Magic Happens When You Commit To A Single Daily Practice
I Wrote Every Single Day For A Year. The Big Win Has Nothing To Do With Writing
One year ago, I began a simple daily practice. Each day I would write at least five-hundred words. All other goals would be secondary to my daily writing practice.
I had an idea in mind. Do it for a year and evaluate the results. Decide if the results justify the continuation of this journey.
I stuck to my plan and then exceeded it. I now write a thousand words per day, sometimes more.
I will not preach about benefits of writing every day in this story. You can find a million articles on that subject. This is about the benefits of creating and sticking to a daily practice. Sure, if you practice something each day, you will improve and achieve some success.
Surrendering to a daily practice yields benefits beyond the mastery of your craft. In order to stick to my plan, I needed to put systems in place. I did not know what systems I would need when I began— or even that I would need additional support systems. The need emerged and I responded.
No matter how strong your drive to achieve a goal, sometimes life gets in the way. You stay late at work. A family member gets sick. You run out of ideas.
You need systems to deal with all these possibilities.
The Brick Wall
Two weeks into my writing adventure I hit a wall. I ran out of ideas. I decided to write a story about a personal experience. A sink faucet in my house leaked. I tried to fix it but failed. I tied in that story with a lesson on persuasion.
That story gave me crucial insight. If I write about my personal experiences, I’ll never run out of ideas. This experience gave rise to my first system.
My Daily Writing Formula
From that day forward, most of my stories would follow a particular format.
Personal Experience + Connection + Lesson = Unique Story
I’ve followed that format to write my daily stories ever since that December morning.
This system presented its own problem. I’d forget a lot of my experiences from the day before, especially the small ones. Those often proved the most interesting. This forced me to create my next system.
The Daily Experience Journal
A journal of ten to fifteen experiences from my day fueled me with plenty of ammunition. I didn’t have to rack my brain trying to recall experiences. Everything was on paper. All I had to do was pick one and write.
I follow a simple journal process. Here are the cliff notes.
At bedtime, I record ten to twelve personal experiences plus three thoughts that occupied my mind. I write them down in a loose-leaf notebook. My original story goes into more detail. You can find that here.
Everyone I meet talks about the virtue of keeping a journal. Only a handful of people do it. If my experience is any…medium.com
Writing in a journal before bed helps with recall. Still, I sensed much of the interesting stuff disappeared in the netherworld of my brain before I wrote it down.
I began a new system.
The Power Of Observation
I’ve explained this to other folks who tell me it’s a form of mindfulness. Sure, whatever. As a GenXer I simply call it paying attention and taking notes. Here’s how it works.
I make a conscious effort to observe my own behaviors and those of other people. When I notice something or interact with people, I pay close attention to what happens. I jot down a few notes afterward.
How did I feel?
How did they respond?
I also observe others. My favorite activity is going to a busy coffee shop. I pull up a seat and observe other folks. I may even do a little eavesdropping.
After a few months of doing this, it became a habit. I now do it on autopilot. On a typical day, I’ll find five or six experiences in my notes app. This eases the burden on my recall ability before bedtime.
Even with all these systems in place, sometimes life interferes with your plans. One day, I hadn’t done my five hundred words. I stayed up past my bedtime to get my piece in before midnight. That’s when I decided I needed a productivity system.
The 3x5 System
I started this a few years ago but gave up on it. I revived it with some modifications this past year. This super low tech system works for me. I have a full-time job so I need to make every second of the day count. I wanted a system that required zero thinking and independent of technology.
Here’s how it works. Each night, before my journaling, I write down my top ten priorities for the next day. I write them in order of importance from one through ten on a 3x5 index card. This system solves two problems.
First, I never ask myself “what do I work on next?” I follow what’s on my index card. Zero thinking required.
It also helps me focus my time on only meaningful work.
Your One Big Thing
How do you put this into action for yourself?
Pick the one activity most important to you. I chose writing. I fulfill my writing obligations before everything else. Once you start on this path, you will run into roadblocks. This will force you to devise your own systems. Can you predict what these systems will be beforehand? I couldn’t. The old proverb proved true.
Necessity is the mother of invention