We all know at least one person who does it…
“Yeah, we are gonna hang out soon!”
“Sure! I’ll help you paint your bathroom!”
“I’m going to start going to the gym more!”
… But then nothing happens.
The same goes for business.
“We are going to double our sales this year!”
“We are going to do more team outings and events!”
“We are going to push out a new product!”
You might even be that person.
But why do we do this? Why do we say we will do things and then not deliver?
There are a number of reasons why, some of which are buried deep within our psychological and even biological roots. But one of the primary reasons why is due to a lack of execution, which stems from the following:
- A lack of accountability
- A lack of clearly-defined goals or vision
- A lack of supporting processes or systems
- Unsure of what to do or how to bring an idea to life
The act of converting a though, idea, or statement into action is execution at work.
In this article, I will share some tips on how to think differently about life in such a way where you can execute more to reach your goals, build your confidence, and just get more done when you say you will do it.
11 Steps to Better Execution
Step 1: Think about your purpose.
I know, I know, this a difficult one to start out with, but it is critical. You can’t choose and set goals that are misaligned with your purpose, or you won’t end up sticking with them. Be sure that your goals are actually your own and not someone else’s.
So how do you find your purpose? This can take some soul-searching, journaling, and even some reflective thinking, but here is a super-easy formula to follow:
I want to do A THING (your contribution) so that THE THING can ___________ (impact).
For example, if you have a product or service, or blog, your purpose might be: To help and serve others in a creative way. So, at the end of every day think to yourself: What did you learn today? How did you help someone today?
This not only helps solidify your purpose, but allows you to see it in action, which will motivate you to work toward your goals.
Step 2: Write down your goals.
Take a few minutes and write down your goals. They can be anything—going to the gym more, finding a better work-life balance, doing better at your job to get that promotion, buying a house, starting a family. The point is to get them down on paper. Remember, the goal right now is to focus on the WHAT not the HOW. (We’ll get to the HOW later.)
Once you’ve done that, now go through your list of goals and circle one, two or three of the goals that are most important to you. We are going to call these Wildly Important Goals (WIGs). The 4 Disciplines of Execution by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey, and Jim Huling goes into incredible detail about the importance of setting WIGs and how to measure them. Once you have circled your WIGs, dedicate a “focus work” session that allows you to work on them every day.
The reason that we are only focusing on a few WIGs at a time is because if you are working on five, seven, or even 10 goals, you will find it more difficult to meet them. Any more than this and you lose focus and set yourself up for failure.
This isn’t to say that you can’t do it, but you will find that it will take a lot longer to reach them, because you are stretching your focus and mental energy in too many directions. This is why we suggest picking a few WIGs, work on them, reach them, and then work on the next three.
Step 3: Do ONE tiny thing toward your goals every day.
As we mentioned above, it can be hard to start doing a new thing, especially if that thing means you have to develop a new habit. The best—and least overwhelming—way to not only do the new thing, but also find motivation to do the thing, is to commit to working on your goal or doing the thing for only 5 minutes per day.
Remember, the first step here is to develop the habit of doing the thing every day. Even small progress is still progress than not doing anything at all. Over time, you will find that once you start working on the thing for 5 minutes, 5 minutes will turn into 10, then 20… and so on.
Step 4: Find your focus.
Execution requires focus. Find out what you need to focus on to reach your goals. This could be spending the first hour of your day looking at them, blocking off time on your calendar, or journaling. Read more about the importance of “deep work” and how this can be incremental to your focus.
“Productivity” looks different for each person. It greatly depends on our responsibilities, and you guessed it, our goals.
Step 5: Look at your goals every single day.
This goes hand-in-hand with the previous rule: focus. If you are focused on accomplishing many goals all at once—maybe it’s losing weight, getting a promotion at work, launching a new product or service, studying for that real estate exam, being a better parent, and so on—then you probably already know how difficult it is to make any substantial head way on any of these areas of your life.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t have goals to improve every area of your life. In fact, I think this is a great idea! The point is to focus on a few at a time. You will find that you will make more progress while focusing on two to three goals at a time rather than a little progress on all of them. The more progress you make, the more your motivation increases, the better your self-esteem and confidence, and the more likely you will accomplish more goals. It’s all interrelated.
With all that being said, focus is also related to your mindset and your level of thinking. Whatever you aim to make better (wealth, health, relationship, skills or knowledge), an infinite mindset can help you make consistent progress without losing focus on the big picture.
Step 6: Define what productivity means to you.
Most people would define “productivity” as “getting things done”, which is totally true. However, levels of productivity look different for each person.
For example, someone who gets up every morning and goes for a run but then does nothing for the rest of the day might consider him or herself “productive“.
On the other hand, a business owner who speaks with 16 clients per day, cleans the house, picks up the kids, feeds the pets, and then exercises and reads at night before bed might say, “I didn’t do enough today”.
However, if you have too many goals that you are trying to accomplish all at once, you might get frustrated with your level of productivity.
Above all, remember productivity isn’t about doing it ALL every day.
Step 7: Find an accountability partner.
Remember, accountability is one of the core rules of execution. An accountability partner is someone you can work with and speak to about your goals. Your partner’s role is to listen and remind you about your goals, and keep you honest so that when you say you are going to do something, you actually do it.
Your partner can be a friend, family member, romantic partner, or professional mentor. However, choose wisely. An accountability partner should be someone who pushes you to reach your goals rather than agree with you when you feel like quitting or when you think, “Pfft, THAT goal was a bad idea!” or when you feel like making excuses for not getting something done.
Step 8: Leave emotions at the door.
Emotions can get the best of all of us from time to time, and they can keep us from reaching our goals. If you are someone who is often reactive and emotional, then this is something to be very aware of. You may have to take time to ask yourself about what emotion competes for control over your life? How has this impacted your work? How has this impacted your relationships?
I’ll use myself as an example here. When it comes to owning and running my business, fear often gets the best of me. I fear failure and making mistakes almost on a daily basis. I constantly worry that if my business fails, then my employees lose their jobs, I will lose my home, I will be on the street, and I will be lost in life forever.
Overdramatic? Definitely. Deep down inside I know that the chances of this happening are probably pretty slim, but this is how powerful fear can be. It can take over your life and stop you from living a life of purpose and fulfilling your dreams and aspirations.
Whenever I have these moments, I try to put FAITH above fear. Having faith in yourself, or in a higher power takes substantially LESS energy than worry, fear, anxiety—and you’ll live longer!
Step 9: Use tools to manage your life.
Many people believe AI is going to take over humans. I’ve written a number of articles on this, but basically, AI and robots are available to help us. Think about how times you talk to Siri or Alexa, or maybe your Rumba vacuum, We should be embracing the “Rise of the Robots” rather than avoiding them.
The beauty of robots is that they can also help with execution. They can help do a lot of things for us. Welcome to the world of automation. The beauty of automation (or, “robots”), is we can put a lot of the same tedious, repetitive, and menial tasks we do every day on “autopilot”.
There is a wealth of tools you can use to manage your day-to-day tasks, some of which include:
- Google Calendar or iCal
You might already use some of these for work. If you are already familiar with them, why not use them for your life?
Step 10: Change your thinking.
If you are someone who is easily overwhelmed by the day-to-day, then no wonder you might be struggling with execution!
Like the other points mentioned in this blog, ask yourself: Where do my current beliefs about life and work come from, and do they still serve me today?
When looking at your endless inbox of emails, tasks, and reminders, go through each, one by one and ask yourself, “is this necessary?” “Do I NEED to be in this meeting?” “Do I NEED to do this task? Can someone else do it? Can it be automated?”
This definitely involves a mindset change, but tapping into your curiosity, trying new things, and changing your thinking will change your approach to getting things done.
Step 11: Build a score card.
Developing a new habit, starting a new thing, or working toward a new goal is always hard. I won’t lie to you—it takes time to get your mind to adjust to the new thing. One of the easiest ways to adapt to doing something new is to track your progress with a “score card”. This is essentially like a habit tracker. Each time you do the thing, you mark an X or a checkmark on the day you did the thing.
You can use a Google Sheet, a habit tracker page in your journal or planner, or a calendar app. If you are super techy, you can also create your own scorecard via a digital dashboard tool, such as Databox.
Regardless of which format or tool you choose for your score card, you will get just a tad bit of fulfillment each time you check the box. Further, if you are tracking your progress each day, week, or month, then you will be more motivated to “move the needle”, so to speak.
In summary, regardless of how big, small, or impossible they may seem, you can reach your goals. You can do this by committing to only a few goals at a time, and dedicated small chunks of time to them every day. This will allow you to develop the habit and motivation to see them through.
And if you feel like there isn’t a HOW to reaching your goals, then create one.