Stop Wasting Time And Figure Out What To Do Next
There's a lot of things that you can do. There's only a small number of things that you should do.
Figuring out which is which is hard. I've found it hard. I remain jealous of people who seem to just know what is best for their progression along whatever path it is that they've chosen and then act upon it with little hesitation. Elon Musk springs to mind.
I've come to realise recently that it's actually the 'chosen path' part that has been eluding me. I've always tried to decide what I should do without really understanding what I was doing it for. Or being able to evaluate how my options might impact the end result.
I think it's impossible to decide whether or not an action will have a net positive or negative impact on your life if you aren't sure how to frame 'positive' and 'negative'. It's even harder to measure how 'positive' or 'negative' an action might be when you have nothing to measure against.
How do you know the impact of each step you take if you don't even know your ultimate destination?
So, I've spent a bit of time thinking about it and this is the process I've come up with:
- Figure out what my Ultimate Aim is. The end result, irrespective of how I get there.
- Set myself time limited goals which are tangible, measured steps towards the Ultimate Aim.
- Make decisions by determining the likelihood of them helping me to achieve my current goals.
The Ultimate Aim
This is probably the hardest bit. Figuring out what life is going to look like in the future feels illogical to me given that there are so many variables which might come into play. But I understand now that we need a target to run towards even if we can't see what might be in our way - we can manoeuvre as we go.
I've recently read/listened to Unscripted by MJ Demarco (recommended). In this book he discusses the need to establish a hierarchy of your personal 'values' against which you can compare your actions and progress. This is essentially what I'm after, however at the time of reading the book I did what I think most people: read the author telling the reader to take a specific action which will help them and promptly ignore it because there might be something coming up next which doesn't require any effort.
So now is the time to actually do it. Here's my list of values which are most representative of the life that I'd like to end up with:
- Problem solving
You don't really need to understand what these mean to me, but it's important that you understand what your values means to you. Maybe try to have at least one example in your mind which epitomises each of them.
Time Limited Goals
Now that we have a good understanding of our destination, we need to choose a path. We don't need to plot the entire journey, just a few steps which will set us off in the right direction. We don't know what obstacles will be coming our way so we shouldn't plan too far ahead - we have the rest of our lives to plan out the rest of our lives.
It's important to ensure that these goals are measurable so that we can track our progress. It's also important that there is a strong relationship between the expected outcome of reaching the goals and your Ultimate Aim.
I will be using the cliché yet effective S.M.A.R.T system for setting my goals. I won't waste your time by discussing it here, just use it and then as a bonus you can tell everyone that you're PRINCE2 qualified 👌 .
So, here's my goals for the remainder of 2018:
- Present 5 talks at meetups or conferences.
- Write at least one blog post per week (25 left for this year).
- Invoice £70k of active income.
- Save and invest to increase net worth to £X (not quite ready to publish this yet, but stay tuned if you're interested).
- Earn £100 passive income (gotta start somewhere).
- Launch 2 products which have the potential to generate passive income.
- Go on a holiday somewhere (not done this in a very long time).
Each of these things are achievable steps along a path which I believe can lead to my Ultimate Aim. If I manage to complete all of them within the remainder of 2018 I'll be moving in the right direction. And there's no reason why I shouldn't be able to mange them, other than my own inaction.
A quick note on accountability: if you write these goals in a notebook and then never look at them again, they may as well not exist, they won't get done. Put them on a big piece of paper and stick it somewhere that you'll see first thing in the morning and last thing at night. Add some little progress bars for you to fill in too. For bonus points ask someone else to check in on your progress regularly and ask you about your progress.
You can find my goals and associated progress at the bottom of every page on this site. Feel free to drop me a message to ask how I'm getting on, or slag me off for not trying hard enough. My goals are also written on my home-office's wall so I have to look at them multiple times per day (it's a whiteboard wall so I won't get shouted at).
Honestly this post has ended up a fair amount longer than I expected, but we've done most of the hard work now. All that's left is to keep your goals in mind whenever you need to make a decision. When faced with uncertainty ask yourself: "How likely is this action to help me progress with any of my goals and by how much?". There's a little uncertainty here because we can't be sure of exactly how much of an impact any action might have, however we should have a pretty good idea because our goals are things that relate directly to our core drives.
This also gives us the ability to judge our choices against each other in a much more logical way. Now we only need to compare them against our current goals - rather than what we might have done previously: create a comprehensive pros and cons list which probably won't help us decide anyway because the pros and cons aren't directly linked to our Ultimate Aim.
The only step left is to actually start doing. And believe me it's a lot easier when you're clear on what you want to achieve. If you've spent a while in passive mode, not making any real decisions and letting life decide for you, I'd recommend reading You'll Probably Forget All Of Your Best Ideas. The process there keeps me overloaded with potential ideas to pursue, I just don't have enough time to do them all myself!
Let me know if any of these ideas help you out.