Do you have a big goal, one that you know has the potential to change your life if you achieve it? Are you both excited and afraid? Good. Once you have taken care of the big picture, the big reason why you want to reach your objective in the first place, and once you have ensured your goal is SMARTER, you need to tackle tactics.
Let me share with you the daily tactics that help me stay on track with my big goal of passing CFA level 3.
What you do every day matters more than
what you do once in a while
To go from where you are to where you want to be, you have to translate the big vision into the nitty-gritty details. It’s wonderful to have a vision statement and to know precisely which SMARTER goals will take you there.
But sometimes the difficult thing is to keep in mind that your big vision has to be translated into daily activities. Sometimes it’s hard to get back in the trenches: when your line of vision is limited to this day, and the next, and the one after that, it’s easy to get bogged down in the details and to forget that all the little things you do will add up in the end.
Remember, what you do every day counts more than what you do once in a while – but sometimes we lose sight of the way our big goal becomes incrementally true over a period of time. Day after day after day, we have to keep working at it, until finally the objective is reached. But while we’re working at it, we only have tiny results to show for it each day.
It’s like a 3,000 piece jigsaw puzzle. I’m sure you know the feeling of being completely at a loss when starting a jigsaw puzzle. You compare the finished image on the box, to the jumbled mess of tiny pieces you have in your hands, and you feel hopeless. How will the pieces ever come to be translated into the complete jigsaw?!
There are no two ways about it: start small. Find just two jigsaw pieces that fit together. Then keep going. It might not have the same glamour as defining your big vision and making a list of SMARTER goals, but sheer grit and determination are what will get you there.
Don’t lose sight of the goal, and chip at it every day
In the below I take studying as an example, but these tactics will be useful for any activity that’s difficult and needs your deepest concentration – and that, as a result, we often dread and procrastinate on!
Free yourself of distractions.
As a business owner I have to be on call to answer clients, etc. But it doesn’t mean that I can’t switch off my phone or my computer from time to time. If I am in a meeting with a client, or teaching a seminar, my mind is totally and utterly devoted to the task at hand.
So I consider the time I’ve set aside for study as crucial as a client meeting – for a few hours, or a whole day at the week-end, I won’t check my email before a certain time and I will let calls go to voicemail. This is absolutely essential.
Mix it up.
One of the books I studied for CFA level 3 was a hefty volume about Alternative Investment. The first part of the book was all about theory, and the second part was about application. I could have buckled down and bulldozed through the book in the order the chapters are laid out.
But a much more effective way, and one that saves times, is to mix it up: first a dozen pages of heavily intricate investment theory, then the corresponding applications and exercises. I was done much faster and remembered better since I had applied the knowledge. Plus variety is the spice of life, as they say.
Anything that can liven up your study time should be used. Otherwise you’ll find yourself reading the same sentence over and over again, without being able to make sense of the words, your mind a blank, before you realise your brain decided to shut down of its own accord a while ago.
Sometimes it’s starting, simply getting your behind into that chair, that is the most difficult. This is something that a lot of behavioural experts never tire of emphasising: start small. Very, very small. Now I have reached the point where I can imagine studying for several hours at the weekend (and fit not a few of those hours before lunch, too!) in the same way I settle into a day in the office. But I had to work my way up.
Remember that starting is the big victory: don’t discount small beginnings, as they are the only thing that will take you where you want to go. If studying for the whole day fills you with dread, tell yourself that you will start with just five minutes, or three pages. Decide that you’ll study with concentration for those five minutes, or those three pages. Very often lowering the bar is all we need to get us going. So just start, and be proud of yourself for just starting. Then keep starting!
One toolbox to rule them all
These three, rather simple tactics, are really all you need. And they are great in business, too!
Free yourself of distractions… at the beginning of the day to “eat that frog” (Brian Tracy’s phrase for the big task you dread) – and enjoy that sense of achievement when you’re done! If you spent only one hour without email, without phone calls, what would you work on? What breakthrough would it bring in your business?
Mix things up… to think of new ideas and add variety to the same old, same old. If you feel stifled doing the same things, over and over again, now would be the time to shake off your routine and do unusual things: if you’re not networking, start doing it. If you network a lot, call your existing clients instead. If you use social media for your marketing, switch to real-life events and interactions. If you don’t use social media, give it a try. Whatever you do, try mixing it up with the opposite and enjoy the breath of fresh air!
Just start… on your next business project, the one that you know will bring big rewards but that you are afraid of tackling, because you’re not sure you can pull it off. Do you want to … Turn your service into a product? Just start brainstorming your ideal client, or your ideal distribution channel, or the form this product will take. Do you want to … Start exporting? You could just start to read the many articles I wrote on the topic (or subscribe to my newsletter and download my exports report!). Do you want to… Grow and expand? Just start to conceive where and how you’ll expand, which new customers you will be able to serve, whose help you’ll enlist.
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