“The average person, in as little as three to five years, can become recognized as a world-class expert in a topic of his or her choice just by focusing on the subject for one hour a day.” The Productivity Handbook, Donald E. Wetmore
That statement may sound a little far-fetched, but think about it. If you gave one hour a day to increasing your knowledge and/or skill in a particular area, that’s over 350 hours a year! We often underestimate the effect of small steps (an hour a day) because we fail to see the big picture, the cumulative effect (350 hours/year). An hour won’t make you an expert in anything. Even an hour a day for a solid week, won’t make you an expert. Or an hour a day for two weeks. But an hour a day for a month… That’s thirty hours devoted to a single subject. Will that make a difference? It will make a difference, but not necessarily in the way you think. As I write this, I am relating the opening statement to my 30-day challenge. This is Day 12 of my commitment to post to the blog every single day for 30 days. The real “challenge” to myself is not so much in the “posting” as it is in the “writing.” I want to become a better, faster writer. I should be seeing or feeling a sense of momentum by now in my speed. I have spent far more more than an hour a day on this project. So after twelve days, am I picking up speed in my writing? Can I see expert-ism as a writer/blogger in my future?
The answer is yes and no (don’t you love it when people say that?). I am not getting any faster—yet. But I am learning some things that will make me faster. Up to now, I have just been winging it one day at a time. I sit down with a vague notion of what I plan to write about. I type a few sentences, think about it, backspace, re-write, read again, backspace, re-write, and so on. A real writer would go crazy watching my process (so would non-writers). Even while I am going through this laborious repetition, I know that I am doing it all wrong. I know I am not supposed to edit as I write, but I am supposed to write “stream of consciousness” style—write quickly without giving any thought to editing—and later go back and start cleaning it up. The main focus at first is just to get something down on the page (or on the screen, in my case). How do I know that is how it is supposed to be done? Because I have been reading about writing and blogging. I have subscribed to some blogs about blogging and I know—in theory—how “real writers” write. That is actually part of my process in becoming an expert—read the experts.
But knowing and doing are two different things. I am having to learn to not edit. I am having to learn to just “go for it,” to write like a wild woman at the keyboard.
Another thing I am learning is that I can’t wing it; I can’t have only a vague notion. I wrote my first advance post yesterday (remember, I am having to plan ahead for several of my posts—a factor that I actually did not think of when I started this 30-day challenge in July). It was VERY difficult for me. Why? I think because of how I have been posting thus far—the “winging-it” style. So to actually plan a post in advance was changing my pattern (though I was changing my pattern for the better, it still felt forced and unnatural because that is not the way I’ve been doing it thus far). However, once I got it posted (scheduled to post), I felt so inspired (this is the opposite of writer’s block!). I made a rough outline for another post and again, I realized how much easier it would be to write that one than everything I have written up to this point.
So, back to my yes and no answer above. No, I am not yet getting faster. What I have learned these first 12 days of the challenge is what NOT to do! In some circles, they would say I’m getting my sea legs—or blog legs. I’m acclimating to being a writer. But YES, I am starting to see a glimmer of “expert-ism” in my future, simply because I feel that these two revelations—1) just write, don’t edit; 2) plan what to write before you write—are going to speed me up.
But what about other kinds of challenges? Not all challenges require as much thinking as writing does. Some of the challenges that people have shared in the comments section require more discipline than thinking (getting up earlier, drinking X ounces of water a day, reading the Bible X minutes a day, running daily, practicing deep breathing daily, etc.). Those challenges are more about building habits than about learning a new skill like writing. Will their experience be similar to mine? Are the first several days of their 30-day challenges a process of learning what not to do?
My friend, LynnDee, who has challenged herself to run every day for 30 days, commented, “I am learning and seeing so much through the challenge. Today was a little difficult. I did not get as far as I wanted, and I am having to learn to balance when to push myself and when to slow down and not overdo it. There are also many other factors that are to be considered when running, such as how eating late [at night] affects running the next morning. [Also, how running] early in the morning compares to running later in the the day. When implementing an exercise routine, much more than running has to be taken into account!” (Underlining is mine.)
LynnDee’s process sounds very similar to mine! She is learning to tweak her lifestyle in order to be an effective runner.
In summary, I suppose I could say these first 12 days have been a success in two ways: 1) I’ve not broken the chain. I’ve posted every day, though some days my writing leaves much to be desired, and almost every day, I was very, very slow. 2) I have learned at least two things NOT to do—don’t wing it, and don’t edit until after I have written. I can definitely identify with Thomas Edison’s statement when he said “If I find 10,000 ways something won’t work, I haven’t failed. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward.”
How are you doing on your challenges? Are you learning ways to tweak the process so you will be more effective? Please share by clicking the “comments” link below.