Staying Busy

Tobias van Schneider
Desk of van Schneider
3 min readNov 16, 2015


by Tobias van Schneider
first appeared
on my private email list.

Last week I highlighted one of my five principles when approaching new side projects to ensure continuous learning.

If you’ve missed the first three, you can read them here:

1. Ignore Everybody
2. A Jack Of All Trades (only in my archive)
3. Trust Your Gut

Today I like to share Nr.4 with you. For those of you who have seen my talk are probably already familiar with it to some extend.

People always ask me, how do you get so much stuff done? While I wish I would get even more done, I do have a strategy that that keeps me productive.

By nature, we humans are lazy. But without trying to generalize, I’m a lazy person if I wouldn’t find tactics to get shit done.

My strategy is to stay busy, at all times. Keep the momentum up. The moment I’m not doing something I often fall into this big hole. Once I sit on the couch watching TV, I will stay on the couch — And thats why I try to avoid the couch.

It’s important to understand that we’re talking about being REAL busy, not fake busy. One will lead to happiness, the other one will lead to depression. Faking it will always backfire.

Being busy is not about pointing out our busyness to other people around us. It’s not about impressing others, although it’s easy to fall into that trap.

It’s a common disease of our generation that whenever someone asks us “How are you?” we often reply with our default answer “Oh man, so busy, so busy”.

This is not the “busy” I’m talking about. There is nothing wrong with being bored, but for some reason that’s what we think, and thus we call ourselves busy, even if we’re not. This article is about getting shit done, it’s about being busy in a good way.

“Doing nothing is better than being
busy doing nothing.”

~Lao Tzu

I always like to give the following metaphor as an example.
Imagine you’re sitting on the couch, and you’re thinking about running.

Getting up from that couch and go straight into running will take a lot of energy to overcome the inertia. It seems almost impossible. But if you’re already walking, it will be much easier as you are already in motion. My goal is to be walking at all times.

When working on side projects, or any projects for that matter, I always keep myself busy with lots of them. If I’m stuck on one project, I can continue on the next one. Constant momentum makes it easier to start new tasks and ship faster.

If you haven’t shipped anything for one year, you will have a hard time doing it in the second year. If you ship something (even something small) every four weeks or less, you have the momentum. You’re in the mood of shipping.

I apply the same principle when reading a book. I start 3–5 books at the same time. If I’m stuck on one, I continue on the next. With that strategy, I have no excuse to not finish at least one book a month.

“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way
becomes the way.”
― Marcus Aurelius

I briefly talked about this in the 3rd episode of the NTMY show with Katie Rodgers. To gain momentum, you have to do the first step. If you want to run, you have to first start walking.

Katie mentioned that when she wants to paint a new picture, but doesn’t know how to start, she sits down and puts one stroke on a piece of paper. After that, another one, and another.

While she doesn’t know what to draw, she just gained momentum and it will magically help her to continue drawing.

For me, being in constant motion also helps me with writing. I oftentimes don’t know what to write about, but I still sit down, and write whatever is on my mind. Soon enough, I have a little article right in front of me.

Always keep moving.

If you enjoyed this article, make sure to sign up to my email list.

Yours truly,

Tobias is the Co-Founder of
Semplice, a new portfolio platform for designers. Also host of the show NTMY — Previously Design Lead at Spotify & Board of Directors AIGA New York.