“You’d have to be an ******* to not find eight minutes a day to write!”
When my book about forming an 8-minute writing habit came out, one of my mentors—also co-host to a popular but irreverent podcast—declared this to me.
And it was true. The reason the idea of the 8-minute writing habit resonated with so many people was because it sounded so simple.
You would be hard-pressed to not have eight minutes a day to write. And that writing could add up to a 50,000 word novel or nonfiction book in less than a year.
The math didn’t lie; how could anyone find an excuse to not write their book now?
The Art of Turning Goals Into Habits
I had toiled for years thinking of ways to show people—to prove to people—that their novel or nonfiction book was not far off, no matter their circumstance:
- Small kids at home
- A full-time job
- Multiple businesses
- Aging parents to take care of
- Lack of money or confidence
What finally got through to my readers and students was the larger concept of turning a goal (writing their book this year) into a stupid simple habit (writing eight minutes a day) that was backed up by a good plan that made the goal inevitable.
If someone wrote for eight minutes a day, they would eventually have their book. The plan was obvious and idiot-proof.
And yet, it was also something that very few people who set the goal of writing their book this year actually did. Why?
How To Make a Goal Inevitable
From weight loss to finances to productivity to relationships, the best goals are the ones that feel inevitable.
Whether you are a writer or not, you can make all of your goals inevitable. The process to do this is a simple series of steps that makes someone say, “You’d have to be an ******* to not hit the goal!”
Furthermore, making your goals inevitable takes your day-to-day results out of the equation. This is especially useful when you are setting a long-term goal, like losing 75 pounds, where you are going to have ups and downs from week to week and a snapshot of the results may feel discouraging.
I’ve been applying these steps to starting a new Youtube channel for a new spirituality business I’ve started around tarot, astrology, and twin souls. With no audience or email list, I have a lot of legwork to do this year to get my business off the ground.
I hate wasting time and energy on things that don’t pan out.
So I could go into the next year with a list of (potentially unrealistic) results I want to achieve:
- Make $100,000
- Get to 50,000 Youtube subscribers
- Sell 10,000 books
But instead, I’m setting inevitable goals that are rooted in consistent habits, that are most likely to result in some of the outcomes I desire.
And if they don’t, I am still building toward those outcomes and can pivot to eventually achieve them.
No time and energy wasted!
First, Get Super Clear on Current Success Factors
A bad plan is not going to create inevitability. You’ll need to mix in your own knowledge and experience of what works for you with the advice of experts who help people for a living and individuals who know what worked for them.
To find success factors from experts and people who have done this before, you can google [what you want to do] “success factors,” i.e. “Youtube success factors” or “blogging success factors.”
Then cross this with what you think will work best for you. I judge this by my past experience and self-knowledge of what has worked for me in a successful area of my life or at a successful period of time in my life.
For my Youtube channel, I initially scripted and recorded videos with just a few success factors in mind:
- Title is everything, so find good titles for SEO and Youtube’s internal algorithm and record those topics
- Content must tie directly to a book or product, so I’m not creating content that isn’t part of a sales process
- Every video needs a call-to-action to get on my email list, because building my audience is critical to my long-term business success
- Get the audio right, because people can forgive a lot of production quality but they will click off if the audio is unbearable
These four success factors got me started making my videos and account for the 80/20 of how I make every video. They are the crux of my good plan for making my goals inevitable through my Youtube channel.
Once you know your top success factors, you may want to make a list of 20–30 additional success factors that are more subtle.
For example, something I recently noticed I do without realizing it is creating evergreen content around holiday topics. Like this post about goal-setting… I purposely didn’t use the phrase “new year’s resolutions” because I want this post to be evergreen. But I also know “goal-setting” is more likely to get read because it’s timely to the holiday.
There are so many success factors that people layer into their work, so never think that replicating just a few will get you the success they have. Collect success factors and spell them out for yourself so you are showing up to your best ability!
Next, Commit to Taking Specific Actions, Not Hitting Specific Metrics
The thing that has helped me sell 50,000+ nonfiction books more than anything else is something I like to call, “putting some pennies in the bank.”
I figured it out because when I traced back the things that are selling my books in 2020, they were all things that I did in 2014–2015.
For example, one guest post I wrote in 2015 created about 30–35 sales of my book the day it was posted.
But over the years, it has created thousands of sales through SEO and word-of-mouth, and continues to sell my book today.
When I was deciding on a marketing plan for my new business, I thought, “what if back in 2015, instead of doing 5–10 guest posts and interviews, I had done 50–100?”
How much better might my results be?
It’s impossible to know the answer to that, but I am currently creating my Youtube channel so that 50–100 of the videos on it point to my first book!
Each video is going to be a penny—not selling much in the present and certainly not a get-rich-quick button.
A single penny doesn’t feel like much in the moment, but they add up. I now know from experience that if I put enough pennies in the bank, my nonfiction books will be selling for years and years to come.
I also know the difference between an ephemeral penny that loses value quickly versus a foundational penny that will become more valuable over time. My Youtube channel is designed to build the latter.
Another way to phrase this is, commit to the process, not the outcome.
If I had set my sights on selling 50,000+ books I wouldn’t have written that guest post, or I would have been disappointed with my 30ish initial sales from it. Instead I committed to the process of getting multiple guest posts and pointing them to my book. It adds up.
Make It Simple to Take Action and Show Up Regularly
I have a killer productivity trick I like to call the Plan C Method.
- Plan A: The A+ Plan, when everything is going perfectly and falling into place exactly as we imagined it. Many of us start out the week this way and have super-productive Mondays and Tuesdays before things start to slip on Wednesday.
- Plan B: The Backup Plan, which is when we shift things around or cut things out because we aren’t able to stick to our original plan. This might be moving your Wednesday task to Saturday morning. Plan B is never the ideal situation, nor the most efficient, nor the most optimal, but it allows you some flexibility in your life for when emergencies come up or things have to be adjusted. In most cases, it’s better to get in a suboptimal effort than to not get it done.
- Plan C: The Catastrophe Plan, or what to do when things are truly going to sh*t. Plan C is the barest of bones — it’s the least amount you can do to essentially “check the box” for the day. It’s something you can do in a few minutes, on zero energy left. Because even if your life is going crazy and the world is conspiring against you, you’re going to feel much better if you’re able to check off your effort for the day.
For my Youtube channel, since I’m working ahead and have most things scheduled ahead of time:
- Plan A is that my video and all the promotion (cross-posting on multiple platforms, adding all images and promotional updates to social media) goes out within 1–3 days of the schedule
- Plan B is that my video goes out before midnight and all the promotion goes out within a few weeks
- Plan C is that my video doesn’t go out, but the video that was scheduled goes to the end of the queue and I spend 5 minutes on the Youtube thumbnail so that I am further along the next time I revisit it
It’s very easy to quit your efforts, even if you formed a habit around them long before. But if you follow the Plan C Method, you can get right back on track.
As you string together these days of at least hitting your Plan C, you will find the motivation again to work your way up to Plan B, and then finally to Plan A.
Create Space, Time, and Accountability For the Magic to Happen
I can do a lot of things while taking care of a newborn full-time, but I have not attempted to record my Youtube videos with him in my arms. (Yet—I’m not above it if it helps me reach my goals!)
I write when I’m with him, but I do video recording and editing when I have childcare.
On the writing side, I use Google Docs and Dragon Anywhere so I can write from anywhere on my phone. I keep my laptop with me most of the day so I can type while breastfeeding, and I keep all my ideas and content organized in files so I can find things as I switch between various devices. I outline and bullet out my ideas so it’s easy to pull out some work for an 8-minute chunk of time.
On the recording and editing side, I know that I only have a few hours a week to record, so I prep for that time by getting my scripts ready, setting up my camera and clearing out my office, etc.
When I’m recording or editing, I close my door to make sure I can’t hear family members or household pets, I leave my setup up for weeks to make it easy to quickly shoot, I charge my camera batteries, and I update my husband daily with how many videos I recorded or edited to make sure I stay accountable.
In short, I have set myself up for success in my environment to maintain my habit.
As Dr. BJ Fogg, productivity and habits expert says,
“There’s just one way to radically change your behavior: radically change your environment.”
Get yourself the time, space, and accountability you need to enact your plan.
Done is Better Than Great
Quality is not and never has been the battle you are most likely fighting.
There is a minimum level of quality that only rests on a few factors but gets you 80% of the way there. See the section on success factors above.
The real battle is consistency. And most people don’t show up consistently, so if you do, you’re going to eventually (inevitably) blow them out of the water.
So how do you set aside your perfectionistic tendencies and get it done?
Consistency requires focus and priorities, at least at the start. You have to say the things you are NOT going to be consistent on and be willing to prioritize the few things you will be consistent on.
We will never be consistent on everything in our lives and businesses, so if you are waiting for that day when you have it all together all the time, you will have a hard time getting started!
Commit to ONE thing and do it at 80%. As I say to my newborn when he’s breastfeeding, get it done, son.
Eventually your commitment will become routine, and you can put your energy into committing to something else.
As you move forward, you can add some polish and iteratively upgrade your effort on a regular schedule, say monthly or quarterly. This last part is important—if you continue to consistently suck or stay stuck, your success won’t be inevitable.
If you do your best today, get the job done to a reasonable level of quality, and continue to improve little by little, you will eventually achieve your goals.
Have a System That Always Has You Working Ahead
How does a mom of a newborn look and act consistently online?
I’ll give you a hint: it’s definitely not because I am perfect, have endless time, money, or resources, or have hidden skills or talents!
It’s also not because I have 24/7 nannies, laundry that doesn’t need washing and folding, or a baby who doesn’t have his fair share of spit-ups and blow outs.
Instead, I set myself up for success and work way ahead of my public-facing schedule.
For starters, I produce far more videos than I need right now and schedule them out. It is December as I write this, and I’m currently writing video scripts for videos that will be posted in March/April. I achieved this by starting to record in September and not launching until January. I didn’t launch until I had a nest egg.
Next, I created a buffer between content production and content scheduling so that I can stay on my content production schedule. You need to produce more often than your content schedule requires.
Maybe that means showing up 7 days a week and only posting on weekdays. Maybe it means showing up 5 days a week and only posting on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Maybe it means showing up for a season of 10 episodes, then taking a hiatus.
I used to have a block against this because I thought, why is this on my hard drive when it could be out there making money? But consistency over a long period of time is where the real money lies. Don’t sacrifice consistency for short-term gains. It’s not worth it!
To stay efficient, batch your efforts. This again, will feel like it’s adding delays in your schedule, but getting a single thing out faster is just an addiction, a high you get that costs you in time and energy over the long-term.
I write 25 video scripts, then I record 25 videos, then I edit 25 videos, then I create 25 Youtube thumbnails… you get the picture. Sure, the video I recorded today doesn’t come out for months using this process, but I know I’m going to hit my schedule and so does my audience. That matters!
Lastly, create “feeders” that align with your goal. For example, I write a social update every day, which is extremely low pressure, and then I periodically pull the popular ones for blog post outlines and video scripts. I also transcribe content from my Youtube channel and turn it into polished blog posts.
Everything I’m currently doing in my business is in support of my one inevitable goal: creating and promoting Youtube channel content that links to my books and other products. Alignment is critical for momentum, especially if you are running a small business!
What You Will See If You Commit to Inevitable Goals
I can’t say how many books I will sell through my new Youtube channel; that’s not up to me.
All I can say is that I will have at least 50 videos (plus podcasts and blog posts) pointing to my book, and in the past having just a few pieces of content pointed at my books has resulted in many book sales for me.
That doesn’t include the additional opportunities I might receive from putting myself out there (podcast interviews, guest posts, speaking opportunities, network connections, word-of-mouth) that will help me sell more books.
That also doesn’t include the additional audience I’m building on the Youtube platform and secondary platforms, nor how my email signups might go up — both of which will extend my reach and help me sell my next book or project.
In fact when you put it that way, it feels like surely something is going to work about this plan over the course of a year — right?
And that’s why it’s the only goal-setting I do these days.
If you are struggling to produce consistently and build your online business, you may appreciate my book, The 8-Minute Writing Habit, which you can learn more about at The World Needs Your Book.