The Goal

To set the scene, it’s Sunday evening and I’m in an online meeting with my Accountability Group. This is a group consisting of myself plus three other people, also doing the same education that I am.  We meet online weekly to help each other along, share ideas and motivate each other to move forwards in starting and growing our online businesses.

We each set goals that we are aiming to achieve in the next week. I had decided that my next step in the journey to build my online business would be to start producing content for my website.

Bear in mind I haven’t written or created a single piece of content at all yet on this website.  But choosing not to play small, I decide three was a good number and committed to writing three blog posts and publishing them on my website by our next meeting the following Sunday evening.  That’s three blog posts in 7 days. (I almost said two, but decided I needed a ‘reach’ goal that would stretch me.)

The forfeit for failing to achieve this goal would be that I could not eat chocolate for a week. Now that is a pretty big punishment for someone who is arguably the biggest chocoholic you will ever meet!

Writer’s block

When I set myself this challenge I thought I had plenty to say and lots to write about and it would just be a case of sitting down at the computer and putting my fingers to the keys. So on Tuesday morning I sat down at the computer… and waited for the magic to happen.

Suffice to say, it wasn’t that easy.

You think you have so much to say, so much you want to communicate to the world, and then when it comes down to it and there’s a blank page in front of you… where do you start?

I had a list of topics I’d been compiling for a number of weeks, but as I went through them I dismissed each one in turn… Nope, not sure what I really want to say about that.  Nope, that’s not relevant.  Nope, who’d want to read about that? Hmm, maybe that one? Nah, that one’s too personal, I’m not ready to talk about that one yet. Ok, how about this one? Hmm, no, I haven’t thought through the arguments on that one yet.

Procrastination kicks in

Realising that I was procrastinating and knowing I just needed to get going, I decided to just pick a theme and start writing… hoping that inspiration would grab me and the article would flood out of me like the water floods over Niagara Falls.

But after the first couple of paragraphs I realised I was waffling and didn’t really have a point to make.  So I abandoned that topic and picked another one.  But after starting on that one, I ran out of steam on that subject very quickly.  Then I picked something a bit meatier, but soon realised the issue I was tackling was such a big topic that what I was starting was a book not a blog!

I don’t have time to write a book right now… I’ve got a business to start!

Seriously, stop procrastinating!!

Recognising that I was procrastinating again, I settled on the subject of Gratitude.  It is something that I feel passionate about, and wanted to try and share my point of view on.  I hoped to inspire people to take a few moments to stop and think about what they were grateful for, in the hope that I would bring a bit of positive thinking to people’s lives (you can read that post here).

Now that I had a topic in mind and had started to flesh out what I wanted to say, I undertook a short e-Learning course on ‘How to write a Compelling blog post’.  Bursting with new knowledge about what makes a good blog article, I sat down and finally began to write in earnest (it was now around 9pm at night!).

Et voila!

I must have spent about 4 hours writing, researching, re-writing and editing the article. At around 2am I had the makings of an informative article.  Too tired to concentrate any more, I fell into bed.

Approaching it with fresh eyes the following morning, after a second reading I scrapped whole paragraphs, added new sections, edited what I’d already written, changed the order and added in some more links and references…

Then came the process of adding photos, formatting the headings and sub-headings… and then another two hours of re-writing for readability and search engine optimisation.

Eventually, 48 hours after starting, I published the article.  Finally I could relax! I’d completed my first one! But I was exhausted – mentally, and physically. Should it really be that hard?

One down… two to go

It was now Wednesday evening, and I had another two of these to write by Sunday evening…

I felt so traumatised by the whole experience, I put off starting the next article. Thursday, I tried not to think about it as I was cruising around the countryside on my motorbike with my Dad.  Friday, as I spent the day being pampered with my Mum for her birthday, I told myself “it’s ok, I’ve still got two days”.  Then I spent all of Saturday, when I was out for the day with my family, worrying about these two blog articles I was going to have to write.

With Sunday’s deadline looming, I started questioning why I wanted to write blog articles at all. “Who am I writing them for?” “I’m not sure this is the best use of my time, I’ve got so many other tasks on my To Do List.” “What’s the point of blogging anyway? It’s not like I’ve got anything important to say.”

“Besides,” I told myself, “it’s ok, I’ll get home early on Sunday then I’ll sit down on Sunday and bash them out.” I didn’t sleep well on Saturday night, worrying about getting home to write these blogs.

When I eventually got home, early Sunday afternoon, I had about 7 hours before my next meeting with my Accountability Group, where I would have to report on my progress that week.  But the pressure was too much.  I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t face trying to write these two blog posts. The fear of starting, and the fear of not being good enough, was too much.

I buckled

Remembering that my forfeit for not meeting my goals is forgoing chocolate for the whole next week, what did I do? I bought myself a big bag of Cadbury’s Giant Buttons, turned on the TV, and scoffed the whole bag while watching the British Grand Prix.  I knew I wouldn’t be able to eat any chocolate for the whole next week, so I might as well get my fix of it now!

After two hours of great racing, and in a chocolate coma, I switched channels to pick the Wimbledon Men’s Singles Final on TV… which lasted another three hours or so. I haven’t watched that much TV in months! Read: I had admitted defeat.

And so I turned up to my Accountability Group meeting feeling dejected.  I don’t like failure and I hate breaking promises. 

But a wonderful thing happened…

“Imperfect action is better than no action at all”

The power of masterminding with other leaders is that they look out for you when you’ve given up on yourself.  Serge said to me, “well, Sunday’s not over yet.  Do you reckon you can write two blog posts by midnight tonight? If you do, you get to eat chocolate.”

And then Marianne reminded me of something I’d said in a previous meeting – imperfect action is better than no action.  It doesn’t need to be perfect, it doesn’t even need to have a point.  The point is, just take action.  And after all, practise makes perfect, right!

Chocolate is my carrot

You’ve heard the proverb about the Carrot and the Stick right? In order to get a donkey to move towards the market, the farmer can either hit it with a stick from behind until it moves, or dangle a carrot just in front of it, so it takes a step forward towards the carrot thinking it will be able to eat it… but the carrot is always just out of reach, until the donkey arrives at the market.

And so with my pride giving me big hit up the backside with the proverbial stick, my proverbial carrot – in the form of chocolate – had been dangled in front of me.

Loving a challenge, the tight deadline has given me the focus I needed to get on with it and STOP PROCRASTINATING!

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how and why this blog article came about.