There’s a lot of advice out there from so-called productivity guru’s about getting things done. As someone who is perhaps slightly obsessed in maximizing every minute of my day, I think it’s fair to say I’ve read a lot of it.
There are a lot of daily challenges out there (30 days to form a habit, 100 day challenge, 365 days of ___, the list goes on). Many people pledge to do something every day for a year, I mean that sounds really amazing, right? Especially writers are given the advice to write every day, no matter what. It’s the idea that over time, a small amount of effort add up. Rather then spending an entire weekend cleaning out a room, it would be far better to just pick it up a little every day.
Sounds great in theory, and yet that approach has a few drawbacks. There are only so many things you can do every day, assuming you have a full time job. According to the internet I should be decluttering, meditating, writing, exercising, doing yoga, the list goes on. To be realistic, if you are going to start a daily thing, you can only do one thing. Not only is it a question of time (but only 20 minutes of meditating!), but also a question of mental fortitude to force yourself to do something you may not really want to do 67 days into the challenge. These things get old fast. And then we feel like failures.
I realized recently that I did a daily challenge in 2016 and didn’t even realize I was doing it. It was training for ironman, and it was all-consuming. I trained nearly every day from January 1st until November 20th; it was my top priority and I got it done. How did I do it? I got more efficient with cooking and other chores, I stopped seeing my friends and that was pretty much the sole focus for the year. But mostly, I wanted to do it, and I had a clear vision of the outcome of all of that training. When it was cold and raining, when I was tired, when I had a long day at work, I focused on that vision. I also had a coach keeping me accountable, and I hate to let people down.
The results were astounding; I never really felt like I was training that hard. Not really harder then I had previously with bike racing; in fact the intensity was far, far less. But I was far more consistent. I showed up, every day.
Now in retrospect, I really see the impact of doing a thing every day; the results you get from that constant day-after-day focus is truly transforming. But it is hard. It means you are willing to sacrifice everything else for it, that it is the priority.
I have big plans for 2017, and I’m realizing I have to apply these same rules to this new endeavor. I need to work at it every day, with focus, intention and a clear vision for the future. I can pull on my triathlon training experience to get myself through the hard times and have perspective on just how tough the journey can be–but also how rewarding.