I took a break from writing. It’s been almost three months since I have not written anything. I’m trying to slowly get back into it and this time, with a different strategy.
I used to set a day aside to write (start to finish). For example, I would reserve all of Thursday to go to a cafe and write all day, until I finish at least the first draft of an article.
It was very result oriented. Even after writing 4 pages of what I thought was quality stuff, having spent 8 hours on it, I would still not consider the day complete if I have not finished the article.
I want to try a different approach. One that is more process and consistency oriented, rather than result and outcome oriented.
What do I mean by that?
The result or outcome oriented approach would be the one where I force myself to sit here all day (and into the night) until I finish a task.
Whereas, the process or consistency oriented approach, which I am trying to implement, would be to consistently show up, for a short period of time, day after another, while not being attached to the end product. The outcome or the finished product would incur naturally as a result of showing up day in and day out.
The result or outcome oriented approach would not give myself a star at the end of the day, unless I have finished the work.
The process or consistency oriented approach would give myself a star at the end of the day, as long as I have put in my time and effort for the set time period (eg. 30 min each day without distraction).
With the result or outcome oriented approach, I would set aside one whole day each week to get my project done, from start to finish.
With the process or consistency oriented approach, I would set aside 30 min each day for the designated task each working day of the week, not attaching importance (hence stress) to the finish line.
One heavily attaches its meaning of success to, and allows celebration on one point in the lifetime of a project (the finish line), while the other celebrates many points throughout the project (the process and the fact that you show up every day).
Here are some things that I predict would happen:
I would get better at writing, as a result of doing it daily.
I would be more likely to have the identity of a writer, as I do it on a daily basis; which in turn would help me write more frequently.
The experience of writing would be more pleasant as I do not have to force myself. I am more free to get to whatever point I get to, at the end of the day. And that is accepted and celebrated.
I would start with writing more efficiently (as opposed to taking an hour to get ready to focus), as I would practice getting into it daily, and not be attached to doing it perfectly (less performance anxiety).
I would focus better, as I give myself a block of time with a promised end; focusing for half an hour rather than 8 hours straight without distraction seems much more doable). When you know you only have 30 minutes, you are more likely to prioritize the task at hand. Shorter time frame is the key. Imagine you had a 2-hour-long meeting. You are bound to check your phone, or day-dream (well, at least I do). Versus, if you had a 30 min meeting, you are more likely to focus to get the most out of that time. [30 min of focused writing time x 5 days] vs. [8 hours of sporadic attention given to work x 1 day] I see it as the difference between population and population density. 8 hours x 1 day seems to be more “populated” with the amount of time spent. However your focus would be more sporadic than if you focused for 30 min each day for 5 days (higher focus density, meaning more intense and focused attention for the amount of time spent). There is a difference between the time you spend on a task, and focus density. Simply put, it is the matter of quantity (how many hours) vs. quality (how many focused hours).
Quality of my article would be better, as I write and revise it over a few days or weeks, instead of just one point (one or two days) of my life.
This idea came to me as I was reading “The War of Art” and “Turning Pro” by Steven Pressfield just before the summer of 2023. I recommend you check them out if your work is of creative pursuit, and/or if you are having some issues with productivity. They had me reflect on how I was highly outcome obsessed that even getting started became difficult. I was stressing over producing X number of articles, when nobody ever put any deadline on my writing.
As I was putting the table together above, I realized that the process/consistency oriented approach is already being applied to my meditation practice and my dancing. Sometimes I would have a shitty meditation, but that’s OK. What's most important is that I sat down and did it! I showed up. Maybe I made a lot of mistakes when dancing, but that’s OK. What's important is that I am improving, learning, growing, and that I’m having a shit load of fun! Remember - “bad days” are part of the process, and maybe even a learning opportunity, just like rainy days in a scorching hot dry summer in Madrid are a blessing to the trees.
On the flip side to how I work, when it comes to my health, I am all about doing something daily.
I used to spend 1.5-2 hours at the gym, 3 times a week. Now I find it just as helpful to do 20 minutes of home workouts every work day. 2 hours of full workout might seem intimidating and difficult to dedicate time to. However, 20 minutes before you shower for the evening doesn’t sound so difficult or intimidating. Plus, an episode of Seinfeld typically runs for 20 minutes, so it makes it all worthwhile. Also, it fits into your routine so the action of working out before showering becomes automatic, and hence, an increased chance that you will actually be consistent with it.
I am reading “Atomic Habits” by James Clear, whose idea is very much in line with my belief. In Korean, there’s a saying “gathering dust to make a mountain”. This speaks of the importance of stacking up and showing up consistently and continuously to see exponential and exceptional results. Little things you do daily do not just stack up. They COMPOUND.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit” - Aristotle (maybe… apparently it is debatable whether Aristotle really said it or not. Fun fact for you.)
What you do on a daily basis becomes the actions you repeat, which become your habits. They are components of your day and how you are throughout the day. These actions, reactions, and habits inform who you are and how you lead your life.
Now I want to ask you: What are some of the micro-actions that you take every day that you have already implemented that are putting you in the direction that you want to be headed?
Here are some of mine.
Being mindful of how I use my face muscles, and correcting it when I am drooping or frowning, or carrying stress, or clenching my jaw.
Being mindful of my posture, and correcting it when I notice slouching, crossing my legs, or arching my back/shoulders.
Give space before speaking (difficult yet getting better at it, although sometimes I miserably fail)
Reading daily (about 10 minutes before falling asleep)
Stretching daily (5-10 minutes before reading)
What are some micro-actions that you have been wanting to take but have not yet implemented in your life? What will help you apply them in your life?
Here is some of my examples:
And now take yourself to 5 or 10 years from now, when you are that collected, successful, stress-free (or stress-managing), beautiful, and kind individual that you envision yourself to be. What are some changes that you want to make in the process of becoming that person? What are some micro-actions you can implement in your day-to-day in order to apply those changes in your life seamlessly?
The book “Atomic Habits” by James Clear says that the Where and When is very important.
Also, it talks about Sequencing (e.g. after X, I will do Y - X being the action that you already take, Y being the desired action you want as part of your life).
So let’s do this exercise.
How do you envision yourself ______ years from now?
(e.g. being able to serve the clients better, be healthy and fit)
What are some changes you need to make in your life in order to get there?
(e.g. read more books, work out more)
What small things can you easily implement in your life today to get you started on those desired behaviours?
Make your WHEN & WHERE statement, and sequencing.
AFTER/BEFORE I ___________ I will __________ , every day (or choose a day of the week, if it is a weekly behaviour) at ____________ (time), at/in _____________(location).
Coaching can be a very supportive place for you to start building these habits towards who you want to be, all the while helping you with your accountability of your promises you make with yourself.
Good luck and let me know if/how it works for you. As always, I would love to hear from you on your experience with it!
Finally, don’t forget to download the win-tracker to track your habits in the resources section.