I’ve been on a great run the last few weeks. I hit and exceeded my goals, and as the weeks progressed so did the likelihood of me doing so. Success breeds success and the best thing is I could see it all happening. Let me tell you how.
Recently, I've been asked by a few people how I balance my workload. I work full-time at a fast growing venture backed startup and have a successfully growing coaching practice (I've just opened a waitlist for coaching this fall if you are interested). There are undoubtedly people who are busier, achieve more and in far more difficult circumstances. However, I'm proud of what I'm able to do and the impact I create with my time.
Time is a finite resource. Our satisfaction and results are heavily dependent on using it wisely. I have a system, here it is.
Underpinning everything, it's critical you start with the strongest possible reason - your why. If the reason you are trying to achieve something isn't grounded at the intersection of reality and the core of your being - most (if not all) of your efforts will be in vain. It's also not easy, it took me until I was 35 and a lot of false starts to truly connect with the reason I exist. However, it's worth the effort.
Once you know what you want and why, you can start developing the system to get you there.
My operating system for personal performance has a few elements:
- Setting focus areas, performance levels, and cadence targets
- Tracking trends and scoring weeks and calibrate performance
- An analog system to ensure tracking and reflection
Setting focus areas, performance levels, and cadences
I hate to break this to you, but you’re unlikely to become the best in the world at everything, especially at the same time. You are going to have to find some areas to focus. For most, I believe that setting four specific focus areas to work on provides a good balance. Four allows you to have different channels of activity, think holistically and consistently deliver over a sustained period of time.
A focus area is a defined element of your life where you want to ensure the best possible results. You might choose to focus on something health-related, or business or maybe spiritual. The key is to have a defined aspect of your life where you can take steps to maximize and improve your positive outcomes.
For example, let’s say I choose to set a focus area of growing my business. This is a solid focus area. Why? Because there are things I can do to affect it and if I do those things there is a high likelihood of results.
Coupled with each focus area should also be a performance metric. This the desired input (action) you are going to take in each area. It’s important that we focus on the input and not the results, as I will show below. This is about what you do each day.
This metric is stated as a performance level. Here I’m looking for the things I’m going to do in service of growing my business. The performance level should collocate with the degree of specificity in the focus area. In this case, there are a number of things that could be done, so I might choose to set a broad performance level like “dedicate two hours each day to business development”. However, if you had a much more narrow focus area your performance level might be much more specific.
The essential element is that the performance level is something you have control over and will contribute toward success in your focus area.
Finally, we need to establish the desired cadence. This is the number of days in a week we need want to reach (or exceed) the performance goal. When setting this it can be tempting to swing for the fences and set everything as a daily goal. However, that’s not always the best approach. We want to ensure that everything we do is sustainable. For example, eating well is great - but having a target of 6 days each week of eating healthy gives you some space to let of steam.
In total our 3 elements look like this:
- A focus area,
- a performance level,
- and, a cadence.
Tracking trends and scoring weeks and calibrate performance
When I'm tracking progress towards my goals I want to look for overall trends in my progress. A bad day isn't great, but it's not the end of the world. A bad week is more of a problem - but correctable if you identify it and change course.
Overall, a solid and consistent trend will out-perform a series of highs and lows. Everything about my tracking mechanism is designed to produce consistent positive long-term trends. We do this both in the way we set goals - goals that can be achieved time and time again (even with increasing challenge levels) and with the way that we track them.
As you see below we want to score each week across our focus areas. Scoring weekly matches a natural rhythm in many elements of our lives.
An analog system to ensure tracking and reflection
I run a modified version of a bullet journal, you can read about that process here. Let’s focus on what I do on the first page of each month.
The first step is to create a grid of day in the month running left to right. Mark the Monday of each week and add vertical lines to break up by week. Next, add 4 rows under the weeks. Label each row with your goal.
Under the grid create two areas. On the left add details for each goal - the definition of what will mark that goal as achieved, and the weekly target for the goal (e.g. "no sugar 4 days a week"). On the right-hand side create a row for each week with a space to enter your score.
Using the grid
Depending on your preference you can score your days at either the beginning or end. When you do so mark the latest set of results. Now, look at the weekly goals. Are you on track? Have you pre-paid the good diet days for your friend’s birthday dinner? If everything is looking great, give yourself a pat on the back. If not, make a special effort during your next cycle to get back on track.
At the end of each week look at your grid overall and score your overall performance. How well did you do on achieving each goal? Aim for an overall percentage rating.
At the end of each month look at your targets and try to see how well you are doing? If you have 3 or 4 week’s with scores over 85% consider leveling up your goals to the next challenge level. If you are consistently missing your goals (on a weekly basis), lower them to a slightly more realistic level. When you are consistently achieving them the goals can be raised back to the higher level. We want to crush our goals, not be crushed by them. You gain more from reaching a realistic stretch goal that you do from failing to reach a more ambitious target.
I’ve grown into this system after a lot of experimentation. For me, the key elements are the adaptability of the goals and way the focus easy moves from daily to weekly and monthly.
What I enjoy most about using this system is having a signal on my performance at a daily, weekly and months basis. This gives me the ability to course correct when I notice things slipping and re-enforces all the positive emotion when I’m doing the right things. Additionally, the scope of adaptation is limitless. Just find the areas that are important to you, set standards you want to reach and keep checking in.
As a reward to making it this far down the post, I want to make an offer to you. If you would like help setting a focus area or performance level I’m offering everyone 15 mins of my time one-on-one to help you. As a performance coach, I’m experienced in helping people discover their goals and design plans of action to get there. I’m sure in 15 mins we’ll get you on the path to kick ass.
Go get em'