Artificial constraints

It took me 4 months to publish this post. The reason? No fucking reason.

This post has nothing in particular. It’s not hard to write. Doesn’t need much research or preparation. And isn’t something close to my heart to justify the postponing.

But this post happens to be the 100th post in this blog. And that’s the beginning of the problem. Or at least, the problem I created. I wanted to do something crazy, memorable, and awesome to celebrate this milestone.

So I started looking for novel ideas! And as a result, I started ditching many normal ideas (like this one) to find that gem. The one perfect idea to celebrate the 100 blog post. And I kept doing it for 4 months.

In summary, I created an artificial constraint for myself. It’s not imposed by the environment, circumstances, or anything else. I’m the constraint. I created it.

Last week, I ran 10km for the first time in my life, a milestone I thought impossible to break. I’ve run 5km before, and I felt more than that is for athletes and “active individuals”, but I was wrong. Yet again, I created an artificial constraint for myself. And I believed it for years.

And just before that run, I’ve done a 12km bicycle session. Another milestone I thought was impossible!

The succession of events in the past weeks made me realize how we stop ourselves and create artificial constraints that limit us. I’m pretty sure there are many more in my life, and I believe you’ll find some in your life too.

But now, let’s get ready to break those constraints one after the other.

Fighting covid, for the second time

I first got COVID in November 2020, or the early days of the pandemic. With no vaccination in sight at that time, I was expecting the worst.

Luckily, it was a breeze. In fact, I only knew it was covid when I lost my ability to smell and taste. Other than that, pretty normal.

Now, in June 2022, and with 3 vaccine doses, I got covid again. But this time, it was a bad experience.

Things escalated quickly. From feeling a little exhausted in the afternoon to experiencing an extreme headache, sweating, and coughing in the same night. It’s like it caught my body off guard, and did all it can to destroy it.

I confirmed it was covid in the morning by an antigenic test.

In the first two days, my whole buddy was “beaten up” that I couldn’t move. Plus, a headache, coughing, and sweating.

Starting from the third day, the sweating started to drop. But an extreme headache took its place. I can’t read/watch anything on a screen or paper.

I’m writing this post on my 5th day. Still have not recovered, but at least, I can write/read on a screen without my head going bananas.

The doctor’s advice is to rest at least 7 days, and I’m planning to stick to it. Hope 7 days are all I need.

So, if you are reading this, stay safe!

The “agencies of one” storm is coming

Since a long time ago, companies hire agencies for help in design, accounting, social media management… you name it. While this was happening for a long time and is now considered the norm, there’s a new storm that will destroy agencies, especially the small ones.

This storm is formed by what I call agencies of one. They are individuals, offering bundled end-to-end services to customers, for a monthly recurring fee. This is just freelancing! you might say, but it’s not. This is a completely different game. I’ll tell you why:

First, freelancers tend to be paid an hourly rate, or by the project. It’s rare when a freelancer works with a monthly rate. That’s more of employment than freelancing.

Agencies of one charge a monthly recurring fee.

Second, freelancers and agencies have always been adapting their offerings to customers. A customer sends a request, the freelancer/agency studies it and gives an estimation, both parties agree on a price, and work starts.

Agencies of one do not adapt their offering for customers, they define their offering.

To recap, the agencies of one define their offering, pricing, and terms. In addition to that, they’ll also sell it as a subscription.

Freelancers and agencies say things like “Let’s talk about your next project. We’ll be happy to help.” Agencies of one say things like:

Get unlimited requests and revisions, source files included, for $2,499/m.

This might look like an example, but it’s a real deal from DesignJoy.

Brett, the designer behind DesignJoy, is acting as an agency of one, making over 1 million dollars per year in recurring revenue. All while running everything himself.

This freedom in defining the offering and pricing will open a new world for these individuals. The control over the offering will let them use automation heavily to move quicker, the economy of scale to reduce their costs, and the freedom to design a workflow that fits their life.

While this might seem like a good thing for individuals only, it’s a huge relief for companies.

Working directly with a person gives a company an insurance about the final product. In the end, you’re interacting with a real person’s portfolio, they worked on what you’re currently seeing, and you should expect an output closer to that.

They will also get superior service, quicker, and cheaper than hiring a full-time employee or a big agency. If we take DesignJoy as an example, a company can outsource their entire design process for 2,499$/month.

In the near future, this storm of agencies of one will take over the small businesses market and take the majority of the pie leaving actual agencies behind. Agencies on the other hand need to step up their game and target big companies with big projects needing multiple teams to justify their cost.

I’m @elazzabi_ on Twitter.

Is it good to use Notion as a task manager?

Notion is so versatile that you can use it for everything. CRM, website builder, personal note-taking, a combination of all the above, you name it. One thing you can use Notion for too is task management, or your to-do list to keep it simple. But is it a good idea?

I personally think that using Notion as a to-do list is a bad idea. Of course, having everything in one place is good, but Notion fails at the basics of task management.

Notion fails to capture tasks, quickly

It’s Tuesday morning, you are working in your pajamas, and you remembered about the groceries you need to pick up at 5pm. As you don’t trust your mind to remember these things, you want to add a task to remember it:

If you are using a todo list app

  1. You open the app
  2. You add the task
  3. You go back to your work

If you are using Notion

  1. You open the app
  2. You wait for the damn spinner, finally the page is loaded
  3. Chances are you are not on the correct page, figure out how to navigate to the tasks page
  4. You’re finally on the page, add the task
  5. Go back to your work, if you remember what you were doing in the first place

The first job of a task manager is to help you capture tasks quickly. Sadly, Notion fails to do so given it’s not designed for that.

Notion burries your tasks

After adding your grocery task, you remembered that email you need to send tomorrow morning. So, in order to not forget it, you want to add it to your task manager. And given you want to keep things clean, you’ve set up boundaries for personal tasks, and professional tasks. You decided that the new task should live in a “Work” project:

If you are using a todo list app

  1. You add the task
  2. Set the date to tomorrow
  3. Set the project to Work
  4. Go back to work

If you are using Notion

You have two options here.

Using a checklist:

  1. You add the task
  2. How can you set the date? Maybe writing it?
  3. How can you set the project? Maybe writing it?
  4. Or maybe you’re having different lists on different projects?
  5. It’s hard to achieve this

Using a table:

  1. You add the task as a new doc
  2. You set the date (via a property)
  3. You set the project (via a Tag/Select property)

So, here’s my question to you. How can I see my tasks for tomorrow?

If you are using a task manager, it’s straightforward. If you use checklists in Notion, you can’t achieve this. If you use a table, you need a combination of tag filtering and date filtering. All this to say it’s nearly impossible without customization and a lot of effort for a simple feature. We are not even talking about your tasks for the week, month… Nope, you can’t do it in Notion.

Notion buries your tasks and it’s nearly impossible to get a bird view of what needs to be done without customization and a lot of effort. This combined with the slowness to capture new tasks is what makes me not recommend Notion as a task manager.

Do not miss my next post! Drop your email in the box below and get it straight to your inbox:

TickTick for Mac: Add a task from anywhere

If you use a task manager or a to-do list, you know that adding tasks to your list, quickly, is a must-have feature. Not surprisingly, the first step in the GTD journey is to capture stuff. The quickest, the better.

I use TickTick, and I have it installed on my laptop, phone, etc. On my Mac, I thought the only option to add a task in TickTick is to open the app, and click the + button. Or, there should be some hotkeys, but you should probably be inside the app anyway to use it, so I didn’t bother looking deeper.

One day, I decided I’ll give the hotkeys a look, and then I learned that there is a shortcut to add tasks from anywhere! Why no one told me this before?

Anyway, open TickTick on Mac > Preferences > Hotkeys > Scroll to Common Operations > Add Task:

I configured the Add Task hotkeys as Shift + Control + N

I have it set up as Command + Shift + N. This works from anywhere, and it’s a game-changer. If you use Todoist, you can also achieve the same thing. Just look in the preferences.

That’s all. For productivity tips, consider subscribing to this blog!

Do not miss my next post! Drop your email in the box below and get it straight to your inbox:


As a long fan of hardcover books, I was always tempted by e-books readers but fought the urge to get another digital thing. You know, less screen time whenever possible. But that changed in late 2021, I finally got a Kindle.

One can guess I’m no longer a fan of hardcover books, but that’s not true. I’m still a huge fan. I’ve got a Kindle because I live in Morocco and getting a hardcover English book in Morocco is challenging.

First, there is not enough choice when it comes to English books in Morocco. If you like to read bestsellers and well-known books, then you are good. But anything outside that cliché-zone, you’re out of options.

Second, even if you manage to find your book, the prices are generally extravagant. I’m not sure why this is the case given books enjoy 0% taxes in Morocco, but I guess the market is small.

Lastly, shipping a book from the nearest Amazon (France or Spain) is expensive. I tried that before, and it’s around 4-5$ per book. Not worth it.

This is mainly why I decided to go digital. I can get any book I want, without thinking too much about the process and waiting for weeks. However, I’m still planning to buy the physical copies when I’m abroad to keep them in my library 🙂

Get That Remote Job e-book, upcoming changes (still free)

I’m currently working on the second version of the Get That Remote Job e-book. Wanted to give you a heads up on what to expect:


I built the first e-book using a design tool because I wanted it to look good. While it ended up looking the way I liked it, the problem was that you can’t copy and paste the content. It was a text on an image.

Good design is definitely eye candy. But the basic feature of copying text was taken away, and I didn’t like that. The new version will be typed using, which I used for my other ebook The design is basic, but at least you can copy content.

A suit of complementary emails

The good thing about an e-book is the fact that you can study/execute it, whenever you want. The bad thing is no one is watching, and you may just… skip? The majority of us needs a little push from time to time.

I’m trying to change the model of the e-book from: “Here you go, here is the e-book, go and learn”, to: “Here is the e-book, try what’s here. I’ll keep checking on you for the next few weeks”.

That’s why the new version of the e-book will have some complementary emails to guide/remind you on what needs to be done.

Moving the e-book to Gumroad

This one is simple. I’m already using Gumroad for my other e-books and paying for it, so it makes sense for me to gather everything at the same place. This will make it easier for me to announce updates, schedule new emails, etc.

I’m currently working on completing the emails sequence, and building a new landing page for the ebook.

You can still get it from Gumroad if you want! I’ll let you know when the new version is available.

The beauty of cheap products

No one likes cheap products. We all want high-quality ones, and we want to feel the joy of owning them. But there is something about those cheap products that I personally find interesting… I just don’t worry about them..

Let me explain.

A few months ago, I bought a cheap Bluetooth bracelet. Heart and sleep monitoring, steps calculator, etc… The basic features you’ll get from a 30$ bracelet.

Since the day I bought it, I do everything with it. Taking a shower, swimming… you name it. In my head, the worst-case scenario is I’ll get a new one if it stopped working for some reason.

On the other hand, let’s imagine I got an expansive smartwatch. It will have more features for sure, but will I use it in the same way? Probably not. Even if it’s water-resistant, I’ll probably take it off before swimming for example. It costs a fortune, so I can’t just replace it whenever I want.

Buying an expensive product is surely more enjoyable. We all want quality products, and everyone deserves the best. But, is it always a good idea?

If buying an expensive product makes you a hostage of it, constantly worrying it will break, cutting from your time to take care of it, adapting your life to it… Was it really a good idea to get it in the first place?

A simple idea to reduce procrastination

Like every human being, I used to procrastinate a lot. Dishes? Nah. Cleaning something? Nah. Folding clothes? Nah… I knew it’s wrong, but I couldn’t help it. My body was against me.

That was a few years ago, but it’s still happening sometimes. Less often than before for sure, but it happens. We are not ideal humans after all.

So how I reduced the daily procrastination to a few times only? A simple phrase: Every day is a new day.

When I let a day’s unfinished work roll over to the next day, I was feeling both days were the same. I feel there is continuity, just like part 1 and part 2.

Starting your day with yesterday’s dishes, cleaning… is starting your day on the wrong foot. I wanted every day to be new: starting fresh. My day will be independent of the other days, I could design it the way I want, and it starts in the morning and finishes at night. Simple.

My body started co-operating. Because in my mind, I wasn’t doing the dishes because they shouldn’t be around. I was doing it because I was excited tomorrow will be a new day and I don’t want the dishes to ruin it.

I felt the incentives were more present and pushed me to complete things. They switched from a moral thing (dishes shouldn’t be around) to a tangible thing: they can ruin your day tomorrow.

Now after I wrote this, I remembered I have some clothing to fold. Tomorrow is a new day.

Adopting the PARA system

It’s been a while since I’ve been active online. The last few weeks were hectic as too many things were going on at the same time. The majority on a personal level.

My to-do list was full. I felt I was doing a million tasks a day. And I felt unproductive. My head was working all the time thinking about all the things I need to do.

I wanted to write down all the open “projects” I was working on. I needed to know what are the open tabs in my life/mind as I figured out this will help me get a bigger picture of what was happening and help me prioritize. That’s when I remembered the PARA system. I knew about the PARA system a long time ago but I didn’t feel the urge to test it at that time. This time, I needed a new system…

PARA is a system for organizing digital information and increasing productivity. There are 4 basic pillars in this system. The first two are areas and projects.

Areas are long-term activities where you need to keep a standard over time. Examples include Health, Business, Finances… You don’t want to be healthy for a few months only. It’s a long-term standard. The same goes for finances, business…

Projects are a series of tasks, linked to a specific goal with a deadline. Examples include “Working on X proposal”, “Write a blog post”… Each project needs to have a deadline, otherwise, it’s not a project.

In addition to the areas and projects, there are two other pillars: resources and archives.

Resources are topics or themes of ongoing interest. They can be linked to an area or a project, depending on the resource. Examples include Project Management, Music, Coffee…

Archives, as the name suggests, hosts the completed projects, areas, or resources.

If you want to fully use the PARA system, you need to have the same areas/projects organization in all your tools. Mainly your note-taking app (Notion in my case), and your to-do list (TickTick in my case). But that wasn’t possible at first, I just had too many things going on. So I started with Notion using this video.

Shortly after listing all my areas of interest and all my current projects, I had a clear idea of what was going on in my head. Just the fact of writing things down helped me visualize things clearly. I was taking on so many things… So I started prioritizing.

The best thing about Notion is you can create multiple views of the same data. So I created a board where I can see the projects in progress and another one where I can see the projects on hold (waiting for a response) and projects I want to start in the future.

I used those boards to help me navigate the projects I was working on and I still use them to this day for both personal and professional projects.

Overall, the system helped me navigate that hectic period. I used it to understand why my mind was working all the time and why I was feeling exhausted.

After that period, I managed to organize my to-do app TickTick with the same system. A folder for each area, and a list of tasks for each project.

If you have a system that’s already working for you, that’s awesome! If not, I encourage you to test the PARA method.