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Motivation, Productivity & Peak Performance — All Start with the Same Four-Letter Word
Let me share an important study with you. It’s a longitudinal study going back over 50 years using a statistically unrepresentative sample…

Motivation, Productivity & Peak Performance — All Start with the Same Four-Letter Word

Let me share an important study with you. It’s a longitudinal study going back over 50 years using a statistically unrepresentative sample of one…
Photo by Mathias Herheim

This is for the serial weekend entrepreneur, the person that never seems to dig him or herself out of a never-ending string of projects. I recently pulled the plug on one of mine — KeepTheTalk.com — and it got me all contemplative on how I use my time. Time is extremely valuable to all of us and that is why it is critical to take stock on how we use it, how we select our projects, and whether we’re being honest with ourselves. 

We can optimize our time and success by creating realistic and useful goals. And that’s the mystery four-letter word in the title. A good goal should state what you want to achieve, in how much time, and its criteria for success, and, the flip of it, its criteria for failure. If your goal doesn’t clearly state those four points, then motivation, productivity, and peak performance won’t mean much. 

We Lie to Ourselves All the Time about Goals

Just working in the tech field feels like a goal in and of itself, and that’s a problem.

Let me share an important study with you. It is a longitudinal study going back over 50 years using a statistically unrepresentative sample of one… Yes, me, my story, but trust me its the same with a lot of people in this industry. We don’t need science, we don’t need Tony Robbins, we just need “real” goals

In this field, we all work on cool stuff, we use cutting edge tools, and the discoveries can be mind-blowing! We’re working on the edge of the unknown, and whoever stands on this precipice has that false sense of importance, of superiority over others.

We’re overly confident about our abilities, take coding for example, how many programmers do you know that don’t think their way is the best way? It’s this arrogance that makes us feel that we always have a goal, it doesn’t need to be put into words because it is bigger, it’s of divine proportions!

Yeah, But Not Really

How many times did you assume functioning under the guidance of a goal and telling yourself,”‘Either way it’s fine, even if I fail I’ll learn this new tool, technique, open-source project, <<INSERT YOUR FAVORITE EXCUSE>>.” What kind of goal is that? A shitty one if it’s even a goal at all. Really, it’s just us doing whatever we want to do — you don’t need a goal for that. Chalking off a poorly thought out goal to the school of hard knocks isn’t having a goal, it’s gluttony.

If you are like me, a bit of an introvert that loves spending quality time with your computer and wouldn’t see any issue spending a lifetime doing just that (really, I could). And that’s OK, we all do whatever we want to do. We have the same gift and we utilize it however we want to, but that’s not having a goal, and it’s certainly no peak performance!

You’re not going to say, I want to learn to be the best at chilling on the couch or a pro at binging on Netflix — those concepts don’t really intersect. And for me, programming on my computer is the same as chilling on the couch — a lot of it can be a huge waste of time — a black hole that sucks all time and energy if it’s not supervised.

A Real and Honest Goal

Having a clear goal can add a little order to this chaotic binge and it can still be loads of fun. Actually a goal is your ticket to guaranteed fun. Not only does the process of stopping and thinking things through a bit will ensure that the journey you are about to take is one you really want, but it will also box that time and enable you to do other, maybe even more “fun” things around it.

A good goal should clearly define the following four points:

  • What do you want to achieve
  • In how much time
  • What are your criteria for success
  • And criteria for failure

This is only a high-level overview of the definition of a goal. We’re not talking about the whys or hows — just the what’s and when’s. 

Postmortem

So, about taking stock on things — you really only know how good a goal is after the fact. If you want to improve your batting average, you need to analyze your past successes and failures.

Do a postmortem, to use medical speak, and ask your last project was a success, failure, or you gave up halfway through. If it was a success, remember the things that got you there. If it was a failure, ask yourself what went wrong and what can you do to anticipate that next time. Write those findings down, blog about it, make a YouTube, tell others, do whatever it takes to keep this process transparent and honest. It pays to look over your shoulder and analyze what was good or bad — now that’s the fuel for real future productivity and peak performance.

In my case, the site KeepTheTalk.com was a failure but the process was a success. It became evident that my failure criteria had been hit and there was only one way out — pulling the plug. I wrote about the reasons in this article if you want specifics: Pulling the Plug on “KeepTheTalk.com” and the Lessons Learned.