What I Do To Improve The Quality Of My Thoughts

Valuable thoughts need a clear mind.

A thing I’ve learned over the past half-decade or so of being a business owner is you can’t force your mind to produce good ideas.

Very rarely have I sat down at my computer and thought, ‘right, let’s nut this thing out,’ and a good idea has come to me right there and then.

My break-throughs usually happen on walks, while reading books, playing my guitar or taking a shower.

Paul Graham explains this phenomenon as your top-of-mind thinking. While working with founders at Y Combinator, he noticed a peculiar pattern: their companies performed poorly while they raised capital.

Because raising capital consumed these founders’ thoughts – they stopped producing their usual cadence of good ideas that drove their startups forward.

In my experience top of mind, thoughts are driven by the dominant open loops in your mind – open loops being unresolved thoughts.

Like the founder who hasn’t completed their capital round yet – most of my unguided thoughts relate to unresolved challenges in my business.

So the quality of my walking, running, and shower thoughts directly correlate to the quality of my open loops.

When I’ve got washing to do, emails to respond to, an errand to run – low-value stuff – that’s where my thoughts go – my subconscious gets stuck on these jobs that need doing.

The thoughts I try to encourage my mind to have are the ones that produce results, like a referral marketing system that doubled my business’s growth rate or a sales funnel that almost tripled our conversion rate.

Here’s how I do that.


The first is my issues lists which I’ve written about here. Basically, regularly (weekly), I note my low-value open loops in a place I can return to later.

I pass the loops from my mind to my computer and deal with them later.

Like accounts that need paying, a reporting error or automation that needs fixing.


The second is by following a rule I picked up from the getting things done framework. I deal with anything that will take 5 minutes or less immediately.

Of course, sometimes that isn’t possible – those ones get passed onto my issues list instead.

I’ve been doing this for 6 or so months now, and my rate of quality thoughts has increased substantially.

I now spend a lot more time thinking about the deeper, more complex issues that, when resolved, create a ton of value for the different ventures I’m involved with.

So I guess this is kinda like a mental cleaning exercise, akin to dusting where I’m constantly getting rid of the dust to let the quality shine through.

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