No offense to bestselling author Stephen Covey, but the habits of highly effective people mean diddly squat to me. Why? Because those people are not me. I’m not going to emulate the highly effective habits of someone highly effective with the hopes that those highly effective habits will make me a highly effective copy of them. They won’t. In fact, that whole highly effective strategy is highly ineffective.
Since I’m a writer, I’ll explore some habits of highly effective writers. Ernest Hemingway preferred to write the first thing in the morning. I prefer to sleep until the third or possibly fourth thing in the morning. Also, I hate fishing. Thomas Wolfe wrote ten pages a day, triple spaced, not stopping until he reached 1800 words. He also fondled his genitals while writing until “the sensuous elements in every domain of life became more immediate, real, and beautiful.” Sounds like a foppish euphemism for something other than 1800 words. Pass. Maya Angelou liked to rent a hotel room near her home and write there every day for months while lying on the unchanged bed. I know why the caged bird has Norovirus. Each of these work habits of highly effective writers shares one key characteristic – they have nothing whatsoever to do with me. Or you. #JustSaying
Sitting in a bathtub and eating apples while writing, won’t turn you into Agatha Christie. Using the Pomodoro Technique for time management will not suddenly turn you into Elon Musk. Only scheduling meetings “when absolutely necessary” will not turn you into Oprah Winfrey. I’ve tried that one and yes, I got to be in fewer meetings but no matter how many meetings I missed, I never became Oprah.
Now get ready cause I have a super radical idea. Ready? Strapped in? Mouthguard in place? Tray table in its upright and locked position? Great! Here we go…
Instead of copying the habits of Oprah, Elon Musk or that perv Tom Wolfe, simply pay attention to what works really well for you and…DO THAT.
You read that right. What works really well for you turns out to be exactly what works really well for you!
Since you’ve already given up on the destructive habit of comparing yourself to others, you are now a runaway train of possibility. You are tapped into the one badass source that is possessed by only you and you are crushing it! Now, pay close attention to what you’re doing when you’re in the zone, and keep doing that.
Do you prefer to create business plans while standing barefoot on the porch? Do that!
Do you write your best poetry while using a Hello Kitty pencil? Do that!
Do the solutions to all of life’s problems come to you when you’re in the shower? Get in that damn shower, dude!
Here’s what always works perfectly for you. Being you!
Now that you’ve realized that you’re the one and only version of you, your channel is wide open and the downloads are coming faster and faster. Why? Because you’re not trying to be someone else. You’re not comparing yourself to Barb from Accounting, or Harrison Ford from All Of The Movies. You’re being you. There’s only one of you so you have that market cornered. You have a monopoly on you. You are totally youing it.
Okay, now it’s time to Next Level the you that is you by asking yourself a question and then answering it yourself. No cheating.
What Do You Want In Life?
Do you want to travel more? Do you want to open a gluten-free bakery? Do you want to get out of debt? Do you want to write a novel? Do you want to stop reading my generic suggestions and come up with your own questions? I sincerely hope that’s at least part of what you want.
Okay, now do it. Take a second and say to yourself what you want in life.
Uh oh. Guess what you just figured out? You just figured out what you want! From you. From your life. Right this moment. You told you what you wanted. Just. Like. That.
Orrrr…maybe you completely seized because you think you might know what you want right now but you’re afraid of saying it cause you don't want to admit it or that may not be what you’ll want after dinner tonight or later this year or when you’re 78 and what if you only had one chance at saying what you want and manifesting it and, oh crap, I should have said “To be out of debt” instead of “To drive an ice cream truck across Alaska” because now I’ll never get out of debt and people will make fun of me for admitting my ice cream truck thing and I don’t even like ice cream and maybe I need to think about this for a while before I answer because I might get this wrong, hey look there’s the TV remote maybe there’s something on that will help me answer this question later, I really need to meditate on this but I don’t know how to meditate, man I totally suck, why can't I meditate, oh cool, a Slurpee® commercial, I need one before they run out of my favorite flavor: Tearjerkin’ Sour Berry Blast, I’ll do that and then after I drink it I will totally decide what I want in life which I'm pretty sure is not meditation but maybe it is and that's all part of why I can't answer this simple question but as soon as this Slurpee is done I'm totally answering that question. Yeah. I’ll do that. Then. That. I’m doing that. That’s what I’m doing. I’m doing that thing. That. Right? Yes. As soon as I get to it. That? Yes that.
Let me rephrase the question to make it easier: What do you want in life, right now? Other than a Slurpee? You can say it. Come on. You already freakin’ know it. You know what you want. Say it. Saaaaaay it. Be brave. SAY IT!
Boom! Turned out to be a lot easier than you thought.
Now all you have to do is make that happen.
You already know your skill set. You already know who you know and what you know and you know what? You are going to take the steps to make it happen. Why? Because it’s what you want and you’re under a strict contract with yourself in this lifetime to deliver on that shit. No one else will do it for you and, as you know very well, it’s exactly what you want. Not because someone else told you but because YOU told you. The call is coming from inside the house!
Make a checklist. Buy notecards. If you prefer to work late at night, develop your plan late at night. Apply self adhesive shelf paper on your walls and turn an entire room into a super cheap white board (I did this and it worked quite nicely). Do something! Now!
Lay out the steps that will work for you. Don’t freak out about the end goal, just focus on little steps 1-5. Too much? Okay, just step 1. Then 2. Now 3 through 5? After you get there go for 6-10. See the pattern? Don’t get bogged down in details, just start moving in that direction with a plan. If it’s a 10 year plan, that’s fine. You’re a 10 year plan kind of person. If it needs to be on a spreadsheet, then open up that app. If you need to create an infographic then do that. There’s no wrong answer here.
The only mistake you will make is not doing anything.
I have a friend who didn’t want to start writing a screenplay until she got a better desk chair. She got that desk chair and then decided she needed a new desk. She got the desk but then she needed to get her laptop fixed. She got her laptop fixed but then she needed to update her screenwriting software. It’s 20 fucking years later and she still hasn’t started writing that script. Don’t be Bonnie!*
Ask yourself what you want and start working towards making that happen. Take the steps. If you change your mind later, adjust. The world will not come crashing down around you. You don’t get just one shot. It’s not the Wheel of Fortune Bonus Round. You get tons of opportunities and unlimited asks from yourself. But they’re worthless if you don’t act on them.
So ask yourself what you want in life. Say something. One thing. Even a little tiny thing. Anything. And do whatever (legal) steps necessary to make it happen. Do it for you. You can do it. You got this. Trust you. You do you. You know?
Oh, and once you’ve figured out your own highly successful habits, please don’t tell anyone what they are. No offense, but they’re completely irrelevant to the rest of us.
*Bonnie is not my friend’s real name. It’s Maria.