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“Normal People” vs High Performers

And Everyday Habits of Quality

 

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by Nick Stephenson in Books and Writing

“Normal People” vs High Performers

Take a person you admire in your chosen field. Maybe it’s an author, business owner, performer, whoever. How do you suppose they found success?

It’s easy to assume these people are somehow “different”. Or they got lucky. But in most cases that’s not the case. For the last few weeks, I’ve taken the opportunity to do some people studying. Something I’ve noticed – those people most likely to succeed, the “high performers”, practice one specific thing on a daily basis. Can you guess what it is?

No, it’s not this.

You might think something along the lines of “developing their craft”, or “building an online audience”, but you’d be wrong.

Sure, those things are useful. But they’re products of something much more important. And you don’t need to be a genius, a millionaire, or the heir to a business empire to do this yourself.

High performers aren’t “superheroes” or strange mutants, they just practice what I call a habit of quality in everything they do. And that habit transfers over to all areas of their lives – including their books and their businesses, their privates lives and their professional success.

It’s quite easy to identify a high performer just by looking at a few common everyday scenarios. Maybe you’ll recognise a few people who do these things (or maybe you do them yourself).

Here are some examples of how “high performers” set themselves apart every single day:

Vacations

Normal people go to a foreign country and make every attempt possible to avoid speaking to the locals. When they do, they just shout at them in English. Sometimes, they might do a little mime just to spice things up.

High Performers research their chosen destination and learn a few key phrases they can use on a daily basis. Normal people react by saying, “Wow, I didn’t know you spoke [insert language here]!”.

Hint: they don’t. They just spent a couple of hours planning ahead.

Making Mistakes

Normal people worry about making mistakes. Failure is something to be ashamed of, a weakness. Not to be talked about.

High performers understand mistakes and failure are all part of getting better and reaching their goals. Failure makes them stronger and better at what they do – and they share their failures with others, so other people can learn too.

Dealing with Overwhelm

Normal people get stressed, panic, and put off doing the work. A cycle of procrastination begins (and it’s tough to break out of).

High performers break down the task at hand into easy-to-achieve chunks, and ask for help where it’s needed (also, see “making mistakes” above).

Making Money

Normal people go to work, do their job, then come home and don’t think about work until the next morning. Retirement is the ultimate goal.

High performers start their own business on the side, or work towards a career plan to get promoted early / find a better job, take courses to improve their skills, and attend networking events (all on their own time). Fulfilment is the ultimate goal.

Coping with Stress

Normal people get stressed and think “It’s just the way it is”. Eg, “My house is always messy because I have kids”, or “I never get any time to myself because I’m too busy”, or “I have no idea what I’m going to do about dinner this week”.

High performers develop systems to deal with stressful environments – like hiring a cleaner, developing a personal calendar, automating bill payments, preparing meal plans, etc (anything that means “I don’t have to think about it”).

Health and Fitness

Normal people wish they could lose weight. They look at fit people and say, “I wish I had the time” or “I could never give up carbs!”.

High performers develop a meal plan and schedule exercise sessions into their calendar (allowing for cheat days). They go to classes with their friends (so they have to show up), join support groups, or hire personal trainers / partner up with fit friends.

These are just a few examples of everyday things high performers do that “normal people” don’t.

All these examples are symptoms of people who aim for quality in everything they do. People who are passionate about achieving a specific goal.

These things don’t require mounds of spare cash. They don’t require you to be a certified genius. Anybody can do this.

You just have to care enough about what you’re doing. Build a habit of quality. It won’t happen overnight, but small changes make a big impact over time.

And guess what? Those habits carry over to your work, to your business.

Which are You?

I hear from authors all the time who are struggling to grow their business. At first, I would set them specific tasks and ask them to keep me posted on their results.

But you know what? I never heard back.

I see many others complaining on forums about lack of progress. Some people offer advice, but get shot down. Those people don’t bother offering advice again.

Others buy up dozens of “self-help” books and never even read them. Because it’s nice to feel like you’re doing something.

But this isn’t enough.

Once you practice a habit of quality, things often fall into place alarmingly fast. Everything suddenly feels “easier”. And other people – “normal people” – will wonder where you find the time (or will just assume you “got lucky”).

What are your habits?

A quick quiz:

  1. When you’re presented with a solution to a problem, do you take action right away or do you procrastinate?
  2. When someone you trust offers you specific advice or coaching, do you implement it right away or do you look for reasons it “won’t work for you”?
  3. When considering a business expense, do you focus on how it’s going to save you time / money in the longterm, or do you fixate on the cost?
  4. Do you look for reasons to say “yes” or reasons to say “no”?

The above is a good litmus test. But what about some more practical examples? Here are a few things I’ve learned over the last few years that have given me a disproportionate advantage.

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Getting Work Done

Everybody’s different when it comes to work. Whether it’s writing, marketing, or your day job (whatever it is) there are a variety of “methods” to get stuff done – but the problem is, most of them aren’t going to suit you.

The first step is to figure out what kind of “worker” you are. Some people meticulously plan everything down to the last detail. Others fly by the seat of their pants. Most people are in the middle.

Personally, I’m a procrastinator. I leave everything until the last minute. Which means work stresses me out (because I put it off and put it off) until it’s finished. And then the cycle repeats.

So instead of bemoaning my lack of organisation, or yelling to the world “I’ll do it later!”, I use this to my advantage. It turns out, I can get a LOT done in a very short period of time if the circumstances are right.

Ever hear about those author success stories? You know the ones where an author writes a series of novels on their way to work / late at night / in-between jobs?

It turns out, tight deadlines and – paradoxically – a severe LACK of time can benefit some people. Like me.

If I give myself an hour to write 1,500 words I write 1,500 word in an hour (like this article). If I give myself all day, it takes all day (well, I leave it until 4pm and THEN do it in an hour, having worried about it all day).

So I set myself “windows” of time. Two hours in the morning, two hours in the afternoon. I schedule appointments and activities for noon and after 5pm that I can’t miss. That’s it. If I don’t get my work done in those allotted windows of time, I have to spend all evening doing it after the kids are asleep. And I don’t want to do that.

So guess what? Work gets done. Consequences and deadlines. Turn “weaknesses” into strengths.

Health and Fitness

I’m not a naturally “go out and get fit” kinda guy. I don’t enjoy hiking, kayaking, camping, or climbing. I don’t go jogging. My idea of a “fun time” does not include kale, vegan barbecues, or yoga retreats. There is very little in my day-to-day life that would be considered “active” unless I go out of my way to get exercise.

A couple of years ago I decided to make health a priority. But I also knew that – given the choice – I’d probably give up after a week or two.

It’s tempting to look at the cost of gym membership and think, “I’ll just do pushups at home and cut back on the sugar a little.” but life doesn’t work like that.

First – pushups don’t really do anything. Second – nutrition is a lifestyle change, not a quick-win diet.

So instead of repeating the same mistakes I’d made before and just paying out for a gym membership I’d never use, I knew I needed to introduce “deadlines and consequences” into that area of my life too.

That meant finding friends to work out with, so I would be more likely to show up. Later, I hired a personal trainer. I started doing Brazilian JiuJitsu and, later, boxing. In each instance, I found people to go with, or hired an instructor. Result = I actually show up. “Not showing up” isn’t an option when other people are expecting you at a specific time. Even better result = I see improvements, fast (more motivation).

I cut back on unhealthy food by finding a local cook who could provide 90% of my meals for me in tubs I could heat up at home (a lot cheaper than you’d think, about $3.00 per meal). Meaning “nutrition” is another thing I don’t have to think about. Result = when I’m hungry I don’t slap together a sandwich, grab a chocolate bar, or forget to eat altogether. I pick up my food from my gym. If I don’t make it to the gym, I can’t eat.

Consequences and deadlines.

Yup, I’m the weirdo who brings a week’s worth of food on vacation…

Finance and Money

There’s very little in life that’s quite as stressful as worrying about money. And it doesn’t matter how much you make – I’ve experienced life on welfare (today’s choice = “I can either get the bus to work, or I can eat”. I did a lot of walking), life with a middle income (“Why is everything so expensive? There goes the savings account”), and, more recently, running a seven-figure business (“Facebook wants HOW MUCH???”).

The worries don’t change. However much you make, you’ll always think, “I just need an extra $X a month and everything will be better…”

Well, it won’t. Sorry. But you can make life easier.

Over time, I implemented automation into my personal finances and business finances, and learned to stop worrying.

Each month, all the money needed for bills, expenses, taxes, etc, goes into a separate account that doesn’t have a bank card linked to it. Then I add an extra 20% at least to cover any shortfall. The same with savings. I have 6 bank accounts.

Whatever’s left in the “spending account” can be spent guilt free.

For years I lived month to month (at a variety of income levels) and ended up with nasty surprises when it was time to pay up for bills, taxes, unexpected expenses, etc. It’s no wonder the majority of lottery winners go bankrupt – and it’s not like they teach this stuff in school.

In the last 18 months, since focusing on automating my finances, I’ve managed to pay off all my student loans, credit cards, and other debt – and introduced a savings fund that will cover all my taxes 6 months before they’re due. My business has enough saved up to run for 6 months without any revenue coming in.

It’s taken me 14 years to figure this stuff out. And, in the end, all it took was 25 minutes fiddling with my online banking and 10 minutes a month with a finance spreadsheet.

End result = I don’t worry about it.

Business

In particular, “selling stuff” and “marketing”. Which broadly means “making money now” and “doing stuff that will make money later”, respectively.

Sure, there’s a lot of other stuff that goes into running a business. Like taxes, legal structures, hiring, leadership, strategy, systems, processes, and so on. And that’s a great topic for another day.

Here’s my Monday morning task list. Most of it is dealing with internal processes and campaigns 3+ months in the future. You don’t need to worry about 99.9% of this until you get the next part nailed.

But what most people want to hear about is “how do I sell more books?” and “How do I grow my audience (so I can sell more books later)?”.

This is a topic that is so widely misunderstood. The problem is, when people decide to start a business, they have no idea what they’re doing. It’s true for authors, it’s true for other types of entrepreneurs.

The skills required to write a good book are not the same as those required to go out and sell that book. The skills required to build a successful business are not the same skills required to write a book.

This is why so many authors get frustrated with marketing and sales. And it’s why so many entrepreneurs who decide “to write a book” end up throwing it in the trash.

And, because people have no idea what they’re doing, many settle for the illusion of progress. That is, making sure they feel “busy” and focusing on metrics that don’t make the slightest difference (like your Twitter following, the number of “likes” your last post got, or fiddling around on author forums all day).

An easy solution: WIBBOW

As in, “Would I Be Better Off Writing?”.

Your business is a result of the number of books (or other products) you can sell. The number of books you sell is directly related to how many people know about you and what you have to offer.

Meaning – if one particular marketing activity isn’t going to measurably increase your sales or your audience growth (eg – leads on your email list) then don’t bother. You’ll save 90% of your time and you won’t have to worry about whether what you’re doing is going to work.

That means no PR firms. No blog tours. No Twitter “Tweet Teams”. No more forums. There are better things you could be doing.

If you want to learn more about the specifics, I’ll break down exactly what you need to be doing in our online workshop, The Three-Step Formula to Automate your Author Marketing and Find Your First 10,000 Readers.

By the time you’ve been through the material, you’ll have a solid blueprint you can use to get results right away. No muss, no fuss. Choose a time that suits you here:

 

In the meantime, I want to hear from you…

Can you tell me one area of your life where you’ve made a small change and seen big results over time? It might be in your professional life or your personal life. Let me know in the comments below – I’ll read every reply.

Leave a comment below:

 

 

 

55 Comments
  1. Lila Diller says:

    One small habit of quality that has worked for me is organizing emails & deleting any that don’t directly relate to me. I made a folder for done emails & try to touch them only once. They stay in my inbox only like hot potatoes until I can’t​do anything else with them, then they get moved to done. If I ever need to get to them again, I know where they are. If I don’t need to keep them, I delete them. If an email from a guru I follow doesn’t pertain to me, I delete it (even if I still love them!). Even though it took a little bit of effort to set up, this has helped me save so much time!

    1. Nick Stephenson says:

      Interesting – I’m a big fan of not stressing about emails. I also vehemently oppose voicemails 😀

  2. I hired a videographer by cntavting a local college. He videoed my dance performances, discovered I haven’t a career as an actor. He was having two of his books that he had included me in featured in the National Book Fair in Bankok so he wrote a script and videoed my performance. It went viral on You Tube with over 4 million views and I was hired in a firm in Bangkok to do six videos and several dance performances. I just had “My Adventures in Bangkok” published here in the USA. One thing leads to another.

    1. Nick Stephenson says:

      Love it!

  3. Mary says:

    Workouts! Six years ago I had chronic daily back pain, and I knew the next step was surgery. As a last-ditch effort, I joined a workout class that met at 5 a.m. in a town about 25 miles away. I had to leave my house at 4:15 to make the class! This was a commitment but I figured if I could just do it for 4 months, then I could schedule the back surgery certain I had tried everything. Four months later, my daily chronic pain was only a bi-weekly pain; a year later my back pain was about once every 3rd month. Eventually, I stopped having back pain at all! I still baby it and am careful with all exercise and lifting, but it’s been over 2.5 years since I’ve had even a minor flare up. That one change also cascaded into many other health habits, but the best by far is NO back pain!!

    1. Nick Stephenson says:

      Great example of remembering “why” you’re doing something (all those early mornings… sometimes it’s hard to remember!)

  4. Barbara Neville says:

    I’ve worked out forty minutes a day, six days a week for approaching two years now, jogging, walking lifting weights, some yoga stretches. Cut my calories drastically, upped my protein. And lost 20 lbs. Gained at least 10 lbs in muscle. Written a half dozen 300 page Western fiction books during the same time period. The big secondary win is that my energy is higher, mind and reflexes quicker, and my memory much better thanks to the workout. Now, if I could just get my AMS ads working a bit better…life would be perfect.

    1. Nick Stephenson says:

      Often it’s like a domino effect, right? Nail one aspect and things seem to fall into place easier. Example – if I ever have a lie in (yeah, right – 3 kids) that’s set things off on the wrong foot for getting anything useful done.

  5. I have ADD and the bane of my life, until I realized it was stressing me out needlessly, was paperwork. I could never find anything! And then I discovered the suspension file system -gone are all the ringbinders, folders and worksheet jungles. I’m an inveterate note scribbler, so wadges of notes get stuffed into a tray on my desk, but I now make a point of clearing that tray at least twice a month. The result: I now have one suspension file drawer for myself, and another for my Mum, who is in a care home. Oh, and a clear desk!

    1. Nick Stephenson says:

      Tidy desk = tidy mind (note: don’t ever have an empty desk) 😀

  6. Ginger Booth says:

    A few things…
    Morning workout. It’s less than 10 minutes, but I stretch and do stomach crunches and wake up – and no longer experience any hip pain.

    Daily workout – does not include the morning. At least a half hour walking or dancing to my mp3 player. An hour swimming usually in summer. And I track the workouts daily. I need them to keep my endorphins up. If I go two days without a workout – I can confidently expect a Really Bad Day.

    Email filters. My inbox is auto-sorted into file folders for any Facebook groups I belong to, and other distractions. Yes, I’ll check them sometime today, but not while trying to accomplish something. And while I’m writing? Just turn off the email. Sometimes play brain entrainment audio while writing to make focus easier.

  7. I also recently started allocating money to a number of different accounts for expenses, taxes, debt, spending, saving, etc. and just a few short months later have healthy tax and savings funds. I even set up savings accounts for my two kids and have been setting aside a small percentage of every dollar earned into those. Really cool knowing they will start their adult years with money to go to college, start a business, or whatever they decide. In just about two months we went from barely surviving paycheck to paycheck to living off between 50-70% of income received. It’s been such a relief and definitely nice to have one less concern on my already-overloaded plate.

  8. Over the past few years at our monastery (Light of the Spirit Monastery) we have had so many projects and so few people that we could have said, well, we just can’t manage them all. But instead, we did what we could with what time we could find.

    We set up a website to share what we have learned over the years. It now has hundreds of articles and posts, done simply as time allowed. (The saying goes, plod rhymes with God.)

    We wanted to share the writings on the website in printed form, but could not afford to hire others to do the work of layout, design, proof-reading of the books. So we learned photoshop, Indesign, watched tutorials, and began publishing our books with CreateSpace on Amazon, again, as time allowed.

    Ebook publishing was our next endeavor, and after trial and error, we have mastered the basics, and offer ebooks through KDP and Smashwords.

    Then came marketing. Lots of information is out there, and Nick, your videos and tutorials played a big part in us setting up our email gathering, setting up a Reader Magnet, and growing our subscriber list.

    Our next endeavor is getting our books into bookstores through IngramSpark. Then comes the process of marketing to them. As time allows.

    We have quite a way to go, as time allows, but we now have a micro press, Light of the Spirit Press with nine printed titles and ebooks, and three freebies with ads to our other books in the end matter to promote our titles.

    We could have said we don’t have the time or the resources or the manpower, but since this was important to us, we did what we could when we could, and things are growing beyond our expectations.

    Thanks for your online help and inspiration, Nick.

    Brother Simeon Davis
    Light of the Spirit Monastery

  9. Peter Glazier says:

    Normal People vs High Performers
    What are your habits?
    A quick quiz:
    1. When you’re presented with a solution to a problem, do you take action right away or do you procrastinate?

    ME: I do neither straight away – and this is not procrastination. I have learned to ‘test out’ thoughts / ideas / solutions in my spirit before I act. Only I can evaluate these against my purpose in life (why I am here, if you like), and they need to mesh with that purpose before I should act. Too many times have I rushed in only to find it is the wrong direction.

    Nick writes:
    Personally, I’m a procrastinator. I leave everything until the last minute. Which means work stresses me out (because I put it off and put it off) until it’s finished. And then the cycle repeats.
    So instead of bemoaning my lack of organisation, or yelling to the world “I’ll do it later!”, I use this to my advantage.

    ME: I am more procrastinator than not. But I can sense when something can be put off for now, even though I know I shall have to face it sometime. You say you turn it to your advantage. Yes, I do leave things until the last minute, but when I get down to it and am under the worst pressure, this is when I do my best work.
    So the one change I made in my life was to accept this is the way I work, but then revel in it when I get down to the task.

  10. Meditation. I knew nothing about it, so I started with daily guided meditations first. When I build up my “muscle” of getting a quiet mind even without guidance, I continued this way. Building this new habit helped me get more creative, sharpened my intuition and gave me an overall peace of mind and calmness that lasts even when I go through tough challenges. It helps me keep the hope alive even when results are not visible yet. Like during the burnout I went through last year, which actually brought me the idea of the book that became an Amazon bestseller when self-published it several months later (and writing it gave me something to hung on to accelerate the recovery).

  11. Be aware, in the moment, of what you want to remember! Forget the rest. The mind is infinitely larger than the activities in your life. You can’t remember what you never paid attention to.

  12. Dani S. says:

    I’ve gotten comfortable with being uncomfortable, both professionally and personally. I make a lot of mistakes. Huge ones. And they haunt me. Each time I try a new marketing technique or take a chance in the publishing arena it all feels like starting Zumba for the first time. You’ll look aloof, the fit regulars will laugh, and you’ll be sore for weeks. But after a while, you get a nice butt.

    1. Nick Stephenson says:

      Ha! Love the analogy. All about the butt at the end of the day, right?

  13. When I started a mail-order business I disciplined myself to roll out of bed at 7 am and cycle to the Mail Office to post orders before doing anything else.

    When I started to sell e-books I realised that automation was the key. I learned some PHP coding and quickly set up my own web site selling e-books.

    I experimented and the day after I changed my “book cover” images from 2D to 3D my sales increased by 30% and remained at that higher level. Although people know they are paying to download a file, subconsciously they like to see something that looks like a real book.

    Having got two businesses running with as much automation as possible, I had time to increase my sources of income: I created web sites with lots of original content and placed adverts on them.

    My writing skills have steadily improved so now I offer a copy-editing service to authors and publishers.

  14. During a painful divorce, I worked with a very famous, world class therapist who taught me to look pay close attention to the thought that there are only 2 important questions:
    1) What do I want?
    2) How am I stopping myself?
    The simplicity sparks the magic, and life has always remained magical.
    Warm Regards,
    Angus Kennedy

  15. Nick says:

    I’ve learned that small, incremental changes over the long term (daily writing time, three days of moderate exercise a week, cutting down on alcoholic drinks, sleeping in sometimes if I have to) make me much for effective at actually finishing projects. I recently bought Michael Hyatt’s “Free to Focus” planner, and I swear, it’s freed up hours a day. Sometimes something as small as a planner can do that.

  16. Thank you for the awesome article, Nick! Someday you could write a whole book on this stuff. It’s a valuable look at the whole picture (since none of us are just writers; we have other responsibilities, too).

    I, too, am a procrastinator. I love getting things done, but I get emotional about how hard stuff is. I wish I was different, and I don’t know how to get from here to there. I know the procedural steps I need to take to get things done, but I’m not motivated enough. I have way too much time to do writing, editing, painting, marketing… I hardly do any of it, so I’m looking to limit my time, enforce structure, and make myself get work done when I am supposed to. Before reading this article, I thought that flaw was… just me.

    The area of my life where I’ve made a small change and noticed a big impact is in my finances. I started by getting a money coach (trained in Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University). I found I was spending too much on credit (especially classes like this one), and though I could always pay it off by the first of the next month, I never really had a sense of what I was spending each month. My coach advised me to keep a spending record, and the budget has taken me four months to fiddle with. Each month I learn more, am more mindful of what I spend, and eventually (hopefully in the next month or two) I will find a process and budget that works for me!

  17. It was just a problem about how I could handle everything at home and at work, plus my LAUNDRY. Then, I finally settled my mind and decided to bring my laundry to the laundry shop every week and forget about the stress of washing every weekend. That’s it, aside from a minused stress, I can do writing and reading instead of doing laundry during weekends. And it was a big plus in my life. As simple as that but it is a big thing in making my life a little stress-free.
    Thanks for sharing everything with us. I can’t afford to enroll in your program but I always share what you write on FB and Twitter. Hope that helps. I love everything you write. They are all very inspiring.

  18. Judy Lawn says:

    I struggle with technology – massively! So when I learn something new, however small, this is a massive confidence boost. eg. This morning I learnt how to take out the hyperlink in my web address by right clicking on the link – remove hyperlink! This enabled me to upload my interior file to CS and pass the ‘there are no issues with your file’ test! Yay! Thanks to the wonderful support team at CS.
    Yes, I know you are smiling but I didn’t know this yesterday!
    Yesterday I learnt how to transfer money from one account to another.
    Every new thing I learn is a step up techno mountain!

  19. Hi Nick,
    Have wracked brains, but all the big results for me have come from big changes. Can’t think of a single one which has arisen from a small change, even over time. Wish I could.
    But I am enjoying the course enormously.
    Barbara

  20. Fitness and health has definitely improved in little wins over the last three years. I wasn’t into fitness but was sporty and athletic. The gym never appealed to me, but did it for health reasons and just kept to the plan to get me to my small goals one at a time. I called it 1% progress, but consistent progress. I try to have this attitude about things I’m more passionate about (and hence want to reach big goals very quickly) because the I tend to aim too high in the short term and the disappointment and frustration holds me back. I’m now aiming for 1% progress in my fiction writing.

  21. Elske Newman says:

    Hey Nick, I’m getting a cleaner so I can spend a couple more hours a week writing.

  22. Tim says:

    The small change that I made was to stop worrying over the things that I could not change. It sounds simple but takes a little practice. Such as once I have taken a test or had an interview, I don’t worry about the outcome of it. When I first started doing this, it was difficult to let go of the worry and angst of things outside my control but now after a number of years I am able to enjoy life a lot more, have practically no stress and I’m definitely more relaxed than most people I know.

  23. I left school at 15 years old in 1959 with no qualifications at all and spent the next 30 years basically bumming around doing jobs I hated. This was followed by a long period of unemployment during the recession of the early 1990s, during which I decided (in a better late than never moment) to try and make something of myself. First of all I did A-level English at my local college, then surprisingly found myself returning to full-time education at the age of 51 after being accepted for a HND course at Falmouth College of Arts in advertising copywriting. While still on this course I went on a three week placement to Saatchi & Saatchi, London, at the end of which I was staggered to be offered a full time job. I also won the top student award in the country (a D&AD) for a radio advertising script featuring Staropramen beer. Think that’s the end of it? No, not by a long way. When my first novel was published in 2000, the Saatchi international chairman, Alan Bishop, hosted a launch party for me at their in-house pub, the Pregnant Man. Athlete and broadcaster Steve Cram was the guest of honour. We later appeared together as guests on the Gloria Hunniford Chat Show. I’ve since written a lighthearted memoir of all this period, and completed three more novels. And to think it all started with just one A-level that I hoped might help to get me a job. I’m 73 now and still writing novels, so yeah, go for it. To hell with age! In my experience, 51 was the new 21.

    1. Arrwyn Cliona Odalht says:

      Your story is so encouraging for me. I’m 65 and “starting over from zero”! You give me hope that I’m not wasting time or “blowing smoke” for concentrating on my first love … writing. Thank you!

  24. Selina says:

    Writing one scene a day of my MS helped me to finish within 60 days. I’d never finished a story in two months before, my last one took me 1 year!

  25. Hi Nick,
    I can tell you about two things:
    1. I come home to my family and immediately put away all distracting things: phone, watch, wallet, and whatever else I’m carrying around. That takes those things off of my mind, so I don’t sit and mess around with email or websites when my kids need me. It’s made a big difference.
    2. I go to bed early and wake up early, so I can consistently work on writing and marketing books early in the morning, while the family’s still asleep.

    1. Nick Stephenson says:

      Nice – love the focus. Sometimes it’s the little things that get you there 🙂

  26. I have two examples. One in health and one in writing.
    After I had my second child I struggled to lose the weight, I gained 50 pounds with him, but after watching Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead I started drinking juice (fresh veggie juice I made myself) in place of one meal a day and saw lasting results. I felt better and got down to my prepregnancy weight.
    In writing, as soon as I set a deadline I freak myself out and put off writing. To avoid this, I set word count goals. I want to write 1500 words a day usually across two or three projects. The result, I usually write more and finish the drafts faster than I would have with a deadline. The drafts are also better because I’m not stressing about it while writing so they need less extensive revisions.

  27. C.J. Anaya says:

    About a year ago I set a fixed time to write and set a goal of 2,000 words a day. I also set a goal of answering one question on Quora a day. Then recently I set a goal of starting a YouTube channel called Author Journey and I try to post three videos a week. Any time I instinctively shy away from something that scares or intimidates me, I take a second to give myself a pep talk then I dive into it. Only been doing that for about a year, but better late than never. I figure out what I can outsource to other people, and what I still feel I need control over. I’ve saved myself some time and accomplished quite a bit in the last year, including growing my mailing list to 18K with your program, but there is always room for improvement. I focus on one thing in my life that I could be doing better, do everything I can to correct that bad habit or time sucking activity, and then once I’ve been doing that long enough to make a difference in my productivity, I move on to the next thing. This journey isn’t a single moment, it’s a collection of moments both good and bad. I think it’s progressively getting better now that my head is in the game..

    1. Nick Stephenson says:

      Awesome work! “This journey isn’t a single moment, it’s a collection of moments both good and bad. ” nail on the head 😀

  28. Dawn says:

    Mine was finding the balance between my Author business and my DDJ. I was having a hard time getting anything for my business done. I need to get all this done. I was overwhelmed and my DDJ was taking over my life. So, I stared to take on small bite a week to get something done for my business. It’s working. I look back to see how far I’ve come from a year or even six months ago. It’s about taking one step at a time. It made a world of difference. I’m getting ready to get my first novel out for free and my third novel is getting another read through by professionals. It will be out before the year is over with.

  29. Richard Charles Mirrer says:

    Writing and self publishing my fourth book entitled MAN IN THE MIRRER-Reflections on Life bout my life until age seventy nine.

  30. Wendy Owen says:

    I’m having a great time today unsubscribing from a lot of marketing emails. I live in Australia, so wake up to almost 100 emails, all screaming for attention. Aaarrgghhhh!
    I’ve pushed through my comfort zone in the last few weeks, doing live video and creating a course on a subject I’m passionate about. I still have my days of doubt; what the heck am I doing? Who will ever want to listen to me? But I try not to let these derail me.
    You are one of the few people who remain on my list, Nick. You are always funny and entertaining 🙂

  31. This subject has my interest and have made progress over the years.
    1) The most inspiring work has been from American James Clear. He writes lots of blogs on the subject. He has an excellent seminar in procrastinaton and on forming new habits. The key to forming a new habit is SMALL, measurable repeatable steps. So the 2 x per day 30 min meditation goal starts with once a day 5 mins meditating, but doing that everyday so the babystep makes it easy to do, and to increment slowly over time. Same for weights. Starting with low weights and few reps.
    2) I hired a personal trainer a few years ago. It was expensive for me but I showed up 2 x a week for 1/2 hr.Over time i discovered that one’s muscles need a stimulus at least once every four days to maintain muscle strength, so I no train twice a week 1 hour with 3-4 days recovery, and the training is much easier that way. The extra recovery as opposed to 3 x a week makes a huge difference in quality of training and result.
    3) I avoid siging up wherever possible for anything where I have to be on a mailinglist. That goes for theater tickets, donations etc. Where possible I checkout a s a guest or maken a one time annual donation to avoid getting on lists which also means getting post. If I am on a email mailinglist and get mailed more than once a fortnight, I unsubscribe. I have a good junk email filter and twice a year clean up all emails.
    4) I buy meat and fish fresh from the supplier once a month, vacuum packed per piece and specify the portions to the supplier for each item. This helps a lot in curbing the size of what I eat. Rice and potatoes or pasta is easily measured using small plastic cups, and I cook in 20 mins max a fresh evening meal.
    5) Jack Canfield, perosnal growth trainer, has his power hour first thing in the morning. 20 mins exercise of some sort(stretching/walk/yoga whatever), 20 mins reading something inspirational and 20 mins meditating.
    6) The daily task list has max 5-6 items, ranked in order of importance, The most important and most difficult first. Finish one task before strating the next.
    7) My downfall is scheduling consistent writng time. i ru a guest house and when there are guests, they are my priority in the morning. I am a morning person and a 6pm my day is done. Look forward to suggestions on how to improve regular scheduled writing time.

  32. Adams says:

    For me it would be social media. It was so frustrating and time consuming to go into every social media account just so I could follow people, share content, comment, reply and like other people’s post. But thanks to social media management tools like CrowdFire, I now get to do all of that in one place. Which leaves me more time to focus on my writing.

    1. Wendy Owen says:

      Social media is a huuuuuuge time suck! I just focus on 2 sites now. Facebook and Pinterest.

  33. Arrwyn Cliona Odalht says:

    When I was in my late 30s it occurred to me that the reason I was never happy for more than 5 minutes was because I was trying to be the person my “significant other” wanted me to be. I realized I’d been doing it all my life. Trying to win the approval of a father who wasn’t there enough to even notice me, and was usually drunk or hung over when he was home. I stopped. Just stopped. Cold. it was a contributing factor in ending my 19 year marriage, but I was happier with ME. Now, some 30 years later, I realize I didn’t really lose any TRUE friends. My children (now adults) say I was a pretty good Mom, and I’m sharing a house with that last husband and we get along a whole lot better now. I’m true to who *I* really am. I’m persuing MY dreams, and a whole world of possibilities are open to me to just get up and go get them. There aren’t a lot of people who understand me, and that’s OK because I’m no longer interested in anyone’s “approval”. I’m happy with who I see in the mirror, and after all, isn’t that the only thing that really matters?

    1. Nick Stephenson says:

      Thanks for sharing, Arrwyn 🙂

  34. Doug says:

    I firmly believe that the first step to achieving anything worthwhile is to show up. If I show up at my desk everyday and bang out 1500 words, 5 days a week, I will write 390,000 words in a year. That turns out to be 5 novels, 1 novella and 4 short stories. If I spend a couple of afternoons editing the morning’s writing, I save myself an extra month of dedicated editing on each of my novels. All I need to do is show up and do the work and I will end up with lots of books for my backlist.

    The same thing works with my list building. Each month I try to ensure that I participate in at least one group giveaway (now much easier thanks to the Dream Team and other groups like it). In the past 10 months I have grown my list from 20 to almost 6000. I know it’s pretty slow growth by some people’s standards, but I’m not trying to compare myself to others (too much)

    My next big hurdle is marketing. I intend to do a little bit with AMS, facebook and other channels each day and see where that takes me.

    Once I got organized and realized I don’t need to accomplish everything at once and do it perfectly the first time, the pressure eases and it seems like something that is achievable.

    1. Nick Stephenson says:

      nice one Doug!

  35. I realized that I this new business and it’s in Cyberspace. This is totally new to me as for many years I was a successful salesman of product. I traveled from the Arctic Ocean of Alaska to the boardrooms of Houston, Texas for sales.

    Now, all my sales take place in cyberspace, every day I create words with a blinking cursor then develop them into stories and place them onto the web for readers.

    This is the best retirement I ever have dreamed of. To keep my dream a reality I show up every day and write.

    How nice is that?

  36. Rebecca says:

    My small change this year was to wake up 30 minutes earlier each morning and fit in 30 minutes of uninterrupted writing time before work every day. If I’m writing the first draft, I don’t stop until I’ve done 500 words; if I’m revising, I just use the full 30 minutes.

    It doesn’t sound like much at all compared to what everyone else is accomplishing, but it made a huge difference to me!

    When I published my very first book, I was working part-time, and for the year that followed (which included the launches of four more books), I was always working either part-time or not at all.

    But then my husband and I started getting serious about saving for our future home, and so I needed to go back to work first to earn enough for the deposit, and second to prove to the banks that we were worthy of taking out a loan! Because self-employment income is a lot harder to prove when you’re taking out a loan. Plus, I wasn’t making very much at that point, so it seemed like a selfish indulgence to write full-time.

    So I started a new full-time job, and my writing life immediately went downhill. My new job had me on the computer all day, so I just couldn’t face the thought of more computer time in the evenings (productive computer time, anyway!). I spent about 8 months feeling guiltier by the day at how much I had neglected my writing, and getting progressively more tired and less capable of even considering writing. I did manage to complete NaNoWriMo, but it was a fairly miserable experience, partly because I was so burned out from work to begin with.

    Then, around Christmas, I finally got a few days off to recover and re-prioritize (I live in New Zealand, so we only have one public holiday between mid-June and Christmas. All of our public holidays are crammed into five months).

    At that point, I realized that I would never be able to keep on track with my writing goals if I didn’t change something about it. So I made a commitment to wake up 30 minutes earlier and write before every single work day, and while I’m usually terrible at sticking with resolutions, I’ve actually managed to pull this one off.

    So, despite working 40-55 hours every week, I’ve managed to pull off one book launch (with another one coming up quickly) so far this year. I’ve also finished writing one book, done two major rounds of revisions (with heavy re-writing) on books, and written part of another book.

    500 words a day doesn’t sound like much, but it certainly adds up!

  37. Self-control. I believe that developing self-control (taking steps to foster the growth of your self-control) is the single most important aspect involved in improving performance. Everyone is human and has their limits. But I start with an hour of prayer every morning. I center myself, read my Bible, remind myself of what I believe my purpose is, then go about my day fulfilling that purpose.

    Beginning the day with an hour of discipline helps foster self-control during the other 23. Habitual learning is cumulative. The more consistent you are, the better the outcome.

    But it’s about more than just discipline. Because discipline alone leaves you dry. My prayer time actually brings me more joy and fulfillment than any of you would believe (it should almost be criminal) because for me it is real and relational. It helps me center my mind on what drives me. It’s both an act of discipline and an act of extreme pleasure that sets a fire under me. In my prayer time, I believe that I am fulfilling the reason for why I exist. After I’m finished, I feel as though I accomplished something of substance, that I filled myself up with joy, that I have a clear understanding of how I should conduct myself the rest of the day, and that I feel energized. All this happens just as the sun begins peeking over the horizon.

    And guess what? Since I started dedicating that time every morning (consistently), I more than doubled my writing productivity. And the more time I spent in prayer, paradoxically, the greater my productivity became.

    I believe this is because life is about more than just writing, or whatever your career goals are. Your primary purpose is not to make money. Your primary purpose is something much greater. When you fulfill your primary purpose first, you are freed to accomplish auxiliary purposes with much greater ease, without the angst or the pall of anxiety that hangs over us when we know we’re not doing what we’re meant to do.

    There are times when we shouldn’t be focusing on productivity, but on other more important things, like the health of our family. Once we get our lives in balance, the other things will fall into place. Without living a life of balance, we might achieve momentary success, but our lives will eventually fall apart. So, in other words, look at both the short term and long-term benefits of your focuses. Weigh your actions. Develop self-control. Foster your time so that you’re achieving your central purpose. C. S. Lewis said something to the affect of, “Put the first things first and you’ll get both the first and second things. Put the second things first and you lose both the first things and the second things.”

    In my own life, that’s proven itself true too many times to count.

  38. Kathryn says:

    One way to free up a bunch of time and mental stress: stay out of other people’s business. Stop worrying about what others are doing/not doing, saying, buying, eating, wearing, driving, or how they are raising their kids. Just stop. Watch yourself. In time, it becomes second nature. You’ll stop engaging in useless conversations, forum posts, and Facebook wars. It’s awesome! And then you’ll start avoiding people that are still in that space – not out of judgement, but because you have better things to do. Like making the world a better place.

  39. Helen Bartley says:

    7 Passions: My hubby, Chrissy(23), Hope(21), John(17), Natty(16), Dan(14), and Writing!
    All are for life!
    My Logical Target: 9 months to make a human = 9 months to make a book = Indi Author
    But, like making a human, they arrive when they’re ready, give or take a month, no point stressing! Take care of yourself, work hard, make plans – and yes, it hurts like hell when they get criticised! Ha, ha!
    HOW? speed up writing – Jan 2017 – Story Engines – plotting & Sprintastics, your marketing, AMS marketing etc, Scrivener etc. Plus my pomodoros productivity planner and ensuring a HIGH VARIETY of tasks each day, in different locations AND make a change if schedule gets stale.
    SO FAR 2017: I’m re-releasing (140k) Bk1 in series (originally 4yrs), Bk2 with editor (150k), and free novel (60k) with another editor (free for signing to my email list), & my year’s not over yet!
    Outstanding: I want to take advantage of the Dream Team!
    I can’t do the 5am thing, but I’m keeping the PRODUCT in PRODUCTivity thanks to you and Joe!

  40. Icy Sedgwick says:

    It’s all about the non-negotiable To Do list for me. I divide my tasks into ‘essential’, ‘nice to have but not essential’, and ‘non-negotiable’. I’m trying to build my author business alongside a copywriting business, the DDJ, AND while finishing a PhD. So I have tasks on my to-do list that are non-negotiable that relate to each of these areas. Each task is split into smaller things, so I might write 300 words on my current PhD chapter every other day (which I can do in about half an hour). Or I might write 750 words on my WIP every day (unless I’m in editing phase, in which case it’s editing a chapter every other day). Putting them on the list means they MUST get done, and they are the top priority above everything else.

  41. Caro Ayre says:

    Hi Nick,
    when I hit 60 i realized that if I didn’t do something with the books I had spent years creating, no one else would. First I had to do more editing. I put one up on Kindle, but friends wanted a book to hold. With the help of google, utube and a wonderful network of lovely people like yourself, and lightning source, I managed that too. Since then I have produced two more book and am almost ready with another.
    I had been lucky to have regular B&B guests who bought copies, but for the last two years because of my husband’s serious health issues, this stopped.
    Now I am having to pick up from where I left off. My problem is working out what priority order to go with!
    I put the first book as my permafree, and following your advice have now got a fairly steady dribble of amazon takers. Not much activity with the other books, but more because of my lack of input than anything else.
    Losing the weight gained while trying to keep my husband from losing any more is high on the list. Other family demands can’t be ignored.
    Getting my B&B business going again, tough as it is towards the end of the natural season. Rescuing the garden from becoming totally out of hand, followed by getting marketing sorted for the books all seem to come ahead of writing and editing….
    Your ideas have made me realize I can do it all, it is down to me to make the most of those short windows to get it done.
    Thank you.

  42. Lisa says:

    I was frustrated that it seemed like I never had time to write. Stressful day, unexpected things, whatever, would pop up and before I knew it, it was time to go to sleep so I could get up for work again. And then I decided never again. From this day forward, I will write for 25 minutes every day. It doesn’t matter if it’s in the morning, at lunch, as soon as I get home, or before I go to bed. Just write for 25 minutes. There are plenty of days that I don’t ‘feel like it’, but I don’t want to break the streak, and I tell myself, “It’s only 25 minutes. Then you can do whatever you want.” So I do it, and when I look at my word count after a week or a month, I’m amazed at how much progress I actually made. Thousands upon thousands of words pile up, and I’m closer and closer to finishing. And some days, I end up in ‘the zone’, writing for 50 or 75 or 100 minutes (I reset the timer each time, so I don’t just give up). Now I’m a third of the way through my second novel, and while it’s not always easy to find the 25 minutes, I manage to find it, and keep moving forward.

  43. My last year in high school I read Napoleon Hill’s “The Law of Success In Sixteen Lessons”. One excellent piece of advice from this book that stuck with me was the concept of “going the extra mile” and always doing more for an employer than was expected.

    I do not have a college degree. I started out babysitting, cleaning houses, waitressing, and performing general office work, such as answering phones and filing papers, where I put “going the extra mile” to work in small ways. I continued “going the extra mile” when I began working for temp agencies where I had to accept new assignments every couple of weeks. It was challenging to adjust quickly to new corporate environments with new people, different procedures, and vastly different software; but it was valuable training and the willingness to “go the extra mile” made work a great opportunity for education. I discovered that, given time, I could learn to do just about anything.

    There were people I worked with over the years who were concerned that I was being “taken advantage of”. They said, “Why are you doing that? You don’t have to do it, it’s not in your job description, and you’re not being paid for working overtime or coming up with new ideas. So why would you do it?” They thought (and said) I was crazy. I just told them that I enjoyed learning new things and that I didn’t like to be bored.

    Eventually, I accepted full-time employment at a medical professional liability insurance company where I worked for 17 years. I started out just doing data input. For my last 10 years with the company I was an Assistant Claims Specialist. Basically, I interviewed insured doctors (orthopedic surgeons, dentists, psychiatrists, neurosurgeons, podiatrists, etc.) who were being sued by their patients and wrote up comprehensive reports on the claims. This entailed reviewing and summarizing medical records, insurance policies, reports submitted by medical experts, Complaints, witness depositions, and other legal documents. I also created several instruction manuals for software programs that we used. I wasn’t “qualified” by any individual or institution to do the work that I ended up doing. I just put myself in a position to take on greater responsibility by looking for opportunities and offering to help.

    So “going the extra mile” took me from cleaning houses and waitressing to writing complex reports related to medicine, law, and insurance, and creating instruction manuals. It has provided me with valuable experience and skills that I will be able to use in whatever project I undertake.

    When I am considering doing business with anyone I always test to see if they are willing to go that “extra mile” with what they have to offer. Looks like you have that skill mastered, Nick. That’s one of the reasons I chose to do business with you. Thanks for all of your hard work and valuable advice!

    “The man who does more than he is paid for will soon be paid for more than he does.” ― Napoleon Hill

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