As I wrote in my last post, I’ve just released a new e-book. I’m very proud of it, and I think you’ll enjoy it too. (Did I mention I’m giving it away for free?)
The project was a large undertaking, being many times longer than even my longest blog post. And in addition to the writing and revising, I took care of the design and layout as well. (Notice this is not a post titled “how to delegate.”) At the same time, I never stopped with my publishing schedule of two blog posts per week.
That’s a lot of writing to take care of, on top of a busy life and a full time job. So how did I do it?
I joined a mastermind group.
A mastermind group is a meeting where peers give and receive assistance from each other. Typically a group will meet regularly, discuss their various projects, and then set up goals to be accomplished for the next meeting. Think of it like a discussion group with homework.
A mastermind group provides two important services: accountability and feedback.
Let’s face it: we’re not always a good motivator of ourselves.
After a long day, you may be tired, and tempted to just shut off and just watch TV or scroll through Facebook, or (my personal favorite) embark on an endless Wikipedia quest.
The problem with this is that it never really gets you anywhere. You never move your own personal needle on anything that matters to you. And this isn’t good enough for me. I have too many projects and interests and ambitions to spend too much time being idle.
Nevertheless, the desire to action may not be sufficient to actually get you to action.
That said, we usually have a stronger sense of integrity when it comes to other people. For example, I feel incredibly duty-bound to a promise I make to someone else. This feels totally different than if I were to make that same promise to myself.
So a mastermind group creates accountability, because instead of saying, “I’m going to write a new chapter for my book this week!” to yourself, you’re saying it to a group of your peers, who will then be waiting at the next meeting to say, “sooooo, where is that new chapter?”
Plus, as a bonus, vocalizing your plans can often make them clearer for yourself. So instead of just feeling overwhelmed with everything you have to do, you know exactly what tasks you’ve set aside for yourself.
The other primary benefit of a mastermind group is that your peers can tell you if they think your plans are effective.
It’s very easy to get lost in unimportant details, wasting our valuable time and creative energy on them, while the more important tasks languish. It’s also incredibly easy to avoid the more difficult tasks, especially if they cause you fear.
However, those in your mastermind group don’t share your fears about your own project. And if they are performing their role optimally, they can alert you to what they feel is most important based on your desired outcomes.
In addition, once your work is finished, the group can provided very valuable and relatively unbiased opinions to you. If you are used to working alone, this can be crucial.
Mastermind group details
Here are a few tips for getting a mastermind started. There are many great resources online for creating an mastermind group. I recommend Keith Farazzi’s Lifelife Launch Kit for those getting started. (Keith calls the mastermind group a “lifeline group,” but the concept is the same.)
- Find reliable people. Easier said than done, I know, but the whole project hinges on people who do what they say, and who are honest and candid.
- Meet at regular intervals. Find a schedule that works for everyone and stick to it. I find for me the every two weeks is a nice mix of space to work and obligation. Too often and I won’t have time to do anything, but too long and I’ll lose focus.
- Meet in a useful medium. I know Skype and Google Hangouts work for some people, but I highly prefer meeting in person if possible. It’s hard enough to have an effective meeting without being derailed by audio cut-outs and connection issues.Which reminds me:
- Run a focused meeting. You just need to set a start time and an end time, an agenda, and someone to keep the discussion on track. Otherwise, it’s just another boring meeting, and who needs more of them? I find two hours is a good compromise between brevity and completeness.
- Have an agenda. This one is up to you. I like to split up the meeting into equal time for every attendee. Alternately, you can have each meeting have a focus on a different person, or some combination of the above. Just know in advance how you want to run things.
- Set goals at the end. This one is perhaps too obvious, but it bears repeating. At the end of the meeting, everyone should have clear, actionable goals to accomplish before the next meeting.
Note that your participants need not be working on the same things. Some overlap is important (otherwise, how could you provide feedback?) but a certain diversity of experience will be worthwhile.
My success story
My mastermind group currently consists of my friends and rockstars Saul Of Hearts and Margaret Pinard. Saul is an author, blogger, musician, and videographer, among much else. Margaret is an author and blogger as well, though they both work in very different genres (Saul in lifestyle design, Margaret in food, travel, and young adult).
I couldn’t have written my book without these folks. How can I prove that? Because I didn’t write my book without them! I’d wanted to do this almost since I started the site, nearly two years ago. It never happened. Then, as busy as my life is, I joined this mastermind group, and three months later, here you go.
What could you accomplish if you had this kind of help?
But enough about me. Have you ever used an accountability group to get things done?
A bit more about me. Our group is currently looking for one more member to fill out our ranks, so if you’re in Portland and want to be forced to step up your game, drop me a line.
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