Do you know those annual review posts household names publish every year?
Like Pat Flynn’s annual income report (I’m sure he cracked $1 million this year, go Pat!).
Well, what about those?
They’re supposed to be inspiring and helpful.
But the truth is, you’re nowhere near having any of the problems these guys have.
Yes, some tidbits here and there are helpful, but let’s face it, when you read them, you mostly get:
- Depressed, because you’re not remotely as successful.
- Solutions to problems you can only wish you had.
I have no doubt that these guys wrote them with the best intentions, and I’m thankful that they do write them, but please, make them more helpful for the average Joe.
I’m glad Nathan Barry was honest in his annual review, because I think they really are for the people who write them, not for the reader.
So when I set out to write my own review for 2015, I wanted to make sure it didn’t just help me.
As a habit and accountability coach, only one thing made sense:
Why a habit review?
The truth is, your habits shape much more of your year than any single event.
I could have written about getting on Lifehacker,doing my first webinar, or making zero pre-sales of my first attempt at creating a product.
But what I do every day is a much bigger determinator of my success.
If I can improve my habits in 2016, just 1% at a time, then 2016 will be a great year.
Plus, sharing how I did with cultivating 10 good habits and trying to break 5 bad ones will also help anyone who’s struggling with the same habits.
Of course I used coach.me to track all my habits, what else?
All I had to do then is pull out the graphs that showed my progress over the year, and take a good hard look at how I did with each habit.
Then I came up with one tip both I and my readers can use to improve that particular habit, and moved on to the next one.
Note: You can find the graphs by clicking on weekly stats in your dashboard.
You snooze, you lose. I guess I lost in 2015.
One of the first habits I looked at was waking up by 6:30.
I’m a morning person, always have been, and for a while in 2015, this habit went well.
But what I saw when I looked at the overall stats, I didn’t like so much.
133 checkins overall. That’s only 36.44% of the year. Granted, I started tracking only in March, but still.
Note: I picked waking up early because it’s the habit I took the most immediate action on. If you want advice on several other habits, like no alcohol, no complaining, drinking more water, taking cold showers, or nofap, check out the full habit review.
Doing something less than every other day is not a habit, it’s a pain.
Imagine you had to live in one apartment on Monday and Tuesday, then in a different one on Wednesday and Thursday, and go back to the first one for the weekend.
You completely lose your routine every time, which is worse than having none at all.
I knew all along that getting up early was a keystone habit (a habit that creates other good habits right with it) for me, so why didn’t I put more effort into it?
I don’t know.
Girlfriend, changing places a lot, shitty bedtime routine, [insert another random excuse here].
What I do know is that in order to get out of a slump, I need to step up my game, and make a big commitment — I’m a Sudden Sammie, after all.
That’s why I chose to shoot for the moon and start getting up at 5 am.
Yup, that’s right.
My new year’s resolution was clear.
Here’s how I’m pulling it off.
Step 1: Create your own purpose
The first thing I needed was a reason to get up.
So I created one.
I picked 2 other habits I feel strongly about, that I didn’t do well at, and decided to build my early mornings around them.
Reading & Writing.
If you paid attention to the screenshot earlier about finding the graphs, you’ll have noticed I’m on a 182 day streak for reading already.
Go ahead, scroll up to double check, I’ll wait.
My writing streak is exactly as long.
If I’ve read and written every day for the past 6 months, then how can I be doing a bad job at those habits?
A lot of days I just read a single page of a book summary, a newsletter email, blog post, or something else that’s rather an excuse for reading.
What’s more, I didn’t do it consistently in the mornings. Sometimes I’d cram a few pages before bed or on the train, which I wasn’t happy with at all.
The same with writing. While I did it every day, I’d sometimes sit in front of my laptop at 8 pm, freaked out about what to write.
I knew having read and written before starting my workday would make me feel amazing, but to make sure I’d do it, I had to give it a direction.
That’s why I decided to start a side project, or passion project, if you will.
I would read a book summary on Blinkist every morning, which takes around 15–20 minutes, and then write down what I learned.
This way the reading and writing would be connected, and I’d have a structure to follow.
But what good is a passion project, if you don’t tell everyone you know about it?
That’s where step 2 comes in.
Step 2: Get some accountability
Question: What happens if I don’t get up at 5 am to read and write?
That’s right, NOTHING.
You want someone to rely on you being up early, or you might as well not try altogether.
Accountability can come from:
- A friend
- A machine
- A coach (hint, hint)
- A customer
- An audience
Let’s look at your options.
A friend is likely not invested enough in your success to be enough of a pain in the butt (unless they pay for your failure, great idea Leo!).
A machine can work, Thomas Frank has a nice setup with Buffer that forces him to be up at 5:55 AM, but your bed is a powerful place, and eventually, you won’t care about the stakes and snooze.
Coaches work. Period. And they’re cheaper than you think. Got a number in mind? I bet it wasn’t $2/day.
A customer is a very good person to hold you accountable, but guess what, you need customers for that. Unless you’re already selling something, not a good choice.
Lastly, an audience, my weapon of choice. An audience is great because:
- It holds you accountable for free.
- It gets angry if you miss a deadline.
- The accountability grows with the size of your audience.
Hmm, you want an audience that holds you accountable to writing every morning, I wonder what that could look like…
Exactly! 2.47 seconds later I came to the same conclusion as you and set up a blog.
Ta-daaaaa, Four Minute Books was born.
Now, if a day in the blogroll is missing, i.e. I didn’t publish anything, I can expect some angry emails.
At the latest, people will know I’ve fallen behind schedule when I don’t email out 7 new summaries a week.
Will it happen? Maybe. I’m 25 days in and haven’t missed a day.
Wait, it’s only the 10th of January as I’m writing this, so how can I be 25 days in?
Step 3: Start ahead of time
This is the last, and maybe most important step.
When you want to wake up early as of March 2016, then by all means, don’t start in March 2016.
You have to start in February. Or January.
More time invested means more failure means moving faster towards success.
For this reason I started waking up at 5 AM on December 17th, a week before Christmas.
Stupid time to start a new year’s resolution? You bet.
Was the site perfect before I started publishing? Hell no.
But did I need every single bit of that time to make it work? 100% yes.
So don’t postpone to tomorrow that, which you can do today.
Especially if it’s a keystone habit.
Your turn to kick ass in 2016.
So, does it work?
Yes. Yes it does 🙂
After doing my Miracle Morning, reading a summary, and writing for about an hour, I’ve consistently published a new post at around 7:30 AM every day.
What will you do with your early mornings?
Here are your 3 steps again to finally wake up early in 2016.
- Create your own purpose, and make sure it’s like good coffee — STRONG!
- Get yourself some accountability in one of the 5 ways I showed you.
- Start before you’re ready.
Oh and if you need more resources about habits, willpower, or your mindset, I know a guy who writes a lot of book summaries these days.