Make Time Month Recap: I Failed Lots, but That’s Okay

My month-long experiment to establish a new writing schedule is over. Here are my results:

I failed — a lot

You would think since I publicly committed to these experiments that I’d be able to follow through on all of them, but that was not the case. Here’s each week’s experiment along with how often I actually did it:

Week 1: Choose a “Highlight” every day

I used the One Big Thing app about 70% of the time, but really failed at blocking time on my calendar. 🤔

Week 2: Block out “Distraction Kryptonite”

I only resisted checking email before noon about 25% of the time. 😬

Week 3: Better sleep

I turned off my Kindle’s backlight and kept it off 100% of the time! 😇👍👍

Week 4: Block time in the calendar

This is really embarrassing. I only blocked my calendar a couple of times, so maybe 10%. Especially sad because this was supposed to be a second chance to get Week 1 right… 🤥

So why was my record so poor? I have two excuses. First, I was traveling a lot in June, and I found it super hard to establish routines while away from home. Second, and most importantly, this stuff is really hard. If making new habits were as easy as saying “I’m going to have this new habit now!” I’d do it all the time. But that brings me to a surprising insight:

Perfection didn’t matter as much as I thought it would

When I started my Make Time Month experiment, I hoped I’d be in the 90–100% range for all of my experiments. Obviously I wasn’t close. But what I really wanted was to have time for writing. And I did write a lot in June. I made a lot of progress on a secret project I’ll tell you about in a few weeks.

The thing for me was that perfection didn’t matter. Choosing a Highlight 70% of the time is way better than 0%. Setting my intention to not check email before noon meant that when I did cheat and check (ahem, a lot) I didn’t waste the whole morning in email (except, ahem, a couple times). And yeah, the blocking calendar thing was kind of a disaster, but I’m not gonna beat myself up about it. The point is this: By setting out to be more focused and intentional with my time, I did better, even if I fell short of my ideal.

Reader stories

The best part, by far, was hearing from other people. Here are some highlight quotes:

  • “I’m not quite ready for an all-out bedroom screen ban yet, but I will share the single biggest thing I’ve done in the past year to improve my sleep quality: to get a sleep mask. I felt a little silly wearing one at first, but I’ve noticed that it often helps me stay asleep for longer with fewer random wake-ups and less tossing and turning. Might be worth considering as another low-tech sleep experiment!”
  • “I spent the past week with a disabled iPhone, and it’s been WONDERFUL. I thought I would miss it so much more than I do.”
  • “Getting better sleep was awesome. The app you recommended wasn’t available on Android so I found one that had auto scheduling blue-filtering called Twilight. I even started to use our bedside lamps instead of overhead lights to provide the warmer light. We started getting to bed earlier as well and that has been hugely beneficial to getting us up on time and taking advantage of the day.”
  • “Wanted to report that this newsletter finally convinced me to get rid of email and Safari on my phone. I use Moment to track phone usage… it’s consistently getting me off my phone for an extra 2.5 hours each day (and on some days, way more!)”
  • “I already had some blocked time on my professional calendar for professional highlights. But never thought about doing the same for any extra professional activity. I did! I don’t know if there are outcomes already, but at least it feels good to know that I’m taking my own goals seriously.”
  • “My phone is now free of all time-suck, including emails. It feels so much better not to be a slave to my phone anymore. I even forget to look at Facebook on my Mac browser somedays. Just tells you how powerful a phone is.”
  • “I knit 2 rows on a shawl each day. They were long rows, a seemingly simple task, but I am neither an experienced nor a fast knitter. They sat there untouched for weeks and said “failure”. This trick brought me nearly to the end! So pleased. I know I will finish it this week. I like exercising the right side of my brain like this, but often, projects get packed away for years making me feel like a workaholic nerd who never completes personal projects. I got real pride from this exercise.”
  • “Distraction Kryptonite was great, I just turned off the internet when I could just sit down and sketch or write without any references or anything. It got to the point where I did need the internet for some things, but I had built up the willpower to not get distracted by then.”
  • “Blocking the calendar is the best option for someone with my personality. It worked pretty well. Especially when I move that slot to the start of the day.”
  • “It was good that somebody somewhere was trying to do the same: get some maker time, trying different stuff, iterate on it, failing but doing again.”

These really sum up my own experience:

  • “Start small, but start. There isn’t any action that would be too small. The first 5% (or even 1%) are often the hardest.”
  • “It was fun trying out this experiment. Even though it didn’t work out as expected, it helped me learn new things about me and my habits. I’ll continue to work on the project and try to make time.”
  • “Nothing is more important than forgive yourself if you have failed on the goals you’ve set for yourself / showed lack of willpower…. There is no one rule fits them all/best-practice and one should be encouraged to experiment more!”

And this from my mom, who is an excellent writer but very busy:

  • “It helped a lot for me to concentrate on writing a little every day. I missed some days here and there but wrote much more than I have done in months.”

Awesome. 💪

As I said, I’ll fill you in on the project I was working on in a few weeks… stay tuned, I think you’ll find it interesting.

— Jake