It’s that time of year.
You’d love to say that January has been the month where you stuck to all those resolutions, and — maybe — you haven’t done too bad.
But the fact is, it’s been a long month and maybe you feel like giving in. Whether it’s fitness, productivity, alcohol, cold showers, diet…. whatever it is that you’re doing, if you’re like me, you’ve nearly had enough.
My new year’s resolution this year was all to do with writing. Building good habits round writing, building my craft, geeking out of the joy of grammar, I had it all planned. And I think last week I hit my peak.
Last week I wrote nearly 8k words, on projects that were going in to competitions and to submit to magazines. They were memoir and life writing pieces, and the only way I was going to see an impact with them in terms of cash was to submit them there. But that’s not why I did it. I did it for the love of it.
And yet — there was a measurable in there. There was the cash.
Then I discovered Medium, an amazing space to write whatever I want, and have it go out and make an immediate impact in the world. Started writing articles and sending them out there seriously last week on Thursday. My stats didn’t matter to me. The point was that I’d found an audience.
And yet — there was a measurable in there. There were the stats.
Measuring your habit — outputs versus impact
A new habit takes time to embed itself into your routine, and that time is an important period of learning. James Clearly, in the book Atomic Habits, says you have to make it easy for yourself. He gives the example of a man who learnt to go to the gym every day by going and staying for just five minutes. Once he had that into his routine, he extended it to ten minutes, then more. But first he got it into his routine.
It’s most important to measure outputs. That’s how to motivate yourself. Outputs are internal measures of progress.
How did I do with my writing last week?
I wrote every day.
How did I do with my thirty day yoga challenge?
Five days out of seven.
You can measure outputs regularly, and you should, in order to motivate yourself. James Clearly says that everytime you keep to a habit or perform an action that is an expression of your intent to improve yourself, it is like you are casting a vote for that new version of yourself. It’s self reinforcing. Measuring outputs is something to do regularly.
Measuring impact however — not so much.
How much weight have you lost? What’s your belly measurement? What are your Medium stats? How much money have you saved?
Obsessing over these will demotivate you unless you have discipline. Measure these on a schedule, do it occasionally rather than obsessively. If you are dieting, set a check in time to weigh yourself or measure your belly. And — I’m speaking to myself here — don’t obsess over stats on Medium or when you’re going to hear back from that writing competition.
Just set and forget
Set the good habit, set the intention, and focus on turning up. I’m focusing on turning up to the writing every day. I did 8k words last week. I was tempted to slack today, but just putting my fingers on the laptop keyboard now is a vote for myself as a daily writer. Stats, smats, it’s great to have this outlet for some honest thinking out loud. It’s as crazy to obsessively measure the impact of this article as it is to obsess over the fact that I entered a short story competition in November, which I have done, and not write anything else until I hear the results in February.
Impacts are not in my control. Outputs are.
Set and forget. Turn up. Keep turning up. Keep voting for the person you want to be. The only person measuring is you — measure the right thing.
Measure output, not impact.