The Life-Changing Power of Post-It Notes

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I put yellow post-it notes with motivational phrases next to my computer.

They say things like:

“This opportunity only comes once.”

“It doesn’t matter if it’s good, what matters is that it gets done.”

“Right now, someone is outworking you.”

There are others, but the gist is that the notes should be looked at periodically. Like when I walk downstairs in the morning, and when I procrastinate in the middle of the day.

Having messages stare you in the face is important. They remind you of how you need to be, not how you actually are. In real life, particularly in big cities, advertising does this for you. It berates you with messages — buy this product, do this thing, become this person.

But advertising doesn’t present big ideas; I mean, sometimes it does, but rarely. At best you get short campaign messages. They say “Just Do It” or “Impossible is Nothing.” Which is true, but only if you buy the sneakers!

Instead, imagine a motivational speaker inside your ear. Like a coach or a parent telling you exactly what you want to hear, exactly when you need to hear it. That is what these notes are like. If you fall behind, you glance to the right and they say — get back up!

For me, this is not a new concept. Years ago, I programmed reminders into my Palm Pilot (my Palm Pilot — that’s how you know I’ve been around a while). The reminders went off five times a day and said things that weren’t actually true, but that I needed to believe about life and about myself in that particular moment.

Reading those messages every day, multiple times a day, for many years, helped convince me that what seemed impractical could actually be done. Through these reminders, I programmed myself. They became like prayers, reinforcing an attitude, manufacturing a worldview.

Now, I try newer things — Podcasts and YouTube videos that get me pumped to do this or that throughout the day. But they require too much attention. You must stop everything and listen to a pep talk. It’s a little much.

So, Post-It notes are the thing. Not digital ones, but real paper. A big stack cost me a dollar. And what I write on them are sayings I hear from others or things I might tweet. But tweets are random thoughts, passing moments. They are online in a cloud and there are so many. Tweets can change your worldview too, but in theory they do not exist.

If you write things down, literally place them in front of you, they become real. Stuck in one place, they are everlasting. In the end, they may lead to permanent change.

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Wrote for the New York Times, New York Magazine, Esquire, Rolling Stone, Vice, Fader, Vibe, XXL, MTV News, many other places.

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