36 replies
I've been a freelance writer for 6 years plus now, so it's important that I learn to be as productive as possible without the aid of a boss peaking over my shoulder.

By now I have a large bag of tricks that work amazing for sitting down and busting out copy.

But there's one trick that supersedes these all. In fact, it's how I discovered all the tricks that work.

I keep a journal of my success/failure with productivity.

Whenever I'm not finishing work or a goal as fast as I should, I write down what's distracting me or what kept me from doing it.

After a while, it was quite a list. I now refer to these as my "Failure Secrets."

Before I started writing failure secrets down, I'd repeat the same mistakes over and over.

But once I started paying attention to what keeps me off task, I was able to plan and create an environment that allows me to be the most productive.

Writing down failure secrets is what has allowed me to discover nearly all of my success secrets as well.

If you haven't tried keeping a journal of your productivity to find your own success/failure secrets, give it a shot. It may be your next breakthrough.

Stephen Dean
#failure #secrets
  • Profile picture of the author silverwaterfall
    That's a very good idea. It's too easy to not notice when we're drifting off-task...until we've wasted too much time. Thanks for the tip!
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    • Profile picture of the author Stephen Dean
      Thanks, that's really true. And sometimes it's hard to realize we're off task - and SNAP out of it - so to speak.

      But when you write it down day after day, it gets in your subconscious and makes it much easier to "snap out of it." Or hopefully not engage in distracting activities at all while working.

      I find many things can be improved by writing things down.

      When I want to lose weight, I write down my weight each morning. If I'm real serious about it, I write down the food I eat each day too.

      Writing things down reminds you to think about it. And that helps you be more deliberate and more disciplined when attacking a goal.

      Stephen Dean
      Free Coaching WSO: How to finish all your 2013 "Goals" in JANUARY with my proven productivity secrets - taken from 9 years working as a freelance copywriter. Click Here

      Occupation: Best Copywriter Ever.
      Matt Bacak, Jim Edwards, Ryan Deiss and more.
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  • Profile picture of the author Chris Dolan
    Thanks Stephen,

    It's is true we are creatures of habit, when it comes to Success and Failure we generally repeat, so avoiding the failures is definitely a priority.

    Thanks again for the post.

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  • Profile picture of the author pethanks
    That's a great testimony. It can surely encourage people especially the warriors. Thank you for sharing.
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  • Profile picture of the author Dave Matthews
    That sounds like a really good idea - I'll start a journal today.
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  • Profile picture of the author scortillion
    I too use a journal and find it very helpful, but I haven’t tried your technique, I’m going to give it a try and see what results I get. Thanks for the pointer
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  • Profile picture of the author windwhirl
    Nice idea. Never thought about it or heard about it, just now. I am starting an achievement book now, though. Do you think it is a nice idea to keep two books, achievement journa and failure secrets journal? I might get overwhelmed and end up doing nothing. Hehe. Anyway, do I need to set guidelines as to what qualifies in the failure secrets journal? Did this work for you more than the achievement journal? I'm really curious and interested.
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  • Profile picture of the author LynnLewis
    I think this will be very helpful to add to my daily journal. I've noticed too that putting things in writing helps me focus and get clarity.

    I've had to learn to keep everything in fewer places though. So I use my daily planner for to-do lists and a journal that I update at night. Otherwise, I forget where I wrote something or just forget that I wrote it.


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    • Profile picture of the author Radcliff
      Before reading the post I only concerned about my successes,but after reading the post I realized the failures are equally important.I also will start to write down my failures from now on.

      Thanks very much for mentioning such a valuable point.
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    • Profile picture of the author umairsheikh2002
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      • Profile picture of the author bolaji
        Very creative approach.

        I studied a lot of my failures with procrastination over the past several years, and did indeed see patterns. I ended up digging deep, researching what could fix my specific failure pattern, and built structures and systems to minimize or neutralize those bad habits.

        I ended up creating a manifesto about it - The Procrastinator's Manifesto by Bolaji O.

        But I really like the concept of keeping a diary of both failures and successes.

        Thanks for the brain flash.

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  • Profile picture of the author rcritchett
    This is great! I will definitely start doing this! It's amazing what we can do when we just become "conscious!" Thanks for contributing, love this idea.

    We do mail-in iPhone Repair Services, Nationwide in the US. LCD/Digitizer Glass Replacement And More.

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  • Profile picture of the author scortillion
    I've been trying what you suggested now for a few days and I’m amazed at how much I get off track. I think this will be a great method to keep me to task!
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    • Profile picture of the author storge
      Thanks for this wonderful pointer.
      failure secrets=success secrets
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      • Profile picture of the author Maximillion_Z
        I think number one on my list would be "email".

        Even when I'm using word processor or something, the browser is always minimized with the Yahoo mail as the main tab, so as soon as mail comes in, I maximize the window.

        Strangely, that's the reason I'm here - Stephen sent the email.

        Must get on with work...
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  • Profile picture of the author Yasir Farooq
    very good idea.
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    • Profile picture of the author drkellogs
      That's a great tip Stephen,

      OK, I'm going to start doing that too. There's no more effective way to learn than learning based on feedback, and having a journal to track everything down can only help.

      As what gets measured, improves.

      Interestingly, I've been doing something similar along those lines for a while. I have a failure journal where I write down my biggest failures. And I also write what I learned from it as I reflect upon it.

      From time to time I review them and make sure I don't repeat them, and/or maximize the lessons. I've learned a lot from doing this. This has been extremely valuable to me. It also makes me feel like there's no failures, and only upside in everything I attempt because I'm always and constantly learning no matter what happens.

      I can't tell you what this does to my mindset.

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  • Profile picture of the author HugoG
    This is great.... However... I would just reframe the word "failure" for result.... Cause in fact they are results. It is a success and a failure how you feel towards them, but they are always results. So if you want different results, in this cause "successes" you can definitely track down your past results to make them better next time.
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  • Profile picture of the author Avesel
    I heard one professor used to request that her class write "failure resumes" as a way to teach people learn from their mistakes.
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    • Profile picture of the author Stephen Dean
      Originally Posted by Avesel View Post

      I heard one professor used to request that her class write "failure resumes" as a way to teach people learn from their mistakes.
      What a genius idea. Some people hold on to "failures" and it hurts their self esteem. This makes them less confident, less likely to take risks, and less likely to succeed. But reframing your failures in a positive way, like this, would be a good way to put it behind you. Love it!

      Stephen Dean
      Free Coaching WSO: How to finish all your 2013 "Goals" in JANUARY with my proven productivity secrets - taken from 9 years working as a freelance copywriter. Click Here

      Occupation: Best Copywriter Ever.
      Matt Bacak, Jim Edwards, Ryan Deiss and more.
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  • Profile picture of the author rcritchett
    This is awesome man. We're all suspect of doing the stuff we know doesn't work, or gets us bad results.

    Journaling definitely brings it into consciousness and prevents it far more in the future. Simple but effective. Thanks for sharing Stephen.

    We do mail-in iPhone Repair Services, Nationwide in the US. LCD/Digitizer Glass Replacement And More.

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    • Profile picture of the author DawnMarie
      Wow, I never thought of this but it makes perfect sense.

      I know when I keep a journal of what I eat, I eat less. So keeping a journal of not working would definitely encourage me to work more.

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      • Profile picture of the author ada
        This is a good technique, however, I think it is better to not think of your "failures" as failures. Rather you should think of them as the way not to do things. It is actually your mindset that you are trying to change. Not that you have failures or whether they are successes or failures.

        As Thomas Edison stated about the incandescent light bulb he worked on for years, "
        I haven't failed, I've found 10,000 ways that don't work" and I think his most important quote is "I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward."

        When we think of our "failures," I believe this is how we should think.
        Adam Garcia - The Diabetic Marketer
        Diabetic Cookbook Blog | Think Like A Guru
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        • Profile picture of the author Fred1
          I've been keeping journals since the late '90's. A few years ago I reviewed them and I was shocked at some of the patterns in my life!

          Keeping a journal can be a great tool in helping us make adjustments in productivity and life in general.
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  • Profile picture of the author Chance2427
    Seems like an effective little productivity booster.

    Many of us just spend too much time on autopilot. We go through the day following our usual ruts, which are rarely perfect, but they seem like the most logical or easiest thing to do.

    Things we did repeatedly became habits, habits that we later started doing automatically.

    And these are hard to confront. They don't seem like enemies, after all. You're not even conscious that they can be detrimental to your success.

    At least until you take a good look at your life and your goals, and see where you're standing and what did you accomplish in all these years.

    If you've spent months lingering around the starting line, if you're unsatisfied with your position, you're very likely making some critical mistakes that will keep you fixated in that position till you decide to do something about it.

    Stephen's idea seems to be great solution for that. Just think about your goals, and what you should be doing to accomplish them.

    Then take a few moments and think about how you spent your day. Identify the bigger chunks first, see what took most of your time... and then simply ask yourself how did it help you get closer to your goals. If it didn't, write it down, keep a list, as Stephen suggested.

    Once you label them, they're no longer invisible autopilot subprograms. Now you'll recognize them at the instant they occur... and then you have a choice — to keep doing what you were always doing (and keep expecting different results this time), or to focus on more fruitful activities... such as work.

    If you're doing most of your work on PC, I'd suggest one brutally honest tool that will help you pinpoint your time drains — ManicTime[dot]com.

    Looking at my rather unproductive day, I see that Firefox consumed 56% of my 9 hours on PC today. And I see the concrete sites and pages that I visit most often. And time I spend on them... which is here often measured in seconds. But it adds up.

    And then there are all those mail accounts, RSS readers, instant messengers, visitors, and countless other things that can eat up all your time if you can't control yourself.

    I think I'll do something Bencivenga said he used to do when he worked as an in-house somewhere. Instead of working on the same floor with everyone, wasting time chatting with them and getting interrupted all the time, he got himself an office away from them, away from phone, internet, TV and other distractions... and he made sure that no one can disturb him while he's working.

    And that proved to be one of the more productive moves he made.

    Once you separate yourself from the outside influences, and remove the TV/internet/other vices, then it's just you and your work. And your intention to finish it as soon as possible... and as good as you can.

    Only barriers that can then exist at this point are mental ones... but that's a whole another topic, I already started ranting too much, I'll stop now.

    Thanks for sharing this, Stephen. I love your newsletter, by the way. Great, swipeable e-mail headlines and useful tips in the e-mails.

    /ending this badly written rant now.
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  • Profile picture of the author Alimar
    Thank Dean I will definitely give this journaling a shot. I have heard about it before but I do like the way you use it. Thanks
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  • Profile picture of the author DanteRomero
    An excellent idea. I've been doing some similar things, but this puts a twist on it that will give me new insights.


    "Perfection isn't important. Improvement is."

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  • Profile picture of the author emmndi
    I always use a journal. I think I will give your tricks a try. Does'nt hurt to try!

    backpacking in Kenya http://kenyatalii.com

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  • Profile picture of the author Scott Skinner
    Great post Stephen! A wise person once told me that "we never learn anything truly worth knowing until we have failed."

    Keeping track of what does not work as it happens is a great way to get us on the right track!
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  • Profile picture of the author tywiel
    I just started to keep a journal this week and am finding it to be extremely helpful.
    I've noticed I am more focused and productive. Just like you mentioned failure is always a success when you learn from it.
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  • Profile picture of the author Scott B
    Great idea, Stephen. Sort of along the same lines, something I try to do is start the day by writing three pages about whatever is on my mind, including successes, failures, current problems, brilliant ideas, etc. When the same thing keeps showing up then it's time to pay attention. I've also noticed that (even though I would rather type on my laptop) I get much more out of the exercise if I write with good old fashioned pen & paper.
    (If any one is interested, this idea came from "The Morning Pages". It was intended for 'creative' people like artists, writers, etc but I think that we Internet Marketers would qualify as creative people)!!
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  • Profile picture of the author hireava
    I didn't know there's such a thing as Failure secrets. Thanks for sharing anyways.
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  • Profile picture of the author jcruz
    I never thought about keeping a journal. I always have a to do list, and goals, but never did a journal. I guess i can incorparte this as a way of looking on what i can improve on and do better. How often do you write or update your journal?
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  • Profile picture of the author Michael Johnson
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    • Profile picture of the author dmman
      I've made lists of stuff that needs to get done .. with ABC rankings .. if I find myself drifting to doing "C" tasks when I have an "A" one breathing over me .. I consider that a failure to be a good manager of myself .. self-management is like having a boss .. whether that boss is a softy who easily indulges my laziness or a tough-love boss who has his eye on the bottom line .. that's up to me ..

      thanks for the reminder !
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  • Profile picture of the author Stephen Dean
    Update: I had my sister over for dinner last night. She works a 9-5 in an office, and she told me she uses this exact technique, with a slight twist.

    She uses Pomodoro timers to try and finish tasks in 25 minutes without taking a break. But so far, she's found it impossible to keep coworkers from approaching her for 25 minutes at a time (she has a lot of responsibilities, and many come to her).

    But she's working on it. Whenever someone interrupts her during the 25 minute session, she writes down what the interruption was about. This helps her be proactive in stopping these interruptions later, and reminds her that she did get a lot done - even if she wasn't able to finish her task in 25 minutes.

    She's been very happy with the technique.

    Stephen Dean
    Free Coaching WSO: How to finish all your 2013 "Goals" in JANUARY with my proven productivity secrets - taken from 9 years working as a freelance copywriter. Click Here

    Occupation: Best Copywriter Ever.
    Matt Bacak, Jim Edwards, Ryan Deiss and more.
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  • Profile picture of the author mmrumii
    Really good idea. If the secrets of failure is known then the success will be not so far.
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  • Profile picture of the author kellyyarnsbro
    Wow, nice share. I bet it's mmrumii who is the most experienced when it comes to Self-Improvement. Based on his posts in most of the threads here i think he is into Coaching thingy. He has the most story to tell also.
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