Why You Should Focus on Process, Not Results

I've spent the last several days thinking deeply about what I want to accomplish in 2011 and beyond. I've always been a planner by nature. However, events over the past several years have made me question the point of planning. So far, most of my plans rarely seem to come to fruition for reasons outside my control. This year, I'm going to try to change the nature of my planning to account for the fact that there are numerous factors that I have zero control over in my life. I want my goals and plans to reflect what I can impact with my own actions and effort. To that effect, I am focusing on process in 2011.

FIRST COMES PROCESS, THEN COMES RESULTS

Obviously, this website plays a very large role of my life. I spend hours upon hours working on it every week and I am trying to grow it into a self sufficient business. It's important that I have logical goals to work toward. However, the metrics that many blogs use for success are not things I can have complete control over. For example, I really don't have any control over whether or not you subscribe to my blog. I can't control your actions. I can, and should, obviously write compelling content that will make you want to subscribe and I should provide an easy way for you to do so. But the bottom line is that decision is purely yours.

Another common metric for blog success is page views. Again, that is not something I control. I can improve my SEO so my pages rank better in search engines, I can submit articles to news sites like Digg or Reddit, but again, whether or not somebody clicks on a link to my site is not something I can control.

Instead, I'm going to focus on goals that hinge completely on my own effort this year.

  1. Writing first thing in the morning: I need to write if I want to become a better writer. The better writer I am, the better this site will be. Very simply, I need to write more. Therefore, I want one of the first activities I partake in upon waking to be writing. I don't necessarily need to jump directly into an article for the website, I just need to write something. It can be my daily "morning pages", a poem, an article, a letter-- anything.
  2. Letting every piece of writing sit for at least 24 hours before publication: I don't edit my writing stringently enough. For most of what you see on this website, I write a draft, look it over and make some minor changes, and then hit publish. That works for some people but I'm becoming more and more aware of the fact that writing requires good editing just as much as a solid first draft. I need to let my writing sit, to marinate for awhile, before I allow you to see it. I think this will make my writing tighter, clearer, simpler, and more powerful.
  3. Planning at night: Each night I want to spend a few minutes planning for the upcoming day. When I have a clear plan with three "Most Important Things" to do I am much, much more productive. Investing the time on the front end to figure out what my discrete next actions for each project are allows me to get a lot more work done. Developing this habit is just a matter of discipline.

Each of these three goals are completely dictated by my own choices and action. They are process-focused and not result-focused. I obviously want more subscribers, more readers, more exposure and every other goal that bloggers want. Writing in the morning, editing my writing more ruthlessly, and planning each night will make those other goals happen. By improving the process I improve the result.

This concept of process-centered goals can be applied to other aspects of my life. Health, personal development, and relationships can all benefit from focusing on the habits and routines, the processes, instead of goals.

What processes can you improve on in 2011? Does it make more sense to focus on process, which you control 100%, instead of external metrics of success?