Chew on This Writers: Organization

by Randy Ingermanson

[Editor’s note: Fodder for thoughtful planning now, gearing up for January 2019]

Organization: Evolution, Not Revolution

January is the big-money month of the year, I suspect, for people who run gyms. And people who sell diet plans. And anyone promising to make you over fast.

We all want a revolution in our lives, and January is the official month for that revolution.

But the revolution never seems to come. Not for most people, anyway.

Most Revolutions Fail

But there’s another way, and it’s a better way.

In my day job, I’m the director of software engineering for a small biotech company. In the early days, I was the whole software group. We used to hold a weekly meeting where we’d set goals for the next week. Everybody had ideas on what they wanted. They all wanted something different. They all wanted it right away. It wasn’t unusual for them to propose six months worth of work. All to be done in the next week.

It’s nice to be wanted, but there’s such as a thing as too much of a good thing. So after I heard all the things they wanted, I’d remind them that I was one guy and I sometimes had to eat and sleep. And I’d say my famous phrase. “Evolution, not revolution.”

I told them they really could have everything they wanted. Just not today. I’d challenge them to decide on just one new feature to deliver in the coming week.

They’d chew on that for a few minutes and pick a feature. That gave me focus, which is permission to work on one thing and to not work on the mountain of other things. And in a week, I’d deliver. (Usually.) Then we did it all over again the next week. And over the course of time, we did some pretty cool things. Bit by bit.

Evolution Often Succeeds

You can do amazing things this year, just not all at once.

The plan I adopted for myself some time ago is based on my buzzphrase, “Evolution, not revolution.” It has two parts. Here are both of them together:

  • Every month, choose one new skill to learn.
  • Every month, choose one new habit to create.

I talked about the first of these last month. You can reread my article on The “Skill of the Month Club” in my e-zine archives here.

The “Habit of the Month Club” is similar. At the beginning of the month, choose one new good habit that you want to create. It should be something you intend to do every day (or at least every work day) that will make you a better, more focused, more productive person. Like writing. Or flossing. Or exercising. Or eating broccoli. Or whatever.

I blogged about habits just a few weeks ago, so if you want the full scoop on it, read The Five Year Road to Glory.

The short version is this:

  1. Pick one new habit every month.
  2. Set an alarm on your phone to remind you to do it every day at a specific time.
  3. Start out doing a ridiculously easy version of the habit. (For example, if your new habit is to exercise every day, start out doing only one pushup. That’s so ridiculously easy, you can do it in five seconds. Therefore, you will.)
  4. Do the ridiculously easy version of the habit every day for the first month. Then when you’ve done the hard work of creating the habit, start ramping up the habit to be more and more challenging. Eventually, you can make it as hard as you want, when the habit is cemented in your brain.

That’s all there is to it. In a month, your new habit will be in place and on autopilot. And you’ll move on to the next habit. And the next, and the next, and the next.

One new skill every month.

One new habit every month.

Do that for a year, and you’ll be thrilled at how far you’ve come.

Do that for five years, and everybody you know will be amazed at what an incredibly productive person you are.

Homework

Want to try evolving right along with me? Make a note on your calendar to remind yourself to pick a new skill and a new habit, right near the beginning of every month. (I choose mine the first Saturday of the month.) On the appointed day, pick a new habit to form and a new skill to learn and get rolling.

If you want, you can get a jump on February by starting now. That’ll give you the last bit of January and all of February for your first habit and your first skill. Then at the beginning of March, move on to the next habit and the next skill.

The real revolution is evolution.

Reprinted with permission of the author (c) 2018 Randy Ingermanson.

Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, “the Snowflake Guy,” publishes the free monthly Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, with more than 17,000 readers. If you want to learn the craft and marketing of fiction, AND make your writing more valuable to editors, AND have FUN doing it, visit www.AdvancedFictionWriting.com.

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