So how’s your year looking so far?
It’s only early days, I know, but in the past, I’d already be running at a hundred miles an hour, headlong into a repeat of last year.
You know exactly what I mean – emails, clients, and all the things you didn’t do around the house that you swore you’d do this holiday season.
Believe me. I know how this goes.
But this year, for me at least, it’s different. A lot different. You see, this time I’ve taken a completely fresh approach to what I want. In the past, I’d ruminate over exciting goals and lofty ideals. I guess I figured the bigger they were, the more motivated I’d be.
Well, this year I finally woke up to the fact that it just doesn’t work.
What it does do is give me an easy way out.
After the hangover of the holidays would subside, I’d see that my goals were more like fantasies than anything achievable, so it was easy to quit them. And as the demands of ‘normal life’ kicked in, that’s exactly what I’d do. I’d quit. I’d just revert to my usual head-down-butt-up position and restart my daily grind for another year.
Want to know what I did this year?
I focused on daily routines. And there’s a sound reason for that. Creating a vision for your life and setting goals are fine; I’m not against this practice – I still do that. But where most of us fail is we rely on these things to make us do the work.
The bottom line is, they’re not enough. You’ve heard the saying, “Life is what happens when you’re making other plans.” That’s it in a nutshell. If you rely solely on your vision and your goals to motivate you, it’s unlikely you’ll reach them.
How do I know this? Years of failure – that’s how.
So let me tell you exactly what I did.
First, I went for a long drive in the country with my phone at the ready and recorded anything that came into my head. I thought about all the amazing things I’d like to achieve this year, no matter how extravagant they seemed. This would become by Big Picture list.
It included things about the book I’m writing, the podcast I wanted to create and the kind of clients I no longer wanted to serve. It also included some things about my health, my income, my investments and the relationships I wanted to have. It described the person I wanted to be twelve months from now.
Next, I started thinking about all the things that worked for me last year and all the things that didn’t. From that, I made another list of what I’d say ‘yes’ to and what I’d pass up.
When I returned home and wrote everything up. I then created a simple three-column table in Google Docs with the following items at the top:
After vetting my Big Picture list and distilling it into the few things I wanted most, I listed the targets I’d need to hit to stand a chance of getting them. I put a date against each of them and described why I wanted them. Importantly, I approached this with the mindset that I might achieve them or I might not, and being OK with that. The important thing was to set some trail markers along the way.
Then came the nitty-gritty – the part that made all the difference.
I wrote up a daily schedule. This would be the one thing I’d look at every day to know if I was on track or not. If I just did everything on that schedule each day, I’d know I had a shot at reaching my goals.
Now my motivation had a powerful new source – something far more tangible than a mental image of me at a book signing, or appearing on James Altucher’s podcast.
My schedule was something I could believe in 100%. It was something I could control.
And that’s exactly how it’s been working. As Steven Pressfield would say, I’m doing the work.
For example, right now I’m sitting in my garage on my IKEA chair at my little camp table, writing this blog post. I’m doing this because it’s what my schedule has told me to do. I don’t need to be inspired or motivated to do this (even though I am enjoying it). It’s just a to-do item.
And knowing that I’m doing this is all the motivation I need because I can see the progress I’m making every single day. I know I’m inching closer to my goals, and therefore, my Big Picture list.
There’s something else I should mention. I’ve also included all the important personal things on this schedule. That means there’s a slot in there for reading, there’s one for playing with my son, two for walking and of course, one for sleeping. It starts at 5:30 am and finishes at 9:30 pm.
Knowing what I have to do every day is the only way I’d ever be able to eat an elephant. It’s the only way to get shit done. No amount of dreaming or external motivation will do that for you.
Your habits, more than anything else, determine the outcome of your life. When you’re drowning is obligations and pressures and doubts, the best way to make progress is to follow this process. It clears the air, lifts the burden and marks a clear path forward.
It allows you to say, “I know what I have to do. I’ve got it from here.”
Good luck in 2017. Go blaze a trail.
Tools and resources for entrepreneurs that I use myself.
Books for Entrepreneurs in the New Economy
Choose Yourself – James Altucher
James’s unique perspective on life, wealth, business and employment is an eye-opener. A brilliant mind.
Do the Work: Overcome Resistance and Get Out of Your Own Way – Steven Pressfield
Steven forces us to face a simple truth: it’s not about better ideas, but rather, actually doing the work.
The 4-Hour Work Week – Tim Ferris
Tim’s book is responsible for fuelling much of today’s solopreneur phenomenon. A must-read.
Tools of Titans
Tim Ferris’s tome covering many of the best lessons gleaned from billionaires, icons, and peak performers.
The $100 Startup – Chris Guillebeau
Chris debunks the old myth, “It takes money to make money,” with plenty of examples to relate to.
Purple Cow – Seth Godin
Seth is a pioneer from the earliest days of the Internet and a trailblazer in today’s ‘connection economy’. Read everything he writes. Seriously.
Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook – Gary Vaynerchuk
Gary V is loud, rant-prone and tends to swear a lot. But no one knows social media better. Read and learn.
The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything – by Sir Ken Robinson
Sir Ken is a remarkable thinker in the areas of education and nurturing one’s innate talents. His TED talk is incredible and has been watched almost 43 million times.
Thanks for stopping by and I hope we get to hang out more in the future. And in the meantime, please feel free to share your own experiences. You can email me directly at email@example.com. I respond to all emails. If this was beneficial to you, please consider subscribing and sharing with someone you think would also benefit.
Disclaimer & Disclosure: I’m not a psychologist and I’m not a financial advisor’s elbow. This material doesn’t constitute financial advice but rather a collection of personal opinions, based on my own experiences. Some of the links on my site are affiliate links, which means that if you make a purchase, I will earn a small commission. This commission comes at no additional cost to you. I provide links to services or products I have used and liked or researched and recommend. Please do not spend any money on these products unless you believe they will be beneficial to you.
Also published on Medium.