I’m Going to Start Writing Again [The Comeback of My Blog]

There’s a been a lull in my writing. A long one.

In 2014, I just didn’t write much at all.

Partly this is justifiable, but also maybe partly it isn’t.

The reason why it is a bit justifiable is the same reason I would stop reading English books for a bit: to focus on things. Namely studying Chinese, training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, or working and making money.

Priorities are always flip flopping around in life. But, to some extent I’m cool with that. I’m cool with riding a bit of a wave on certain priorities. I’m busy with work this month, then I’m busy with work this month. If I’m not so busy with work, maybe I’m in the gym everyday, training.

While I am cool with these priorities flopping around a bit, I do to some extent wish I was a bit more consistent with things. I don’t really wish I was a robot, but I do wish I was pushing some things out on a more consistent basis.

I’ll use training as an example: going to the gym everyday for a month and then taking the next month off vs. going three days a week consistently for 2 months. Which is better?

Theoretically, I don’t really know. And, personally, I’m cool with, or I want to be cool with to some extent, the former – going everyday for a month, and then chilling for a month. Why? Because it allows for intense focus, and then in the off-time it allows for a focus on something else.

But, there’s also a lot to be said for the later. Going consistently for 2 months certainly does more for building up a habit. It’s not yet quite as automatically as brushing your teeth before bed, but there is something to say about habits that they take less mental focus (i.e.: less decision-making: going to the gym is something I do on these days, therefore it gets done and I’m there before I know it. There’s no internal debate about whether to go or not go going on.) And this is really what a lot of the goals boil down to with habit-building. This is why its nice to have a nice routine.

But, its also nice to shake things up. To break from the routine once in awhile.

There’s no perfect answer to life. There’s no straight line to success.

It looks more like this:

Success

So. I want to write again. Think again. Pretend to be an intellectual. Flesh out my thoughts. Something like that.

Should I write daily? I should. Should I do BJJ daily? I should. Should I study Chinese daily? I should. Should I work everyday so that I have money to do things I want to do? I should.

And, the list builds up again. There’s not enough time in the day for it all. So, I ride the waves. The ebbs and flows.

I do want to be more consistent though.

So, I’m going to write again.

Getting Out of The Loop: Hacking Productivity, Changing Habits, and Being AntiSocial

“These days, I make a huge mistake every day. I start off with the loop: e-mail, Twitter, Facebook, my Amazon rank, my blog stats, my blog comments. Claudia asks me, ‘Did you finish the loop yet?’ And I think it will only take a few seconds but it probably actually takes about twenty minutes. I probably do it ten times a day. That’s two hundred minutes! Three hours and twenty minutes! Ugh.”

That quote is from James Altucher in his new book Choose Yourself. But it could very well be from me.

Actually, these days my loop also includes reddit. So, it’s a little bit different than his.

And, if you use reddit, you know how dangerous having reddit in your loop can be. Sometimes you lose 2 hours. Not just 20 minutes.

Youtube is the same problem if you happen to get it stuck in your loop. Because they “recommend” another video. And then another video. It’s easy to get stuck there.

James is right. It always takes longer than I expect it to take. I always think its going to take mere seconds.

I’m just going to check Facebook to see if there are any messages or notifications. Okay, now I have to check email. Ok… now I have to check Twitter. Then, Reddit…

Then, sometimes I finish the loop and close the computer. And, I didn’t even look up or do whatever it is I opened the computer for.

I don’t remember until after I close it. Cuz I was stuck in the loop.

Then, I remember what I needed to do in the first place. So, I open the computer again. This time, fighting all urges to avoid the loop. To beat the habit.

Productivity 1

Productivity

Habit = Life on Auto-Pilot

That’s what the loop is. It has become. A habit.

The other day I heard someone say that a recent survey determined that 45% of college students’ daily behaviors are done out of habit.

That means only 55% of their daily activities are determined by actually thinking about them.

And these are college students. I imagine the ratio is even more skewed towards habit for corporate drones.

This isn’t necessarily bad. Some habits are good.

I can’t leave the house in the morning without taking a shower, brushing my teeth, or combing my hair.

I mean, I guess I could. I physically could leave the house without doing any of those things. But I would feel really awkward.

Habits ingrained into me by my parents and the society I grew up in.

Even at night it’s a similar story. I can’t go to sleep without brushing my teeth. Or it would feel really awkward.

Those are 27 year old habits now. That’s what normal is to me.

But, those are good habits to have. I have no interest in changing them.

When we were kids, my mom used to have a habit of picking us up from school and driving home.

Sometimes she would say something when she picked us up like, “I have to go to the grocery store before we go home.” I think it was just a warning or something. So we knew we weren’t going straight home. But then she’d keep driving, she’d be almost to our street, almost at our house before she remembered, “Damnit I was supposed to go the grocery store! What am I doing?” And then she’d turn the car around and go to the grocery store.

But going to the grocery store wasn’t the habit. It was the exception. Driving home was the habit. This was a break from the norm. So, it took a lot more conscious effort.

How Long Does It Take to Build or Break a Habit?

habit 2

Old Habit-Change- New Habit

There are all kinds of habits. For example: there’s eating habits.

Some people have bad eating habits. They eat nothing but junk and can’t seem to break it. Some people have good eating habits. I think I have fairly decent eating habits. I don’t eat much junk. I don’t really eat things with sugar in them. I can’t stand the taste of it anymore. Doing so would feel awkward and bad to me.

This wasn’t always the case. In late 2009 I reached a rather hefty 190 lbs. The next year I did P90X twice, back-to-back, and lost 45 lbs.

Part of doing P90X was being conscious about the food I was eating. So, for 180 days I made a very conscious effort to change my eating habits. To cut down on junk food. 180 days. That’s not a short time frame. That’s 180 days of hard work.

3 years later I still can’t really stand eating junk food and I make fairly unconscious decisions (without much effort) to go for more protein and less carbs in my meals on a daily basis. It’s fairly easy for me to do so. It’s habit now. It doesn’t take any effort. But, that wasn’t always the case.

There’s an old saying “it takes 21 days to make a habit”. Maneesh and Derek Johanson both reckon it takes a lot longer than that.

It depends on what the habit it is. And how hard it is for you to develop it. Different habits take different lengths of time to build.

But, if you really want to build a daily habit, forget all of your technology. Forget all of the iPhone apps. Just go with the Jerry Seinfeld trick.

I’m trying to get out of this social media loop habit.

I don’t really want to have to shell out $8/hr. for somebody to slap me.

I’ve found that it helps to write down what I’m doing to do. Pen and paper. I tend to write all of my daily to-do lists on pen and paper these days. As much as I love technology, I think more and more, I’m starting to move away from it. Sometimes, it’s just a distraction.

So, before I open my computer now. I grab a pen and paper and I write down why I am opening my computer. To look up what? To get what?

I write that down first. Then I open the computer. And I have the paper to look at – to remind me what I’m supposed to be doing.

That way I can try to avoid the loop.

Anti-social also helps. Maybe I should use it more.

 

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[For another good post on productivity and improvement, see my post: How I F–ed Up April; And What’s Next on My Plate]

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How I F—ed Up April; And What’s Next On My Plate

I just finished Derek Johanson’s CopyHour course.

I spend most of the past two and half months waking up everyday, going to a coffee shop with my notebook – and handwriting out some of the best performing ads ever. I studied the masters – Gary Bencivenga, Gary Halbert, Jay Abraham. Everyday. For the most part. I got into a nice little rhythm.

Now it’s over. Now what?

It just ended. The ending just happened. The last day. The goal. There was no parade. There was no big party. Just a last ad written.

Now, what do I do? Tomorrow I wake up… and.. what?

I need a new project. Life feels weird without a personal project on the table.

I went from studying Japanese everyday for 3 months to studying copywriting everyday for 2 months. Now what? I need a new plan. And, I have it figured out. I know what I need to do.

No. I said no parade

No. I said no parade

Spreading Yourself Too Thin: How I botched April

There’s been times in life when I took on too many things at once. I did that in the MBA sometimes as well. I learned from it. I knew when I was in Singapore – to keep my focus straight. Then, I moved to Japan and kept my focus on Japanese. Too many focuses leads to too many broken promises. Too many things undone. It’s not even time management as much as it is effort management. You just can’t focus on multiple things at a time. Multitasking fails.

Yet, even knowing this I still make the mistake sometimes. That’s what I did in April. I jumped the gun. The blog had just launched, so I was trying to manage that and maintain a proper post schedule. I was taking on more consulting projects. I was doing the copywriting course every morning. And, then I decided I’d start writing a book too. I launched an IndieGogo campaign around the book. And, I even tried to start studying Chinese as well.

Way too much, dude. It wasn’t long before I realized the mistake. How I got carried away I don’t know. I mean, the reason I included the word ‘focus’ in the name of the blog was because I know how important actual ‘focus’ is to achieving anything and getting anything done.

Yet, even still, I completely botched April. My focus was everywhere. 5784747234 bazillion things at once. Too many new ideas floating around and new projects started.

I caught myself and shut it all down. System re-load.

I chose to focus on finishing up CopyHour – and prioritized it. It needed to be done, since some weeks in April I had fallen to only doing it twice a week – when it was supposed to be an everyday thing.

I focused on that – getting in a morning ritual that included waking up and going to nearby cafe in my pajamas, still with bed-head – to have my morning espresso and write out my ads. Only then did I come back, take a shower, get dressed, and head into the office. The people at the cafe probably think I wear the same t-shirt and shorts everyday. Oh well. That’s my sleeping clothes. Calm down.

I postponed everything else. Learning Chinese? – postponed until later, much to the chargin of my Taipei language exchange buddies. The book? – postponed until later. The IndieGogo campaign? I just totally shutdown promotion of it and let it fizzle out unnoticed. Things can be learned from this. I can be better. It’s all about where you put your focus.

It’s All About Focus

I think that longer-term focus needs to thought of in the same light as multitasking. The latest research in multi-tasking shows that beyond two tasks, our effectiveness drops tremendously. I think the same applies to longer-term projects. That means that if your work/job is taking up some of your focus, then you only have room for one other thing – one personal project. Not millions.

Multi-tasking = time waste

This is one reason New Year’s Resolutions commonly fail. People underestimate the amount of focus that taking on a completely new project takes. They also probably overestimate the amount of focus they have to go around. Which, is probably not much if you have a life full of other things. New projects, if you want to actually complete them, have to be prioritized above EVERYTHING ELSE.

If you’re trying to do something completely new, something you are unaccustomed to doing, and you can’t prioritize it above EVERYTHING else. I’d bet money that you don’t follow through – that you don’t finish. This is what usually happens. [But, once you’re accustomed to doing something, it’s Easy Like Accounting.]

It’s all about focus. And a completely new habit takes a tremendous amount of focus. You have to be prepared for that going in.

So, that’s why I prioritized CopyHour. The blog was still new, still taking a lot of focus – it’s not running on autopilot yet. Writing a book would take tremendous amounts of focus. Learning Chinese would take tremendous amounts of focus. It all had to fall back.

Now, What’s Next?

So, now I did it. I finished up CopyHour. Now, I need a new project.

Oh, and my time in Taipei is winding down. I need a new destination.

Nothing too special – just going back to Singapore. And then back to Tokyo. [Wish you could travel like that?]

Oh, and my new project is just to continue to improve my writing. I’m going to take what I learned from copywriting exercises and apply to other types of writing as well. Mainly, blog posts. For now. But, the book will still come later.

In case, you are wondering, here’s the daily schedule for the next month:

  1. Wake up, write 3 pages of uninhibited thought (The Morning Pages)
  2. Copy a favorite or well-performing blogpost or article.
  3. Write a blogpost – 1,000+ words

Steps 1&2 are handwritten. Step 3, typed of course.

Also to note: this does not mean I’ll be posting to the blog 7 days a week now. I’ll maintain my normal post volume of twice a week. It just means I’ll be writing 7 days a week. Mainly to work on getting into the habit of writing and to improve my writing. Most of these posts will probably never see the light of day.

Every day

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