In 2009, Fred Stutzman was a graduate student trying to grind out some important work on his thesis.
But there was a problem. His favourite coffee shop, which had previously been a quiet sanctuary where he could escape distraction and get work done, had just added a new and very dangerous feature: Wireless internet.
Now Stutzman found himself constantly distracted by the endless supply of entertainment and social media on the web — even if he really wanted to get something done.
He tried disconnecting from the Internet, but it wasn’t that simple. He was always clicking it back on to “take a break.” He was constantly fighting the urge to check his messages and updates.
Thankfully, Stutzman happened to be a programmer studying Information Science. When he went home that night, he decided to create a software program that would solve his problem.
The program was simple. You turned the application on, told it how long you wanted to focus, and it prevented your computer from going online for that amount of time. If you wanted to get back on before your time was up, you had to turn your computer completely off and reboot.
The program was called Freedom and not long after Stutzman created it, the application went viral. It was picked up by NPR, The Economist, The New York Times, O the Oprah Magazine, Time and nearly every major news outlet you can imagine. More than 500 000 people downloaded it.
It seems that many people were struggling with online procrastination.
Why did Freedom work so well? And what can it teach us about sticking to better habits and mastering our willpower?
The Power of Decision Elimination
Making decisions over and over again will drain your willpower. This is true even if it’s the same, tiny decision — like constantly resisting the urge to check your email. (Another example: continually trying to follow a new, strict diet.)
You might be able to resist for 5 minutes or an hour or maybe even a week, but eventually, your willpower will begin to fade and you’ll give in. This is known as decision fatigue and in a previous article I discussed how it has a measurable impact on your willpower and the choices you make throughout any given day.
The Freedom app that Stutzman designed is effective not only because it prevents you from reaching the web, but also because it reduces decision fatigue.
It eliminates your options and, as a result, doing the right thing becomes much easier. In other words, the application places a constraint on your behavior.
This brings us to an important point: constraints can make it easier to stick to good habits by eliminating the number of decisions you need to make to move forward.
Constraints are a Good Thing
People often say that they want options. When it comes to getting things done, however, options aren’t always a good thing. When everything is a possibility, it actually becomes harder to make the right choice (or any choice at all). This is the paradox of choice.
Meanwhile, when we place a constraint on ourselves, it can become much easier to get something done. This is especially true if it is a constraint that forces us to start small.
- If you want to start exercising, set a rule for yourself where you are not allowed to exercise for more than 5 minutes. You have to stop exercising after 5 minutes. I talked with a reader named Mitch who used this strategy to make his first six weeks of exercise very easy and then gradually built up to doing more. He ended up losing over 45 kilograms. (Nice work, Mitch!)
- If you want to become more creative, you can use constraints to drive your creativity. For example, you could write a book by only using 50 different words. This is the strategy Dr. Seuss used to write Green Eggs and Ham.
- If you want to eat more vegetables, you could limit yourself to only one type of vegetable this week. By limiting the number of choices you have to make, it’s more likely that you’ll actually eat something healthy rather than get overwhelmed trying to figure out all of the details of the perfect diet.
We often think that we want an open road and the ability to choose any direction for ourselves. But sometimes, what we need is a tunnel that can reduce our choices and send us in a focused direction.
How can you eliminate the need to make the same decisions over and over again? How can you use constraints to drive your habits forward — even if it’s in a very small way?
Unless You Track Your Progress, Setting Goals Is A Waste Of Effort
The single most common reason people don’t reach their goals is they forgot they set them in the first place.
I’ve always carried a notebook with me at work and on business trips. I usually jot down notes from meetings or random thoughts I have on how to improve our company. Recently, I found some of my old notebooks and I started flipping through the pages.
Despite the awful handwriting, their were actually some interesting ideas written down. I found some great goals and objectives for the past years, that I had never gotten around to implementing. I could have done most of these things and probably be more successful than I am now.
What went wrong?
Do you know what your team is doing?
Boardview writes that “two thirds of senior managers can’t name their firms’ top priorities” and “more than 80% of small business owners don’t keep track of business goals.”
So the problem is that while companies probably have some sort of goals (even if they are just “making money.”), the progress towards those goals is not measured. I have seen this behaviour at many companies I’ve worked with. Starry-eyed managers excitedly pitch a goal in an attempt to motivate their employees to get on board. This great initiative is then almost instantly forgotten, and three months later no one will even remember it at all. This is part of a wider problem of companies not prioritising goal setting.
The easiest way to make sure you have serious goals that you can follow is inform everyone in your company (starting with the senior management) of those goals. Then you’ll need a goal tracking system that makes sure you measure your progress regularly.
Related: The 7-Step Formula For Goal-Setting
Own your goals
Once you’ve written down a company or a team goal, two questions arise. Who is responsible for the goal (accountability), and how do you review the results (performance review)?
As for accountability, at my work we set impactful, quarterly objectives for each of our teams. We make sure each team goal is assigned to specific person who is responsible for achieving it.
These goals are not usually met 100 percent as they are designed not to. They are designed to force me and my employees to try new things, experiment and break old habits. It’s reaching for the moon and landing among the stars.
Step two: Tracking goals with meetings
You must track your progress towards said goal week by week. This is called continuous performance review. I review our team’s Key Results or KPIs every week. At our weekly status meeting, we start by discussing each Key Result and the progress towards our end goal.
Weekly status meetings are used in most companies. But you have to be careful with them as they can become pointless very easily if you haven’t set clear goals first.
If your company is not focused on goals, you are wasting time and money. You should never just chat about your work without knowing how that work aligns with your company’s goals and vision.
Having an impact every day
Christina Wodtke, author of “Radical Focus”, has said that success is not checking a box. It’s having an impact. Working towards your goals is something you need to do every day and every hour. Only then can you make an impact. Instead of weekly meetings, you can take in one step further with status reporting.
I like the Plans, Progress, Problems (PPP) approach. With it, you set 3 – 5 impactful plans for yourself every week that you focus on. What makes this great is that you can link each of those to one of your goals to make sure every big task you work on, actually moves you towards your goals. And the reports you get out of it, can be the basis of your weekly status meetings, making it easier to keep yourself and others focused.
A weekly review of your progress is vital for the long term success of goal setting. Many people can relate to a situation where you set goals and decide on a deadline that seems so far away. Then, a week before the time is up, you finally remember your goal and panic sets in. This is not the way to do it.
Great ideas should not be left to rot in a notebook. They should be written down, discussed with your team, improved and executed every day. Doing so will ensure that your best ideas are never forgotten and lost. Instead, they bring you satisfaction and success.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
Finish The Year Strong To Carry Momentum Into 2019
Survey your accomplishments now, and reassess your goals, to conclude this year in kinetic alignment with where you want to go next.
At the end of every season I like to take some time to reassess my yearly outcomes. I also do this with all my coaching clients because it helps them see the progress they’ve made and how they can adjust their expectations.
This year, I decided to bring all my clients together for a two-day event to do their assessments in a group setting. This is going to be the main theme at this year’s Next Level Leadership Summit: “How to Finish Strong.”
I’ve been privileged to coach, consult and interview some of the most productive entrepreneurs I know, and I have learned as much from them as they have from me. The principles they have shared with me are timeless and easy to follow. I have used them time and time again to reset my goals to make sure I set myself up for a great closing to the year instead of being disappointed by what I didn’t accomplish.
Don’t let attachment to the outcome rob you of victory
Most entrepreneurs are very competitive. We have a vision and goals, and we want things to look a certain way. The truth is that things don’t happen the way we want them to most of the time. To keep the momentum, sometimes you have to adjust your vision.
Currently, I’m working with a real estate developer who is working on several projects. At the beginning of the year, he set a goal to close a deal that would net him $20 million. He found one and started working it. It looked like he was on his way to achieving his goal, but he later received news from his architect that he had miscalculated some numbers and that they would be making $5 million less than originally projected. Upset, he called me to tell me the news.
All I heard in his voice was how disappointed he was that he was not going to hit his goal. I reminded him of where he was three years ago when he joined my programme. He was burned out, had lost his purpose and didn’t have any deals to count on. And now, this is one of the many deals he has in the pipeline. Maybe he won’t get what he was aiming for, but this is still a victory.
This is what we do all the time. We beat ourselves up because we are attached to the way things should be. A high-performing entrepreneur looks at their life as a game. To finish the year strong, he must appreciate how far he has come and reset his outcomes according to his current situation.
Related: The 7-Step Formula For Goal-Setting
Focus on progress, not perfection
At the first of the year, you create a list of things you want to accomplish. You then wait and wait for the perfect timing. After nine months go by, you look at the list and you feel disappointed you didn’t get everything done.
I know a guy who is developing a productivity app. He has interviewed developers, created the overall design and is constantly asking for feedback from people on how the app should look. He has been working on this for years but he is always waiting for the perfect time to execute.
One of my other clients has just launched his first app, and he is getting rave reviews. What’s the difference between these two men? One is waiting on the perfect time and is paralysed by the illusion of perfection while the other one was focused on creating progress.
Each week I asked my client how his app was going, and he shared his progress. Was it perfect? No. Did he experience challenges to make it work? Yes. But he knew the first steps – finding the money, reviewing the design and creating the user experience – were going to be the hardest. Now he is working on improving it based on all the feedback he has gotten from users.
High performers know perfection is the lowest standard. To finish the year strong, take inventory of all the progress you’ve made and focus on making things better.
You are the product of your environment
We’ve been taught that mindset and positive thinking are the keys to success. But that’s only part of the equation. For the last decade, I’ve focused on being in an environment that supports my growth. It doesn’t matter how strong your mindset is. It doesn’t matter how positive you are. If you are around negative people or in a negative environment, you will lose.
I’ve helped one of my clients get clear on how he wanted to take his business to the next level. We created a plan and a timeline with clear outcomes. Then I asked him, What is one thing that can mess this plan up? He said if he continued to hang out with his drinking buddies and give in to his old habits, it could distract him from his plan. So I told him to change his environment for the next 100 days to see if that would make a difference.
Now, at day 110, everything – his business, life and relationship – are on fire. I not only asked him to change his environment, I also replaced it with a group of high-level performers who hold him accountable to his commitments. That group is on fire, and they are going to be recognised for their amazing shift at my Next Level Leadership event.
High performers evaluate their environment and make changes to align it with their vision. They eliminate any possible scenario that can prevent them from getting what they want.
Focus on the other R.O.I. – return on impact
As entrepreneurs, we must watch the bottom line at all times. Every move we make has to bring us a return on our investment. Lately, I’ve seen a big shift in the market. The “cut through to the bottom line” mindset can only take you so far. I’ve been able to grow my business faster by focusing on the impact rather than the income. Don’t get me wrong. I charge for my services, and I’m not running a non-profit, but income is not my main focus.
I recently helped a client create a framework in his business that gave him a sense of purpose. He was ready to sell all his assets and move to an island with his wife and kids because his idea of success was being met by his expectations in his business. I helped him see that he simply needed to focus less on the transactions and more on the transcendence his business could provide. He owns multiple businesses, so it took him some time to figure out how he could help his clients have a better experience rather than treating them as singular transactions.
When he came back to me, he had a list of things where he had made an impact. All of a sudden, his passion for running a business had returned. He had a new sense of purpose seeing how much impact he could make in he lives of others.
A high-performing entrepreneur measures his success on the amount of impact he has on people’s lives.
Reset, recharge and recommit
We all want to have more time. We are running 100 mph, and we don’t want to slow down. That’s the life of any entrepreneur who wants to succeed in this competitive market. But, if a car is running that fast every day, it will eventually crash. And that’s what happens to us. We crash and sometimes burn things down.
To avoid this, I meet with my clients several times throughout the year to reset our goals, recharge our batteries and recommit to the process. Nothing is better than iron sharpening iron. It doesn’t have to be a long period of time. We actually discover that all we need is one day per quarter, and we can compound time. When you’re busy, quality is better than quantity.
Each quarter, people travel from all over the country to our meetings so they can share their progress and see how they can help one another. The key here is to Reset your goals, recharge your mindset and recommit to your outcomes.
High performers know that proximity is power. They also know you need to recharge your batteries in order to get back into the game – especially if you want to finish strong.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
Your Worth Is Not Measured By Your Productivity
Clients don’t ask too many questions if they’re getting regular updates and feel as though things are moving along.
We live in a world that glorifies the term ‘being busy’ and down plays terms such as ‘burn out’ and ‘mental health’. After all, that’s how we measure success right. It’s ok to be burnt out, because it means you’re successful and pushing yourself. It’s unthinkable that a woman can achieve her goals if she only works an 08h00 – 17h00 right. Wrong. I recently left my corporate job, with my comfortable salary, to pursue the unknown. I’m still ‘busy’, the only difference is that I’m more flexible now.
What that means is that I can take time away from work to cook dinner, attend a family birthday etc and work my schedule around that. When I worked in corporate that flexibility was not offered. It’s about making time for the things that matter, while still ticking off my to-do list and making sure my clients feel happy, secure and taken care of. Clients don’t ask too many questions if they’re getting regular updates and feel as though things are moving along.
1. Forgive yourself
It took me some time to learn to forgive myself. For putting my career above my friends, my family and myself. In my first week as a freelancer, I had been working late nights and on the Friday afternoon I crashed at 2pm, had an hour-long nap and then carried on. I kind of beat myself up for that. Accusing myself of being lazy, telling myself I didn’t have the luxury to have a nap during the day and I was disappointed with myself. I had to learn that it’s OK to give yourself what you need, when you need it, to thrive.
Whether it’s a late afternoon power nap or saying no to new business when you’ve reached capacity. It’s OK to do you, forgive yourself for being human.
It’s easy to stay motivated when things are going well. It’s a different story when things aren’t going well. Remember why you started your journey, remember your training and reach out to your network. Never be ashamed of your hustle. 90% of my current business came from me reaching out to my current network. It’s amazing how once you start doing things you love; how many people want to help you succeed and support you. They need to know what you’re doing first, to offer you their business.
I also remember, when I first started telling people I had left corporate to start my own venture I always received 1 of 3 responses:
- Wow you’re so brave, that’s so inspiring. I wish I could do what you’re doing
- Wow are you sure that’s the smartest thing to do right now, you know the economy and blah blah blah
- Oh wow, it must be so nice being a lady of leisure, do you go for coffee dates with friends and watch series during the day.
The doubters used to scare me because, to be honest, I had a little bit of doubt myself. ‘Can I really do this, will I succeed?, what if I fail?’, those are questions I kept asking myself. Now I use the comments as motivation, whatever the comment is, you’re inspired by me, great, keep watching…. You don’t recommend I start my own business in this economy…. Cool, please watch this space. You think I drink margaritas and tan all day, ok, watch my success, while I’m sipping on this pink drink. You need to be so mentally strong to be an entrepreneur and it’s your responsibility to stay motivated.
Routine is important when you’re a business owner. There will be days where you work a late night and need a little extra sleep in the am, I encourage you to get back into your routine as soon as possible though. On the days where you don’t feel like doing your work – those are usually admin days. Hack the system, go for a run, have a coffee, do what you need to do to re-set your mind and then get back into it. No-one is going to stop you from self-destructing, so keep the discipline and grind! No one is going to force you to do it, so you must force yourself.
While being your own boss is tough and comes with a different set of concerns, remember why you started. Enjoy the peace of mind and happiness, realising you are in full control of your destiny. Celebrate those small wins. It’s difficult to be motivated and disciplined, to find work and keep it. Celebrate your successes, a million people are killing 8 hours a day working jobs they hate, wishing they had the courage to pursue their dreams. You’re already doing that, you’ve taken the plunge and you have a responsibility to succeed. Enjoy the process throughout the way. There’s nothing as rewarding as gaining a new client, getting great client feedback or completing a job well done.
When I worked in corporate I would kill myself to pull off a campaign, giving up sleep, family time etc. Knowing I did a kick-ass job, never once receiving praise from a client. When I heard my manager ask why she never thanked us, her response was ‘But we pay you to do this, it’s expected, please don’t ask me to thank you for doing your job, when I’m paying you to do that job’. That’s when I realised I would have to find fulfilment and enjoyment from within.
You will mess up, it’s inevitable, you’re human. No matter how good you are, how committed you are or motivated you are, it will happen. Get up and keep going, pick up your crown and keep marching on. There’s no use crying over spilled milk. Whether you’re in corporate or you’re your own boss, remember these 5 tips, modify and apply them to suit your situation and remember that your worth is not measured by your productivity. You can be successful while taking care of yourself both physically and mentally. It’s time to shine!
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