A few weeks ago, I was stressed out.
I wasn’t making enough money at work.
I also wasn’t doing much about it.
I wasn’t writing as much as I wanted to, and wasn’t doing much about that either.
Things needed to change – but how? Here’s what I did, and what worked.
Step 1 – Use Data To Test Assumptions
It wasn’t until I reached a moment where I just completely broke down – yes, tears, crying, self doubt, the works – that I realized I had to make some changes. The first thing I did was look at my day – what did it look like, what was I doing, what was I actually accomplishing, and where could I make some tweaks.
I actually spent a few days charting out on my calendar exactly what I was doing on an hour-by-hour basis. The scariest realization is that I was letting my assumptions about myself and my work paralyze me from actually doing the work necessary to get out of the slump.
I would be at work and justify an extra long lunch, because I needed “time to think”. I’d stay later because if I worked longer hours, something was bound to happen to help get me out of this slump, right?
Assumptions are one of the worst things when you’re trying to reach your goals. Imagine for a second your life on assumptions. “Yeah, I’m healthy.” “I definitely make enough money.” “I could totally raise $25k on Kickstarter!”
Yes, some of those are rather personal examples.
The first thing to do if you’re going to make changes is to base those changes on actual data. Just like the oft-recommended debt snowball, where you actually need to go into your financial records to see which debts have the highest monthly minimums, and which have the highest interest rates, and prioritize accordingly. We need to do the same with our health, our finances, and our time. This is a requisite paradigm shift that is essential for your success.
Step 2 – Trade Ineffective for Effective Hours
My charting revealed that I was not accomplishing much at work, and I was extremely ineffective in the evenings after my kids were in bed. I’d basically sit in bed with my wife watching shows till she fell asleep, and then stay up an extra 2 to 3 hours watching even more tv shows. This was obviously the biggest chunk of wasted time in my day, and so I targeted that first.
I decided to test what would happen if I traded 2 hours at night for 2 hours in the morning. This meant going to sleep by about 10:30, and waking up closer to 6 am. Rather than doing it the next morning, I eased into it over a week or so, gradually waking up earlier and earlier so it would have a better chance of sticking.
Monday I woke up at 7:30, Tuesday closer to 7, Wednesday a little before 7, and so on. I use the Sleep Cycle App which gives me a 30 minute window to wake up in, and it will gradually wake you up based on your sleep cycles. By the end of the week, I was comfortably waking up between 6 and 6:30 am.
What this meant, for me, was that I now had an extra hour to two hours to be effective. I could go to the gym, write, journal, meditate, read – the list is probably endless. But what should you do once you create more time for yourself?
Step 3 – Focusing On One Metric
Noah Kagan is a big proponent on picking one metric that determines whether you are progressing or digressing. You can have a different metric for each aspect of your life – business, finances, spirituality, health, etc – but you need to narrow it down to one. First of all, we have to have something to measure, but having too many things means we’re not as focused and we’re impeding our progress.
For me, I set a metric of body fat % for my health, word count for my writing, and clients for my business. Here’s what that looks like:
Optimizing Your Health
I’ve never felt like weight was a proper metric for measuring health. I could weigh 160 pounds and look overweight, or 185 pounds and the most muscular and massive I’ve ever been. That number doesn’t represent health at all. When you compare that number with height, it starts to get a little better, but the best way to measure your health is with body fat.
No matter what your height, your gender, your race, whatever, there are generally accepted ranges for healthy body fat percentages.
So when I started The 4-Hour Body a few years ago (summer of 2012), I set a goal of moving from 21% body fat to 15% body fat. Rather than just losing 14 pounds, what actually happened was a combination of fat loss and muscle gain. In just a few months I did about 20 pounds in body recomposition, and have felt great ever since. The important thing was having a metric. I could very easily add in something to my workout, or experiment with my diet, and if that body fat metric fluctuated at all, I could then decide to keep doing or stop doing that thing.
If you want to optimize your health, pick one metric, measure against it, and only keep doing the things that get you closer to your goal.
Optimizing Your Writing
It’s rather hard to quantify if your writing is “good”. You could measure views on your blog or sales of your book, but those numbers can be manipulated and affected by external forces other than the actual content.
My goal wasn’t views or dollars either. This blog isn’t meant to make me money, but rather to (hopefully) help others who have similar questions to my own. The easiest way for me to measure that was to measure my output. As long as I wrote a certain amount every day, I would feel good about my writing. Maybe it wasn’t the greatest written piece ever, but it’s not very realistic to have that happen consistently day after day.
Using the Commit App from Nathan Barry, I’m able to not only track whether I wrote a certain number of words per day (my goal is 1000), but also keep a streak going. After a few days of writing, you get motivated to keep raising the number of total days you’ve met your goal.
This is easy for me to quantify, as it’s a simple yes or no. The next step for me is to start testing the growth of the blog. The question I have now is do I test page views? Visitors? Bounce rate? Subscribers? It will likely be the last one, as someone taking action by signing up for the email list is a great way to measure not only the value of your content, but have an actual number showing the growth of your blog.
Hey, look at that. I just decided. Next stop: 1000 subscribers! (you can signup in the sidebar or the bottom of the page if you haven’t yet).
One Metric To Optimize Your Business
The real goal for our business is growth, but growth can come in many forms. More employees, more revenue, more profit, more clients. While back in my mind I have goals to grow Telekinesis Entertainment to a multi-million dollar a year business, that’s not going to come overnight, and it’s not going to come without an actual game plan to get there.
I looked over the data from the last few years of being in business, and found that our average client is worth $10,000 per year, which, while $10k is a big number, that’s not super high when you’re talking about a per-year basis. However, if I were to add one new client per month then that would mean $120,000 in new business every year… so maybe this is a good metric.
Just two weeks ago I set the goal to add not just a new client for the month of September, but a new client every day until September. I ultimately want to get to the point where I’m adding new clients to the business every day consistently, but until I can focus on that task full time, meaning that my day doesn’t also need to include time to do work for those clients, then it will be more difficult to do so.
So what happened? This was the 10X Rule in full effect. I set my sights high, and increased my actions accordingly. I went through contact by contact, email by email, and business card by business card until each day I found someone that I could talk to about doing work for them. The result? I added 7 clients in 6 days to our company. Now, that doesn’t translate to money in the bank immediately, but if the numbers stay true, that week of work will result in about $60,000 worth of work in the next 12 months.
It’s a great metric, as it’s easy to track – “yes” I did add a new client today, or “no” I didn’t – and the results are all positive. You could even use the Commit app to track this…which I’m setting up – – – now.
Sure, it will present us with new problems down the road, like hiring employees, expanding our office to accommodate more bodies, etc, but it’s worth it. It’s the kind of growth we need in order to provide for our families and have the business we want to be running.
So what is one thing you want to improve in your life? Then, what is 1 metric that represents success or failure in reaching that goal? Track it, test the things you do to try and reach that goal, and continually try new things. That’s the process of optimization, and it’s the best way I currently know how to not only get out of a slump, but drastically move closer to reaching your goals.