2 Aug



I came across this piece of wisdom about a year ago, printed it out and tacked it on my bulletin board as a reminder. I thought it might be time to share it with you. All credit goes to its author, John Henry Müller, a very creative designer whose biography appears at the end of this blog. Here’s a picture of John and here’s what he wrote in 2014.

John Henry Müller, designer and co-founder of PACK
John Henry Müller, designer and co-founder of PACK

“I am happiest when I feel productive. I know this about myself. I work closely with a small team. We work mostly distributed and pretty autonomously. I have a lot of freedom in the way I work and what I choose to work on. This freedom is wonderful but requires discipline. Many days I have a clear understanding of the highest priority and can jump right in. But sometimes an entire day will slip by and I have little to show for my scattered effort.

Small seemingly urgent and quick tasks, nagging audible, animated, vibrational notifications and other distractions (news, industry articles, email/chat correspondence, hilarious animated gifs) chew away at my day. At the end of the day, a day like that leaves me feeling unproductive and a bit blue.

I realized it isn’t the power of distractions that is too strong, it’s that my sense of priority is too weak.



At the beginning of this year (2014) I tried something new. It’s a simple idea. But so far, it is working.

The very first thing each morning (after coffee but before email) I write three sentences in plain text then save this document to my desktop. I call it  “today.txt.”

It is the only file I keep on my desktop to ensure it stays in my purview. The format is simple and looks something like this.


John Henry Muller's Easy To-Do
John Henry Muller’s Easy To-Do



The first sentence names the one thing that is most important to you. Remember, only one.

The second sentence breaks down the one thing you want to accomplish into smaller actionable tasks. It forces you to get over that intellectual barrier that’s preventing you from getting started.

The third sentence stays constant but does two things. First, it serves as a reminder of the satisfaction you get from staying disciplined by focusing on the one thing. The second frees you from the pressure of a daunting and nagging list, allowing yourself to feel relaxed and inspired.

This isn’t a to-do list. This isn’t even a list.  It is about quality before quantity. Calmness before urgency. Clarity before complexity.  It gives you permission to define your own priorities.

It isn’t the only thing you will accomplish today, but if it is, today will be a good day.”


Your comments and shares are appreciated. Please use the comment form below.

About John:  John Henry Muller  was born and raised in the midwest. He now lives in Nebraska. In 2014, he joined a team of 40 talented designers at Hudl as design director. Before Hudl, he designed for a startup called Pack. He also started a digital product design and development company called What Cheer.

“Sometimes people say nice things about me,” says John.  “Andrew Hyde called me his “design power animal.” Jeffrey Zeldman once consoled my lack of rhythm with ‘Anyone with that much design talent has to have at least some musical talent too.’ Megan Casey said “It’s like Christmas every time I get to see new designs from John Henry. He is the most creative person I’ve ever worked with, bar none.’ ”

If you want to know more about John, visit his Twitter page  @johnhenrymuller. He is also on Facebook, Instagram, Dribbble, GitHub, LinkedIn, MySpace and Pack, which he co-founded.

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