It’s easy to feel inspired when you think about your goals for the New Year.
You’re certain that the motivation you feel now will propel you through the next 12 months…kicking ass and taking names.
But sadly, that excitement—dreaming how your life will be 10 times better this year—is separate from actually achieving your goals.
Real progress doesn’t happen when you’re inspired. It happens when you show up consistently and do the work.
Duh, Kyle…I already knew that…
Did you? Then why do some of your New Year’s resolutions seem oddly similar to last year’s?
Maybe it’s time to approach your yearly goals in a different way. Below are 3 key strategies to help you actually get sh%$ done this year.
1. Stop Chasing Too Many Rabbits
Have you noticed how, often, when you ask someone what their focus or priority is they start listing off 7 or 8 things?
Sorry to be Captain Obvious here, but “focused” doesn’t mean this is one of the many things on my radar. No, it means I am zeroed in on this thing.
It reminds me of another helpful maxim:
“When you chase two rabbits, both will escape.”
How many times have you found yourself starting the year with multiple goals, only to find that at the end of the year you’ve achieved not even one them?
Focusing on a singular goal is scary. You’re no longer “spreading the wealth” or hedging your bets. You’re doubling down on one thing.
As scary as it is, that’s where the magic happens.
As Steve Jobs said:
“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are.”
Helpful advice, but that still doesn’t make it easy to figure out WHAT to focus on. For that, you need to…
2. Find Your Big Domino
On a macro-level, there’s definitely value in running through the annual self-assessment questions I wrote about last year.
But what about when it’s time to really zero in on that ONE thing?
When entrepreneur Tim Ferriss considers where to focus, Tim looks for the “one big domino” that will help take down all the other dominos.
Or as Gary Keller puts it in his book The One Thing, “What’s the ONE Thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”
Not all goals are equal, and many of them are connected. So by making a key achievement in one area of your life or business, you may be able to create progress in other areas.
But finding your big domino isn’t always cut and dry. Sometimes it requires some more fundamental soul-searching to figure out your focus.
For that, I have two quick suggestions for you to ponder:
Invest in Your Strengths, Ignore Your Weaknesses
On the surface, this sounds so obvious. Yet if you look at this past year, chances are you’ve spent a lot of time and effort making marginal gains in areas where you don’t have natural abilities.
But let me ask you this:
Would you rather spend the year grinding it out, working against your natural talents only to barely get up to a passable level?
Would your rather identify a spark that’s already inside you and throw fuel on that fire to so it turns into a burning blaze by this time next year?
In short, stop trying to be average in areas where you aren’t strong. Instead, leverage your “superpower” to accelerate your progress and make amazing things happen.
Even once you identify areas of strength, you may still have trouble zeroing in on a singular goal to focus on. In that case, it’s helpful to…
Use The Fear Barometer
Everyone talks about how you need to “face your fears” and “do the hard thing” yadda yadda yadda…
But that reverence for fear always seems to be more abstract, more theoretical.
Instead, you need to leverage fear in a more visceral way.
I first heard about the fear barometer from my friend Ryan Masters when he spoke at the Menfluential Conference a few years ago.
The idea is simple: use fear as a gauge to tell you what path to take.
The fear barometer came in handy a few months ago when I was deciding whether to attend a week-long retreat with a bunch of big wigs in the men’s lifestyle space.
These are guys I respect deeply. And even though we had all met before, the thought of spending a whole week hanging out with them terrified me. What if I wasn’t good enough? What if they didn’t’ like me?
As soon as I heard about the opportunity, I felt a knot in the pit of my stomach. It was almost comical to watch my mind instantly scramble to invent reasons why I couldn’t go. But fortunately, I was conscious of it.
That’s when I knew I HAD to go.
As you consider what direction to take and where to focus, listen closely to your gut. If something scares you, that’s usually a sign you need to face it head-on.
Think about it. When do we grow the most?
It’s not when we stay in our comfort zone. No, it’s when we challenge ourselves, stretch our abilities, when we make ourselves vulnerable…when we accept the possibility of failure—and sometimes even when that possibility of failure becomes a reality.
That’s when we feel most alive and when we gather momentum towards our greatest potential.
3. Get Smarter About Execution
Even if you’re not entirely sure HOW you’re going to achieve your goal, you’ve already given yourself a headstart towards executing it.
You see, by focusing on ONE particular challenge or problem, you put your subconscious to work in a big way—even when your conscious mind is otherwise occupied.
The Power of Persistent Questions
As psychologist Dr. Robert Maurer shared on my podcast, the mind is unable to ignore a question that is persistently asked.
So if you consistently ask yourself “how can I achieve [my big goal] for this year?” your mind will have no choice but to work overtime—often behind the scenes—to provide you with suggestions.
Sidenote: while this seems like magic, it is very real. And this same “magic” can further our neuroses and insecurities when we cling to bad questions, like “why am I such a loser?” or “why does no one seem to like me?”
Ask (your subconscious), and ye shall receive…
The Real Secret to Achieving Anything Great
Of course, just because you’re putting your subconscious to work towards your goal doesn’t mean you can slack off. Far from it.
Now I’m going to reveal The Secret to achieving your goal. Ready?
Put in the time. Do the work.
I know that’s not the magic bullet you were hoping for. The thing is, there is no magic bullet.
Even if you look at so-called “overnight successes”—musicians or actors or startups that “burst onto the scene out of nowhere”—there’s pretty much ALWAYS a backstory.
It’s just not as glamorous to talk about how, before you heard about them, they were quietly working their asses off in obscurity, chipping away at those proverbial 10,000 hours, and perfecting their craft.
Yes, there are ways to work smarter rather than harder. Yes, there are “smartcuts” that can help a little. But by and large, most people who achieve their goals and do great things abide by a simple formula:
Time x Work = Achievement
Putting in the time. Doing the work.
As obvious as this approach sounds, I challenge you to take a hard look at whether you are really practicing it.
Recently, I found out I wasn’t as good at this as I thought…
Tracking How You Really Spend Your Time
In The Effective Executive, Peter Drucker argues that to be effective, you have to carefully manage your most valuable (and non-renewable) resource: your time.
He recommends building the habit of simply tracking your time—writing down how you spend each part of the day.
Seemed simple enough, so a few months ago I gave it a shot. Each day, I’d start with my to-do list. Then I kept a log of how I ACTUALLY spent my time.
It was an eye-opener, to say the least.
First, it had some immediate benefits. Much like how writing down your purchases makes you spend less, because you’re more conscious of each thing you’re buying. Suddenly I was much more aware of those moments when my focus started to stray. (Do I really want to write down “checking Facebook again – 5 minutes”?).
But the real surprise was when I would look back at the week. How well was I aligning my time to my “focus goals”?
Not well, it turned out…
Despite how focused I thought I was being, I consistently spent way less time on high-priority goals than I realized.
Often, when there were small distractions and other competing to-do’s throughout the day, I would spend only 1 or 2 hours total on my big priority.
Sure, I felt productive, but I wasn’t spending enough time doing the work that really mattered.
All of that to say:
Even if you know the secret formula (Time x Work = Achievement), if you don’t track your time carefully, you may not be putting in as much time and work on that big goal as you think.
Your goal—and your plan for achieving it—may be perfectly conceived, but if you don’t consistently show up and put in the work, you won’t make any real progress.
As excited as you are about the ten million things you could accomplish in this year, set yourself up for success by focusing on one meaningful thing.
Look for that one big domino that will make all the other dominos easier to knock down.
Be honest with yourself about your strengths, and listen to your gut to gauge where you most need to challenge yourself and grow.
Put in the time. Do the work.