The January Blog is monthly experiments designed to accomplish your goals and chase your dreams. You can email me

A little late on posting the April report, but I have not stopped tracking data at all. A few takeaways from the April that was:

  • The monthly goal was exercise. I succeeded by getting out there and exercising (which was good considering the terrible April we had in South Dakota) but I didn’t put it toward a plan. It is critical to lay out a clear plan that I can stick to. 
  • Watching sports was down but movies was up. I actually equate about 90 mins of TV to a movie, so it really includes everything. I think my total TV time (sports and movies) probably stayed the same.
  • Blogging and reading have dipped from the winter months. Tough to raise all these numbers, but it helps to be more aware across the board.
  • This month (May) I’m doing exercise over again but with a more specific plan - training for a half marathon. The race isn’t until September, but going to work to set a  solid habit foundation this month.

To compare, here is the March report.  

March is in the books, actually we’re a few days into April but here is last month’s report. My thoughts:

  • Struggled greatly on my monthly focus which was supposed to be coding. Only plan I put in a place was a Skillshare Course that cost $25 and I never used. Need to layout a more comprehensive plan.
  • It was a busy month with conferences and a fair amount of travel. Can be tough to stick to habits when away from your routine.
  • Like my improvements in home cooked meals and exercising, but these numbers are still quite low. I can do better. 
  • As expected, March Madness meant games madness on my counter.
  • The writing on this blog is basically non-existent, but more on that later. I’ve really been doubling down on my Point Letter and thinking of January Blog more as a personal challenge. So no hurt feelings if you aren’t reading this.

Got some good things in place for focusing on exercise in April.

Feel free to compare to February’s report here

Another month down in 2013 and another monthly report here on January Blog. My thoughts from February:

  • The main focus was really successful. I read four full books and felt like a sponge all month.
  • Improvements across the board on the eight metrics I track with my Lift App. Including great success rates of 96% (taking multivitamin), 89% (8 for the Day), and 75% (reading).
  • I got two blackout days where I accomplished everything on my list. 
  • With the added focus on reading and launching the separate Point Letter my blogging dipped significantly. I need to do more this month, but also my ideas for the reporting of January Blog are evolving a bit.
  • Less NCAA bowl games means less sports which is ok, but March Madness could really change that this month.
  • Need to do more home cooking and getting to the gym. Probably typical numbers from January to February, but I’ll get back on track.

The number reflect the increase/decrease from January’s report. Enjoy.

Why I need a daily email to help me focus

Yesterday I announced a new writing project I’m starting on Monday, February 18, it’s called Point Letter

The idea is a daily email with a tip to help you focus and get to the point. Just as a daily bible verse or morning run help you find your focal point, this is a simple email with a tip or thought on how to focus. 

Working on productivity and reading the past two monts with January Blog, I’ve realized the true core of this project is focus. It’s not about how many books I read or blog posts I write, but finding the time and organization to focus on the monthly topic. 

Is this the end of January Blog?

Absolutely not. The Point Letter is not only different in topic and timeliness, but also in structure and format. I’m not writing as much in February as I did in January, partly because of being busy but mainly because I want to write high quality, high value posts when I do write. Hopefully like something I wrote this week about audiobooks.

I plan to tackle at least 12 topics here on January Blog, so buckle in. 

What’s so special about Point Letter?

Let me count the ways:

  • Daily - I love the challenge of daily. It’s a commitment just like that bible verse or three mile run
  • Intimate - Some may argue email is the furthest thing from intimate, but I think your email inbox is a very personal place. If someone is willing to sign up for Point Letter they want to hear what I have to say, so I’m going to make sure it’s good. 
  • Brief - The email inbox is also filled with lots of noise. I want to keep the Point Letter short and to the point (see what I did there?) but also actionable, so you can read it and act that day.
  • Conversational - Readers have just as many great tips and ideas on the topic of focus, and some may want to continue the conversation. The format of the Point Letter will allow for an email reply and a personal one on one coversation. In fact, I’m hoping it will lead to many more extended posts here on January Blog. 
  • Mobile - the Point Letter is optimized for mobile devices and ready for you to be on the go. So much of email is read on our phones today, so this is a perfect method for receiving a daily focus point. 

Like everything I do, I plan to make Point Letter an experiment of its own and I’ll keep everyone updated here on how that goes. My short run goal is to build an audience of 300 subscribers on Point Letter in 30 days. That’s 10 new readers a day. 

If you want to be one of the first to focus and get to the point, sign up for the Point Letter here.

It’s time to focus.

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What’s your best tip for focusing? I’d love to hear you ideas for future emails.

Share your answers below in the comments or tweet me @johntmeyer.

Why audiobooks help you read faster

I’ve been heads down reading every day since the calendar flipped to February. I should clarify, not just heads down but also ears up thanks to audiobooks. In fact, I’ve decided that audiobooks help you read faster. 

The Audiobook Advantage

The most effective tactic that has helped my focus on reading this month is listening to audiobooks. I listened to Daniel H. Pink’s To Sell is Human in just five days. Other than a 90 minute car ride, the entire listening happened walking to work and during other “free time” activities. 

Now I’m already half way through Pitch Anything by Oren Klaff (sense a focus right now?). If you count my half done Power of Habit which I’m reading the “traditional way” and I’d say the month has been a success thus far. 

Audiobooks are nimble, flexible, and easy and have really helped me keep pace with my goal this month. Here is what I like most about audiobooks:

  1. Versatile - If you commit to having an audiobook on your phone (in my case iPhone) at all times you’d be shocked how many opportunities to read arise. I’ve really enjoyed it on the 10 minute walk to work, 25 minute run, and 45 minute trip to the grocery store. You start to add those up and you’re knocking out some books.
  2. Portable - Not that books are heavy or take up too much space, but they do add up. Think about the last time you moved, that damn box of books always ends up being the heaviest one. An iPhone in the pocket is light, and already in your pocket anyway. 
  3. Personal - One unique aspect I like about the audiobook is they are often narrated by the author. I find this provides a unique insight into  the message the author was trying to convey. Their emphasis and vocal tones simulate a fireside chat, and you’re literally hearing the words from the author’s mouth.
  4. Consistent - It’s probably not fair, but I’ve never found 5-10 minutes being worthy of pulling out a book and sitting down to read. For some reason I’ve seemed to think you need a least a solid 20 minutes to read. But with audiobooks, the little gaps in my day are plugged with learning and the more consistent you are with reading the more committed you are to finishing your book and moving to the next one.
  5. Durable - Books are pretty solid, but an mp3 on your iPhone, iPad, external hard drive and saved in your iTunes library means you’ll have your audiobooks forever. 
  6. Environmental - This isn’t a point about saving paper, but with audiobooks I find that I can get into the environment why I read. Listening while walking to work and going on runs has been my biggest source of listening time. Audiobooks allow me to multitask without taking away from my focus on the content of the book.

What I don’t like about audiobooks

  1. Notation - I’ve always liked to have a pen in hand while reading traditional books to take notes in the sidebar or underline favorite quotes. This doesn’t work in audiobook form. 
  2. Cost - For some reason audiobooks are expensive and I can’t figure out why. Logic says these should be easier to produce and scale than paperback. For instance, if you go to Amazon, Charles Duhigg’s Power of Habit which I referenced earlier is $12.99 on Kindle, $15.86 on hardcover and $26.40 in audiobook form. Price variants for other books aren’t as drastic, but I know I’ve spent $29 on the two books I’ve listened to thus far. Thankfully, I recently found that there may be some solutions to the high audiobook costs. 

Although I haven’t had as much to say about my focus on reading here on the January Blog this month, I am happy to say that I’ve read (or listened) to a book every day so far in the month of February. If you’re looking for a way to increase your consumption of books consider an audiobook.

Have you listened to an audiobook before? What do you like and/or dislike about audiobooks?

Share your answers below in the comments or tweet me @johntmeyer.

Image via Open Culture.

The one thing we all want to do more of - Month 2: Reading

If you’re like me, sometime about three months after I graduated from college it must have been August or September, I realized something that I had forgotten for about eight years: READING IS FUN

Now this isn’t a criticism of my high school or college education, but once you are told what to read and you’re fighting just to keep up with those reading assignments you start to doubt that reading can be fun. There is just NO TIME for reading, right?

That fall after I graduated and could now read whatever I wanted to, I was so excited for that feeling of adventure, curiosity, and wave of knowledge that reading provides. However, something was wrong, I could never commit to reading. Outside of the occasional book (last month I read one book - don’t look now but it was an ABCs book) I’ve just never been able to make it a priority in my life. And I’ve always wanted to. 

That is why this month at JanuaryBlog I’m going to focus on reading.

Last month’s focus on productivity went rather well and I’m excited to apply those lessons to reading here in February. 

Reading Goals for February:

  • Discover new opportunities (time and place) for reading
  • Commit to daily reading time
  • Learn how to speed read
  • Find resources for reading accountability (online groups or book club)
  • Make a list of books to read in February and the rest of 2013
  • Read four books - one per week

Like last month I’ll share my findings and lessons learned along the way. I invite you to join me in this experiment and share any tips or tricks that you know.

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What is your best tip to read more? When and where do you like to read most?

Share your answers below in the comments or tweet me @johntmeyer.

I know we’re six days into February, but I wanted to take some time to digest how January went and examine my true productivity. So I decided to look at this data the way I know best… with an infographic.

The above image depicts the tasks/challenges that I measured throughout the first month of 2013. I used two apps to help me do this:

  1. Lift - fantastic app to track goals and develop habits
  2. Bean - a simple and friendly way to count things that matter

I’m already rockin’ it in February, but have been slow on the blog posts. So tomorrow I will finally reveal the February focused experiment.

11 things I learned from focusing on productivity all month

January is in the books, here is what I learned:

  1. Productivity is the foundation for improving and/or acquiring new skills.
  2. Focusing is highly valuable - There are many things I didn’t get too (which you’ll see in my monthly report tomorrow) but focusing on productivity was key to recognize what went well and what didn’t.
  3. Creating habits is difficult - Just when you think you settled into one a busy week, feeling under the weather or a big event can throw everything off. Creating permanent habits is the challenge.
  4. Travel CAN BE productive - That being said, you can still get things done and keep habits while traveling. Proved it this month.
  5. Different tactics can achieve the same goal - Look at Tuesday’s posts from Mike, Leo, and Craig, they all have different approaches but are extremely productive. 
  6. Distractions can cripple you - First you must learn what your distractions are (we all have different ones), than learn how to avoid them. 
  7. Habits can be hacked - Still reading the Power of Habit book, but I learned if we understand habits we can hack them.
  8. Experiment with forced limits - Limits are typically considered bad, but play with them and see how time limits, physical space limits, or tool limits can actually increase productivity.
  9. Know your motivators - For me I do this through keywords, but refer back to those to know that everything you’re working on is what you want to be working on.
  10. Morning routines are crucial - So crucial I’m still figuring out how to tackle mine. I’ve been playing with mine for about two months now, but eventually will post about it, for now check out my friend Andy’s new book.
  11. Goals can determine success - Ok, so maybe I already knew that, but unlike in the past after I make goals I want to work hard to check back and see how I did. Here were the goals for productivity at the beginning of the month.

All in all it was a great month, in fact, probably my most productive ever. But there are many things I didn’t get to and I’m going to continue to tweak and edit my habits and routines. 

Tomorrow I’ll present the January Monthly Report and also announce the new skill I’ll be working on in February.

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What’s one thing YOU learned about productivity this month? If you’re tackling a different skill, what did you learn? Are you going to join me in tackling a new skill next month?

Share your answers below in the comments or tweet me @johntmeyer.

Tips from the most productive people around: Craig Jarrow

This post is part 3 of 3 in a Q and A series with some of the most productive people around. This installment is with Craig Jarrow, Author of Time Management Ninja.

How do you define productivity?

Productivity is getting done what’s most important to you, no matter what life throws at you.

Tell me one thing you do better than anyone else?

I have always had a reputation for being able to find a creative solution to a problem no matter what the circumstances or supplies available. (Kind of like Faceman from the A-Team series.)

What does a productive day look like to you?

  • Start at 4AM.
  • 4-6 Write/create/plan.
  • 6-7 Get family ready for day.
  • 7-8 Workout at gym.
  • At work by 8:30.

By the the time others roll into the office around 9, I have already accomplished more than most will do all day. It feels great to have such a head start.

What is your productivity tool/app that you can’t live without and why?

My top productivity tool is my iPhone. It fills the need for so many tools and gadgets that I have lost count. It forever changed our world. It is truly amazing that I can work, communicate, and conduct business globally via a device that fits in my pocket.

What fundamental tips would you recommend to people wanting to become more productive?

I would provide 3 tips:

  1. Know Your Load - Make a list of all of your obligations. Until you know exactly how much you are carrying, you cannot judge your capacity.
  2. Define Your System - Define which tools are in your productivity system. Stick with those tools, and resist the urge to use Post-Its and other loose scraps of paper.
  3. Action is Better than Intention - Develop a habit of action. Make decisions when prudent and don’t waste your time and life in indecision.

Tips from the most productive people around: Leo Widrich

This post is part 2 of 3 in a Q and A series with some of the most productive people around. This installment is with Leo Widrich, Co-Founder of Buffer

How do you define productivity?

To me, productivity means the ability to bridge the gap between your ambitions and your abilities today. Your ambitions meaning who you want to become, which is the next top writer, football player or entrepreneur. The person who is most productive, is the person who can bridge that gap faster than anyone else.

Tell me one thing you do better than anyone else?

Whoa, that is a tough question. I don’t know if there is anything I can do better than anyone else. What I think I do a great job with is to stick with what I have set out to do each day. If it is to write 4 blog posts today, then that’s what I will achieve. I’m pretty good at brute forcing anything that I’ve set out to do through - that can also have a few downsides. :)

What does a productive day look like to you?

To me, it means that I manage to do everything from my privilege list. That’s when I feel productive. Especially if my to do items are all at the edge of the 20:80 principle. Doing 20% of the work to get 80% of the results. If I manage to do that, then I feel very good.

What is your productivity tool/app that you can’t live without and why?

Definitely my Moleskine. Everything goes in there and it keeps me sane from any “to do list” overflow (image of Leo’s Moleskine above).

What fundamental tips would you recommend to people wanting to become more productive?

The key thing I would advise people (and that’s because I advise myself to do this every day) is to figure out your purpose. Figure, what it really is you want to do first. Spend some time on that, then, once you have a slight hint of direction, go for it. Being productive and bridging your gap of ambition and ability is a lot easier, if you are picking something you’ve firstly identified as being truly passionate about. I know this might sound very trivial, but I do this myself every few days. I look in the mirror and try to figure out whether the things I’m working on every day really are the things that drive me and motivate me. It’s a simple exercise that goes a long way.