The fog thickens. The pilot has no visibility in the cockpit. At this moment the only way he knows the direction of the plane is through his instruments. Now imagine a plane without these instruments. The pilot would most likely become overwhelmed and the story wouldn’t end well. In moments of panic we become immobilized, time compresses and we end up making critical mistakes.
Imagine living your life like that. Where the slightest of hiccups would result in knee jerk reactions. Most of which would make the situation worse. Blaming circumstances or external factors may provide temporary respite. However, we are bound to find ourselves in similar situations if we don’t do something about it. To avoid such missteps we need to incorporate processes and habits into our life. These act like our instruments that help guide us when we get caught in bad situations.
A few instruments that have greatly helped me are:
1. Differentiating high and low value activities
This habit has greatly improved my productivity in 2015. With an ever growing list of distractions, maintaining focus is becoming harder everyday. At the end of each day I record the 3 top tasks I was able to accomplish. I also set 3 core tasks for the following day. This helps bring focus to the major items I need to clear to reach my goals. At the end of the day if I see myself not completing those tasks, it acts as a feedback loop. If I continue to stay misaligned it forces me to do a reset and re-evaluate the goals I am working towards.
On the flip side when you are able to check off those items on a regular basis, results follow. Progress can be seen on a daily basis and you begin to inch closer to your destination.
2. Gathering personal feedback on a regular basis
I discussed feedback loops a few weeks ago. They are an essential component to ensure you are on the right path. Build processes to enable frequent check ins with the people that matter most to you in life. Both at work and at home. Ask them how you are doing and give them feedback on their actions. Without building a strong feedback loop, we could be checking off priority items everyday at a very high cost.
Feedback provides us with necessary reality checks when we need them the most. In the short run they will hurt. However in the longer run we will enjoy a stronger and closer relationship with the people who matter to us.
3. Listening to your body for clues
Without our health there is very little we can accomplish. The good news is that our body is very good at leaving clues for us when things are starting to go wrong. If you find yourselves continuously tired and not operating optimally, you may need more sleep. Feeling lethargic all the time? Take a look at your diet and the sort of food you are consuming. Are you putting on too much weight? Fix your diet and get into an exercise routine. Continuously on the edge and stressed out at work and home? Perhaps you should look into meditation and mindfulness.
Our body is leaving clue for us to listen to all the time. If we start paying attention and start making the necessary changes, it will dramatically improve the quality of your life.
The core ingredient making any of these instruments work is discipline. Without it we will struggle to get anything done.
All of us know the benefits of being more disciplined in our lives. We have been told umpteen times by our family, teachers and anyone who really cares about us. The only person who has the ability to build this muscle is yourself. It requires a daily practice of taking small steps and repeating them everyday. Learning to say no to distractions and focusing on the bigger picture. If we are able to do that we will be surprised by what we can achieve.
What I am reading and watching this week
Full speed, then stop, gracefully This was one of the best things I read last week. Seth Godin is a source of inspiration and his ability to write quality posts everyday is remarkable. This post talks about a very important topic about quitting. It was triggered by a big announcement by Dropbox earlier this week. However it is very relevant to entrepreneurs who are struggling with what they are working on.
Stay Focused on Your Goals Not Your Critics Mark Suster is another favourite author of mine. An entrepreneur turned venture capitalist he has a great blog. This post about focusing on your work and not letting negativity bog you down is great. It is in line with the topic of the post this week. By having the discipline to remain focused we have the ability to achieve great things.
Getting Meaningful Customer Feedback Talk to your customers everyday. Simple advice that most startups often overlook. This post provides great advice on how to get meaningful customer feedback. It includes specific steps and case studies of how these practices were used by the author in prior companies. This post is filled with great insights.
If I can’t build a product, what good am I? I have made the mistake of solely focusing on the product and not distribution. This is a very expensive mistake. In this post the author talks through this mistake and how entrepreneurs should address it.
The Open Startup The open startup movement is awesome to watch. Founders are spending more time talking to their prospective customers and building distribution before the product is built. This post has 10 great takeaways from the movement. If you are planning on starting up in 2016 you should definitely take a look at this post.
If You Really Want to Change the World (Book) Enjoyed reading this book. The authors are very successful entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. Having brought us products like Siri and many others. The book provides a framework that they use when accessing new ventures. It was well written with many examples supporting the framework.
Master of None (Video) Aziz Ansari has out done himself in this intelligent and witty comedy. I finally got through the whole season and it is worth watching. I liked the fact that each episode revolved around key issues. His book Modern Romance is also on my reading list.
Wishing everyone a great week ahead!