is a simple trick you can use if you aren’t sure. By simply placing a basic single line of your text, you can then embellish it later.

      Should you always add a portrait?

      A portrait can really had character to a sketchnote. But adding a drawing adds pressure for those of us who are less confident with drawing. One option is to add a simple outline in the moment, and you can add details later.

      When it comes to actually drawing the portrait, focus on the key details and characteristic attributes of the person you are drawing.

      How should you arrange the elements in your header

      I recommend setting keeping your title text as the largest element, with a portrait or logo to the left of the text. You can then place any other smaller or less important elements under their respective parts.

      How to arrange information in  a stock sketchnote header

      So you can place the name of the speaker or author under the authors picture, and the date of the event under the title.

      Ready to use a stock sketchnote header template?

      You don’t have to stick ridgedly to your sketchnote header template, and you can even create one before the event if you are live sketchnoting, or afterwards to help you avoid time pressures.

      Do you use a different sketchnote header template? Let me know in the comments.