New Year’s Eve, any given year
What’s productivity, anyway!
Does this sound familiar to you?
It is December 31st. You are sitting with some friends and going to party into the new year. There’s some finger food, and of course some drinks.
A glass of Champagne, well, maybe two or three.
The clock is running down. You are taking a minute to think back on the last year. Sure there were some great times. You had your fair share of fun.
But wait a moment… didn’t you want to achieve much more last year?
“Come on, only 10 more minutes” says your friend. You all make your way onto the balcony to see the fireworks.
“Now, this time for sure!” you say to yourself – and you make another shot.
To become fit! To learn cooking! To learn Spanish!
Probably we all are going through the same procedure again and again. It’s just that our all New Year’s resolutions are having a 92% percent chance of failure according to a study by the University of Scranton.
Did you ever ask yourself:
- Why you don’t succeed even though you really wanted to follow through this time?
- And even worse, why are others getting so much stuff done when you just seem busy and overwhelmed?
- How on earth do some people have success so quickly and sustain it over time?
- Does your To-Do List just keeps growing while you barely get anything ticked-off?
If you answered „Yes!” to some or even all of those questions you have found the right place!
This Ultimate Guide will help you to become a productivity superstar and finally crush your dream goals.
Hi, I am Juergen and I got sick not achieving my goals while still having enough time to reminiscent about that.
It spent hours and hours to really understand what it takes to design a bullet-proof system which always works and not just once and never again.
Here it is!
Why I wrote this Ultimate Guide
When I was in my mid 20’s my own to-do lists (yes, plural!) were insane, to put it mildly. Today I know there was not even the smallest chance to succeed with any of that.
Sure, I was always busy. Really busy and partially exhausted.
But that was about it. I didn’t really achieve much and felt more like wasting my time because of that.
I realized I had to drastically change my approach if I really wanted to be successful.
This Ultimate Guide is the result of years full of reading, listening and watching many of the top performers out there.
But what is even more important – it is the result of constant practicing in real life.
Some things worked, and I kept them. Some things didn’t work, and I change or dropped them.
What I will show you is that your productivity and achieving goals is nothing that requires super power. Or just “will power”, as some so-called experts will tell you.
In that case, we would be just taking Nike’s slogan “just do it” and we could stop now.
When you have read this Ultimate Guide and start applying the techniques and systems to your own life you will
- Have clarity about your DreamGoals
- Know the steps to achieve quick wins
- Understand what it takes to be consistently productive
- Learn about additional turbo-loaders to boost your performance
But most importantly, next New Year’s eve you will not need to make stupid promises to yourself because you feel bad about last year – simply because are already at your peak productivity!
Here’s what you will find in the guide!
In Chapter 1 we will start to understand how the human mind actually works, and how we set up ourselves to fail. Some things might not be a big surprise at all, but they may be in terms of impact. Sometimes it is incredible how we sabotage our success.
In the next Chapter 2 it is exactly the opposite – you will see what it actually takes to put on a spectacular performance and be super productive. Every heard of work less, achieve more? Or working smarter? Well, here you are. Also, I am pretty sure there is something rather surprising in there as well.
In Chapter 3 we start to develop new habits. Namely those for you as a new high performer. Small steps, nothing that requires you to start mediation or anything like that. But things that will have a huge impact.
Chapter 4 introduces you to the 5Z-System – which brings everything together. You will define your DreamGoals and create a strategy map to achieve them. Step by step we will break everything down into small pieces and thus make execution trivial.
Let’s dive right in!
Table of contents
- Chapter 1 – The top 7 reasons why we fail to achieve productivity (and the problem with to-do lists)
- Chapter 2 – Understanding the success factors of productivity
- Chapter 3 – Your daily habits: How to always be super productive… & still have enough free time
- Chapter 4 – Design your productivity system to crush your big dream goals in life
- Chapter 5 – Some final words
Chapter 1 – The top 7 reasons why we fail to achieve productivity (and the problem with to-do lists)
Whenever I talk to friends or colleagues about why they don’t achieve their goals I get some funny answers. “I don’t have time” is the obvious one, and “puh, good question” a sad example.
Do we even know why so many of our goals are never really reached?
Here are the most common problems I have seen, and all of those also applied to myself.
The motivation and momentum phase
So let us get back to the New Year’s eve resolutions.
“I want to become fit” is probably one of the most famous examples, right? We’ve probably all been there at some point.
After the initial hangover of the “one” glass of Champagne you may still feel really motivated and immediately hit the gym – that’s why regular gym-goers absolutely hate Januaries!
Maybe you go a few more times before motivation eventually fades away.
Well, usually in February I am happy again because we regulars have the gym back from all those guys who wanted to become fit.
Now why is that?
Say you wanted to go 5 times a week to the gym? You probably only made it less times the first week.
Suddenly it is only 2 or 3 times.
Soon it is maybe once – and how can once a week at the gym actually help you in becoming fit?
You just lost all momentum in the world and sure as hell don’t end up “fit”.
Here is the problem: We think that our initial motivation is the basis for success. Unfortunately, that is not the case.
It can only serve as the trigger to get something started!
However, there’s no chance this will make you eventually succeed.
Targets are not measurable
When you have had already 5 drinks it is easy to promise “to become fit”. Maybe you even remember it a few days later. Who did not do that multiple times?
Whenever you do not clearly define what you want to achieve you can hardly ever achieve it, you run after a very blurry target.
It is something different to say that you “Want to be able to run a half-marathon under 2 hours by end of next year” or “reduce your body fat by 2% over the next 6 month”.
Notice there is a goal and a time component! This way you can actually measure your journey and see if you are on track or not.
Also, you want to have challenging, but reachable goals at the same time.
Hell, Edwin Locke and Gary Latham found that simply by setting specific and challenging goals people achieved a higher performance 90 (!) percent of the time.
This means for you that what you need to do is for each of you goals make sure that it is clearly defined! Here is a “S.M.A.R.T.” way how you can do that.
In 1981 George T. Doran wrote a paper called “There’s a S.M.A.R.T. way to write management’s goals and objectives”, which describes how goals should be defined.
There are different variations and for entrepreneurs this one I believe makes the most sense:
- Specific – what will this goal achieve for you?
- Measurable – you must be able to put numbers or qualitative indicators here (like “15% increase)
- Achievable – can you, given all circumstances and resources possibly achieve it?
- Relevant – Why are you doing this? Does it contribute to your 1yr, 3yr and 5yr (or whatever you hopefully have) goals? Is it important just now?
- Time-related – specify when the result can or must be achieved (making 100k in 1 year is probably more challenging than if you have your entire life for it)
Onne example would be:
“Increase your blog traffic from 10.000 to 25.000 unique visitors in the next 6 months to generate more leads” – this would satisfy S, M, R, T.
Now A is not directly mentioned but it‘s up to you to decide on that. Let’s assume for this example it is.
So you see, “becoming fit” will not make the cut here!
Here is one more important point: Really think about what your number one goal right now is – no lying to yourself! Any business owner simply should know what the #1 goal is – so define it, work towards it and eliminate and noise around it!
It is amazing how many people have no answer to that question, make sure you are not one of them.
Here is your action step:
Take 3 random goals you anyway have in your life and judge if they are fulfilling the “S.M.A.R.T” principle! If not, then re-write them and be more precise!
Make sure you cover at least one goal from your personal life (maybe learning a new language?) and from your Business life!
There is absolutely no plan to succeed
Even a well-defined target is worth nothing if we assume to magically arrives at it by the given time.
Most people never actually map out how to reach their goals.
Which steps does it take? Do you reserve the required time for this?
Heck, do you even have the time available?
Let’s say you want to lose weight, or better to say to reduce body-fat.
The high-level steps might be as following, and no I am not a Personal Fitness Trainer:
- Probably what you want to do is evaluate your nutrition in the first week
- In the second week analyse them and make adjustments to your consumption habits.
- Then in the third week you could develop and start to follow a new plan.
Is that all?
No, of course there’!
- Additionally, you may want to think about also changing your workout routine, so for example you could switch to lifting more weights and doing less cardio.
Without a plan and a reserved time (I simply use my outlook calendar to “book” time slots for work out) there is good probability to not achieve anything.
How I changed my workout behaviour
A few years ago I was not doing too well with doing sports, and that’s an optimistic statement.
Sometimes I did go more to the gym, sometimes less. It was buggering the hell out of me. First of all, my membership was not cheap. And of course, there was no progress.
Then I sat down and thought about how I could fix this.
Now today it is quite easy. I want to hit the gym 3 times a week and mix it up, depending on the season with cardio (usually outside), mountain biking and playing golf (no stupid comments, please!).
I know exactly what I need to eat the day before and the same day when working out in the gym, so more carbs for example.
I have an entry in my calendar saying: “Gym Workout Chest/Back” with the exact time, including enough time to get dressed before and to shower afterwards.
The same goes for cardio and golf. I am still learning, so I switch my sessions between going to the driving range and having coaching lessons.
Today my system is running very well, and I usually stick to my routine.
Still, sometimes I fail and skip a session. But you know what? Even 3 times a week is much, much more than most of the other people are achieving on a consistent basis!
Short and long term goals are not aligned
2 years ago I started to slice my life into 5 major areas, one of them being “Business” and another one being “Me, myself & I” (where basically getting “fit” would fall in).
I started to define 2-3 overall long term goals, so approximately with a 5-year time target.
Based on this I would define my short term goals I needed to achieve in order to bring me closer to my long-term targets.
Oh boy, when I told friends about that they thought I had gone crazy!
There is no point in achieving a goal in one year and then… let it go, so become “un-fit” again.
Whenever short and long-term goals are not aligned something is very wrong. Additionally, you can also figure out with the different areas are killing each other off!
So, another area is basically about “Friends & family”… and I cannot have a goal saying “more time with my folks” and at the same time have “do a year abroad” in another one.
I guess you get the point!
“Should I move to Switzerland”?
I was just placing my order before I turned to my friend and said to him: “So, what was it that you wanted to talk about?”. He was procrastinating. Then he started to speak.
Well, rather complain about how bad his job was and always has been. It was about to get worse, he said. We all have had this experience, at some point I guess.
Well, I got he was frustrated but I wasn’t quite clear what he was expecting from me at this point.
“You know, I really thought about what I could do – and that’s where you come in!”
Na, finally! I looked at him and said: “So, tell me… what is it?”
“I was thinking to move within my company and go to Zurich, Switzerland.” He looked at me, I looked at him.
“So… what do you think, do you think that’s a good idea? I’m not so sure, you know.”
Well, what could I say? He literally said nothing that would help me to judge the situation. But, he was my friend, so obviously I needed to be honest.
“Look, the thing is the following. You have no idea where you wanna be in a few years. Your current job sucks, so you hope a change will help. I just simply can’t say if going to Switzerland is a good idea for you.”
Well, yes if he likes mountains. And expensive drinks.
But he had absolutely no idea what his goal was, where he wanted to be in 3 or 5 years. His idea was just a tactics to escape from this job today, nothing more and nothing less.
It sure as hell was not a plan what he should be doing in the next 1 or 2 years in order to get closer to his long term goal.
That’s like entering an aircraft and asking “Am I right here?” when having no idea where you want to go.
If you are running a business and you don’t know what your long-term goal is, then how can you know what you should be doing (your “to-do’s”) in the upcoming year in order to move towards that goal?
Let’s say you run an online shop and your goal is to increase your profit in the next 3 years from 100.000€ / year to 1 million € / year. That is quite challenging!
Now of course there are multiple ways of doing it, and let’s also keep it simple and reduce the formulae to
# of customers * (selling price – costs) = profit
You have thought a lot and believe that in the first year the full focus should not be on increasing the profit as such, but rather on increasing your e-mail list.
Hence, in the first year you would therefor allocate as much resources as possible to do things which will help you grow your mail-list, even though that might not immediately result in the same increase of profit.
- You could write more content and publish it
- You could run Ads on Social Media
- You could also reach out to other people in your area to get known better
Again, you should have a clear goal here – so let’s say “increase your list size from 2.000 people to 10.000 by end of year”.
That’s the key.
We don’t get our priorities right (a.k.a. “I don’t have time”)
I mostly failed at goals which – bluntly speaking – were never really important to me. Some things sounded simply “cool to do” or even worse, might be something “someone expects” it should be done.
Don’t tell me you never fell for that!
Hell, if you don’t want to run a marathon that is fine! I get it! But becoming fit as such, maybe just losing a few pounds and fat, is a totally different thing.
Kill anything which is not really important to you or your goals.
You will face constant distractions anyway (my favourite is “What’s up, let’s go for a drink?”), so by focusing on important goals you get also your priorities right, especially if you only have a few.
Book your time for that (and I really mean in your calendar!) and simply say “No drink today, but I’d be in tomorrow though”.
We all have the same 24 hours, each and every day. There is no “I don’t have time for something”, the truth is that something is simply not important enough for you.
Time is our most sacred resource. Even all those guys on the rich-list of Forbes do not have more time than you have.
Giving something priority means also to acknowledge that other things do not have a priority (at least right now) for you!
It is also very important that the people around you understand that.
They must start to understand that you are not always jumping and if you say you have something you need to focus on, that’s just what it is!
Don’t get me wrong, I am all about being spontaneous (after all, that’s where the fun is!) and helping people out. It’s just… that cannot be always the immediate reaction.
If you have something important to do and that time – or you’re right at it – then your answer should be simply: “No!”
Yes, I know that learning this is daunting sometimes. But here’s a guide how to do that or at least become better at it.
“Just say no!”
I had a lot of good intentions to work on a small project on the side. I just never really found the time. Somehow there was always “something” coming up.
A friend calls me up. “Hey, what’s up? We’re going for some beers after work, wanna join us?” Well, of course I wanted to join. The next day was a great football game on TV. Oh, and there’s the new movie I wanted to see.
Suddenly the week was gone by and there was literally zero progress on my side project.
Can you relate to that?
In the emotions of those things coming up we’re puzzled, end up saying “yes” because well, we don’t want to be boring and instead feel bad about ourselves afterwards.
I needed to change my mindset about this. I couldn’t say “yes” to everything anymore, if I wanted to progress.
Then I started to be open about it – but quite direct.
Let’s say I had planned on Thursday afternoon to work on my side project. In my case I would have had a calendar entry from let’s say 17:00 to 20:00h.
Now, if a friend calls and asks about hanging out or going to the movies I would simply reply something like:
“Sounds great, thanks for asking. However, I cannot make it this Thursday. I am working on my project.”
That’s basically a pre-scripted answer based on the fact that I had it already scheduled in my calendar.
Maybe in the beginning that is a change for your friends, especially if you are known as usually being the first to jump on the train. Usually after the first few times they start accepting your “new behaviour” and it is even “easier” to say no
Here is your action step:
Sit down and think about the most common “things that come up” and which prevent you of doing something important.
- Might be your friends calling in asking if you want to join for drinks
- It could be co-workers passing by your desks to “just quickly talk about something”
- Maybe it is your spouse asking suddenly for quality time and “watch that great tv sitcom” (which you secretly couldn’t care less about)
Next think about those situations and then script an excuse saying that “No, I cannot do that right now”.
Do it in a polite way, those are people you are dealing constantly with. However, do make sure that you have something important to do which is a priority right now. You can also suggest a different time to do that:
“Sure we can do that, maybe in the afternoon? I have an important task going on which is my absolute priority right now. I hope you understand that.”
Close your eyes and visualize such situations and then use your scripted answer to practices it a bit. You will see with every time you do that and also start to apply it in the future it will get easier and feel more natural to do it.
Note: In certain environments, like at home, you can also “pre-warn” people that you need to focus on something now. “Honey, I will be in the office room to work on something important – I’ll be back in about an hour”.
Technology is great… but it is not going to save you
We all have smartphones, and they can do amazing things. Some of them became totally normal parts of our life.
Need a ride? Uber will help.
Meeting somebody in an area of the city you don’t know? Google maps will guide you (I have no idea how we did that back then without Maps and the possibility to call and say “Hey, I’m here but can’t see ya?!”).
Bored? Just copy and paste the same message to 9 people over WhatsApp and see what happens.
This is freakin’ awesome!
However, as much as those little things and all the other technology we have make our life better, at the same time they are also death to society.
The time spent on the internet and on social media keeps increasing. We have our smartphones everywhere, data plans are virtually limitless these days and we are more connected than ever.
An American on average spends 6,5 hours on the web? Many European countries are in the 5h+ range?
Nobody can tell me this is all quality time and necessary. Out of those 6,5 hours Social Media takes 2 hours alone – that’s an incredible 30,7% (and not even the worst ratio)!
Yes, we all like just “surfing the web” without any goal.
It’s just like with alcohol. It’s great, but too much can hurt.
Even worse, we start immediately when waking up and don’t even reach the peak for going to bed:
I grew up without that, so at least I know how it was back then. However, I was definitely also guilty of over-consumption and meanwhile I have drastically reduced that.
However, a lot of the younger people have never seen a time without the constant social media blizzard.
Simon Sinek did some great talks about that topic – and he loves using Millennials!
See this great 16-minute video for example.
Now, a lot of the stuff he says also applies to all of us.
- How many of us play with our phone when sitting with friends in a bar?
- How many of us have the phone on the table during a meeting constantly staring at it?
- How many of us wake up in the morning and immediately check the smartphone (I still believe the first thing should be coffee, by the way!)?
We use the newest and craziest apps for everything.
Yet we fail to high perform. And technology is often more harming than helping. Yes, we have amazing apps for this and that.
But that is not what will make us productive and achieve our goals. No productivity app or to-do-organizer is necessary for that.
A simple notebook will do the trick just as good.
What we fail to do is something very basic. We cannot focus anymore on one single thing.
There is one thing we need to do, then a WhatsApp message blinks and we need to reply. While we’re at it, there’s something on Instagram or Facebook happening and what the hell is the push-note from the tv news channel about?
Half an hour later we are back to the original task. Ehm… what was that one about again?
E-mail? We get it when it is sent to us and read it immediately. Whenever we are awake – and some are crazy enough to do that while “sleeping”.
You need to understand one thing. It might be cool to say it but… we human beings are not able to multi-task properly.
Oh, and that’s independent of being male or female, just in case you wanted to bring that one up although it’s a fun argument of course!
The American Friends of Tel Aviv University concluded that only about 2% of people are able to effectively multi-task – the rest not only fails but is reducing overall productivity by 40%.
Don’t be one of those „being oh-soo busy“ doing so many things at once and avoide what you should actually do.
The average time required to re-focus when you got distracted is… nearly 25 minutes, as Gloria Mark from the University of California, Irvine found out in her study ” The Cost of Interrupted Work: More Speed and Stress”.
And we all know we are not only getting distracted once. Or twice. Just think about 10 interruptions times 25 minutes – that would be over 4 hours lost a day!
So, understanding technology and using it right is a very crucial part in order to increase your productivity.
Here is your action step:
Start to watch your smartphone behaviour in the next days. Do you consciously realize when you are using it?
Specifically, I want you to pay attention to the following points:
- When is the first time in the day you check your device, when is the last time before you go to bed?
- Do you use, or have the phone ready (that includes the phone being set to anything but silent), when you are interacting with other people – both in your professional and private life?
- When you get some work done – where is your phone located?
- How do you react to received messages and mails, do you read and/or answer immediately?
- Also watch other people, do you recognize the same behaviour?
Make some notes, also about other things you notice about your own smartphone behaviour – we will need that later!
Also, some experts will tell you start checking mail only 3 times a day and set specific times when to be on social media. That is one way of doing it, but we will tackle that a little later when we set up our system.
The only thing I want you do to for know is – aside from watching your behaviour: Take some time slots in the day where you put your smartphone on silent and out of reach for at least one hour.
- Maybe when you have dinner with your family.
- It could be when doing sports
- Or better, when you get some work done!
That’s it for now!
The „Should-do list” problem
Many people have some sort of a To-do list. iDone published interesting statistics in its “The Busy Person’s guide” based on data from its own app and states not-so surprising facts:
- 41% of to-do items were never completed
- 15% of „dones“ started as to-do items
Even worse, the rest are only small to-do’s which could be done within a really short amount of time – like a few minutes, an hour or a day.
Remember the famous book “Getting Things Done”? In a nutshell it says at one point: If it is actionable and takes only a few minutes… THEN SIMPLY DO IT!
Now, that’s part of the reason why I call them “Should-do List”.
Well, because those lists usually just get bigger. But we barely tick anything off.
How do you feel if you look at your own To-Do’s?
Probably bad and even a little guilty, right? Don’t worry, I know the feeling. I even felt like one big failure just thinking about it!
A few years ago when I found myself adding new stuff to the list I said to myself in all honesty:
“Why do I even bother? I know I will never do it”.
That day I ended up not adding it. The item was “Conduct an Advanced Mathematical Course”. It was part of a previous course I did a few years ago, so already “paid for”.
I asked myself the following question:
“Other than that being a great or cool idea, what is the real reason to do this course? What is my benefit?”
There was simply none.
I asked myself another question – which is maybe even more important:
“What happens if I don’t do this course?”
The answer was “nothing”. There was no negative impact on me or my life.
I felt relieved. I did not put additional burden on me, simply because I was honest to myself and acknowledged this doesn’t make any sense for me.
What’s the logical next step?
I went through the entire list, each and every point. I probably killed 90% of that list.
You probably end up finding things that have been on your list for even years. These are the best candidates to get deleted.
This is called “growth by elimination” – delete random stuff in order to focus on the important things that move the needle.
Here is your action step:
Take your own To-Do list (if you have more than one either throw them together or tackle them one after the other) and go through each and every item!
You have to be brutally honest and ask yourself:
do I want to do this point? What is my real benefit if I accomplish it?
- Example: I want to learn basic Spanish because I am going to live and study for half a year in a country that only speaks Spanish. That sounds fair!
is the consequence if I do not do this at all?
- Example: Learn to play the guitar (like I always wanted!). Unless you have to perform somewhere chances are there are no negative consequences.
If you cannot find a real benefit or negative consequence for an item – simply delete it!
Congrats, you should have very small list now – we will use this as a basis for later when we develop the system to accomplish those points!
Note: You can keep a backlog somewhere to not forget “cool ideas.” Just store it somewhere that’s it.
We all want to reach outstanding productivity and reach our goals. Yet in most of the cases we never set ourselves up for success but rather for failure, and it starts right from the beginning.
Our goals are not specific enough, we don’t have a plan, there’s no alignment between short- and long-term goals.
The misery is usually captured in huge to-do lists which give us nothing else than a bad feeling about what we didn’t achieve.
We think that our initial motivation phase will carry us to the goal, but that almost always never happens. In times of constant distractions, we search for fancy apps and tactics to save us.
However, most of the time we don’t use technology not to our advantage and it is even jeopardizing our goals.
Chapter 2 – Understanding the success factors of productivity
Alright, it is good to know where things go wrong – now what about those things that actually help? What do you need to understand to not only achieve some goals but to really high perform and crush it?
Work smarter, not harder
Have you ever heard the advice that “you need to work harder?”
That’s probably one of the most stupid things I’ve ever heard. The times have changed, many things which used to be done by humans have been transferred to machines. Our society, especially in the western hemisphere, more and more shifts to a creative, service-based economy.
A machine might be able to put on a consistent performance even 24 hours a day. I guess we can all agree that no human-being could ever do that?
We are getting tired, having bad days, getting distracted and whatever else there is that influences our behaviour. I have never seen 2 machines going for a beer and leaving work early.
Do you have at least one colleague or friend who is proudly saying that he “only sleeps 5 hours a night” and is such a hero? Or someone who claims he is putting on 12-hour days?
My reaction would be that they are not having their stuff under control and are not efficient.
I have seen colleagues working endless hours, yet not really getting much done.
Well, that’s not a surprise if they are spending more time chatting and drinking coffee (I love that too, but I don’t let that distract myself from getting my job done!).
We need to have a different mindset. If you think that “just” working more and more hours will make you succeed, you are dead wrong.
I believe one of the most important things is to have a different mindset about this.
What matters is that you get a job done and done well – and it doesn’t really matter how or how long it takes.
If you have finished something in half an hour and it’s good – then it’s done. Your performance is not suddenly less valuable just because it didn’t take an entire week.
It’s better to brag about your results and not about 12-hour days!
We already talked about the distractions we phase every day. Working smarter also means working focused on a single task or item at a time.
Writing 1.000 words a day sound to many people impossible. But when all you do for 25 minutes is nothing but writing, without any distractions, you will see how much you actually can write.
Yes, writing is a skill that can be practiced. But even without any you will be surprised how much you can write in a very short amount of time like an hour.
Here is your action step:
Chose something where you did not really progress so far.
Maybe it is writing the latest blog post. Or reading a book. It could be also doing your monthly tax.
Prepare all you need – and then lock yourself into a room without anything you don’t need:
- Put your smartphone on silent and leave it in a different room
- If somebody is in the same building – tell them to not bother you for the next hour
- If you need your computer – then close all browsers, your mail client and chat tools.
Then I want you to put 25 minutes on a timer and start working like there is no tomorrow until that timer rings!
Afterwards, see how much fully focused working did help you in that short amount of time!
Focus on hits and home runs will come
Yes of course we all know the stories how somebody came along and was an instant hit.
How many one-hit wonders in the music history do you know?
Well, chances are none as you probably forgot them already. Instant success does happen from time to time, but it is not the standard.
Instead of always going for the home run a much better way is to focus on the daily wins.
You want to become a millionaire? It’s better to invest 10€ every single day than hoping to win the lottery.
- One in 2.320.000 chance of being killed by lightning
- One in 3.441.325 chance of dying after coming into contact with a venomous animal or plant
- One in 10 million chance of being struck by falling airplane parts
You could be trying to work out something that gives you 10.000 subscribers with one single blog posts that is probably never going to happen. But why not focus on consistently creating content that always attracts a few people to sign up on your mailing list?
Somehow, we all overestimate what we can do in the short run like a day and underestimate what we can achieve in the long run.
Kelly in his book “The long view” is even more drastic:
“Most people overestimate what they can do in a day, and underestimate what they can do in a month. We overestimate what we can do in a year, and underestimate what we can accomplish in a decade.”
Maybe because we tend to have a horribly bad feeling for things like the compounding effect and its impact.
I have a question for you!
Let’s say you currently have an average rate of 100 people visiting your website. Do you think you could increase that by 1%?
That is only 1 more guy! I guess you can do something about that, right?
I know, it doesn’t sound much, and it’s not gonna have an impact.
Well, what about improving by just 1% every single day? You know how much that would be over the course of an entire year?
This is the 1%-rule!
It is absolutely crucial to understand this! It is one of the secrets to high perform not only for one or two days here and there, but on a consistent basis over a long time.
The compounding interest effect
Warren Buffet, maybe the greatest investor of our time, once said that the compounding interest effect is a weapon of mass destruction.
He absolutely is right!
Some people go even as far as saying that if everyone in this world would really understand this, the world would be torn apart. Well, not sure that is ever going to happen.
But: We are talking about an exponential effect.
Let’s have a look at a very simple example from Seekingalpha:
NCIE means non-compounding interest earned, CIE means compounding interest earned – each version with an interest rate of 5% and 6%. The differences are amazing, aren’t they?
Now look at the value of his company, Berkshire Hathaway from the time he took over to 2018:
I think you see where this is going!
This is exactly the reason why we need to change and focus on achieving hits, small daily wins, in order to have huge success in the long run!
Setting goals is a skill, and it requires experience.
So here is one way of how you can get better at it:
Here is your action step:
Take one of your goals and see if the specified end result is actually appropriate if you consider the 1% rule!
You can do that by breaking your goal down over the time period you have defined. So, if you want to increase your profit by 3.000€ over the next 6 months it would mean “only” 500€ more each month.
Now, if you are making already 10.000€ a month that is only an increase by 0,05%, neglecting any compounding effects.
Then think the other way around. Could you maybe improve just by double the amount? Or even more? Do you have any past experience that you can use and estimate a better number?
Try to play a bit with the numbers to arrive at a better target for your long-term goal!
Think big and even bigger
There are many concepts flying around everywhere. Every second expert has “the one” thing that solves it all.
It’s just sometimes I stumble across a theory that really catches me.
Ever heard of the “Pareto principle”, also often called the “80/20 rule”?
In very short words he found out that the majority of your results will be mainly driven by only a few factors, or in other words:
80% of your results are achieved with only 20% of the inputs.
This also means something else! What about the other side? The remaining 20% are using 80% of the input! Just think about it! The last 20% of your success require by far the most input!
A task taking 10 hours was already at 80% after just 2 hours of work – then you fiddle for 8 more hours around to get from 80 to 100%.
Now, of course the relation is not always 80/20! It can be more or less, but the main principle stays the same!
A few examples?
- Neil Patel, genius online marketer, creates massive amounts of content every day. He outlined that out of his total 4.784 blog bosts the top 250 pages make up 64.49% of his traffic. The top 500 pages make up 72.96% of the traffic. And the top 1000 pages make up 80.99% of the traffic.
- Microsoft reported that 80% of the Windows crashes resulted from 20% of the entire pool of errors detected
- A study in New Zealand and published in “Nature Human Behaviour” showed that 81% of the crimes come from 22% of its group.
Richard Koch’s “The 80/20 principle” is one of my favourite books about this topic!
Do we always have to be “perfect”? Isn’t good sometimes also good enough? Is it worth investing the remaining 80% of inputs to get a little more success?
I am a big football fan (for our Anglo-American friends: this is what you call soccer!) and my favourite team usually plays twice a week in various competitions. While they can play amazing games, most of the time and because the season is so long they manage their performance.
Sometimes they only have a strong 15-20 minutes and otherwise they just make sure they don’t get in trouble.
They fully understand that winning 2-0 is not really different than winning 5-0 – both results will bring you 3 points.
So why waste your power when you have another game in 3 days coming up?
It’s not always great for the fan – but perfectly understandable from a team’s perspective.
You can guess what I want you to understand, right?
Whatever goals you have defined, chances are quite high that with less-than-thought input – be it time or money – you can already achieve the majority of the goal.
However, this requires that we actually understand what those “things” are! This might not always be straight-forward, often requires trial-and-error approaches.
But it will be worth the effort!
Suddenly thinking bigger in terms of what you can do makes even more sense, right?
David Schwartz makes another great point in his book “The Magic of Thinking Big”:
“Think little goals and expect little achievements. Think big goals and win big success.”
Yet for some reason he points out that we have weird tendency to overestimate everybody else and to underestimate ourselves.
These self-limiting beliefs can be a huge mental barrier in having huge success – because right from the start you set yourself up to believe that you are not able to really achieve it!
Guess what will happen?
Here is your action step:
Let us look a bit more into the 80/20 principle. I want you to choose something that you did do in the past – like completing an article, or maybe you run a blog for your business etc.
Now have a look at the metrics! What is your criteria for it being successfully? Is it words written and reviewed? Is it visitors per month?
Next you want to break it down and figure out what are the factors that cause the success. Which is or are the factors that are giving you the majority of the success!
What is your “Pareto-ratio”?
Your words become your mentality
„Hey, John – here is something important that needs to be done by today – can you please take care of it?” – “Ahm, sure… I will try!”
What? You will try?
Our mind is a beautiful thing. Now we tend to think in pictures rather than words. If I talk about problems, you have a scene of defeat on your mind. Sad people. Frustrated bosses.
If you tell me you will “try” it basically tells me that it is not that important, you won’t put in your best effort. Just “trying” it will not result in great quality.
Now if you tell me: “Sure, I’ll do it – just tell me what it is?” you give me a different picture! I see somebody eager to jump-start and confident to go about it.
Words can be not only incredible powerful – but also a great way to trick your and anyone else’s mind.
What you need to do is starting to watch your language.
Use a positive, confident language in whatever you are saying.
- Instead of going on stage and saying “I would like to tell you something about marketing” better say “I am going to tell you something about marketing”
- Instead of “maybe this could work out” say “this sounds like a great approach”
- Instead of replying “I’m okay” say “I am feeling super today”
There is plenty of research supporting the positive effects of using positive thinking and language. Take this study published in the Psychological Bulletin where researchers concluded that happiness makes you successful rather than success makes you happy.
Marshall Goldsmith, who was (probably still is, if you count him active) maybe the best executive coach in the world, had a very interesting game with his clients who were typically CEOs of big companies.
He wanted them to stop using words like “no, but, however”. Once they were aware of their words they still were using them – because it was their habit.
He fined them a few dollars each time they were using those words. And it drove them crazy. They earned millions of dollars each year, yet absolutely hated the thought of “losing” money in this game. Here is a short video where he explains this approach:
Isn’t that remarkable?
The words we use influence our behaviour and also the ones around you. Imagine you are out for drinks. What happens if one of your friends, who just had a great day, comes and joins is just having a ball?
Suddenly you all feel better, just because of him.
Now what would happen if your friend hat a super shitty day at work and is only bitching around how bad everything is. That could easily kill the mood of the entire night!
The same is true in everyday we are doing. The more positive language, even in tough situations, we use the better it is.
Here is your action step:
Start to watch your language in the next days!
Make a list of words you are using often, but which are rather negative. You could also ask friends and colleagues if they notice anything that you help in your language!
Also see when you are using them. Are you answering questions? Are you talking to somebody and driving the talk?
Now, after some days sit down and think for each of those words how you can use different, more positive language instead. You could even replay some situations in your head.
Then, slowly start with a few words in practice. See if you and others notice a difference in your perception.
It is important to focus on results. Small wins every single day are way more worth in the long run thanks to the compounding effect than hoping to strike a home run once in a while. This is the basis for consistent high performance.
You also need to understand the driving factors of whatever it is you are going to accomplish. The 80/20 rule states that only very few factors drive the biggest part of success and it’s important to focus on them first.
Also, changing your language can have a huge positive boost not only for yourself, but also for the people around you.
Chapter 3 – Your daily habits: How to always be super productive… & still have enough free time
There is no way to achieve high performance and not stumble across the topic of habits. They are so wired in us and can cause big damage to our behaviour. But if you know some more details about them you will see how easy it is to change them and use them to your advantage.
Why are habits important and how we can change them
Habits are things you do without even thinking about them, sometimes without even realizing them.
Like breathing for example. We do it always, and don’t realize it at all (unless there is something weird of course, like we ran 5 floors up and are completely out of breath!).
There are many others. When the alarm goes off you hit snooze. When you go to the bathroom in the morning, you brush your teeth. When you go to the toilet, you wash your hands (I hope).
There’s not much thinking involved at all, and that’s called a habit.
„Your life today is essentially the sum of your habits”, says best-selling author James Clear.
There are multiple ways to create and learn new habits, one is described in this article taken from James’ excerpt of his book “Atomic Habits”.
I was really bad to make appointments at my hairdresser’s. I mean, super bad.
Typically, I wanted to keep a 4-5 week cycle, and the closer I got to the feeling “I really should go now” the less likely I was going to call.
Well, once I did call (“Can I come tomorrow?”) my preferred time slots were of course gone.
Then I did something very simple. Whenever I was at the reception desk to pay (trigger) I also immediately arranged a new appointment in about 4-5 weeks where I had basically free choice.
I noted it in my Outlook calendar and that’s it.
Sure sometimes it happened that I had to postpone it because something else came up, but since I know my normal daily routine that happened maybe 1-2 times out of 10.
The first few times I needed to really remember myself to not forget to immediately look for a new appointment while still at my hairdresser’s. But after that it became a sub-conscious part of my routine.
Sometimes it is that easy.
Anything that is wired into your brain runs by itself.
Research revealed that only 5% of your daily activities are actually consciously driven – which means the real show is run by your sub-conscious part of your brain.
Robin Sharma described a great way how to influence your sub-conscious part by creating a dream collage in this video (at 3m 50s):
The key is: Sub-consciousness works in pictures.
He suggests you build a dream collage and look at it first thing in the morning and last thing in the evening and literally burn this in your head.
Your performance will also follow, because now it is aligned to your sub-consciousness!
Here is your action step:
Think about your own dream collage. Visualize your own goals and how your end result would be!
Do you want to become a C-level board member in your company? Or launch your own business, with your own people and office? Do you want to become super fit? Are you dreaming of being able to buy a new car with your success?
There are many options – and it is absolutely fine to be really “dreamy” about it! That is where you should be going.
Then create your dream collage. Print pictures from the internet or cut out some from newspapers. Write some key words on there.
Hang it somewhere where you can see it late in the day and early in the morning!
The cornerstones of your daily routine
„You need 8 hours of sleep!“ – or so they say! I am sure have heard this before, right?
The thing is, while maybe it is not necessary to plan out the entire day to the minute (after all, we also want to be spontaneous sometimes) it does make sense to define a few corner stones.
You can setup up yourself for success if you just change some things in your life.
Let’s re-engineer this a bit!
What we really want is the following: find the optimal time when you are fit and rested, at the top of your creativity.
Some people might do their best work early in the morning, some late in the night.
That’s fine! You just need to be aware of that.
I have completely switched to being an early-bird, I usually get up at 05:00am to start my day.
First of all, yes sleep is definitely important. I have tracked my sleeping behaviour for quite some time and based all I know my optimal duration is just about 7 hours.
So when I want to get up at 5:00am I have my bed time at 10:30pm at the latest – and an alarm for it! Isn’t it strange that we have an alarm to wake-up but none to tell us “go to bed, now!”
I try to avoid using my smartphone or tablet in the evening, but especially in the hour before bed time. The main reason is that screen’s blue light harms melatonin – which is exactly hormone responsible for controlling your sleep-wake cycle.
It is incredible how much better I am falling asleep just because of this change.
Also, I don’t use my smartphone before I have completed my sessions in the morning, there’s no need for that.
I just get up, make some coffee (I am heavily addicted!), shower and then start immediately working on whatever my schedule tells me to do. That might be writing, researching or even reading.
Most successful people follow a similar approach, ever heard about the 5am club? There is even a quite popular book of the same name by Robin Sharma.
While I find it – let’s say emotionally very tough to read (it’s a bit over-spiritually written) the key message is clear:
In the early morning, well rested and full of power you literally have superpowers at your service.
Don’t waste them on social media or watching cat-videos.
Use them with purpose to work on your most important things!
Well, there is more to my morning routine, but that would be another Ultimate Guide!
Most of the time we know when we work – so somewhere “during the day”. In the future you should also start using the Pomodoro-concept and schedule it in your calendar.
Ramit Sethi is very right when he says:
„If it’s not on my calendar, it doesn’t exist.”
Ideally, aim for 2 full cycles – that is 4 hours.
You will be amazed what you can do in that time!
„But I am not a morning person”
Been there, done that. Maybe it is an age thing as well, but I was far from being a morning person. I stayed awake until very late, had maybe about 6 hours or less of sleep and naturally was super tired in the mornings.
I sort of was the definition of “I am not a morning person.”
I didn’t see a way I could ever wake up at 7am every morning, let alone earlier.
Then the summer 2015 came along. The Chicago Blackhawks (that’s an American hockey time in the NHL, for those who don’t know – for whatever reason) started the NHL Play-offs as the top favourite contender ready to go for 3rd title since 2010.
I wanted to see the games live. Only problem: That was around 2am European time, sometimes 3am.
So, I changed my entire day plan, went to bed by 8pm and got up by 2am. From April to June.
People thought I am crazy (I don’t get the point). Aside of an awesome run by the Hawks to eventually with the Cup in June I surprisingly enough learned something else!
When the alarm rang I jumped energized out of my bed. Because I was happy to see the game, it was all in my head. It was the last thing I thought about in the evening and of course also the first in the morning.
I loved the fresh air of the early mornings (okay, in that case night). The silence. The complete peace of this world.
Well, I never looked back at kept getting up early. This clearly shows – it is possible, but you need a reason for, something that you can look forward. Something that you know you will be doing once awake. It might be to workout (did that) or simply use it as your time to be creative.
also have other cornerstones scheduled? There are two more which I believe are
First of all, when you eat. Many people skip breakfast, lunch and just eat in-between some sort of junk. Take our time, plan ahead!
Depending where you work there’s always options like prepare your meals ahead or simply cook at home in 15 minutes. That’s not rocket science.
This is not a nutrition guide, but make sure you know what you are eating. Prefer self-prepared food to restaurants, it is not only cheaper but also way more healthy.
Combine your nutrition with your workouts. It doesn’t matter if you’re going to the gym, running or playing tennis. It’s just, you don’t wanna eat heavy and then go for a 10km run. But what you want is have enough protein when lifting weights!
Doing some form of sports is absolutely essential – I am sure you can find something that fits you. I get it that for some gym is a nightmare while other drop dead when just thinking about running endlessly around.
Here is your action step:
Define your key cornerstones of your life:
Very important are the following:
- When do you plan to go to bed and when to wake up? Set alarms for both!
- What is the first thing you are doing in the morning? Take an hour for that!
- When do you want to get your most important, creative work done?
- When do you eat what? Schedule time in your calendar!
- Also schedule your workouts for the week in your calendar – independent if you are doing this in mornings or evenings!
Start slowly, don’t change all at once.
What does make sense is to change those things which go together – like getting up and what you do first thing in the morning!
How to work less, but laser-focused and super productive
You need to have an environment in which you can actually work focused.
In my gym I see half of the people doing one set and then chat for 15 minutes. Doesn’t look like being productive to me.
I just work out, I wear headphones (which typically is less inviting for others to talk to me) and simply focus on my workout plan.
The same you must do in your office (wherever that is) – especially if you are working from home!
There is this flood of information and distractions every second rolling in – from “just checking mails” you find yourself half an hour on Facebook and suddenly texting around via WhatsApp.
This is a catastrophe.
It may sound cool, but again – the truth is we humans are NOT multi-tasking capable!
Here are a few simple tips how you can do that:
- Close all unnecessary applications (especially your internet browser, mail-client and chat programs) and if needed use tools like “StayFocusd” for Google Chrome to ban distracting sites like Facebook, Instagram & Co.
- Turn your mobile in silent mode and put in another room. Yes, the (social media) world will be still standing an hour or tow later.
- Pick on task only to work on (actually – you should have planned ahead and just do whatever your calendar says). Let us assume you write a blog post – and now you want to spend an hour writing. Then do just that! No research, no editing, no looking for images. Just write!
Another very great method to focus is the Pomodoro technique. This is a time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo.
Now stay with me, I know what you are thinking!
It essentially boils down to “do only one thing at a time” and the following steps:
- Decide which task to do
- Set the Pomodoro timer to 25 minutes (well, any timer will do – just buy a cheap one and don’t user your smartphone!)
- Work on the task until the timer rings… do nothing else!
- After the timer rings put a checkmark on a piece of paper
- If you have fewer than four checkmarks, take a short break (3–5 minutes), then go back to step 2.
- After four Pomodoro’s, take a longer break (at least 15–30 minutes), reset your checkmark count to zero, then go to step 1.
So, not to over-engineer (there’s entire books about this, but essentially that’s it) – but 1 hour = 2 Pomodoro’s with 5 minute breaks and don’t do more than 4 in a row, which is one full Pomodoro cycle.
A very simple but effective technique as that and even half a Pomodoro cycle can create miracles!
I know in the beginning this can be very difficult.
Do the first step, start with only one Pomodoro (so 25 minutes). Increase the number of Pomodoro’s when you are ready for it. This is only a matter of practice.
Already 25 of laser-focused minutes of work can do miracles!
Chapter 4 – Design your productivity system to crush your big dream goals in life
Everything you have learned before is important to understand.
However, there is one big thing missing that brings all together and ties it up with your ultimate DreamGoals!
Yes, those goals which you cannot reach overnight, but secretly always dream about.
The big goals, like
- taking your own company to 7-figures in revenue
- achieving the promotion you always wanted to have.
- or finally launching your own book
The one thing missing is a strategy on how to reach those goals.
That is why I have created my own strategic high-performance system that brings everything together:
- The understanding of what makes us fail (Chapter 1) ….
- … and what makes us lazer-focused (Chapter 2)
- How to establish your daily routine to be consistently outperforming and productive (Chapter 3)
This is why I have come up with the 5Z-System!
Introducing: The 5Z-System
It basically involves the following steps:
- Define your dream goals for each area in your life
- Break your dream goals down into mid- and short term (e.g., one-year ) goals
- Plan for implementation and work in 3-month-challenges
- Continuously monitor your success and review your goals
Let’s dive right into it!
The 5Z-System – your life areas
Well, hold on. Did I just say “each area in your life”?
You might ask: “What is this about?”
Successful people understand one thing: They need to focus on their ultimate goals and make sure that whatever they are doing is actually contributing to that specific goal.
They make sure they are not getting distracted with random stuff.
The reason is – we all have only 24 hours a day (remember?).
Essentially, they ensure they assign their most sacred resource to the most important tasks they have.
Here is the problem: We often focus only on business or career goals, and neglect anything else. This is dangerous because those things – as important or unimportant they may be – also take our time.
That is way I have identified the 5 major areas of your life:
- Private Wealth
- My, Myself & I
- Love, Sex & Relationships
- Social Environment
Wait a moment!
So what does that mean now?
Here’s a simple example:
Let’s say you want to spend a lot of time to grow your business, which naturally means you need to work on that.
You also want to spend enough time with your family and friends.
Oh, and of course you want to travel a lot to improve your language skill from high-school.
See the problem?
You can pretend to “do” all of this in parallel, when the reality is you are not going to manage this and some of these things will suffer.
Yes, each of those things may be important for itself (meaning, its area) – but compared to each other you need to decide what is more important.
Here is a short description of the 5 areas:
So far, I have not seen any potential goal that did not somehow fit in one of those areas. What is important that if you really have a goal – in whatever area of your life that might be – you need to be aware of it and start planning for it.
Also, there might be goals you can combine – let’s say you want to work on your golf handicap and a very good friend is also golfing…. Here you go! There are areas in which it’s way easier to find such combinations, in other less.
This may mean even deferring something – like extensive traveling – to a later year, if it is not important enough right now.
Here’s an important thing: Of course you don’t need to cover and plan for all of these areas.
Let’s just say in your head you’re thinking “that guy is crazy” – no problem! Just focus on one or two areas – let’s say it is “Business”. What you can do is to simply assign a time amount for it, like 50 hours a week.
The other 118 hours you… just use for whatever comes next into your head. That’s perfectly fine! There is no need to be perfect (or crazy), it is just important to understand the consequences. Just don’t expect miraculously appearing results!
In this case of course you would only have to actively plan for exactly one area only.
It’s just for me… I’m for sure not gonna let my golf handicap go down the drain!
Define your dream goals… and plan for them
Do you still have your dream collage that you created in Chapter 2?
Yes? Well, that is great because this is exactly what we need now!
You have created this collage without knowing what else I was going to tell you in this guide. Let’s try to bring some more structure into this!
Herea are the first 2 steps I want you to do with your collage:
- First, take each of your items from your collage – and define that DreamGoal as S.M.A.R.T. as possible!
- Then assign each of those into one of the areas of the 5Z-System
Just take any sheet of paper or open a new document on your computer.
Make sure you end up with very few DreamGoals per area. Possibly some of the goals actually contribute to one bigger DreamGoal – then take this one.
You can also use this worksheet:
Let’s look at this together.
How many DreamGoals do you have in each category? Are they well-balanced? Most importantly, do those goals really matter to you and represent a real, long-term dream you want to achieve?
If not, you need to get back to the drawing board until you are happy with the results.
Don’t forget, it is your dream we are talking about – so time spent here is well invested. Sleep over it, look at the goals again with some perspective. These goals will define your entire strategy, and that’s nothing you want to change every few weeks.
There will come a point when you know: Yes, those are my DreamGoals!
Many people struggle to say when they want to achieve a particular DreamGoal. Maybe in 3 years? Mabye in 5?
Honestly, it doesn’t matter too much. First of all, rarely ever do those kinds of long-term plans work out to the specific moment.
What is more important is that you have a clear goal and can judge if everything you are doing in the short term is contributing to that goal.
Let us take a classical “life goal” – run a marathon!
Well, we know by know we need to be more precise. Do you just want to “survive” or have a specific time in mind?
The DreamGoal could therefore be:
- Run a marathon in under 3:45 hours in spring of 2023 – let us assign it to the are “Me, Myself & I”
That is a time which is really quite ambitious, especially considering you did not finish a single marathon to date. That is definitely a goal you will not achieve by accident.
Let’s say you are a person who does some sports. So probably right now you’d have a difficult time to run 10km in under an hour.
Basically that would mean you need about 6 minutes for 1.000 meters.
But you would need to be at about 5:20 minutes per kilometre. For nearly 4 hours straight.
How does that look like for you? Do you think there’s a good chance to achieve this overnight? Given that there is work, family and friends?
Well, probably not. So how could you tackle this and plan for it?
First, think of intermediate goals.
- Let’s say that goal is to finish a marathon in 4:15h minutes in the fall of 2021.
Great. But because we don’t want to plan for such a long time let us also define 1-year goal.
- Run a half-marathon in under 2 hours.
Suddenly, we have goals we can work towards. Do you notice that the 1-year goals do not even consider anything with a marathon?
Simply because it would be frustrating and even unrealistic. There’s no point to “finish” in over 6 hours the 41.195m of a marathon.
This is the most important part – break your DreamGoal down in intermediate goals!
This is your new guide – your StrategyMap!
However, also 1 year is quite long time!
In the next chapter we will look at how you can the actual execution trivial.
Here is your action step:
Define for yourself which areas in your life you want to setup for success!
For those areas you have chosen, create your Strategy Map:
- Define your DreamGoals.
- Next, you break each DreamGoal down into a mid-term goal and a 1-year goal.
Whatever you have written down – let it rest for a couple of days and then get back to it. Look at it again, adjust if necessary.
This is a process that takes time until you are clear. Remember, that is your Strategy and nothing you want to change every other week for the next 3 years!
Plan for execution
Execution needs to be trivial. How can you achieve that?
Break the goal down. You should never find yourself in front of one big thing which contains multiple actions.
You probably know the feeling when you feel so overwhelmed that – even thought there’s tons of things to do – you don’t really know what is the concrete, next step.
Have you ever felt paralyzed by such a situation?
This must stop now!
Noah Kagan is quite a character and entrepreneur. He was employee #30 at Facebook, #4 at Mint, and worked at Intel.
And he got fired by Mark Zuckerberg. Something he describes a 100 million dollar lesson.
Besides some other stuff that is also worth reading, one particular thing stood out for me and which Noah explained in an interview with Ramit Sethi.
In the early days of Facebook, Zuckerberg was focusing on user growth more than anything else. You could come to his desk with a great idea.
Mark would ask only: “Will it help Facebook grow?”. If the answer was no, then he didn’t care.
Why? Because at this stage of the company that was all that mattered to Zuckerberg. Not revenue increase or Ads. That was his focus.
And this simple question helped Mark to clarify whether or not to do something.
He knew he needed to aggressively grow first before he could really use this massive amounts of user to make big money with other things like advertising.
Sometimes it is that easy. You need to know the one thing, the one goal you need to do right now.
That’s the real lesson Noah made back then, and we all know how the Facebook saga continued, right?
I absolutely agree with Noah – even a 1-year goal is actually quite a long time.
So here is how we get around that. We take that 1-year goal of running a marathon in under 2 hours and break it even further down into 3-month long junks.
What do you need to do in the first 3 months?
Maybe first you need to really ramp up your basic fitness, change your dietary and workout plans – again, use the S.M.A.R.T. approach!
Whatever it is, take it and make it your first 3-month challenge. Be more drastic and actually plan for each day of the upcoming week what you need to do!
Schedule your workouts, meal-preps or training routine research in your calendar and exactly know what you need to do on a daily basis.
Don’t just come up with “go running 3 times a week”.
While you should have basically only one overall goal, there can be of course multiple actions be part of your 3-month-challenge.
So to recap:
- Plan for your 1-year goal in 3-month-challenges.
- Each challenge contains multiple sprints – but not too many. Less is more!
- Plan each sprint in advance and on a daily basis – put those actions in your calendar!
Here’s a reminder – we all need our breaks. There is no point in having a fully loaded schedule from dawn until dusk.
Or in other words: If you plan for your business – absolutely do block off your weekends and free time! Give yourself (and your loved times) quality time.
There may be one small exception though – your weekly review.
I want you to each week take 30 minutes to review your most recent week and plan the upcoming.
- Did you stick to your schedule?
- Did you accomplish your tasks as planned?
If you didn’t, why not? What you can you change to improve? How can you catch-up?
There are 2 possibilities to do that – either right at the end of a work-week, or somewhere during Sundays before the new one starts. Just by all means, do not start Monday morning without knowing how your performance was last week and what you are going to do right now!
Oh and, by now I should not mention to put those 30 minutes of weekly review in your calendar as well?
Review your success… and repeat
How many of you are taking the time to just sit down and look back how things went, other than “didn’t reach my goal”?
Right. I figured that one.
Part of the problem is we made some sort of big goal ages ago, and somehow (well, now you do know why!) nothing really had happened, and you are still right at the start.
If you are reading this chapter here you have accomplished several things:
- You have defined your DreamGoals
- You have created your Strategy Map which breaks your DreamGoals down into mid-term goals and 1-year goals
- You have broken down your 1-year goal into 3-month-challenges
- You have taken the current 3-month challenge and mapped your actions out on a weekly basis
That is quite some plan you did!
We already said that between each week there should be a review session to see if your plan did work out or if you need to correct something.
Well, there is no difference on higher flying altitude!
You also need to review your 3-month challenges, your 1-one-year goal and of course … are you making your way to your DreamGoal?
Here is a short overview!
You can easily see the idea – whenever you have completed a cycle, you review it and relate it to your superior goal.
After you have completed a 3-month challenge you should ask yourself the following 2 questions:
- Did you achieve the goal of your 3-month challenge?
- Did it contribute to achieving my 1-year goal?
After 1 year is over, you do exactly the same:
- Did you achieve your 1-year goal?
- Did it contribute to achieving your mid-term goal?
Whenever you see that you cannot answer both questions with a clear “YES!” you have to re-assess why and more importantly, what you need to change!
It can happen that you managed to achieve your 3-month challenge just as planned. However, you may realize that your assumption it will contribute to your 1-year goal did not work out.
That’s not a problem. You do know now and not after ages of working on something that ended up not being as important as you may have thought initially.
If you fail, fail fast – and then figure out how the correct!
Here is your action step:
Take your time to setup your review sessions into your calendar! Make them recurrent, like every Friday afternoon for your weekly session.
There is no problem if let’s say that particular week Friday is a public holiday or you are on vacation. Then you simple, for that particular instance you can decide to do it one day earlier or skip it for once.
Here is what you need to schedule:
- Weekly Review (take either the last working day after you’ve finished or Sunday’s) – 30 minutes, this includes also looking at the upcoming week!
- Quarterly Review – this is a good candidate to schedule for the last Friday every 3 months – take at least 90 minutes! This also includes planning your next 3-month challenge.
- Yearly Review – take a full 3 hours, minimum! This is very big. What I like is to schedule it shortly after the Christmas break, because it is usually extremely quiet and thus a perfect time to take a good look back!
I do also recommend to schedule a separate appointment to plan the next year. Simply because it is way too much for a single instance!
Once you have done this, you don’t need to worry about this for the future – it’s already in your schedule!
Chapter 5 – Some final words
Becoming a super productive person is nothing that is a miracle. The basics are easy, but hard to do if you listen to conventional advice.
There are certain things you cannot change. Humans are lazy and easy to distract, but there is always a particular system and way how to ensure you become nearly effortlessly productive.
The most successful people on earth do not have any supergenes – they just understand how to ensure to be laser focused on their goals.
I have shown you both sides – why we fail in achieving our goals and what makes us succeed.
Why it is so important to have clear goals – your DreamGoals – defined in visualized so you can follow them.
I have described how you must focus and eliminate any kind of destructions while you are on your way to work on your goals
You have been introduced to the 5Z-System, which gives you a comprehensive system to achieve any goal you want by breaking your DreamGoals down into very small, digestible pieces.
Now it is time for you to live the 5Z-System!
Let me know your stories – I am curious. What are your DreamGoals? How are you making sure you are focused on achieving them? Or did you already have a success story? Then share it with me or simply comment below!
Also, if you find this guide helpful then please share it with other people!