Cortex: tips and tricks


Tips and tricks

I can't believe this got to the show.

Episode 01

Redundant Equipment

Use redundant equipment to make sure you always have what you need, where you need it. I.e. Use multiple pairs of headphones to make sure you always have a pair on the go.

Your Brain Is LyingThe Bad

Many times you will get to a point where your brain tricks you. You lie to yourself that you can stay awake the whole night and will be totally fine tomorrow; you procrastinate, lying it will be done later. Use past experience to avoid such scenarios. 

Your Brain Is LyingThe Good

You can create associations of certain tasks with sound, environment, or feelings to help you get started working.

Decision Making Fatigue

As we make decisions our brain gets tired. Surprisingly, it doesn't matter whether these decisions are big or small, they have the same effect. So to make sure you get the best results at your decision making, take the harder questions first.

Work By Categories

To ease the working process, try setting yourself on different modes depending on the kind of work that has to be done. At each given section of work do only one category to keep yourself focused on one type of task.

Episode 03

Don’t Let Your Phone Distract You

  • Our phones will often notify us about un-actionable stuff like the current weather, the traffic, someone’s Bday etc. All of these are distractions. They open a route for a bigger and more damaging waste of time. By reducing the amount of notifications you allow your phone to show you, you control how much you will get distracted.
  • Applications like twitter, facebook, and youtube are a major time-filler: they prevent us from getting bored. Boredom is an essential part of our development, and we shouldn’t try to fill each and every moment with something, many times merely thinking is the best activity.

Control Your Time

Monitor your working time to a high precision. Identify the different tasks you spend your time on so that you are able to estimate how long something will take to finish. You will then be able to order and organize different tasks more efficiently.

Episode 04

Do it right

Make a list of the tasks and subtasks you need to accomplish. Plan ahead so you won’t forget anything. Make changes as you go along.  

To the new self- employee

Dress well even when you work from home. Treat yourself with honor, it’s will help frame your work as something important.

Episode 05

How to be more productive

Grey feels more productive if he works while the dishwasher or the laundry machine are working.

It’s hard to take vacations when self-employed

You can’t disconnect yourself from work and let someone else take care of the business problems. You need to understand that things will go wrong while you are gone, and that’s okay sometimes.

Episode 06

Find a market

  • Find something that already exists, understand what people don't like about it, and create your own improved version. 
  • Try and identify what people are looking for and create it from scratch

Make the stuff you create look easy

Don't catch the viewer's eye on the complexity behind the scenes. Make it look fun. It doesn't matter if you have to work really hard to make it look easy or if it actually was easy.

Making Stuff Work

When something doesn't work for you, you will often try harder to make it work. However, the actual solution might lie in trying a new system/approach for the thing that didn't work.

Never Overestimate Yourself

Don't assume you are on top of things. When working on projects work in a checklist—workflow to be sure you leave nothing undone. Often, you might feel that you can remember everything, but don't let this notion fool you, you can't.

Episode 07

How to save time

Often, when people ask you to do something they will forget it right away. Try to identify if that product actually matters to someone. Wait before starting to work on it because you want to make sure it’s meaningful.

Episode 08

You should try to get stuff done in order of decreasing cognitive difficulty.

Grey's advice on becoming self-employed is trying out a bunch of different small side projects and figuring out what works and what doesn't.

Beware! Once you become self-employed you pretty much become unemployable to everybody else since you will most likely not function very well in a corporate environment.

Episode 09

Work a huge amount of time at the beginning of a project to save time in the future:  build a strong foundation for your work.

While making a presentation, plan your breaks and jokes and make them look natural.

Evernote is a tool to collect data for the future by topic.

If you need to explain a subject, try to learn it by yourself and only in the end go the expert. This way, you will learn it better and you will  develop your own  unique perspective on the subject even though it takes more time.

Don’t let others to pollute your mind

Because it’s hard mentally to work only one task, try spreading out the time you work on a certain task over several days. It might be more useful to work for 7 hours per day over 2 days than 14 hours in a row. These breaks let you improve the work you have already done. When you take breaks, work on other projects.

When trying to learn for a test (or a new skill), search for old tests and take them  until you get a perfect  grade, this way all the easy stuff won’t require any thought and can be done by rote.

Episode 10

Keep your side projects to yourself. Don’t tell other people that you may want to leave your job. If you want to become freelancer, don’t share that with them. They won’t take you seriously any more.

Don’t let your young age or lack of experience dictate your actions. You don’t need any permission to start  a new business (like a youtube channel).  

Episode 11

It’s very hard to keep working on side projects after an exhausting day at work. Try to wake up early and work on YOUR things first. This way will we be more effective working on your own projects.

Episode 12

Choose a name for your company that says what kind of services you provide.

It can take few years to become a professional YouTuber; don’t quit early because you don’t see results.

Episode 16

Don’t be the bottleneck of your own business. Find the least valuable work that you currently do, and pay someone else to do it. Track your time per project. How much of your time is on valuable work? Four hours of emails aren’t as productive as 4 hours of creative work. You get money for the creative work; the other tasks are just for maintenance of the business.

The next level is hiring someone or pay someone to create value for you.

Always think about cost opportunity when you start a task, and consider unexpected opportunities when engaging in a new task.

Hire a personal assistant who costs you less money than you save because of them. Look for someone who has a strong network.

Episode 18

Your products are never going to make everyone happy. Criticism  is inevitable, but don’t shut down all criticism. Listen and try to understand what is true in the critique; feedback it’s the only way get better.

Episode 20

Set  a list of goals for  every three months, which is easier to plan, rather than a year. Stop and reflect every three months: How did you get here? What can you improve? This way you can see what’s working and what’s not - this can help you to develop a system. What can you do on a daily or weekly basis?  A lot of the things you try WILL NOT WORK, and this is  fine. Try it for enough time, and you will find the right system. Try to write down possible problems, it will help you plan ahead to overcome them.

Set measurable goals and look at the trend over time. Seek improvement. Learn basic excel to review progress. It’s very easy for  the brain to fool you, don’t let it.

Continue revisiting what you’re trying to do. This tiny loop forces your mind to think about what your past you wrote. The most important thing is to keep revisiting your goals. If you don’t get closer to them, you will think about what’s stopping you. Keep performing self-evaluations because if you don’t any progress just disappears over time .

About Freelancing

If your clients need more of your time but you can’t supply it to them  and you have  savings, you should consider making the jump to leave your job. The worst thing that can happen is that you will look for another job if you fail.

Episode 21

When setting a goal make it specific and measurable. Don’t just say, “I want to lose weight.” say how much.

Starting your own business

Stop thinking like a technician. You are now the manager. It’s your job to do it all.  What kind of people are starting a business? Very competent people who are competent at what they do: the person who gets things done, not the technician. As a technician, your boss or manager is getting in the way of what you are trying to do; the structure of the system limits you in doing things better. Most people end up creating a business around their skills. But you have to stop thinking like a technician and start thinking about the totality of the business.

You are the CEO and also the employee. Don’t do things only because you can. Ask yourself: if you were the CEO of a big company, would you tell to your employee to do that thing?

Write down all of the roles your business would have in a perfect world? CEO, salesmen, president, vice president, and so on. If you are two people, divide the roles between you two. This way, when you hire someone new you will know exactly what they need to do. If you were the shareholder and can fill any role, what roles would you need?

Summarizing a book

There is a big difference between reading a book and reading about the main points of a book. The entire book doesn't just give you information but also changes your mindset, and that is something bullet point can’t do.

Episode 23

Separate your home from your office. It might be more comfortable to work from home, but it won’t be as productive as working at a really nice office with minimum distractions. Sometimes even the presence of other people around you can stop you from working. Condition yourself to work at a specific space, and don’t do everything in one room.

Episode 24

Use a calendar for tasks from the outside world that should be completed at a specific time. Use a to do list for things that need to be done on your own free time.

A calendar is useful both for appointments and planning your time. It helps evaluate how much time you’re spending on particular activities. Use it to plan out your day.

Plan out your ideal week by the hour. You may not be able to complete it as is, but try to think about it as a recommendation from past you.

Gray’s using a lot of different calendars:

  • Work
  • Appointment
  • Fun
  • Health
  • With wife
  • Landscape - other  people's  plans

Try to schedule as many appointments in one day instead of over several days; it will be more productive to co-locate all of the junk work that has to get done.

Episode 25

How to deal with criticism

Be open, honest, and direct. Separate your critic from the critique. People will  critique your ideas, and when they do, don’t think it as an attack on you.

The ugly babies thory

Ideas are like babies: they are all born ugly. Some of them will grow up and look good. When trying to find a solution to a problem write down all ideas; don’t reject anything. A terrible idea can turn into something great if you will put the effort into it. When you find creative people give them the space and time to work. Don’t limit them. They need to think freely.

Feeding the beast

There are always payments to pay. There is always pressure to release your products as fast as possible to get the money. But try not to do it. Don’t feed the beast. Try to hold on  and create something that is good, not just for the money.

Episode 28

Company structure

Think of all the work that you have to do in your business. Write down all the necessary jobs to make it work. Try to use a flow chart.

Systemize the job

Make a checkbox list for every job. Write every step that a person doing this job should do. Refine the list as you go. This will make it easier for them to work and for you to keep track of their job. Do it at the beginning of a project, and it will make the planning easier. Add an important task: “make sure that you didn’t ruin anything that you already did.”

How to create a job description

  1. Mission - a one line description of the purpose of this person
  2. Four outcomes of what this person should do
  3. From who this person get his job, and to who he is going to send it (inputs and outputs)
  4. Qualities of the person.

How to find someone to hire

Ask the people that you work with if they know someone that fit for the job.

While interviewing

Bring someone else to the interview with you so you can discuss what happened. The other person will notice things that you missed because you were busy interviewing.

Don’t hire the generalist;  hire the specialist.

Episode 35

Taking breaks

US teachers teach for 9 months and have a big break in the summer. In the UK, they teach for 6 weeks and then have a week off, 6 weeks work and 2 weeks off. Then repeat. As a freelancer you must schedule your own breaks.  Grey is not working on Saturdays, and he is not working in the afternoon. This is hard because you feel guilty about it. There are always more things to do.  


Stop everything, take a break. Make a list of the things you need to do. You will see that it’s not as bad as it feels to you. It will help you to get rid of the feeling that you are too busy.

“It will not eat you” - Myke in Analogue ep.3

Episode 36

Side projects

Even though it’s harder to work on side projects while working at an important job rather than as cashier, you will benefit from it: you will have more money to save and you might learn new skills for/from your side projects. Save money so you can work on your side projects.

I’M TOP CHICKEN (Adding comments like a pro)

Episode 37

Youtube is like a potato

Youtube stopped adding ads to videos, but for a lot of youtubers it is their only income. Like in Ireland in 1580’s when they were totally dependent on potatoes to survive, it is very dangerous to depend on something over which you have no power or control. This is the problem with work as an employee, you only have one source of income, and maybe it’s more comfortable, but it’s more dangerous. Try to work with more income sources so you won't crash because of a black swan.

Derek’s video about it, in the channel veritasium.

Episode 44

Time tracking

Using Toggl to track your time can help you evaluate how much it’s worth. Your brain fools you sometimes into believing that you work more that you do. Knowing how much time you spend on different tasks help you to plan your day better.

When trying to hire someone to help with your work, ask yourself: “Will another employee get the exact same results as me?” If the answer is yes, this means you can outsource this task.

Episode 46

Time tracking

Think about it as a time budget: you have a limited resources and you want to know where every minute goes. You maybe think you know, but yo’ll be surprised to find how you really spend your time.

 Stop to think about your system

Many things may be a part of your system not because they are important but because you did them when you started, and they just stayed there.

Pen and paper

Pen & paper give you a free playground. Using tools or apps might be useful, but they limit the way you think about things based on the developers’ thinking.

 Episode 48

Your job

Even when you have a job, look for a better job either inside or outside of your current employer.