hugh’s daily quota

Above is a little diagram I made for myself recently…

“Daily Quota”: I try to complete four basic tasks every day- the basic M.O. to keep the gapingvoid ship afloat.

  1. I try to spend the major chunk of time working on the  “Cube Grenades” every day. That’s probably the hardest part of the job. They take forever to draw and because paying clients are involved, you have to be on the ball. Luckily, all those years working in ad agencies trained me well for it.
  2. The Daily Bizcard. I’ve only been doing these a week or so but it’s been a lot of fun so far. I like how it allows me to both (A) create new work and (B) interact in a new, interesting, unique way with friends and colleagues. I think this will end up being a major, long-term project of mine.
  3. The Newsletter cartoons. Because these are also being turned into fine art prints, I take a lot of care with them. This is the second biggest part of the day, after cube grenades.
  4. Three hundred words. With a successful book already out, another book on the way, and a third book slowly simmering in the back of my head, the author gig is increasingly important to me. I’m fortunate that my publishers likes my basic working format- Approx 18K words and a hundred or so cartoons- which means that the books are relatively short to write, compared to most business titles out there. I try to do 300 words a day. 18K words takes 60 days at that rate. As I throw away a lot of what I write, that’s not enough for a book, but it’s enough to get the ball good n’ rolling. Three hundred words per day is pretty manageable if you’re feeling in the groove. If  you’re not feeling it, then it’s complete torture. Sometimes I’ll go weeks without writing much, but then an idea will hit me, and I’ll go after it like a crazy dog.

This  diagram is a fairly simplistic version of reality, of course. Like Robbie Burns said, “the best laid plans of mice and men, often go awry”. Some days I’ll cover all four bases, sometimes just one or two, depending on what’s hitting the fan that day [Cube Grenade deadlines will always take priority, end of story].

The map is not the terrain, but as a map, this diagram is a good starting point every morning, while I’m drinking my first cup of coffee, trying to get my day started.


  1. Interesting! I’m curious how much time everything takes, though …

  2. Excellent conceptual work there re Hugh’s Daily Diagram — might be a book there if you just expand on those 4 quadrants! It could be the basis for a wonderful memoir, in fact … life in 4 slices or something like that! Your creative energy is amazing and a true gift to those who follow your work. May the force be with you! (as a poet/writer myself … I think you bridge those 2 worlds in an interesting way … your cartoons, for instance, are a form of poetry, no doubt!)

  3. Interesting that you chose a composition notebook to draw your pie chart on. Is composing next on your list? :)

  4. Oh that breakthrough moment where I throw the To Do bullet points away for clouds and thick black textas! Thanks Hugh.

  5. The simplicity of this, as far as “to-do” lists goes… is awesome.

    I tend to start my day with a detailed list of loads of stuff – having just a handful of core activities would be great.

    I also admire the consistency of your biz – my work is much more … reactive and project based.

  6. Just stumbled on your site and am thoroughly enjoying it. This post in particular inspired me – I have often drawn such maps to try to keep myself focused (I do marketing work, perform standup comedy, write children’s plays, direct theater, teach piano lessons, make films, bartend, the list is sorta endless)… It’s great to see another creative person out there not being pigeonholed, going after inspiring stuff and dealing with trying to keep it all balanced…

    Keep it up!

  7. saludos desde CHILE HUGH .
    empece hace poco a leer un libro tuyo de (empresa activa ) y lo encontré muy entretenido y asertivo .

  8. Cool, Hugh. Good stuff. I like quadrants. I’ve used the same initial approach for screenplay concepts… actually, then I divvy up the quadrants, and fill them in with scenes. It brings to mind the saying, “Begin with the end in mind,” and then you roll out ideas according to constraints; i.e., what things need to happen to turn this thought into a story–and make it work within an hour and 30 minutes or what have you. :) Good idea, to apply it to the work day.

    “All the world’s a stage.”



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Hugh MacLeod is a genius.  Genius.

Seth Godin
Best Selling Author

His work acknowledges the absurdity of workaday life, while also encouraging employees to respond with passion, creativity, and non-conformity...   MacLeod’s work is undeniably an improvement over the office schlock of yore. At its best, it’s more honest, and more cognizant of the entrepreneurial psyche, while still retaining some idealism.

The New Republic
Lydia Depillis

Last year my State of the College address was 76 slides loaded with data. This year it was 14 cartoons that were substantially more memorable.

Len Schlesinger
Former President, Babson College

"There are only two daily newsletters that I look forward to opening and reading every time they show up to my inbox: Seth Godin's and gapingvoid."

Tony Hsieh
CEO, Zappos

In moments of indecision I glance at the wall [to Hugh's work] for guidance.

Brian Clark
  • Seth Godin
  • The New Republic
  • Len Schlesinger
  • Tony Hsieh
  • Brian Clark