We're doing the Ultraworking Pentathlon again, from 7 January to 22 January.
The first Pentathlon was a really big success. We've incorporated feedback and the next one is going to even better.
The Big Idea
The big idea is very simple: there's hundreds of "known best practices" and 1% edges in the world that most people aren't doing them. There's also dozens to hundreds of little techniques, tricks, and advantages you can stack up to make your life run better.
Successful people take as many of those advantages as possible.
But it can be hard, because they're so radically different. For instance, we know that when someone has a concrete measurable standard for a goal, it becomes easier to stay with that goal. We know that accountability, momentum, and friendly competition all tend to drive higher performance -- but how to go about setting those up?
The Ultraworking Pentathlon rolls somewhere between 30 and 50 of these 1% edges together, all designed to make you maximally productive for 16 days straight. The goal is to have that time be incredibly productive, but also for it to generate momentum and best practices that carry over after the Pentathlon -- into the rest of January and February, and indeed, learn to permanent lessons and new skills you take with you forever.
The Pentathlon is structured as a competition.
All participants get scored on five areas -- Sleep/Wake Targets (consistent bedtime and waketime), planning the day before starting work (either the night before or at the start of the day), nutrition, fitness, and doing your most important work (which is scored twice, for both consistency and volume).
You get to set your own targets for all the items, including what your most important work is -- we give a number of broad guidelines, recommendations, and help choosing sustainable targets, but you get to choose what's important to you in each of these areas at the start of the competition.
The "Most Important Work" is the category that most people benefit the most from -- it's scored twice, for both consistency and volume. In that category, you get 100 points for doing just 10 minutes of your most important work each day. You also get 1 point per minute spent on your most important work, up to 100 minutes total. Since oftentimes people procrastinate on what's most important to them, it's very cool to know that putting in just 10 minutes gets you half of the value on the scoreboard, and it takes under 2 hours of doing what's most important to you -- and remember, you defined the target for yourself -- to get a full score.
The other items -- bedtime/waketime, planning, nutrition, fitness -- are all scored once, 100 points each, and thus you can score a maximum of 600 points per day.
The whole Pentathlon is structured like a competition -- but a friendly competition, like a marathon. You're racing against yourself primarily.
Visual indicators of progress and competitive aspects are very helpful.
The first Pentathlon we hacked together the tech with a mix of Google Spreadsheets, APIs, Zapier, and a lot of random services. Since then, we've improved everything and coded up much of our own tech.
This time will be even smoother than last time, but to get an idea of what things looked like last time, here's the macro scoreboard --
Here's a participant on the first day of the competition with a perfect score for that day --
Here's a mostly good score, missing nutrition for the day and only getting in 10 minutes towards most important work --
You can see how (1) this is incredibly lightweight and easy to update (takes under a minute each day, literally) and how this motivates you to make incremental progress and hold the line against bad habits.
The team aspects are very helpful.
Everyone is sorted into a team -- you can see the team names in the original scoreboard, we used the names of NASA Missions for each team name -- Apollo, Mercury, Voyager, Galileo, etc.
We set up alerts and reminders so that you get both a text message and an email at the start of the day to update your score, a reminder if you miss entering your score, and a victory congratulations when you complete the day.
You additionally get a text message when your first teammate completes their first item of the day, and when your first teammate gets a perfect score for that day.
That feeling that you're not in it alone was highly motivating to people. We gave the option to turn the text message reminders off in case they got annoying, but it was really pleasing to us to see that 95% of people chose to get those texts throughout the competition. We chose the frequency carefully, set blackout hours so you wouldn't get them before you went to bed or woke up, and then we looked to make the reminder texts a mix of funny jokes and good quotes.
You're scored both individually and as a team.
We all know that mutual accountability goes a long way to staying on top of one's goals, and it's built right into the Pentathlon. Interestingly, the winner of Pentathlon I was the only person with a perfect score, but her team didn't win the whole competition -- it was a European-timezone team that was incredibly consistent (one Spaniard and two Germans) where no one on the team put up lower than a half-perfect score each day that eventually won the whole competition.
If you sign up with a friend or with someone else at your company, we're happy to sort you into the same team so you can stay on top of what your friends/allies are doing.
The individual aspects are firmly within your control, and you can get a perfect score by yourself.
We also saw some of the teams bond and actual lead to permanent friendships (!) -- some of the teams that thrived are ones where the members got together and helped each other stay accountable, met sometimes, and so on. This is entirely optional, but was a really cool emergent effect from the first Pentathlon.
The team aspects help people really stay on top of their game.
We'll have three live "Work Cycles" training sessions, each Saturday (7 Jan, 14 Jan, and 21 Jan) at 12PM Eastern Time (9AM Pacific). People love these -- we actually teach you how to make consistent reliable progress on your Most Important Work, and lead guided sessions in real time for them.
These trainings are consistently rated highly: in the past we've charged $140 each to attend a Work Cycles training for four hours, and they've always gotten rave reviews and many people coming repeatedly.
We ran a single Work Cycles training to start the Pentathlon last year, and the single biggest request we got was for more of those trainings.
On the training, we actually sit down with spreadsheets and work in 30-minute blocks, broken down by milestone, and troubleshooting and re-centering every 30 minutes.
You can bring studies if you're a student, programming to do if you're a programmer, marketing and business development if you're an entrepreneur, writing if you're a writer, or whatever else is most important to you. The above image is what it looks like in real time.
During Work Cycles, you fill out a very lightweight spreadsheet to plan each block of work you do, and then debrief at the end of it --
Kai and I are on-hand during Cycles to give feedback if you get stuck or are not sure of where you're going to go next. It's a great way to get more skilled at doing important work, and to produce a heck of a lot in the process.
We've given these trainings paid for $140/each, and we've presented them at top universities. Work Cycles gets rave reviews every single time -- it's basically guaranteed maximum productivity.
The first Work Cycles training on Saturday 7 January is mandatory; the others are optional at your pleasure.
If you're thinking of signing up, we ask you to come to the first one -- we want to show you the basic mechanics of the Pentathlon, and ensure you've gotten training on how to make sure you "don't get stuck" for your most important work.
I'd love for you to join us on the next Pentathlon.
There's a few other bonuses -- there will be a free optional Annual Debrief and Planning Session between Christmas and New Year's for people who want to overview 2016 in detail and make some plans for 2017, and there's a couple other cool bonuses, but the crux of the Pentathlon is the mix of excellent lightweight technology, friendly competition aspects, and live training sessions.
The price for the Pentathlon is $300; earlybirds who reserve now will receive $100 off.
If you want to read more information about the Pentathlon, you can check it out here:
It'll be a great way to ring in 2017 with perfect habits, a great community around you, and three powerful trainings where you'll get your most important work done in real-time with guidance and feedback.
I'd love to have you join and compete -- here's to making 2017 the best year of our lives yet!
Boom! It's 2017. Oh my goodness, 2016 was the best year of my life by far. Knock on wood, everything is working. It's working marvelously, even.
One of my very few regrets is that I'm doing less ad hoc writing. I published 52 essays at The Strategic Review in 2016, the first half of which got edited into the book Progression; the second half will be in the upcoming Machina (rough guess on ETA: February).
TSR roughly doubled in size, all through word of mouth. (Thank you.) But I didn't blog as much as I used to, and I used to have a lot of fun doing this.
I've also learned a lot about making things happen in the last year, that I think might be useful to you. I'm going to be blogging a little more in 2017.
So without further ado, here's two things that have been huge for me.
Growing up in the area around Houston, TX, I developed a love of sports. Whether it be football or basketball (sorry, Astros), I love my sports teams to death. Side note, the Texans need to get their shit together.
As a self-acclaimed math nerd, I enjoy - well - math. With the Moneyball era and my love for Daryl Morey and Nate Silver, I asked why not try to make my own sports statistics analysis.
So, that's exactly what I did over the last year. I created my own model as a result of a school project. I was pleased with the overall result, though I don't know if it's gone through enough rigorous standards to be considered formal research.
There are also multiple flaws and areas of improvement that I will hopefully address in the future, but I would like to give a brief overview on my findings.
My whole philosophy is that basketball is a team sport. I felt as if too much importance is placed on an individual player in current mathematical basketball analysis. I was more interested in how a team plays together. This is tricky because teams are always changing and the same five players don't play with each other all the time. As a result, I used the six players with the most minutes to represent each team.