Bouncing Back from Failure: An Experiment

Eight months ago I felt like I was at the top of my game. In Praying for Wisdom and Discovering Productivity I write about a technique that allowed me to achieve a level of productivity and personal satisfaction unlike anything I’d ever experienced before. I can’t put my finger on exactly when it started to unravel, but the last few months have been an absolute mess.

Let’s chat about why this happened another day. Right now, it’s imperative that I hit the reset button and start over. Let’s start by defining success.

What will success look like to me?

  1. I start every day with reading, prayer, and affirmations.
  2. I start work knowing the most important thing I need to do.
  3. I focus on that one thing until it’s done or I’m given a task that is more important.
  4. I end work by identifying tomorrow’s most important task.

I can’t remember the last time I’ve accomplished all four of these, but it’s fulfilling.

How can I stack the deck in my favor so that success is within reach?

At first, I thought the answer was waking up early. Getting back into my 5 AM groove could do the trick, but my willpower has been at an all-time low. Nothing has motivated me to change.

Instead, I’m going to focus on going to bed earlier and make that my priority. There’s no point in trying to sleep before the kids go to bed, so that’s the lower limit. If I want to sleep 8 hours and aim to get up at 5 AM, then 9 PM seems like a reasonable upper limit.

How will I get there?

It takes 66 days to form a habit, but I’m going to start with 7 days. I want to see if this makes a difference and give myself the flexibility to make changes and start again. And I’m going to use two time-tested techniques for motivation: accountability and reward.


I’m going to blog about the results of this experiment – good or bad. I don’t want to talk about my failure, so this is motivation to stick with it. I’m also asking my wife and friends to check in on me and keep me accountable.


There’s a computer game I’ve been wanting to play that costs more than I’d spend on a whim. My wife suggested I wager it in this challenge. It’s motivating, and I’ll feel better if I have to work for it.

I’m also going to remind myself why I’m doing this. I’ll read my 4 points of success every day and I expect to see it pay off before the week is over.

My challenge:

I will go to bed when my kids go to bed or 9 PM (whichever is later) every day between January 21st – 27th. I’ll write a follow-up post sharing how it went (good or bad).

Wish me luck!


Week 1 Check-in: So Far, So Good!


David Needham