Around 50 days ago I started The 100 Day Project where I’ve been posting regularly an essay or article here daily and plan to continue doing so until I’ve hit 100…so, carry the one, I’m just over half way. The rationale behind this project is learning to show up, forging a habit of creating and to slay the perfectionism dragon.
Being just over halfway there I thought I’d pause and reflect on lessons learned and what I’ll be doing differently since I’ve learned these things. I hope they can help you as you continue to build a body of matterful work you’re proud of.
7 Lessons Learned Consistently Showing Up:
Momentum is a mindset.
Momentum is a real thing...but not really. It’s a mindset. I can choose if I want to let a day off or a missed opportunity throw me for a loop and let me loose my mental edge and feeling of forward progress. I have a choice on whether I let a broken self commitment send me into a downward spiral or if I have a short memory and fuggedaboudit.
Space and time matter for doing matterful things.
I preach this lesson in my fundraising workshops and have written about it in The Fundraising Playbook — give your work, especially work that often gets marginalized, a space and time to breath on your calendar.
The same principle holds true even more for creative habits like writing or working on your side hustle or developing a skill. These things areoh-so-easy to push off and never get your best attention. The difference between the amateur and the pro is that the pro shows up and shows up and shows up again. Give your thing time and space to on your calendar (preferably the same time each day) to help you show up.
My friend James Clear once told me (in an article on goals and doubling your chances of success):
Simply by writing down a plan that said exactly when and where they intended to exercise, the [study] participants [...] were much more likely to actually follow through [compared to those who did not write down their intentions]...
The researchers discovered that what pulls that desire out of you and turns it into real–world action isn’t your level of motivation, but rather your plan for implementation [...]
In fact, over 100 separate studies in a wide range of experimental situations have come to the same conclusion: people who explicitly state when and where their new behaviors are going to happen are much more likely to stick to their goals.
You're 2-3 times more likely to do a thing if you actually write down when and where you'll do it. I've found this to be true in this writing habit. When I preemptively write down in my calendar when I'll be writing and/or make a plan to do my writing in the morning and build it into my morning expectations and routine, I produce better, more consistent work.
Maximize time you do have.
Even though space and time matter, there are just some weeks when finding time to write every day seems nearly impossible.
There have been times where I must maximize smaller chunks of time to structure my posts. While finding 20 minutes here, 20 minutes there to compose my thoughts or musings isn’t ideal, it is good practice at self discipline and the art of using your constraints to your advantage. By self-discipline I mean the discipline to get into the work quickly and cut to the chase clearly. When you have limited constraints (in this case limited time), it forces you to cut out the unnecessary and the fluffy. I don’t get to waste time looking for the perfect header picture or getting distracted on the internet while “doing research” for a post.
Things inevitably take longer than you think.
I suck at estimating how long I think something is going to take. I’m not sure if this is a human thing or just me, but every time I approach a post I have this idea that my thoughts will magically appear on the screen in a wonderful and effortless way and only take me a half hour.
In, like, 150 posts this has never been the case. Sometimes it takes me twice that long, usually 3 or 4 times that long.
Learning to reframe my expectations has been massively helpful. With appropriate expectations I can schedule accordingly so less late nights writing, and begin capturing post ideas and outlines throughout the day in Evernote. These have significantly cut down on my surprise when the genius seems to be taking longer than I think it should!
Writing and Publishing and Marketing aren’t the same thing.
One important part of The 100 Day Project is showing your work. Specifically, I’ve committed to not only writing every day but also publishing my writings publicly on this blog and sharing on Instagram each time I do. Oh yeah, and I’ve got an email newsletter which goes out about every week or so with relevant posts too.
I’ve learned that a heck of lot more goes into publishing and 'marketing' a post than just typing. Especially if I want my work to be seen and ideas to spread and connection to be made.
For this daily habit it’s been difficult to write, format, find relevant license-free images, format for IG, write up IG caption, and post and share across platforms and email. For this project I’ll be doubling down on the habit of writing and have grown in my understanding in the time and energy necessary to truly be an effective content marketer. It takes a lot of stinking time. Plan accordingly.
I’m beginning to see where I hide.
Which is to say I am not more effective at mitigating this “hiding” to be more effective at shipping the work.
Once I can identify how/where I hide from "just shipping it" — that is, getting my work out to the world regardless of imperfection — the more effective I will be overall as a thought leader and communicator. Personally, where I tend to hide is in the formatting and the finding the right photos for posts and aesthetic things like that. I can say it’s attention to detail, but I really think it’s my subconscious hiding. In reality these things matter very little, but I tend to linger and obsess over them instead of getting my thoughts out there.
I’ve gotten much better at identifying when I’m doing this and I’ll even call it out: “Dan, quit hiding! Let’s goo!”
Where I used to let a post sit in my “Work In Progress” notebook in Evernote, I’m finding that pushing through this perfectionism and getting my work out to the world is a muscle that needs to be exercised in order to grow.
Editorial theme (will eventually) matter.
One of the last lessons I’m learning is that the theme and arch from post to post matter. This project, in large part, was structured to help me find my voice and identify certain themes to weave into my work going forward. Through this daily writing I’ve realized that just writing whatever I want to, whatever is on my mind, whatever the spirit leads me to, results in less flow and continuity from post to post.
Not that each post must be the same, but I’d like some intentional editorial focus week to week, month to month, year to year in the long run. I have yet to do anything to remedy this issue just yet, because the purpose of the 100 Day Project (for me) is to simply shut up, sit down, and type. It’s habit building. It’s putting in the reps. But I’m seeing the need and value of having a focused approach to what I publish. I recently put together an editorial calendar for our blog, social, and email communication at our nonprofit. After these 100 days, I will be building my own editorial calendar to make sure I’m effectively communicating with a continuity and clarity across all relevant platforms with a clear message.
Now, I'm sure there a plenty of more lessons that have and will be learned from building, but these are the one's that first came to mind. (Plus I only had like an hour before the Cavs' NBA Finals Game 7 to structure this - remember lesson 3 above :))
Thanks to those who’ve joined the newsletter, followed along on IG, and have been providing input and encouragement. I hope the insight you find here makes you a more courageous leader, more effective creator within your org, and challenges you to fully allow your faith to inform how you approach your everyday work.
Til tomorrow, stay gold.