Be like a postage stamp. Stick to one thing until you get there
I have written before about my natural tendency to feel overwhelmed when faced with a large goal and how I have developed mental models to overcome these often less-than-useful thought patterns.
Overcoming procrastination due to overwhelm probably ranks in my top 5 victories in terms of biggest life impact...10 years ago I wasted so much time agonizing over projects due to my poor pattern of thinking. It completely hamstrung my results-getting ability.
Today it's a complete non-issue. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that this ability to consistently and doggedly work through large projects one day at a time is one of my biggest strengths.
It's led me to realize that mental models, or the way that we interpret situations and life experience, is extremely important and can be an extremely powerful tool in our arsenal.
In this post I want to share a mental model that I called "1000 Perfect Days". It's a model that can help you..
- achieve massive life-changing goals
- motivate yourself when things are going slower than expected
- get yourself going on the days when you're not feeling very inspired
- consistently take action on large and seemingly insurmountable problems/projects
- see things through to the end and ship
- get results
I've been using a variation of this model for years and effectively used it to build a number of businesses, become financially free in my 30's and travel to 20+ countries with complete location independence. This model has also allowed me to take control of important areas of my life (health, fitness, finances) while giving me the flexibility to enjoy and experience life.
It can be easily adapted to your unique situation and is best suited to huge life-changing goals that require a seemingly insurmountable amount of work. In short, this model can help you achieve big life wins.
1000 Perfect Days - The Principle
At its core, 1000 perfect days is the realization that you can achieve any goal that you set simply by stringing together 1000 days of the right consistent action.
Here's how the principle works:-
- You begin with the end in mind
- You design the perfect day around your goal
- Each time you achieve a perfect day you add one to your score using visual reminders of momentum
- You don't stop until you reach 1000.
Let's break this down...
1. Begin with the End in Mind
To begin with the end in mind means to start with a clear understanding of your destination. How different our lives are when we really know what is deeply important to us, and, keeping that picture in mind, we manage ourselves each day to be and to do what really matters most.
Stephen Covey - The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
An extremely important and often overlooked step: Where do you want to end up?
This isn't a 5 minute step. Actually I'd say this is probably one of the most important decisions of your life.
You're going to dedicate 1000 days, which is a significant portion of your life, to making this dream a reality so you have to choose wisely. The last thing you want is to get half way through your journey only to change course and jump onto something else without getting any results. To put things into perspective, you can expect to live 27,000 days so we're talking about 4% of your entire life.
Making the decision to commit to 1,000 days of consistent action is no mean feat. So decide carefully. This step alone is probably worthy of a chapter by itself but rather than describe the nuances in this post, I'll encourage you to read Habit 2 in Stephen Covey's amazing book "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People". You can also check out my notes from the book here.
2. Design the Perfect Day
Now the question to answer is...what does a perfect day look like that will take you one step closer to the end vision?
The perfect day also automatically includes habits that promote general health and wellbeing:-
- Health and fitness related activities in line with recommended activity guidelines
- Habits that keep you in line with your body's natural circadian rhythm (consistent meal timings and light exposure, for example) and promotes at least 7 hours of sleep each night
- A morning routine that you automatically run when you wake up
- A nighttime routine that you automatically run before you go to sleep
- A 5 minute daily writing practice
- Daily meditation practice
- Minimum of 10 minutes per day reading
Let's say your end vision is build a software business that gives you location independence so that you can travel the world.
Here's what that perfect day might look like:-
The morning routine is designed to get your body's circadian rhythm in perfect synergy with the time of day. These habits ensure that you're sleepy when it's bedtime and promote both mental and cardiovascular health.
06:30 - wake up at the same time each day with timed lights
06:40 - light exercise outside under direct sunlight for 15 mins
07:00 - eat breakfast at the same time each day
07:30 - morning writing ritual
07:45 - 10 minutes of meditation
08:00 - deliberate reading with a coffee
During the Day
between 10am and 3pm - This is the time between which all your work for building the company must be done. No work is to be done outside of these hours where possible. This is time limited to enhance productivity and focus but also at the time of day where our minds are shown to be most alert.
Midday - lunchtime and relaxation (preferably outside for light exposure)
15:00 - Time to hit the gym. Studies show that 3pm onwards is when muscle tone begins to rise so it’s the best time for strength training, including weight lifting, or vigorous exercise like intense indoor cycling.
The evening routine is mainly for relaxation and winding down for a solid night of sleep. It also includes a relatively early dinner due to all the health benefits associated with having a 10 hour Time Restricted Eating period.
18:00 - The last bite of your dinner should be eaten by this time. Don't eat or drink anything other than water after this point.
Dusk - Measures to protect blue light exposure to protect against throwing off your circadian rhythm. (Screens off or filtered, overhead lights off and dim night time lights used in place, wear glasses that filter for blue light)
21:00 - Bedtime routine. Can include showering, reading a book. Any activity that avoids strenuous exercise and light.
21:45 - Leave phone outside the bedroom. Make sure room temperature is low. Get into bed and sleep.
The above framework can be used to structure your day and provide a window during which you can work on building your software business. It will ensure you're well rested, feel great, have mental clarity and are in excellent physical health.
The next step is figure out what activities need to happen during that 5 hour working window in the middle of the day.
These habits are usually:-
- Highly subjective - only you can decide what high leverage activities you must be doing on a daily basis to achieve your goals
- Subject to change periodically - commonly these activities change over time as you take on different projects and sub-goals
When building a software business, the sub-projects might be:-
- Write specification for new product x
- Reach out and hire new front end developer
- Write new sales page for product x
- Create backend
- Admin / emails / other
There are four goals to have in mind for achieving the perfect day:-
- Deep work - You must do at least one hour of deep work
- Push forward - You must advance at least one or more of these projects that you're working on
- Eat that Frog - You must tackle the most mentally challenging piece of work first - early in your day.
- Easy comes last - You must tackle the least mentally challenging tasks towards the end of the working day
Weekends are Off
You keep the morning and evening routine in order to maintain a consistent circadian rhythm but you don't do the 5 hour block of work in the middle of the day. Weekends are reserved for adventuring, sports, fun activities with the family - whatever you want to do.
3. Add One to your Score for Every Perfect Day you Live
Each time you achieve your perfect day, you add one to your score.
I like to keep count of my perfect days in my spreadsheet (unsurprisingly) but I also keep track of momentum with a jar that sits next to my desk. Each day I win, I'll add a coin to the jar.
4. Your Only Goal is to Reach 1,000
Your life will already have drastically changed before you reach 1,000. Most successes happen long before then. But having the goal of 1,000 gives you a clear and definite target.
This Simple Framework can Change your Life
I've used this framework, or at least a variation, for around five years. It's completely transformed my results-getting ability. I've gone from being the kind of person that can't see anything through to the end to being extremely confident in my ability to deliver, ship and create even large and complex projects.
If you're the type of person that struggles with structure, strategy, direction, productivity and seems to find it hard to achieve results then I highly recommend incorporating this framework into your life and watch how your life radically transforms.