The No-Nonsense Guide to Getting Better at Anything (in 10 Minutes)
So, you want to get better at writing blog posts.
Or faster at writing emails for your list.
Or you want to become a more skilled videographer, more effective body builder, better cook…
And you’re trying hard. You’re putting in the hours. But your progress has plateaued, and you’re not sure how to continue.
There will always be periods in your life when you’re trying to gain a new skill or strengthen an existing one. But when we progress slows, we have 3 options:
- Quit (and put your energy toward better things)
- Keep pushing (and hope sheer tenacity will pull you through)
- Change the game
And today, I want to teach you how to do #3.
The process I’m going to share is not ground-breaking. But it’s beautiful in its simplicity.
For context, I started writing it out because I’m in one of these skill-building times myself. When I started my YouTube content creation experiment a few weeks ago, I had big goals. I wanted to publish a video a week, if not more!
And yet, it’s now 6+ weeks in… and I’ve only just published my 5th video. (womp womp.)
So I created this process for myself. And it worked so well, I knew I had to share it.
So let’s dive in.
Why do we plateau?
When our progress slows down, the most common explanation is usually, “I’m just not talented enough. And from here on out, it’s going to be extremely difficult.”
We think that it’s going to take a Herculean effort to reach the next level. After all, that’s the most common narrative we hear: The sports star who practiced day in and day out for years. The great pianist who played their fingers to pieces.
Yes, growth takes effort. But we forget the most important part of the equation: The calculated micro-improvements.
Going from zero to decent looks very different from going from decent to really good.
The first leg of the journey was all relying on whatever felt natural-maybe an innate ability, or following what others have done. Now, it’s all about finding the smaller, tactical improvements that you can implement. These tiny tweaks may seem simple on the surface, but together, they can lead to massive results.
The following is a simple process for uncovering those improvements in just a few minutes. And the precious minutes spent today can easily lead to hours, days, or months saved in the future.
Step 1: Write out your system
You always have a system, even if you never planned it out consciously.
Basically, what steps are you taking to do something?
Or, if you know your current system is complete rubbish, what steps do you think you should be taking?
As a video creator, my current workflow looks like this:
- Planning: Plan video & buy any necessary materials (since I’m making costumes & DIY projects)
- Filming main footage: Do the project, and film every step of the way
- Filming extra footage: Get footage of the final project result, then film my video intro and wrap-up
- Editing: Glue my eyes to the computer for the next 3–5 days (for my last video, I had to sort through over 10 hours of footage!)
Step 2: Look for the hangups at each step
What goes wrong?
What holds you back?
Why might you be moving slower, or creating boring work, or being less effective than you want to be?
Don’t worry about solutions yet. Just try to list out every problem you can identify.
Here are some of mine:
1. Video planning
- I have big, exciting project ideas, but big projects take a long time to execute, which leads to fewer videos
- Most of the videos I’m making are more in-depth, and don’t have that hyper-clickable quality that YouTube loves
2. Filming main footage
- Adjusting my tripod to get different angles is a pain, so I don’t switch it up often enough (and end up with some boring shots)
- I keep running out of battery in the middle of the day
3. Filming extra footage
- I have no easy place to film costume reveals
- The workspace behind me when I’m talking to the camera is often messy
- I forget what’s happened since the first day of filming, so I need to review every shot to remember what’s going on
- I keep running out of computer memory when I’m working with large projects
Step 3: Explore creative solutions
Now it’s time to brainstorm. Go through each problem individually and ask, what are a few different ways I could solve this?
See what creative solutions you can come up with on your own. Don’t go looking to others for help just yet.
And remember-the most effective brainstorms don’t take reality into account. This is about new ideas! Creative solutions! You can refine them later. So don’t hold yourself back, even if something seems unrealistic right now.
Here’s an example of a problem, and some potential solutions I came up with:
“Adjusting my tripod to get different angles is a pain, so I don’t switch it up often enough (and end up with some boring shots)”
- Get a second tripod so I can easily switch the camera back and forth
- Get a second camera, so I can capture two angles at the same time
- Use my phone as a second camera
- Set a timer to remind myself to change up the camera angle regularly
(Be sure to actually write them out!)
Step 4: (Optional) Look to others for more ideas
Still want more ideas? Only after you’ve done your own brainstorming should you consider researching what others have done. Look up articles online. Call up a friend who knows what they’re talking about.
But why should you wait to do this step? First of all, it trains your brain to get into problem-solving mode on its own. That’s valuable.
And second, I guarantee you’ll come up with some MUCH more effective (or at least interesting) solutions than anything you might find other creators doing.
It’s way too easy to fall back on what’s already been done. But when you just follow what people tell you to do, you either (1) end up hating the work because it doesn’t feel right for you, or (2) the results of your efforts come out completely lackluster because you’re working with tired methods.
Step 5: Commit to a game plan
At the end, you’ll have a huge list of ideas of ways to improve your workflow. Now you need to review them and choose which ones you’ll start using on your next project.
But don’t stop there- the real final step is getting yourself to actually implement them. Because human brains are stubborn, and it’s easy to fall back on what you’re comfortable with.
So, how can you remember these new steps, and make sure you actually do them? This will be a little different for everyone. But some ideas of things that have helped me in the past:
- Writing them on a white board next to my workspace
- Adding them to a checklist in a project management tool
- Consciously creating mental associations. “Okay Jessie, next time I turn the camera on, I need to turn on my timer app as well. Camera = phone.”
In 10 minutes, this process gave me 11 realistic improvements to integrate into my workflow…
…And as a result, I’m confident I’ll be able to ramp up my production speed and/or my production quality in a tangible way over the next few weeks.
What will 10 minutes do for you?
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Originally published at https://jessierlewis.com on July 28, 2020.