Knowing what to do in order to achieve your goals is a critical part of becoming productive. But just as critical?
Knowing what NOT to do.
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Reach Your Goals By Doing Absolutely Nothing
Sounds like a late night infomercial doesn't it?
"Lose all the weight you want, just sitting on the couch! Only 3 left at this price so buy now!"
Personal goals are typically identified by what we need to do.
Lift weights 3x per week
Write 2,000 words per day
Eat 6 servings of fruits and vegetables
But the things you don't do are as important to success as the actions taken towards the goal. It isn't a radical idea, more a shift of mindset.
Positively re-frame the context of your actions (or inaction's as the case may be.)
So Much to Do, and So Much Time To Do It
Want to lose weight? Diet. Exercise. Caloric deficit.
Want to publish your book? Write every day for the next 90 days.
Want to create a profitable side hustle? Find a problem. Fix a problem.
Simple keys to success, yet people still have a hard time unlocking the door.
One full hour takes up 4% of your day. A reasonable number, and an acceptable sacrifice when working towards your goals. Maybe doesn't seem like it when you are up at 0500 putting on your running shoes though…
If you consistently put in your 4% every day then you will reach your goals.
But it is the remaining 96% of your day which dictates how fast you will get there.
What (Not) To Do
You are putting in your 4% every day.
Hitting the gym. Writing. Problem solving. Things are going great.
Except later that day you go for burgers and beers. Do some doom-scrolling. Take your eye off the prize.
Every action you take has only one of two results:
1. Moves you towards your goal - Net Positive
2. Moves you away from your goal - Net Negative
It doesn't matter what end result you are after, there are positive actions and negative actions. And you already know what your personal positive and negative actions are.
Your subconscious will override your willpower so you choose to do the Negative action, while knowing in your gut that it is in direct opposition to your stated goal. This is called Cognitive Dissonance.
Choose Your Own Results
It's like one of those Choose Your Own Adventure books.
Everything is ticking along for a few pages on autopilot because you are working on whatever you are working on. Then you turn the page and encounter a CROSSROADS where a decision needs to be made.
The majority of your decisions are made in a split second, almost subconsciously, but they are decisions none the less. So what to do when confronted with a Net-Negative decision?
• Don't check your email
• Don't look online
• Don't hit snooze then roll over
• Don't crack that beer
• Don't eat from boredom
The majority of the results you achieve are not due to the things that you do. They come from the things you don't do. This is because you spend more time Don't Do'ing things than actually doing.
Your time spent in the 4% is the catalyst for change. But the change takes place during the remaining 96% of the time.
Willpower at the Crossroads
There is an idea that for every decision we make throughout the day, a little bit of willpower is depleted.
This occurs on a hormonal level and relates to the supply of glycogen available in your body. The tank only has so much gas so eventually a point is reached where the good intentions go out the window and the double cheeseburgers go down the hatch.
This is known by psychologists as Decision Fatigue.
Avoiding these Net-Negative effects on willpower requires two methods:
1. Reduce the number of crossroads
2. Stockpile Net-Positives
If each choice you make depletes your willpower, thereby making subsequent choices more difficult, one obvious solution is to reduce the number of times you have to make those decisions.
Dr. Dre, Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, and President Obama all famously wear the same thing every day.
As Obama said in an interview with Vanity Fair, "You need to focus your decision-making energy. You need to routinize yourself. You can't be going through the day distracted by trivia."
Some ideas to help you reduce crossroads in your day:
• Put your phone on silent to avoid checking it after every notification.
• The Night Before routine - lay out your clothes, make your lunch, replace your slippers with running shoes beside your bed.
• Throw out the garbage and stock your kitchen with only Net-Positive foods. Enjoy treats away from your house as this makes it a conscious decision.
Reducing crossroads is effectively an exercise in lifestyle design. Mold your environment to support your goals.
Willpower is like a muscle. It requires exercise to grow in strength.
There are many small things you can do, small wins, that will add up over time and help keep you on track to reach your goals:
• Make your bed first thing in the morning.
• Workout before breakfast.
• Meditate or write before bed.
It is easy to have your day run away on you (especially if you have kids!). By taking care of the important things first you will continue to make progress in the Net-Positive direction of your choosing.
Take care of your most important personal goals when you first wake up. This builds willpower and confidence that you are moving in a positive direction.
Save quieter goals for the evening. I suggest reading.
Seems Like A Lot of Work For an Article About Doing Nothing
Doing nothing takes work.
Make the conscious choice to NOT do Net-Negative actions. Recognize and deal with each crossroad as you come to it.
Doing nothing is harder than it seems. When standing at that crossroads there is one last strategy that can help you make the right choice:
Just take a great big beautiful breath, flood your body with oxygen, and give yourself the time to make the right decision - rather than going on autopilot.
Working toward your goals in a positive direction will give you a positive outlook. This will shine out to the whole world.
• Spend 4% of your time doing
• Spend 96% of your time not doing
• Store willpower by eliminating trivial choices
• Stack net-positive wins for later
And don't forget to breathe
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