Why It’s Important to Follow Your Dreams on a Daily Basis

“This is your life and it’s ending one minute at a time.”
— Quote from the movie Fight Club

I often scroll through an ocean of blog and article links looking for quality content, content I can grow by and use practically. Time is precious online, especially because we’re so easily distracted. All it takes is for one of those links to strike the right interest chord and there goes ten minutes of your time. Sometimes that interesting link leads to another, or to a video, and next thing you know, an hour has flashed by.

Scientists have discovered that we get a miniature heroin-like dose of joy from clicking links and reading articles. Infotainment is actually that addictive. And therein lies the crux, for amongst this sea of cerebral masturbation one must separate out what is valuable and what is useless. Working from home poses these challenges; we must discipline ourselves to skip those things that hamper our goals.

So what are your goals? Do you want to own a house, have kids, work in a certain career? Do you want to work from home, have a wife or husband, or travel the world? Do you want to make a certain amount of money a year? What is success to you? What do you want to spend time on?

The hours add up quickly. Our daily micro judgements on what we spend time on become valuable. The framework for making those judgements becomes valuable. At work, we are paid hourly for our time. Everything we own is on loan, paid for with time. We give it all back in the end; we can’t take anything past death. Time is the new currency.

Now apply that to following your dreams. Imagine your time is worth, say, $20 an hour. If you spent four hours surfing the internet looking at infotainment, you spend $80 of your time doing so. Now here’s the question: did you gain back $80 worth of knowledge from that surfing?

These are just ideas in productivity. I’m not saying we shouldn’t have any fun — no, what I’m saying is we must be conscious of the daily micro decisions that add up the grandiosity that is our life (and learning to relax and enjoy ourselves is another skill beyond the scope of this blog post).

And that’s why it’s so critical to follow our dreams on a daily basis. Step by step, word by word, link by link, we build the lives we want. The lucky ones do it consciously; assert greater control over their micro decisions; choose progress over lethargy.

Imagine getting paid for doing things we love. Imagine finding love in what we already do. I believe that, if we are conscious of our daily micro decisions, these things just … happen, yet they happen slowly. Only when we pause and look back can we appreciate how far we have come.

Time is precious. What you are doing this moment is your life; who you are right now.

Procrastination — A Uniquely Tailored Enemy.

Procrastination is a failure of the watch, so to speak. It’s a uniquely tailored enemy that’s different for all of us. It attacks when it senses weakness and thrives on each subsequent indulgence. We crave it though, feeding the beast with distractions, excuses and entertainment. It’s a particular nuisance in the digital age, where the entirety of human understanding can be accessed at the click of a mouse; any person can be reached by a single text; any object (or food) ordered without leaving the house.

Writers are especially prone to procrastination, for we tend to spend many hours at home. I find how I start the day impacts my output greatly. If the first thing I do in the morning is check reddit, well, it sets the tone until nightfall. Thoughts tend to wander that much more; my eyes flick about searching for visual stimuli; my hands wring and grope for texture instead of remaining on the keys.

Everyone’s different, but here are a few things that work for some: try keeping your visual sight lines simple, the phone off or out of reach, noise reduced to nothing but the low hum of a computer (or nothing at all. Oh and do we still use words like “computer”?). Some writers even disconnect from the net and shut themselves in a dark dungeon of a room, with perhaps nothing adorning the walls except for a miserable floral embroidery.

You know what really works for me? I write in the bath. Yup, I actually sit in the bath and write, the laptop perched on a small table beside the tub like an electric vulture (insert electrocution joke here). You know what’s hard to do while writing in the bath? Get distracted. Silly, I know, but it works. Now I can’t stay in the bath too long (six hours is all right, isn’t it?), so inevitably I slither out like Voldemort in snake form to settle at the dining table.

When on dry land, however, sometimes I get up and pace. Invariably my eyes stumble upon all these pretty objects that somehow need attention right then. A little mental battle ensues (I think of it more like a paper joust). Usually the driven side of me wins and I return to writing, but other times I suddenly realize I’ve been playing sudoku for the last hour, an hour that can never reclaim its rightful productivity.

But procrastination is a clever adversary. You draw a blank while writing a particularly demanding scene and your mind uses that moment of hesitation to rudely butt in with its crack-dealer voice: “Hey, remember that thing you were supposed to do last week? You know, that thing. Why not do that now? Wouldn’t that be great? You deserve a break anyway.”

Those are the times we must be brave, friends, and plow through the insufferable whining of our needy selves. Yes, we are our own worst enemies. Just do it; just keep going. Sheer determination and discipline (some call it ambition) melts procrastination like a cheap plastic dummy subjected to the torments of a pyromaniac child.

And there are tricks I tell you! But don’t be fooled – our greatest strength, and still the greatest enemy of procrastination, is simple discipline. The “just do it” mentality. You can trick yourself only so far, but your determination / drive / diligence etc. is what will get you through, day in and day out, week after week and month after month — for the really big projects, the glorious ones, take a long, long time to conclude, especially if you’re interested in quality.

All right, let me share my tricks (the ones that actually work, mind you):

– Getting up and turning on the laptop first thing, prepping it for writing
– Making a liter of tea. After lunch, another one (two bags a day keeps me focused, I find)
– Eating a strong but light breakfast (mental note: stop skipping so many breakfasts)
– Drawing a bath (snicker all you like, it works!)
– Leaving all email / reddit / surfing / forum / marketing tasks for after the writing
– Rubbing my hands together in excitement. This trick is particularly effective for down times. I’ve used neurolinguistic programming (thanks, Tony), to map this gesture to adrenaline. It gets me going quickly and resets my thinking when my mind wanders.
– As a last resort, I read something that inspires me. Sometimes it’s a how-to book, sometimes a novel.

These tricks served me through three record albums and now three books. Maybe they might help you too :)

So, that said, do you have any tricks to share?