How often does it feel that you’re goals are over your head? That it’s just more difficult, more complicated, takes more time than you have, and too expensive to finally reach that financial freedom, time freedom, and independence you’re looking for?
We think there are a lot of moving pieces. There must be. Why else is everybody failing to build their business, build their following, and write that book? It must be because they aren’t able to grapple with all the different moving pieces that go into starting from scratch.
What if the opposite was true? What if it’s not what you’re trying to achieve that’s complicated but you who is making it so?
For some reason, we don’t like simple. I think we inherently know the chances of failure are high – most people die broke, regret not having written that novel, don’t get elected to office – so we assume the path is windy and beyond the level of sophistication we currently have.
Right here, right now, we will crack this code. By the end of this article, you will have a framework that you can use to build momentum toward your goal. If you apply these principles with vigor, it will work.
Finding The Few High-Value Activities
Over the years there has been constant writing by today’s great minds of productivity like Tim Ferriss, Greg McKeown, Ryan Holiday, Richard Koch, Oliver Burkeman, and Cal Newport. And the theme between all of them is the same: stop trying to fit more into your schedule, and focus on finding the less that matters more.
The problem with this idea is that the outside world is desperately pushing you to do otherwise. Everyone else wants to put more on your plate.
The house-flipping influencers tell you you’re missing huge opportunities if you’re not investing in foreclosed houses.
The drop shipper makes you feel you’re wasting your time on hard businesses, their model will put you on the beach in some random South American country.
The crypto guys want to get you onto the wave to the future.
Your boss wants to fill every hour of your time.
Your friends need more attention.
All of a sudden we’re in crisis mode with too much on our plate.
There seems to be a fundamental truth in the world – if you have free time, someone or something will try to spend it on your behalf.
The hard part of life is not figuring out how to fit all this in, but having the courage to say no when there is a lot on the line. It’s hard to say no to a boss’s request. It’s hard to say no to an opportunity that could, in theory, solve your financial woes.
But that’s the only way to narrow your time down to the activities that really matter.
How do you find the activities that matter?
This is another situation that feels like a complicated question, but really isn’t. Generally speaking it’s the obvious answer.
The principle here is that it’s the activity that creates the most momentum.
Let’s go through some examples. For me building this blog, I’ve narrowed it down to a small few.
- Creating content
- Reaching out to Dropouts who have something to offer this community
That’s really it. Those are the two things that will bring this project to life. For you, it may look different.
If your goal is sales, the answer is prospecting. If your goal is building a portfolio, the answer is investing. If your goal is building muscle, the answer is reps.
Is there a way to get more complicated with all of those things? Yeah, of course. You could get extremely sophisticated with your sales prospecting. You could like I have to remind myself not to all the time, get complicated with your writing. You could get wildly complicated with how you pick stocks too.
But what people don’t realize is that by just doing the activity the simple way, and doing that consistently, as often as you can manage, for a long period of time, you are already 85% of the way there.
And 85% of the way there, compounded over time, has massive results.
Ruthlessly Prioritizing The Highly Valuable Activities
Once you’ve figured out what those high-value momentum-building activities are, the next step is to prioritize them.
Now, here is the delicate piece. When you prioritize something, that means you have to say no to something else. It means you have to make a change to how you live. You can’t just add these to your roster of tasks. That’s not prioritizing.
Right now your time is being spent. You could be doing something else, but you are reading this. Even if you’re not typically busy, you are constantly spending time. There is no avoiding it. Time passes without your permission and that’s just something we have to deal with.
The best analogy to think about the passage of time is investing. If you have $100 to invest, well then that’s all you have to invest. You don’t magically get $200 because you want to take advantage of more opportunities.
Your time is the same way. And you have to think hard about how you are going to invest your limited time. And like we expressed in the first section, less is more.
This is by far the most difficult part of the process. It’s easy to pick out the parts of our life that are obviously not contributing to a positive outcome. These are things like staying out late drinking, hanging out with friends who aren’t doing anything positive for our lives, smoking a ton of weed in the evening, spending too much time with our dominatrix, etc…..
The hard part is getting rid of those things. Our conscious mind wants one thing, and the animal inside us making most of the decisions wants another. We have to learn how to slowly loosen the grip of the part of us that prefers the devil we know over the devil we don’t.
Our addiction to the schedule and habits we are already comfortable with is for good reason. We need consistency in our life. We need to be in a place where we feel we can expect tomorrow to be like today. Otherwise, the chaos consumes us, and we will resort to panic and worry.
But there is something even more difficult. Getting rid of the things that are actually good for us, in pursuit of something we find more meaningful.
You may really want that financial freedom. But are you willing to sacrifice your workout schedule for it? Are you willing to let your social life deteriorate in pursuit of your project?
These are tough questions you will have to ask yourself. We are told that balance is the answer and we can fit in a little bit of everything. But a little bit of momentum doesn’t finish a novel or build a book of clients. For those kinds of results, a lot of momentum is required.
The solution here is to take note of how you are spending your time. Data collection is the important first step and the easy part.
Once you have a list of how your time is being spent, the next question is what are you going to get rid of? This is the hard part, but it is the sacrifice that’s required.
Tracking your input: What doesn’t get measured gets dropped
The final piece of the framework for building momentum is tracking your progress. When we think about achieving goals we are taught to have a specific outcome we are working towards. This is good advice. If we don’t know what specific outcome we are working towards we are likely to chase shiny objects.
S.M.A.R.T is what they say. Specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-sensitive. It’s a pretty good framework. But it’s only half the equation.
What’s missed is that every desired output has to be paired with the specific inputs that will produce the result we desire.
These are the activities that we’ve been talking about for the last two sections.
First, get specific about the outcome you want.
Second, make your ‘goal’ not the achievement of that outcome in a certain timeframe, but the accomplishment of the activities that will get you there on a regular basis.
This is what it means when people say, ‘it’s about the journey, not the destination.’ Ruthless focus on the journey is what matters. The journey is what gets you to the destination, so if the destination is where you want to go all that matters is the journey there.
Ie Journey = Destination. Any other place of focus is just a distraction.
What should your activity goal be? The answer here again is simple. As much as you can possibly fucking handle, while still being able to get up the next day and do it again.
If in a week you drive yourself to the very end of your body’s limits trying to reach a workout goal, and because of that spend the next week in utter pain not able to get back in the gym. That’s really not that helpful.
If you spend the whole day doing your sales prospecting and because of that have to spend the next day catching up on work that you abandon to do that prospecting, also not very helpful.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking you don’t have limitations. You absolutely do. The key here is finding what those limitations are, and playing the game within them.
Once you find those limitations, stay on the edge of them. Get up to your limit point as often as you can do consistently. What you will find is that those limitations expand. If you go up to your limit every day for a year, you won’t even be the same person when that year is over.
Making your goal complicated is something we do to stop ourselves from achieving it. That doesn’t mean that we won’t have to solve problems that aren’t utterly complicated, but it does mean the principles to apply to solve that problem are almost always the same.
You eat a whale one bite at a time.