Own goals

This may just be a different way of saying that small moves work, that consistently doing a little builds up to a lot. It’s definitely reminiscent of the notion that writing a few words a day gets you a book in the end. But James Clear puts it this way: bollocks to setting goals, concentrate on your day to day systems for getting things done.

Okay, he didn’t say bollocks. Normally I’d now show you what he did say and point you at his website but I find his site a bit annoying: it’s very full-on selling and despite having a lead to this particular article, I couldn’t find this particular article.

So instead, let me show you this quote from Clear as used on a site that found it useful:

If you completely ignored your goals and focused only on your systems, would you still get results?

For example, if you were a basketball coach and you ignored your goal to win a championship and focused only on what your team does at practice each day, would you still get results?

I think you would.

For example, I just added up the total word count for the articles I’ve written this year. In the past 12 months, I’ve written more than 115,000 words. The typical book is about 50,000 to 60,000 words, so this year I’ve written enough to fill two books.

That’s a huge a surprise, since I never set a goal for my writing. I didn’t measure my progress in relation to a benchmark. I never set a word-count goal for any particular article. I never said, “I want to write two books this year.”

What I did focus on was writing one article every Monday and Thursday. After sticking to that schedule for 11 months, the result was 115,000 words. I focused on my system and the process of doing the work, and in the end enjoyed the same (or perhaps better) results.

An Almost Foolproof Way to Achieve Every Goal You Set – Jeff Haden, Inc.com (5 February 2014)

Read the full piece and try not to think he’s a wimp for only writing 115,000 words in an entire year.

Just a quarter of an hour

Writer Sallie Tams has a blog post with a huge amount of solid, good, even great advice about getting on with things. Do read the whole piece but this is one section I especially liked:

YOUR STARTER FOR 15 – what can you do in the next 15 minutes that advances you towards the goal? There are 96 opportunities to do this every day – take just one of them and use it to get one step closer to where you want to be. You will be astonished what you can achieve in 15 minutes. I did this with my extremely derelict and over-grown garden when I moved into this house. Initially I was completely overwhelmed and had no idea where to start but by giving myself 15 minutes every night and a little longer at weekends, got the task done and the results were edible (as you can see above) – how great is that?

Done Really Is Better Than Perfect – Sallie Tams, One Word After Another (15 March 2015)

Read the full piece.

Write one sentence

That writing project you’ve got do to. Write one sentence now. Just dash it off this minute. This minute.

Did you do it? You’re a sentence closer to being finished.

And what kind of crazy-mad Hallmark Card happy-clappy stupid advice is that? You’re a sentence in to your book. Whoop-de-do.

But, hey, look at me. You’re a sentence further into your book. It’s written and it isn’t going away, it is only going to be added to. Maybe with one more sentence tomorrow. Probably with a lot more, but at least one sentence tomorrow.

By the end of a year you have 365 sentences. Call it ten words per sentence – no reason, no statistics behind it, it’s just reasonable enough plus it makes the maths startlingly easy – and that’s 3,650 words you’ve written.

It’s not enough. Nowhere near enough. But it’s a damn site more enough than 0.

Seriously, it’s the small moves that work

Seven weeks ago I decided I wanted to try creating an email newsletter for The Blank Screen. Six weeks ago, the first one went out to about ten people. Today the sixth went out to forty.

I’m not saying anything about the quality of the work – though that people are adding themselves to the newsletter is enormously gratifying – but I am saying that it was an idea that became a thing.

It’s now a normal thing. I knew this morning that my day would begin with writing a Self Distract blog as ever, then that I would do the newsletter. Then I’d be off writing an article for someone else and a script for someone else, but the newsletter is a regular, locked-in part of my week now.

There was a moment when I was first bringing The Blank Screen book to the web as this news site that I thought about an email newsletter. But I thought it would be a lot to take on atop everything else. Now it’s just here and it’s normal, it’s what I do.

It’s fun and it’s hard and to make it worthwhile anyone reading it takes planning and writing effort but I know I will do it every week. I suppose it takes discipline but it doesn’t seem that way now I’ve started and it’s running. It feels more like momentum.

I think creating new things is often like an engine: it takes a huge amount of energy to start – it literally takes an explosion – but then once it’s running, it keeps on going very easily.

I thought about this today just because I mentioned to someone that this morning’s newsletter was the sixth and I stopped mid-syllable. It can’t be six weeks, can it? Six editions? Already?

The thing I’m taking away from this is that you can do new things and you can enjoy them, you just have to start.