125: David Kadavy – Mind Management Not Time Management

You Need the Right Mindset to Write, Not More Time

David Kadavy is a best-selling author whose books help artists be productive. He was a design advisor for behavioral scientist Dan Ariely’s productivity app, where David’s mind management principles were applied to features now used by millions – in Google Calendar.

David is a productivity enthusiast. Today, he talks about his book Mind Management, Not Time Management.

What We Discuss with David Kadavy:

  • The impetus for writing his book Mind Management, Not Time Management
  • Some false assumptions of time management
  • What it looks like to be more productive vs. counting the minutes
  • What it means to work well under pressure
  • David’s book writing process
  • The 4 stages of creativity
  • Putting creative work into a different frame of thinking
  • Message to aspiring authors who wish to apply David’s mind management principles

[02:01] The Impetus for Writing Mind Management

It all started when David got a book deal for his book Design for Hackers. As a productivity enthusiast, David has been a big advocate for getting things done. Eventually, he found that nothing he learned about productivity prepared him for the process of writing a book, more so somebody with no experience. 

Initially, his first instinct was time management. So David cut off most of his social life and started outsourcing things like cooking, cleaning, and grocery shopping. He incidentally got plenty of time but he still wasn’t getting anything done on the book. 

But through that process, he started to notice some patterns in how he ended up getting his writing done.

That was 10 years ago. Since that time, he has been dissecting one of the patterns. He looked into research on creativity and the neuroscience of creativity. And he tried to develop a cohesive framework or system to make creative work happen without all that pain. 

[06:11] Some False Assumptions of Time Management

  1. Time management assumes that there’s direct input and output in that you do this work and you get this result.
  2. Productivity is really what you’re looking for when it comes to creative work. 
  3. Time is this production unit that if there’s more time, you get more output.

All ideas are not of equal value. Some ideas are worthless, some are extremely valuable. It doesn’t take any time to have an idea.

The input of work that you put in does not necessarily mean the output. 

[12:14] What It Looks Like to Be More Productive vs. Counting the Minutes

The state of mind when we are being creative is very different from the state of mind if we’re trying to solve math problems, or even if we’re trying to edit our work and make sure that our spelling or grammar is correct. 

Creativity is what you want to optimize for. And the basic building block of creativity is the moment of insight. 

Not all hours are equal. You can be way more productive during those times when you have the right state of mind to do the type of creative work you’re trying to do. Look for the creative sweet spot or time of the day when you’re most prone to having these insights. At this time, your brain is thinking widely and you’re able to collect ideas from various regions. 

[18:36] What It Means to Work Well Under Pressure

You can work better under pressure and your level of skill matters. But then if you’re in a situation like that, and you have the deadline breathing down your neck, you can get into the point where you’re inducing anxiety.

Stress shuts down creativity and it can totally backfire. 

Your personality matters. Your level of complexity, of what you’re trying to accomplish, and your level of skill and experience with that type of work are important.

[29:48] Putting Creative Work Into a Different Frame of Thinking

If you’re going to do creative work and be efficient at it, one of the most important things you have to recognize is you don’t just sit down and do it. 

The 4 stages of creativity:

  • Preparation – the collection of all information
  • Incubation – the time in between where you’ve written about or research these characters and the time you’ve taken a break
  • Illumination – the moment of insight
  • Verification

[36:54] Message to Aspiring Authors Who Wish to Apply David’s Mind Management Principles

Find that creative sweet spot, which is the time of day, or even within your week, that is consistently going to be a time that you can sit down and produce.

Use that time to generate the ideas to not be trying to achieve the solution necessarily, but to consistently be doing that. 

Do a weekly review. Make sure you’ve got time cleared away where meetings or other errands aren’t going to get in the way of the creative work.

Episode Resources:

Listen to a previous episode with David on Episode 25: Why Success for Your First Book Can Be Dangerous

Get David’s free tool kit on kdv.co/tools.

David’s books on Amazon, including:

Mind Management, Not Time Management

Design for Hackers

Follow David on:



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