This is a confession. I’ve let my ADHD mind take control of me. I go from spikes of productivity to accomplishing absolutely nothing for hours on end. Whether I fill my time with programming or choose to browse Reddit, Techmeme, HackerNews, ProductHunt, Business Insider, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or anything else, I find something to do. My confession is that I’ve let these time-fillers win out over my productivity.
Even programming the iPhone application that I’ve been building for the past couple months has partially been unproductive. Rather than reaching out to customers and trying to get them invested in the product, I’ve just been jamming away (although that changed this weekend). This has been semi-effective because I now have a product I can show to potential customers. However I probably could have just mocked it up using software (like Flinto, etc) and then shown it to the customers.
Obviously I could have spent my time doing nothing, so it’s hard to be overly critical, but it dawned on me: you need to schedule success. If our lives are the outcome of our decisions, why not be slightly more methodical with our decisions? For myself I’m now setting out on a restructured path. So what does that path involve?
The pinnacle of my system is life goals. Whether it’s having a family, building a business, getting a six pack, traveling the world, or just spending time with friends, you need to have an idea of what you want. Whether you write your goals on a piece of paper, or end up with a more creative vision board, your goals need to be written down.
Now that I have my goals written down and have literally hung them on my wall (or taped in this case), I now need to figure out how I get there. This involves picking tangible steps that you can definitively mark as completed along the way. Trying to get a six pack? You’ll probably need to lose some weight. So pick a series of weight-goals that you can reach. Want to build a business? You are going to need some customers so set a milestone of having a functional prototype you can show to those potential customers.
This phase often involves research. How you build a prototype of your future mobile application isn’t easy. Will you need photoshop? How about applications that enable you to demonstrate your product without coding? What actions are necessary to move you forward to each of your listed milestones? You can say you want a six pack, but doesn’t this require more than just doing some sit-ups each day? After you know the tasks you need, it’s time to schedule those activities.
How obsessive you are with scheduling varies from person to person. You could get detailed and say “I’m working on my blog from this time to this other” or you could say “Sign up for mailchimp”. The latter tends to be more to-do list worthy. I’d break the tasks out on your to-do list, but subsequently schedule time to work on that section of your to-do list.
Obviously, an extremely organized schedule can be demotivating for a lot of people. I’m not claiming to have all the answers but adding some flexibility in can definitely help.
Each week, it’s time for reflection. During this phase I allocate time to see how I’m doing on each of my objectives. While I probably won’t be much closer to my goals from one week to the next, this enables me to make any small modifications necessary to my system.
You may be thinking, “Duh, this is obvious Nick!” Well actually, it isn’t. I built AllFacebook to 1.4 million monthly readers by being focused on a single thing: writing blog posts. Every day I needed between 5 and 10 blog posts. However here are all the things I wasn’t focused on:
- Tons more… When I suddenly got an idea, I’d start cranking it out with no plan whatsoever. This resulted in a lot of half-finished projects. While focused attention is necessary to success, there needs to be time allocated to strategy and planning. There also needs to be time for reflection to see if the strategies you are implementing work and if not, adjusting those strategies.
I’ve worked at (and have competed against) other companies where strategies are implemented and executed. Those companies tend to outperform all others. I’ve also worked at companies with the exact opposite: no strategy whatsoever, just shoot from the hip. In the short-term, this can actually work really well. In the long-term, it doesn’t.
This time around I’m being more methodical with my planning and subsequently scheduling success. I’ll let you know how it turns out! Are you an obsessive scheduler, or do you prefer not to plan? Let me know in the comments!