How I Trick Myself Into Doing Stuff

I have a confession to make. I am very bad at setting goals.

Maybe you are one of those bright sparks who diligently comes up with a spiffy plan of everything you’re going to achieve in a month, a quarter, a year. Maybe you have a tight business plan, a carefully honed daily routine and a perfectly ergonomic desk.

I am not such a spark.

I hate being told what to do, even by myself, and so I very rarely set anything more than a general direction to point my work towards for the foreseeable future. Otherwise I end up having little internal tantrums and nothing gets done.

This quarter my ONLY goal (settled on several weeks into the quarter), was to spend Wednesdays working on my own business.

That’s it. Work on my own business on Wednesday. One single guiding idea.

Now, having the big idea is key. But a few practical steps help too, so I outlined some basics in a journal about the goal. It says…


  • Work on something that will pay you recurring
  • Work on craft — read 30-60 min
  • Work on business — read 30-60 min
  • Resolve anything stressing you out
  • Do any necessary/outstanding lead gen

I like this kind of plan. It’s broad enough to let me be dynamic: my focus and tactics can adapt based on what’s happening each week so that I can handle big opportunities and challenges. But it’s also specific enough to make sure concrete stuff gets done. If there’s no ‘big thing’ to focus on, I still have enough direction to make progress.

At the end of each Wednesday, I’m going to be a little bit better at writing, a little bit better at business, a little bit less stressed, and a little bit more prepared for the future.

This is exactly how you write books, too.

(And copy, content and technical writing.)

Start with a big idea. Refine it just enough that you have safety rails to keep you on target. Stay adaptable, and keep moving.

The trouble starts when the big idea isn’t clear, or when there’s nothing to keep you from veering off course. And you can run into just as many problems if your safety rails are too tight and push you into something that’s not working.

Think of this system as your North Star and your Map. The North Star is the guiding light in the darkness. The Map is an outline that gives you the lay of the land — but it’s one of those hand-drawn maps and it’s up to you to colour it in and maybe pop in that sketchy cliff that’s missing.

Try this the next time you’re writing something and you’re feeling lost. The fun thing about making your own Map is that you get to choose your own adventure — and you can adapt at any time.


P.S. In January, a new adventure is beginning, and I want to invite you along.

I’ll be training 10 writers on the Ghost Protocol — an 8-week program sharing everything I know about the craft and business of ghostwriting books for clients. This course is perfect for freelance writers who want to write books for their own clients, and for people who want to write non-fiction books of their own.

Ghost Protocol is an immersive course. It’s an adventure, not a spa day, and I want people who are ready to get dirty. Every part of my process is in there — from finding your North Star and creating your Map, all the way to finding launch partners and selling thousands of copies right out of the gate.

Here’s what I’m looking for in my intrepid adventurers:

  • You want to write books professionally, either on behalf of clients or for your own business
  • You can commit to 90 minutes per week for eight weeks, starting mid January 2020
  • You are friendly and coachable
  • You can keep a secret

Several of those 10 spots have already been claimed and paid for, so if you know you want in, hit reply with ‘I’m in!’ and I’ll get you set up.