Sketchbook Notes, Volume 2

The act of putting pen to paper helps plant information in my brain unlike anything else. Just like my previous notebook, the notes below are a window into my reading and thought patterns – highlighting ideas that resonated strongly with me from the past three to four months. Hopefully they resonate with you as well.

80/20 & Parkinson’s Law

These two related principles are outlined by Tim Ferriss in The 4-Hour Work Week. The 80/20 principle states that 20% of your efforts/inputs result in 80% of the desired results. By focusing on the 20% of tasks that yield the majority of results, you can be more effective while doing less work.

Parkinson’s Law states that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” By limiting the time you have to complete a task, you are forced to focus on what is most important (instead of procrastinating – see below).

Avoiding the Important

The work that is most important is usually the work that is most difficult. Particularly if too much time has been allotted, we invent unimportant work to keep ourselves busy in order to avoid the hard work. Tim Ferriss recommends periodically asking yourself this question to keep your focus in check.

Poverty of Attention

I don’t remember where I first encountered this quote from Herbert Simon. Our culture suffers acutely from poverty of attention, and the valuation of digital products provides concrete evidence of this fact. As shown again just this week, attention is valued far more highly than profitability.


What is success? In Offscreen No. 4, Dave Greiner of Campaign Monitor defined it as noted above: the right balance of time with loved ones and meaningful work. In an industry that too often values work to the detriment of all else, it’s inspiring to see such balance championed by the leader of a profitable, well-designed product.

The Best Conversations

Sharing a meal with someone positively affects the way we communicate. Also from Dave Greiner’s Offscreen interview, this comment speaks to Campaign Monitor’s culture of providing lunch for their entire team each day. It’s a brilliant way to foster camaraderie and collaboration in a workspace where each person has their own office.

Talent + Vision

Timoni West, also interviewed in Offscreen, offered this question as a metric to evaluate potential job satisfaction for a designer. In short, align yourself to work on products that reflect your skills and principles.

Notice Beauty

This quote comes from storyteller Jay O’Callahan as recorded by Scott Belsky in Making Ideas Happen. In short, it’s a reminder to look for what’s right in a piece of work instead of what’s wrong. For the complete story, read Focusing on Beauty.

Quit Waiting

Yet another bit of inspiration from Offscreen, this positive command comes from an interview with Brad Smith. In his words: “Today is truly all we have. Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed.” This encouragement to taking initiative speaks for itself.