Productivity

How To Hack Your Career And Life With Simple Daily Challenges

Sometimes inspiration can come from the strangest places. Around two years ago, after watching many of his videos over the years, I recall getting heavily inspired by Matt Cutts. No offense to Matt, but his videos have always been quite dry and treated with a healthy dose of skepticism. Plus it’s not exactly been “cool” to say you like the guy too much in the SEO community, sorry Matt, but it’s true!

Anyways, I digress, the video of his which really inspired me was his TED talk on 30 day challenges where Matt used these to change his life for the better including cutting out sugar (must have been around the time of a really nasty update!), cycling and even climbing a mountain. You can see the video here and Matt has also got a section on his blog where he has covered his own challenges.

Behaviour change is REALLY hard!

Behaviour change is both extremely powerful and difficult, but when you achieve change it makes you realise you can do pretty much anything you want with your life, which brings me onto my next point…

Something I learnt early in my career is that there are strong parallels between digital marketing and self help, it really made me realise this after reading Seth Godin’s excellent “The Dip”. I read this after a recommendation from the Conversion Rate Experts stellar list of resources, if you haven’t read all of these – you really should!

I have tried, as I am sure we all have to break and change habits with varying degrees of success, but one of the best successes I have had was with adopting the incredible Inbox Zero from Merlin Mann, you can also catch his famous talk on video from Google here. The way I achieved this was through hacking two ideas together; the first being a thirty day challenge and the second using the technique made famous by Jerry Seinfield “don’t break the chain”. I learnt about this awhile ago via Joe Hall on his blog.

With adopting Inbox Zero (something I know is really not easy, I tried quite a few times before!) the technique that worked was to focus on it as a goal each day for thirty days and I managed to create a thirty day chain, which then just stuck. To say it’s been life changing may be a little extreme, but it’s greatly reduced my stress levels and made me happier day to day. I can also really feel the change as when I lose control of my email (it doesn’t happen very often), but if I go on holiday for example, I feel a layer of stress I am not normally used to that goes away again when I get back to Inbox Zero again. It really works!

My 30 day challenge…

So today in June, I am kicking of a new challenge following the same rules as before and will be the start of hopefully a number of back to back challenges, where I will also encourage my colleagues, peers and anyone else that wants to have a go to take part.

My challenge for this month will be to try and write an average of one blog post per day, as on a personal level it’s been a really Achilles heel of mine not to have achieved a lot more in my career in terms of blogging. My rules will be as follows:

1. Although it’s a thirty day challenge, it will apply only to working days meaning my target is 20 blog posts.
2. I will make sure I spend at least an hour a day blogging, there may end up being a couple of really long ones in there…
3. Using a calendar I will cross off each day I am successful at spending that hour.
4. I will publish my results and learnings afterwards (even if it’s a massive fail LOL).
5. I learnt from last time it’s really important to focus on one challenge at a time, every time I tried more it didn’t work.

The reason I am really excited about this is that I know even if I only get 5 posts completed and published on great blogs like this one, it can act as a start of behavioural change and the foundation for me to get into the habit of blogging a lot more than I am at the moment. BOOM icon smile How To Hack Your Career And Life With Simple Daily Challenges

Steve that’s great, but I don’t care about Inbox Zero or your blogging…

The beauty of this is you don’t have to, but if you want to get involved here are ten ideas:

1. It doesn’t have to be doing something, it could be not doing something like not driving to work and walking or cycling.

2. If you’re new to digital marketing, you could check out DistilledU and make sure you spend at least an hour a day on their course. There is also an excellent article via SEJ on learning SEO here.

3. Python is an incredible language to learn for digital marketers the amazing (and free!) Learn Python The Hard Way is here and well worth checking out.

4. Read a book for at least an hour a day, even on commutes in and out of work, this is actually how I learnt 90% of what I know about search marketing! There is an excellent roundup of digital marketing resources here.

5. You could even copy me and try Inbox Zero or blogging. I could use the support too icon smile How To Hack Your Career And Life With Simple Daily Challenges

6. Udacity has incredible courses on learning how to build basic crawlers, statistics, building web applications and even learning how to build a self driving Google car!

7. Google Docs is an easy way for non-technical people to get their hands dirty and automate their tasks. The ImportXML Guide is excellent and you could also try it in combination with the SEER Interactive SEO Toolbox.

8. Nettuts do two great free courses one is learning HTML in 30 days, which teaches good habits for modern coding and covers HTML5, the other is JQuery.

9. Most of my peers have intended learning PHP for a number of years and not got around to it properly (inc. me!), my favourite PHP course is again by Nettuts called PHP Fundamentals.

10. If you’re not regularly watching TED talks and want an easy barrier to entry, download the TED mobile apps and watch them for an hour a day. I always download them and watch them offline on my train journeys.

Next steps

So if you want to get involved please drop me a line via @stevejlock or let me know what you would like to attempt in the comments, alternatively just have a go yourself. It would also be great to know people’s experiences on what has and hasn’t worked for them.

The easiest way to keep track of your days is via dontbreakthechain.com, the Obstino iPhone App or you can go old school print of a calendar and put big crosses through each day with a pen.

I hope this post has inspired you a little and hope you’re brave enough to do a thirty day challenge with me!

 How To Hack Your Career And Life With Simple Daily Challenges

Stephen Lock

Steve Lock is Product Manager for Linkdex, a technology partner for a number of leading agencies and brands. He is also UK Co-Chair for SEMPO. You can follow him on Twitter via @stevejlock and keep your eyes peeled for his personal blog that should be launching later this year.
 How To Hack Your Career And Life With Simple Daily Challenges

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5 thoughts on “How To Hack Your Career And Life With Simple Daily Challenges

  1. Stepping outside your comfort zone might spice the life up a little bit. A big hurray to Matt Cutts for his humor in general, in SEO and in his 30-day challenges!

  2. Stephen,

    This is such a great post. Thank you very much for sharing this. Yes, I totally agree with you. Behaviour change can be very powerful yet difficult to do. But when you achieve change it makes you realize you can do pretty much anything you want with your life.

    Regards,
    Charles

  3. Really ! your this one is very precious post for me as you have included almost all the things which can change the life of anyone and especially for a digital marketer. Anyways thank you Mr.Stephen for sharing such a life changing post.

  4. True, i agree with you on that behavior can make huge difference. Someone has said, “problem is not the problem, Problem is your attitude towards the problem”