I read another great article by James Clear called The Paradox of Behavior Change today. In it he discusses how behavior change seeks a finely calibrated equilibrium, that is hard to disrupt.
He closed the article by making this statement:
This is the great paradox of behavior change. If you try to change your life all at once, you will quickly find yourself pulled back into the same patterns as before. But if you merely focus on changing your normal day, you will find your life changes naturally as a side effect.
In 2017 I’ve decided to change my normal day, my normal month, even my normal year, in a radical way.
What follows is a short summary of what I’m doing and how I’m doing it.
#1 Publish 12 Kindle Books – Monthly Experiments
The first priority for the year is to publish 12 Kindle books. The books will be based on my Monthly Experiments that I am currently conducting.
For the month of January I conducted and experiment on procrastination. For the month of February I am conducting an experiment on organization. To round out the quarter, I am conducting an experiment in March on productivity.
I have spent years reading books, blog posts, and articles on each of the 12 topics I plan to cover this year. I’ve listened to hours of podcasts, watched tons of videos, and conducted thorough research on every single one of these areas.
What I didn’t do was consolidate this information and act on it. That is what is changing in 2017.
In the month of January I conducted most of my reading and research in private. I did organize all the information in daily journal entries using Scrivener. None of that information was published on my blog though.
So as an added challenge for February I decided to conduct my experiment in public and publish my up-to-date findings in blog posts here.
Getting these books published on a monthly basis is harder than I imagined with all the editing and background work I need to complete. However, all the research, all the material organization and all the writing is getting done, which is the important part.
Another positive has been being able to improve my process which should pay dividends as the months roll by.
#2 Daily Stoic Meditations
My second project for the year is my daily meditations on Stoicism using the book by Ryan Holiday called The Daily Stoic.
Each day comes with a short chapter that begins with an excerpt from a different Stoic author. Then Holiday includes a few short paragraphs to help the reader make sense of the passage and how it might apply to our lives.
I’m doing this every morning and jotting down my thoughts into a Scrivener document. I have not missed today since the the beginning of the year and I’m slowly making gains in adding the Stoic philosophy to my life.
I haven’t written any posts on this on my blog, but I plan to do a monthly summary starting in February. It will include some of the best lessons I’ve learned during the course of the previous month.
#3 Quarterly Projects
Another project that I’m working on this year is a set of quarterly projects where I will be doing a deep dive into four different books.
What I want to find out is is it possible to take a book and rather than skim and blaze through it can I spend time reflecting on it and create some lasting behavior change.
For instance, in the past I’ll be reading a book and taking notes or highlighting passages and thinking to myself, “Self, that is a great idea.”
What happens though is that I continue reading or move on to a different book and the idea(s) get lost; never to be thought of or acted on again. This quarterly project is meant to give me three months to really chew on a book and see what takeaways I can pull from it to improve my life.
The books are:
Q1 – Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss. I’ve read Tim’s other books and have found him very helpful in offering suggestions and ideas to improve and get better at living a meaningful life.
Q2 – Grit by Angela Duckworth
Q3 – Essentialism by Greg McKeown
Q4 – Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
#4 Slow Carb
What would a new year be without a diet. The diet I chose thanks to Tim Ferris is the Slow Carb diet. And this year I decided to do something different. I stopped thinking about this change in my eating habits as a diet and more as a long-term commitment to healthy eating.
The number one goal for me with this slow carb change is to stop drinking so much soda. I drink way too much Dr Pepper.
A rough sketch of the slow carb diet we’ll give you an idea of why I chose it and how I think it can help me.
The diet is based on six days of clean eating with a focus on vegetables and protein and limiting carbs such as white rice, bread and empty calories like sugary sodas. On the seventh day though you can eat and drink whatever you want. As much as you want.
Most weeks so far I haven’t made it through all six days, but that is why I’m taking the long view on this. If I cheat more than one day a week I’m examining why and figuring out what changes I can make so it doesn’t happen again.
I’m also using a handy wall calendar to track every day that I meet my diet commitments. It’s an idea I first heard about from James Clear called the Seinfeld method. I plan to write a detailed post on how I’m using this method next week.
I have tried to journal for the past 10 years. I’ll start like most things with the best of intentions and go for a week or maybe a month (never more than three months) and consistently journal.
What changed this year was I committed to putting all my thoughts – including my journaling – in one spot. I also researched the most popular journaling templates to find one that would work best for me. The third change was influenced by the projects I have going this year.
By having my journaling in a Scrivener file I was able to jump back-and-forth between entries and see how my thinking has changed and what experiences I’ve had since the beginning of the year. Going on a quest to improve oneself requires looking inward, but also getting the sense where you were and how far you’ve come. Having my entries in one place allows me to do this.
Morning pages is a free form journaling system where you write freehand for three pages every morning. I changed this template and do it every morning in Scrivener. I’ve added some motivational mottos to the beginning of every page and I write down the answers to some questions that I want to think about everyday.
I’ve made some changes as well to The 5 Minute Journal system to customize it for my own uses. I didn’t buy the journal, I just used it as a template.
I found that by making these custom changes I’m able to journal with intention and use them as a guide to get everything done that I need to for the day.
#6 Intentional Reading
My final big project for 2017 is intentional reading.
I save a huge amount of information that I want to read later. I just couldn’t find the time to read all these articles and blog posts.
What I’m currently trying is to read one helpful article per day. I further narrow the focus by sticking to one website or person to read on each of those days.
So for instance I’m writing this post on Wednesday and on that day of the week I read an article by James Clear.
Here are the authors that I read by day of the week:
Sunday – Brain Pickings
Monday – Barking Up the Wrong Tree
Tuesday – Farnam Street
Wednesday – James Clear
Thursday – Ryan Holiday
Friday – Darius Foroux
Saturday – Market Meditations
This allows me to be intentional with both my reading and my time.
I’ve decided that writing is the most important pillar of my personal development projects. That is where I need to spend my time.
So those are the behavior change projects that I’m working on. The most interesting takeaway has been how much time I was wasting in the past.
I put a lot of things on my plate that weren’t there last year. Focusing on the stuff that truly matters I’ve been able to get better just a little bit at a time.
I’ve never been this productive in my life and I’ve never set so many stretch goals all at once. But by doing so I’m forcing myself to grow in meeting the challenge on a daily basis.
I’ve completely altered my normal day compared to last year. I already feel the amazing benefits of trying to change one focused and productive day at a time. It has not been easy, but nothing worth having ever is.