Got an email from a reader who has about 30 goals. They're all good. But he's wondering how he can do them all. My reply:
So, your goal - anyone's goal - is basically to get the most success you can as quickly as you can in the way most suitable/enjoyable to you, right?
I ask because that's pretty obvious, you probably want to do that. But you've got a lot of goals, and some of them are quite big and significant.
What I've found is trying to change 10 things at once - and have big changes that'll take years to complete - is not the the best way to get the most success as quickly as possible in the most suitable/enjoyable way.
Rather, I look to have a 70% success rate on a weekly basis. So I set some goals each week and try to execute on them. If I succeed above 70% (do everything perfectly) I add something new or increase difficulty the next week.
If I fall short - only doing 1 out of 5 that week - I scale back to what's most important, and try to succeed at 70% the next week.
I've found trying to improve 30 things at once is a great formula for falling off a cliff and getting nothing done.
70% success rate. So pick, like, 2-5 things. Set some objectives with them. Try to succeed at 3-4 out of 5 in a given week. If you're succeeding higher than that, increase difficulty or add more, especially once your goals are stable/habitual/almost-automatic.
If you're below that, SUBTRACT SOME STUFF AND FOCUS ON THE MOST IMPORTANT.
I don't know, maybe other people work differently, but I think 70% is a good number. It means you're always stretching and not too comfortable, but you're also succeeding more often than failing. It's been the best rough spot I've seen for a mix of constant improvement and motivation. 100% success rate can lead to complacency or setting goals too low, get too far below 50% and it hoses motivation.
So yeah. You want to wake up at a set time, do a morning routine, etc? Aim for 70%. If you're hitting a 0% success rate, then scale back to something easier.
Paradoxically, it actually takes more discipline to do this, to really drill down and focus on something and actually do it, instead of having a big list of stuff you're not actually doing.
Try it out. Aim for 70%. Adjust accordingly after you play with it, everyone's ideal targets will probably be a little different.
I am a freelance writer/editor who is more motivated by client projects than personal projects. This behavior is frustrating because the primary purpose of my freelance lifestyle is to explore my own ideas and hopefully create something unique and useful to the world. I suspect that my struggle is at least partly founded on an inability to find/create a goal system that is motivational, measurable, and yet flexible. Your 70% idea seems feasible and worth a try. Thanks for sharing.
Ok, we live in a very interesting and fascinating time right now. A lot of things are happening now because we are entering the New Golden Age. People from higher realms have told us that nothing is impossible and we have nothing to be afraid of. Well, we just have to believe that...
...So if you have many goals that you want to acchieve, break them into small piesces and make them come true one by one. I use to think like Plato. When there seems to be too much that one can do, do one thing at a time. Start with one thing and then go to the next step. Step by step and eventually you´ll get there.
70%, eh? My knee jerk reaction to this was to say "too low". I've typically targeted 90%. But as I stop and reflect I think 70% is actually a reasonable target.
A former employer used 90% as a project management execution target. The presumption was that if you are executing 100% on your projects you are sandbagging your estimates and being risk averse. I think that's fair, and clearly that influenced my targeting.
Obviously personal development is not corporate project management. Succeeding at 70% definitely has better psychological overtones than failing at 90%. I'll try that for my next measured/managed target.
"A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that worked. A complex system designed from scratch never works and cannot be patched up to make it work. You have to start over, beginning with a working simple system." -John Gall
I built a pretty good daily tracking template, and I evolved it over time. It's serving me pretty well now. I'd like to show you the evolution.
Version 0 - I realized that tracking my time would be a good thing. I started writing down just one or two things per day.
Here's what my first day of tracking looked like:
26 May - Success
I was talking to a friend who seemed to be independently rediscovering what he called self-referential motivation: motivating yourself to do something mostly based on the idea that doing it will strengthen your future ability to do things, and not doing it would weaken it, and the long-term effects from getting better at getting yourself to do things far outweigh the short-term difficulty of doing the thing. Then he asked me, "Didn't you write about that on the Beeminder blog? Is that the same idea?"
Here's the blog post he was talking about: Spiraling Into Control
Yes, it's the same idea, and it's not my idea, either. It's basically this guy George Ainsley's idea, who was the guy who discovered that pigeons (and other illogical animals like humans) follow hyperbolic discounting curves where short-term rewards matter exponentially more than long-term rewards, and that's usually why we are bad at making decisions, and you can hack this by choosing categorically based on what your choice will mean for future choices like it, and that basically that's all that willpower is: making internal rules which we can use to prioritize long-term desires over short-term ones.
The converse to that is that our short-term desires can also try to bend those internal rules so they can get what they want. These are called excuses, or rationalization, and the more we relent to them, the more likely we are in the future to give into similar excuses in similar situations.
So if you want to improve your willpower, your productivity, your reliability in your word to yourself, your ability to achieve your goals, your grit, whatever–you can do worse than to practice sticking to your own rules and achieving your goals. The practice of doing that is more important than the initial goals, actually. Success spirals is the technique of choosing easy initial goals and then gradually making them harder as you build up your trust in yourself to always succeed in your goal. If you always succeed and you never fail, then you can always make it a little harder, until you're doing very hard things and still always succeeding. There's more on this in the post above or in my book, but that's basically it, and it's the most useful motivation technique. Find ways to always do what you said you would do, at least in the categories where you are working on always succeeding. (You can't apply it to everything, as evidenced by my email inbox, but you can apply it to certain classes of goals that really matter.)