The Tentpole Method

My Four-Step System to Finally Master Your Mindset and Conquer Your Calendar

Kristi Andrus
Jan 13, 2020 · 13 min read
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Photo by KAL VISUALS on Unsplash

As a media executive, I was given an annual budget early each year to allocate with my team, which we did, based on our knowledge about the account, our client’s priorities, our programming tent poles, and our goals for the year.

Each team allocated their budget their way, but our team almost always front-loaded it. We came out hot and heavy, spent early and often, achieved our goals as soon as possible, then simply maintained momentum, and let the programming do its part to retain customers as the year went on.

It was cyclical and rhythmic and we booked our work, and planned our lives to some degree, accordingly. Our meetings, team activities, conferences, and vacations flowed throughout the year, based on the cycles of the business, and because we had a sixth sense about what it would take to move the business forward and when to press or not, we settled into a groove.

We could feel the trends, knew the early warning signs of trouble, anticipated the big pushes, sensed the lulls, and had a little extra money and drive, stashed in reserve if we needed it. More often than not, there was a surplus. Sometimes, we were asked to achieve a stretch goal to offset another team’s challenges, but more often, we returned the surplus for the greater good, to another team or department.

It worked well for the business, our clients, and the team. No one felt the need to kill themselves all year long or during any given campaign. We were consistently engaged, high functioning, and committed, but during summer and the holidays, everyone took advantage of the seasonal downtime for family, reflection, planning, or extended time off. It meant we came back each year refreshed and ready to roll.

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Photo by Alonso Reyes on Unsplash

I thought of that pattern again during our last cruise because we set up our 14 sea days similarly. I hadn’t used the term front-loaded for a few years and it came out when I described our time at sea. I’d get up early, work out, grab breakfast and take it back to the room for the family, get the kiddos going, drop them at kids club for the morning session, then take a class, sit in on a lecture, or go to the pool with hubby.

We’d eat lunch, fit in a handful of additional activities (sports, another class, a meetup, attraction, gambling, or the like), then pick up the kids, eat dinner, and shower before bed.

On average, we accomplished about 25% as much in the late afternoon and evening as we did in the first half of the days. Our port days were the same. We were first off the ship, on the move to our main attraction, squeezing in as much sightseeing and tourism as possible before we hit a late afternoon lull.

At that time, we’d usually find a well-recommended beach, a beachside restaurant or cocktail service, and enjoy our time together and bake our buns in the sun. Occasionally, we’d take a coach tour somewhere and rest on the bus.

Our kids are fresh and enthusiastic in the morning. They have high energy and good attitudes. As the day goes, they wilt like little flowers, which is fine, because I’m the same way. Hubby is more of a night owl, but accommodates us. We can push through when we have to, and sometimes do, but it’s disruptive to the next day, and I’m a huge proponent of going to bed and waking up happy.

If you are an early bird, or day bird, anything but a night owl really, who feels at his/her most productive or effective in the first few hours of the day, you’ve got to front-load your days, weeks, months, and years. It’s the edge you’ve been looking for that will thrust you to the next level. It makes all the difference.

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Photo by Kara Eads on Unsplash

Front load your days, weeks, and months, and year.

Let’s start with your days. Prioritize these three things every day: 1) a revenue-generating or high ROI activity, 2) something that represents progress and will feel so good to cross off your list, and 3) an activity that directly correlates to the life you want to lead in the future or benefits you and your family immediately. Start early and tackle those things first. If you get to more, great. If you don’t, you still crushed it. You’re on target.

Now let’s move on to weeks. Prioritize these three things every week: 1) your health, 2) your family, and 3) your future. Make a minimum of three investments/week toward each and try to achieve them as quickly as possible in the first part of the week. Workout Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday for example. Meal prep or make kid snacks for the whole week on Sunday. Do your homework early in the week before it’s due at the end of the week. Whatever your tactics are, get to them early, and keep moving. If you get to more, great. If you don’t, you still win. You are still making progress on what’s most important.

Now, let’s tackle months. Prioritize these three things every month: 1) happiness, 2) learning, and 3) adventure. No matter what these objectives look like to you, choose one overarching goal for each and make as much progress as possible in the first ten days of the month, knowing you have only twelve opportunities to do so for the full year, so feel the urgency. You can do what you have to do, anything really, even the hard stuff, twelve times in a year.

Finally, let’s address your year as a whole. Set an annual goal, but resolve to achieve it in six-months. Very few of us have the discipline, stamina, and consistency to crush it every day for a year, but many of us can stay on our A-game for half a year, especially the first half. So, set 1–3 goals for the year. These are the things you want most, your big hairy scary dreams. Plan them, build a vision board, journal, or discuss it with your coach and spouse, then execute the plan in double-time.

Begin in January and act as if June is your year-end deadline. Front-loading your year means planning, scheduling, and executing early in the allotted timeframe. It maximizes your energy, enthusiasm, and motivation by inherently building massive momentum while also creating a cushion of time and space for disruptions or surprises. It removes the overwhelm from looking too far out or facing too big of a mountain, and offers an opportunity to achieve way beyond the original goal.

If you want summer to be your downtime, for example, reverse engineer your timing to achieve 50% of your goal before June, then strategize the fall to achieve the other 50%. The holidays aren’t an ideal time for a push, so avoid procrastination and build in downtime there too. That’s the key. No grinding. This isn’t a hustle at all costs strategy. Grinding day in and day out isn’t sustainable, healthy, or fun.

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Photo by Joshua Hoehne on Unsplash

Ok, now let’s think about your children’s academic calendar for a moment. You can see when semesters begin and end, when students are off, when teachers are off, when key events are scheduled, and do the math. You know how many days in a school year, how many lunches and snacks to pack, and after you get to know the class, you’ll be able to fill in the details for birthday parties, play dates, volunteer opportunities, homework patterns, and more. It’s all outlined a year or more in advance, so take full advantage, and plan ahead.

Book family trips, vacations, and appointments during school breaks to avoid last-minute scrambles and save a ton of money and stress. Then fill in other key dates, work trips or summer camps for example, then holidays, anniversaries, and milestones.

Yes, Facebook autopopulates your calendar. Yes, you likely have a handful of recurring annual reminders from providers and such, but I want you to be more intentional than that.

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Own your calendar.

First, schedule the obvious dates, loved ones’, friends’, and colleagues’ birthdays, then drop in holidays and breaks, including school breaks, vacations, and performance dates, such a recitals, holidays programs, year-end activities, or other annual events.

Then, drop in anniversaries that are personally meaningful, like your job start date, your dog rescue date, the date you purchased your current home, the anniversary of your first date, or the date you launched your business, etc. Then, layer in any other milestones such as cancer recovery, sobriety anniversaries, workout or writing streaks, 100th day of school, goal deadlines you are working toward, etc. Record anything that matters to you as a recurring appointment.

Finally, set a reminder for every entry one week before it’s due to allow yourself ample time to send a card, flowers, note or gift, and then another reminder one day in advance to prompt you to call, say something, or celebrate in person.

When the first reminder pops up, take action right then. Send the card. Schedule the dinner date. Get a sitter. Book the appointment. If you need more lead time, set the first reminder for a month out. When the second reminder pops up, smile and send love toward that person or event and gratitude to the universe.

You’re doing two important things here. First, you are giving yourself an impressive number of reasons to celebrate and appreciate life. That positively influences your mindset, outlook, and health. Second, you are using anticipation as a happiness strategy, which has been scientifically proven to enhance wellbeing. If this feels trivial, or frivolous, it’s not. It anchors you to the present, creates a good will ripple, raises your vibe, and keeps you healthy.

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Photo by Matthieu Joannon on Unsplash

So back to tent pole programming for a moment. Tentpoles are the titles that resonate for your audience, the series that people subscribe for and watch in large numbers and with high ratings, it’s the characters that permeate pop culture and the stories people gravitate towards. A network goes all-in on promotion of these shows because it breaks through and delivers.

Maximum promotion means cross-platform sampling, teases, recaps, behind-the-scenes, making of, awareness, brand-building, and next-level engagement. Think Game of Thrones conspiracy theories, pre-season analysis, soundtrack releases, actor interviews, retail pushes, affiliate promotions, and more.

It doesn’t mean that the other shows are insignificant, it’s just that the tent poles can make or break the season, or even the year. A smaller show, a lesser known show, may gain unexpected traction, it may blow up to become a future tent pole, or it may deliver on a branding promise to a certain audience; it’s significant in different ways.

You can use this strategy in your life too.

In broad brush strokes, the tent pole method means taking a look at your year and asking yourself what the key moments are going to be, and building them up to maximize success, impact, and significance.

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Photo by riya rohewal on Unsplash

Plan two launches or go all-in on your tentpoles.

If you’re an entrepreneur or online business owner, the concept of launching may be familiar to you. It’s the window during which your digital product is available to purchase. It’s event-level promotion, marketing, sales all leading up to a particular period of opportunity to advance your business.

It’s the equivalent of tent pole programming. In a more traditional business, it’s your high volume sales and promotional time, perhaps leading up to the Super Bowl if you are a large screen television retailer or near Valentine’s Day if you sell jewelry. It’s when sales become more organic and opportunities become more strategic and it’s your best time to capitalize.

Picking a couple of these key events or windows is an ideal time to go all-in to maximize your success for the year. Think about it. What if you could hit your revenue or sales target for the year with just two big pushes? How would that take the pressure off the rest of the year? How might it boost your creativity, your motivation, your innovation to not be in hustle mode every day? How would focusing on just two or three key moments in time for the year change your relationship with time?

If you are an entrepreneur or business owner, schedule two launches or tentpoles this year. Create your launch plan, content calendar, off-season promotion, pre-launch runway, and give yourself breathing room the rest of the year.

If you have a 9-to-5, or are a SAHM or SAHD, you can do the same. Pick two windows to accomplish something amazing at work or at home. For example, getting a promotion might be a goal, training for and completing a marathon might be another. Ensuring your child’s success in 1st Grade, publishing your book, teaching your kids to ride a bike, swim, or ski might be on your list. Learning another language, working out consistently for 30 days, tackling a home improvement project, whatever it is, the criteria can be purely subjective.

If you’re stuck, think about how at the end of the year when you reflect back, there are inevitably a few things that stand out. Looking ahead, what are those things likely to be this year, and how can you enhance them or amplify them? Create your launch plan, content calendar, off-season promotion, pre-launch runway, and give yourself breathing room the rest of the year.

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Photo by Paul Skorupskas on Unsplash

The goal here is to be incredibly focused during the year, in terms of outcomes, playbook, strategies and tactics. By choosing ideal timing, you are upping your chances for success, eliminating excuses, and building your life and decisions around it. By narrowing your focusing on just a couple opportunities, you’ll be more likely to capitalize and wildly exceed expectations.

By getting really clear, you’ll spend resources on what matters, eliminate distractions, find it easier to say to everything else, stay on track more effortlessly, and live more fully aligned with your values. Those are long-term big-deal wins my friends. High five.

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Photo by Jeffrey F Lin on Unsplash

Ok, last one. Now think about the entrepreneurs, the CEOs, the athletes, the performers, the leaders, and people you truly admire. What’s one thing they have in common? For the most part, they’re committed to their health. Beyond vanity and visibility, they know they can’t achieve what they are known for consistently and sustainably, without taking care of themselves.

On some level, they know there’s no substitute for themselves. They aren’t necessarily more talented, smart, or better than you or me, but the bring a unique combination to the table that works, and that authenticity is irreplacable. That kind of self-awareness is a next level belief.

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Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash

Join a gym or change your perspective about working out.

Working out at home is a great start, but most of us won’t push ourselves as hard or see the results we see in the gym. Still, even if you join, “having to go” can sometimes feels like punishment or seem impossible given everything else you have on your plate. So, instead of thinking of it as a having to go, think of it as “getting to go”, and reframe it for the privilege it is.

Next time you’re at the gym, I want you to look around at all the shapes, sizes, genders, and ages, and note their diversity. Then think about what you all have on common. There are three important attributes: Everyone there has the time, money, and good health to be there. Appreciate that for a moment.

Whether the others working out are your friends, acquaintances, or strangers, you, we, all of us have three of the most important life essentials in common. Time. Money. Health. That’s the big three ladies and gentlemen and going to the gym is an affirmation.

You don’t show up if you can’t find the time. You don’t show up if you can’t afford it. You don’t show up if your health prevents it. So, just by showing up, it’s an acknowledgement that life is pretty good. Take that in, how fortunate you are.

Remind yourself of the privilege it is to get breathless, to connect to your body, to disconnect from technology, to do something purely for yourself, to feel good and push your limits. Everyone is not so fortunate.

Every single time you show up, say something simple to yourself, a mantra of sorts, to remind yourself of that. Thank you for this opportunity. I’m so glad you’re here. You’re amazing.

You’ve already won by showing up. Working hard and honoring the moment are the delicious sprinkles on top.

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Photo by Conor Brown on Unsplash

In summary, the tentpole method is anticipating the highlights of your year, then taking it a step further to orchestrate them so they turn out to be even better. You don’t need to do everything, or stack up 365 wins, you just need to pick 1–3 definitive moments or opportunities and let them define the entire year. Identify what matters to you, forecast what it will take to achieve your goals, and focus. If it feels restrictive, or like it’s not enough, keep in mind, you still have real life to manage, and you are creating so much room in your life that you can fill with opportunities, spontaneity, love, rest, travel, whatever you need. The tentpoles will hold it all up for you and give you the breathing room to expand in any way that feels good.

In broad brush strokes, the tent pole method means taking a look at your year and asking yourself what the key moments are going to be, and building them up to maximize success, impact, and significance.

That’s it, my friends, the scheduling and mindset work it takes to be uber productive and attain the influence, impact, and success you crave. As always, please let me know how it goes, and if you liked this, and want more, sign up here.

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Kristi Andrus

Written by

Life and business coach for women. KristiAndrus.com I help moms design lives they love, so they can build businesses that set them free.

Age of Awareness

Stories providing creative, innovative, and sustainable changes to the ways we learn

Kristi Andrus

Written by

Life and business coach for women. KristiAndrus.com I help moms design lives they love, so they can build businesses that set them free.

Age of Awareness

Stories providing creative, innovative, and sustainable changes to the ways we learn

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