What You Can Learn From A Blogging Failure

The Summer and Fall of 2015 were wonderful. Not only was I able to come home and join my wife in working full-time on our photography business, I also began writing again. Rejoining the blogging world was invigorating. It has been so good for my heart and soul. As the clock struck midnight and 2015 faded to black I was overjoyed to see what the new year would bring. Fast forward a few months and while much of the year has been amazing, the blog has been touch and go at best. Posts have been infrequent and I haven't been writing with any form of regularity.    

Why write?

Writing is an immensely personal thing. In writing you're translating thousands of thoughts, emotions and ideas from the muddled mess flying around in your head into something clear and intriguing. Letters, words, sentences and paragraphs that communicate something going on in you to the big old world out there. Maybe you noticed something while out on a walk, overheard a conversation in the grocery store or experienced something that got your mind twirling. Whatever it is, you have to write about it. Not because your thoughts, insights and quirky humor are better that others but for the simple reason that writing is what you do. You may not be good at a lot of things, heck you may not even be a "good" writer, but you process the events and emotions of life by putting words on a page. There is rarely anything so exhilarating as that rare moment when you communicate exactly what you're experiencing, or thinking in just the right sequence of words. It might not be Shakespeare but its about as close as you'll ever come. When that moment arrives, few things are as magical. 

Your writing goes far beyond mere expression and processing, it is an avenue to help, encourage and serve others. There are what 8 billion people in the world, a large swath of whom have internet access. It is safe to say that there are quite likely many other people walking through the exact same things as you are each and every day. Will all of them find your dinky little blog and read it? No they won't. What if however your writing finds it's way into the hands of one person somewhere in the world you've never met and most likely never will and it helps them? How marvelous an outcome would that be? I can think of no better outcome for my writing than for the words and sentences I slam together to in some small way help, uplift and encourage another. 

What makes writing so hard?

Few things are as terrifying as a white blank page. It can be utterly paralyzing. You freeze. You don't know where to begin, what to say or even how to say it. Paralyzing fear sets in and you can now think of a thousand other things you'd rather be doing than staring at this blank page, and pounding your head into the desk hoping words will come out. At that moment you wouldn't care what words came out. Any words will do. You are simply and utterly terrified. 

Sound familiar? I know it sure does to me. That is my life most days. I sit down to write and.....nothing. My mind goes blank and I just sit there staring at the screen hoping something will come to mind. As you talk with most people who enjoy writing you will find this is an entirely normal occurrence. Never mind that it's normal though, it is still down right frustrating. You want to write, you even have time set aside for this express purpose, but the words won't flow. And then it hits you. You're over thinking it and making things way harder than they have to be. You realize you don't have to pen a master piece, you just have to get words out of your head and on to the page. Nothing more nothing less. 

What can we learn from it?

I have written very little over the last several months. I've sat down to write, and the words just haven't been there. As I've tried to figure it out and put my finger on exactly what's going on in my heart a few things have stood out to me. 

1. Don't be overly concerned with what other people think. It's a killer. Being over concerned with the thoughts and opinions of others has stopped me from writing all together the last few weeks. The thought has been, "If I don't have anything 'good' and 'helpful' to say, I just won't write anything. After all, I'd hate to write something people dislike, and/or even laugh at. That would just be the worst." In reality, no one cares that much about what you write. Not that many people will read it anyway, so you might as well just write. If by some miracle someone does, so what if they don't like it. The worst that that can come of it, is just that, they don't like it or share it with their friends. That's not such a big deal when you pause to think about it. 

2. Your habits really matter. As I've mentioned, I've really dropped the ball and fallen out of the daily discipline of writing. Normally, I'm all about habits and routines. So much of your personal productivity is tied to the habits you keep. Its time to reconstruct my habits and reinstitute this all too important one into my day. Will I love or even like everything I write? No, but I'll be practicing and improving with each and every key stroke. And that the most important thing.

 3. Some things ebb and flow. One moment ideas, topics, analogies and all around genius seem to come pouring out of you. It just comes so easy. You know what you want to say, the words come quickly and you're done. Sadly, that isn't the case on most occasions. There is a grind to it. Most days you have to keep pushing, keep writing and rewriting until you complete something your satisfied with. 

4. Grace abounds. If you go a few weeks or months without writing consistently, it's not the end of the world. Writing after all is first and foremost a manner of expression and method of processing. The blog monster can be a mean one. One that can be overwhelming and demanding for sure. There can easily be a feeling that you "have to publish" on a particular schedule. Be free to publish on your very own schedule. There are no rules when it comes to blogging. Isn't that great news? You get to use it in whatever way you desire. So don't beat yourself up if you miss a day, a week or even a month. Just crack open journal, notebook or laptop and start writing again. 

The Pareto Principle

You have so much going on that it can be quite overwhelming at times. To make it worse, a lot of what you spend your time doing doesn't add to your bottom line or help you accomplish your goals. With your attention pulled in so many directions it can be hard to keep focused on what truly matters. But how do you break this cycle and cut through the waste so you can focus on the truly important? 

 Vilefredo Pareto just might hold the key to unlocking the magic code to increasing productivity and regaining your sanity.

Never heard of Vilefredo Pareto? You're not alone.  

Vilefredo Pareto was an economist of little note who lived and died Switzerland almost 100 years ago. Not much of his work or life garners our attention. However, at some point in his 75 years of life Pareto stumbled upon a mathematical truth that could truly transform your life.

The Pareto Principle first popped up on my radar while reading The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss a little over a year ago. At it's most simple The Pareto Principle simply states that 80% of outputs come from 20% of inputs. This has been found to be true across all manner of disciplines including time management, customers, and economics.

A few alternative ways to look at the principle include:

• 20% of your customers generate 80% of your income

• 20% of your customers create 80% of you problems

• 80% of your results come from 20% of your effort and time

It drives home the concept of prioritization. What you focus on matters immensely. If you are focusing all of your efforts on the wrong things you won't get the results your working so hard to achieve. You will run yourself ragged with nothing to show. Thankfully, you can learn and apply the 80/20 principle to your life and alter the outcomes you are working so hard to reach.

Pareto and the 80/20 principle will be of most help to you if you leverage them to assess your current efforts. Here are three ways you can apply it:

1. Take stock of current efforts. Write down everything you are doing and outcomes it is producing. Be unattached from the outcomes here, simply list out your activity and how it has impacted your work, life, etc.

2. Reprioritize what's producing. Perhaps you find that phone calls are driving your business and resulting huge returns for you, despite the fact that you make very few. In that case, pick up the phone and start making more calls. The key here is to determine your areas of strength and multiply them.

3. Eliminate waste. Consider cutting those things that are wasting your time and energy. It might be something you think would be generating results but its just sucking up resources. Cut it ruthlessly. Find your inefficiencies and eliminate them. This will free you up to focus on what's actually generating for you.   

These three steps show where to double down and where to eliminate. Apply this principle to your life, get a hold of the few things that truly matter, and see how drastically it transforms things for you. 

Bonus tip:

Develop a "Stop Doing" List

A few weeks back I wrote a series of questions to help you evaluate the items on your "to do" list that pairs well with the Pareto Principle that will be helpful to you. Here is an expert from that post:

"The solution to your crazy schedule and consequently a crazy task list isn't just another list but the process of evaluating exactly what you are doing each day. A "stop doing" list helps you take a cold hard look at what you are doing and literally stop doing those things that are not the most fruitful for you and your team."

Bonus Resource:

For more on the Pareto Principle and other awesome tips that are sure to shatter your world, in a good way, check out The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss

3 Tips That Help Me Get More Done

In this crazy, mixed up and hurried world we find ourselves, we have endless "to do" lists and dozens of other things going on with family and friends. There is little time to spare and the quick pace has us pulling our hair out because we simply can't get it all done.

There are a million different tips to getting more done. Over the last several years, three tips have made an impact on my life and I want to share them with you.

1. Start tomorrow today. Ever arrive at the office or start your day in the fog of indecision? You know you have a ton of things to do, but aren't really sure where to begin? This kind of indecision can be paralyzing. You end up wandering from task to task with no real sense of direction or plan to your day. You spend your day in a passive posture, allowing your day to lead you instead of you leading it. 

Actively engage your day by planning it out the night before. Sit down with pen and paper or your favorite "to do" list app and write down everything you need to accomplish in order to make tomorrow a win. Not only will you find that you sleep more soundly, you'll wake up with purpose. When your feet hit the ground you'll know exactly what to do.      

2. Use email templates. As Barnabas Piper recently stated on the 5 Leadership Questions Podcast, "Email begets email. You send an email it will come back three-fold." Answering email feels like a productive task, but in reality it keeps you from spending your time on what truly matters. The more email you send, the more you receive. Its a never ending cycle. 

One way to decrease the amount of time you spend on email is to create templates for common emails and use them. Better to spend time constructing a good and effective communication once than to repeatedly create ineffective email on the same topic. More on how to take back control of your inbox.  

3. Make fewer decisions. You can't make decision after decision without paying a cost. Many times this cost will be poor decisions at the end of the day. It could be something as small as wrecking your diet by making poor food choices or as major as an emotional decision with big consequences. In either case, you make the poor decision in large part because you have depleated your will power on unimportant things. The road to effectiveness lies in making the minimal number of decisions possible. The objective is not to do as much as possible but to save your decision making for the decisions that truly matter. 

The solution is to automate as much as possible. Much like using templates for email, you can make the seemingly mundane decisions you make each day, such as what to wear and what to eat, ahead of time. Script as many of these decisions as possible. Just as an offensive coordinator scripts the first several plays of the game, you can script the first hour of your day. This will help you begin the day on the right foot and a clean slate for the decisions you will have to make later in the day.  

Bonus tip:

The Sticky Note Trick

If you are overwhelmed by everything on your "to do" list, pick three items and write them on a single sticky note. Next, focus on nothing else but those three tasks until they're done. Then wad up the sticky and throw it away. Repeat until you've conquered your list. 

Bonus Resources: 

How To Get Things Done via Tim Challies

Choice Minimal Lifestyle via Timothy Ferriss