February 18

How to Never Miss a Day of Creative Work

Have you ever started a new habit with the best of intentions and missed one day, only to abandon the habit entirely? Changing your behavior and adopting new habits isn't about superhuman will-power or monk-like discipline. It's about designing systems. By designing the right systems, you'll never miss a day of creative work.

Honor your commitments: Start by making a commitment you know you can honor. If you've never developed a daily writing habit, don't try to write 1,000 words a day. Write 3 sentences. Better yet, take the minimum viable action of sitting down at your desk or cracking open a notebook.

Reduce the scope, but stick to the schedule: While it's rare, there are days when I don't write 1,000 words a day. At the time I am writing this, it's the morning of my sister's wedding. My cousins are at breakfast and hanging out with them is a bit more important than hitting my word count. So I've reduced the scope to a few hundred words, but stuck to my schedule of writing every day.

Carry a notebook and capture your ideas: People think they can't write every day because they lack ideas. But saying you lack ideas is like saying you lack thoughts. That's nonsense since you're having thoughts all day long. If you always carry a notebook, you'll be able to capture your ideas and capitalize on them.

Track your progress: If you consistently track your progress, you will be much more likely to show up every day. You will be able to put pen to paper, set foot in the gym, etc, etc. There are many ways to track your progress.

  • Count words: As a writer, my primary metric is the number of words I write each day. I aim for a minimum of 1,000. But on some days, I end up writing a lot more.
  • Don't break the chain: When a young comedian asked Jerry Seinfeld how to get better, he encouraged him to purchase a wall calendar, and for every day he wrote a joke, to mark an x. Eventually he would have a chain, and the goal from that point was to simply not break the chain.
  • Streaks: This is an app that allows you to track your progress. You choose a habit or activity and see how long you can stay on a streak.

Progress motivates us to show up, and increases the likelihood that we won't miss a day of creative work.

Make it sustainable: If you do anything every day, you will inevitably get better at it. The process of mylenation starts to occur in the brain. Your instincts, reflexes, and insights all become sharper. But the secret to doing something every day is to make it sustainable. At the beginning of this year, I started following Seth Godin's advice to publish a blog post every day. Not all of my blog posts are long. Some are just 3-4 sentences. That makes it sustainable.

The main reason most habits don't stick is because people try to hold themselves to unrealistic or insane standards. It's better to lower your standards and actually follow through rather than raising them and giving up altogether.


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