Zen Habits–How To Make Yourself Work

how to write more and be prolific

One of my all-time favorite blogs is Zen Habits by Leo Babauta. It’s amazing because it’s different–just look at the main page, and you’re instantly struck by how it looks nothing like anything else on the internet. No ads, no images, no lists of posts, very few links, and no social media icons. It’s just one post on a blank page, with a few links that lead you to years and years of archived posts. It’s quiet in a noisy world. As much as I always tell my authors about the importance of design, this is the perfect example that website design doesn’t have to be cookie cutter–it just has to be impactful.

Lucky for us, the writing on Zen Habits is just as impactful. Leo’s such a master of condensing so much knowledge and inspiration into just a few short sentences. Makes my long-winded self jealous! And I also think his approach to writing as a profession, particularly writing on the internet, is incredible. He went the traditional route for a while, running a blog with ads and writing a book with a traditional publisher, then decided the whole thing just wasn’t jibing with his minimalist values. So he uncopyrighted his blog posts (more on this here), pulled all his ads, and refocused on helping his readers in a more direct way. He moved his business model to one of building value with his readers, so that now they directly support his business by signing up for his great e-courses and buying his ebooks, instead of having third parties, like advertisers, support the business. It’s both a radical idea and a simple idea–not too different from a business model like that of NPR, where the emphasis is on serving the public, and then inspiring the public to support you back.


If I could only keep one email subscription to one blog out there in the Internets, it would be this one. Bold statement, I know, but Leo’s articles are just the kick in the pants that most people (including me) need. Especially if you’re a writer, an entrepreneur, a creative, or anyone with a big dream and not a clue how to make it real, you’ll find so much inspiration and help from Zen Habits.

So without further ado, here’s a Zen Habits article from last week that I loved–the perfect encouragement to make this week a productive and happy one!

How To Make Yourself Work by Leo Babauta

One of the biggest problems you need to solve if you work for yourself is how to make yourself do work.

The best entrepreneurs have figured it out and just pound out the work they need to do.

But many others put off their dream careers, or stay in jobs they like, because they’re afraid to figure this out. Being in a job, or staying in college, means that you have someone else imposing work and deadlines on you, and you’ll get fired (or dropped from school) if you don’t do the work. So you put off doing the work until you can’t anymore because of the fear of being fired.

What does this say about us? It’s saying that we can’t trust ourselves enough to figure out how to motivate ourselves. I know, because I was in this boat for many years. It wasn’t until I started to learn to solve this problem that I found the courage to work for myself.

It’s solvable. It’s not easy, but it’s doable. And you can do it just as much as I can — I’m no superman, trust me. I feel lazy, I procrastinate, I fear failure, just like anyone else. But I’ve learned a few things that work for me.

What works for you will be different, but here are some ideas I use that might help:

  1. Show up. If you need to write, the main thing you need to do is just to sit down in front of your text editor. If you start cleaning the house, or watch some videos, or read stuff online, to put off the moment when you have to start to write, then you’re never going to write. Instead, show up. The rest will come.
  2. Think about who you’re helping. Sure, there’s a lot of fear involved in doing hard work. But when you look at the fear you’re only looking at the downside. What about the upside? By showing up and working, you’re going to help someone. I think about readers who might need what I have learned. But sometimes you’re just helping yourself, building a new career or business. And that’s OK — you’re a person deserving of that help, and that’s a worthy endeavor.
  3. Ruthlessly carve out the space. You’re too busy? Bullshit. Make the time if it’s important. Stop watching TV, reading news, browsing things online, looking at social media, saying yes to other people’s requests, going to lunches, get out of being the head of those committees, whatever. Carve out the time. Put it on your calendar daily and make it happen. Make that time sacred, and don’t let anything interfere. You have to be incredibly ruthless to make this happen, but you can do it.
  4. Do the smallest possible step. Yes, I mean smallest possible. That doesn’t mean, “Write the first section of that report” … it means, “Go to your computer and open a document”. Or “Get up off the couch”. Or “Write one word”. Call that a success. Trust me, if you can take that first tiny step, the next step is a little easier. Get over the initial hurdle by making that hurdle as low as possible, and then keep clearing really easy hurdles until you’re an unstoppable force of nature.
  5. Let yourself feel the fear. We tend to not want to be afraid, and so we think about anything else. We don’t admit the fear to ourselves until we have to. Well, it’s time — you have to. Admit that you’re afraid, and see that that’s OK. We’re all afraid. I certainly am, all the time. It’s perfectly OK to be afraid — let yourself feel it. Be open to the feeling of fear, be present with it, really experience it. See where it’s coming from. What scenarios have you imagined that cause you to be afraid? Are those scenarios real? What would you do if they happened? Could you survive? I bet you could.
  6. Commit to others. Social motivation is probably the most powerful motivation there is. If you’re having trouble, ask a friend for help. Ask for some accountability. Give yourself a consequence if you fail. Don’t fail.

You can do this.

You can make yourself work even if you’re afraid.

You can ruthlessly make the time, take the smallest step, feel the fear and overcome it, find inspiration in the people you’re going to help. You can show up.

I believe in you.


Read this on Zen Habits here, and check out Leo’s books and courses here!

3 thoughts on “Zen Habits–How To Make Yourself Work

  1. I used to follow Leo and loved his advice; this one in particular is a great one to be reminded of and to USE. Thanks.

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