How to 10X Your Success: Systemize Your Life
One thing I’ve become an expert at over time is figuring out the ‘process’ for making goals happen.
For example, if you are a real estate investor and you wanted to add 10 properties to your portfolio, you might need to generate 100 leads. Then to generate those 100 leads, you might need to make 1,000 contacts. Now you know your first step — Make contact with 1,000 people.
Most people who are successful understand how to create these processes. They know how to break down a task into smaller components and then tackle those one at a time.
But sometimes, people overlook one crucial step.
It’s not how well you can do something ONCE. It’s how well you can do it over a sustained period of time.
Do it once — well anyone can get lucky. Do it twice — you might have some ability.
But repeatedly get the same results on demand?
Now you’re a master.
To achieve that level of mastery involves a shift in mindset.
The “I want success” vs. “I want to be a successful person” Mindset Shift
On the surface, both statements may seem similar. But its the second mindset that drives huge results.
When you think the first way — I want success — often you may find yourself thinking only about the goals and steps needed to tackle your goal.
However, for most of us, ‘knowing’ what to do is not the problem. What ends up stopping us is the way our life is constructed.
Thinking about the example above:
You may ‘know’ that you need to make 1000 contacts this week but the week goes by and you’ve only made 250. Why? What happened? Were you not working hard enough?
For successful people used to achieving results, working hard enough is not the problem.
Instead, the problem is we’re not doing the right work. We’re not able to control our focus. We don’t have the right habits.
And as a result, we let other people’s agenda derail us from our goals.
There’s nothing malicious about it — it’s as simple as a meeting that you scheduled that went too long or that maybe you didn’t really need to be in. It may be emails that weren’t priorities but you answered anyway and that took an extra 10–15 minutes here or there that over time, ate away at both your productivity and your focus.
Which bring us back to the idea of ‘wanting success’ to ‘wanting to be a successful person.’
When we want success, we focus on goals. When we want to be a successful person, we focus on habits.
One way to develop those habits is to start with the most effective people you know. They don’t have to be in the same industry — they don’t have to be real estate investors.
It doesn’t matter since you’re not trying to copy their goals — you’re trying to figure out that their daily habits that lead to their extraordinary success.
In the rest of this article, I’ll take you through a stroll of some of the most successful people and business that I know and what I was able to learn from each of them and how I applied those lessons to my own life.
Olympic Athletes — The Power of Early Rising
If you look at elite performers in athletics — whether it’s boxers, NBA players, or Olympic athletes — one thing you’ll notice that they all have in common: their day usually starts out much earlier than most of us. They are early risers.
Waking up early forces you to make several powerful lifestyle choices. The biggest is going to sleep early.
When you decide that you’ll sleep at 9 pm every night, how does that affect your life? What decisions to you have to make about: drinking, going out, watching TV, etc?
Additionally, the mornings are usually when you’re at your mental best. You have your highest energy levels. Imagine if you had those extra hours in the mornings to work on the most pressing tasks in your life. Not only would you have quiet, uninterrupted time to focus (while the rest of the world is asleep), you’d be able to accomplish more because you’d be working at your best.
If you’re really dedicated to a goal, does it make much sense to focus on it at the end of your day, when you’re mentally and physically drained?
I started waking up at 4am as part of my routines. Here’s what I found:
- I’m now much more disciplined about going to sleep by 9pm. I know that I have to if I want to be up at 4am.
- Even when I don’t get a full 7 or 8 hours sleep sometimes, I seem to have more energy. In other words, 6 hours of sleep that begins around 9pm seems to be worth more than 6 hours of sleep that begins at midnight.
- One of the reasons I started doing this is that I sometimes found myself falling asleep as I worked at midnight. It made me think, “How great is my work if I’m falling asleep as I do it?” I also noticed that when I worked late at night, I sometimes would focus on non-creative tasks like emailing because I was too tired to do creative work. I spent more time planning or strategizing than actually doing. However, when I tackle things fresh in the morning, I can handle my most difficult tasks because my mind is clear, focused and ready to go. Why spend 3 hours being somewhat effective at night when you can spend 3 hours in the morning being ultra-effective?
Fortune 500 Companies — The Power of KPIs
All great, successful companies have ways of measuring performance. They have KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) which they monitor closely to ensure they’re reaching the goals they’ve set.
Apple, for example, may monitor the number of devices sold daily as a simple snapshot of where the company is at.
Think about your own KPIs — what determines success for you on a daily, weekly, quarterly basis?
KPIs force you to think through the process goals you need to reach to get an outcome.
Create your KPIs with both a process-oriented and outcome-oriented goal.
For example, one of the KPIs you measure might be the number of real estate leads you generated in week. You may set your goal at 10 per week.
What’s the process you’d need to take to generate those 10 leads?
Next, think outcome — Okay, if you do get your 10 leads, what outcome do you want?
Your outcome might be — to make an offer on at least one.
Another outcome might be — for every 10 offers, I want to close on one.
Another outcome might be — every closed deal should be worth $1–3m in value.
So now you not only know the process you need to reach your goal (how will I generate 10 leads), you also know the outcome you’re trying to achieve ($1–3m deals).
You can also measure what your time is worth — if it takes you 10 hours to generate the leads, another 10 hours to analyze and offer on one, and then another 60 hours to close, then you can see that 80 hours of your time equals deals worth $1–3m.
You can also divide out the number of leads needed to reach that goal and you know the value of each lead.
You can further divide out the number of contacts you must make to get those leads and you know the value of each contact you make.
By looking at your KPIs, you can know right away:
- Am I being productive? Getting the work done I need to do (Process-oriented)
- Am I being effective? Achieving the outcomes I need to achieve (Outcome-oriented)
- The overall value of your time
I’ve applied KPI tracking to both my health and business.
Here’s one example –
Health: I want to swim 6 days a week.
Knowing that, I’ve now created the process that I need to get that done. Everything from having the right equipment (googles, ear plugs, nearby pool) to trouble-shooting potential obstacles that might stop me (buying a parka for mornings that are a bit chilly).
Outcome — I want to be 180 lbs by the end of the year and have a 36 inch waist.
I can now look at my KPIs (that I will keep track of) and see: How many times did I reach my goals for the week? And what type of results did that lead to?
I use the same technique for business. For example, one KPI I’ve set:
Publish one new article per week.
Outcome I want: To get 10 new subscribers per week.
Silicon Valley Entrepreneurs — The Power of Environment
In reading Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers, one thing he touches upon is that success is often about being in the right place at the right time.
He writes about how both Steve Jobs and Bill Gates had the good fortune of being in an environment where they could both grow their skillsets to become world class. For Jobs, it was living in the heart of Silicon Valley and having software engineers as neighbors. For Gates, it was attending a school and being part of a computer club that had internet access at a time when that was a rarity.
Now some people read that and think, “I’ve got no chance! I was born too late, too early, too something…”
But I think the real lesson here is about trying to create the right environment for yourself.
If you’re surrounded by negative people, if you’re bogged down with too many small tasks that prevent you from focusing on the big picture, if you’re mindset is pessimistic and you let fear control your life, then this ‘environment’ that surrounds you will be a constant anchor to your producing great results.
What can you do to your life to:
- Surround yourself with the right people?
- Get rid of tasks that are non-essential?
- Help you overcome your fears of dreaming big?
Just like some kids have an easier path to success because of their parents connections, what can you do to strengthen your own environment?
Who could you add to your networks to really move you forward?
How do you achieve the optimal environment for your success?
Here are some examples of how I’ve created this environment for myself.
Masterminds — If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of a mastermind, it’s a regular meeting of a small group of people — usually 3–5. During those meetings, each individual talks about wins and losses (as defined by the group but usually career-oriented) and then talk about what they plan to accomplish by the next meeting. One person is then ‘put’ in the hotseat. That person talks about a particular challenge they need help with and the group gives feedback and advice.
Part of the power of a mastermind is accountability. Part of the power of a mastermind is surrounding yourself with other success-oriented people. And part of the power of the mastermind is just a taking the time to focus on your own personal growth on a regular basis.
I participate in three different masterminds and its helped me grow the environment that I want and given me access to resources and knowledge that have really helped moved me forward.
As far as non-essential tasks, I don’t start off my day with emails. I will glance to make sure there’s nothing pressing, but I won’t start to answer them until after midday.
Mindset is also something that I’ve used my environment to shape. I have several motivational videos that I listen to in the background when I’m doing work or for when I feel my energy waning. I re-listen to the same one and half hour seminar by Darren Hardy on productivity on a regular basis, sometimes starting my day with it. I also read a few chapters a week from Dusan Djukich’s Straight Line Leadership and take notes on how to apply the lessons to my life.
My projects and tasks are kept in one system. I have time-tracking capabilities as well so I can see how long I’m spending on each task I do. By having a system in place, when I get a new request or work task, I know where to put it and I don’t have to waste time or focus trying to ‘remember’ what I have to do or when I have to do something by.
As a real estate investor, if you’re actively looking for deals and you don’t have a CMS (contact management system) to keep track of who you’re contacting, when, why, and what the follow up steps are, then you’re really not being as effective as you could be and might potentially be losing out on deals.
While it’s possible to ‘succeed’ despite your environment, if you have the power to make these types of changes to enhance your surroundings, then it’ll make the climb up the ladder of success easier.
Warren Buffett and the 99 No’s — The Power of Focus
When asked what he attributed his great success to, Warren Buffett once famously replied, “I say no to 99 out of 100 good ideas that come along.”
There are two huge takeaways for me as I read that statement:
- Even the great Warren Buffett is playing a numbers game. He has to look through a bunch of deals to find the right one.
- All the deals are ‘good.’ But he’s not content to just find a ‘good’ deal — he’s looking for the right deal for him.
The second point is an area where a lot of entrepreneurs, including myself, sometimes fall short. It’s also known as ‘shiny object syndrome.’
We’re often attracted by the latest and greatest ‘new thing’ that is out there and we lose that all important thing — our focus.
Warren Buffett excels because he’s extremely focused on finding the right deals for him.
Even though many of the 99 deals might have been great, because they pulled his focus away from what he was looking for, he had to say No.
In the same way, even though many of the shiny objects might look great, if they pull your attention away from what you need to be doing to achieve success, you have to say no.
The shiny objects might come in the form of new ideas, new people, new goals — resist the temptation to be pulled off track.
One way I accomplish this is by looking back at my KPIs.
If something isn’t working the right way, I review my KPIs — Have I met them? If not, I look at my environment — is there something that needs to change?
If you have kept your KPIs and you’re still not getting the results you want, then it might be time to pursue a new path. However, if you haven’t set goals and you’re not tracking your progress or effectiveness, then you may find yourself distracted by every new opportunity.
So if you’re a real new shiny object lover, make a deal with yourself — you can chase the latest and greatest but ONLY AFTER you’ve set current KPIs, tracked for at least a month, followed through and were unable to get results.
Aside from avoiding the temptation of shiny objects, maintaining focus is essential throughout your work day.
One constant source of distraction for people is email. I use a tool — unroll.me — to help me avoid having too many non-essential emails coming in at once and I usually want my inbox at zero by the end of the week.
Another way to maintain focus is by time-blocking. If you think about it, your ‘musts’ that you have to do are usually on your calendar. Most of us, if we set an appointment on our calendar, keep it. So using the same idea, set an appointment with yourself to accomplish the tasks that are most essential to reaching your KPIs. For me, I time block the morning hours to focus on those essentials. I try not to schedule anything from 4–7am other than solid work time. No email, no international phone calls, no social media — just focus time.
When setting time-blocks, I again use the example of professional athletes — about how long do they practice for before they take a break? Maybe 2–3 hours?
And while they’re practicing, it’s usually not just intensive ‘sprinting’ the entire time. There are ebbs and flows to their routines. I try to apply the same principles.
- Work in 2–3 hour blocks.
- Structure my day so that during my more tired times, my time blocks are spent doing less intensive activities (ie. answering emails later in the day)
- Dividing up my work between creative, analytical, and routine (in sports, the analogy might be scrimmaging, watching game film, and hitting the weight room). I further subdivide between enjoyable tasks and ones I really don’t enjoy. Anything that’s ‘routine’ and that I ‘dislike’, I think about whether I can outsource.
Extraordinary results come from extraordinary actions
I hope the above has been helpful to you in terms of helping you think through your own routines and work habits.
I want to leave everyone with this final thought. Part of why I go through such great lengths to organize and plan out my life is tied to the goals I have in my life. I have a vision of the extraordinary life I’d like to live as well as the impact such a life could have on others.
To be extraordinary, you must do extraordinary actions.
One of the reasons I’ve chosen to wake up at 4am is that not many others can do that. When I mention KPIs in my life to others, I have yet to meet someone who has said, “Yep.. I do the same.” Masterminds, although gaining steam in popularity, are still not commonplace.
Each action that you take to go above and beyond what most people are doing helps move you closer to achieving results that are also above and beyond what others achieve.
Let me know what you thought of this article in the comments below. And also, please share your productivity own productivity secrets so that we can grow as a community!