Here’s what happened when I tried to pubilsh a new post everyday for a month
In June 2016 I embarked on a project to publish a blog post every day for 30 days. I wrote all posts directly in Medium’s writing interface and posted everything in a little publication on called ‘The Daily Blog‘.
I’d never tried anything like this before. I typically post something once per month and all my articles are planned out and researched so the frequency of writing and putting my ideas on paper without reading or reflecting on other literature were both really challenging.
So, how did it go? Well, like I said the frequency was challenging and I let life get in the way, so out of 30 days I actually only published an article on 20 days. I found out that I know more than I think about most topics I write about, so perhaps I should rely less on literature and write more about my experiences and ideas. And finally, the public commitment to publish something daily was both a help and a hinderance to my creative flow and intellectual process ie. somedays I was able to type away and publish something great and other days I could barely write anything at all.
In this post you’ll find everything I published during my 30 day writing project. Some of what you’re about to read are some ideas that are in their infancy and that I’ll likely use as the foundation for future articles; some are stuff I’ve been written about before which I’ve elaborated on or written in a different way; and others are literally what ever was going through my mind at the time. All are authentic and honest.
I’m publishing a blog post daily for 30 days just to see what happens.
When was the last time you tried something new? When was the last time you tried something for the first time? When was the last time you did something for yourself?
It’s so easy to get caught up in the monotony of our day-to-day lives.
Wake up → eat → commute → work → eat → work → commute → exercise → eat → read → sleep → wake up → etc. etc. etc.
Well, I’m changing something. I’m trying something new. I’m trying something for the first time. I’m doing something for myself.
For the next 30 days I’m publishing a blog post daily. Just to see what happens. I have no idea what has compelled me to do this. I do know that it feels right in this moment (as I’m writing) and that in the spirit of this project I will hit the publish button as soon as I’m finished writing — just so I’m made accountable.
As I write this it’s around 930pm on a Sunday night. My daughter is asleep. I’ve said goodnight over the phone to my dear wife who is currently overseas on business.
As I sat here a moment ago ready to close the lid on my Mac, I had an urge to write. What you’re reading is the result of that urge. It feels good. It feels good to be unfiltered. Unedited. Un… whatever.
See what I did there? I couldn’t complete my thought, but I wrote it and you read it. That’s creative freedom, no? Wow. This is going to be fun.
My new project
I’m publishing a blog post daily for the next 30 days just to see what happens. Just to make sure there’s some kind of consistency and accountability, here are a few rules:
- I will only publish on Medium, in a new publication I created just for this project: The Daily Blog. (visit the publication and press Follow to keep up).
- I will only write directly into the Medium writing tool.
- I will only edit posts minimally. Means spell check is OK, but using my editor, restructuring to improve readability or filtering my voice by changing anything that I’ve written is not.
- I will publish a post everyday for 30 days.
I’m not sure what I will write about. It will be whatever I feel like at the time. But knowing me it’s likely to be in the realm of the following:
- Personal development
- Career building
- Social impact
So, here it goes. 1 post. Daily. For 30 days.
Wish me luck.
To follow along, follow my publication: The Daily Blog on Medium.
Day 1: Stop being so inclusive!
The past decade has seen management transition from top-down, authoritarian style leadership toward more inclusive, empowering, bottom-up management that respects the opinion and talent of the individuals in the team and relies on their wisdom and experience over that of the manager’s.
You can see evidence of this everywhere you look. Just think Zapo’s and their restructure into a holacracy or Buffer and their policies around radical transparency and remote work.
This is all well and good and as an inclusive manager, who works from behind the scenes as much as possible, I’m a strong advocate for empowering teams to create and lead. But, I think we have to be careful about how and where we implement such change in an organisation.
Here are a few quick thoughts.
We need to be realistic about what types of organisations can handle or are suited to flat management structures. The army for example is just not one of them. Neither, I would argue are most non-profits, service providers, government departments or businesses under a certain size.
The majority of organisations that are successfully transitioning toward flat management are creative or sales based businesses, who can afford or who even rely on empowering their staff to drive their business.
We also need to recognise that the majority of our workforce are not capable of taking on the responsibilities of a flat management structure. Don’t get me wrong. I believe in empowering people to create their own destiny, including at work. But, our education system, the one that was set up at the beginning of the industrial revolution to train obedient factory workers is failing the new economy and its workers, the majority of whom struggle with uncertainty, creativity, collaboration and leadership. All the qualities we need right now.
Until we find a solution for our terrible education system, we will not be able produce a workforce capable of thinking for themselves and our efforts to empower them will fail.
So, by all means press on with your empowerment agenda or your restructure. Give your teams the power to input and create. Turn your managers into facilitators. But, be careful. Know who you’re dealing with and the environment in-which you work. It’s unfair to set people up who aren’t ready, in an organisation that doesn’t fit the mould, for failure.
Until such time as we’ve figured these things out, don’t feel the need to hand your power as a manager over to your team. At least not all of it. For now, they still rely on you to give them guidance and make the tough decisions.
Day 2: Please, procrastinate.
I’ve struggled with procrastination my whole life. At least that’s what I tell myself now. That’s what people say about me now. “Oh Ryan, you’re such a procrastinator.” But, when I was young, I was called lazy. I even referred to myself as lazy.
I recently had a realisation that I think all so-called ‘procrastinators’ should have. One that has changed the way I look at my work and the way I do it, my behaviours and my output. As it turns out, I’m not a procrastinator, I’m just intuitively smarter and more productive than non-procrastinators. Let me explain.
In 1955 The Economist published an article written by Cyril Northcote Parkinson about his experience and observations of the British public service.
These observations included that the public service had a tendency to grow, year on year, not in response to there being more and more work to be done, but because of the availability to resources to grow it.
He also noted that bureaucrats liked to create non-essential work for one another and expand their teams so they would be in the company of more allies than enemies. But I digress.
Parkinson’s observations have come to be known as Parkinson’s Law, which over time and within the productivity realm looks and sounds like this:
“Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”
Essentially, this means that demand upon a resource tends to expand to match the supply of the resource. The reverse is never true. No matter which way you look at it or say it, this law gives incredible power to procrastinators.
Are we procrastinators lazy? Or, as I now like to believe, do we just intuitively know that our efforts to complete a task well before its deadline will be in vain? That my efforts will be much greater and the time spent on a task will be much longer if I start a task now, than if I start later. And, that no matter when I start, the task will inevitably get done, but that by starting it later I’m doing it more efficiently.
So, I encourage you. Please, procrastinate. At least just sometimes. If you wait until the last minute, it only takes a minute to do.
Day 3: Surround yourself with inspiring aspirers of greatness.
I love the saying “…you are the sum of the 5 people you spend the most time with.” In practice what I think this means is that you will become what your friends or family are.
If you spend time with people who are not interested in making themselves better, they’re not likely to support you to be better and you’ll likely give up.
If the people you spend your time with spend their time complaining about their situation, be it a bad relationship or a job they hate, rather than doing something about it, it’s likely that you too will give up on making the changes you need to realise your dreams.
On the flip side, if you surround yourself with people who are positive and who themselves see value in personal development, they’re likely to support your efforts to be better and you will have a better chance of being successful in these endeavours.
This is such an important lesson to learn if you really want to improve yourself, your job, level of pay, health, diet, fitness, standard of living and so on.
So, who are you the sum of? Are they holding you back, or do they support you to be your best self? Surround yourself with inspiring aspirers of greatness and life gets better. I promise.
Day 4: How to stop holding back.
Let’s take a look around at our heroes. The people we look up to and admire. Everything seems to come to them so easily, right?
Whether it’s in the media, in a particular field or industry or at work and in our social group. The people we see around us seem to have it easier. They’re achieving more than we are.
They’re managing teams or running their own business. They’re leaders in their field or on the fast track to promotion. They seem to have more time to follow their passions or get into better physical shape than us.
It’s as if they don’t need to try as hard. Like they don’t have the same barriers to achieving their goals that we do to achieving ours. Well, I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this (no, actually, I’m delighted) but that’s bullshit. And, it’s all an excuse.
Everyone of us have our own set of challenges and barriers to achieving what we want. It’s just that as individuals with unique backgrounds, world-views and circumstances, our challenges differ from one another.
The difference between you and the so-called ‘successful’ person or people you admire is not that they have it easier. It’s that they’ve learned that achievement isn’t just about working hard on the thing they want to achieve. It’s also about acknowledging, processing and overcoming their innate, emotional responses to the barriers they face.
Fear. Frustration. Confusion. Hopelessness. Depression. Anger. Everyone, no mater their background, social position or whatever have you, feels and experiences these emotions when faced with a challenge.
Once we know that dealing with these emotions is part of the journey, we can work purposefully to overcome our obstacles. We can stop holding ourselves back.
Day 5: “Everything in moderation” doesn’t work.
I can’t do moderation.
Sugary foods. Lazing. Drinking. Fast food. All the things I know I should only do or consume in moderation, I just can’t help but binge-on on a regular basis.
I’m not programmed for self-control. I’m not capable of making the small decisions that determine my behaviours or lifestyle. But I can avoid binging and create a healthier lifestyle in other ways.
Here’s a few things I’ve tried:
- Plan your meals, your day and your life.
- Create routines so you can auto-pilot those little decisions that get you unstuck.
- Reduce decision fatigue by reducing your options.
- Practice abstinence-binging by going completely without your vices for a period of time.
- Habitualise what’s important, like exercise, your diet and your work practices.
These are the tactics I use to overcome my vices. I’m not perfect, but I find that they work when I focus on them. And, here I go again, with another attempt.
Wish me luck!
Day 6: This is why you’re not getting promoted!
In every profession, in every organisation there are a covert set of rules and norms that define their culture. When you are able to figure those norms out, navigate them and participate in them, you are more likely to be successful.
Where the opposite is true, obviously the opposite is true.
Pay attention to these things to figure out what you need to do and the way you need to present in order to fit in, stand out and catch the attention of the people that matter:
- Dress code — go a level above whatever you currently wear. Dress for the job you want, not the one you have.
- Comings and goings — how much time do other’s spend in the office? Try and get in a little earlier and stay a little later than most.
- Side projects — is it the norm for people to work on projects outside of their usual job? Even if it’s not, you should anyway. Try and think of one good idea every month, put it into a project plan and present your idea to your boss.
- Levelling up qualifications — are the people around you studying for post-grad quals or to gain new skills? Even if they aren’t, you should. It can mean the difference between a promotion or stagnation.
- Networking — are people having coffee? Are there cliques and social groups? If so, get involved. Pick one new person every month and buy them a coffee. Ask lots of questions and listen with the intention of learning.
Finally, just be really nice to everyone, no matter their role, position or level. Niceness is currency in almost all organisations.
Day 7: And on the 7th Day, he regretted making such a bold commitment.
So, I’m seven days into my little project to publish a blog post everyday for 30 days. I’ve learned a few things.
- Writing everyday is tough. Publishing something everyday is tougher.
- Keeping blog posts honest and authentic is difficult. I’m used to writing long form, and giving myself time to structure and craft my writing.
- I’m proud that I’ve stuck to my commitment.
- I’ve got more ideas than I thought. It’s just a matter of harnessing and articulating them.
I don’t actually regret making this commitment. At least not all the time. But there have been times over the last seven days when I’ve thought about packing it in. I mean who would notice, right?
Well, I would. I’ll keep on keeping on. I’ll share more learnings in another seven days or so. See you on day eight.
Day 8: 4 tools I use to level up my productivity.
Being productive at work is very important to me for a number of reasons. Her are two:
- I get a sense of satisfaction from performing a task or number of tasks efficiently.
- The more productive I am, the more time I have to pursue personal projects and spend time with my family.
I use a number of tools to support my productivity system. Here they are:
- The Bullet Journal — a system for turning a regular notebook into an organised vessel for notes, creative exploration, project planning and to-do lists. The system is flexible and can be re-imagined to suit your needs.
- Evernote — an incredible app that does so much more than I have time or space to explain here, that I can access anywhere on any device. A small part of it’s capacity and capability lies in note-taking, long form writing, brain storming, photographic document scanning and storage of receipts and business cards for example. If you’re not using it, you’re seriously missing out!
- Asana — a cloud based project planning app that helps me organise all my work and my team’s work in one place. I can access it anywhere, task my team, be tasked by my team, plan projects and keep tasks achievable and realistic by assigning them to someone along with a deadline for completion. I also use it to create agenda’s for team meetings. It’s very flexible and will reduce the need for email by removing tasking and conversations about tasking from your inbox.
- The pomodoro technique — a time management technique for focussed work, that allows me to use time to my advantage. There are plenty of iterations of this practice but I do it like this: I set a timer for 20 minutes and work on a task or set of previously planed tasks for that entire time. When the timer goes off I set the timer again for 10 minutes, during which time I have a break. When the timer goes off I set the timer again for 20 minutes and repeat. I’ll try and do 3 to 4 pomodoros in a row before taking a longer break. I’ve read that the original pomodoro worked with a 25 minutes work to 5 minutes break ratio. I find that 20 and 10 works best for me. The key is to try and stay as focussed as possible during the work phase for levelled up productivity.
If you don’t use these tools for your own productivity system I encourage you to give them a try. They just might change your life.
Day 9: How to escape the noise and get work done.
We live in a world full of noise and distraction.
Escaping the noise and being present with one’s own thoughts gives clarity, energy, greater focus and increases creativity. In order to tune-in to your work, try these tricks for tuning-out of everything else:
- Use the mornings — wake up early/get to work early and work while no one else is around to bother you.
- Go for a walk at lunch — there’s plenty of research out there that shows that a midday walk increased productivity and creativity. It only takes 10 minutes and you should do it by yourself, without your devices or headphones.
- Take showers — of course you take showers, but I guess what I’m saying is use them. Use them as a space to empty your head and allow those ‘ah-ha’ moments to take you by surprise.
- Turn notifications off — you don’t need to know about it every time your bestie posts something on Facebook. It’s distraction. There’s a time and a place for social media, and it’s not all the time. Turn off notifications and set aside time to check in on social media when you don’t need to focus on other things.
Day 10: A single trick to cut email traffic and save you time.
A number of years ago I developed this little trick to help keep my inbox under control.
As a manager, I was Cc’d into a lot of emails. I wasted quite a bit of time opening and reading them, only to find out that there was little if any value inside.
After reaching breaking point (ie. an inbox with thousands of emails) I had an epiphany which has since helped me avoid this time suck. Here’s what I did, and what you can do too to reduce email traffic and save time:
- Create a new folder and call it ‘Cc Inbox’.
- Create a rule that sends all emails you’re Cc’d into directly to that folder.
- Quickly skim through that folder once a day just to stay up to date, and check it more thoroughly before any meeting with your boss, just so you don’t miss anything from her.
I know, it sounds too simple a trick to make a difference, but if like me you are Cc’d into a lot of emails, this will really help.
Day 11: Never give up: lessons for defeating failure.
I’ve always been creature of habit. Just not very good ones. I’ve tried in the past to change my habits, from bad to good, but they’ve never stuck.
I have been through phases when I’ve gone to the gym on a regular basis, but never for more than a few months. I’ve eaten really well for periods, but again, never for more than a few months. The time in between these attempts at being better have always been much longer. For example, up until recently, I hadn’t been to the gym for a number of years.
In the past, I’ve gotten really down on myself for my failure to stick to new routines and habits. Sometimes even diving into depression. But I think I’m starting to see the light. Despite my self loathing, it turns out I have picked up new (good) habits. And, I am making progress in a bunch of areas of my life that are important to me, like physical wellbeing and healthy eating. I even gave up smoking a few years ago.
To get to the point, the lessons I’ve learned are these:
Failure is a necessary step along the journey to success.
If it’s important to you, you will find a way.
Reflection is key to moving forward.
The problem I, and most people have is that we decide that a failure means the end of something. We decide to stop after a failure. Miss a gym session — stop going all together. Consume some pizza and beer with some mates — forget the diet all together.
This is not the way to make progress.
The opportunity failure gives us is the opportunity to reflect on what we did, see why it didn’t work, and decide to do it differently in the future.
I was a smoker for over a decade. After my daughter was born, I decided I wanted to stop. Mainly because she made me want to live longer so I could be with her as long as possible, but also because I didn’t want to set a bad example. I didn’t want her to be a smoker.
She was one and a half years old by the time I actually stopped for the last time. During that time I tried a bunch of times, and failed. But it was so important to me that I kept trying. Over time and upon reflection, I identified the triggers that made me smoke again and I was able to mitigate them on subsequent attempts. Once I’d learned what I needed to about how to stop for good, I succeeded. I can’t imagine smoking again.
I recently started going to the gym again, thanks to my best mate, a total gym junkie, who encouraged and bugged me until I agreed. After a week or so of going along, I came down sick with a virus and wasn’t able to go for about a week. In the past I would have let this derail me. I would have made excuses about why I can’t keep going. But this time, I continued. I picked up where I’d left off and went back again.
I realised that in this instance the only reason I stopped going to the gym was because I was physically unable to even walk let alone lift something heavy. Once I got better, the barrier was gone. It’s important to me to be in better physical shape and better health, so I started again. I’m now another two weeks into regular gym sessions (at least 3 per week) and loving it.
This approach can be applied to any barrier. If I decide not to go the gym because I don’t have the time, that’s OK. But as soon as I have time again, I need to go again. I can change gym-time to the morning, or the evening, or at lunch time. I have the time, I just have to make it. And since it’s important to me, I will. I’m hoping to make this habit stick for longer than a few months this time.
This probably all sounds over-simplified, but I’ve realised that it is this simple. So I will persist. No longer will failure stop me. It will help me. I will learn from it. And, I will succeed.
Failure is a necessary step along the journey to success.
If it’s important to you, you will find a way.
Reflection is key to moving forward.
Day 12: How to get promoted at work by being a better leader.
Leadership is not a position, role or job title. Many people believe that leadership can only be practiced once they’re in a management position or position of power. Far from the truth.
At work, leadership is a critical piece of the puzzle if you want to get promoted and move up the ladder. But, if you’re not in a management role it can be difficult to know when and how to show leadership.
If you can only do one thing to show your leadership potential, make it this:
Be an awesome follower!
Support your manager and her manager. Do the work that counts. Contribute to conversations at a high level. Help rally the troops around important projects. Ask tough questions. Be a good sounding board for your boss by seeing the bigger picture and providing honest, constructive, critical reflection and advice.
There’s a lot more to good followership, but these things should get you started. To learn more, Google it.
Day 13: The work you do comes down to a choice between these two things.
Every piece of work you do, everyday, is either urgent or important.
Urgent work is the stuff that comes up out of no where on a daily basis. Emails you need to respond to, crises that appear, last minute meetings et cetera.
Important work is the stuff you do that fits into the bigger picture or your strategic plan and that helps you achieve your goals. This is stuff like project planning, content creation, product design et cetera.
Urgent work is the stuff that gets in the way of progress. Important work is the stuff that drives progress. The more you focus on doing the important stuff, the less urgent stuff will come up. The opposite is never true.
(This post is inspired by a small article written by Seth Godin. I don’t have the link right now, but if you Google “urgent vs important” and the name Seth Godin, I’m sure you’ll find it. PS: it’s worth searching for.)
Day 14: Make time and space for nothing.
It’s around 6:40am as I’m writing this. It’s still and quiet. If I sit and listen, all I can hear are the birds and every now-and-then a car driving slowly and quietly down the street — thoughtful tradies trying not to wake the neighbours as they head-off for work.
My alarm went off at 5:00am, but it was quickly reset and I kept sleeping until around 5:30am — it’s a little cool this morning and curling up in bed a little longer was an irresistible treat. I’ve been up and moving around the house since about 5:45am. I drank some water and a protein shake, made my daughter’s school lunch, ironed my shirt for work and now I’m at my computer.
For the next 20 minutes I don’t have anything in particular to do. If it weren’t for my commitment to publish something on Medium everyday, I’m not even sure I’d be writing right now. But I could be if I wanted to. And that’s the point.
For a long time mornings were the worst part of my day. I hated them. I felt crappy and really struggled to wake up, get out of bed and start my day. This is no longer the case. Over the past few months I’ve change a lot about my habits and routines. I eat better, exercise more and without any more effort than deciding it was important to me, I wake up earlier and happier.
There are a lot of reasons I’ve made these changes, and they run concurrent with a number of decisions and changes my wife and I have made that are designed to slow us down and enjoy life more. No matter the reason, I’m so glad I’ve made getting up early a priority. Because this time, right now, with the sun peaking over the hill, the birds singing and the time and space for nothing in particular is truely amazing.
I am truely grateful for this moment.
Life is busy, and it’s so easy to lose track of what’s important. Getting up earlier with the specific purpose of spending at least some time, any time, even 20 minutes with the freedom to do nothing, or exercise, or meditate, or read et cetera, is one of the greatest gifts you can give to yourself.
Day 15: Take breaks.
In January of this year I started working for an Australian not-for-profit, building a brand new mental health service for young people in a regional town.
I love it. It’s one of the best jobs I’ve ever had. I work alongside great people and get to combine my love of building things with my passion for doing work that supports the vulnerable.
But, it’s tough work and it’s been almost six months straight without a break. I am tired. Taking breaks, going on holiday, vacationing, going on leave – so important. So, today was my last day in the office for two weeks. I’m taking a much needed break.
Burnout strikes when you least expect it. You can feel fine one week and the next struggle to get out of bed. Burnout affects your productivity. You think you’re doing the right thing by working through, but you’re not.
You’re letting your team, your project and yourself down when you try to work through burnout. So go on holidays. Recharge. Everyone needs it and you’re not performing at your best if you don’t.
Day 16: How to be a more considerate flyer.
I love to travel. I love flying in particular for a host of reasons. There is however one thing in particular that I hate about flying. Inconsiderate people.
You know the type. They’re arriving late to their gate, holding up lines, and invading your space. And, they’re everywhere and on every flight.
Please be advised, inconsiderate flyer: I hate you.
Here are a set of rules you need to follow from now on. Do so and we can be friends. Don’t and I’m afraid I may have to kill you. You’ve been warned.
- Shower and brush your teeth before leaving the house or hotel room. You’re about to spend hours in an enclosed space with recycled air and a bunch of strangers. You should at minimum be odour neutral.
- Arrive at the desk for check-in and to your gate on time. And by on time I mean half an hour early.
- Be prepared before you enter the line at security. Take off your shoes, belt and hat. Remove your laptop and any liquids from your bag and put them in a tray. Now you may enter the line.
- Go to the bathroom before getting on the plane. I shouldn’t need to let you out into the isle just after take off.
- Keep your knees and elbows to yourself. Like you, I have exclusive rights to the space, including the air, that exists where my seat starts and finishes, from floor to ceiling.
- Never, ever recline your seat in Economy. Ever!
Thank you for being a more considerate traveller.
Day 17: You can’t micro-manage company culture.
Great company culture builds and sustains organically through both conscious and subconscious group efforts and actions.
You, dear manager, cannot control it. But, you can influence it.
A culture is built around the lowest standard you’ll tolerate. Keep high standards and your culture will have a sound foundation.
Day 18: A mentor’s real job.
Q. What is a mentor’s real job?
A. To make you feel like a grown up. Like a capable and talented human being. To take you seriously despite your age or inexperience. To see and guide your potential.
Day 19: Be direct, don’t jar judgement, be frank and fearless.
In an episode of his startup podcast series, Seth Godin says that too often people use 100 words to explain something that really only takes 10 words to explain.
The reason he says is that the extra 90 words are to hide the truth of what we’re saying because we’re afraid that if we only say the 10 words, people will tell us we should be ashamed of ourselves.
I see this all the time. There is value in using tact, especially when you’re giving feedback for example, to someone who is your superior. But, you shouldn’t let a situation or a relational dynamic, like a worker — boss relationship lead you to compromise your values.
You should never beat around the bush. You should never hold back constructive feedback. You should never fear the repercussions of being true to your values. You should always be honest.
This is what it means to have integrity.
Day 20: You have to stick it out.
I’m all-too-guilty of failing to follow through with ideas and projects.
Today, for the first time since March, I sent out my “monthly” email newsletter, Future of Work Monthly. I was going to send it out last month but I was embarrassed that I hadn’t kept to my promise of monthly distribution.
Likewise, while undertaking this “Daily Blog” project, I’ve failed to actually write everyday. Instead, when I’ve missed a day or two I’ve just batched a few posts in a row.
Today I looked through some old folders on my Mac. I found a hand full of ebooks I never finished, a heap of blog posts I half wrote and a few business ideas that I let slip from my grasp. I guess these are next on my list of follow ups.
Anyway, I guess my point is that, despite my inconsistency, I keep on keeping on. I’ve read that this is one of the keys to success. I’ll keep doing what I’m doing, try and be more consistent in the meantime, and cross my fingers that dedication helps get me over the line.