The power of Jim Collins’ daily habits

Jim Collins is often called a “polymath and data nerd”. Through regular tracking of his daily productivity, sleep, and moods, he used self-reflection to pen his thoughts and grow.

Believing that we should spend at least 50% of our working time on creative projects, Jim Collins has collected personal data for decades and maintains a spreadsheet that records his working time.

He diligently records three things related to:

  • the quality of his life
  • number of hours spent in creative work, and
  • analysing a database of information related to productivity, management, leadership, and self-development

Jim Collins has devised writing for progress, depending on the person’s goal, time, and the point at which he or she is suspended on the curve. He also gives a guide to help people sail through practical, easy-to-use strategies and techniques for self-development.

Summary of their success

American author, consultant, and lecturer on business management and company sustainability and growth, James Collins graduated from Stanford University and was a consultant with McKinsey & Company before working as product manager for Hewlett-Packard. He began his research and teaching career and received his Distinguished Teaching Award at Stanford. In 1995, he founded and taught at a management laboratory in Boulder.

He was a senior executive at CNN International and worked with multiple social sector organizations. He has also authored six books that have sold more than 10 million copies worldwide. He contributes to Harvard Business Review, Business Week, Fortune and other publications.

How they journal

Through self-reflection and discipline, Collins documented his tasks and then surveyed and divided his year. At first, over decades, he made blocks of each year, classifying them into 1,000 creative hours in every 365-day block, even during lean times.

He then assessed his spreadsheet and judged what he did over long periods, gauging what led to better self-development. After tracking his information for years, he finally decided what could make his days better, faster. Collins also tracked the quality of his days, finding through self-reflection that the best days were not really the easy ones. However, those were days when he could bend his mind for long periods, even as he pursued the work that he loved to do.

Today, Collins shows that his everyday three-hour, creative work creates a large body of work and also builds up people’s mental health. He divides his day carefully, based on self-reflection and arriving at goal-posts through careful monitoring and hard work.

As he put it:

He needs some time to go on. As he said: I’m not reclusive. But I need to be in the cave to work. He is convinced that we all need “white space” to work. His motto is: Speak less. Say more for self-development.

Source: Tim Ferriss

How long have they been doing it?

Tim Collins seems to have been doing his journaling for a long time, for even before he could think or work on his first book, ‘Built to Last’, he turned down a number of consulting offers from big companies that wanted him to travel. He believed that self-reflection and tracking down the progress as well as tough points of his day would help him to reach his mission faster for self-development.

How has self-reflection helped them achieve their success?

Jim Collins credits his success with self-reflection to the “time in the cave”. With that, he concluded that “Your job is what you do, but your work is who you are.” In his 60s, he has now found that people who feel fulfilled strive for more simplicity, more time spent in deep work/flow state and finally more time with loved ones.

What challenges have they faced?

Jim Collins went through a strange situation in San Francisco. As one of the few white students in elementary school, he moulded himself to other people’s culture for almost a decade. His parents divorced, which made him move to Boulder with his mother. He wanted to become independent at that point.

Through long, deep self-reflection and work sessions, Collins arrived at definitions of quality work that creatively described self-development as … ”something that is new and potentially replicate-able and durable.”

What does the future hold for them?

Collins would not enter the consulting industry, as he feared early on that he would face a lot of barriers in keeping his mind open to change. He still continues and will likely take his research and work forward through self-reflection and lectures in social sectors such as education, healthcare, government, and non-profit organizations.

Through research projects, consultations and executives from private, public, and social industries, he hopes to get inspiration and insights for his lectures and books on self-development.

How can you get started with self-reflection?

Jim Collins has shown an easy way to pursue self-reflection – make spreadsheets of your days and identify the pain points as well as success routes. Journaling your life and days is the best way to arrive at solutions for self-development.

Looking for an easy way to get started with your self-development practice? Daylitude can help shift your mindset, increase positivity, and discover a greater connection with yourself.


Interested in other self reflection and gratitude practices?