22 Lunch and Learn. How to find the time to write (or progress your biz) when you have a busy and chaotic work and family life

Written by  //  April 12, 2012  //  Daily Juice  //  No comments

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I have four children, the oldest is 10, the youngest is 1 and a home life that is, well let’s just say, busy.

I also run The Business Bakery, work privately with biggish businesses, keynote at seminars, do a bunch of other stuff and I write.

I write blogs and articles (for Flying Solo and Smartcompany among others), I wrote a book “How to Bake a Business” and now I’m in the middle of my biggest writing project to date, a compendium recipes for the Kitchen@The Business Bakery.

I’ve often been asked how I find the time to write. I’m absolutely no super-woman and I don’t have a special trick, but I do have a tip that works.

I thought I’d share it with you because while I use it for writing, it will help you equally well, whatever type of work you are doing.

It’s my way of clearing a path through chaos.

What it is

Uber-business-guru Jim Collins calls this tip Fanatic Discipline. He also explains it by telling a great story called the 15 mile march, so I now call this tip the 15 mile march – it makes sense to me and I think it will to you.

Why it works

When I was writing my book I was working full time as a partner at Deloitte and had (only) three children. I desperately wanted to write the book but had very little time in which to do it. So I swallowed a large dose of self-discipline and decided I would write precisely one recipe a day (the book is a compilation of business recipes). And that’s what I did. I just wrote one recipe every day until it was done.

Now that probably doesn’t sound very extraordinary, and it isn’t. It’s just a simple way to make progress. But boy does it work!

I wouldn’t say I’m naturally self-disciplined. I’d much rather go where the mood takes me. But the rhythm of one recipe a day worked for me. I didn’t have to waste any time deciding how much I would (or wouldn’t do) on any particular day. The goal was always the same and I fell into an easy routine.

I would never have got the book written without it.

What you do

I wrote my book three years ago, way before Jim Collins published his book “Great by Choice”, but when I read his theme in it about Fanatic Discipline I realised that, in a way, that’s how I get my writing done. 

Jim uses this story of the race to the South Pole in 1911 to explain Fanatic Discipline.

“In October 1911 two teams of explorers left the coast of Antarctica to try to be the first people in history to reach the South Pole. The Norwegian team, [led by] Amundsen, got to the South Pole first. [British naval officer Robert Falcon] Scott and the British team reached the pole second, 34 days later. Amundsen and his team made it back to their base on the exact date that Amundsen had put in his planning journals when he was making his plans in Norway. Meanwhile, Scott and every member of his team died on the way back, about 10 or 11 miles from a supply depot.”

Jim then explains that the one of the key differences between Amundsen and Scott was that Amundsen had what’s called a ‘15 mile march’. This meant that every day whatever the weather Amundsen and his team would walk 15 miles. If it was nice weather they wouldn’t walk further than 15 miles, rather they would rest and save their energy for the tough days. Scott and his team, on the other hand, essentially just walked as far as they could on good days and stayed put on bad weather days.

Amundsen’s fanatical, bordering on compulsive, discipline is credited with his success. And Scott’s lack of the same a contributing factor to his team’s decline.

If you, like me, lead a somewhat chaotic and busy life, then try using a15 mile march to make progress with your business.

How you do a 15 mile march

  1. Set a simple daily progress goal. Mine was ‘one recipe’, Amundsen’s was ’15 miles’, a friend of mine’s is one sales call. You can do whatever works for you but I suggest it be achievable with a little bit of a stretch.
  2. You promise yourself you will do the (metaphoric) 15 mile march every day.
  3. And you also promise yourself that you won’t do more than the 15 miles any day (this can take as much willpower on a good day as getting out of bed to do the 15 mile march does on a bad day).
  4. Do it every day.

That’s it!

Some people set the progress goal as a range with upper and lower limits but I prefer the elegance of having a single, simple goal.

In case your’e not convinced:

When I finished writing my book I’ll admit that I got a little lost with my writing. The discipline to write articles for other publications was easy; I had a deadline and I’d made a commitment. But writing for my own business, ugh. It was hard to find the time.

Then one day I decided to rekindle my own version of the 15 mile march and I got back into the habit of one business recipe a day. Now it’s just what I do.

The 15 mile march gives me a sense of making progress, it get’s me results and it generates a feeling of order in my very disordered world.

I’m fanatical about my 15 mile march. I always do it. And I actually refer to my 15 mile march when I disappear to write my recipes. My kids are probably wondering how I walk that far in my study.



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