240 Mornings

240 Mornings

Now that we’re coming to the end of the year everyone is doing their annual planning and review (us included). The biggest problem I’ve had doing these in the past is that I overcommit myself to what can actually be accomplished.

I expect myself to be able to create too much content every week, when realistically I can usually only complete one shippable piece of written, audio, or video content a day (if that).

On a given day you may easily start or work on multiple things, but actually completing them takes the most amount of work and focus.

Yes, in a single day, you may outline a blog post, record a podcast interview, and shoot some of a video, but try to think of a single day where you actually shipped or scheduled more than one piece of content.

Can you even think of that happening once?

In this essay I’m going to share why you need to be deliberate with both what you spend your most focused time doing and how you make sure it happens everyday.

Eat the Frog

Brian Tracy, author of the book Eat That Frog!, says you should be doing your most important task for the day first thing in the morning.

On average there are 260 weekdays a year, counting holidays and vacations. If you take away those, you’re left with 240 mornings to get things done. 240 mornings to do your most important tasks. That is only 20 large, creative tasks a month.

If you’ve committed to doing one blog post a week and one podcast or video a week, that already gets you to 104 of your 240 tasks for the year. Not to mention if one of those posts or podcasts or videos takes more than one day to make. Nearly 50% of your creative output. Half your year. Gone.

Instead of starting your to do list with 10 to 20 tasks that you’ll get done, why not plan out your day by choosing just one thing to create and complete today? Then after you’ve finished it, sit down and make the huge list of tasks for the rest of the day.

  • Plan your week by choosing the five things things you’ll create.
  • Plan your month by choosing the twenty things you’ll create.
  • Plan your year by choosing the two hundred forty things you’ll create.

Make these tasks the most important pieces of content that you can make to grow your business, audience, and revenue. But how can you make sure they actually get done each day?

Treat Your Creation Time as Sacred

As a creative, you must treat the time of your day that you work best as sacred. Whether that is first thing in the morning or late at night, nothing should get in the way you of you actually creating, everyday.

The problem is that unless you specifically block off that time on your calendar (which is the only really “sacred” place for time commitments these days), it won’t happen. You end up forcing your best and most important work (writing, podcasting, video production) in between meetings, errands, and other less important tasks in the middle of your day.

If you instead determine what time of day you think and create best (for me that is first thing in the morning), you’ll create more great art on a consistent basis.

Block off those two hours every day on your calendar. Treat them as sacred. Don’t let anyone take that time away from you. Don’t schedule any meetings, appointments, or errands during that time.

Then during that time, turn off all distractions. Unplug the Internet, give your phone to someone else or put it in another room, and put on your headphones with the music you work best to.

Create One At A Time

When you spend the time to break down your creative output this way, you can really focus on how much you can actually accomplish. One day at a time. One big task at a time.

Planning out the whole month or year of content is great. We do that here at Fizzle. Throughout December we’ve been planning exactly what we are going to release every month, week, and day for all of next year.

But at any given moment, each of us can only be working on one thing at at time. We should each be working on whatever our next deliverable is on our content calendar.

No, that last sentence isn’t sexy, but it is what we need to do to effectively grow Fizzle Co., which is essentially a publishing company. We deliver free content here on The Sparkline and The Fizzle Show. We deliver courses, interviews, and other paid content within Fizzle. Other than the occassional speaking gig, which is also content, that is the majority of what we do.

When you break down exactly what you do day in and day out to deliverables, you can plan your days around the capacity you have for creating great work.

One piece at a time.


What environment helps you create your best work? What time of day, location, and mood do you need to schedule your focused creation during?

Let us know in the comments below this post.

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  • http://www.earlyparenthoodsupport.com Jessica

    Time = early morning, Location = dining room table, Mood = optimistic

  • http://www.thediscipleproject.net/ Paul Turner

    I always do my best to protect my creative time. I usually up early (6:30 a.m.) writing, planning, and getting my game face on.

  • http://kimberlydhouston.com/ Kimberly

    You’re right, focused creation time is so important! One thing I switched up to help me implement this practice is to spend one hour each morning, before anything else — email, client work, or anything else at all — working on my own content and writing.

    I used to put off doing my own stuff each day til the early evening, after client work and email and everything else that turns up in a normal day got done, thinking that I’d really be able to focus on creating once I got all my “must-dos” marked of the to-do list for the day. But what I found was by the end of a long day focused on other people’s priorities, I didn’t have the energy left for my own, and so I wasn’t creating near as much as I wanted to. But now that I put myself first each day, even though it’s just for an hour, I feel much more focused and motivated for the rest of the day, and I happily go off and do the client work, then come back to focused creation time for myself after that gets done. This has helped me get at least 2 hours of focused creation time in each day, which is a vast improvement from my previous habit.

    I love your advice to create one thing at a time, advice which I’m in desperate need of following! That’s a habit formation goal for 2014 for sure. : )

    • http://calebwojcik.com/ Caleb Wojcik

      Focusing on yourself first is great and not as selfish as some people might think. If you and your mind aren’t right you can’t actually help other people as effectively.

  • http://www.discoverdoublebass.com/ Geoff Chalmers

    Great post Caleb. I do my best work in the morning and try to do the hardest thing first and leave the less taxing stuff to the end of the day when my concentration has dropped off.

  • http://www.markbrinker.com/ Mark Brinker

    Caleb, this is why I enjoy reading your posts. Rather than talking about a new shiny object, you focus on stuff that’s right in front of us — hidden in plain sight — but that we might have forgotten about. Like, (per Brian Tracy) do your most important task first thing in the morning!

    So, thanks for the reminder(s), and Happy New Year!

    • http://calebwojcik.com/ Caleb Wojcik

      Thanks Mark. I do get distracted by shiny objects just like everyone else, but at the end of the year, what really matters is what you completed.

  • http://thestrategicmama.com/ Vanita Cyril

    I am up at 3am to work and that’s definitely when I’m doing my most important task for the day. I really can’t plan to ship one creation a day, due to the nature of my work and the fact that I schedule everything around my childrens’ schedules, but 3am to 6am is mine 6 days a week, and that’s really when I’m most productive, creative, analytical – whatever the task needs. By noon I usually need a nap. Luckily I can sleep through anything. :-D

  • talktherapybiz

    What Mark Brinker said. I like the idea of 5-day chunks of content. I’ve found that accountability to someone other than myself if key. That’s why I love the Fizzle challenges. I tend to overcommit myself too, but nothing beats intentional focus. And I appreciate the tip to complete one task before going on to the next.

    One thing that has helped get through the slog, is the 15-minute rule. When I want to quit, mindlessly troll Facebook, or Gawd forbid, click on a link of the Kardashians (I hate myself a little more every time I do), I tell myself that I can do anything for 15 more minutes. Sometimes this makes all the difference in my output.

    I have a guest post to submit now…that’s my frog for today ;)

  • Jiri Kysilka

    Thanks Caleb, it came right in time – just fine-tuning my creativity and productivity – it always comes down to the basic essential things…

  • http://litigationsupportguru.com/ Amy Bowser-Rollins

    Thanks Caleb. This article is perfect timing as I’m getting motivated about kicking butt in 2014. Your words that resonate the most are: “plan out your day by choosing one thing to create and complete today”. You’re right – my list is so long that I tend to “dabble in” multiple tasks and I have trouble figuring out which thing is most important. I know I should focus on the items that will make the biggest impact, but even that list is long. My goal for 2014 is make that first dollar. I need to focus on the completion of a task in order to reach that goal. Note to self: COMPLETE one creation each day.

    • http://calebwojcik.com/ Caleb Wojcik

      Love it.

      Finish. One. Thing.

  • Rita Barry

    Don’t ya just love it when the universe conspires to show you what you need? I just finished What successful people do before breakfast and then today your article shows up? Wonder if the old morning routine needs a tweaks or 2?

    What always amazes me is what a focused hour or 2 can do for how much you accomplish versus 8 hours of half assed attention.

    • http://calebwojcik.com/ Caleb Wojcik

      Completely agree. Parkinson’s law.

      “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”

  • http://calebwojcik.com/ Caleb Wojcik

    Exactly. There has to be some sort of balance. Not everything you need to get done will take a couple of dedicated hours. And you can’t neglect all of the small tasks too. I just prefer to get my biggest, most intense task done first thing in the morning.

  • Melissa Wilson

    Thanks for this post, Caleb. I love how you broke it all down. I will refer back to this post in the future to plan out the things I want to accomplish. I find it most helpful when I have almost like a formula to figure out when to get things done, otherwise it feels like I’m just doing things haphazardly and not sure if I’m making the most of my time. Thanks!

  • http://www.mariepoulin.com/ marie poulin

    I love the advice here!

    I will say that I have struggled my whole life to be a morning person, and finally this year I gave up beating myself up about it and made a schedule that works for me. I wake up between 9-10am, eat breakfast, and then focus on what I scheduled the night before first. THEN I check my email and deal with anything that might need my immediate attention, before returning to my scheduled tasks. In the evening I feel VERY alive, AND no one is bothering me because they’re usually 3 hours ahead of me anyway, and their work day is done.

    All of your advice still holds though, as I still focus on one thing at a time, and don’t compromise those “Sacred” time blocks.

    My whole family has always struggled to wake up early, so I am sure some of this must be somewhat genetic (I’ve been doing a LOT of reading on this, especially this year!) Apparently most people are either one or the other, so while it might be easy to say that everyone does their best work in the morning, I know that for me it’s just not true, as much as I want it to be. I am the most productive between 7pm and midnight!

    Side note, for all those of you wanting to plot out your year at a glance, i ordered one of these year wall calendars (practical and sexy!): http://www.neuyear.net/collections/calendars/products/copy-of-pre-order-2014-calendar

    • Sarah

      PREACH IT! I’ve always read the first-thing-in-the-morning advice with a sinking heart, wondering, “Am I the only one that’s so useless when I wake up that I won’t even remember what I had for breakfast by 10 o’clock? Has no one else stumbled out of bed and walked directly into their bookcase, face-first?” It takes me forever to wake up, but by 10 that night I feel so energized I can’t sit for more than a few minutes at a time. I’m pacing, muttering and gesturing as I “write” in my head. (As an added bonus, the kids are asleep and don’t see Mom acting like a crazy person.) I’ve tried simply going to bed early, hoping to have that type of energy in the morning, but it just doesn’t work. I’m a night owl. No sense fighting it, and I no longer berate myself for being too “undisciplined” to write first thing in the morning.

    • http://litigationsupportguru.com/ Amy Bowser-Rollins

      You are not alone, Marie and Sarah. I normally go to bed around 2-3am. I hate mornings. I like the peace and quiet of the evenings and I am wide awake. Nite owl ladies we are and we can be just as successful as those crazy morning people. Ha

  • Dylan Gates

    Love the idea of doing one thing really well than 10 things in a mad panic. This was a very timely post. Cheers.

  • http://www.profound-impact.com/ Julie Gray

    This is a great article – very well laid out. I think the key here is that you are helping people get REALLY realistic with their time. This is an advanced time management skill – when you can break down your to-do list to only include what you actually have time to complete you create a lot more trust and momentum.

  • Naomi Goodlet

    Great advice here. I only have about 6-8 hours of uninterrupted time each week to work on my business (I have an 18 month old daughter) so I force myself to ‘eat frogs’ and get shit finished all the time.
    Having a clear plan is important for me otherwise I can lose time watching music videos on youtube or commenting on blog posts (like I have today – ha!). I actually love to work late at night but I need to force myself to go to sleep most nights so that I can get up early with my daughter! Happy New Year everyone!

  • DJC

    Hey, I wrote a reply this morning, and it is not here. Nevertheless, here is the impact of your post today, Caleb – after years of avoiding making decisions together, my wife and I created an agenda, followed it – staying on task – and accomplished more in two hours and are more lit up about what we can do both singly and together than we’ve done or been in years. That doesn’t count the several other things that got done today as a result of clarity, straight talk, and committed listening.

    Thank you for sparking this line of thinking and being here exactly when we needed to hear your message.

  • http://www.nichewebvideo.com Russell James

    I am reminded once again to look at myself differently as opposed to previous years, I am a content creator.

    I have made a deliberate and conscious decision that my intent is to forge a new pathway that I have been leaning into for a few years but have not had the belief to implementate. I have been the mechanic, the operator, the man on the tools.

    The time I spent on my creative talents and passions I have viewed as time taken away from the “real” work of physical construction and delivering the goods. Its easy to be focused when you have cement truck arriving at 8, meeting with customer at 10 etc.

    The challenge is how to make sure my creative content is delivered just as effectively as the cement arriving and me having the holes dug and posts ready, for project completion and payment due.

  • Michael Burke

    I am like a tire with a slow leak. I get pumped up with all this great info re: work time, being organized and mindful of your surroundings and what makes you produce and not produce…and over time it all slowly leaks out…and I become….frazzled. This article was exactly what I needed and am totally pumped up again. I seldom make a specific time or place to produce anything. I cram and the problem is i do well. So it reinforces my bad habits. But I stress out and lose sleep and it’s an awful cycle to be in . Personal objectives for 2014: 1) Be among those that share in the creative entrepreneurial mindset you are in almost daily. 2) Eliminate the place that distracts as opposed to the place that nurtures new ideas.
    3) Stop using my home as my office.
    4) Make not only my creative time sacred, but my time with my dog, friends, family,etc sacred as well. 100% of me all the time instead of 50% some days because I’m behind in something and my mind is doing the project instead of shopping with sister, and 150% (if that was real) the next. Not good for anyone.
    5) Cleaning up is not organizing. Get organized and stay there. no need to clean your organization if you are doing it correct (except periodically).
    Thank you for this article. Perfect timing. Happy New Year.

  • Carl

    Great post Caleb!

    The ability to focus is becoming rarer in folk. We’re often far to eager to distract ourselves with shiny and new rather than really concentrating on getting one thing done and then moving on to the next one thing.

    Morning has always been my preferred time for getting the important stuff done so I try to front end my day with the big tasks.

    Narrow focus is the tool of choice for the productive and creative,

  • Gil Michelini

    Reading “Eat that Frog” was a Rubicon event for me. I keep a frog just above my monitor to remind me but since I see him every day, I sometimes forget he is there. Thanks for the reminder.

  • Omar Zenhom

    Such a money post. A lot of gems in here, especially the last line.

    What environment helps me create my best work? After my morning cup of coffee, I like to write or shooting a video. If I’m writing, I prefer sunlight. If i’m designing in PhotoShop, I need music. I can’t write or read with music though.

    Funny enough though, my best concepts or ideas come when I’m away from ‘work’ mode and I’m traveling or taking a timeout. I think it’s the perspective you gain when you step back a bit.

    • http://litigationsupportguru.com/ Amy Bowser-Rollins

      Wow, Omar, you and I have similar requirements. I also like the sunlight for that feeling it brings and I can’t focus on reading or writing when music or conversation or the TV is on in the background.

      • Omar Zenhom

        :)

  • http://kimanziconstable.com/ kimanzi constable

    With the craziness of life and having a wife and three kids, it’s either before they get up, when the kids are at school or when they go to bed. This year I’ve really focused on being fully present, so when I’m with them, I give them my focus.

  • http://www.todayicanchange.com/ Robb Gorringe

    Great tips // I enjoyed the recent podcast as well // 2014 is going to be our year!

  • http://passivelyfree.com/ Tal gur

    Caleb, I think establishing daily habits is key in that sense. If you’re a writer, blogger, or a publishing company owner, for example, writing each and every day for 365 days straight, can transform your business. So instead of waking up and thinking “what do I have to do first?”, you put yourself on auto-pilot, sit down at your laptop, and start writing. Cheers!

  • Galitta Tassa

    What an wonderful essay and exactly what I am trying to figure out. How not to let social media and network obligations distract me from creation. content calendar is what I am now planning and it feels new. Used to create when inspiration came, now I invite it in in a specific time. Thank you so much for this, Caleb

  • Lindsey Simms

    This is just the perspective I needed. I feel like that message was sent straight from God to me through you Caleb. Finally someone who can offer a systematic and implementable (is that a word? lol) approach to the creative process! Thanks!

  • Paul Potter

    Great post Caleb. So true and so helpful. I was inspired by not spreading my activity and creativity over many projects. I’m challenged to select complete 5 creative tasks done per week. Thanks

  • Carolyn Mycue

    I’m definitely guilty of overbooking my time, but to be honest, this year I’ve made tremendous progress as a result. For years I tried to fit my “thing” in wherever I could into my already packed schedule. The result: Nothing ever got done. Now I’m progressing by leaps and bounds.

    How did I make the shift? I stopped waiting for “blocks” of time. If I had 5 minutes: I’d write for 5 minutes. Eventually that would stretch into 10 or 20 or 30 minutes. The energy that activity would fuel me with was addictive, too, and I couldn’t wait to get back to it. Eventually, my other “non-negotiables” started falling away: things like laundry and cleaning and cooking. I started being 10 minutes later for work instead of 10 minutes early, which gave me 20 extra minutes to work on my “thing”. This actually made me more productive at work: instead of starting off lackadaisically, I’d be revved up and jump right in. The enthusiasm I was drawing from progressing towards my “thing” would spill over into everything else that needed my attention. My nights naturally started stretching into the wee hours of the morning.

    My take away: I cannot do everything myself, but when I focus on what I can do it is always more than I would have thought possible. Get out of your head about what you think you need to accomplish your “thing”. Do what’s in front of you: Take that one single step. Trust it implicitly. Keep a running list of 5 things that you want to focus on and review it each morning. Oh, and cancel your cable: as long as you are consuming content, you are not creating it. :)

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