Die Empty

Todd Henry commented once on a podcast that the most expensive real estate is the graveyard, because that is where ideas/innovations die. Below is the meaning of EMPTY from his book: Die Empty.

Die EmptyDie Empty

Remember that in order to do your best work, you must engage in Mapping, Making, and Meshing, including the subtle forms of each discussed throughout the book. The following process is designed to help you examine your life daily for areas where you might be slipping into stasis.


There is a five-step process you can follow to scan your life for potential action points, and position yourself to do work you’ll be proud of later. While the approach described below is introduced in a work context, any and all of these questions can benefit you in any aspect of your life. It’s impossible to truly separate your “work” life from your “personal” life, so there is little difference between the demands on your time from your job or your family and friends. You still have only so many resources to go around, and you have to get good at how you allocate them. Feel free to adapt the process to fit your needs and to help you gain traction on what matters most to you.

Set aside ten to fifteen minutes each day to perform a daily checkpoint. (For those who are already doing a daily checkpoint recommended in The Accidental Creative, the concepts described in this chapter can simply be folded into that time, as many of the concepts overlap.) The daily checkpoint is designed to help you determine how you will engage your day, and to predetermine how you handle any obstacles that arise on your path to getting your best work out of you. The five-step process follows the acronym EMPTY. Take out a fresh piece of paper or open a new file and follow the exercises below.

E: Focus on your Ethics

In Chapter 7 you were challenged to develop a code of ethics for how you will engage your day. Your code of ethics consists of several words that define your engagement, your relationships, and what specific aspects of yourself you will bring to your work each day. Write the words that comprise your code of ethics on the page, then do the following.

Look at today’s appointments, commitments, and tasks. Take a few minutes to look over your upcoming commitments. Review everything that will require your focus, time, and energy today.

Consider how you will apply your ethic to each of them. As you glance at your commitments, how will you engage them to- day? Will any of them require more focus, time, or energy than the others? What can you do to ensure that you’I1live out your ethic as you move through your day?

Consider potential pitfalls. Are there any items on your daily list that you know will present a challenge to your ability to live out your ethic? (Maybe an especially tense meeting, challenging relationship, or mind-numbing task?) Determine in advance how you are going to deal with these challenges when they arise. By doing so, you lessen the chance that: those pitfalls will sidetrack you, because you will have a plan for dealing with them.

M: Focus on your Mission

As discussed in Chapter 4, so much of your effectiveness is about defining the battles that you know you need to fight, and directing your resources toward them. As you survey your daily commitments, ask yourself the following:

What change will exist today as a result of my efforts? Is there a step goal on the agenda for today? Determine now how you will know if your day was a success, and commit to working until you’ve achieved it. Be realistic, and recognize that big, long-term success is actually the result of a long string of daily successes, If you stretch yourself to win the smaller battles each day, then you will someday find you’re making important progress on the larger fight. Focus on the right battles and the war will take care of itself.

What isn’t already represented? What have you been meaning to do, but haven’t made the effort to work it into your daily routine? Do you need to add a task, a call, or some other kind of action to your day? What do you need to start that you’ve been putting off?

What needs to go away? A big part of having a defined understanding of your important battles is knowing when things need to be moved off your plate. You cannot do everything at once or you will do nothing well. You must prune your life so that your most important priorities can have the focus, time, and energy they need from you. What needs to be removed from your lists today so that you can focus your attention on what’s most important?

P: Focus on People

As mentioned in Chapter 10, your relationships are critical and are the biggest opportunity for you to add and receive value in your life and work. Take a minute to consider the relationships in your life, and specifically those you’ll engage in today.

Who will you interact with today? Take a look at your calendar and your other commitments and think about each of the people you’ll interact with today. For a brief minute, consider them, what you value about them, and any outstanding issues that may need to be resolved.

Are there any open relational loops to close? As you survey your daily schedule, do you see any opportunities to close open loops or engage in conversations that might help bring better alignment or clarity? Do you need to have any of the five conversations (clarity, expectations, fear, engagement, final 10 percent) in order to gain better understanding of the relationship or your work? Is there anyone you need to reconnect with or write a note to?

How can you serve others today? Again, as you think about the people you’ll encounter today, is there. any way in which you could serve them that would be unexpected or add a disproportionate amount of value? It’s easy to allow relationships to slip into autopilot, or to take them for granted. How could you surprise someone today with generosity or encouragement?

T: Focus on Tasks

This is the nitty-gritty part of your day, really. You make progress only if you engage with urgency and diligence in your tasks. But sometimes the tasks that show up on your list aren’t necessarily the ones that should be there. You inherit tasks from yesterday or turn your task list into more of a wish list.

Consider your daily priorities. What absolutely must get done today, and when will you do it? If you’re able, block off time on your calendar to engage in your most important tasks so that you’re not trying to do them in the cracks and crevices of your schedule. Dedicate specific time blocks to delve deeply into them so that you don’t have to stress and wonder when they’ll get done. This will free you up to be present in all of your other commitments today. Brilliant work demands dedicated time on your calendar.

Define your projects. It’s impossible to solve a problem you haven’t defined, and yet many of us drift from day to day with a vague sense of the projects we’re responsible for without ever stopping to truly consider the issues at hand. As you consider the projects you are accountable for, take a few minutes to consider the problems you are still trying to solve. I realize that this may sound a little obvious, but consider that the answers to those questions change frequently, sometimes as often as daily if you’re making good progress. Simply take a few minutes to make certain that the problems you were solving yesterday are still the problems you’re working to solve today. Don’t get carried along by your work-define it, daily.

Y: Focus on You

In the fray of daily work, it’s so easy to lose track of yourself. You can easily get caught up in checking things off lists and managing your relationships that you neglect to do the small but consequential things that lay the foundation for your future effectiveness.

What will you do today to develop yourself? Are you learning a new skill, tackling a passion project, or pursuing a specific curiosity? Will you take a risk to try something new? Commit today to doing something that will stretch you beyond your present bounds and force you to grow. If you do this daily, you will eventually find that the incremental stretching will add up to remarkable growth over weeks, months, and years.

What do you need to start moving on? Is there anything you’re feeling a sense of urgency to start? Sometimes you have a nagging sense in the back of your mind that you should be doing something, but then the practical side of you kicks in and begins to edit your thoughts. “What if?” and “Maybe I should … ” quickly turn into “That’s not practical” and “You just need to focus on what’s in front of you.” Get started. Today’s the day.

Be grateful. Take a few minutes to be grateful for your life. It doesn’t matter how much or little you have, there are always things to be thankful for, and when you focus your mind on what you have rather than obsessing on all the things you lack, it has an amazing effect on your ability to be present in your day and pour yourself fully into your work.

Dream a little. If you have time left, spend some time dreaming a bit about what you’d like to see happen. In an ideal world, how would you spend your days, what kinds of opportunities would you have, and who would you interact with? Are there latent dreams or ambitions that you’ve allowed to fall to the side that you need to pickup, dust off, and begin acting on? Are there any items that you would add to the “before I die” wall that you’ve been neglecting because you simply didn’t know where to begin? If something comes to mind every day as you engage in this exercise, then it’s something to pay attention to.


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