Do Anything: 3 Steps for Success
One of the strangest things about growing older is coming to terms with the idealism and certainty you had as a teenager compared to the reality of who you’ve grown into. I grew up in a house full of books on what I’d now refer to as lifehacks: books on happiness, psychology, time management, career development and how to influence people. From my post-adolescence surety I always looked at those self-help books with distain: “Why would you need someone else to tell you how to live your life?”
It’s funny how times change. If I’m honest to myself then I have to admit that I read far too many blogs that could fall into the category of self-help. I learn how to be a better blogger with DBT, Problogger, Copyblogger, and Skelliwag. There’s always programming and high tech tips to be learned from Joel, Jeff, Giles, Rands, Reg and the guys at 37signals. And let’s not forget about all the life tips from Gina, Leon, and Leo. It’s very easy to spend all of my time learning and not enough time doing.
Today I’m going to take a break from the usual Internet Duct Tape goodness, and share with you the ultimate time saving lifehack. After learning this secret you’ll be able to put down your self-help books, unsubscribe from all of those tip/learning blogs (I’m lying — don’t do that), and use all that freed time living your life, or just catching up on reruns of the O.C. I won’t judge. Success in any endeavor can be yours as long as you keep these three things in the front of your mind.
1. Be Happy
A happy person is not a person in a certain set of circumstances, but rather a person with a certain set of attitudes. — Hugh Downs
I don’t mean listen to that irritatingly catchy song. If you start a task happy then you are coming from a position of strength. You’ll feel more energetic, more calm and be able to handle anything that life throws your way. People want to be around relaxed, happy people. You’ll have better relationships with friends and co-workers. You will be more aware of the chances and opportunities around you.
I’m not going to give you platitudes about how to find your happiness. There isn’t any one answer that suits all situations. Recognize that no one in your life can make you happy except for yourself, and if you don’t start from a position of happiness then everything else becomes so much harder. Irritation and constant complaining are the little yellow canaries in the mineshaft that you’re losing hold of your happiness. Keep hold of your happiness, it is the best asset you have.
2. Know What is Important
I know that most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept the simplest and most obvious truth if it be such as would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabrics of their life — Leo Tolstoy
Any advice on time/life management can be broken down to this essential idea: focus on what is important to achieving your goal and ignore all else. Stuff in your house you don’t use? Get rid of it. Features in your app that aren’t going to land the customer? They’re only adding complexity and tying up your developers. Cut unnecessary time sinks and distractions out of your life mercilessly and suddenly everything else becomes much more manageable.
Doing less as a way of achieving more is quite simple, the really hard part is figuring out what you want to accomplish, and then identifying what is truly important to get there. Don’t confuse urgency with importance. In any task only 20% of the activities around it are truly important, the other 80% are trivialities that can be ignored. One of the most important skills you can have in life is figuring out which is which.
3. Be Disciplined
Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment. — Jim Rohn
When you know what your goal is, and you have identified the 20% of tasks that are important, then it is only a matter of execution. Discipline, like patience, is more a muscle than a skill. You gain discipline by exercising that muscle, instead of letting it atrophy by following distractions and procrastination. The greatest productivity comes from achieving flow. Exercising your discipline is the road to being able to enter flow at will.
Like Chuck Jazdzewski says, programming is fun but shipping is your job. It doesn’t matter how much work, time and effort you put into something if your don’t achieve your goal. Discipline helps you always be closing on your goals.
Time and resources can play a big factor in success, but they are external factors. If you start from a position of strength (happiness), identify what gets you the most bang for your buck (know what is important), and execute (be disciplined) then you will always achieve the results you are looking for.