Setting goals is the easy part; doing the work to accomplish those goals is what many find challenging. The article below shares valuable tips in staying consistent and productive, which will ultimately help in achieving those goals. CK
Article written by Ayodeji Awosika originally appeared in The Ladders on February 16, 2020.
Anytime you set a goal for yourself, it’s as good as done. You have permanent motivation. You’ve worked on your craft, hobby, or business for so long that you barely remember being a novice at all.
You’re on go-mode and autopilot at all times. While everyone else gets tired, you keep going.
I started writing five years ago. About 90% of the aspiring writers I knew back then have quit, totally burned themselves out, and are out of the game forever.
If you go to my blog feed, you’ll often see a daily article or two. If you visit my social media channels, you’ll see daily stories, videos, pieces of content, constantly.
I don’t tell other writers how fast and polished I’m able to write because it would piss them off.
How did I get this way?
How did I transform into a productive person when, in my past, I was so lazy that I’d stay in the house smoking weed for days at a time without leaving?
Are there secrets, magic tricks, or tips you can learn?
The best I can do is tell you how I did it, how you can possibly do it, and what might happen if you follow through with the advice.
Before I talk about the process leading up to my seemingly high level of productivity, let’s start with this counterintuitive fact.
I Don’t Consider Myself Productive At All
Not in the traditional sense at least.
I don’t often work super long days. Usually, my brain craps out anywhere from four to six hours into the day.
When I look at the actual activities I do each day, they don’t seem like a ton:
- Write 1–2 blog posts
- Shoot 1 video
- Post a handful of Tweets, Instagram, and Snapchat posts
These are the core creative tasks I do almost every day.
If I actually don’t work that much, why does it seem like I’m so prolific and productive?
I’ve mastered the ability to produce something tangible consistently. The keyword here is produced. See, most writers, content creators, aspiring business owners, whatever, twiddle their thumbs too much. They think too much.
Me, I ship my work.
I do essentially the same thing every day. I don’t get cute. I use this famous Bruce Lee quote as inspiration:
I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.
To me, quantity leads to quality. I put my work out there consistently, without worrying too much about perfection, and repeat the process.
What do most people do? They think, worry, tweak, fret, anything but producing something.
If you master the ability to do the tasks that move the needle consistently, you’ll appear to be wildly productive because the root of productivity is the outcome itself. You’ll also get addicted to it. Productivity is all about creating an upward spiral and avoiding downward spirals. That’s it.
Many other people work harder than me. They work longer hours than me. But they tweak and plan. I move the product out the door.
That’s the key. And it’s all based on this attitude.
Stop Giving So Much of a You Know What
My two biggest strengths appear to be weaknesses:
- I’m absent-minded and disorganized
- I’m naive and gullible
I don’t suffer from perfectionism. The fact that I’m a bit of the absent-minded professor type means I don’t fret about making mistakes all that often. I’m also naive.
When I started writing, I didn’t know I sucked. I was naive enough to think things would work out.
You’re too smart. Your skepticism is getting the best of you.
Delusion, combined with action, can be a great ally.
Once you find something you think you might be good at, you should start working on it with reckless abandon:
- Publish your crappy blog posts
- Send half-baked and ill-thought-out pitches to clients
- Shoot shoddy videos
If you look at the first few videos on my YouTube channel, the quality is awful. But, who cares? I’m practicing, getting better, learning on the fly.
I don’t have the perfect remedy to perfectionism other than to say it’s kind of dumb to be a perfectionist.
Why do you care what other people think so much?
Why this weird perverse need to be perfect?
When you attempt to produce those outcomes that move the needle as I talked about above, one of two things will happen:
What won’t happen is every person simultaneously turning their gaze toward you to laugh at you. You know this won’t happen, but it’s this imaginary fear that keeps you shackled.
I’ve noticed the biggest obstacle to success for most people — they just can’t get over themselves and get out of their own way.
Nobody cares about you. Nobody believes in your dreams. You’re not important.
This shouldn’t disappoint you. This should liberate you.
How to Build an Upward Spiral of Productivity
Ok, we’ve covered the philosophical stuff, but what about the practical?
How do you become truly productive and consistent if you have no idea where to start?
The process goes like this:
- Discover your talents and strengths. Follow the advice in this article to the letter. I wrote a 4,000-word guide on the process, which I turned into a chapter of my new book. People will cry and whine that they can’t find their strengths but then they won’t go and do the exercises. If you went through the exhaustive process I give, you’d have a starting point. Whether or not you will is on you.
- Pick a lane to stick with for 90 days, including one daily action that moves the needle. For writers, it’s writing something every day. YouTubers, shooting videos. If you’re doing something more complicated like starting an e-commerce shop, it’d be something like taking one key step each day. Day 1 research products. Days 2–7 continue research. Day 8 sign up for Shopify etc.
- If you were to do a task that moved the needle for 90 days straight, you’d have a pretty good idea if it seemed promising. Most people just won’t do this. I can give you all sorts of angles on getting started and following through, but the short answer is just freakin’ do it
After this phase, move to this next level of thinking.
Use This Definitive Timeline and “Turn Pro”
I became truly consistent with writing when I committed to being serious about it long-term. Specifically, I gave myself three to five years to pull it off.
For those of you looking for the specific numbers, there they are.
“But I can’t work on something that consistently.”
BS. You’ve done it before.
How long is college? 4 years.
Many people work in either the same job or industry for 3 to 5 years.
Why is it that people can stay consistent when it comes to these traditional tasks but not their dreams?
Simple. People look at their dreams with rose-colored glasses. As Steven Pressfield says in his book Turning Pro, amateurs treat their craft like a hobby. Pros treat it like a business. Just like you wouldn’t randomly skip going to your job for no reason, you shouldn’t skip working on your craft, project, or side gig for no reason.
If you want your dream to make you money, it’s, by definition, a business. What business would you expect to take less than three to five years to become really successful? None. So why treat your life path any other way?
Because you’re already tired.
Because life, work, and the school system have beat most of your creativity and energy out of you. Having to take on another job on top of the one you already have seems like a lot, doesn’t it?
To whom much is given, much shall be required.
Treat your dream like work and set moderate intervals to work on it. I built my writing career 1–2 hours at a time before I went to my day job. That’s it. That’s all it took.
Do this long enough, and you’ll reach the level of extreme productivity I promised with the headline of the article.
The “Winner Effect”
One of two things can happen when you start to get a little bit of success. Either you get satiated, or you realize that you’re just scratching the surface. Winning in one avenue means you can win in others. You expand. You gain energy.
I grew my YouTube channel from zero to 2,000+ subscribers in six months. I had no experience with YouTube, but working on my writing for five years burned the idea in my brain — five years with YouTube = success.
I feel the same way when I post Instagram videos that get 64 views — 5 years. When I schedule out Tweets — five years.
Once you’ve reached a bit of a crescendo in one area, you understand what the future holds and you no longer have to worry about it.
Why do you think serial entrepreneurs exist?
After spending a decade building a business and selling it for millions, you’d think you’d be done, right? No. It’s not about the money. It’s about the game, the process, the challenge of being consistent and mastering yourself.
I watched an interview with Tom Brady where he talked about the game getting easier as he got older. He said something along the lines of “Why would I quit now when I know all the answers to the test?” 6 super bowl rings and still playing with the hunger of a rookie. Some people get high from winning. I do. You might and probably will if you keep going.
In Tom’s case, his body will inevitably betray him. But for us? Creators? Dream chasers? We have a long, long, long stretch to get as good as we possibly can. Get good. Double down. Get good again. Double down again.
People will ask how you’re so productive. And the answer will be simple — you like it. The key to success isn’t finding what you love.
If you can find what you like and get enough competency to not want to quit, you’ll eventually feel like you’re playing the game of life on easy mode.