Today, I'm turning my usual approach on its head.
What I normally do is test out different tools, systems and ideas in my own business and life and then report here (in articles and videos) what worked and didn't work for me.
Today, I'm inviting you to join me in my role of being a guinea pig for a new idea. I'm sharing a simple tool that I've developed to make me more productive in 2018, so you can start using it as well, right away.
As you'll see, it's perfectly suited for the start of a new year, which is why I wanted to give you the opportunity to join me in a year-long experiment.
Challenges, Focus Skills, Books
If you're a long time reader, you know that developing my personal skills, mindset and ability to focus are at the core of everything I do as an entrepreneur. The best way to succeed in business is to become an extraordinarily focused, gritty and highly skilled individual. And the surest way to fail is to focus on everything but your personal skills.
I already have many systems to track my habits, skill development etc. and for 2018 I'm adding a new tool. Specifically, my goal is to have a clean way to track 3 important aspects of my personal development: challenges, focus skills and books.
The best way to succeed in business is to become an extraordinarily focused, gritty and highly skilled individual. And the surest way to fail is to focus on EVERYTHING BUT those personal skills.
The most common example of a challenge is a 30-day challenge. A challenge is committing to doing (or not doing) something every day, for a pre-determined amount of time. I like using this approach because it's a great way to build your skills in short bursts and it can help you solidify good habits. Examples of challenges:
- Spend 1 hour writing copy every day, for 30 days.
- Reach out to 5 individuals for potential collaborations, partnerships, guest posting,... every day for 30 days.
- Don't visit your #1 online distraction site (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Reddit,...) for 30 days.
- Record and publish one video every day, for 30 days.
What's important is that you clearly define the time frame (30 days is good, but feel free to use longer or shorter periods) and that you pick something you have 100% control over. For example, it's up to you to reach out to 5 people every day, but it's not up to you whether any of them will agree to a guest post, podcast appearance or whatever you ask them for. Track the action you take, not the outcome you're hoping for.
A focus skill is a skill you decide to work on, that doesn't fit the parameters of a challenge. You can think of a focus skill as a reminder to yourself. While challenges are specific things you do every day, a focus skill is a reminder to do something you do anyway, but in a slightly different way. Examples of focus skills:
- Delegation work: focus on handing off repetitive tasks instead of doing them yourself.
- Writing hooks: in whatever writing you do (blog posts, emails, copy), focus on developing a strong hook.
- Distraction free, mindful work: spend as much of your working time as possible being fully focused and not giving in to the urge to check your phone or seek other distractions.
For each focus skill, try to define a clear goal, so that you know when you're "done" and can start a new focus skill. For example, for distraction free work, a goal could be to get to the point where your average deep work session lasts 90 minutes or longer.
For me personally, books have offered the greatest return on investment, both for time and money spent on them. It's hard to imagine what my life would be like without books, but I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be an entrepreneur. And I'd probably be miserable, too. I read books anyway, but I want to have a clearer view of what I'm reading and how long it takes me to finish the books I read. If you don't already have a reading habit, maybe tracking books you read will help as well.
How to Use the Spreadsheet
If you haven't done so yet, click here to open a read-only view of the tracking tool. It will open in Google Drive/Google Docs. If you use Google Drive, you can create an editable copy of the spreadsheet by creating a copy:
Alternatively, you can download the spreadsheet by using the "Downlad as..." function, further down in the same drop-down.
Next, simply set a reminder to check in and update the spreadsheet once a week. This will work best if you do it at the same time, on the same day of the week, every week.
To a Successful 2018!
I hope you'll be joining me in trying out this tool to keep track of some of the bigger picture actions you take in 2018. I wish you a successful and gratifying 2018 and if this simple tracking tool can contribute a little bit to that, it's done its job.
All the best,
P.S.: there's a follow-up to this post. A year after publishing this post about my experiment, I created a follow-up on how it went. Check it out here to see the surprising ways in which this experiment both failed and succeeded.