I want you to imagine each self-improvement article you’ve ever read as part of a continuous scroll of paper. Now, if you grab hold of the end (the last article you read) and walk backwards, how far would you have to walk before you got to the end? Most people would be toddling on for miles.

Now I want you to imagine the action you’ve taken from all of these inspiring articles and see it again as a scroll. Again, take hold of the end (your last action step) and start stepping. How far would you go before you got to your first action?

If you’re like most, you will have puttered out after a football field or so. Now compare that to the information you’ve taken in. That difference is the reason your life isn’t what you want it to be. And the only way to make it better is to bridge the gap. With action.

First step: Stop reading all these self-improvement articles!!!

I’ve had clients who frittered away literally four hours a day reading self-improvement articles. When I first asked these people if they had any low-value habits, they said no (emphatically!). But when they couldn’t check off the goals they were supposed to in a day, I knew there was a block. And it was ironically the self-improvement articles!!!

See, if a self-improvement article is worth reading, it won’t just inspire you—it will give you relevant action steps that, if implemented into your daily planner, will make your life measurably better with consistent practice. But that’s not how most readers on “self-improvement” websites actually read articles…

They get high off of inspiring and empowering stories. And instead of channeling that inspiration into action—and confidence, and self-mastery—their feeling fades. Because they didn’t act. And when the inspiration fades, they instinctively go back to read another article so that they can feel better—like an addict!—which actually destroys their confidence and productivity. Really, we need to inspire ourselves by actually improving and achieving goals and committing to healthy habits.

That’s how self-improvement keeps you from improving yourself.

But most websites don’t care about you and your self-improvement. So instead of cautioning you to limit the intake of their articles, and to act on the value in them, they flood their blogs with beautiful pictures and clickbait links that compel you to click and read; click and read; click and read. Not to act. Because to them, you are nothing more than a dollar sign. And if their content leads you to act more and read less, they lose money!!!

If you’re not actively taking notes and planning action steps into your daily planner, you’re not benefiting from the articles. In fact, you’ll only be wasting your time when you could be improving yourself! which is a major drain on your confidence and self-esteem. 

So stop reading so many self improvement articles. Start improving yourself instead. 

Second step: take a weeklong fast from reading any articles

Seriously. No articles for a week. Stop feeding the information beast. I’m, pushing you to act on the value I’ve already shared with you: daily planning, and journaling. It’s valuable enough for my clients to pay thousands of dollars for, so it’s valuable enough for you to learn for free. 

Third step: Commit to the daily habits of planning and journaling for a week

Self improvement isn’t the inspiration you read from an article–it’s the tiny, hum-drum action step that you master and increase your quality of life with. One such decidedly unglamorous action step is planning. Planning is the gateway to every improvement you want to make. 

You’ll need a blank-paged, hardbacked sketchbook to get the most of your daily planning routine. It to be small enough (6×8 inches works great) to carry around with you everywhere you go–that way you can refer to it all throughout the day and be reminded of all the things you can do to make life incredible. 

At the end of your morning routine, take 5-10 minutes to plan out the daily habits that make life great: 

  • Meditation,
  • Regular exercise (five checkboxes) 
  • Self encouragement (ten checkboxes) 
  • Journaling
  • Limiting your time on social media. 

Then, plan out the top 5-8 activities that only you can come up with on your own–for career, spirituality, health, giving, fun, etc. (One of my goals was posting this article to Thrive for you!)

Here’s a picture you can use to guide your own daily planning efforts: 

Lastly, journal at the end of every day. 

This reflective activity will help you see were your improvements where, where your losses were, what helped you do your best, and what prevented you from doing your best. Basically it’s all the information you need to keep improving. Once you’ve journaled and gathered insights for a better tomorrow, plan out the action steps into your daily planner! Plan for 10-20 minutes of journaling every evening before bed. 


If you keep these habits going for a week, then a month, then a year, you’ll have created so much inspiration through your accomplishments and improvement that you won’t need to read self-improvement articles to feel good about yourself. And when you do add them back into your life (in limited doses) you’ll only read as much as you need to keep refining your life! 

If you need help with your personal transformation, check out my coaching services here. I’ll teach you the skills and habits that make for an inspired life–and I’ll keep you accountable! 


  • Daniel Dowling

    Performance Coach, Writer for Greatist, Fitbit.com, Mindbodygreen, and FastCompany.

    Dan Dowling, here. I was the poster child for lost millennials - couldn’t keep a job…addicted to relationships…constantly checking social media and email. But when I got hungry enough for success as a writer, I gave up my distracted lifestyle and adopted one daily goal that changed my life forever: Do. Your. Best. Today, five years later, I’m a productivity coach who’s published on the world’s biggest sites (including Entrepreneur, Fast Company and Mindbodygreen), and I’m transforming lives through the best-effort, zero-distraction lifestyle that worked so well for me. Come and and learn how to always give your best at Millennial Success!