This One Habit Transformed My Life

Financial security can be paid for two ways. Get a job or become an entrepreneur.

Starting a business is often seen as a big bang approach. High risk and a big financial commitment. Find a bricks and mortar premises, commit to an expensive lease, hire staff and start marketing and selling your products and services.

Today all you need is a laptop, an Internet connection and just one idea.

Which one do I prefer?

I have done both. One trapped me and the other gave me the financial, lifestyle and mental freedom I had been seeking for decades.

It came out of one habit that I committed to every day.

False security

Finding “that” job often provides a false sense of security.

“That” craved for career can be destroyed by a corporate takeover or the cruel game of office politics. A job for life is being replaced by a 12 month contract or the freelancer.

But in a world that is in the majority a knowledge economy, the opportunities to reach the world that is thirsting for your experience and expertise and get paid for it is now needed. Becoming a freelancer or entrepreneur is becoming a solution.

Now I can hear you saying……“I have a day job and don’t have the time”. A day job is just 8 hours…..the raw reality? There are another sixteen hours available.

Arnold Bennett highlighted this in a small 33-page book “How to Live on 24 Hours a Day” (written over a hundred years ago). He encouraged us to live a day within a day that can take us from ordinary to extraordinary.

Many of us go to work and come home and engage in trivial activities. This includes television, reading a glossy magazine, sending text messages or even playing with Snapchat.1

Investing in your own creation, production and distribution of your experience, expertise and passion while holding down a day job can transform your life.

How do I know?

That is what happened to me when I stumbled into a social web that offered a promise of freedom to create and reach the world one word at a time.

Work that makes a difference

In his book “Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World”, Cal Newport dives into the difference between deep work and shallow work. Any of us that are trapped in the never-ending cycles of responding to emails and attending meetings know the feeling.

At the end of the day you are asking “that” question.

What have I done or created today that is of any consequence.7

But there is a solution to that nagging question. It doesn’t matter if you are a knowledge worker within the corporate machine, an entrepreneur or a creative.

An approach

According to Cal Newport there are several options to doing “Deep Work”. It is not one size fits all. It depends on how you like working and living and also depends on your particular life circumstance.

Monastic Approach: Cutting yourself off from the world to focus and remove distraction.

Bi-Modal Approach: This is where you may work and perform the day-to-day work in one location and do your deep work at another. You then dive in and out of each space.

Journalist Approach: This is an approach where you seize the opportunity to perform “Deep Work” at random as time and your schedule allows.

Rhythmic Approach: This where you set apart a certain time of day to create and block it out every day and commit to that ritual.

These are not the only ways to create “Deep Work” but they provide some ideas for a habit that could change your life.

The habit

In 2009 I started my blog and my approach was more like a journalist. I often created late at night but also on weekends. But as the journey continued the ritual changed to a rhythmic habit.

I rose early at 4.30am for 5 days a week and turned off all email, social networks and other distractions. The ritual included making a coffee, a mug of lemon and ginger tea and sitting down and strapping myself in.

I researched, wrote and published. The last step was pushing that content out to the waiting world.

When you do that one day at a time for 4 years then things start to happen. A passion project became a serious business. Done part time before most people were awake.

That habit was an investment in me. But when I started I didn’t understand its far reaching consequences.

The power of validation

In 1998 a journalist David Isay decided to capture the stories of ordinary people. He visited the flop houses of New York and sat down with men that had been living and surviving for decades in run down buildings.

After publishing their interviews he went back and showed them their one page stories in print. One man on seeing his name in black and white, seized the book out of David’s hand and ran down the corridor and shouted “I exist…..I exist……I exist!”

These men had to wait for someone else to discover them……to share their story with the world. The visibility had also provided a validation. It is something we as humans crave.

To be acknowledged is a powerful thing.

Choose to be discovered

But on today’s social and mobile web we don’t have to wait for discovery or for permission.

We can create, publish and showcase our own existence without waiting for permission or to be “discovered”

We can choose to start something of consequence.2 We can choose to create.  When you start sharing that with the planet, the magic of that distillation of your thoughts and genius is a place to grow and to be validated.

The social web with its platforms and networks is a feedback loop that will give you the feedback you need to evolve and grow.

I pose a new mantra. “I create, I publish, I exist

Block out your time for “your” creation

So plan your day for making sure you have focused creative space. Block out time for “deep work”. Don’t make success an accident. Design your life, share your expertise, experience and passion.

We all have the opportunity to be craftsmen. To be creators and producers of content and media that belongs to you and not the corporation.

The habit of doing the “deep work” is not just about productivity. It goes much deeper than that.

It is a place where your learning goes to a new level one day at a time. Blocking out some hours for you. For your work. But……don’t keep your creation hidden from the world. Share it. That is where the magic happens.

It will fill the hole that gnaws at you every day if that opportunity to create in concentration is ignored.

Soul food

You will feel a sense of accomplishment as a work that started as raw and rough becomes a piece of art that is yours. It will feed your soul.

That’s your life, your work and your creation.

You will look back in a year and wonder why you didn’t start the habit earlier.

But you must commit to making it happen and to investing in yourself. Responding to other people’s emails and attending meetings is not investing in your work.

It is just busyness.

One of the biggest challenges in life can be the habits that trap us in mediocrity or stop us growing and moving forward.14

It’s your choice.

About the author: Jeff Bullas

jeff - profile picJeff is an entrepreneur, blogger, author, marketer and speaker and works with personal brands and business to optimize online personal and company brands with emerging technologies, content, social media technologies and digital marketing. He has spent most of his career involved with information technologies, telecommunications and the web.

This article was first published by Jeff Bullas

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