Productivity

7 Easy Steps to Go from Blogger to Ecommerce Entrepreneur

Total Reading Time: 11 minutes.
When Patrick Foster of Ecommerce Tips contacted me about doing a guest post on helping people transition or evolve from blogger to ecommerce entrepreneur, I had to say yes. I’ve had a similar evolution myself, but sadly, had to figure it all out on my own.
As a solopreneur who began as a blogger, created information products, became an expert copywriter, took on consulting, created my own physical ecommerce product, and now run multiple companies and teams — I would have benefitted tremendously from the tactics laid out below. I’m hoping this in-depth article gives you the insight and knowledge you need to more confidently become a successful ecommerce entrepreneur. Enjoy!

Introduction: Enter Patrick

There is no doubt that solopreneurship is exploding. It’s an exciting road and you’ll never be lonely with so many digital soulmates on the same path!
So, how do you make money using the power of words? More and more bloggers and online writers are experimenting with affiliate sales and content monetization.
Some take the plunge and move onto the big one: ecommerce. Ecommerce is definitely lucrative and exciting, but it’s also a demanding discipline that will test your business skills and personal resources.
As a blogger and content creator you’ve got some unique strategies available to you to help you drive ecommerce traffic and sales — USE THEM.
Here is how you can use your extensive blogger arsenal to help you succeed at ecommerce — here’s to your solopreneur success!

Step 1: Start with What You Know

So, how do you make the leap from blogger to ecommerce entrepreneur? First things first: start with what you’ve already got.
You may have spent years building an email list, posting regular content, engaging with your readers in comments, building out your social profiles. Start with the audience you’ve already amassed.
Don’t let all those valuable blogger years go to waste by starting again – leverage your readership and community to help you build a sustainable business.

  • You have to figure out how to segway into ecommerce and take most of your existing readership with you. How to get people invested in your startup story?
  • Ask their opinion — share logo designs, business ideas, and branding concepts with your email list for some genuine brand feedback before you even get started. Bring your readers on the business building journey with you, and keep existing relationships fresh — even if you’ve slightly changed your focus.
  • [Note from Arman: look at the number of times me and this site evolved on this journey. And yet, so many of you have been with me since day one. Why? Because I not only make sure to share the story, but my thinking and reasons for making each change. You can almost always convert an audience from one topic or place to another].
  • Cherish people’s contact details and invest in a proper CRM (customer relationship management) system. People’s emails are a token of all the shared experiences you’ve had over the years.
  • In order to take your email marketing to the next level, segment your contacts into lists and send relevant content to contact subsets. Segmentation is a great strategy to help you send out targeted and compelling content (and personalized offers).

 

market segmentation

  • What are the motivators behind you getting into ecommerce? Share your thoughts and struggles as you transition, and you will find others on the same journey as you.
  • Likeminded user groups and chat forums can be a great place to widen your circle to other fledgling ecommerce pros. Get energy and motivation from other people going through the same things as you.
  • Analyze your blogger strengths and weaknesses – it’s important to know yourself inside out as an entrepreneur. Did you find video difficult? What about managing invoicing and clients? What technical challenges held you back?
  • Being honest about what you found difficult will help you be more realistic about the project and its profitability. Remember that entrepreneurial hunger and curiosity are often fed by adversity – don’t be afraid of challenges.

Who are you breaking bread with? It’s important to surround yourself with the right sort of people in order to invite success into your life. Online groups can be a really powerful way of finding your tribe.
You don’t want to draw a line under your blogger years — bring all that knowledge and drive with you on the next stage of your digital journey…

Step 2: Beware of the ‘Easy Wins’

Is anything worth having easy? Don’t get sucked in by dollar signs and forget to look at what matters, building a sustainable business that A) you will want to run, or B) runs itself. Making more money online is an exciting challenge, but there are very few shortcuts for those who are serious about their ecommerce brand.

  • There are a LOT of people out there selling the make easy money online dream — and the majority of it is hyped up and exaggerated. The way that the online marketplace is presented in sales literature is often misleading, people distort figures in order to sell their products and tools.
  • Don’t take the shortest route to success. The best brands go through an incubation period; it’s totally fine to stop and think before you launch into something.
  • Be wary of paid courses. As a blogger you already know that some blogger growth courses and webinars are absolutely worth their price tag, whereas others still have a long way to go before they are going to help anyone. Not sure whether to invest in an ecommerce course? Read online reviews and seek advice from others who’ve been there before.
  • On the other hand – don’t listen to people who tell you that you’ll need investors and thousands in the bank in order to achieve your dreams – you can get started in ecommerce for less than $100! It’s all about financial balance and knowing when to spend.
  • Adopt the startup mentality of growth hacker marketing and launch with using the minimum viable product (MVP) methodology to stop yourself from spending money on unnecessaries. You’re often better off spending less on web and brand development and more on marketing and promotion anyways.
minimum viable product
Don’t forget to embrace the MVP methodology

Step 3: Choose Your Niche Wisely

Do you really want to sell juicers for the next four years? Is the sight of matcha already boring you to tears? Something which may seem like fun right now may not feel like fun after dozens of customer support calls! Think very carefully about what you’re getting yourself into and try to balance profitability with practicality.

  • Look at product profitability, niche growth potential, and think about whether you actually want to be selling this stuff! The best ecommerce brands are run by product advocates and enthusiasts — you may not want to go down this route if you’re private labeling on Amazon, but it’s still worth considering.
  • Can you bring passion to the table somehow? (Product accessories — very lucrative niche FYI).
  • Starting to research products cold can be overwhelming, so stick to something that’s close to your current sphere of interest at first. Travel blogger? You may want to offer travel-related products like bags, toiletries, hats etc. If there is nothing around you that’s grabbing you, go to places like Amazon and Alibaba for product research (and you might even be able to find some suppliers while you’re there!).
  • Going with overseas suppliers means longer wait times, but you will be guaranteed some great deals from Asian suppliers for popular lifestyle products. On the premium end, sourcing stock from local retailers and artists can help build your reputation as a quirky brand.
  • Have you got a plan B in place before you start spending money on stock or product development? Stock liquidation should be part of your exit plan — be careful of acquiring capital assets you can’t shift. Dropshipping could be the answer to your ecommerce prayers, and services like Printful mean that you can easily monetize graphic design or illustration through printing. (If your brand is strong enough – you could even create blog swag).
  • Validating your product with the market is a really important step. Is there an existing market for your product right now? Where are your customers? You need to make sure that you are tapping into some sort of existing consumer demand. Don’t be afraid of competition — a little competition is only healthy [Note from Arman: yes, seriously! Don’t be afraid of competition. This is market validation.]

Step 4: Build for Longevity

Yes, ecommerce is about sales, but not all ecommerce is about the old-school ‘stack-em-high-sell-em-cheap’ sales (unless you’re in an Amazon price war – good luck). The best ecommerce brands invest in customer experience, branding, and tell one hell of a product story!

  • Most ecommerce stores sell a lifestyle and a brand as much as they do their actual physical products. What are you selling? What sort of customers shop with you (and why)? Try to connect with that customer why in order to get under their skins. Gary Vaynerchuk is a great example of an entrepreneur and hustler who has built an entire brand around empowering other people.
  • You have to invest in something that looks and feels good. After all, with all the options of where people can spend their money, why would they spend it with you? Quality branding and well-written content is an ecommerce must-have.
  • And don’t neglect packaging or the customer delivery experience either. You need to be available to customers 24/7 — it’s a tiring (but rewarding) responsibility. Use live chat software like ZenDesk to help you serve and scale without the drama!
  • Inject personality into those boring order confirmation emails and pay attention to all the small brand details. (If you’re selling through a third party marketplace — control what you can from a brand perspective, and leave the rest to them).

Step 5: Upgrade Your Digital Platform

(Simple) blogs can be quite low-cost and low-maintenance when it comes to hosting and web maintenance — an ecommerce store requires a bit more from your web technology. Ecommerce sales hinge on fast and usable sites – slowness is a huge conversion killer.

  • Magento and Drupal are also good, but they are really more fitting for a high-powered web environment and may need a bit more developer support (especially Drupal). Then there are loads of smaller custom platforms – usually aimed at niches like jewelry/shoes/food etc. These can also be a good option, but don’t go for something that you can’t fully customize with your own branding.
  • Whatever you end up going with, hosting downtime and sloppy coding are not acceptable. You need an ecommerce environment that feels instinctive to the user — which often means something fast and visual. Clue up on your digital skills like CSS and SEO to get the most out of your store.
  • You don’t even have to invest in a platform these days — you could sell directly from a Facebook page, your Pinterest board, or from your own Etsy store. [Arman: this is so true. People are starting ecommerce brands from scratch on Snapchat even. Crazy.] These are all great places to start, but a central online hub is often required to up your own brand and ecommerce game. (Social selling may end up becoming your biggest traffic and sales referrer though…)

Step 6: Invest in Great Content

Content creation is one of your strengths as a blogger – use it to your advantage during your ecommerce journey. Remember to match your content to your audience, and always listen to feedback in order to refine your offering. Embrace all the platforms and channels available to you.

  • Niche-relevant content is very important for ecommerce, especially in smaller niches that attract product advocates. Quora is a great place for niche content research when you’re stuck for new ideas. It’s also a great place to promote yourself as a niche expert – link back to your own store and content.
  • Product content should strike the right balance between information and sales — focus on product benefits, rather than listing features.
  • Invest in a great ecommerce blog which can become a brand hub and a place for content exchanges. Make your blog somewhere people want to be seen to encourage mutually beneficial relationships.
  • Work on native and sponsored content with relevant influencers and media outlets, but don’t throw all your money away without getting a clear picture of ROI first. Speak to the blogger community first and leverage your blogger status.
  • Factor in seasonality to your content calendar — what big sales dates do you need to capitalize on?

Step 7: Market Your New Brand

So how do you get your brand new ecommerce business off the ground? You are going to have to delve into your blogger promotional toolkit and use all the marketing arsenal you’ve got. Invest in social, but focus on a few key channels first.

  • Social media advertising is an effective and often inexpensive place to start. Make sure the ads are properly targeted and that they have a compelling value proposition to share. It’s the perfect way to advertise new product launches and special offers.
  • On the organic social side, Pinterest and Instagram are great for visual niches. Use tools like hashtagify.me to discover the best hashtags and balance sharing product-related stuff with things likes motivational quotes and customer photos.
  • Video is a great product marketing tool, and it’s increasingly inexpensive too! Shoot some videos in your home studio to get started.
  • When it comes to link building and guest posting — focus on the blogger community’s rules of give and take. It can be tempting to think you have to ramp things way up now that you’re an ecommerce merchant, but you’re best taking a slow and steady approach to link building…

Conclusion: What You Need to Know about Ecommerce v.s. Blogging

  1. Ecommerce is still about people — your readers are your customers and vice versa!
  2. You need to get familiar with ecommerce data and terminology to help you make better financial decisions for your business.
  3. Niche content is a great thing for both SEO and user — take it seriously and invest time in content creation.
  4. You can use the blogger community around you to help you spread the word. Relationships and social media are still important, all the same rules apply.

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Photo credit: Seven AtomsCC license

The Real Reason Why You Should Wake Up Early

Total Reading Time: 2 minutes.

It’s Not What You Think

The real reason you should wake up early has absolutely nothing to do with the conventional wisdom around the benefits of early rising.
It has nothing to do with getting more done, or getting to the gym at an early hour, or having time for your morning ritual, or even making a green juice smoothie to be healthier.
It has nothing to do with any of the attributes you might attach to waking up early and its benefits.
The actual core, underlying root reason that a human being should wake up early is because there is a deep wisdom and science to this habit.
 

What’s the Science?

The physical act of waking up early triggers a response in the language of the individual that confirms that action.
By affirming and acknowledging this action, a person’s language reconstructs itself to mirror the fact that they are someone who rises early, in order to get more out of life and enjoy each moment to rise with the sun in order to fully dive into all of waking life’s pleasures.
After all, this entire experience — life itself — goes by in the blink of an eye. Eventually, our language begins to shape our thought constructs about this action.
When this trifecta or triumvirate takes place, we essentially have the three pillars of consciousness – love, happiness, and truth — working in tandem with each other to affirm a new identity.
In this case, the identity would be that of someone who enjoys and relishes every second of life and needs to rise early with or before the sun rises in order to maximize their pleasure and enjoyment of the experience they are receiving.
This signals to the brain an intense level of enjoyment and fulfillment that is deeper than fleeting moments of happiness.
It’s 24/7, 365.
 

Final Thoughts

By building this ritual or habit we are effectively reshaping and remodeling our experience of the world. We are confirming that existence in life itself is precious, sweet, beautiful, unique.
It’s everything that ever is and everything that ever will be.
This isn’t about early rising. This is about fully loving life itself.
Note: I just finished a 21 Day Early Rising Challenge and woke up at 4:47 every day (except two days, where I woke up and pretty much went back to bed).
 

Resources

  1. Pillars of Consciousness: Buddha – Zen – Tao – Tantra – Osho is renowned not only for his wisdom, but his skill as a guide to a deeper understanding of complex philosophical concepts using humor and the art of storytelling paves the way for readers to as Buddha said be a light unto yourself.
  2. The Miracle Morning: The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life (Before 8 AM)  – What’s being widely regarded as “one of the most life changing books ever written” may be the simplest approach to achieving everything you’ve ever wanted, and faster than you ever thought possible.

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Photo credit: Sleeping ManCC license

Nobel Prize-Winner Richard Feynman on Learning Anything Using His Personal Formula

 
Video Version

Text Version
Total Reading Time: 3 minutes.

If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.
~Albert Einstein

Today there is more information being created and shared than ever before. We are all trying to learn more, do more, be more and grow our minds.
Yet, ironically, it has actually become more difficult to truly gain and implement knowledge. It’s become more difficult to become masters of something while also being able to retain it.
In school we were taught to retain knowledge for a short period of time, just to recite it with rote memory. We were not taught how to deeply ingrain the knowledge presented to us.
Richard Feynman — a theoretical physicist and bonafide genius — created a three-step process he personally used anytime he was learning something new. This is something you can use today in any area of your life.
One thing to understand here is that Richard was a Nobel Prize-winning physicist. He was a genius who was able to take complex ideas and distil them down to simple stories and information.
Many of the greatest leaders and teachers of our time have this same ability and learning this process allows you to do the exact same thing.
 

Step 1: Teach It to a Child

Take that information and knowledge and literally write it down as if you were teaching it to a child. If you struggle in particular areas, that’s a good thing!
The struggle is your clue on the exact areas you have gaps in your knowledge.
 

Step 2: Review

Go back to the source material. Review and re-learn it until you can explain it in basic terms.
 

Step 3: Organize and Simplify Your New Knowledge

Take that new knowledge and write it down again. Organize it into a new story that flows.
Simplify it. Read it out loud and make sure that it comes out as simple and easy to understand for even an 8-year-old. Once you have done this, you are truly on your way.
Once you have done this, you are truly on your way. If you really want to lock this in, follow step four, which is optional.
 

Step 4: Transmit

Take that knowledge and transmit it. Find that 8-year-old in your life and teach this new knowledge to them. If you can’t find an 8-year-old to share your new knowledge with, identify someone who has zero knowledge about the topic and try with them instead.
 

The True Test

The true test is your ability and capacity to convey this new knowledge to another person. If after sharing with them they are able to say they completely understand and recite it back to you, then you have done your job.
The real second-level of the test is to see if they can go and teach the concept to someone else.
If you are able to do this, then you can truly learn anything.
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Photo credit: LearningCC license

REEP Challenge: How to Gamify the Art of Living

Total Reading Time: 14 minutes.

I’m not going to lie to you. I’ve struggled a lot with working while traveling. Over the years I have devoured a tremendous amount of education on productivity and effectiveness and experimented with many of these various solutions.

There’s always that moment in the taxi or Uber/Lyft where the drivers asks…

“So are you traveling for business or pleasure?”

“Umm…well, you know. It’s always kinda a bit of both!”

The idealistic world of blending business and pleasure is 100% possible. I’ve done it on many occasions. Nevertheless, this blending can be the cause of much frustration, FOMO, and angst.

So how does one flow through life? How do we value presence over productivity (as the amazing Maria Popova beautifully describes) rather than hustling until our limbs fall off? How do we accomplish big goals and leave a lasting contribution for humanity, while still cultivating a sense of awe (as my friend Jason Silva masterfully captures in his videos), gratitude, and “living in a beautiful state” as Tony Robbins describes?

The art of living - flowing through life.
Flowing through life. (Image: Amsterdamized)

Years ago, a friend sent me a quote saying that it would resonate strongly since this is what I also try to embody in my life:

The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he’s always doing both. – James Michener

It’s a beautiful description of a sometimes elusive space many of us want to live in…

Now let me be clear — it is much easier to live in this space when we’re settled into routine. But avoiding routine is often why we chose this lifestyle in the first place. You’re likely an adventurous “wonder junkie” like me and seek awe-inspiring moments in your own unique way.

When it becomes difficult to cultivate this is while we travel. We’re pulled completely out of the ordinary and our senses are electrified. We’re kids in a candy store with insatiable hunger and this conflicts with our need to be responsible about certain things, mainly around work and making money.

Some solve this by achieving financial freedom through modeling the wealthy, but most of us aren’t there yet. In order to feel good while we travel we need to check off a few boxes each day. If we do this we can live in that elusive space. Growing up, my father, my first and favorite teacher, would always tell me…

“Arman, you’ll regret playing now if you haven’t done your homework yet. You’ll spend your whole time playing worrying about what you need to do. If you just spend 30 minutes now doing your work you can be completely free and present while you play.”

I think perhaps a similar philosophy needs to be implemented in adulthood. So how do we maintain the same level of effectiveness in our work while traveling?

My refusal to give up on a sustainable solution landed me on a method that could work for just about anyone, even me, the “I need to maximize this experience and still get all my work done” person. The solution is the REEP challenge.

Types of Self-Directed People: Solopreneurs, Entrepreneurs, and More

Before I dig into the REEP challenge, let’s speak to the different types of self-directed people this applies to and could be helpful for…

The Vacationer

This is everyday Josephine. She has a more traditional career and doesn’t necessarily want to have a full workday while she travels. Things like exercise, maintaining diet/nutrition, and working on personal projects are still important to her.

This could also be everyday Jeffrey. He’s an entrepreneur and business owner but more of a traditionalist when it comes to travel, in that it’s meant to be a vacation. Perhaps he’s traveling with his family, or he intends to use the trip as an opportunity to completely disconnect, rest, and rejuvenate. Health, fitness, and personal growth are still important to him.

The Full-time Digital Nomad

These are your modern day full-time vagabonds. Digital nomads often station themselves into a new city for weeks, months, even years. As travel lovers, a digital nomad will still feel the urge to experience the new culture and will struggle with who to balance work and play. Our game below will help them stay focused and create a daily ritual that rewards both.

These are people like Natalie Sisson, who run successful online businesses and call themselves Suitcase Entrepreneurs. Natalie clearly has an insatiable thirst for travel, and having to run a six-figure plus business as she does this is no easy task.

Dan Andrews and Ian Schoen of TropicalMBA are pioneers of the digital nomad world, and have gathered a large community in Southeast Asia. After personally having spent 97 days traveling throughout the region, I know how great the lifestyle can be. This means distractions, and the REEP challenge will help remedy that.

Colin Wright, a writer and entrepreneur who moves to a new city for three months at a time, is famous for traveling light. Colin has in a way gamified his travels by involving his community of readers to vote on his next destination.

The Location-Independent Solopreneur

Our next travel lover may have a home base, but they often pack up and move to new destinations at a moment’s notice. This solopreneur prides themselves on being an independent minimalist.

Minimalism is not a lack of something. It’s simply the perfect amount of something. — Nicholas Burroughs

Sean Ogle spent the first six months of his entrepreneurial career living abroad in Thailand and Vietnam. After years of living a conventional disillusioned lifestyle, he was fired from his job (that he hated), and made the move. Today, Sean is married and loves his homebase in Portland, Oregon, but he continues to travel at a moment’s notice and truly embodies a location-independent lifestyle.  

Josh and Jill Stanton from Screw the 9 to 5 wanted to test out what it would be like to build a business together. They started a small affiliate website working endless caffeinated nights and eventually built up their business to making over $10,000 a month…how cool is that?

The Solopreneur Consumed by Wanderlust

Many solopreneurs, entrepreneurs, and even freelancers enjoy having a home base. Yet, they’re often consumed by wanderlust and crave the adventure of life on the road.

A famous example of this is NYT #1 bestselling author and entrepreneur Chris Guillebeau. Chris went on a quest to travel to every country in the world by the age of 35 — and he did it. Oh, then he wrote a book about it

Another example is…me! Yes, yours truly, Arman Assadi. One of my core motivations for living a self-directed life is a strong desire to see the world and experience every culture. To me, it’s education that keeps my mind nimble and aware of cognitive biases. But I live in San Francisco and am lucky enough to have a modern apartment I don’t want to give up.

No matter how much I travel, I love the feeling of coming home to my “old familiar pillow”.

No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow. – Lin Yutang

The Traveling Entrepreneur or Businessperson

Pat Flynn runs his online business built around passive income, which allows him to spend more time with his family. Between traveling around to different cities to speak at conferences and running a major brand, productivity on the go is essential. His business enables him to plan his day around his life and family, not around his business.

Chris Ducker began blogging in 2010 to document his journey of becoming a Virtual CEO. Not only did he achieve that goal, he launched another business in the midst of it all called Virtual Staff Finder, which I’ve used multiple times to hire virtual assistants. He then wrote a bestselling book called Virtual Freedom (4.9 stars on Amazon!), and continues to run multiple business, speak around the world, travel to conferences, and maintain a life at home with his family.

Gary Vaynerchuck, the author of multiple NYT bestselling books and host of the #AskGaryVee Show,  is best known for loving the hustle. When it comes to keeping up rituals and staying productive while traveling, Gary is someone to watch. Rather than allow the environment to take control, Gary is proactive rather than reactive and utilizes a lot of the principles you’ll learn about below.

The Lifestyle Entrepreneur

Lewis Howes is a rock star lifestyle entrepreneur. As a New York Times bestselling author and host of The School of Greatness, Lewis spends much of his time building his brand and inspiring people to achieve greatness around the world. At the same time, Lewis also greatly values his freedom and ability to travel as a lifestyle entrepreneur.

I’ve spoken to Lewis about this before and it’s clear he values his home base in Los Angeles, but he also loves the flexibility to travel at any time. If you watch Lewis on his Snapchat (username: Lewis_Howes), you’ll see exactly how he does it. One example — no matter what, he makes sure to get some form of exercise (one of the keys points in REEP) in each day, regardless of where he is in the world. Lewis plays the same game below, he’s just set up his own incentives and rules for it.

The REEP Challenge

The solution is this: we turn the entire event into a game.

Sometimes turning difficult tasks or the formation of building new habits and rituals into games can be very effective. And in this case, I’ve found the game that I’ve developed below — inspired by The Grand Travel Experiment from ZenHabits’s Leo Babauta — highly effective.

The four areas our game focuses on are:

  1. Rituals – morning routine
  2. Eating – nutrition
  3. Exercise – health
  4. Performance – business

On Rituals

When traveling, it’s incredibly easy (and painful) to forget your morning ritual. For each of us, this is the one thing or series of activities we do each morning that puts us in a good mood/state and prepares us to rock the day. Carefully crafting your ritual is an important and fun activity I discuss in detail here.

On Eating

It’s natural to want to consume the local food, but this often leads to daily cheat meals that you legitimize with self-told lies, “this is the only time I’ll ever get to try pizza in Napoli!”.

Maybe partly true, but problematic. Bad nutrition puts your body in an instant coma, and often leads to digestion issues, which means no work for you. It’s also a lot easier to get sick and your energy levels will decrease. This is the last thing you want when you’re traveling.

On Exercise

Back home you might have a regular gym you visit, or perhaps you regularly play a sport or do things like Soul Cycle and Crossfit. When you’re traveling or living abroad, it’s hard to keep up any exercise routine. But getting the blood flowing is imperative, and one way or another it’s possible if you make it a priority.

The REEP challenge will help. If you’re feeling down, sluggish, and low on energy — you can often trace it back to a lack of exercise or proper nutrition. A University of Georgia study proves thisBuzzfeed compiled a list of exercises that you can perform pretty much anywhere. 

Think of these first three areas as the foundation to your productivity while traveling.

Tip from Arman: Use this travel opportunity to learn more about the culture you’re in by investigating how people exercise there and do it with them. For example, you can join a Muay Thai in Thailand and get the workout of your life. Plus you’ll get really good at kicking people in the face, which you’ll hopefully never need to do. My friend Nick took a trip to Thailand for a month just to experience this. 

On Performance

Our goal here is balance. We want to have fun, experience life, see attractions, and create new memories. We do this by being very strict with our work schedule.

Your normal workday is 8–10 hours back home. You’re likely working on high value tasks less than 50% of the time. This is where constraints come in, which help you focus on the most important tasks only.

Constraints work very well for any type of work, especially that of a creative nature. Writers like James Clear often use constraints to create the work rather than wait for it. James is someone who understands that creativity isn’t happenstance inspiration, it requires diligence and the use of intentional constraints. 

If you have a home base, you likely also have a dedicated workstation setup, and if you’re like me you even have a standing desk and large monitor you’ve gotten used to. None of this is possible when traveling, so it’s important to dedicate time and simply do the work, as one of my favorite authors Stephen Pressfield talks about in his book

REEP Details & Rules of the Game

  1. Perform your morning/daily rituals, eat healthy nutritious food that gives you energy, exercise, and do the most important tasks in your work every day.
  2. For each category you’ll receive a certain amount of points each day — I’ve broken down the point structure below
  3. Track your actions either as you go or review your day before bed during your evening ritual
  4. To score big points perform the top action in each category, e.g., complete your entire morning ritual rather than just one piece of it
  5. Add up your points each day and measure your progress
  6. Celebrate the fact that you played the game and remember that progress equals happiness

What gets measured improves. Tracking these actions and playing the game is not only fun and addictive, but it’s what will lead to improved habits and results and the impact of that will be seen across all the areas of your life.

Rituals Actions

  • 5 points for completing your entire morning or daily ritual.
  • 3 points for completing the most important aspect of your daily rituals, e.g., meditation.
  • 0 points for not completing.

Eating Actions

  • 5 points for eating a healthy meal according to your nutrition standards and stopping when satisfied, not full.
  • 3 points for eating a healthy meal, but overeating.
  • 2 points for eating a cheat meal and stopping when satisfied.
  • 0 points for a cheat meal and overeating.

Note: Maximum of 15 total points from this category, based on a maximum of 3 counted meals per day.

Exercise Actions

  • 5 points for completing your chosen workout, e.g., push-ups and yoga, jump rope and a jog, sit-ups and air squats, etc. Keep it simple.
  • 2 points for staying active throughout the day, e.g. walk everywhere within a 30 minute radius, run up/down stairs (always choose the stairs over elevator), play with your kids, chase a dog, etc.
  • 0 points for no exercise

Performance Actions

  • 5 points for working 3 or more hours at 75%+ productivity — this means you focused at least 80% of your time on actual work (you can measure this with a free desktop app called RescueTime)
  • 3 points for working 3 or more hours
  • 2 points for working 2 or more hours
  • 2 points (bonus) for completing your highest value task 
  • 0 points for working less than 2 hours or not working

Note: Yes, the 2 bonus points for completing your highest value task can be combined with other point categories within work for a maximum total of 7 points.

Daily Point Totals

28+ – Preeminent Traveling Rock Star
17+ – Elite Globetrotter
5+ – Average Vagabond Hobby Artist
0–5 – A Tourist on Vacation

Conclusion

Gamifying an experience like mastering the art of living is a fun way to improve our rituals. If we are what we repeatedly do as Aristotle said, should we not focus the majority of our time and attention on mastering these habits? Instead of allowing our environment to dictate our lives and habits, we can proactively examine why we do what we do and implement better actions.

The REEP challenge is a fun and effective way for anyone who’s self-directing their life to get results starting today. Try the experiment out and measure your progress, and get ready to see tremendous growth and experience a sense of fulfillment. This idea is what gets me through my travels and I’ve even implemented a version of it in my daily life when at home.

I’ve shared this experiment with many of my successful entrepreneur friends, and they all love it. I believe this is because providing a structure and framework to our habits makes it easier for our minds to know exactly what we need to do each day to continue growing and making progress. If progress equal happiness people are going to experience a tangible uplift in their mood, not to mention their actual results and successes.

Note: If you really dig the experiment and find it useful, let me know. I’m considering expanding on the topic and creating additional tools and resources to make tracking and rewarding yourself easy.

Photo credit: Balancing actCC license

Why a Sabbatical Can Massively Boost Your Focus

Total Reading Time: 6 minutes.
I’m going on a blog publishing sabbatical. Before you get sad and feel like you just stepped in a puddle and have wet sock (worst thing ever), allow me to share some reasons why you may want to do the same. I’ll also share my own motivations for doing this toward the end of the article.
I once learned from a brilliant man—Eben Pagan, creator of my favorite program for work effectiveness Wake Up Productive—that it’s critical to be deliberate with our time. Eben is the archetype of the modern-day internet entrepreneur. He has made tens of millions of dollars selling information products, and built a virtual business and team that spans the globe.
He does things that might seem silly to some, like having a dedicated person in his life he calls the meter fairy, who makes sure he always has enough quarters in his car glove compartment to pay for street parking. One of the biggest business-related lessons I’ve learned is how to focus on only the most important tasks.
I’ve been using the method below for a couple years, but have only recently begun to understand its true power. We must be very self-aware of how we spend our time. There is a simple formula we can use to help monitor our activities.

Increase Productivity with Simple Time-Management

All of your time can be divided into these two chunks:
1. High-dollar or high-lifetime-value activities
This is where our priority should be. The most important aspect is what tasks we’re actually working on. High-dollar value tasks are the ones that generate you the most revenue/sales. High-lifetime value tasks are creative activities to help toward your pursuit of grander, long-term goals—and can also lead to more income.
Are you creating a new report in Google Analytics or a spreadsheet for your website? Are you calling your email list hosting company to troubleshoot a problem? These are not high-value tasks. Are you putting together a document for your client? Are you attending a conference in your field to get an education and meet like-minded people? There you go—these are high-value tasks. Do more of this, and cut the rest.

2. R3: Rest, relaxation, and rejuvenation
Yes—the rest of your time should be spent—resting. “This is blasphemy, Arman! You’re promoting laziness.” I understand this goes against standard logic for most of us. It’s easy to believe that if you’re not busy hustling 24/7 it means you’re lazy. This attitude and approach work for some people, like Gary Vaynerchuk, who has created a movement around hustling.
In order for you to be effective at what you do (the high-value tasks), you need to keep your mind and body in an optimal state. Taking care of yourself and disconnecting from work is critical. Spending a little time by yourself isn’t a bad idea either, my experiment from an entire year of solitude changed my life. Relaxation is also a time to build the creative muscle.
Meditating, or simply slowing down the mind, can do magical things for your creativity.
I value presence over productivity, and first learned about this from the incredible Maria Popova. The method above does promote productivity, but at its core it promotes a presence and effectiveness that other complicated productivity solutions can’t offer. Alan Watts also spoke of this often and highlighted how our society lives to work, his famous talk on Work vs. Play explains this beautifully.

What to Do with All the Other Tasks

The question of how to cut the rest is an entirely different one, but here’s a quick primer:

  1. First work on saying no to yourself. Then get better at saying no to other people without being rude.
  2. Now work on identifying the tasks you should not be doing (the ones not in line with your craft and strengths as a solopreneur).
  3. And finally, outsource these tasks to a virtual assistant or intern. I love Fancy Hands and use them daily (here’s a full review of the service).

Why You Should Take a Sabbatical

Now you understand the foundation for how you can approach your work. As always, experiment with this and see if it works for you. Now how do sabbaticals (not the type your professor takes, but a self-imposed break) tie into all this? At times we may find ourselves working too many projects. It’s easy to get caught up saying yes to exciting opportunities, which means it’s no longer possible to dedicate enough time to the high-value tasks.
A sabbatical is a way to say—that’s enough. A sabbatical can be a complete disconnect. Or simply taking a break from a specific business, project, or task in your work. In my case, I’m taking a publishing sabbatical, which means I’m not planning on publishing any content directly on the site, but of course, I will continue communicating with my readers and sharing insights through my email newsletter.
By choosing to go on sabbatical you can disconnect from a task (or everything else) to focus on a bigger opportunity. Or, it can help to regenerate your creativity and enthusiasm for the work. James Clear talks about taking a sabbatical from his writing around twice a year—something I think every writer should consider.
In my case, I’m working on multiple huge projects (the biggest of my life so far), which is both high-dollar and high-lifetime-value work. It would be irresponsible of me to take time away from this, especially since it aligns directly with my grander vision and helps me better serve my readers (you) much better.
Sometimes we just have to go all in. By turning off the mind when it comes to other tasks, we can be fully immersed in a new world and spend more time carefully crafting the new project. That’s what I’m doing right now, and if it resonates with you, I recommend you consider it too. Be specific about what really matters. Focus on a single brand promise and message, then deliver on it with laser focus.
It wasn’t easy to make this decision, in fact, I was initially feeling guilty just considering it. In the end, I asked myself a simple question: would my readers rather receive a few new articles, or will they gain more from the multiple projects I’m working on that I’m certain will provide 10–100X more value in the long-term? Easy answer.
How long will I go on this publishing sabbatical for? The current plan is around 60 days. How much time will I save? You might be wondering how blogging takes away from this—after all—how long does it really take? A 1,000–3,000-word post (the typical length of my articles), takes anywhere from two to eight hours to research and write, and even longer to edit and publish. But I actually spend even more time promoting my articles to reach new audiences than on the creation process—another 10–20 hours a week.

Conclusion

So—think about your own life, your projects, and your goals. Are you avoiding working on the highest-value work? Would a project-specific sabbatical help? If so, start re-structuring your daily plan right now. Keep it to a maximum of 2–3 tasks per day, and focus all your energy and effort around that.
Sometimes all we need is a jolt to realize we’ve been avoiding the real thing all along. Or perhaps you’ve been unintentionally procrastinating, feeling disconnected from your craft, or simply too busy to make an impact. Either way, a sabbatical could be just the thing you need.
To learn more about my projects and get behind-the-scenes insights, make sure you get access to my private email list.
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Photo credit: Unsplash

The True Science of Forming Habits

Total Reading Time: 3 minutes.

Habits. Entire blogs are dedicated to them. Scientists and psychologists pursue lifelong vocations around their study.

People, like you and I, constantly strive to break the bad ones and create new habits that inspire and challenge us to live better lives.

Habits, rituals, routines—they’re all part of the same ecosystem: making positive modifications. The entire idea behind habits is to make a shift, with the outcome resulting in a positive evolution for oneself.

We want this growth because we’ve all tasted the good life before, even if only for a moment. We know that with a few small changes we can live happier, more adventurous lives.

The science of habit formation speaks for itself.

How long does it really take to form that new habit and make it stick? Does it depend on the habit’s complexity? For example, is it just as difficult to floss your teeth daily as it is to go to the gym every day?

While some subscribe to the notion that a habit takes 21 days to form, we both know that’s poppycock. If only life were that simple. Imagine that we simply had to stop eating sweets for 21 days in a row and the craving would instantly vanish. The truth is, like most things in life, this too is quite nuanced—meaning, there isn’t a clear black and white line between what works and doesn’t.

Many studies have been performed, with one in particular receiving more accolades and headlines as of late.

“The time it took participants to reach 95% of their asymptote of automaticity ranged from 18 to 254 days.” 

This quote is directly pulled from the Phillippa Lally study. So what does this tell us? The reality is, every single person is different.

Out of the 96 volunteers studied, it took anywhere from 18 days (as a minimum) to 254 days (8.5 months) for the habit to stick. On average, it took 66 days. How do we define “stick”?

The volunteer had to self-report automaticity, which is performing an action automatically. And they define this automaticity by agreeing with statements like, “I do this without having to consciously remember”.

Bottom line, some individuals need very little time and others may need more. 9 weeks (66 days) was just the average. Ultimately, building a new habit is probably harder than most people think, but easier to implement and automate once beginning.

From my experience I’ve found it’s all about building routines that support your habits. Once you have your morning rituals down, it’s much easier to add/remove new habits as needed.

What happens if you slip up?

“In our study we showed that missing one opportunity did not significantly impact the habit formation process, but people who were very inconsistent in performing the behaviour did not succeed in making habits. We do not yet know what level of consistency is necessary to form a habit (see more here).”

In other words, if you miss a day don’t get upset or give up. From my experience with helping mentoring clients and friends build new habits, I’ve found that people are too hard on themselves. They actually often give up because the habit streak is no longer perfect.

Perfection is the worst standard to reach for. You know what you’re capable of, and you need to acknowledge that like all great things this will take time. You make the rules (did you forget?), so set up the game to win.

Links to Resources

  1. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg – I give this book 8.5/10, highly recommended.
  2. How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world – This is the Phillippa Lally study from the European Journal of Social Psychology 
  3. University College London article interview with Philippa Lally

How long does it take you on average to build a new habit? What methods work best for you?

Photo credit: HabitsCC license