Everyone has to start somewhere. That somewhere is here.

Aswin John
6 min readSep 11, 2019

As usual, I got too fancy.

I set up learnthenapply.com and made a logo and set up a mailing list but I haven’t learned and applied anything yet.

That’s why I’m here on Medium starting from scratch. The biggest value I can provide is honesty and transparency. I’m a beginner going through all the same hurdles that you’re facing.

Raise your hand if:

  • You have great ideas and 10 different things you want to work on but you haven’t created anything yet.
  • You go through waves where you’ll do a bit of work (like creating a website and maybe a few blog posts) but then you don’t end up doing anything for months.
  • You know exactly what you want to do and you even know the micro-steps needed to do that thing, but you just don’t do it.

Okay, I’m going to stop being presumptuous now. But seriously, that’s where I’m at right now; and I hope you are too because we’re going to get through this together!


Start with deliberate planning.

Deliberate Planning

“You can’t call it a distraction if you don’t know what it’s distracting you from” — Nir Eyal

I have tried many organizational systems. But so far I have not consistently used anything that has resulted in knowing what I’m working on and when I’ll be working on it.

In the book Work Clean by Dan Charnas, he says:

The “to-do” list without appointments lures us into packing lots of tasks onto it without thinking about when they will actually get done; and a calendar with only appointments on it misleads us into thinking we have an open schedule when in fact we don’t.

If you’re like me, you’re calendar probably looks like this:

and meanwhile, your to-do list has a few bullet points that were supposed to be done 3 months ago.

So let’s start assigning tasks a time and block time to work on it on the calendar.

NOTE: I’ve tried a time-blocking practice before but I didn’t leave any time for relaxation (time to consume, spend with family, etc) or adjust my schedule when unexpected things came up. I’m going to do that this time.

As much as I want to make the most out of my day, I’d rather get 1 task done and build good habits than hold myself to 10 tasks and fall back into self-resentment when I don’t get it all done.

First, let’s figure out what we want to get done.

Do-It-Later list

Bet you thought we were going to start with a to-do list!

But instead, we’re going to liberate ourselves by fleshing out a Do-It-Later list.

If you ask my friends, they’ll tell you I come up with a different project or business idea every two weeks. I want to create all these things and limiting myself to one or two feels limiting.

  • What if I hate it?
  • What if I don’t have enough time to finish it?
  • What if that other idea is better?

It seems silly when you say it out loud.

If I hate it, I can stop at any time. And how will I have time to finish it along with other things if I don’t have time to finish it when it’s the only project I’m working on?!

So I spent about 15 minutes typing my Do It Later list in an Excel spreadsheet.

I split my list into:

  • Projects: Business ideas or projects I want to create or think would be cool
  • Habits: Things I’d like to do daily/weekly/monthly
  • Things to learn: Things I think would be cool or useful to know like languages or skills (swimming, dancing, etc)

I actually dumped ALL my ideas on this list so it includes the things I currently want to work on. So let’s look through the list and decide what is the most exciting, and can realistically be started this month.

To-Do List and Calendar Blocking

There are three things I want to accomplish in September:

  1. Create a prototype of an oil candle
  2. Create a niche site for prom — written for guys
  3. Run Facebook ads to see if I can get inquiries for renting my church’s hall

WHEW. That was difficult!!!

When I was typing up those three objectives, my mind was racing with all the other things that I SHOULD be doing and why it was important.

But again, let’s start with a few things we feel we can realistically do. Those other things wouldn’t have got done anyways without a proper plan. We have months and years of supporting evidence!

There are two more steps.

I’m going to write down the next three steps (at least) I see for each project and then put the time to work on those steps on my calendar.

I put the next steps for these projects and delivery dates on a Google sheet.

To help me put this in my calendar, I had to decide when it should be completed by and how much time it would take. That will help me block out those hours on my Google Calendar.

Let’s put them in:

Inputting all the tasks into the calendar took about 30 minutes. I had to change the predictions I made on the spreadsheet because the estimates were not realistic with my other commitments.

Going forward the due date will be the absolute latest day it can be completed and I will be conservative so I can fit in time to work on these projects between work and other consulting projects.

I marked side projects in pink, consulting in green, and leisure in yellow.

I roughly threw everything on the calendar (otherwise this could’ve taken much longer). I will block out time on Sundays and each night to revise the current week and then review my to-dos each morning (focusing on the specific tasks for the current day’s blocks of time).

So That’s The Plan…

Let’s see how it goes.

This is an experiment. I’m not going to be disappointed if (WHEN!!) things don’t go well because I’m going to tweak it and try again next week/month.

This is a continuous process and the earlier I get started, the sooner I can consistently create.

Let’s begin :)


P.S. I want to thank:

  • Ramit Sethi, whose course Finisher’s Formula introduced the concept of Deliberate Planning. I bought this course back in my senior year of college and I’m going back through on my journey to finishing what I start.
  • Nir Eyal, whose book “Indistractable” came out today. I’ve been listening to the audiobook, and it was the book that I needed at this time of my life.
  • YOU for reading this post. Please leave a comment below about what you think of this process, things you’ve tried, and things you’re struggling with in this journey.



Aswin John

A young professional taking action on the content he reads and documenting it on learnthroughaction.com (+ tweeting bad jokes at twitter.com/learnthroughaction)