Darren Beale Web developer, retailer & photographer

Accountability Diary or Personal Development Podcast?


It has been a few months!

In this episode I provide a personal update as well as review two books: So Good They Can’t Ignore You and Deep Work, both Cal Newport,

Also, with us being half-way through the year I also leave you with a challenge to consider your goals for the next 6 months.

It’s quite rough around the edges so please bear with me, these will get better!

A full transcript of the show follows below.

Bealers: Hello, campers. I’m Bealers and you’re watching the first of my weekly video diary entries where I’m going to use the Internet as an accountability partner and to also share my wins and fails in amongst a narrative of starting small, making slow but steady improvements, positive thinking and generally managing the inputs. That’s both to our bodies and to our lives. The idea is that each episode is going to be no more than about 10 minutes and that rather than it being a holy self-indulgent exercise on my part, there will also be something of value for you guys to watch and listen.

Before I continue, there’s something that I do want to address from my perspective. There’s a rather large elephant in the room. That’s the fact that a few months ago, I announced that I’d be doing a podcast called Knuckling Down. In that podcast episode, the pilot episode of that, I set out my stall. I then bared my soul to the world, detailing the pretty crappy time I’d been having over the past couple of years, how unwell I was, how in pain I was, how deeply unhappy I was, but then how I turned things round, how I got myself fit and healthy again.

Pretty obviously in hindsight by a regime of good sleep, good food, good exercise, I turned things around. It turned out that I had been super-stressed and my body had just given up on me. Anyway, Knuckling Down was and probably still is going to be an interview show where I discuss health, business and productivity with experts or other people within our industry. After that pilot episode, loads of you lovely people on Twitter, email, even face-to-face gave me great feedback, told me your own stories and urged me to continue talking about those things, particularly around stress but also just getting stuff done and health. 3 months on, the irony is, is that I started knuckling down on my own stuff.

I had to do that thing that one does when prioritising. I had to say no. I realised that there’s just not enough space in my schedule for a long-form podcast at the moment. The learning curve is quite steep. I have to research guests and practice, get good at interviewing, and most importantly, there’s not [a lot of 00:02:29] space in my work day for it because during the day, I need to be focusing on my business. The idea is that this is going to be a mini version of Knuckling Down or certainly it’s not going to be called that, but it’s just going to be quick video diary entries that I’m doing from home and that I’m going to do them in my own time.

They’re only going to take me 1 hour per week from start to finish. My aim is to practice the nuts and bolts of recording and publishing whilst I’m also sharing the ups and downs of my journey, and at the same time, I’ll try to ensure that I share something of value with you each time. By that, I mean there should be at least 1 takeaway for you each week. Format’s going to be fluid and may change, but each week to start things off, I’ll spend a few minutes providing an update on my key projects and sharing anything that I’ve learned during the week. As this is the first time I’ve done this, I’ll detail out what my projects are at the moment. It’s not a long list, don’t worry.

First and foremost, it’s scaling and improving Siftware, my software development company. It specialises in website support and maintenance. 2 years ago, Siftware was just myself and Ian. Over the last 2 years, the head count got up to 8 at one point and things are currently are settled at 6. My current focus is on keeping my team happy, keeping my clients happy, making sure we’re efficient and that we’re systematising our process as we go and of course, we always want new work. In that vein, over the past month or so, I’ve been doubling down on tactics to improve our organic search engine ranking, so I have tie that into non-spammy content marketing strategies.

I’m sure I’m going to have a lot more to say about that over the coming weeks. Next, there’s a SaaS that I’m building personally to keep my development skills fresh because I hadn’t developed for a couple of years. It’s called Notebud and it’s going to help the users of OneNote keep track of their tasks and also optionally provide a bridge to their third party to-do list manager, so things like Wunderlist or Todoist. Development’s gone really well and I’m super-pleased with that. I’m confident that I can achieve my self-inflicted deadline of September for a Beta MVP.

My third major project is a book that I’ve started writing called The One Notebook. It will be, as I’m sure you’ve probably already guessed, a book on OneNote which is Microsoft’s competitor to Evernote, and a far superior competitor it is in my humblest of opinions. I’ve been using OneNote for donkey’s years, 10 years plus, and I’ve banged on about it to all who would listen during that time. The problem has always has been for me is that most of my peers aren’t on Windows, and Evernote, well, was far superior on the Mac, well, it was far superior because OneNote didn’t exist.

What’s changed is over the last couple of years, Microsoft have upped their game. They’ve released 4 free versions for Windows, Mac OS 10, Android and iOS. On iOS, there are 2 versions. There’s an iPad version and there’s an iPhone version. That coupled with Evernote changing their pricing structure recently has meant that a lot of people are moving over to OneNote and I want to help those people get the most out of this amazing tool that I run my life on.

Of course, having a book on the subject won’t hurt while I look to promote a SaaS product that also provides those value-added services to those users. Did you see what I did there? I have a sample chapter drafted, half-drafted. I need to finish that off. I aim to get that down within the next month. I’ll then start promoting the book, and as I finish things off, I’ll also be recording screencasts, which is another reason for me to have the stuff here at home because I won’t have time to be doing that again during the day when I’m working on my business.

Finally, underlining all of these other major projects that I’ve prioritised after getting rid of a lot of other projects that I was also working on, I’m still focusing on my health and general productivity, 2 subjects very, very close to my own heart, an area where I formed a lot of opinions and frankly experience on my journey over the last couple of years from being overweight, stressed and unhappy to leaner, definitely, fit and positive me. I’m probably going to mention running from time to time, but don’t worry.

I know that running’s really boring for people unless you actually are also a runner, so I won’t bang on about it too much. I’m also going to touch on my new productivity, things, or any new discoveries that I’ve consumed during the week as I’ve been researching. I’m going to also mention how I’m getting on with my own habits, again, accountability, new ideas that I’ve had, how my morning routine’s working out, what new hacks I found, that sort of stuff. Basically, I’m going to be sharing what’s working for me as I’m going on my own path to personal improvement.

Since I’ve recorded the Knuckling Down pilot 3 months ago, I’ve had 1 wobble, health wobble. There was a couple of weeks where I felt pretty rubbish. I was suffering badly from stress again. However, it was much more reduced. The impact was much more reduced compared to the previous, how it used to be a few years back. I was able to … My routines, my exercise, my good diet, and generally my positive attitude and applying mindfulness techniques to what I do meant that the impact was much, much reduced and I was able to keep functioning and I didn’t lose my momentum.

Also in April, almost 10 months to the day that as a complete non-runner who would have a minor, mild heart attack running for the bus, I ran 26 miles around London. I’m not going to lie. It was really bloody hard and I did train hard but my performance could have been better. I’ve definitely got some unfinished business there. That said, I’m absolutely delighted and really proud of myself that I achieved it and I’m super-thankful to everybody who sponsored me. We raised £1,000 for the Outward Bound Trust, so thank you so much.

Also during April, I was a part of Mark Jenkins’s 30-day writing challenge. Mark’s in my mastermind group along with Andrew and Alex. He mentioned he was doing this challenge as we discussed each of our businesses and our projects, and it seemed really rude not to get involved because I want to get better at writing myself. The premise is that writing is like a muscle. You need to exercise it to get better at it, and the more you do, the better you get. I ended up writing a blog post every day in April, and it was really grueling but it was true.

The premise was true. It got easier, and I feel sure that I got better as a writer as we went along. The irony is that it was so grueling. I don’t think any of us have written anything since in the little community that sprang up around the exercise, although I know that speaking to Mark and Andrew yesterday, I think we’re all trying to get back on track recently. That’s the brief update. Normally it’d be shorter than that, but obviously I’ve had a bit of a back story to fill in. Time’s ticking on, but before I go, I want to leave you with a couple of things for you to chew on.

Firstly, a few books.

So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport,

It’s absolutely superb. I found out about it on Derek Sivers’s website. I’m assuming you’ve heard of Derek Sivers. If you’ve not, he’s a legend, and you should totally look him up and read some of his work. A pretty good place to start probably would be Tim Ferris’s podcast, and he interviewed him recently. Anyway, the So Good They Can’t Ignore You premise is that pursuing your passion to become a llama farmer or a yak shaver or whatever is probably not that good an idea. You’re probably burning bridges and you’ll be throwing a lot of your hard-earned career capital as Cal called it in the process.

Instead, you want to get really, really good at what you do right now, get so competent that you can start to introduce a modicum of control into your life. At that point, that’s when you can start to consider what your life mission might be, and slowly ease yourself into it. Definitely read it. It contradicts the general narrative of Follow Your Passion, but I promise you, it will give you a life-changing perspective. Here we go.

Deep Work, again by Cal.

This is something that Marc Jenkins recommended, I hadn’t heard of it. The basic premise is that we’ve all become so used to constant interruptions from email, on social media, from all of our notifications on our phones and that the received wisdom these days is that that’s okay, that it’s normal, interruptions are normal, you should always be responding to your staff, you should always be available.

Cal argues that if you master the ability to become good at blocking out distractions and diving deep into your tasks one at a time, not load balancing between lots of them, that you will gain an unfair advantage to the rest of society, that you will produce more and that you will attain your goals. The techniques in the books themselves are not that revolutionary. They’re interesting and they’re great, and if you’re anything like me who consumes or are quite interested in what the best practices are of getting shit done, then you probably will have tried a lot of them in some way over the years.

What’s important is the general mindset that distractions are bad, and that by being good at focusing in deeply on a task one at a time is that you’re going to get much more productive. It’s so, so good. Just go out and buy it and you will thank me.

Just before I go, I want to leave a little challenge for you.

Grab yourself some mind map software and at the top of the page, think about … It’s July. It’s early July and you’ve got 6 months of this year left. What are you going to want, what do you want to achieve?

Across the top of the page, map out all the things you want to achieve.

At the bottom of the page, map out any goals or aspirations or dreams, remembering that goals are just dreams with deadlines.

Over to the side, also brainstorm the 20% of things that cause you 80% of pains, stresses, unhappiness. Start drawing lines between these 3 kind of areas.

Where are the intersections?

I would suggest you pick 4 or 5 things from this list of goals, pains, projects. I’m not going to leave you a set way of trying to prioritise, but just use your own …

You can have 20 things you’re currently working on. You can have 5 things that are really stuck at the moment. Out of those things, choose 5 and write them down on a Post-It note and stick them to the side of your monitor and work towards either removing them or getting better or working towards.

Whatever you come up with, why don’t you take a photo and send it to me, by Twitter or share it privately by email, or if you feel brave enough, highlight it in the comments of the thread on the blog post that contains this movie? Either way, I’d love to hear from you.

Don’t hesitate to get in touch with any feedback or just share what you’re working on.

I’m at Bealers on Twitter and you can email me, bealers@siftware.com.

Thanks so much. Have a great week.

By bealers
Darren Beale Web developer, retailer & photographer