Productivity

How Long Can You Work Without Validation?

One of the problems with Social Media is that we get instant, usually pleasant results.  We can direct message, someone.  We can call ’em. We can post a picture of our kid or a platitude about life.  And people will generally give us results.

Low-value, low-meaning results that don’t require effort.

It’s not difficult to get a high volume of low-value validation. This is why memes exist.

Visible Validation  

So we cheapen the real value of actual work (which mostly happens behind the scenes).

We get tricked into breathing in Carbon Monoxide when we seek the easy and stimulating stuff.For the promise of distribution (which our social networks have pretty much delivered very well) we Frizzle-Fry our brains.  We get addicted to validation.

We lose the ability to focus.

We require something as cool as the most distracting website in the history of man as a baseline for stimulation.  Figuring out an intricate problem wears us down.

But look – look at what our Ex Girlfriend-from-High-School is up to these days!   Holy shit, you dodged a bullet, she’s now selling Essential Oils and living out of a trailer in Fresno!  Woah!

When we’re embarking on something, it comes in phases. There are steps we need to take before we should get feedback.

Creating: We have to create ideas at some point. Creation takes mental energy and sometimes requires a push.

Refining/Packaging: You have to develop ideas in a way that will work.

Editing: You have to cut the fat.  You have to iterate.

Processing: Sometimes we have to learn what went right, what went wrong.

None of those phases are likely to deliver the quick hit of validation that you will get from posting a well-crafted dick joke on your social network or posting a New York Times article that covers our position precisely.

There’s a time gap between our efforts and the results we get.  It’s the famous marshmallow test. And we lose when we settle for immediate, but lesser returns.

The question we have to answer, then, is: How much effort can you apply to a problem before you get validation?  Because the ability to do that is going to make a big difference in your ability to win going forward.

Daily Operating System: A Theory To Practice

Days have gotten away from me, and I’ve not accomplished enough in 2018. My decision velocity is sluggish, as has been the output/throughput. For those of you nice people like David Gibbons that are telling me I’m too hard on myself, I say to you “meh.” I’m not, trust me, I’m not.

Time Freedom is a great thing, but it requires a really intense commitment. Listening to The SoloPreneur hour has helped me dial that idea in. I want to be free to go by about 2:30 or 3pm in the afternoon, Allan Branch style.

I have to use a schedule because that is how I work.

I know it can work because I watched my beautiful wife do it. I’ve watched my wife as she’s doubled her salary, lost 70# and become the best version of herself ever. Her schedule is rigorous (not for sissies) and she runs a tough schedule.

I got similar goals, man. It’s time to party.  “Playtime” is ended.

There are several things that I need to be able to do. In my current incarnation, I’m going to be a “solopreneur.” For at least a year I’m going to go from project to project helping small agencies add about a million in profitable revenue.

Here’s what has to go in my schedule in order for me to win the days:

  • Morning Ritual: Something built to get me centered and focused that gets me going mind and body. A 30-minute start to the day. A little “miracle morning” a little “Own the day.”
  • Core 4: The 4 main inputs I need to do daily live the life I want. Focused hours. “Reps.” This is a theory, that 4 focused hours can change your life and get most of your work done and gone.
  • Themed Days: We want to do things in batches. We want to have themes so that we get some economy of scale and don’t spend all of our time in transition.
  • Client Work: About 40-50% of my working time should be delivering value to my clients.
  • Family Time: This is important. Being able to do things with my family is critical.
  • Administrative Time: Dealing with taxes, gov’t agencies, cleaning your office and payroll is a part of what it means to be a solopreneur. We can’t yet delegate everything to a system or person (though we will.)
  • System Review Let’s set aside some time to look at our systems, and ensure that they are working well.
  • Margins (i.e. places for failover, rest, and recovery.) Both time and money.  I need some tools to manage this stuff.
  • Boundaries, Tools and Tactics Using things like Freedom and Google Calendar to manage this stuff.
  • Ending The Day I feel often like my days are endless. That I always leave each day with more on the hook.
  • Getting Back On Track: Rules to get back on track if something weird happens (Like today, I woke up to a flooded toilet, what to do about legitimate urgent interruptions).

I’ll be putting things up and linking up as I finished the posts. I need to have rules in place so I don’t have to fret over decisions and so things can become habits.

Work Vs. “Work”

We all want to work hard. Or do we just want to seem to work hard?

So many times I find myself not productivelyspending office time. I listlessly look at Reddit. Or I look at my burn rate and try to figure how many sales I need to make. Or I’ll scroll through LinkedIn and make some connections. Or I check my analytics for no discernible reason (because I’m not trying to solve a problem).

This is true #hustle, right?

I’m #grinding while you’re sleeping, right?

Hastag winning.

Nope. I’m mostly just deluding myself. I’m here, doing little of value. Little to advance my interest. It feels like work, and to an outsider it looks like work, but it’s the 80% of the stuff that doesn’t matter. It’s unfocused, unstructured, and constant.

It has all of the bad qualities of work and none of the healthy, productive qualities. It drains me. It makes me think. It induces decision fatigue. But it makes nothing. It resolves nothing.

There are so many thins like this that I’ve done. Make-work projects that feel like work but don’t add value to my business or to my customers. Redoing my logo is one. Agonizing on the move between Quickbooks and Xero is another. And I shudder at how much money that I’ve lost on this stuff. On not being able to summon the intensity needed to resolve the real problems.

My guilt keeps me in the chair, but a better use of my life would be to do what? To go for a run. To play with my kids. To read a book. To finally order a bookcase. All of these things .

So I know that I’ll get private messages giving me advice. I’m gonna resolve this this way:

Each day I’m gonna start with my core four activities.

  1. Writing – that is the gateway to my own sanity. The thing that makes me better, and the thing that I take pleasure from. I’ve had varying degrees of practice and skill in my life.
  2. Reading- Again, having long conversations with mentors, escaping yourself and getting into someone else’s problems is a key/core part of my sanity.
  3. Fitness- At a mentor’s suggestion I’m going all in on the Get Serious program. I was playing Racquetball, counting it as exercise. Since I was eating pretty well I’ve lost 20# this summer. I want to take it to the next level.
  4. Prospecting- I have a few funnels to fill and a few products to sell. I am a good closer so I eschew prospecting and can get away with it. But right now, I know how critical an hour a day is.

This is the next component of where I’m going. I’ll have days that I do more of each of these things, but the core four activities will be what I knock out each day.

This will be done first, and the schedule will be:

5a- write or read (alt days)

  • 6a – read/write
  • 9-10 prospect
  • 10-11:30 fitness
  • 11:30-x hit my list.

That’s it. That’s the core four.

Creation and Consumption

My friend Jason Womack has influenced me a lot. He’s got two books: one is a snackable book called YOUR BEST JUST GOT BETTER. The other is more of a 5 course meal called Get Momentum. I recommend both.

I don’t recall if it was from a book or from one of our conversations. But he teaches a concept called the creation/consumption cycle. He advocates being in balance with both. Basically, you have to consume good material to create good material, and you have to know what you’re doing.

Since that conversation, I’ve read a little more deliberately, and I’ve had days (Fridays) where I don’t create anything but I read and take courses. I’ve also had weeks (one per month) where I don’t have to create. It’s worked for me, and I’ve had permission to consume.

Consumption Gone Awry

Even consuming smart, literate stuff that makes you think can be wrong.

Around election time, I was freaked out by the prospect of a Trump presidency. If not exactly freaked out, the spectacle was gobsmacking. Our presidential candidates were making dick jokes! Trump was vulgar! When will it end, can this really be happening? It was an astonishing experience for me. The whole thing made me nervous!

The blow-by-blow breathless coverage didn’t help much. Ryan Holiday talked about it a bit here. Still, I was reading “the good stuff.” Great stuff, the créme de la créme. Atlantic articles, New Yorker and FiveThirtyEight think pieces. I had to be well informed. The first to know. I had to have the nuanced rationale to be against Trump, and to dislike him for the right reasons.

But my own personal production slowed. I wasn’t right. I got anxious, twitchy and tense over the whole mess. I didn’t get done what needed to get done.

For me, productive consumption – trying to be informed – crossed a line to destructive consumption. A real thing. And some consumption for comfort, for nostalgia or for other reasons is probably beneficial in small doses.

But if it’s a retreat away from creation, a retreat away from duty, or an endless anxious loop. Being nervous about Trump, being obsessed with the Cubs (and going on sports betting sites – to learn their TRUE odds) was not a good use of my time.

My productivity – which had been increasing – ground to a halt over the election (which I was a spectator). And it was because of destructive consumption. I had to have the last word with the Internet. And I wasn’t playing video games, I was just seeking to resolve the unresolvable morass that was our election.

XKCD's most famous cartoon.
XKCD’s most famous cartoon.

The Solution

Sometimes – in life – you’ll fall off the wagon and get off the rails. Destructive consumption is a new issue. This happens. What’s important is that we recognize it more quickly.

The way I’m inoculating myself is:

  1. Habits. Single tasking and deep work.
  2. A curriculum: plan my consumption over a long period of time (and schedule it).
  3. Journal what you consumed & look at your browser history once a week. This will help identify crazy patterns.

onward.

The Push: October 2016

Each month, I post my goals publicly. I don’t promote this blog, so by saying it’s “public,” is somewhat of a misnomer. 

I entered 2016 a little burnt out (probably even depressed) from making a ton of preventable mistakes (see “failure series” for details, extrapolate to my personal life). Sometimes time simply has to pass, storms have to blow over. Wounds need to heal.

So I’ve been “watching the wheels” a little bit.

Now – more than ever -I want to go after something.

So this month’s theme is “The Push.” It’s a one time month where I’ll be focused and fierce (and probably somewhat bored, as huge amounts of effort do grind). I’m rested up for it, and I’m focused on behaviors, which I know will lead to great outcomes.

Why THE PUSH Will Work:

  • I have the gym habit.
  • Sales has always been simple for me.
  • I have the “wake up early” habit.
  • I’m not going to be screwed by a refund, so I can keep my clients in line.

What I need To Do (Cornerstone Habits)

  • Go to bed earlier (start winding down at 9:30 with a goal of 10:35 lights out).
  • Pull the coffee back to one press a day.
  • 15 Minutes of Stretching
  • 15 Minutes Jump Rope/Daily
  • Finish work by 6:pm.

Business Behaviors & Projects

  • Start prospecting again. We have 2,262 leads at Simplifilm, and most haven’t been reached in years. My experiment with Edgar proves they are viable. We have an 21 working days. We will make 35 phone attempts/day = 735 attempts. We’ll spend 90 minutes creating a SMART VIEW in close.io for this stuff.
    • I will prospect each day from 1pm-2:30 pm, after I’ve eaten lunch, showered and written content and contracts.
  • Email: We will email our list (6,000) 4 times and offer inventory.
    • I will work on content each morning from 9-10:30am, excepting Mondays.
  • Create funnel & get email list & newsletter back running THIS WEEKEND.
    • This will take 10+/- hours as I’m about 1/3 done and the “hard part” is done.
  • Write and Deliver 2 Webinars: both on scripting.
  • Plumbing – from lead to close.io has to work correctly, site has to make sense.

Business Goals (i.e. revenue).

I am focused on creating a company that doesn’t consume all of its resources and has a good reputation and relationships with everyone.

We have done less revenue than our norm because we came into this year with a $100,000 backlog of undelivered/delayed projects. Most of it was on us (ah, my ego SCREAMS at that). We had to clean that up before we could sell new work, and we were able to process about $25,000 a month more than we put out. That was expensive and difficult and hard.

And as I’ve said – I missed a month in Feb/March.

By the end of October, we will eliminate every (financial) legacy issue and we’ll be in integrity with all of our people. The Push is just a little more daily effort and daily discipline.

  • Contract 6 Projects at an average fee of $11,000 per project.
    • Collect $33,000 in revenue (2/3 on the first 4 + 1/3 on the second 2.)
    • This will require 24 appointments and 10 proposals (normally I choose to pitch about 40% of the people I meet with & we close 70%. This creates padding).
  • Complete 6 Projects & $52,000 in revenue (we sold one too cheaply to a loyal existing customer that’ll throw off our averages).
    • Income Due: $24,000.
  • Collect: Total: $57,000 in revenue at .40% margins or better ($22,800 ).
  • Close: $30,000 worth of legacy debt to close out the legacy issues that have dogged me all year.

Network

Because Simplifilm was not delivering great work on demand, I stopped reaching out to my network. I lost the hustle habit.

A vicious cycle is vicious. It clobbers everything. It started in the fall of 2014, when we were late on a key project. My desire to sell was lessened, but we acquired a lot of leads.

I let my network erode, and it’s time to restore, renew and recover that. It will probably have an ancillary business effect. I’ll spend 10 hours during the month on network building for the long haul. I’m looking for high value referral sources.

Physical Results & Behaviors

Results:

  • Weigh in at under 250.
  • Run 2 mies at 10 min/mile and one mile in under 9 minutes.
  • Have Double Unders at least 1/3 of the time.
  • Have handstands on the wall by month’s end.

Behaviors:

  • Hit the gym each morning by 5:30 x 5 days per week. No excuses, no sneak peak at the WOD. I was very consistent with going to the gym in September, and missed only 2 days scheduled.
  • Complete weeks 4-7 in Couch to 10k with my family.
  • Meal plan: follow daily.

Family

Organize & formalize our family meetings and have them all 4 Sundays (rescheduling when Heather is out for Monday or whenever). (New Family Meeting Must be done shortly). Calendar the time they are spent there.

Have an upgraded dinner program.

Organize the garage (it’s been a mess since we moved)

Foundations & Projects

  • Create scorecard in Google docs for us to use as a company and personally.
    • Have it output to a public facing place.
  • Create Schedule.
  • Create Funnel

Education:

I’ve avoided business & Sales books over the last 2 years. Mainly because I’d read too many in the past. It was a heavy part of my diet. Now is a good month to catch up because they generally take less effort, and the ones below are highly regarded.

  1. The Art of Explanation – Lee Lefeveer
  2. X: The Experience when Business Meets Design: Solis
  3. SPIN SELLING: Neil Rackham
  4. Mastering the complex sale:
  5. Challenger Customer – Dixon Et Al
  6. MAJOR ACCOUNT STRATEGY: Neil Rackam
  7. Hug Your Haters: Jay Baer
  8. The Magic of Thinking Big – David J. Schwartz
  9. Pivot: Jenny Blake

I have fairly low expectations for reading this month, but I will see where it takes me. It’s certainly easy reading and that’ll be welcomed when I’ve been dealing with histories that are really difficult to slog through.

Extras:

If I want to podcast or Blog or whatever, it has to be in unscheduled time this, and not in lieu of it. We have to be on pace with all of our objectives before we can really do this.

No-Nos.

No drinking: I went without alcohol for a few months, and had some while watching the debate. It confirmed my belief that Alcohol isn’t For Me right now.

Not judging drinking, just something I can’t currently handle. That can be reevaluated.

No Video Games: Video Games are something that I’ve determined cannot continue to be a regular part of my life. Even games like WordsWithFriends erode margins and cause me to miss some more important goals and to get off track.

Schedule (Project #1)

At the core of everything here will be the schedule. Everything that’s going to be achieved will go on the recurring calendar and I’ll make sure that I do it. When an appointment legitimately overrides an existing commitment, I will be sure to reschedule the time I’m putting in.

There’s a functional maximum to doing things like working out. You can’t “speed up” some processes. Stuff like 2 a days have diminishing returns (and in some cases negative returns).

And there’s some things you have to have on the schedule to do them. Family time. Reading time. Fitness time. The challenge is to be in integrity with yourself. Everything here goes on a schedule.

Rules:

  • Nothing will require more than 90 minutes/day, 4 days/week.
  • 30 minutes of padding between each event.
  • Mondays are the “big day” and the most scheduled day to set the week up right.
  • 60 minutes of family time each day, in addition to being a good example.

Scorecard: (Project #2)

I’ll have some type of scorecard to measure this stuff. I’ve used Google Docs before with aplomb and success, but I need to measure some habits and track them and publish them. I’ll have that done to my satisfaction shortly.

Breaking The Browser Habit

The browser vexes me.

On my Mac, it’s a portal to whatever the world has to offer. It’s mostly distractions.  Things that don’t benefit me, support my goals or put me in position to be of service.

I use it a lot – because I’m not a luddite: I use the Gmail App.  I compose in Google Docs.

I’m writing this – right now – in WordPress.

Problem is that with those of us that use shortcut keys a world of distractions are just a CMD-T away. (New Tab, Facebook.  New Tab, Sporting News. New Tab, Twitter.)

This is an attack on Deep Work and on Focus

So the goal now is to use the browser sparingly, only for vital things.

 

Focus Is A Muscle

It’s hard to focus. It’s always been hard for me to sustain concentration over a long period of time. The human condition. I’m not unique, and I may even be above average. Still. It’s the biggest challenge, and mastering it creates a reward.

The muscle muscle be built.

Spending time in the Flow State, serving your business, serving clients, serving others.  That life. That night.

The digital age. The million distractions that we can respond to. The opportunities to slide.

Working to get *good* at focus by the following means:

1. Tools- Things like IA Writer, notecards, timers, standing desks- that make it easy to think through and complete tasks.
2. Schedule- A plan in advance what we are meaning to do. We set alarms so that it happens.
3. Friction Reduction- There are loads of opportunities
4. Systems- Templates to do things “correctly,” so that every time we work on something we aren’t reinventing the wheel.
5. Checklists- A subset of tools, but we want to always know what we’re working on.
6. Virtues & Practices- bigger reasons that we do what we do. This sort of comes last, but is also first.

Being personally competent is a first order value. Like with the thoughts on “debt,” if there is a lack of personal control, then it’s going to be very hard to perform in an open ended job.

GTD was a triage system that helped us work through and “churn digital widgets.” But we want to make a life that supports the type of focus and deep work that transcends triage.

 

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