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Challenges, Not Chores

We’ve all been there: the task that you keep meaning to do, you keep putting off, and each time you procrastinate, you dread the task more.

After my book was published, I did a few refreshes of old popular posts, and then over the next year I wrote exactly… two… new posts.

I’d put off writing for so long that all I could associate with writing was the guilt I felt for not getting it done.

When that happens — whether the task is writing posts for your personal blog or interviewing customers or reorganizing your cluttered Dropbox folders — a good way to unblock yourself is to set yourself a challenge.

At the beginning of June I got tired of week after week, not having a “good enough” blog post to make up for so many weeks of silence. So I set myself a goal to publish a post for every weekday in June. And I did.

The pragmatic details:

  • I didn’t tell anyone I was going to do a post-a-day month. (Recent social psychology research suggests that, when you tell people your aspirational goals and they acknowledge them, your brain feels satisfied like you’ve already completed the goal — and thus, you feel less driven to actually do it.)
  • I used the Habit List app on my iPhone and set a reminder to buzz me at 9:30 pm (once kids are in bed) every Sunday through Thursday.
  • I repurposed a number of emails and tweet replies as the basis of blog posts.

I’m not going to keep up this pace of publishing. While I’m happy with the quality level of this month’s posts, I’m not sure I could maintain this. More importantly, there are other goals I’d like to shift focus to. I’m going to aim for posting twice a week, and I’ve updated my Habit List reminders to reflect that.

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