On the first part of the article we explored ways on how to incorporate reading books into our schedule. It also highlighted the advantages of consuming content in an audio format as compared to conventional methods. In the second part of the article we will discover more ways to improve our personal development skill. Specifically, on how to create your own content by writing a blog, a book, or creating a product.
Write your own blog or book
Most people want to write their own book someday, knowing that they have a good story or knowledge to share to the world. Money can also be a motivator as you hear the news of a best-selling author making millions just by writing a book. However, most people can’t even write a single article due to “lack of time” or after realizing that it is not as simple as they previously thought.
If you are serious about writing your own book but find it difficult to start, perhaps you can begin by writing a few blog articles first. This breaks down the epic task into smaller, manageable chunks and also hones your writing skill by continuously writing.
I find that reading books and listening to audio content complements well to the skill of writing. By reading or listening to how other people present their thoughts and how they structure their words and sentences, you also improve your own writing as well as your vocabulary. As we see in Part I, we can incorporate reading books in our schedule without it being a “distraction” to our daily routine.
If you find it difficult to start writing, commit first to write one sentence per day, or just proofread one paragraph that you have written per day. This commitment is small, easy to do, and hard to miss. By writing a single sentence, your brain will start to overcome the initial “friction” of ideas and you can slowly gain momentum. If however you still find it hard to finish even a single sentence because or your mood or circumstance, you will still feel good as you have successfully met your commitment of just a single sentence and you will be inching closer to your ultimate goal.
By doing this for one month, you will produce around 30 sentences. An average sentence contains about 15-20 words, and so by the end of the month you will have an article that is 450-600 words long. Based on my personal experience, once you have written a single sentence, most of the time the thoughts start flowing thereon and at the end of the activity you will find that you have written much more than a single sentence. The initial friction of the first sentence is the hardest part but it becomes easier once you get yourself to start writing.
Today, it is easier to publish your books compared to past decades and centuries. Before, when you have a book idea or draft, you need to go to a publisher and hope that they accept your book for printing. Nowadays, there are many services that allow you to publish your own books. All you need is to give them a formatted DOC or PDF file and they will do the printing for you, whether it be paperback or hardbound. You may even want to publish only a few books at a time for additional cost and this is quite useful as you no longer need to commit to thousands of copies that you need to sell to recoup the cost of printing.
Because it is now easier (and cheaper) for people to self-publish books, this can give us the motivation to start writing with the goal of eventually holding a physical book that you have created. With this it is important to consider writing consistently over time and eventually this goal will be realized!
Finish your projects
I find it hard to finish a personal project into completion. I think most people experience this as well: at the start of the project you feel energized and motivated to implement your new idea, but as time passes and problems crop up, you lose motivation. This goes on until you finally shelve the project (together with the other unfinished ones) and forget about it.
One thing that helped me greatly regarding personal projects is to force myself to perform one single action that moves the project forward. This one single action is easy to do and so you will be able to do it regardless of your current motivation.
Software programs and applications
As an example, let’s say we want to build a software program as our personal project.
Resolve to write a single line in your editor once per day. Even as simple as updating a word in your README file counts! The important thing is that you have started opening your project folder, and by doing this it will make it easier for you to continue on with the project. Similar to the initial friction we encounter when writing, we also need to overcome the initial friction when doing our personal projects by starting with simple and easy tasks.
Pushing a small change in the codebase per day is also a useful habit. Resolve to commit and push at least one change in the software daily. Even a “stupid” change such as adding one line of comment in the code should not be glossed over. If you are using a repository that tracks your daily activity (such as Github), you will find it satisfying to see your activity as a chart or graph. By developing this habit you will also hone your skill in programming and you will be able to code faster and more efficiently. This results in more changes that you can do in a single day and before you know it, you will have accomplished a significant portion of your project!
Starting now vs starting later
When you find yourself suddenly having ideas or thoughts about your project, this is your subconscious sending you signals that it is time to work on it. Often when these thoughts come to us, we immediately block it with things like I will do it later, I have time tomorrow, or I still have things to do right now. You will need to catch yourself when these secondary thoughts arrive as it is an influential but limiting force in our minds, leading us to procrastination and failing to finish our tasks.
Once these ideas come out, try your best not to delay and to do the things that your subconscious is telling you. This may be as simple as writing something on a piece of paper to jot down your ideas at the moment. How many times have you thought of a good idea while doing something else, only to forget about it after a few hours when you are ready to write it down? These ideas are the fruits of your mind thinking about the project in the background without you making a conscious effort. Because of this we should be ready to accept those ideas and write them down so we do not forget about them.
The practice of starting now is also critical in overcoming the initial “friction” when starting your work on a project. By immediately starting work on something whether you are in the mood or not, you start the habit of controlling your own emotions which will eventually increase your productivity in the long term.
Improve and learn new skills
It is very important that you keep your skills sharp and also to update your knowledge especially in the field of technology. When we are comfortable with the tasks we do or the job that we have, we may fall into the trap of stagnation and ignoring new skills or technologies.
In the compounding graph shown in the first two parts of this series, we know that the negative side of compounding is the result of complacency, which is a feeling of satisfaction on one’s current achievements and situation. The effects of this are not evident for quite a while, but afterwards it snowballs into significant negative consequences.
A common example of this is complacency in your current employment. After a few years, you become familiar and competent on the skills and technology you use in your job. As the years pass however and changes in government/regulation/technology happens (which is inevitable), you may find yourself trapped in your current position and skill set and find it hard to advance further.
To combat the negative effects, we need to focus on the upper half of the compounding graph. Instead of being complacent, we need to find ways for us to gradually increase our skills and expand our abilities in anticipation of future changes.
There are many resources available in the internet, both paid and free, that can help in improving your skills on a particular field.
Online course providers or online “universities” such as Coursera offer several courses from a broad range of disciplines. You can watch one video per day or a video per week, and eventually you will be able to finish the course and upgrade your knowledge. Programming-specific services such as CodeSchool also provide a great platform to improve your skills in programming. As the courses are broken down into sections you can aim to finish one section of a course per week, which is doable even if you have a tight schedule.
Coding platforms such as HackerRank also provide a great way to hone your programming skills by doing actual coding exercises directly in their website. These coding exercises, much like their physical counterparts, help you unlock inner strength and flexibility in thinking. As a result, this will then help you finish your projects with a higher quality of output, as well as improving your marketability to employers.
This is the end of the three series about the Consistency Beats Intensity philosophy. We discussed how this applies in the areas of personal finance, health, and personal development. The main idea is that to accomplish our goals and tasks, small and consistent actions must be done until we reach our target. Keeping at it for a long period of time will produce better results than being intense at the start, and then giving up mid-way.
We have also explored two phenomena that happens at the beginning of the compounding effect: Complacency and Disillusionment. Complacency is when we are satisfied with our current situation and we think that small things that we do regularly do not have any effect in the long term. This is like building a house on railroad tracks. It may be comfy for a while, but as time passes it is guaranteed that a train will wreck your house.
Disillusionment happens when we start doing small, positive things but we don’t seem to notice any improvements or changes in our life. If you do not understand the compounding effect, you may give up as you think that it is not doing anything anyway. However, these small positive changes are the essential building blocks of lasting success. We need to recognize that the compounding effect is most evident when given sufficient time.
I hope this series helps you think on ways to improve your life, as well as eliminate bad behavior or habits that you think is not dangerous. By doing consistent positive actions, one day you will wake up and realize that you have already attained your goals!