I’ve been reading The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson. It’s one of those books that annoys the heck out of me… because it’s working.
The idea, paraphrased, is that we always get more of what we do. If we procrastinate, that leads to more procrastination.
If, on the other hand, we, for example, write 10 minutes every day, we’ll actually do more writing.
The idea isn’t to try and make massive change all at once. Instead, change works most effectively if we do it in small, even tiny increments – consistently.
Here’s how it’s working for me
The book is helping me make some changes. For example, as the day wears on I’m often tempted to take naps. Naps for me are mostly a chance to read and doze, and in my view there is absolutely nothing wrong with naps. The problem happens for me when I extend a 20 or 30 minute ‘nap’ into a couple of hours. That’s a lot of non working time, which may be okay, or not. Now, when I start thinking nap I’m asking myself ‘what will move me toward what I say I want?’ Usually the answer is to do more on my to do list.
I’ve also noticed (again) that often I’m really trying to get too much done in a day. I’ve become more willing to drop some items or postpone them without feeling so guilty.
It’s an attitude shift
I’ve talked off and on about the importance of taking baby steps with our writing and our writing business. Making use of the slight edge is similar, but not the same. It’s similar because the goal is to work for improvement a bit at a time. It’s different because it’s about taking baby steps over and over again.
Sure, as we do this we gain competence, and we keep doing that which is getting us the change we want.
One of the things I’ve discovered is that I’m not good at following up on certain kinds of details. As a result important things fall through the cracks and make me less effective than I want to be.
Keeping my numbers is an example. I don’t like tracking how much I earn and spend on a daily basis. I find it boring, and if my income decreases I want to move into vagueness about it all. Olson’s book is helping me ignore being bored and keep track of my numbers anyway.
The article I called The Real Secret of Finding Freelance Writing Jobs came out of what I’m learning reading The Slight Edge. It’s about repeating the job application process over and over again – not just until you land a writing gig, but continuing on after that.
It’s the discipline and persistence to keep at it, whatever your ‘it’ is, even when you don’t want to. In small, and regular amounts. It doesn’t sound like much, but this slight edge for freelance writers can make a big, positive difference over time.
No, it’s not about just grinding away, or continuing things that truly aren’t working. The book is really helping me become aware of what I’m doing in ways that are just different enough to help me make shifts I want to make.
Will this book turn you into a best selling author? I suspect it could if that’s truly what you want. More likely it will do the same for you that it’s doing for me – help you make small changes that will improve your effectiveness and, as a result, your success – no matter how you define it.
Write well and often,
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