We all envision a future, some better life for ourselves. We strategize the moves needed to get there. The only problem is most people suck at it, using systems that are either way too basic or way too rigid.
To achieve literally anything, we will use a commonly talked about framework called the Eisenhower Matrix. Anything you do in life falls into one of these four Quadrants.
Quadrant #1 is filled with stuff that’s both important and urgent. Sounds great, right? This is not where you want to be.
Most people start in Quadrant #1 until tired, inevitably falling into Quadrant #4, mindlessly attending to the non-urgent and non-important stuff like cleaning out your e-mail inbox or binge-watching YouTube (even if it’s educational videos). You goof around here until you’re ready to go back to Quadrant #1.
“Is that a new e-mail in your inbox? Hooray, you’re saved.” Can’t help but look, right? In your moment of weakness, you make a detour into Quadrant #3, focusing on the not important but apparently urgent things. And just like this from Quadrant #1 to #4 to #3 back to #1. Around and around, you go like a hamster in a wheel of life, devoid of growth.
The reality is this Quadrant #1 is just the bare minimum. Quadrant #1 is where you go put out fires, but if you’re constantly holding the fire extinguisher, when do you hold the hammer? Guess where the fires of Quadrant #1 come from? They come from the ignored dreams of Quadrant #2.
You see examples of this all the time.
- Ignore that big project and reap the consequences when it’s due.
- Ignore quality time with friends and family and they soon become decent strangers.
- Ignore the gym long enough and you’ll wake up one day and suffer a heart attack.
Quadrant #2 is where dreams are built. It’s the stuff that’s good for you, but because it’s not urgent, you never make time for it.
Imagine yourself as a box factory worker. A day’s worth of work is 50 boxes. Little did you know that tomorrow the boss says he needs 100 boxes. Uh, sounds important and urgent, right? You don’t want to get fired. Will you grit your teeth and force it to happen.
From simple to-dos, phone reminder systems to micromanaged hour by hour planners your mindset is always the same; Learn another productivity hack to squeeze more juice from each day.
What if instead of being a better worker, you became a better factory? Instead of just putting out fires every day you spend one day making everything fireproof and thus freeing up the rest of your life.
Factory Boss Vs. Factory Worker Mentality
This is what I call the factory boss versus factory worker mentality. Don’t get lost in the weeds. Strategize at a higher level. Live your life in Quadrant #2.
Easier said than done, I know. Quadrant #2 tasks are foggy and unclear. There’s no satisfying finish, no urgency, and no end in sight. You can always read more, learn more, workout more and without inspiration, pushing you forward. Your brain is hardwired to only do things with immediate rewards, things that feel good.
As chaotic as Quadrant #1 is, it does indeed feel good. Checking off to-dos and putting out fires gives you an immediate sense of accomplishment. And thus, back to assembling the boxes you go. The four Quadrant model gives you the conceptual framework, but it’s not practical.
Instead of fighting your brain’s need for feel good productivity, build a system that capitalizes on it. This is the crux of technique #1. Creating the magical Quadrant of #1.5, the secret Quadrant of Success.
Step 1, The Secret Quadrant of Success.
Quadrant #1.5 is systematically broken down into tasks that are not only actionable, practical, and urgent but also carefully picked to provide the highest yield for your time.
To create Quadrant #1.5, you first build the cloud. The cloud represents your ultimate dream. It hangs in the sky, thousands of feet in the air, all fluffy and nice. While you admire this cloud from afar it taunts you with its tiny little raindrops. Theoretically, if you follow these drops all the way up, you’ll reach it.
Most people’s plans are to do exactly this: Follow the drops from the ground up with checklists, to-dos, and organizers just good enough to collect the lowest hanging fruit, the few droplets right above your head.
The problem is, the higher you go, the more difficult it becomes. How do you know if you’re chasing the right cloud anymore?
Instead, do a top-down approach. You start with the top of the cloud where the raindrops are incredibly obvious and fat. You follow them down as they splinter, seeing exactly what actions should be prioritized. This is called building the blueprint.
Once you have this blueprint mapped out, you begin to schedule your life around weekly goals, which is technique #2.
Step 2, The Week.
All goals have a one-week deadline. This is how you build urgency to everything in Quadrant 1.5
1 month is conceptually too long! Knowing to have an entire month to accomplish something kills any sense of urgency and is too late for feedback. Having only 12 times a year to course correct is not good enough. On the other hand, one day is too short. This creates anxiety and the desire to excessively micromanage. Hence the weekly deadline for all assigned tasks, just long enough for meaningful work, but flexible enough for you to still handle the rest of your life.
For example, let’s say you have a medical interview in one month. How would the weekly goal system work?
- First week, three goals. Doesn’t matter when or how you do them. You just do them. Again, you only have one week.
- Second week. You have two goals.
- Third week is mock interview time scheduled ten of them with people that you trust and make it as difficult as possible.
- Fourth week is to figure out as much stuff about the interview in advance.
The mini goals for each week should all be actional steps. These weekly goals are never outcome based like getting 100 new subscribers or getting an A on the exam, but rather something always within your control. Now that each week’s plan is set, how do you decide what to do each day?
Step 3, Inverted Pyramid Method (3-2-1 System).
Technique #3 the inverted pyramid method. Essentially always start your day with the most important thing. Spend the most amount of time on this most important thing, and less and less time on each subsequent task.
When done well, this entire system works on Autopilot. Each week’s goals keep you flowing forward while the inverted pyramid allows you to flexibly schedule the day-to-day in service of these goals.
The beauty about the system is that it self corrects. If you haven’t made much progress on a goal, it becomes that much more urgent as the week draws to a close.
Elegantly, this urgency gets crystallized within the inverted pyramid too. The more urgent a task, the more likely it is to occupy the top tier of importance for the day.
This flexibility is the core feature of this system. No more micromanaging yourself with fancy calendars or minor systems or detailed to-dos, focus on the cloud. Live in Quadrant #1.5.
Set your weekly goals in advance, wake up each day and spend most of your time doing your highest yield, most important activities. When done right, you should have a clear sense of what to focus on for any given day, and that’s it.
Rinse and repeat until success.
Modified from Original Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QGB_jCIk8IA
I hope my article on 3 steps to achieving anything has helped you. I welcome your thoughts, questions or suggestions regarding this article.
Let me know if you found any errors within my article or if I may further assist you by answering any additional questions you may have.