Everything changes when we stop thinking about how to get ahead or skip steps, and focus instead on building consistent, repetitive creative habits.
Business builders early on in their career often think looking for shortcuts or figuring out the mistakes to avoid is the best way to be successful faster.
Instead, what really matters is showing up. Everyday. For a decade or more.
You know, when I was starting out I used to sit down to write (jokes) a couple times a week. And then one day I was watching these construction workers go back to work, watching them trudge down the street, and it was like a revelation to me. I realized, these guys don’t want to go back to work after lunch, but they’re going. Because that’s their job. I think if they can exhibit that level of dedication for that job, I should be able to do the same. Just trudge your ass in. – Jerry Seinfeld
How do you build these daily, consistent creative habits without getting overwhelmed by them? Keep reading.
Build Audiences Like Muscles
Think about getting physically stronger. Anyone you see that looks incredibly “in shape” has more than likely spent a lot of time exercising at a gym.
How do you think they grew and honed their muscles? Was it by spending a few days or nights a month working on every part of their body, hours at a time, completely draining themselves, and taking the rest of the week to recover?
Or do they do a little bit, everyday, alternating the part of their body they focus on, and never break the habit?
I recently started consistently lifting heavy weights three times a week. Now, I’ve started and stopped plenty of workout regimens over the past few years (P90X, half-marathons, etc.) and I knew I finally wanted to do one I could stick with for the rest of my life, not just a few months and get burned out.
So what did I do? I found one of the easiest to follow workout programs there is: Strong Lifts 5×5.
I used to print out a huge calendar with different workouts on different days, have to attend classes or training sessions at specific times, or arrange a time to meet with a friend at the gym.
Now all I have to do is show up to the gym threes a week, open the app, and lift whatever it tells me to lift.
- It doesn’t matter what days of the week I go to the gym.
- It doesn’t matter what time of day I fit it in.
- I don’t have to think about what I’m going to do when I get there.
I made it so easy I couldn’t quit.
Simplified programs free of clutter and confusion make it easy to simply fall into line and follow instructions.
How could you be doing the same thing with your writing, podcasting, or video making? How can you make your commitment and program more simple, eliminating the road blocks?
How could you turn making into a super simple habit?
Building Simple Habits
The tough part about building habits is that we overcomplicate them. We aim too high. We try to do too much. We overthink it.
Leo Babauta shares that a great way to start building up a new habit is to make it so easy that there is no way to mess it up.
Instead of trying to run for 3 miles everyday, start with one minute. Then go to two. Then three. And so on. Eventually you’ll get to the point where you’ve built the habit and you have consistent growth.
What matters more: that you start out running long distances from day one or that you are still running them at day 100?
You could do the same thing with podcasting. If you’re super afraid of speaking on a microphone, just make your first episode one minute long. Then make the next two minutes. Then three. Before you know it you’ll be up to a half hour or longer.
Instead of freaking out so much about going out and doing it all on your first try (whether we’re talking exercise or content creation), just focus on taking the first step.
My friend James Clear recently wrote an essay on the difference between goals and systems that completely changed how I thought about making progress towards something big. Here is my favorite excerpt:
Goals are good for planning your progress and systems are good for actually making progress… Goals can provide direction and even push you forward in the short-term, but eventually a well-designed system will always win. Having a system is what matters. Committing to the process is what makes the difference. – James Clear
Have goals, but focus on the system. Clock in, clock out, get the work done, and embrace the slow growth.
Look at any successful creator. Anyone you look up to. Every week, month, and year they consistently ship. Think of authors like Stephen King and John Grisham. If it seems like they have a new book out every year that’s because they do. (Sometimes more than one!)
A writer writes. A painter paints. A photographer photographs. A blogger blogs.
They show up because that’s their job.
Sometimes all that matters is that you consistently show up, more often and more consistently than anyone else.
When are you going to just start showing up?