4 Simple Concepts To Go From Unproductive Sloth To Disciplined Goal Achiever
Quick Editor's Note: Even if you're not currently a sloth, you will probably get some great ideas from this quick article…
Do you struggle to consistently take action on your goals, and do the daily, and often mundane regular tasks that you know need to be done if you are going to be successful in achieving the things that YOU SAY you want so much?
Well, this is normal human stuff, and nothing to feel bad about. I've been there more times than I care to recall. Interestingly enough, a breakthrough for me came after an especially low point in productivity in virtually all areas.
As I write from this new found perspective on productivity, before I share the 4 simple things that have REALLY helped me change and become more productive, let me briefly share with you how it came about.
I've been dealing with some fairly challenging health issues, and if you've ever gone through any kind of prolonged health challenge, you'll be able to relate with me when I say that productivity is very much tied to health.
When it comes down to it, If you don't feel very good, it's hard to be anywhere close to as productive in getting the things done that you'd like to be, EVEN IF you do enjoy those activities. Health trumps all!
I realized that despite my current ill health, I needed to become more productive if I was going to get myself out of my current position. At the end of the day, I had to make a living and earn an income, in order to solve some of these health challenges, and that wasn't going to happen by sitting on my ass feeling sorry for myself.
With that in mind, even despite my current sub-optimal state, by using the following principles I've still been able to regularly and consistently hit my daily “to dos” for the things that I know if done consistently, will no doubt reap the rewards and bring me to the realization of my desired outcomes.
Shoot For Minimum Daily Goals
As a tendency in my life to be a bit of a perfectionist, I've noticed a bit of a pattern. When I strive for perfection, and high achievement, in most cases it has a detrimental effect on how much I actually get done, and hinders my ability to reach my desired goals in life.
It took me a while to figure this one out (about 20 years I'd say 🙂 ).
So the way I came up with this idea was basically to use reverse psychology on that past perfectionist (also unrealistic, and essentially unproductive) attitude and way of approaching the things I both had to do, and desired to achieve in my life.
In simple terms, Perfectionist = Self Defeating
So flipped around, that basically meant the following. Instead of say as an example – trying to write 3000 words per day – a goal that i MIGHT achieve 25-50% of the time, but that would also leave me prone to feeling overwhelmed, and stressed out by the unrealistic consistent workload and therefore LOWER OVERALL PRODUCTIVITY OVER TIME, I would shoot for something really really EASY to achieve!
So in applying the concept of minimum goals to the example of my daily writing goal, I would aim for a meager 500 words per day (and not even every day, as we'll get to later in discussing the 80/20 rule).
The results? CONSISTENT SUCCESS in reaching my daily target!
Who would have thought?! Not only that, but I almost always surpass my daily goal (in the case of my writing goal, I usually end up writing more like 1000-1500 words (a little thing called momentum kicks in, and once I've started I actually find I'm on a roll and want to keep going, especially if I find the subject matter that I'm writing about to be personally interesting or inspiring).
On top of that I REMEMBER my past successes, as the days go by, and this builds up my confidence, my belief in my ability to achieve my daily goals, and to reach my long term aspirations and visions (seeing as I've already worked out that if I do the things I need to do consistently, they will no doubt eventually equal the materialization of me reaching those bigger goals).
This positive momentum and belief in my ability to get things done of course also carries into other areas of my life. As a result my productivity goes up in most other areas too.
So success in hitting my writing targets on most days ends up equaling more consistency in my exercise programs, dietary habits, etc. The wins just keep building upon themselves.
Apart from that, what else?! I feel less stressed throughout the whole process, and who doesn't want to feel less unnecessary stress?
So suffice to say that the concept of minimal goals has had a huge impact on my ability to get things done, and life in general to be fair.
A few of pointers I think will help you in choosing YOUR minimum goals.
- You want it to be a small enough goal in terms of ease of accomplishment so that it FEELS EASY for you.
- You want it to be big enough (to get you close enough daily to your larger goal) so that you FEEL SOME LEVEL OF ACCOMPLISHMENT.
- Start off with just 1-2 daily minimum goals that are related to your most important goals in life. Again, this is about minimizing strain on ourselves, which conversely makes us far more effective.
Daily Accountability And Choosing An Accountability Partner
If you've done any studies into productivity at all up until this point, then you may have heard of the importance in “getting leverage” over yourself (the lazier parts of yourself) by using accountability.
What this basically means is setting up a system of responsibility with someone who's friensdship you consider close enough to trust, and also with someone who you know will call you on your *BS if you slack on taking action on your proclaimed goals.
So to do this part, you need someone you can trust and ideally someone that's reliable enough, and you have consistent contact with, so that you can discuss your progress as well as any issues that might come up for you as you go about attacking your goals.
I personally chose a good friend of mine who I Skype with regularly and who is also really into personal development, productivity and things of that nature (this helps too, but is probably not necessary).
I think it's very helpful if your accountability partner also has some things they want to work on and be held accountable for on a regular basis, in my opinion this makes the partnership more powerful, and there's a kind of “Mastermind” quality, that you won't have if the other person is just keeping tabs on you, with nothing of their own lives invested into the deal.
Basically in order to achieve this, you will want to choose maybe 1-2 things that you really want to take action on in your life on most days (not all days, that would be perfectionist and self defeating, remember), share them with your accountability partner, and then come up with some Minimum Daily Goals around those chosen life goals.
Then all there is left to do, is to make an agreement to report to your partner say every 1-3 days (or longer if you feel that will still work in your situation).
So what does this look like day to day?
Basically I just make sure that each day that I'm on a “work day” I make it a top priority to do my daily tasks according to what I've told my buddy, and then I send him a quick update as either a voice message on Skype or just a simple text message.
For example, here's a recent accountability text on Skype to my buddy:
So as you can tell, this stuff is really not rocket science by any means, but this stuff really does work. I've studied productivity for years, but it's only since really taking the minimum goals and accountability aspects seriously that I'm starting to REALLY get this stuff and make solid changes in my approach.
So those 2 parts are core, but there's more good stuff to really lock this model in place, and counter any slip ups you might have, which are bound to happen (we are humans, this is reality).
The Hidden Power Of The 80/20 Rule
This is really quite simple. The way I think about it in terms of promoting productivity is that it's a built in rule of allowing imperfection (otherwise known as being human).
There are a few different contexts in which the 80/20 rule is discussed, so let me be clear here in what I mean related to productivity.
Basically what the 80/20 rule means is that you only expect yourself to go through and take action on your desired result when setting goals etc, for roughly about 80% of the time.
So in a given week for example, you might expect that you successfully stick to your daily goals about 5 days a week (this works out well if you like to take time off on the weekends, which most of us do, and you absolutely should for proper R+R).
For me, seeing as I'm a business owner, and work whatever hours I choose, it just means that I basically take days off whenever I need a good break, to switch off, or to get away and change up my routine a bit and dust off the cobwebs.
Your personal version of this rule, and how you apply it will really depend on your lifestyle and work situation, but just keep in mind the main point and build it into your accountability.
So that means explaining the concept of the 80/20 rule to your accountability partner or whoever you're keeping yourself in tabs with, and explaining to them that you're allowed to slip up some days, it's part of the rules 😉
This is just another way that I've figured out how to decrease the amount of time I
spend waste being a perfectionist, which just lowers my state, and my overall motivation to keep moving forward.
Allow and EXPECT Imperfection (Mistakes)
The final piece to this “productivity quadrant” is to actually plan to fail, to some degree at least… What I mean by this, is that you need to expect to screw up at least some of the time. That means, some days you're just not going to get anywhere near close to hitting your goals, and you might even have several days in a row, or even a whole week like this. It doesn't matter.
The point of this is to not allow negative experiences to screw up your positive momentum anymore than they already have after they've happened.
Unavoidable crap will happen in life that will get in your way, stop you being the person you want to be and achieving the goals that you had set for yourself, BUT it doesn't have to be more than a temporary experience.
You can continue on AFTER the bad stuff has thrown you off, and get right back on track. I guess that's how I think of this concept, and why it's powerful. The 80/20 rule provides a similar framework, but this is kind of an extra layer, that covers you when even the 80/20 rule can't save you from beating yourself up, and falling into an unproductive downward spiral.
The point of this concept is basically = no matter what happened, where you find yourself, remember what you want and where you want to go, and then get back on the bike and ride towards your goals.
What To Do When The Above Tips FAIL Miserably
Sometimes, even despite understanding the above concepts and wanting to start a healthy new routine or stick to the smaller daily tasks associated with your bigger goals and dreams, you'll find yourself not taking action. Why does this happen? There are many reasons I think, but there's a sneaky hint in my last question as to how to overcome this annoying stuckness that seems to sneak insidiously from the blind spots within our own consciousness.
The key to motivation is in the WHY. This is something that Tony Robbins drills people on all the time, and despite the fact that I think Tony's work is so typically North American in a way that I can sometimes personally find a little cheesy and over the top (think of the cheesy seminars where people get all pumped up and give each other hi 5s in th audience, etc), the man is a genius when it comes to getting people to take action, and understanding what makes people tick. I respect him immensely for this reason, and the fact that he gives a LOT of value to the world, and has done for like the past 35 years in the personal development world…
If you like videos like I do, here's a great video where Tony Robbins talks about this exact point:
Basically, if you are setting minimum goals, using an accountability partner, not expecting perfection BUT not taking enough consistent action to get you closer to where you really want to be in life, then you need to get more focused on WHY you are doing all this, and why you want what you want.
So here's a little exercise I thought of for helping when you face this problem.
Each time you find yourself not doing the daily task that you have set yourself and know moves you in the right direction, all you have to do is realize that you're choosing right now in the moment, NOT to create what you want in your life. You are deciding, it's your choice. Everything else above is designed to make it easier for you to identify and actually take action on the things that help you, but ultimately, you have to still be pretty clear on why you want your goals and dreams in the first place.
Without being clear on the why, your motivation is going to be pretty weak at best.
Try it, I think you'll find your personal reasons for wanting your dreams are all you need, you just need to get in touch with them a little more closely.
What Are Your Current Challenges And Successes In Productivity?
As I mentioned earlier, improving my own productivity is something that I've studied and contemplated on and off over the years, especially since becoming a business owner, and relying on myself to make stuff happen without being told what to do by a boss each day.
What about you?
Have you got any tips to share, or have you tried out the ideas on this page and made or failed to make them work for you in your own life? If so, please join the discussion by commenting below! I'd love to hear your thoughts!
I will say, I'm sure none of the above ideas are profoundly “new”, the old saying often rings true, “there's nothing new under the sun” but I feel at least that I've personalized them to my own style and way of thinking.
Maybe I haven't, who cares? The fact is they are good ideas, and in my experience they not only work, but they've made a huge positive influence in my professional and personal life to date. Put them to use in your own life, and I'm sure you'll see the positive momentum start to build.