Diaries and planners are so alluring to a stationery addict. Like a purple covered bar of Cadbury’s to a chocoholic they call you in. Full of hope and fresh beginnings. You will get shit done. You will fulfil your goals. You will live your dream.
But sometimes they end up being a tool to taunt you, sitting there on the side, a reminder of another task incomplete. Life is so chaotic and busy and the biggest contradiction of all is you don’t even have time to fill your planner in. It’s a joke, full of irony! You want get more organised but you don’t even have time to sit down and plan!
This is it, this is the one that will make the difference.
I’ve bought planners and diaries, goal sheets and notebooks, Bullet journals and travellers notebooks – each time thinking “this is it, this is the one that will make the difference”. The promise of more focus, the incentive of more time suckered me in on every single purchase but basically I ended up with a pile of beautiful looking products that made jack shit difference to my productivity. Despite a pile of different tools I still mainly used the notes app on my phone.
We All Want More Time
It all seemed like such a good idea but the reality was I didn’t have time. Time to doodle, time to write about my day, time to fill in charts, time to choose a quote a day or fill in my water intake. I barely had time to brush my hair, let alone piss around doodling about how I wish I was more organised!
I wanted to do it, believe me, I sooooooo wanted to do it. I craved order and organisation, focus and planning, but I would just feel let down and like a failure when each new pad, book, strategy or method resulted in the same thing.
The Aha Moment
Then last year a penny dropped, a big shiny penny that clanked on the surface of my consciousness resulting in such a deep ‘Aha’ moment that it changed the entire way I viewed time. I was looking at it upside down, on the wonk, higgledy piggle and the wrong way round.
What did I want out of planners or diaries…….? My life to be easier of course. BUT the very nature of all these planners was what was making my life hard, or at least adding to my feeling of total overwhelm. For me, it was adding another job on to my already ridiculously long to do list. With doodling, thinking up ways to chart things, decorating it and filling in schedules I was left with less time to do things, not more.
So that clang of the penny dropping inside my brain clattered so loud in my mind it woke me up and jolted me to a realisation. I needed less not more in so many ways. I was so busy scrabbling around trying to find ways to get myself focused I actually made myself an unfocused mess!
In our article A Year In the Life of an Entrepreneur I wrote about how I decided to track a word and score every day in relation to my business, for a whole year. That ONE word (and score) a day totally changed how I looked at everything. That one thing and action changed my entire focus. I actually couldn’t believe that I became more focused by doing less. And by doing less I found I had time to do more – that was a beautiful ironic outcome that I wasn’t expecting. Doing less was one of those life lessons that totally changed my whole perspective.
2018 is Different
This year I’m taking it a step further to make it even easier. It was important to have that whole year of scores last year and the data that gave me. From an easy 30 second task every day I gained all the evidence I needed to know where and how I needed to change my life and perspective. Minimum effort each day meant I kept it up for an entire 365 period. It felt easy but it gave me so much information.
For 2018 I’m tracking again and I’m keeping it minimal again, one word and score for the business each day. I’ll complete it daily in my diary and reflect on each day briefly to find one word that sums it up entirely. I now have a small Facebook Group of fellow trackers who encourage and inspire each other to find different EASY ways to track the daily journey.
The difference this year is now I have ‘ready done’ spreadsheets to complete to analyse monthly and quarterly as I go meaning I can adapt and rechart my course based on what I see, rather than waiting a whole year. Last year I knew this stuff as I went along but I didn’t do anything intentional to change it I just kind of observed it passively thinking I could see the pattern but not taking action over it. Now I’ve got 2017 data to compare to 2018. I’ve got sales data and web traffic to compare as well as my actual emotional happiness and it’s fascinating.
January 2017 was the first month I tracked ever and I was feeling my way with words and what to use to sum up my day and keep it on track of the business and not about my personal emotions. It was up and down like crazy from one extreme score to another – from -10 to +10 I had words like Happy and Excited but also wobbly, detached and lonely it was pretty extreme in vocabulary and emotion.
January 2018 is now over and I can already feel how much more focussed I am this year and in comparison to last year. The chart for 2018 is still up and down because I think that’s how self employment rolls – there’s big exciting opportunities that pop up next to days when everything feels hard and unreachable. That’s just life, but I can say that with confidence now because I know the good days and days will come and shift and change.
This way of looking at it simplistically means it’s achievable and it’s easy to do on a monthly basis and not a huge chunk of effort. I found myself excited to go through the data at the end of the month knowing I’d find things that would shock me like I did when I went over the whole year for 2017. To see that Jan 2018 has a more even pace was reassuring like finally some of the hard lessons are sinking in , paying off and finally working is so encouraging. Overlaying the two charts together was fascinating. To see that some days were the exact same score on the exact same day as last year blew my mind. Like was that a good thing or a bad thing? Was it consistency? A lesson not learnt or a weird universal law of business that it aligns with the cycles of the moon.
What January Taught Me
We learn from research it’s how we evolve whether it’s our own low level research of experience gained and lessons learnt, or collective academic research. It pushes us on and is why from cavemen onwards we have progressed and refined as we’ve gone for millennia. Comparing last year to this year isn’t dwelling on the past but learning from what happened last year and shaping this year to be better.
- I’ve learnt to work smarter – my income for 2018 was slightly less than 2017 but with less subscribers, so it’s a higher value per customer.
- Having a target to reach has given me huge motivation. I’ve had the highest month of web traffic ever.
- I’ve felt happier and the scores show I have been and the chart shows the month had been less erratic and that’s made me feel more resilient.
- They were different words this January because I think my own business vocabulary is growing. I’m no longer feeling the same things, over and over because I’ve learnt and I’ve changed things either by how I see them or how I react to them.
- Keeping up tracking as been one of the life lessons I have benefited from most.
Something else I’ve started measured this year is kindness, so there’s no data from 2017 to compare to. Kindness was such a huge part of of 2017 for me and will be for 2018. We had our #30daysofkind Instagram and Facebook Challenge in January and I wanted to see how it impacted how I felt about business and my own personal wellbeing. I strongly believe kindness has a huge impact on health so tracking it as a whole over those 30 days seemed too good an opportunity to miss. I am really looking forward to comparing next month’s kindness scores to a month that isn’t so wholly kindness focused to see if there are any differences.
Come and track with us too – share your details here and we will share our tracking tips with you.
Originally published at www.properpost.co.uk