Late last year, I had the wild-hair idea to create a year of prompts that I called the Content Excellence Challenge.
We’ve had a year of these creativity and productivity challenges here on Copyblogger, and I think we’ve all arrived at a very special place. Spiritually, ecumenically, grammatically.
The community has spent a year trying new creative directions and improving our productive habits. Now we come to the twelfth month, and it’s time for our final pair of prompts. Are you with us?
The December creativity prompt
Since this month tends to be a little chaotic anyway, take advantage of the disruptions in your routine to think about what you want to make happen in 2018.
What new medium do you want to try? What would you like to do differently? What writing techniques or formats would you like to master?
The long winter nights (at least in my hemisphere) are good for dreaming. Instead of waiting for the January resolution rush, start now.
What do you want your creative work to look like in the coming year?
Write it all down. You can include crazy ambitious dreams — “I want to be as funny as Ann Handley” — and practical ones — “I want to publish one piece of content every week consistently.”
The December productivity prompt
Now, taking a look at your goals, wishes, and creative dreams … what has to change in your habits to get you there?
If your first answer is, “I have to write for two hours consistently every single day,” and currently you don’t write at all most days, that’s a good indicator it’s a long-term habit goal.
Let’s start with something a lot smaller.
Decide now to quit making grand plans that never get implemented.
Instead, commit to something so small you know you can easily do it every day. Even on sick days. Even when your in-laws are in town.
Here’s a proven four-part plan that can make that happen for you.
Step #1: Decide on the trigger
For many of us, this is the ingestion of the first caffeinated beverage of the day.
“Every day, as soon as I finish my first cup of coffee, …”
You could certainly choose a different trigger — just make sure it’s something that happens every day.
Step #2: Decide on a genuinely tiny action
Then, make a commitment to one habitual behavior that’s very easy.
“… I will write for 10 minutes.”
If 10 minutes feels too hard right now, you can bump it down to something that feels better. If it feels way too easy … that’s okay. Leave it at 10 minutes. You’re always very welcome to go longer if you feel like it, and most days you probably will.
Step #3: Make a plan for the nutty days
Some days are going to be ridiculous. You can make a decision right now that you’ll take certain days off — for example, the holidays. You’ll also want to come up with a plan for the days that are just garden-variety crazy.
“I’ll take a day off on major holidays. Otherwise, if the day is insane, I will bring my iPad into the bathroom and pretend I have a stomach bug so I can get my writing done.”
Life is not smooth, simple, or cooperative. So make a plan for how you’re going to address that inevitable reality.
Here’s what that looks like when it’s all put together:
“Every day, as soon as I finish my first cup of coffee, I will write for 10 minutes. I’ll take a day off on major holidays. Otherwise, if the day is insane, I will bring my iPad into the bathroom and pretend I have a stomach bug so I can get my writing done.”
You could use this one if it happens to fit you, or adjust it as you see fit. And if you want to rework it down the line, you absolutely can.
The only “rule” is not to push that daily mini commitment to anything that isn’t insanely easy. It has to be something you can commit to with complete confidence.
If you find you aren’t doing it consistently, make the commitment easier. You’re aiming for “pathetically easy.”
Step #4: When (not if) you fall off the wagon, just get on again
I guarantee that you will miss some days, particularly early on. When you do, don’t try to write for 20 minutes the next day, or an hour over the weekend.
Just take that iPad into the bathroom the next time you can and get today’s writing done.
And then continue on your normal track.
Want some more prompts?
If you have some time off this month (or a little too much time with relatives that you’d like to fill up with some work), you’re always welcome to go back to the earlier prompts and find some more things to work on.
Here are all of the 2017 Content Excellence Challenge prompts:
- January: Better headlines, plan tomorrow’s output today
- February: Speak to one person, the pivotal technique
- March: Keyword research, schedule your goof-off time
- April: Capture the language of your audience, start a creative journal
- May: Banish “fine,” build on your strengths
- June: Schedule your outreach, create an alter ego
- July: Try two new content formats, find a pair of half hours
- August: Track your time, seek out a creative crossroads
- September: Define your processes, write your manifesto
- October: Adopt a habit for your future self, sharpen up your “3 Ps”
- November: Make some lists, connect with people who care about you
Doing this month’s challenge? Let us know in the comments!
This is your last chance to join in publicly! If you decide on some creative goals for 2018, or make a commitment to a micro-habit (or both), let us know! We’d love to cheer you on. 🙂