How Dreams, Goals and Habits Make You a Wildly Productive Writer

    productive writer

    You can be a wildly productive writer.

    And if you are already a wildly productive writer, then you can take your game to a whole new level.

    There are three keys to wild productivity:

    1. Dreams
    2. Goals
    3. Habits

    To put it simply, dreams fuel the fire, goals are the stepping stones to your dreams, and habits are the routines and rituals that support you along the way.

    Where people fall down is when they have goals without dreams to inspire them, or goals without habits to support them, or habits without any compelling dreams to pull them forward.

    So let’s fix that today, right here, right now.

    Start with a Dream

    Your dream is where it all begins. Not the lazy kind of dream of an unrecognizable you in a land far, far away.

    It’s the kind of dream that reflects your passion and your purpose. It’s bold and it’s beautiful. It’s your vision of your future, living the life you want to lead.

    What is your dream as a writer? Is it to birth a book that needs to be born? Is it to inspire a movement that moves the world? Is it to write your way to the top of a bestseller list?

    Is it to fill the shelves of your favorite bookstore with books that change lives? Is to pen your way to an award-winning blog? Is it to author your way to financial freedom? Is it to boldly go where no author has gone before?

    Or, is it simply to be the writer that you know you’re capable of?

    Either way, it needs to be YOUR dream, and it needs to be believable and achievable.

    My dream is to write the guides that change the world. When I help people unleash and love what they’re capable of, I’m living my dream.

    Chunk Your Dreams Up Into Gratifying Goals

    Goals are the stepping stones, and meaningful milestones, towards our dreams. They are the points that light the path forward and help us trend in the right direction.

    Goals also help us break a big dream down into bite-sized chunks that we can make progress on.

    Making progress might not sound like a big deal, but do you know that it’s one of the fundamental keys to happiness? We like to move forward, even in some small way. We unleash our zeal when we’re living, and learning, and realizing our potential.

    The best way to set goals is to start with time frames. After all, as Diana Scharf says, “Goals are dreams with deadlines.”

    Personally, I find it helpful to work backwards in blocks of time, and I like to use questions:

    • What do I want to achieve for my win this year?
    • What do I want to achieve for my win six months from now?
    • What do I want to achieve for my win this month?
    • What do I want to achieve for my win this week?
    • What do I want to achieve for my win today?

    Goals aren’t boring, but people often have boring goals.  That’s why I tend to change my language to think in terms of wins, because it adds the fun factor.

    Your goals are your personal victories.

    Build Habits to Compound What You’re Capable Of

    There’s a quote by Steven Pressfield that goes like this:

    “There’s a secret that real writers know that wannabe writers don’t, and the secret is this: It’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write.”

    Just sitting down to write, at a repeatable time, and a repeatable place, in a repeatable way is a gentle way to bootstrap your writing habit.

    As the saying goes, first we make our habits, and then our habits make us.

    Routines and rituals help us practice and get the kinks out. They also help us build the muscles and the mindset to operate at a higher level.

    But the best thing about habits is how they compound our efforts over time, and how a little bit of concentrated effort adds up to big things and brilliant breakthroughs.

    But there are ways to amp things up like you wouldn’t believe.

    How Simple Habits Can Lead to Exponential Results

    Thomas Edison used quotas to drive his work. He had 1,093 patents.

    His personal invention quota was a minor invention every ten days, and a major invention every six months.

    I tried this approach and started carrying around a little yellow pad of sticky notes to capture my ideas during the week. I would write one idea down per sticky note.

    My first week, I had a handful of big ideas. By the end of the month, I was going through a full sticky pad each week.

    I was on fire. It’s as if clearing our minds makes space for our creative muse to come out and play.

    Ernest Hemingway had a very specific writing habit.  

    He edited for an hour, and wrote for an hour. I don’t know if it’s true (I didn’t know Hemingway; I’ve only been to his house), but I like the idea of a routine.

    I also like the idea that he was a combination author and adventurer. In the spirit of Hemingway, I decided I would use timeboxing to build my blogging habit.

    I would sit down in the morning before work, and write for 20 minutes max. It’s an interesting milestone for me, because that is the same month that I wrote 48 posts, and my traffic went from around 100,000 readers to more than 200,000 readers a month.

    And the only way I could do that is because I built the daily habits that could support my moments of inspiration.

    Unleash the Wildly Productive Writer in You with Three Simple Writing Habits

    I’m hoping that at least one of my examples gets you excited about what you can do through the power of habits. If not maybe give Dr. Seuss’s Oh, The Places You’ll Go! a quick read. (It’s a classic.)

    Now, let’s turn some inspiration into action and start as simply as possible.  While there are lots of habits you can take on, I’m going to recommend the following three:

    1. The Daily Appreciation Habit – Start your day by taking a full 5 minutes to really appreciate what you’ve already got, and what you are thankful for. This simple exercise will help you instantly shift into an abundance mindset. Over time, by building your “attitude of gratitude,” you will create an unstoppable force within you, and a creative confidence like you’ve never experienced before. At worst, you’ll just feel grateful, so not so bad.
    2. The Daily Writing Habit – Set a time budget that you can stick with, and do it daily. Maybe it’s only five minutes, but consistency matters more than anything else. Have a time, a place, and a purpose. If you’re a night owl, maybe it’s 10:00-10:30 PM at your favorite desk. If you’re an early bird, maybe it’s 6:00-6:30 A.M. Either way, use this time to practice your craft, in a deliberate way. Write. Yes, actually write during your writing habit. And fully focus on learning, not perfection. Learn your strengths. Learn your weaknesses. Learn what works and doesn’t work for you. Eventually, you’ll be able to use your Daily Writing Habit to take on any writing challenge, and with practice, your pen will be mightier than the sword.   In the worst-case scenario, you won’t be a writer who doesn’t write.
    3. The Daily Inspiration Habit – Quotes rock!  I’m an avid collector of the wisdom of the ages and modern sages. But go beyond just quotes, and find amazing real-world stories that inspire you. Find the people that live the dream you want live. Learn how they did it. Hold them up as examples of the art of the possible. Use them to dream big. Truth is stranger than fiction. Here’s the key though: Don’t get hung up on their success. Instead, get curious about their habits. In the worst case, you’ll have fun exploring the things that people do to bring out their best.

    Remember that anything worth doing is worth doing poorly to start with. If it feels awkward at first, you might be doing it right (growth feels awkward.) The important thing is that you’re building new grooves for your mind, body, and emotions, as you spread your wings.

    Here’s the thing to always remember: Habits build the platform beneath us, as we grow to reach our dreams.

    About the author

      J.D. Meier

    • Hello there…First of all I just want to say that I am a big fan of your blog and yeah of course of your post too. Well coming to this post, I am totally agree what you have mention in your post. Thank you so much for this post.

    • Habits, consistent, repeatable habits eventually produce success. I’m a big believer in “do small and achieve big.” Great article.

    • Excellent and valuable points made here. Routine is important. Thanks for sharing! I never stop learning and this is proof of that.
      Cheers!
      S.J. Francis

      • J.D. Meier says:

        Hey S.J., when we stop learning, we start dying.

        Aside from a flowing fountain of wisdom, learning also creates a fountain of youth.

        JD

    • Alik says:

      JD,
      Scott Adams says goals are for losers, he’s more of a fan of systems. I am fan of both (and of Scott Adams too) as I cannot take one apart from another. I appreciate your simple system of making dreams come true through goals and habits and showing how one related to another, it’s a simple yet powerful system. I clearly see how it can be easily and immediately applied to any dream, beyond writing.
      Thank you.

      • J.D. Meier says:

        Hey Alik, thank you.

        Habits within a system are a powerful force multiplier.

        JD

    • Joe Kovacs says:

      I think the most memorable line for me was “Anything that is worth doing is worth doing poorly to start with”. It is very counter-intuitive but also very true if you’re trying to adopt a new habit–it will be awkward and clumsy (poor, in other words) if it is new. I also think setting modest goals at the outset–just learn to write on a daily basis if you can–regardless of how much time you spend doing it, is a good idea and one I can certainly consider. I do think anyone, if they really tried and despite whatever busy schedules they have, can succeed at this. Thanks, J.D. for a very thoughtful post on the subject of building dreams from goals and habits. Regards, Joe

      • J.D. Meier says:

        Hey Joe, thank you.

        I think the real power of habits is that it’s OK to start off not so well. We can lower our expectations, while we give ourselves a chance to build our capability and experience.

        And I love how habits compound our impact — It’s along the lines of Voltaire’s infamous quote:
        “No problem can withstand the assault of sustained thinking.”

        While some problems we can blast through like dynamite, other problems are more like chipping away at the stone.

        When somebody says they don’t have time for habits that will make their life better for the long haul, I always wonder what are they making time for? There are always hard choices, especially when a lot of time is not our own, or it’s shared, but we need to be the directors of our time as best we can.

        Time is always a challenge, and I find it helpful to think in terms of *investing* our time.

        JD

    • J.D. Meier says:

      Hey S.E., thank you!

      You’ve got the idea — the mini-goals and habits support us towards our dreams, and the goals are just a way to light things up along the way.

      Habits give you a chance to really just keep practicing something, without getting caught up in the goal. My single best habit is, “Wake Up, Workout.” It helps me *own* the first part of day, while building my energy, so that whatever I take on in the rest of the day, is child’s play.

      The other big thing to keep in mind with goals and habits is to make space for them. If it doesn’t fit on your schedule, then it just won’t happen. As soon as you actually make it an appointment, whether it’s 5minutes, 20 minutes, or whatever, you’ve just turned your time into your sacred dojo.

      JD

    • S.E. Hood says:

      Great article! And very timely for me, as I’m really starting to see how important goals are and how they work together with dreams and habits.
      In past years I would make a list of yearly goals at the beginning of the year, but I could never stick to them. Without having smaller goals and habits to propel me toward my dreams, I would get discouraged or sidetracked or simply lose interest. This year, I didn’t stop at the yearly goals list. Each month I’m going to write down monthly goals, and each week, daily and weekly goals.
      So far it’s going pretty well. I’m still struggling with the habits part, but I’m getting there. It’s amazing how much you can accomplish when you have a plan!

    • Chelsea says:

      “Remember that anything worth doing is worth doing poorly to start with.” <- I totally agree with this.

      I was an awkward freelance writer when I first started out. I had a bit of talent, but no experience beyond newspaper internships. It definitely led to a lot of mishaps and falling over my own feet more than once, but somehow (I guess time & effort were the magic ingredients?) I find myself in my "dream" position in my freelance writing career.

      My passion and desire to remain location independent definitely fueled my drive to get the whole "working as a writer" thing down, and I'm glad I stuck to my guns!

      Also, I really loved this piece of advice: "I would sit down in the morning before work, and write for 20 minutes max. It’s an interesting milestone for me, because that is the same month that I wrote 48 posts, and my traffic went from around 100,000 readers to more than 200,000 readers a month."

      I'm trying to grow my blog now, so I'm definitely open for suggestions like this on how to increase my writing quality and productivity.

      • J.D. Meier says:

        Hey Chelsea, you are living the freedom and you created your own future — way to go!

        What I’ve seen all around me is how anybody with a dream, that takes action, and really, really (and I mean really) takes feedback to improve, gets expontentially better over time.

        The only people that stay stuck are the ones that don’t dream, don’t take action, and ignore their critics. Critics can be our best friends, because they often tell us what our friends won’t, and, while they may not deliver it the way we like, we can always learn something if we get curious.

        You reminded me of a post I wanted to write about growing blog traffic. It is all about creating raving fans, by shipping insane value, and helping people with their pains, needs, and desired outcomes.

        But there are strategies and tactics, too. To give you a quick example, I tend to write aspirational headlines, that don’t always click. I wanted to write a post and call it “Movies that Inspire Us” or “Scenes that Inspire Us.” After a quick SEO check, I found that if I went with my original title, I would get 5,000 visitors a month. By changing my title to 25 Inspirational Movies, I got more than 25,000 visitors a month for a few years. SEO can be feedback on whether you are using the right words with your audience.

        JD

      • J.D. Meier says:

        Hey Chelsea, way to go on writing your way to location independence!

        You can find your flow. Hint – Flow is where the heart is.

        I’m a fan of deliberate practice when it comes to quality and productivity — slow down, to speed up.
        A great book that dives deep on the idea is The Five Elements of Effective Thinking.

        JD

    • J.D. Meier says:

      Hey Krithika, THANK YOU!

      You can totally find your flow — just lose your self to the dance, and play at what’s possible.
      Sometimes just giving yourself permission, or, a stranger like me, giving you permission, can set you free.

      Feel free to find your flow. Hint — your flow will be where your heart it.

      JD

    • BRILLIANT!

      I enjoy writing, but find it very hard to focus due to some personal issues. But it is gratifying to know that one need not plop your butt for 3 hours straight to create something – often, 30 minutes of extreme focus is more satisfying than 3 hours of broken effort..

      …and as someone who has never been ‘in the flow’, I just have to plow my way through each word every day <3

      Thank you so much, J.D. Meier
      Kitto

    • salma says:

      This post really came in time. I really loved how you connected dreams, goals and habits all together. This really make me feel like I wanna do this now. Thank you for such a wonderful post :).

      • J.D. Meier says:

        Hey Salma, thank you.

        Now is great time to dream big, start small, and breathe new life into anything, and everything you do.

        JD

    • Loved the three habits at the end! I can see how they would set you in the right mindset. Thanks.

      • J.D. Meier says:

        Hey Mark, thank you!

        Love is where it starts.
        I always remind myself … if it feels like a chore vs. a chance, I’m doing it wrong.
        I love the chances I get to practice my habits.

        JD

    • There are so many things I love about your post, J.D. First, I adore both The War of Art and Turning Pro, so I’m all about Steven Pressfield. Although all you daily habits are awesome, I especially appreciated your Appreciation Habit. If we don’t already appreciate what we have, WHY should the Universe/God/Karma give you more?!

      • J.D. Meier says:

        Hey Marcy, thank you!

        That is exactly the right idea — we need to first appreciate the gifts that we’ve got, if we ever expect to be able to handle more. We rise to our level of appreciation, and to the amout of value that we create for others.

        JD

        • Ooooh, I LOVE that J.D. — we rise to our level of appreciation and the value that we create for others. That sounds like servant leadership. Fantastic.

    • This was a good reminder that I still have work to do on my daily habits.
      During NaNoWriMo, I nailed it and wrote 50,000 words in a month. By the time the last week of November came along, I was in a natural flow and sitting down to write felt like going to my ‘comfortable place’. Instead of looking back on November as being difficult, I have warm memories of a time when my writing–just writing–took first priority.
      Back to the day-to-day. Starting a new blog, I have been overwhelmed by so many other things that need to be learned, planned, researched, implemented. I have to remember one of the core reasons I’m doing it all: my passion for writing. It must remain first priority.
      Thank you.

      • J.D. Meier says:

        Hey T.O., 50,000 words in a month is an amazing and meaningful milestone.

        Hold on to those experiences and use them to inspire your way forward, and remind yourself of what you’re capable.

        Or, as Bruce Lee might say, “Aim past your target.”

        JD

    • Dwight Spencer says:

      This article came at just the right time! My biggest weakness is the ‘habit’ of writing. Good ideas…check. Goals in place…check. Writing at the same time every day…oh look, something else that catches my attention.

      All kidding aside, thank you for this piece. Really digging deep to find help on creating a solid habit and sticking with it.

      • J.D. meier says:

        Hey Dwight, distractions are tough.

        One of my early mentors told me that focus is what separates the best from the rest.
        His advice has served me well.

        If it helps to know, I write in notepad or an email to myself — so just a big white canvas, with lots of white space where I can let my thought run free (before I tame them down to size 😉

        JD

    • Having good writing habits is a personal goal this year. I do consistently write on my blog. It’s book 2 i’m talking about. Discipline is a key factor and the foundation of any goal.

      • J.D. Meier says:

        Hey A.E, you’re right — discipline is the breakfast of champions.

        And, it’s best served with a dream that’s work it, and keeps us going, especially when the going gets tough.

        Best wishes on your book 2 dream (that you are making a reality.)

        JD

    • Jon Stephens says:

      Great piece. I think setting backwards goals is a huge part of it. It’s easy to try and see yourself with a best-seller down the road and revel in that imagination, but when you sit down to write, the finish line is so far away it is intimidating.

      By setting backwards goals, you really figure out what needs to happen each day until it is a manageable chunk. You may have to reset your goals at different points in your process, but bit by bit, you are making progress. I think it’s okay to move the line you draw in the sand, but it’s critical to at least draw it and race towards it.

      Thanks for the inspiration!

      • J.D. Meier says:

        Thank you, Jon — you’re right.

        Working backwards from the end in mind, is the best way to find our way forward.

        And, yes, as we move towards our goals, and we gain clarity, it often makes sense to move the line that we draw in the sand.

        JD

    • Life.Logos says:

      Wow this post was much needed! I have not sat down to blog in a very long time and I feel im kinda out of the swing of things. Every one of these tips were amazing and will hopefully be implemented in my routine. Being a creative student many of these tips were also very helpful as exam practise, as the the exam will under serious time conditions. Thank you SO Much xxx

      • J.D. Meier says:

        I once used “the force” to help me on my exam. It didn’t work out so well 😉

        Hopefully these tips help more.

        JD

    • This is a really special piece!

      I love the way J.D. weaves dreams, goals and habits together. It’s given me a whole new understanding of how to lift my productivity (without forcing myself).

      • J.D. Meier says:

        Thank you, Mary.

        The beauty is that not only do our dreams pull us forward, but they help lift others — it’s how we create *shining eyes.*


    • >