Meet Aaron Nace, an inspiring artist, educator, photographer and entrepreneur teaching millions how to be more creative through his courses and tutorials.

In this interview, Aaron Nace openly shares his habits and routines that help him stay sharp, balanced and creative.

Aaron Nace

Aaron Nace is a photographer and founder of Phlearn, an online learning resource for anyone who wants to expand their creative education. He's the #1 Photoshop instructor in the world, with over 1.7 million subscribers on YouTube and students from over 140 countries.

What Are the Most Influential Habits in Your Life?

I do my best to take care of my mind and body. In the early years of building a business, I worked almost all the time and ate whatever was around. The excitement of building something new drove me for a while, but after a year or so, I found myself getting seriously worn out. My body was falling apart and I was stressed out all the time. I was thinking about work every waking moment and didn’t pay much attention to balance.

I realized that I would go through intense periods of work and then completely crash. My personal life was non-existent and my friends and family started to worry about me.

These days, I do my best to keep my stress levels to a minimum and take care of my body and mind. Weekends are my time to relax and enjoy life without thinking about work. I eat a plant-based diet and get as much sun and exercise as possible.

I find that when I am relaxed and feeling healthy, I can get more done in less time and feel better about my work-life balance.

How Do You Manage Time?

In the beginning, I did whatever I could to manage my own time – downloading every tool possible. These days things are a bit more simple, and I have some help.

As a company, we use multiple Google Calendars that are linked between teams of people. Everything that needs to get done goes on the calendar. The calendars are checked daily company-wide, which gives us a good grasp of what is coming down the pipeline and allows us to prepare properly.

Artwork created by Aaron Nace.
Artwork created by Aaron Nace.

Personally, I keep daily lists (on a physical notepad) and more broad lists. Anything that is super urgent is written down on paper and placed on my desk so it can’t be ignored. I find that using too many digital systems leads to confusion and things slipping through the cracks.

We also have content, marketing, promotion, web, design, and other teams of people that keep me in check with everything that needs to get done. We keep an open office environment with no closed doors – anyone is free to discuss anything at any time.

What's Your Work Process and Thinking Behind It?

I have found that the more planning that goes into a project, the better it turns out. Unfortunately, I am not a natural planner – I love to just jump in and see what happens. That can work out ok when I am the only one working on something, but when a team of people is involved, many moving pieces must work together – requiring more planning.

I have learned to like and appreciate planning. Although it can be tedious, it almost always results in a better end product. If we are planning on releasing a one-hour tutorial, we will typically spend about a week on planning and pre-production.

How Do You Train Your Body and Mind?

I find there is a connection between my mind, body, and soul. An imbalance in any one of these areas will undoubtedly affect the others.

I love to read and draw to feed my mind. Both allow me to escape into another world and forget about the day-to-day mental struggles that come with running a business.

Artwork created by Aaron Nace.
Artwork created by Aaron Nace.

Working with plants is one of my biggest sources of enjoyment in life. I am a bit of a “crazy plant person” and feel most at home when surrounded by plants. We have over 100 different species of plants in our Chicago studio, and tending to them helps me to grow my connection to nature.

Physically, I enjoy swimming, meditation and yoga. I find that the more I can occupy my body, the less my mind tends to run in circles.

How Do You Meet and Connect with People?

In my opinion, there is nothing better than meeting someone face to face. While I think that social media and the internet are great ways of reaching people, I find that most of my meaningful interactions are in-person.

I run an online business, which means that most of my interactions are in digital form, but I try to attend as many conferences and events as possible to get more face time.

What Are Your Sleeping Rituals?

Oh man, as much sleep as possible!

I have a natural tendency to stay up late, which means I get up late. I have tried getting up early from time to time, but it has always been difficult.

Artwork created by Aaron Nace.
Artwork created by Aaron Nace.

I am usually in bed around midnight and up between 8-9 AM. Luckily, I live very close to where I work and we keep a loose work schedule. As long as you get your work done, it doesn’t really matter what time you come and go.

What Are Your Investing Habits?

When it comes to saving and investing money, I prefer to keep everything automated. Each time I pay myself, part of the money goes directly into savings and the rest goes into my primary account.

I am not a naturally frugal person, so I have a bunch of systems set in place to handle my money for me – I only get access to a small amount of it.

What's One Question That Helped You Understand the World Better?

I think it is important to question everything. Most of what we know about the world was once thought to be untrue. At one point in time, the Earth was the center of the universe. What is something “true” today that will be “untrue” in the future? I think that we have yet to discover many of the secrets that life has to offer, and I find myself constantly searching for more.

What Books, People, Experiences Shaped Your Thinking?

I feel like every experience in life changes me a little. I am a naturally curious and skeptical person and I tend to be drawn to similar people. I have had many “profound” experiences in my life, but they are just as much a part of me as the “boring” ones.

I feel gratitude to the many teachers who have helped me along my path, whether they be human, plant, animal, or something unseen.