“How do you do this every single day?”
A friend recently asked how I consistently publish a new article each day. I responded with:
- It’s the main thing I do
Allow me to explain
With practice, I mean that I’ve been doing this for a while and so my writing muscles have become more developed.
Just like if you were a new painter (or haven’t painted in a long time), painting sporadically is much harder than painting frequently. In the case of the latter, you have routines and systems in place. In the case of the former, you’re relying on motivation and inspiration – neither of which can be counted on.
With it’s the main thing I do, I mean exactly that.
In my regular day-to-day, writing a new article is the bulk of how I spend my time. It doesn’t get lost in a sea of things-to-do but rather is the focus of my attention. It’s like the sun. I’m constantly aware of it, even if I’m not directly looking at it.
Those answers are valid. However, in reflection, there is one thing that is likely more important than both of those combined: the hard-out.
A hard-out is a mandatory event that takes precedence over everything else at the moment. For example, if you’re in the zone with your work but have a doctor’s appointment in 15 minutes, you pause what you’re doing and go to the doctor.
If you want to take a walk but have a client meeting in five minutes, you attend the client meeting first and figure out when to walk after. A hard-out is something that requires you to stop whatever it is that you’re currently doing in lieu of some more important activity.
My daughter getting home for the day is my hard-out.
Sure, practice is important. Yes, being focused on the writing is important. But more important than both of those is my daughter getting home. Because when she gets home, the writer clocks out and the dad clocks in.
And if I don’t have my writing done by then, there’s trouble.
Not from her (she’s a toddler) and not from my wife, but from myself. Because in that scenario I’m left with two options:
- Try and finish the article while simultaneously playing with my daughter (which we both hate);
- Or I wait to finish the article until after she goes to sleep (and I’m exhausted).
Every so often I run into issues with the first point. I can’t remember the last time I experienced the second.
Get it done (or else)
This hard-out, this consistent daily event, keeps me on-task.
Procrastination is only possible for so long before I encounter very real consequences. Put another way, there is a negative reinforcement in place that urges me to get my work done in a timely manner. If I get it done as planned, I enjoy a nice evening with my family.
If I don’t, I’m stressed, scrambled, and guilt-ridden. And so, not one to enjoy negative consequences, I don’t allow it to happen (at least, not most days).
It’s basic Parkinson’s law
If procrastination is something you struggle with, look at your calendar. Is it nice and open? Do you have all the time in the world? That may actually be more problematic than helpful.
Parkinson’s law states that the time you give yourself to complete a task is the time that it will take you to complete it. For instance, if you have one hour to create a new design, you’ll get it done within the hour. If you give yourself six hours to complete the same design, it will take the full six.
Having more time to do something isn’t necessarily a good thing. In fact, it may actually be a detriment.
How to create hard-outs
If you find yourself putting off tasks, or if things seem to take longer than they should, create some hard-outs for yourself. Schedule a call with someone that you wouldn’t want to disappoint if you were late.
Book a non-refundable class or have a friend come over at a specific time.
The most challenging aspect will be coming up with a hard-out that occurs each day. Not once a week or once a month, but daily. After all, you don’t just want to make progress once. You want to get things done each day.
In that case, find a friend that has a similar problem as you and schedule an hour-long call for the end of your day. Create a mutually beneficial hard-out, and hold each other to it.
Moving forward with hard-outs
Personally, I don’t know if I would have the strength to stick to a plan that didn’t include others. Meaning that if I gave myself a hard-out at 5:30 PM to watch a movie, I would likely skip it and instead find myself “working” into the evening.
However, when my daughter gets home, that’s it. I am accountable to her and thus get my work done beforehand.
So in your own planning, utilize your relationships with others. Schedule things with people who you wouldn’t want to disappoint. Take advantage of the fixed amount of time you have and watch the procrastination become that much easier to push through.
See? I just did it with this article.