Want to get better at something?
Do it every day for 100 days.
That’s it, that’s the Note.
Okay...you know me, that’s not completely it. Naturally I have more to say. But if you read nothing else, grasp that. If you’re going to get better at something - writing or recording video or posting on social or sending emails or preparing presentations or sketching or home DIY work or anything at all….
...you will absolutely do better when you practice at it.
For at least 100 days to start.
Last week I popped by a local shop which takes parcels you need to return. Usually Amazon deliveries, but other things too. You order something, it arrives, you open it, and before the delivery driver’s van has disappeared down the street you already know it’s not right, and it has to go back.
Whenever that happens I take it to this local shop, go to the corner of the shop with the scanner, scan the code from my phone, tear it off and stick it to my parcel, and give it to the person at the counter to record & send it away.
I’ve been going to this shop a lot during our various lockdowns. The first time I went in, I had to ask if they did this kind of parcel, then go and find the scanner, then figure out how to hold my phone, then check the lighting on my screen so the scanner could get the code, then try again ten more times, then give up and ask for help, try again….
But this time I walked in, nodded to the guy at the counter, pulled up my phone with the codes, printed them off, stuck them on the parcels, handed them over. Easy peasy.
“You’re getting pretty good at that now,” the guy said to me.
We laughed about how confusing it seemed at first, about how many things I ordered that week which didn’t work out, told stories about people who ordered furniture only to discover it was dolls’ house furniture, and off I went.
I got into my car and suddenly remembered about four months back, when my back went out, driving to this very shop. I had to gingerly get into and out of the car. I walked very slowly and carefully. Everything took longer and I was extra cautious and was in constant pain.
This time I had driven to the shop, got out, walked in, scanned my parcels, chatted with the person at the counter, walked back, got in my car, and went on my way to other places. Without really thinking about it.
Over those intervening months, I was doing back exercises every day. Walking every day. Resting on a heating pad, sometimes several times a day. Being careful. Taking painkillers. Getting discouraged. Getting encouraged. Figuring out which chairs were comfortable and which were not. Trying different cushions to support my back. Buying a standing desk and using it. Buying a new office chair and balancing my sitting/standing time.
Change a little.
Change a little.
Over and over, for about a hundred days, now that I think about it. Daily. If I missed my back exercises for even one day, I’d pay for it with extra pain for days afterwards. It taught me very quickly not to let them go. I learned what worked and what didn’t. I got better. I got smarter. I got more practiced. And I healed.
In a tiny way the same thing happened with the parcels. I just kept doing it until one day I didn’t have to think about what to press or how to scan the code properly.
Austin Kleon shared an image a little while back about practicing something for 100 days - apparently he got the idea from Hilary Hahn, who is the creator of #100daysofpractice. And now I’ve sketched out my own thoughts on it, so we’re all stealing like artists here (whilst giving credit to the original idea as is only right!).
It’s a simple concept we experience in so many areas of our lives. For those who have children, you see your kids do it day after day. Walking. Colouring. Going to school. Writing. Reading.
You do it yourself in your business. Adjusting to everything-online was quite challenging for all of us, even someone like me who ran a remote business already. Things we had to adjust to. Over and over. Day after day.
So if there’s something you want to get better at in marketing, you will not - ever - get immediately good at it. You’re going to have to try, and suck for a while, and try again, and again, and again.
The problem is, you watch people who have been doing it over and over and you despair.
“Their videos are so good!” you cry. “There’s no point me starting - it’s too late. Everyone else is so good already.”
“I’m such a bad writer,” you think. “No matter how many blogs I write, it still feels stiff and boring. This other person’s writing is so smooth and personable. Why isn’t mine like that?”
Over and over, repetition, until one day you suck a little less. And you didn’t even notice it happening.
100 days is a good solid run to help you get better.
If you recorded a 1 minute video every day for 100 days, I can absolutely guarantee you’d be better on day 100 than on day 0, even if you didn’t even try.
Even if you simply read the exact same content for the exact same length of time. You couldn’t help it: you’d improve. Naturally. You’d get more comfortable. You’d open up the video app faster, discover a quicker way to record, click and post the video without even thinking about it.
That’s the beautiful message here: with practice, with repetition, you WILL improve. It’s what our minds and bodies and spirits do with practice. They get better. We get better (when we try).
So, what’s your thing? What is it you’d like to get a little bit better at, but you aren’t doing often enough to see any improvement on?
For my accountant clients, it’s usually one of these:
Video: Accountants don’t tend to like recording and sharing video. It feels uncomfortable and then it needs to be shared on social which also feels different or scary or like everyone will judge you. Oddly, your biggest help here is that no one is really following you yet. You’re not famous. You’re known by some clients and some family and friends. So just record a 1 minute video every single day for 100 days, and you WILL get better. You will.
Writing: It’s often a skill accountants haven’t practiced loads of (other than technical writing or dashing off emails to clients). The good news is, this one you’ve already got some good practice on - dashing off those emails to clients is 90% of the “sounding personable” bit. Just dash off a few hundred words for a blog post instead. Even 15 minutes a day, to write as many words as you can in a google doc, on a question clients have asked you, will build practice. (You may want to choose a word goal instead of a time goal - sometimes it takes me 15 minutes to write 50 words, and other days i can dash out 800 words in a short time. Depends how familiar I am with the content and how prepared i am to write.)
Social media: Either all the socials, or one particular platform you ‘don’t really like’. Well, it doesn’t matter if YOU like it: what matters is whether the type of clients you love and want to work with, like it and show up there. If they’re all on instagram and you feel more comfortable on LinkedIn, your 100 days could be well spent on insta. Post a photo or a video on your Insta story once a day, for 100 days. You’ll be surprised what you learn.
One specific social media platform: If you know your platform already - Facebook is your place, or TikTok or LinkedIn or whatever - spend the 100 days getting to know it better. Act like a child. How does this work? What does this button do? What happens when I press this? What if I press it twice or long press? Who am I connected to? How do hashtags work? What about videos - how long can they be? Oh look, you can add links or emojis or colours (or, that doesn’t work the way you expected). Swipe up, down, right, left. Press buttons. Make faces. Play. It feels like childishness but it’s actually work. It’s practice. You’re getting better and it will all come in handy at the end of your 100 days.
Writing your book: Most business owners I know have a book inside them, and would like to write it. I've got about six books I want to write. I finally finished the content of one last year, almost without even trying, because I started combining together content I'd been creating over the past six years, with one particular structure. And it came back to two things: writing marketing blog posts for accountants every week for nine years, and running the Accelerator course every week (three times a year) for six years. Consistency. Persistence. IN THE SAME DIRECTION.
In one sense it doesn’t matter what you use your 100 days for.
I would encourage you to push yourself a little - just enough. Make it something you have to do a leeetle bit of work on, but don’t make it so challenging you’ll give up before you start.
You do need to make sure you’re doing something consistent. One topic, one platform, one type of media. Stay in the same direction: that’s where the improvement comes.
You could also consider getting a buddy. Jamie (from the PF team) and i have collaborated on our 100 day challenge, creating an instagram account called The Marketing Therapist.
So many of our clients have referred to what we do with them as marketing therapy, working through past bad experiences or current difficult challenges. Helping them work through pain and get excited about progress and question everything. Listen. Ask questions. Encourage.
Jamie and I have been talking about ‘marketing therapy’ for a while, and how we might create content related to it. We’d like to write a book on it for accountants.
But we’re not quite clear on what all we’d cover. On the core points. We need more raw material, more content, more discussions and experiments.
Over the christmas and new year break, when my brain started to spin again after its resting, I was thinking about how making progress means practice. I texted Jamie to ask what she thought about setting up an insta account and splitting the 100 day challenge - me posting one day, she posting the next. I have so many things I’m doing on my own that I knew it was possible I’d set it up and give up after a while, whereas if I know she and I are tag teaming it, I won’t overdo.
She said yes, she was in. Let’s go. We didn’t overthink it - I threw together the insta account and posted the first one and told her it was her turn the next day. We chose Instagram because she and I both prefer that as our favourite social media platform, and we wanted a visual element to our content and book.
So now she posts something relating to marketing therapy on Monday, Wednesday, Friday; and I post something on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday; and we both rest on Sunday.
We’re 16 days in as of today.
I’m learning a lot already.
I’m learning when it comes to marketing therapy, the concepts need to be simple and clear. I come up with what i think is one idea or concept, and by the time i type out what i’m thinking I’ve actually got six different posts. I’m learning to sketch out a week’s worth of posts ahead of time, all at one go when I have a little extra energy, and then take the time to share them and create hashtags and add to the instagram story and try different things.
Over the next 84 days, we’ll learn more. We’ll start to see patterns. We may not have our entire book by then, but we will have made more progress than if we had done nothing at all. We’ll be inspired in other directions. With our little, tiny posts every day for 100 days.
We’re opening up the 100 days challenge to you, if you’d like to get better at something. You can just do it yourself with the hashtag #100dayschallenge - or if you want some accountability, join the PF Lab and you can do it alongside your fellow accountants and the PF team.
It’s so tempting to want to hurry along to the good ending. I remember days of thinking, why can’t my back just BE BETTER ALREADY?!? I’ve looked at my sketches and sketchnotes and feel like they’re just not what I want them to be... and then looked back to when I started 7 years ago and find myself rather amazed at the difference.
I started doing sketchnotes of church sermons in 2014, and have been doing them at least once a week (sometimes twice) for going on 7 years. Progress. I didn’t even notice until I looked back.
Imagine what you can do in 100 days when you look back.
What will your challenge be?
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