Accomplishing Everything


How do you accomplish everything?

People often ask me this question. For a while, it puzzled me. Do I really accomplish more than other people? I keep in touch with a lot of active, busy people all doing fun things, so I’m not sure I’m the exception.

But if it’s true, well, I think there are essentially three related answers.

First of all, I don’t accomplish everything –

I don’t like to talk on the phone, so I make an average of two phone calls a day. I don’t watch TV, I don’t drive, I don’t go to meetings that exist for the purpose of having a meeting, and I don’t do things out of obligation. These things can take up a lot of time if you let them. Stop doing them, and you’ll have much more time.

Second, I love what I do –

It’s much easier to accomplish “everything” when “everything” consists of things you are incredibly excited about. This makes a tremendous difference in comparison to trying to accomplish things you are dispassionate or only semi-motivated by.

It’s easier to trip over this concept if you have a job or other ongoing commitment you don’t enjoy—but if that’s the case, it just makes it all the more important to spend the rest of your time on things you’re motivated by. (If you lose 40 of your best hours a week to something you don’t care about, don’t you want to make the most of the remaining hours?)

Third, I accomplish a lot of things because I work at them –

This is perhaps the answer that some people tend to miss the most.

I work as much as I can, every day, from wherever I am. I carry a paper notebook with me everywhere, and my laptop bag almost everywhere. I outline ideas and project notes on the bus. I write emails in the back of taxis taking me to or from the airport. When I go to sleep, the notebook is on the floor beside the bed in case I remember something I need to do in the morning.

Two weeks ago in Toronto, I had a great gig at Indigo Books with Neil Pasricha and a bunch of other fun people. The whole gig, from setup to mingle to talk to Q&A to signing to “bookstore stuff” to small afterparty, took about four hours. Great turnout, great people, grateful author.

After it was over, I went to Starbucks and replied to emails for two hours. Then I started writing this post. The next day, I had a day off from the tour, but I didn’t do much sightseeing. Instead, I went back to another coffee shop and worked for most of the morning and afternoon. I like seeing fun people at the meetups, but without all the time I spend working by myself, no one would care and no one would come out.

Please understand, this isn’t bad or unhealthy—I have a great life. I do what I want. I visit 20+ countries a year. I just wrapped up a book tour to every U.S. state and Canadian province. Everywhere I go, I hear amazing stories from remarkable people. This is the life I’ve freely chosen with no regrets.


Perhaps one final example would better illustrate the third answer. Steve Cohen, the “Millionaire’s Magician,” was profiled by my friend Jonathan recently. I loved this quote from Steve in the interview:

I want to address the incoming emails I receive from magicians around the world who ask me to teach them how to replicate my career. They come visit my show, which is sold-out weeks in advance, and say, “I want that.” The problem is that they only see the final result. They do not see the years of struggle and creative thought that went into creating that result.

Here you can see the behind-the-curtain: the years of struggle and creative thought. Many of us don’t like to hear about those things, but that’s how it goes: nothing works unless you do. Without an ongoing struggle to conquer resistance and produce something meaningful, there is no path to success or renown, at least not the respectable kind.

Don’t accomplish everything; just do what counts.

Spend as much of your time as possible doing work you love.

Work smarter and harder.

That’s pretty much it.


Image: Mikey

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  • Amber says:

    I’m glad you did this post because I think it is important for all of the people who follow you, and want to repeat your success, see the hard work that goes into the back-end. I think a lot of people (myself included sometimes) just see the end result(the one we want) and wish for the success NOW. But I suppose the hard work is a part of the journey 🙂

    I’m totally looking forward to the day when I can spend as many hours as I want working on the things that are important to me. And in the meantime, I am enjoying working my hinny off on the thing that makes me smile: inspiring others to pursue their potential.

  • Cate says:

    It’s so true that we often only see the end product and don’t realize the extensive amount of work and effort it took to get there!

    It also sounds like you’re good at breaking through resistance. Have you developed strategies for dealing with resistance or do you not experience much resistance because you so love the work you’re doing?

  • Lydia says:

    Indeed, 40 hours of my week are already promised to someone other than myself. After watching an interview with you, Chris, I was astounded by the answer to such a seemingly difficult question: “What advice would you give to aspiring writers?” Your answer? “Write!” Well, you could have tipped me over with a feather. For an aspiring fiction writer like myself, the advice couldn’t have been more helpful! I work full time in administration and, needless to say, my brain doesn’t quite function as well as I would like at the end of the day. 2010 was spent decompressing, not writing. So, after listening to your advice, I wrote more in January than I had in all of 2010. I forced myself to write at least 500 words everyday! And, you know what? It worked. I finished a short story. I actually have something to show for all my hard work. Is that accomplishing everything? Not really. But, it’s accomplishing something that matters to me.

    Thank you for the advice!

  • rob white says:

    I love the paradox… it’s true, the key to accomplishing everything is that you don’t accomplish everything. In fact, trying to accomplish everything is a very sneaky move by the Ego to have us accomplish nothing. The mind is truly genius with its reasoning; when it takes on a project with a CANNOT attitude, it simply knows it is able to NOT able to finish it. This is how confident the mind is that you will come up empty. Positive thinking wont work… real thinking works.

  • Tony Lam says:

    Accomplishing everything. It seemed an imposible task. You’re right about the points you wrote. We people tend and want to do allot of things.We get so distracted by many things that we don’t accomplish the things we want. I keep telling myself that work smarter and enjoy doing your work is better than to work at something you don’t like because of necessity.I have talked to many people who worked long hours and extra time to get more pay. And they planned for the things they want, like studying for a better career, to learn another language, to raise his or her child, etc. It’s such a big hassle.
    It’s so tiring and you don’t have enough time for yourself. Then you noticed the problems that are starting to worry you. It’s a challenge to solve the problems not many people can solve them.
    I think by accomplishing everything is dependable on yourself of making realistic goals.
    It can be small or big. It’s up to you.

  • ksolo says:

    yes – but do you have a significant other? not being cheeky… just… well, that’s an attachment that often makes it difficult to ‘do everything’. if you do, i’d be interested in how you make that work with such a full plate.

  • Angie Bryant says:

    To support me in transitioning to doing what I want, I started being a calendaring maniac. EVERYTHING that I said was important to me and that I want to make time for goes on the calendar (nothing double booked) and everything has equal weight. Whether it is making sure that I get in the workout or meeting with a new client. It has me really think about what I agree to and I make sure that I actually want to do it.

    You might think that it has become restrictive- quite the opposite actually! The rest of the world doesn’t operate this way so I get spontaneity when someone has to cancel a meeting or let’s stuff get in the way.

  • Contrarian says:

    Great post, Chris.

    Reminds me, that if you have a major definite purpose (which you obviously do) and work backwards from that single objective, identifying the things that serve that purpose and only doing those things, you end up accomplishing the important vs. spinning your wheels on the unimportant.

    Ask – “Does this bring me closer to my purpose?” This question only works if you have one!

    This question cuts through and clarifies what needs to be done – focusing you on the important. Most confuse motion with progress because they don’t have a purpose.

    My 2 cents

    – Contrarian

  • Katie says:

    Thanks for this Chris. I’ve been reading your blog for a while now, so while this is very much on point with your whole philosophy, its not repetitive. Actually, its serving as an inspirational kick in the pants for me to get going on some things I put off. It also makes me remember that doing “nothing” or working alone on things you love is okay too, maybe the best possible thing. I lived for years with a crazy full schedule and after graduation from college I tried to continue that for a while because that’s what I thought a successful life was. Since the holidays I have naturally started to stay in more, read the books I want, and do more creative projects for no reason other than I want to. I used to feel guilty about leaving all the crazy obligations and social events behind, but I think this is just what I need right now. Striking that balance is a never-ending dynamic process.

  • Joel says:

    Good stories aren’t good stories because of just the endings. It’s the blood, sweat & tears throughout the process that make the endings so great. Keep up the great work Chris.

  • Tom Meitner says:

    This is great, Chris. I like the point about not seeing the work that went into it. Often, that work is unpaid and is just an investment in the bigger picture. But when you are pursuing that part of it, you may get caught up with people who don’t recognize what you are doing.

    “Well, how much PAID work are you getting?”, etc.

    The biggest successes are the people who were doing what they love before it was paying good. You have to make that sacrifice ahead of time.

  • Maggie Dodson says:

    It’s a very good point, Chris.

    The painting on the wall doesn’t show the sketches, the finished novel doesn’t show the rewrites and the movie doesn’t show what’s on the cutting room floor.

    When we enjoy a delicious dinner made for us we don’t think about how it got onto the table but someone thought about what to cook, shopped for the ingredients, made decisions about what accompaniments to offer for each course, cooked, laid the table and then appeared looking lovely to greet us as if all this were effortless. Magic!

  • Deanna says:

    Great post, Chris! Everything worth having does take work. You can’t simply wish or dream something into being. It takes brain sweat and elbow grease. But if you’re doing something you love, it’s totally worth it.

  • Margaret says:

    Thanks for the reminder that there is no magic, Chris. The more something looks effortless, the more likely it is that someone has done a tremendous amount of prep work. Great to catch a glimpse of where/when you work when travelling. – Margaret

  • Mike Gusky says:

    There is no truer statement than “They do not see the years of struggle and creative thought that went into creating that result.” Its very much the American way to condemn the successful as if they were handed success or simply condemn any choices different than their own. They dont see the years of sacrificing luxuries in order to take risks for a future payout. They dont realize that the successful person they are condemning was working while they watched T.V. The biggest point they miss is that it was a concious choice. I hold no ill will towards the person that decided 3 hours of their day was to be dedicated to watching T.V. It may have brought them great joy. It was their choice and I respect that. Its a shame everyone can’t do the same. Imagine a world where everyone respected everyone’s choices. (provided of course the choices didnt involve harming another)

  • Melissa Dinwiddie says:


    I’m in the “years of struggle and creative thought” part right now. 🙂 And loving – if not *every* minute of it, then certainly a great deal of it. (Technical snafus and bookkeeping I don’t love so much, I’ll admit.)

    Everything I’ve ever accomplished has come through hard work. Those years of struggle would never happen if the passion wasn’t there.

    Thanks for the reminder that what may appear to be “overnight” success usually isn’t.

  • Sheila Carroll says:

    As usual, Chris, you hit the nail on the head. I work with homeschooling moms and am doing a webinar on “Mid-Course Correction” this Saturday. This post was very timely. Thanks again.

  • Brent Sears says:

    Thanks Chris!
    There are so many industries that are changing right now, and what used to be “safe” no longer is. It’s amazing how many 9-5 jobs are full of meetings, interruptions, and projects that have nothing to do with “the work.”
    Find something you love…face your fears everyday…and do the work! (There is also a difference between what you do…and what you do for money.)

  • Julie Wise says:

    Thanks for including the quote by Steve Cohen. A wonderful reminder that growth is a process. The seeds we sow today gradually emerge into the abundance we will harvest in future seasons. Now back to planting the seeds of my vision … 🙂

  • Sheryll says:

    I needed to read this post today. I’ve been slacking a lot lately, and this is just what I needed to read to stay motivated. Thanks Chris!

  • Steven | TEM says:

    Very practical and inspiring Chris. I think you’re right that we need to focus on what we love and what we can control – those are the key ingredients of working smart. Merely being a busy-body may make you FEEL like you’re “working hard,” but you’re not really getting anything creative or productive done.

    Need to align your values with your habits. 🙂

  • Steven says:

    Funny…I just finished writing an article about how I’m not able to do everything that I want to this year…then I checked my email and read this article. It makes me feel like maybe I’m not such a failure afterall. I tend to make a lot of ambitious plans, not realizing that this isn’t “normal”. And when I don’t do everything on my list, I feel like I’ve failed in some way…of course, the other side of this is that I’ve done so much and had so many great experiences that what I didn’t accomplish is less important than the things I did. Besides, there’s always tomorrow to get done the things we didn’t do today. No sense beating ourselves up over what we didn’t get done. We should celebrate our victories more often!

    Thanks for the great article and for reminding me that even the people I look up to don’t always do everything they set out to do.

  • julie kucinski says:

    Hits me between the iphone, gmail, dropbox and evernote.

    Can we all say a final memorial for “work life balance” myth while we are here?

    agree with @contrarian first, it takes the courage to say out loud what you’re really trying to do.

    then, the tenacity to keep going no matter how tired, carpal tunnelled, discouraged or just plain in the mood for a weekend of Netflix nachos and malbec.

  • kristine says:

    Thanks for so eloquently explaining this. I often get the same question. I remember responding to one friend by saying, “There is no formula. You work, work, sleep, then work some more.” she blew off my remark as sarcasm and I so maybe I’ll pass your post along to her.

  • tara - scoutie girl says:

    Chris, thank you. Such a life affirming post. Such a work affirming post.

    It helps me to read things like this because I realize that, I’m not weird, I’m on the right track!

    It is very difficult for me to be constantly thinking of my work. Not because there are problems in my work life but because almost no one in my personal life understands why.

    It would be easy for me to say, “well, girlfriend, you just need to make more of your work life people your personal friends. Then someone would understand!” But it’s my immediate family that are frustrated with me for being “obsessed” with work. And I think that they worry my daughter will be somehow marred by my commitment to my work.

    I know I can’t help them to understand – they can only find that commitment for themselves (or they won’t) but it can be frustrating nonetheless.

    So anyhow, thanks again for this affirming post.

  • Bridget says:

    I like this a lot, and it’s how I work too. A lot of work and a way to keep the things I don’t like doing from affecting me.

    And also, though, I don’t think I’d be nearly as successful at my work as I am without my spouse. He manages aspects of my work that I would find daunting, but that need to get done too.

    I’d like to hear more about whether/how a supportive spouse makes a difference in the work that you do?

  • Regina Marie says:

    I love so much of what you write… and it’s great to see some of the “behind the scenes”. You’re very inspiring on so many levels. thank you for sharing it all with us.

  • Natalie Currie says:

    Hi Chris

    I love to find little pockets of time to get some productive, creative work done. I get working on the bus – reading and responding to your blog on the bus actually.

    But, I have to admit that I would have certainly bailed on work after the “after-party” (which was great!). I’m going to be holding myself to a slightly higher standard now.

  • Mark Harai says:

    All of these tips Rock Chris… two that stand out?

    I love the “First of all (s) — I imagine you can save half a wasted lifetime eliminating this list!

    I also like the the third — always learning and improving.

    It’s hard to comprehend the amount of learning experiences one can achieve from traveling the world like you do. I’ve learned a ton from just getting out of the box and experiencing and exploring a handful.

    I need to figure out a way to travel the world!

    Thanks for the inspiration today Chris!

  • Cynthia says:

    Thank you. My experience exactly. Tenacious love? Ridiculous obsession? InterPlay is a slow growth movement. I sent out an email to its leaders today about how its springing up in Brazil, Africa, India, the UK, Australia, etc. How did that happen?

    30 years. 2 insanely happy creators. lots of willingness to keep goin with the little stuff. By the way, I didn’t go to ALL those places. But I love the people who do. Vicarious thrill.

  • Jason Scoggins says:

    “If you lose 40 of your best hours a week to something you don’t care about, don’t you want to make the most of the remaining hours?”

    If you take nothing else away from this article, at least reread and understand the statement above. This is a concept worth revisiting as often as needed. There is no redo in life.

  • Momekh says:

    I have said this before here, and I’d say it again: Perseverance commands success.
    I think the biggest lesson that is of HIGH VALUE that one can take from ‘career hackers’ like the magician is that you define a ‘policy’ and stick to it. Of course, you’re a big career hacker yourself.
    Inspiring stuff, as always. God bless!

  • April D. Thompson says:

    Thanks for another great post! I think what I’ve (and people around me have) really struggled with is the how important the do what you love part is. I’m no stranger to hard work. Lots of people work so hard at something they hate, are just good at or feel obligated to do for whatever reason. What a sweet day it will be when I’m only doing what excites me! Thanks for the inspiration.

  • Daisy says:

    “Don’t accomplish everything; just do what counts.” Very thoughtful and true. I’ve learned to prioritize while I’ve been sick. The to-do lists are shorter, but the tasks matter more. And then, I rest.

  • Bill says:

    Good post, Chris.
    I like it all and e specially your succinct summary: “nothing works unless you do.”
    Michelangelo, approx quote: “If people only know how hard I have worked to gain my mastery, they would not think it so wonderful after all.”

  • Dustin says:

    When I first began working for myself I was astounded by how much I had to work to see results. You mention in your book something to the effect of being willing to work 10 times as hard for yourself for 1/10th of the money, and being happy about it. So true!

    Self-employment can be a struggle but I since I started I never have trouble getting out of bed and going to work!

    Thanks for the post.

  • Cindy says:

    Your thoughts on accomplishment remind me of the adage that it takes many years of hard work to become an overnight sucess.

  • Stephen Zawodzinski says:

    I loved this post, because that was a question at the back of my mind as I read through all of your posts about travel, blogging, and book tours!

    I also liked that you not only said “hard work” but that it is important to work smart. Anyone can work hard and still not move an inch, but if you work smart and hard, you can find a solution or a path that gets you anywhere you want to go.

    Thanks for the post!

  • Elissa says:

    Having just started my own business (like just just), I say if you’re spending 40 hours per week doing something you don’t care about – then QUIT!

    Cause trust me, it feels GREAT.

  • Miriam Moriarty says:

    Thank you for a shot of inspiration on a day when I really needed it! Especially this:

    ‘If you lose 40 of your best hours a week to something you don’t care about, don’t you want to make the most of the remaining hours?’

    At the moment I feel I ‘have’ to work 9-5 for financial and bank loan reasons. BUT, I still have heaps of time, both within work and outside of work, to do the things I love and am passionate about. In the fog of boredom and frustration I feel in my job I often forget how much real freedom I have to create my life.

    Thankyou for the reminder 🙂

  • Joseph Doughty says:

    Well said. Many are looking for the easy or quick way to success. But, what defines success? Money for the “quick-fix” crowd, typically. A life in pursuit of money is futile, because in the end you cannot take any with you.

    Doing “work” that is meaningful and makes a difference in others as well as yourself is the less traveled path. I think many people are looking to be “told” what to do or think. And there are plenty of people and groups willing to step up and fill that roll. Things like, buy my stuff now and I will reveal the secrets of instant success.

    Many an “instant over night success” share how the over night part lasted many, many years. 🙂

  • Alex Blackwell says:

    Simple, practical and helpful advice Chris.

    You are right, there are no free lunches and no free passes. But that’s the way it should be because once we get what we’ve been working so hard to get; it will taste all the sweeter.


  • Christy says:

    I couldn’t agree more. I know quite a few people who spend way too much time doing things they feel obligated to do or to please other people. I personally stopped doing that years ago. People may think I’m selfish, but honestly it’s the only way I get things done. 🙂

  • Nari Hales says:

    This really resonates with me…I believe this is about mindfullness. I’m a big fan of The Artists Way by Julia Cameron. The fundamentals of this course within a book are writing 3 pages religeously each and every day. It tends to weed out what is important and what’s not; and once things are on paper they seem a little more concrete. Life is to be lived joyously and creatively…..

  • Brenda Bell says:

    Hey Chris! I am now committed in your 279 days overnight success and the question is to you. How do I need to look at mine existing webblog? Where do I need to go with it in order to grow? I have been blogging for now 1 year and now I am ready to turn it around, but how? Could you check out my site please and tell me what you think.Thank you.

  • Susan says:

    Great post Chris. I’ve also been wondering how you get so much done and now I have my answer! Just as it took me 12 months to lose 30 pounds and 5 years of teaching to get really good at it, I need to translate those life lessons into other areas of my being and not expect a great result if I don’t put my all into it, daily. I really, really wanted those things and did everything I could to accomplish them. The things I am toying around with must be things I just don’t want badly enough (yet).

  • Luinae says:

    So true. My friends laughingly call me one of “those people,” but I’m proud of it. There’s also a lot of things that I don’t do, like you- I don’t watch TV, I don’t do movies, I don’t do facebook. But I have tons of time to dance and write and do fabulously well at school! And those things are important to me.

    That’s what I tell people when they ask how they can be a “happy overachiever.” I tell them to cut the crap, and do what you like.

  • CLWriter says:

    One of the things that (I’ve noticed) my favorite productive people DON’T waste time doing, is reading all the responses to their blog posts!

  • Aaron says:

    Great post, Chris. It’s nice hearing the behind-the-scenes stuff so people realize it’s not a matter of luck that you’ve had the success that you’ve had.

    The quote from the magician was priceless, as well.

    Take care, Aaron

  • Callahan McDonough says:

    This one really got me Chris. Especially noted, ‘not going to meetings’, and doing all the stuff that doesn’t matter. I am in the midst of pivotal change on the ‘doesn’t matter’ category. More and more simplicity my goal, for more and more passion fueled days.

  • John Galt says:

    Let there be no confusion – it is almost always true that people have more time available than they think. If you maximize the utilization of time in general, you will become shocked at how productive you can be. Figure out what is important to you, and then dedicate all of your energy to those things. You’ll be shocked at how much you can accomplish.

  • kyle says:

    It is really easy to get distracted. Next thing you know it is time to sleep and my list is still left undone. I must concentrate!

  • Christian says:

    Enjoyed the take-away. Work smarter and harder. When you have an overabundance of love for what you do, it makes it much easier. My Father has always told me; do what you love. Make it your life; and your work.

  • Ricardo Bueno says:

    I think that folks tend to focus (or go after) that BIG result. They chase and dream of turning into an over-night success. When really, you get there by putting in the work little by little…little victories, day in and day out that inch you closer to your goals day by day. That’s progress.

    When you can go to bed with a sense of accomplishment, knowing that you did something good today (helped someone, completed something), and wake up ready to rock the day ahead, you know you’ve done good.

    That’s the way I think of it anyway and that’s how I tackle each of my days. I love what I do. And I love knowing/feeling that I’ve worked hard to accomplish something today whether it’s helping someone reach their goals or moving myself closer to mine.

    P.S. Picked up a copy of your book yesterday… Read it today and hope to finish it tomorrow. Great read amigo, great read…

  • Anthony says:

    Its all about real thinking, not just positive thinking that will get you there. Great inspiring article.

  • Roy says:

    This is a great article Chris. I love how the “secret” is to work harder and smarter. There are no shortcuts, no schemes, just DO.

  • GutsyWriter says:

    I shocked my 85-year-old dad when I visited him in Paris, ten days ago and ended up going to Starbucks at Chatelet-les-Halles, with my laptop and working on my synopsis for five hours straight, rather than visiting museums or the Centre Pompidou. I actually enjoyed seeing how Parisians order their lattes and Chai teas, something I believed would never have caught on, twenty years ago, and yet I realize, we’re all the same, all over the world. You know what I mean.

  • Craig Shank says:

    Just like bad habits pile up, so do good ones. You become complacent one step at a time, but you can also become exceptional one step at a time. Little changes over time can lead you to the life and habits you want without burning out or getting overwhelmed.

  • Jon Wilburn says:

    “Don’t accomplish everything; just do what counts.”

    True words. I have been told this by many a mentor. We simply cannot do everything. I wanted to at one time, and it’s still a struggle to get focused on a few things. More and more I see the importance though.



  • Hans Lussenburg says:

    Most definitely worth reading and a joy to read at that. I loved every minute I did not waste on reading this most excellent blog posting.

    Your post also reminded me of what Jeffry Combs, of Golden Mastermind and More Heart Than Talent fame, often says. “The TV is the great income reducer, turn it off or get rid of it.”

    Thank you Chris for your most excellent thoughts and advise. As an ADD type, this sort of advise is the mother-load of practical and applicable information. Thank you so very much Sir !

    Hans Lussenburg :o)
    Nanaimo, BC

  • Jetaun says:

    This is something I’ll have to start putting into practice. I don’t do enough of getting done what I want to get done and more time doing what doesn’t fulfill me or further my own dreams. Now that I’m planning it, it’s not as difficult as I first believed. Actually seems like it will be easy once I take the first step.

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