Martin Stellar - Coach & Consultant for ethical sales and business growth

Martin Stellar - Coach & Consultant for ethical sales and business growth

My Rules for Having Calm, Focused, Super-Productive Days

I recently installed a few rules in my day, and fell in love with them faster than a adolescent boy falls in love with the prom queen.

They’re mostly based on making my deep-work (which I call Make Time) as efficient and effective as possible. They might help you too.

Problem is, we often jump from one context to the other, and we do it far too often.

Some emails here, some work there, back to emails, read a few blog post, do some work, skip over to social media, and then back to work – all the time, a constant back & forth.

But the cost of this, the constant switching of contexts, is extremely heavy on our finite daily resource of energy.

It causes what psychologists call ‘cognitive depletion’ and it reduces our efficiency and productivity enormously.

The lowest hanging fruit, the quickest win in terms of more productivity, is to stop switching contexts so damn much.

So these are my rules, and I invite you to see which ones you want to adopt&modify to your own needs:

Rules for results and massive productivity, in no particular order:

1: Make time (deep work) is sacred

I set a block of time for deep work, and there shall be zero communications during those blocks. No emails, no phone, no client calls (bar emergencies – clients have my cell number)

2: Nothing happens until my daily email has been sent

These daily articles are the core of my business operations, so they get full priority. Replace ‘daily email’ with your own most important, daily business activity

3: No optimising/ergology (office, computer, whatever) before 2PM.

I’m a sucker for automisation. And it’s real tempting to pause my work in order to, say, set up a keyboard shortcut in my text editor. But nope: I now set a quick task, and do those things during my siesta block, from 2 to 5.

4: First job after sending my daily: Identify and set three growth driving activities for the day

No exception. This alone creates enormous clarity and helps with focus.

5: Aggressively separate Me/Make/Meet

It’s tempting to knock off and take a walk/read a book when I get tired from work. Or to call up a friend. But no: Me Time happens outside of Make Time, and Meet Time as well

6: No learning during Make Time

If I stumble upon an interesting blog post while doing research, I’ll copy the URL and set a task in my task programme, to read at a later moment.

7: Day ends at 8pm

As a business owner, it’s easy to always be on. But that’s not healthy. This is why I plan my work around my free time (daily between 2PM and 5PM and after 8PM).

8 Process my task manager (Todoist is my fav) directly after setting my daily 3 GDA’s

Once that’s done, it’s Make Time! I have clarity on my goals, I have a nice block of focused Make Time Ahead, I know my pending tasks have been scheduled, and I’m ready to knock it out of the park.

So if you feel like you do a lot, but you never really feel like you got a lot done, switching contexts might be the problem.

Put these rules to use for 7 days, and see if it helps.

And if you want help with this, or with any other aspect of your business, let me know.



You Can’t Get There from Here, Because ‘There’ Doesn’t Exist

“There” is a moving target.

It’s a spectre, always changing.

Whatever goal you may have, or dreamlife you dream of, you can’t reach it.

“There” doesn’t even exist, not if you have your head on straight.

Oh sure, you can reach ‘sustainable business’ or ‘full time artist’ or ‘only A-grade clients’.

But then what?

That’s where it stops?

You’ve reached ‘there’, and that’s it? You’re done, complete, finished, ready to take up residence in a little house made of 6 planks?

Of course not.

Whatever ‘there’ is for you, it’s only a milestone.

It’s a marker.

By the time you get to ‘there’, you’ll have a new ‘there’ you’ll want to get to, and that repeats over and over.

The reason this matters?

Psychology, of course.

Because the goal you set, the ‘there’, is only real in your imagination, and as you work towards it, it changes.

Different variations, elements, configurations, until you inevitably end up at variation of what your initial goal was.

But if you doggedly keep your eye on the variation that you initially set out with, you’re sure to miss out on ideas, connections, opportunities and actions that get you to the best new version of ‘there’, faster.

Staring yourself blind at the exact definition of the goal means you close off your subconscious and your perception from perceiving options that might make everything easier or faster.

So instead of being rigid in what reaching that goal might look like, be agile.

Realise that as an endpoint, it doesn’t exist, and that as you work towards it, the goal will morph into something similar, but not exactly the same.

Instead of stubbornly struggling through lessons to learn, lean into the process of change, as you change, and as your path and goal change.

Things become a lot more effortless that way. And don’t we all want things to be more effortless?



It’s Not That I’m Hollywood, but…

…I do get a weekly manicure. (Which a visiting friend called ‘very Hollywood’)

Now for a guy, you might find this odd – but there’s a point I want you to get, something that might help you.

Right, a manicure. Do I not groom myself? Yep, I do. I comb my hair, shave daily etc etc. I do what a man’s got to do.

But come on: am I not able to trim my own nails?

Sure I am! I just find it a tedious job, which means I don’t do it often enough, which makes typing uncomfortable.

And for the longest time, I’d heard women say that a getting a manicure is such a nice thing, so I figured I’d give it a try. And it’s lovely – especially the little hand massage she gives when she’s done. A happy end, so to say. Super relaxing.

For me, this weekly 30 minutes is a moment of total relaxation (honestly, you should see her giggle when I seem to nearly pass out. What can I say? I’m a total sucker for hand massages).

Plus, it gets a job done that I don’t enjoy doing – AND my hands are in better condition than if I’d do it myself. Win all the way.

For me, moments like these fall under the category ‘self-care’. Or, as I label it in my calendar: Stellarcare.

In itself it’s nothing significant, but as a weekly stop-and-chill-the-hell-out moment, it’s brilliant.

So the notion I want you to get:

What kind of self-care could you – should you? – include in your week, and your day?

What gets you massive benefits in terms of calm, or focus, or relaxation – but you just never get round to it because there’s always business to take care of?

20 minutes of reading fiction? Playing a game? Calling a friend or your sister? Pottering in your garden? Sorting through old fotos? Walk in the park? Take your bike for a spin? Take the kids to a playground? Lay on the sofa with that beautiful music you love so much?

See, we all need things in our lives that are there for no other reason than that they’re good for us. Playful things, uplifting and relaxing things.

But no, there’s no time for that. Don’t get in my way, I’m busy adulting, I’ve got a business to run!


Life gets better when you take care of yourself. When you treat yourself to something good, simply for its own sake.

So I invite you to install some self-care in your life. 20 minutes a day, and at least an hour a week – I promise that nobody will die, and clients won’t disappear, if you take care of yourself.

And: you can start today.

What will it be for you?



Gullible Breed…

There’s a scene in Men In Black, where a group of people accidentally see an alien get caught.

Tommy Lee Jones flashes his memory wipe thingy at them, and proceeds to tell them a BS story, to replace their memory. Something to do with light reflecting off of a cloud of swamp gas, so that they won’t remember that they actually saw an alien.

He sees the empty faces, and sighs: “God, you’re a gullible breed”.

And yes, we are. We’re exceedingly gullible.

Something shows up in a Facebook timeline, and people just take it for truth.

News outlets spin a story so as to fit their purpose, and people buy it.

Marketers online and off tell us that without product X our life will be crap, and folk whip out their credit card.

It’s incredibly easy to fool people.

Here in Spain, people put doctors on a pedestal. As if they’re some kind of miracle workers.

Point in case: when I fell with my motorbike a few months ago, I got up and saw I had some scrapes on my legs.

Nothing that hasn’t happened before, nothing that won’t heal.

But the bystanders were in shock: “You need to go see a doctor!”

I checked my legs, and said: “It’ll heal by itself. Why do I need a doctor?”

“So that he’ll cure it!” they replied.

Hang on, how on earth is a doctor going to ‘cure’ scrapes?

The best he can do is disinfect it, and I can do that just fine by myself. (Or perhaps innocculate me against tetanus, but I already had those a few years ago and so I’m still protected).

So I stopped at the pharmacy on my way home, got some betadine, done.

But people in Spain think a doctor is a demi-god. They were sold the story, and they bought it wholesale.

But it goes much deeper than that kind of thing.

I’m not talking conspiracies here, but there’s an insidious, worldwide exploitation of an evolutionary psychological trait going on.

See, in order to survive, humans need to recognise patterns in their surroundings.

Which is why we evolved to be pattern-seeking machines.

If claws cut us once, we’ll run the very next time we see them.

If these particular berries make us ill, we’ll stay away from anything that looks like it.

If a particular fish is especially tasty or easy to catch, we develop a bias for fishes that look like it.

Seeking out patterns and acting on recognising them has kept us alive. People who ignored patterns ended up having a very niche chat with Darwin in the afterlife.

And marketers exploit this like you wouldn’t believe.

They know how easy it is to fool people and get them to buy things, by tapping into that gullibility that exists in all of us.

And that’s how they have learned how to steal our most valuable asset: our attention.

Because any time you pay attention to something, especially online, someone is making money.

Ever hear of ‘Pay Per View’? That’s a fine example. Each time a PPV ad gets seen, Google makes money.

So there’s this enormous drive and competition, to get better and better at stealing our attention.

That’s why Facebook is so addictive: it’s literally been engineered that way.

But your attention is valuable, because where you place your attention determines directly where your life and your business will go.

If you binge-watch Netflix, you get entertainment but little else.

If by contrast you read a biography or a book on growing your business, you get an upgrade to the mind.

You get to choose – but not if you’ve fallen for the trap, the one that says that letting others steal your attention is the new normal. It’s not.

It may be the norm these days, but there’s nothing normal about being addicted to others stealing our attention.

Your attention is your most valuable asset, and I say: protect it.

And if you notice you can’t unhook yourself from something, ask yourself if it’s because someone is profiting from it.

If so, you might want to eliminate it from your life, or at the very least, severely restrict the time you give it. But better to just do away with it altogether.

Final tip? Think, don’t be gullible. ‘The norm’ is usually not the same as ‘normal’.

Hey, do you think someone in your life would benefit from these daily emails?

You can do them a favour by forwarding this one – and I’d seriously appreciate it if you do…



This is Why Your Progress Isn’t Faster

If you compare where you’re at with your business, to where you’d like it to be next month, next year, or five years from now…

How well are you on your way to getting there?

The decisions you make, are they getting you closer – are you on track?

Because between the here&now and the there, is a gap, a divide to cross.

And if you give a cold hard look at your progress, do you think you’ll cross the gap on schedule?

If not, it might be because you’re relying on your skills and talents.

Yes, I meant to say that, it’s not a typo.

You see, all the abilities you have, and the talents and skills and network and resources… those are the things that got you here. With those, you built what you have now.

And there’s a ceiling in terms of how well they will serve you.

Put differently: what got you here won’t get you there.

And sure, you can learn things: sales, SEO, copywriting, design, social media marketing and so on – but with those, you’re only upgrading knowledge and skillset.

It helps, but won’t speed up your progress all that much.

So if you’re progress isn’t faster, it’s likely because you’re trying to add bits and pieces of skill, without actually upgrading your engine – in other words, your self.

Learning skills and knowledge is like putting better petrol in your car, and getting lower-friction tires. You’ll go faster, but not significantly.

If you really want speed, you’ll need to upgrade your vehicle.

And so it is with our progress in business:

To really make speed, you’ll need to upgrade your self. The way you think, decide, operate, execute.

It’s in becoming a better version of yourself that you start to function at a higher level, and that’s what gets you speed.

This is why I invest in some of the world’s best coaches: because each time I have a session, something significant shifts – I get an upgrade to the self.

And you better believe it pays off.

Not because I learn new techniques or methods, but because I change, fundamentally – on the inside.

So if you want to get to ‘there’ faster, the best advice I can give you is to work not on your skills, but on your self.

To start improving at the root: how you show up in the world, and how you show up to your business.

From there, all other improvements follow.



P.s. Are you frustrated with the progress you’re making, and you’re ready for significant change? Hit reply…

Tick Tock…

Lost money can be re-made.

Abandoned relationships can be revived.

Forgotten goals can be brought back into the picture.

Lost weight can be regained, and lost again, if you put your mind to it.

The saying goes “A healthy man has a thousand wishes, but a sick man only has one”.

Which follows pace nicely with Benjamin Franklin’s “Lost time is never recovered”.

Which brings us to a weird but very real psychological quirk of being human:

We know that life is finite, yet we tend to act as if we’re immortal.

We create bucket lists, all the things that we want to do before we die – and then we file them all under ‘someday goals’. As if life will go on forever, and we’ll be able to to catch up once we’re done with all the busywork – all the things that we think are important, but will pale into insignificance on our last day.

One more evening of Netflix, says the couch potato.

One more million says the stockbroker, a day before the statistical heart attack at 45.

One more hour on Facebook, says the procrastinator.

One more day of not living life to the fullest, says humanity in unison.

Because there’s always tomorrow, right?

I hope so. I hope there’s thousands more tomorrows, for you, your loved ones, and for me.

But if there isn’t, and – god forbid – today were your last day… would you have wanted to spend it doing what you did today?

There’s a life of beautiful, big, inspiring things just waiting for you to live it.

I say go meet it head on, live it, build the thing or the life or the relationship that deep down in your heart of hearts is waiting to be built.

Because Fanklin was right:

“Lost time is never recovered”.

For each of us, there’s a clock and it’s ticking.

May I kindly, lovingly, suggest we all stop acting as if we’re immortal, and put a turbo on our lives?

People who have faced death are often changed, and live with a kind of urgency that makes for the biggest, most beautiful life.

But you don’t need to fall ill or have a brush with death.

All you need to bring the urgency of working on what really matters into your life, is to stop playing ostrich, and accept that none of us is immortal.

And even though scientists are working on solving that, I wouldn’t hold my breath if I were you.

So: What’s the big thing, the thing you know should be lived in this – your – lifetime?

Set your sights, and…


Tick tock…



Green Eggs and Constraints

In 1960, the founder of Random House publishers challenged Dr. Suess, saying he wouldn’t be able to write a children’s book using only 50 words. The bet was $50, and once ‘Green eggs and ham’ was written, Dr. Seuss had won the bet.

If that doesn’t tell you that constraints are good and not bad, I don’t know what will.

Oh but we want to be free. Free to use all the words in the dictionary (don’t try – writing gets worse the more flowery it gets), free to use all the crayons in the box.

And we listen to jazz soloists, thinking that they have no boundaries, no constraints. But they do: they can only sound so crazy free because they play their solos inside mathematically defined tonalities and scales.

It’s inside rigid constraints that we, just like Dr. Suess, get to explore the most extreme depths of our creativity.

And it’s our creativity that creates beauty, art, change, growth, success, wealth, you name it.

This is exactly why the monastery was so beneficial to me, because there I lived with a set of extraordinarily restrictive vows that I had chosen to take. Celibacy, poverty, obedience, the lot. Can’t get much more restricted than that.

But what that did to my mind was super-effective, and will serve me the rest of my life.

And what did it do to my mind, to live that way?

Essentially, in short, I taught my mind how to behave.

Because like I said the other day, the mind is a terrific servant, but a terrible master.

And unless you learn how to work with your mind, instead of having it work you the way it’s naturally inclined to do, you’ll find it real hard to create change in your life.

And as for that ‘must be free!’ thing that’s so popular these days?

That in itself is a prison.

Me, I’m free of the need to feel free, and that’s a wonderful thing that I recommend everyone.

I happily create restrictions and constraints. For example, a few weeks ago I decided on a very simple rule: Zero communications during my deep-work, maker time.

No checking emails, no responding to Slack, no seeing why my phone beeped – nothing but single-pointed attention. Full focus. Restrict those hours to nothing but executing on the important work.

The result? I’ve been more productive and effective than I have been in years.

So if you want to build things, create your success, live the good life, ask yourself:

Where are you allowing for ‘freedom’ (which is actually a form of childlike shirking ownership&responsibility), where in fact imposing some restrictions or constraints would get you to your goals much much faster?



On Rose-Bushes, Pruning Life, and the Actual Hardest Word

Sorry Elton, but ‘sorry’ is not the hardest word. Not by a long shot.

They say that if you want a beautiful flourishing rosebush, the best is to get an enemy to prune it.

Because a rosebush will only grow into splendour if you cut it down radically – if I understand correctly, almost down to the core trunk. Leave too many branches, and the plant won’t be able to properly distribute water and nutrients.

Same thing with the things, people, places and habits in our lives and our business.

If there’s too many of those, and if they’re not of the kind that feed us, nourish us, bring out the best in us, we’ll constantly feel sapped of our energy.

We’ll be spread thin all the time, unable to put our energy (mental, emotional and physical) into the goals and tasks that make things awesome.

Which is why you’ll find that people who have an awesome life and a rocking business, generally go about things like a gardener.

Pruning away deadwood and deadweights. Snip snip.

And that means saying no.

Which is actually the hardest word.

We’re attached to so many things: thought patterns, opinions and beliefs, people and places and habits and things…

And we’re petrified of saying no.

Because, what if you’ll miss the thing you say no to?

You won’t, not if you do it right. Not if you say no enough, to enough things.

Because you’ll open up so much space in your life that you’ll find a whole bunch of far more fulfilling, rewarding, and potential-enabling things to fill the space.

Your life will get better, your business too, and those things that were there just because of attachments…

Wait, which things were those?


No is the hardest word, but also the most important.

Saying no and pruning away elements that hold you back makes a big difference.

So, question:

What’s there in your life or business, that you wish you could say no to?



A major reason for stress, anxiety and overwhelm – and a super-simple concept to fix it

If there’s a conversation you need to have and it’s taking space in your mind – have the conversation.

If there’s an unfinished job you keep remembering, write it down.

When you have a finnicky problem you can’t seem to solve, journal and brainstorm on it.

If there’s a pile of unfolded laundry in your bedroom, fold it and store it away.

If there’s dishes in the sink, wash them.

(note: don’t fall into the freelancer-favourite ‘I’ll just clean the fridge and kitchen cupboards out while I’m at it’ – instead, write that (separate) task down).

If you keep remembering to water the plants or order new printer ink, water them or order it.

Do you see a pattern here?

All of these items are open loops. Unfinished business.

And your mind, your subconscious, keeps bringing them back to your attention, because you told it to.

You made a mental note to ‘remember this thing’.

And it does, and it’ll keep reminding you, like the faithful servant it is.

But each time you tell yourself ‘remember this’, you’re creating an open loop.

Those add up, and after a while your subconscious is adrift in a whole mess of unfinished business.

And bam: overwhelm, stress, anxiety, confusion, lack of clarity, and the inevitable consequence:

Procrastination on those tasks that actually really matter for your life and your business.

The solution is simple and elegant:

The tasks you can do in two minutes or less: take 30 or 60 minutes, and rip through them. Execute, do, check off. You’ll feel a LOT better, quick smart.

And all the things that take longer, or that are contingent on somebody else’s feedback, deliverables, or presence: make a note of it.

Not a mental note, but a hard copy. In your phone, or your computer, or a notebook.

That way, your brain gets the message ‘you can drop it now, it’s stored elsewhere’.

You’re closing the open loops that cause stress.

Now, you might object that when you do make lists and notes, you never go back to review and execute (I used to be guilty of that as well).

But consider this: if you live in stress and overwhelm, you likely don’t execute on all those reminders anyway, so there’s little lost there.

Besides, you can use post-it notes in prominent places to remind you of the tasks that you really shouldn’t forget.

And in any case, the calm and clarity you get from doing a lot of small tasks and writing down the bigger ones will make you feel better, AND it will help you get back to your lists so as to execute.

So, remember: your brain is not a hard drive, it’s not built for storing things.

Don’t fill it with open loops.

Your brain is a processor, an idea&solutions machine. The best thing you can do for yourself is to commit to offloading all reminders from it, so that you get the mental space you need to perform at your highest intellectual capacity.

And if that sounds like a good idea, just wait and see what you’ll learn in my Calibrate Reality Webinar…

There’s still spots on the guest list, so hit reply if you want to be on it.



Who Would be Most Likely to Buy Bread?

A hungry person, obviously.

See, a friend of mine is in the middle of launching a new business venture:

I forget what the process is called, but the idea is that he creates full-surround photos of physical products. That way, a buyer can zoom, rotate, pan and tilt the photo, and gets to see the product in all its detail and glory.

Super useful for e-commerce businesses, of course.

So I asked my favourite question: how are you going to sell that stuff?

Always fun to see the plans someone has for their marketing strategy.

He explains his plans (which aren’t bad) and then I ask: who’s your perfect customer for these photos?

“Everybody with a website and physical products!”

Uh-oh. Not good.

Because yes, everybody in that category is likely to benefit and see increased sales from buying those photos, but:

Not everybody will want them. Or have the budget. Or be ready for it. Or understand why it will improve their sales. Or be ready to upgrade their website. Or or or…

Millions of reasons why ‘people with physical ecommmerce’ might not buy.

So if my friend then tries to sell his photography to all and sundry without any thought to who is actually most likely to buy, he’s setting him up for massive amounts of frustration and wasted time.

He’ll have to wade through untold numbers of ‘sorry, no’ before he gets to a yes.

As they say in marketing: find a hungry crowd, and feed them.

So for my friend, much smarter would be to ask: who is the most likely to buy?

Which would be, of course: those who are already looking to upgrade their online presence.

And in that set, there’s ‘those who have a budget allocated for it’.

And in that set, an even smaller (but far more eager) group called ‘those who are actively looking for full-surround (or whatever it’s called) photography.

Put yourself in front of those people, and you have the highest possible chance of landing a buyer, right?

This. This exactly, is why I’m creating the Calibrate Reality Dojo. Because my friend didn’t just think illogically and irrationally – one could say he didn’t even think at all.

And we all suffer from that in one way or another. All of us, and I’d be surprised if you were an exception (I certainly ain’t!) make decisions without giving things proper thought.

Which leads us to outcomes that aren’t what we made the decision for in the first place.

Two points to keep in mind:

Always think before deciding.

Always ask yourself who would be the most likely to buy your thing, before going out and finding people.

Oh, and the third thing: don’t miss the CRD Webinar that I’m preparing.

It’ll help you think and make better decisions, so you can create better outcomes in your life and business.

Hit reply if that’s what you want, and I’ll put your name on the guest list.



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