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21 hour workweeks, the “tomorrow razor,” and MrBeast's sacrifice

Welcome to edition #3 of The Action Digest, your weekly dose of insight that packs more punch than a triple espresso.

What today’s action-packed issue has in store:

  • 🤔 We explore the bizarre work habits of an award-winning mathematician to see why working less and saying no to self-control might unlock your best work. 

  • 📆 A five-word heuristic to protect your future self from unwanted calendar commitments.

  • ⭕️ The timeless principle that Olympians, Billionaires, and Oscar winners rely on to achieve their big breaks.

P.s., if you’re just joining the action as a new subscriber, here’s what to expect…

Success leaves clues. And the biggest clue of all is that the greatest artists, entrepreneurs, and athletes, etc, operate with a bias for taking action. And if you dig one layer deeper, you realize they rely on the same best practices to make their bold ideas happen. That’s where this newsletter comes in. By bringing you…

  • Case studies of the world’s greatest innovators and creatives;

  • The latest scientific studies on creativity; and

  • Insights from some of the world’s most productive creative individuals and teams

…the patterns of success become ingrained. By keeping these hacks and insights top of mind, your creative fitness will stay in fighting shape. You can check out the first two editions here in case you missed them.

Alright, on with the show…

1. Chase curiosity, not clocks; inspiration outperforms willpower.

A common way to approach the workday is to load up a list of things you “should” do: tasks to complete, projects to progress, and metrics to move—then diligently grind away. An alternate approach is to follow your intrinsic motivation: to dive into whatever you want to work on. Our wheels often fall off without the former approach, but we cannot tap into our deepest levels of focus and genius without the latter.

In 2022, June Huh won the most prestigious award in mathematics: the Fields Medal. Except, it’s surprising Huh accomplished anything with his life at all.

Huh was a terrible student in school. He was never able to learn anything in a traditional classroom environment, which prompted him to drop out of high school at 16 to pursue his interest in poetry.

It was only years later, after Huh was freed from the educational system, that he crossed paths with a charismatic math professor who rekindled his love of the subject. This encounter encouraged Huh to finally start taking mathematics seriously.

Although… it still didn’t look like it.

If you were to observe Huh work, you would notice two bizarre and counterintuitive work habits.

The first is that Huh, despite solving the toughest problems in mathematics, only ever works for three hours per day. That’s not three hours of math work. That’s three hours of work, period. Those three short hours are so valuable and exhausting that they’re all he can handle.

Given Huh’s short work window, might we assume that these three hours are filled with structured and intentional work?


Huh’s second quirk is that he doesn’t decide what to work on. At least, not deliberately. His workday is guided by whatever his intrinsic motivation and curiosity pulls him toward. As Jordana Cepelewicz writes in a profile on Huh: “He finds that forcing himself to do something or defining a specific goal — even for something he enjoys — never works.” And in Huh’s own words: “I think intention and willpower are highly overrated, you rarely achieve anything with those things.”

And he’s not kidding.

Huh’s aversion to self-control once prompted him to spend three months doing nothing but reading German novels and Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, because, well, that’s what he felt like doing. But this is also the self same curiosity that prompts Huh to unravel life’s greatest mathematical mysteries.

While Huh’s approach may be too extreme for most of us, it’s clear that occasionally ignoring our “to-do” list in favor of our “want-to-do” list can deliver powerful results. The force of natural selection is alive and well in our brains, and following our curiosity can bring us to places our plans can’t reach.

2. Would you do it tomorrow?

If you’re willing to schedule something because it’s weeks or months away, but have no genuine desire to do it tomorrow—don’t do it. Because it will eventually be tomorrow. Say no now, and thank yourself in the future.

New Yorker staff writer Margaret Talbot and her friend Hanna Rosin devised an elegant framework for deciding whether to agree to a future commitment:

Would I do it tomorrow?

“That’s it—those five words.

Not: Would I do it on some theoretical day in the future? This is the crucial question: Would I upend whatever I am doing tomorrow so that I can go there and do that?

Are they paying you enough to skip your daughter’s soccer game tomorrow? Is the panel interesting enough that you don’t mind asking your colleague to cover for you, tomorrow? Is the conference important enough to your career that you would blow off your college roommate’s visit, which is tomorrow. When you get the invitation, pay no attention at all to its far-flung date: Move it mentally to tomorrow.”

*excerpt written by David Plotz, Margaret’s husband, and avid fan of his wife’s framework!

3. Defending relentless action long enough to realize results is half the battle.

  • Rovio Entertainment took 6 years and 51 attempts before hitting it big with the billion-download mobile game Angry Birds.

  • It took MrBeast…

🔐 This insight, which reveals the principle that Olympians, Billionaires, and Oscar winners all have in common, is for premium subscribers. Yep, for the price of one fancy coffee per month our research team will agonize over the lessons learned from world class creative leaders and teams who make ideas happen, and send their tightly summarized conclusions directly to your inbox on a weekly basis. What a proposition, huh?! ☕️ Join us and help make this weekly action catalyst for creative minds a sustainable project.  

💥 Upgrade to unlock full access to this and every Action Digest each week.


The Action Method was designed almost 15 years ago to help the most productive and creative teams in the world put the above principles into practice—enabling them to think and work with a bias towards action.

The Action Method is a 3-part system with each page containing a zone for your preparation notes (prepare), a zone for you to jot down thoughts and ideas (explore), and a zone for you to convert ideas into action steps (execute).

It's like having a personal trainer for your productivity, ensuring you're always exercising your brainstorming and execution muscles with excellent form.

Over the years, iconic leaders across design, entertainment, and business became loyal users. Now, after a short hiatus, the original founders have assumed responsibility and updated the products.

Check out the new and improved Action Method family.

It’s not about ideas, it’s about making ideas happen.


If you want to stay sharp and immerse yourself in the discipline of taking action and making ideas happen on a weekly basis (and unlock the third section of today’s digest - the sacrifice at the heart of every major success story), join us for the price of one fancy coffee. ☕️

Upcoming insights and hacks for subscribers:

  • How does Taylor Sheridan produce 10 different TV series at the same time? We’ll learn a high-stakes technique to achieve prolific creative output used by the writer of hit TV series Yellowstone.

  • How do you know whether you’ve chosen the right path? We’ll discover the best way to find our true calling according to a 7 year old and world-leading psychologists.

  • Why do the best ideas often fail? The controversial story of DNA’s discovery reveals the essential ingredients of innovation.

  • So much more… Making ideas happen is a form of fitness, and we are your trainer. ;-)

We’ll leave you with this…

“Letting go allows opportunities for new types of failures, which leads to more explorations. I believe one can discover new and interesting phenomena in the process even though it might not be the intended goal.” 

June Huh

Thanks for subscribing, and sharing anything you’ve learned with your teams and networks (let us know what you think and share ideas: @ActionDigest).