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How Persistent Sprints Build Businesses & Books

Courtesy of Creative Commons (Fabiola Medeiros)
Courtesy of Creative Commons (Fabiola Medeiros)

Are you time-strapped or focus-challenged, but you have a book to write or business to build?

It might seem counter-intuitive – even threatening to your cherished beliefs – to imagine writing a book or building your signature business Story 15, 30, 45 minutes at a time. But that’s how you can do it. 

Fantasies trap us. When we imagine writing a book or building our newest endeavor, we conjure images of languid, lush hours mulling, creating, wandering, and – eureka! – you’re writing that brilliant book or launching that extraordinary endeavor.

Everything else – your bread-and-butter work, your obligations to loved ones and friends and job, your strained back, the leaky roof – falls away for hours if not days so you can immerse yourself in Flow [Stage note: Cue in magical harp music and pixie dust.].

What happens with this fantasy? You size up Life and Time (or your self) as the Wicked Enemies, and Creative Mojo as the unattainable but desperately yearned-for Ozland over the rainbow. You can unwittingly make yourself a helpless character in your own saga.

Once you’re devoted to a dream and you’re willing to stand in love with it, consider loving that dream with a quickie practice at first. What’s a quickie practice?

I suggested she write her book with quickies. Never, I advised, sit down at your desk and say, “This morning I am going to write my book.” That’s daunting. It makes every writing session a performance instead of a practice.

Instead, scale your dream and break down the journey. Create a quickie practice. Do shape time with the Mind Rooms Method or another flexible rhythm and then schedule a few regular writing sessions a week – but keep them short at first.

I hear this protest a lot:

“But my project and I need lots of time to hunker down and go deep.” True, somewhat. The human mind – when trained and primed – can thrive in extended time immersed on one project.

But many people new to working their own hours have never trained their minds to “go deep” for hours at a time. Life circumstances if not minds themselves can change in ways that make such extended time challenging in phases.

If you’re just beginning to train or retrain yourself to focus on a “big” endeavor like a book or business Story, don’t give your mind too much wiggle and squirm and wander and get lost time. Give your mind a clear intention for 30 minutes or 45 minutes. Draft ideas. Take one step. Draft one scene. Research one piece of data.

Use a timer. I prefer the Enso timer. At the end of your time, bow out.

One client is a corporate executive with two teenage kids and a spouse. When he said he had no time to write this promising book that he had only rough ideas for, we charted his weekly calendar.

Pretty soon, I helped him find 3 “pockets of time” a week to focus on his book. We started by scaling the dream. Two years later he published his book and is growing his platform.

In the process of his tracking wonder, he has learned more than book-writing and platform-building. He also has cracked open to doing business as unusual by building real relationships and having significant and measurable impact on his community.

Not bad results for a quickie practice.

Our goal with this kind of practice is not to stoke your creative genius. It’s to build your practice muscles. It’s the equivalent of playing your scales when you’re learning an instrument. The genius insights and eureka moments will follow.

It might work for you. I hope so.

Devote time this week – even if it’s 30 minutes times 3 – to your book or endeavor. Let me know what happens. 

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  1. I love this, but I have found I have about fifteen different characters or projects competing for those half hour slots. They get in a fight, and squabble, and knock each other out. I keep wanting to give them all their own half hour each, but then that is a whole day. And if not, how do i choose? Or, how do i get myself to stick to my choice! Any ideas on lining up the multiple voices of projects in my head struggling to get out?

  2. Sarah, prioritizing projects can be a real challenge for creatives, creative professionals, and knowledge workers. The cognitive faculty I’d discernment: a sword-swiping capacity to say, This project, not that one.

    Having so many competing projects sometimes is a sign of fearing completion. We sometimes fear completion because we fear what we complete might not turn out the way we want.

    But, that fear aside, here are a few things you can do.

    List your five or eight or ten projects by name. Ask yourself these questions for each one: How much excitement do I feel at the prospect of completing this project? How much curiosity do I feel toward this project? How much time urgency is there to complete this project? How much closer will completing this project get me toward my desired vision for myself? Create your own rating system. Be ruthless, and devote attention to no more than the top 3 for an extended period of time.

    You can look up my npbook The 7-Minute Prioritizer for an even more efficient system to help you prioritize.