16 Jul

What happens when you break a 600+ day chain?

“Oh, you’re the guy who writes a thousand words a day!”

It’s often hard to make a connection between that blog post you read months ago and the author who is standing in the same conversation circle at a conference. Once people made the connection I was often referred to as the “thousand word guy.” I guess that’s one thing that stuck out to people.

Back in 2012 I wanted to write a book. More importantly, I wanted to finish a book.

I’d started writing three books, none of which made it beyond an outline and the first few pages. This time I was determined to finish and an article by Chris Guillebeau showed me how: write 1,000 words a day, every day.

It took me a while to get a streak going. I would get 7 days in a row, miss a day, and have to start over. But after a while my streak got longer and I became more determined not to break it. Each day I wrote I became determined to continue writing.

By the time The App Design Handbook (my first book) launched I had written 1,000 words a day for 70 days in a row.

By the end of 2012 I was at over 150 days in a row, which included another book, Designing Web Applications.

Three hundred sixty five and beyond

Last July I celebrated 365 days in a row of writing 1,000 words a day. That included three books, nearly 100 blog posts, and countless other writing. All of which was very profitable.

Occasionally I missed a day (like when on vacation), but I always made it up the next day. I figured it was fine to make the rules loose so long as the writing got done.

I continued blogging, released a few new courses, and my writing streak passed over 600 days in a row.

Then this last spring I started to lose it. I’d get a day behind, and catch up trying desperately to keep my streak going. Then I’d not feel inspired to write and respond to a 30-40 emails and count that as my thousand words (I am still way behind on email).

The end

One day I opened up Commit on my phone and my streak was zero days in a row. I’m not sure exactly when my writing streak ended. During the weeks prior I had a new baby, became quite sick with shingles, worked on remodeling a house, tried to continue growing my software company, and overall became quite stressed.

Somewhere in that mess I missed an unknown number of days in my writing streak.

I could try to catch up, but it would be rather dishonest since I didn’t even know how many days I missed.

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Starting over

Writing 1,000 words a day is the best career move I’ve ever made. It’s sad to have that streak gone. I thought about not starting it up again, but in the last two years writing has become a core part of who I am, I can’t give that up.

That means I need to start my streak over and built it back up. Here’s how I plan to do it.

1. Work towards a goal

When writing a book you may not know exactly what you’ll write each day, but you know what project it is for. For the last few months I haven’t been writing towards a particular goal. My writing has been scattered between projects and it’s been hard to focus.

Now I’m working on a new book. It’s been an idea for over a year, so it’s time I finally sat down to write it.

2. Set aside time

The last couple weeks of my writing streak were spent scrambling to get some writing in when my phone reminded me at 4:00 PM that my streak would end if I didn’t sit down to write.

Writing is now a scheduled part of my day. If writing from my home office doesn’t work then I’ll drive to my favorite coffee shop, thinking through my writing on the drive there.

Step three?

When I planned this essay I figured there would be three steps. After all, what’s a process that only has two steps?

But the more I think about it, working towards a goal and setting aside dedicated time are the only two steps needed to make big things happen. There’s no need to make this any more complicated. Slow, consistent progress is all it takes.

Let’s do this.

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If you want to join with me you can download Commit from the App Store.

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8 Responses to “What happens when you break a 600+ day chain?”

  1. It’s too bad that the streak was broken. It’s a cool to see how many days in a row you’ve done something. I’ve been tracking and logging my diet for 588 days in a row and have seen awesome progress.

    I’ve recently decided to start writing daily, although only set a 300 word minimum. I only count published blog content towards that 300 though. Anything else (like this comment) doesn’t count towards that total.

    Awesome to see that you’re getting the streak going again!


  2. I still wish Commit was available for the Android devices. :-)


  3. Cory says:

    Honestly, having a baby seems like a totally reasonable excuse for having broken the chain. Maybe someday you’ll get back to 600 days in a row, but you’ll always remember that the time you slipped up was for your kid, and that seems pretty awesome.


  4. […] few days later he published What Happens When You Break A 600+ Day Chain?. In it he describes how he lost focus on one of the things that pretty much define him and what he […]


  5. Thanks for the good read. Inspiring! Glad you jump up on the horse again. I will follow you, but after my ongoing vacation. Planning to begin in late August. Good Luck!


  6. […] consecutive days you work towards your goal(s), and psychologically knowing that you haven’t broken it for x amount of days should motivate you to keep going at […]


  7. […] I broke my writing habit (and then restarted it) I reached 70 days in a row, then I stopped again. I took a vacation and […]


  8. Awesome story. Here’s to the next 601 days! :)


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