Write Shit Down
Here’s a quick tip I’ve used over the years. Go buy a diary and a pencil and use the pencil to write stuff in the diary. The higher ups are gunna come down on me pretty hard for spilling trade secrets like this so I’ll keep it brief.
Whatever your current goals are, keeping written tabs on them will keep you on track. Consistency is what we’re after here. Just a simple tick on the days you went for a walk, kept your inbox at zero, or learned the name of a new dinosaur is enough to keep you going strong. You could write a mini-essay on what you did, what to do better, and what not to do next time, but simply getting into the habit of logging your progress is more important than what you actually write down. Jerry Seinfeld would put a big red cross on his calendar for everyday he wrote a new joke and look at him now!
The Seinfeld method works well enough but makes for a pretty weak sauce graph. It’s only one metric! That’s great for starting out, but when shit starts getting real it’s insufficient to keep proper tabs on your progress.
This is where the mini-essay I warned you about comes in. In the past I’ve kept exercise diaries that went into meticulous detail about what I did, when I did it and my favourite part: what if felt like to do it. The first two are straight up numbers and would look something like this
Monday - 6am: Bench 300kg 10 reps
The second part is what we industry folks like to call qualitative data, and I’ve found it to be just as important as the numbers. It would look like this:
Totally dominated those reps. Didn’t even need to warm up. Had to use two hands for the last one though. Throw a few more plates on for next time and see how that feels.
This is the sort of information that really comes in handy. A week might pass before I did the same exercise again and reading if I was feeling a bit tired or not as motivated as usual can help give the numbers some context. If, like in the examples, I had a particularly stellar session I wouldn’t feel so bad if the numbers didn’t jump up too much for the following week. These days I keep a diary for drumming and I do the exact same thing. I write down every exercise I play, how long I do it for then a note about how comfortable it was sitting and how focused and motivated I was. Getting two weeks worth of sessions feeling really good can be much more rewarding than nudging the metronome up a couple of clicks.
To give you an example that I’m not obviously making up, here is a recent entry from my drumming diary:
22/10 P, 1hr, Vater 5B sticks on pad in the park
Accented paradiddles played over different sub-divisions
- single up to 85bpm cycled up to 32nd notes
- inward up to 80bpm cycled up to 32nd notes
- ★ Single paradiddle @ 180bpm. Felt easy and controlled even though wrists were sore from last nights gig and new sticks felt heavy.
That star up there is for hitting a goal. It’s a high five star.
When you’re starting something new a simple tick or a cross on every day you work at something will probably be all you need. When you start having to keep track of more than “did I do something on this day?” though, don’t trust yourself to remember anything. Have your diary and pencil at the ready and write it all down. If you’re a fatty and you’re trying to get skinny, write down what you eat, the exercise you’re doing, and how it felt to do it. If you’re skinny and you’re trying to get mega guns, write down what you eat, the exercise you’re doing, and the number of a doctor who specializes in the side effects of bovine steroids. You’ll get better faster and will have something to look back on so you’ll know about it too.
And before you give me shit about not being able to graph my feelings: