In a world obsessed with stats and results, it’s easy to get caught up in the wrong thing.
Though it’s worthwhile to evaluate results periodically, a fixation on outcomes can be unhealthy, and even detrimental to your progress as a creative or creator. Because process is the part you can control, outcomes are not.
Therefore, filters are crucial to your survival. Without them, you will take on too much, burn out, and get caught up in an unhealthy game of comparison that steals your happiness.
We need to be able to put our blinders on, even if it’s only for a short duration, to focus long enough on the process that we see desired results flow in.
Every “Overnight Success” Was 10 Years in the Making
I find it easy to fixate on the results, even unprompted. Even when there’s virtually no reason to.
I needlessly check in on my Medium stats, even on days where I know I’m not going to get any love… all I can expect are a couple of claps.
It’s not always like that. I have stories that have done well. Stories that continue to captivate and engage.
But this is perhaps one of the dark sides of publishing daily… That every day you publish, you almost expect your next big break to happen… When it has literally never worked that way.
The Beatles weren’t an overnight success. It took them 10 years. Some things take even longer than that.
The Six-Month Window
Lately I’ve run into many proponents of the “stick to it for six months” crowd. Their opinion appears to be that success only takes six months.
Which has me looking at myself and wondering if I have done something wrong.
There are some things I have been doing for 10 or 20+ years that I can honestly say I haven’t really seen the ship come in on.
Of course, you will see some results in six months. But will they be the results you’ve been hoping for?
So far as Medium is concerned, I have been publishing for over 230 consecutive days. That’s over six months already. I have not achieved “success.”
I guess that means I should stop writing and try something else right? RIGHT?!
A Breakthrough for Everyone
The the “six months” idea isn’t going to resonate with anyone who’s given it their best and haven’t yielded the expected results.
There’s a breakthrough available to everyone. But it might not come in the expected form. And that’s where some sensitivity is required.
The universe will sometimes make that subtle, quiet call towards an endeavor where you would do well. But you’re not going to notice if you stubbornly insist on your own way. Because it will probably mean adjusting.
Put Your Blinders on
So, is it worth worrying about the results?
Should you be checking in with your stats all the time?
Should you put a hard, six-month deadline on success?
Maybe it works for some, but I can’t recall anything I’ve done that gave me a huge ROI in six months.
Instead, put your blinders on and do the work.
You’ll want to make sure you have rails for the project, of course. You could end up resenting anything you keep grinding out, without any sense of when to stop, evaluate, and course correct.
But within those rails, only come up for air, as necessary.
The temporary discouragement you allow yourself to feel could hold you back from your eventual success. It’s a distraction.
It could have you doubting yourself and your project constantly, and that can’t possibly add value to you or your project.
Comparison is unhelpful, since it puts the spotlight on someone you don’t know, whose results you haven’t verified, and who may have put more work and effort into their project than you’ll ever know.
And most importantly, it steals your happiness, which is worth protecting.
The only score to beat is your own, and even there, you must practice accurate thinking.
Accurate thinking is not based on emotions or feelings. It’s based on quantifiable data.
Go hard within established rails. Then look up and see whether you’re further ahead than where you started. If yes, go to next square. If not, consider whether you want to continue. Yes, then keep going. No, then start playing a new game!
A Beginner’s Mentality
I seek to disappear any notion that I’m seasoned or experienced. At the very least, I don’t see it as an unfair advantage, because if it were, I would have figured out this “six-month” thing by now. Maybe I’d be able to do it in three months!
A beginner’s mentality is fresh. It’s open to learning. It remains curios. It doesn’t lose focus or interest.
Every day, we can start with a beginner’s mentality, or focus on a thousand yesterdays where we didn’t see the ship come in. We can maintain excitement for what we’re doing or make a meaning of our failures.
Although it’s good to acknowledge the ships that didn’t come to pick you up, focusing on them long-term is sure to be detrimental. You’ll just keep waiting at the docks and prove yourself right, even as ships come and go!
On the journey to success, you don’t want to keep proving that things don’t work for you. You want to begin finding proof that you’re going to make it. And you want to do this daily.
In saying all this, I’m mostly preaching to myself.
I’m looking to get those blinders in place instead of evaluating my progress day to day, or moment by moment. There isn’t much positive that can come from being a dopamine junkie.
I could do a better job of setting rails, and to that extent, I am letting my self-esteem lead the way. And I find this helpful.
Do you feel you get caught up in the wrong things?
What are some things you could take your eyes off of to be more effective?
Let me know.
We all must start somewhere. So, starting with free and affordable marketing is not wrong. Testing out the waters before diving headlong into unknown depths is nothing if not wisdom. It gives you a chance to see what all the hubbub is about.
But social media is not a place to park and set up home. There are far too many tradeoffs, and most people are woefully unaware of them.
Here’s but a partial list:
- Competing for attention on social media is mostly a losing battle
- Trying to get your audience to immigrate off social media to an outside destination (that has the potential to benefit you) is an uphill climb
- You could get canceled, banned, or deleted in an instant for less than satisfactory reasons
- Your favorite platform(s) could be gone tomorrow thanks to acquisitions, insolvency, changing trends, and so on
- You don’t have control over scammers (there are scammers on every social platform exploiting your audience, leaving a bad taste in their mouths)
- You don’t take seriously what you don’t pay for
- You never expand beyond your comfort zone, and therefore never expand period
The question is, when will you graduate from free and affordable? When will you really invest in your marketing?
Your answer can’t be “tomorrow,” because tomorrow is not tomorrow. It’s just another today when you get there. If your answer is “tomorrow,” then, you’re firmly rooted in the land of conceptual. You don’t have a grasp on reality.
Social media followings aren’t useless. They do serve a purpose. They are notoriously difficult to monetize, but indirect opportunities that come from having a sizable following – be it speaking engagements, record contracts, sponsorship deals, or otherwise – can be lucrative.
But you’ve got to be crystal clear on the objective. Otherwise, it’s not worth the trouble. You won’t take it far enough. You will give up. You won’t post 30 times per day. You won’t take out advertising. You won’t split test creative. You won’t gather intelligence. You won’t buy courses and invest in your unfolding. If anything, you’re balking at the cost – mental, physical, emotional, financial – already.
There are no free lunches. There’s always a tradeoff for the free lunch you think you’re gaining.
The journey truly begins when there’s skin in the game. And if there is no willingness to problem solve the obtaining of resources, there is no willingness to stick with it long enough turn pro either. Those who want to make it happen always find a way, hell, or high water.
Unless we’re working at least eight hours per day, many of us don’t even feel entitled to our monthly paycheck.
Yet, I know more than a few writers and entrepreneurs who’ve improved their income and lifestyle by drastically reducing their work hours (I have experimented with this myself with some success).
So, how does that work? Why would you want to deviate from the proven standard? Isn’t eight hours the ideal amount of time to work in a day?
Here are some thoughts worth considering.
Rethinking the Hustle
The 12- to 16-hour hustle has been held as the golden standard by the likes of Gary Vaynerchuk or Grant Cardone. You can even find Entrepreneur and Forbes articles that in essence say while you can’t control much else, you can control your work ethic, and working 80 hours per week will virtually guarantees your eventual success.
As creatives and creators, we tend to side more with this type of thinking than with the standard employment model.
Having tried the hustle, though, I can honestly say it wasn’t for me. Instead of spending more time on a few priorities, I found myself adding unnecessary tasks and projects to my already too long to-do list. So, I ended up being spread out even more. I burned out too.
(I talk more about some of the changes I’ve recently made to my routine later).
I often think to myself – I can appreciate that these known experts have such an amazing work ethic (and in some cases – but not all – amazing businesses). But I feel like they could be exponentially more productive if they a) systemized, b) delegated more, and c) slept more.
SuperFastBusiness founder James Schramko suggests we return to the 8/8/8 model. Eight hours of work, eight hours of recreation, and eight hours of sleep. Even then, he says, eight hours for work is quite generous.
People often say they wished they had more time in a day. But when you split up your day into three equal parts, it’s easy to see you’ve probably got some major time leaks that could be – and should be – plugged.
If you’re in the hustle, it’s doubtful you’ve got eight hours left over for recreation. You’re probably not sleeping eight hours per night either. And that, to me, seems like a major disadvantage and a formula for exhaustion, fatigue, burnout, and even mental instability.
But eight hours of work is still quite extensive in the grand scheme of things. Let me show you my work…
Can You Stay Focused for a Full 8 Hours?
If you think you can, try it. Do deep, intensive, focused work (not light admin tasks) for a full eight hours. Lunch break allowed. See how it feels.
I’m not joking. You should give this a try, just so you can say you’ve done it and see how it differs from condensing your workday.
Codebots found that the average employee is only productive for three hours per day, or an average of 12.5 hours per week. That’s about 30% of the time they’re at work.
Now, I know I’m not talking to average people in average jobs with an average work ethic. You’re a champion, and you can get more done in less time.
But we should still come to terms with the fact that we’ve got maybe four to six good hours in us per day. We aren’t machines.
Outside of those four to six hours, we can still engage in reading, meditation, and exercise, which most would consider productive, and would likely add to their overall productivity.
Having this perspective is helpful, as it has us evaluating our task load and prioritizing what needs to get done on a given day. Which is exactly what we should be doing.
The Key to Getting the Right Things Done
I recently shared a little bit about what a day in the life of David Andrew Wiebe looks like.
I’ve already made some adjustments to my schedule, based on some of my recent reading.
First, I’ve recognized the value in what Perry Marshall calls “Renaissance Time.” He suggests spending an hour or two per day, first thing in the morning, connecting with intuition (or spirit) and reading something before Gutenberg.
(More on this in his book, Detox, Declutter, Dominate: How to Excel by Elimination – affiliate link.)
Although I don’t follow Marshall’s advice to a tee, I do set aside an hour at the top of the day for Renaissance Time. I’ll spend a bit of time meditating and spend most of the time reading. On the odd day, I might go for a walk during this time too.
The more you’ve got to do in a day, the greater the value of Renaissance Time. The takeaway? Prioritize and guard it, not matter what!
That was the first change I made. The second change I made was this:
With all my time blocking efforts, I noticed I was still trying to take on too much in a day. And maybe even being a little too rigid based on how I work best (I like working on multiple projects and multi-tasking).
Instead of saying “this goes here and that goes there,” which is still a basic structure I follow, I’ve been finding that it makes more sense to work on three things per day. That’s it.
I used to think this was a problem. Because inevitably it meant I wouldn’t get around to some priority. But then I realized that if I changed my approach, I’d make more money in less time and create more time for my priorities long term.
The first thing I work on is an article like this. The second thing I work on is an article for a client. And the third thing could be anything else I’ve got on the go – another client piece, a podcast episode, a video, some music, website work, book writing, course creation, or otherwise.
Instead of working a few minutes here and 40 minutes there on these things, I get to give a couple of hours of focused effort into just a few things. And I make more progress that way long term, even if it looks like I’m getting less done short term.
No Matter Your Ambition Level, 8 Hours Should be More Than Enough
Historian and author C. Northcote Parkinson said:
Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.
That’s Parkinson’s Law.
If he’s right, then it almost certainly means we can accomplish more in less time.
Last year, I experimented with four-hour workdays. And while my clients didn’t seem to appreciate my efficiency (not because the quality of my work suffered, but because they themselves didn’t feel like they could pull off a four-hour workday), I found my focus sharpen like a laser. When I sat down at my desk to work, I was there to work. I systematically shut out distractions and stuck to my hours like my life depended on it.
Eight hours is a lot of time. Especially if you’re adequately systemized and are in the habit of delegating tasks you aren’t good at and don’t want to do. Even if you aren’t, you’d be quite amazed at how much you can get done in that time given half a chance.
So, when you think you’ve got eight hours of work, see if you can condense it down to four hours. If you think you’ve got 12 hours of work, try to do it in eight hours. If you’re crystal clear on what you’re out to accomplish and are deeply focused on what you’re working on, you’ll be surprised to find you can fit more work into less time.
I know that, as a creative or creator, keeping to a four- to six-hour workday can be tough. Some days you’re going to go for 12 hours. Some days you’re going to go for longer. Some days you may only work for two hours. And that’s okay.
But just remember that, after a certain point, you’re not effective. Red-eye domain name buyers usually regret their purchases after the fact. And by that, I mean your overall efficiency and judgment tends to suffer when you aren’t adequately rested.
If nothing else, go back to the 8/8/8 model. Give yourself a proper eight hours of sleep. Give yourself the opportunity to have a social life. And work the other eight hours – but be disciplined, focused, and crystal clear on what you’re setting out to accomplish. You might just find you need less.
How long do you feel you can focus on work in a day? What has worked best for you?
Let me know in the comments.
Shh… Don’t tell anyone. Only the cool kids are talking about it.
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