3 Steps To Achieving Anything In Midlife
3 steps to achieving anything is easy until you put them into practice. Bringing a simple ethos to life still requires diligence, planning, and dedication. The Clarity → Strategy → Activity model for success is one we swear by at Team Vippi – but that doesn’t mean you can sleepwalk your way through it.
Many people flail about blindly while building a business, workout routine, or life plan. They have an end goal, but no strategy to get there. Or they have a clear plan of action and then just… sort of… forget to do the action part.
It’s even worse when a person has a strategy, invests a whole bunch of time, energy, and effort into carrying it out, only to find that their results are dwindling because they approached the scenario without any kind of clarity.
You have to have a bird’s eye view of your whole goal from inception to outcome. Team Vippi put together a guide on nailing each step so that you can guarantee success.
You achieve clarity by working backwards from a goal or objective. And in a world of information, distraction, and manipulation, achieving clarity is one of the hardest parts of building an idea.
People either overshoot, setting pie-in-the-sky targets with no way to get there, or set achievable but underwhelming goals that don’t meet their needs.
Value and you: Walk it back
Do you want to make money from a business? Well, walk it back – what talent can you use to make that money?
Some people work on manipulating markups – buying low, and selling high. Some people can make money by providing a skill or service, like a restaurant business. Others come up with an invention that people want purely because of how much value it adds to their lives.
Everyone should value themselves. That’s not up for debate. But not everyone is equally valuable in terms of what they provide through their business. What are you doing to drive up your value? By keeping in line with your goal, you’ll make targeted decisions that increase your value.
The goal is the end point of your project. And, by working back from it, your goal can also become the underpinning ethos for every step you take on the way there.
If you’re struggling to find a goal or work back from it, here are some suggestions that may help.
Whether you write down your ideas or record them on a dictaphone/Voice Recorder app, make sure you find some way to vocalize or describe your dreams.
Don’t just speak in cold literal terms – “I want to earn $15 million.” What do you want your life to look like? If you want to earn money, talk openly about what you would do with that money. What would an average day in your life look like?
If your goal is more fitness-oriented, describe what you’d accomplish with your improved stamina and flexibility. Would you run a marathon for charity? Train for a combat sport you’d always admired? Go to the beach topless? Your dream, your description.
Visualization task: Imagine five future scenes that show you what achieving your goal accomplishes in your life. What food are you eating? Where are you living? Who are you with? Really develop a feel for what your ideal day is like.
Saying no to stuff
After reverse engineering your goal to find your tools, it’s time to prioritize. That means empowering yourself by saying no to activities that don’t serve your goal.
For example, if a musician wants to “do music” for a living, that’s not enough. Do they want to do session work for touring bands? They have to focus on adding value to their skill set by learning to read notation, improving the scope of genres they can perform, and not agreeing to join every band from whom they receive an invitation.
Perhaps they need to travel to performances less, answer only the emails that truly relate to them, and put aside time in their day to focus on getting hired for paid session work through forums and job postings.
You can’t do everything. Coming to that realization and acting on it is a key part of attaining clarity. In the musician example, you can go back to travelling for jams once your strategy is rolling out or your goal is achieved.
Visualization task: Go back to one of the scenes you recorded/wrote down earlier. Break that one scene down into tasks you have to do to get there – your YES! list – and tasks that might obstruct your vision – your NO! List.
Did you picture yourself living on a waterfront in Malibu? Make a list like:
- Look up property prices in Malibu.
- Work out how much you’d need to save for a deposit.
- Calculate how long that would take at my current rate of earning.
- Think of ways to make more money.
- Take the time to read some finance journals and look at current stock trends.
- Browse entrepreneurship groups on Facebook and look for gaps in the market.
That’s seven tasks you can achieve before you’ve even started on a plan.
SMART is not only a quality you need – it’s an acronym you should apply to any goal you can isolate.
To find clarity on any goals you have, they need to be:
- Specific (they’re not lofty and vague, but relate to a specific factor)
- Measurable (you can track them)
- Attainable (you can actually achieve them)
- Relevant (they relate to your goals and make you happy)
- Time-restricted (you have to get them done within a specific amount of time)
If your goals have these qualities, you’ll be able to “chunk” them into smaller pieces.
Reverse engineer that sh*t
These smaller “chunks” of necessary activity might only take up 30 minutes of each day if you break them up. It might involve calling up accountants, setting yourself up as a company, or coming up with five ideas for a logo.
With working out, it’s even simpler – you can break your goal into specific workouts or even particular exercises you can practice.
This is how clarity works – a huge, overwhelming goal or challenge suddenly becomes a bunch of different but manageable tasks. So reverse engineer your goal into a skill you need.
Actualization task: We’re past visualization now. You want money? You’ve got to work out how to make your vision real.
Okay, cool. Let’s say your goal of “make money to support X lifestyle” is supported by your idea to start a business improving people’s credit scores. How is that going to make you money?
Okay, cool. Well, by outsourcing work to the Philippines and charging people a little more than it costs, you can essentially make the business self-sustaining.
Okay, cool. Well, how do you start? A few examples might be:
- You have to research overseas digital assistants.
- You have to think of a name.
- You’ve got to look up trading laws between the U.S. and Philippines.
- You’ve got to find the various ways it’d be possible to improve a credit score in the first place.
- You’ve got to insure the assets of the business.
Well, they’re more manageable. I’ll assign one task to each day of the week and get rolling.
Okay cool. Where can I find digital assistants, then?
And so the reverse engineering continues. See? Before you know it, you’re nudging your actions ever more firmly toward the life you really want. Clarity.
Developing a strategy
A strategy is not a list of instructions or a vague philosophy. It informs the way you should approach every decision you make while trying to achieve your goal.
It’s why you need clarity that’s reverse engineered from your overriding goal – if your strategy is supported by a foundation of clarity, it means that the overriding philosophy behind every decision you make will be outcome-oriented.
A strategy supplies the how. It should include a couple of important tools.
What steps are you going to take to get to your goals? What obstacles might you encounter that you can preempt and account for? Setting out a roadmap can show you what the journey to your destination will look like.
This isn’t some abstract idea – a roadmap is a clear visual representation of how to get from where you are to where you want to be. You can assign different responsibilities to everyone involved so the plan materializes, or plot yourself a timeline if it’s a one-person job.
Below is a sample roadmap for what was happening in 2019 for a company called Sharder, shaping how their whole year would pan out through product launches, testing, and hardware purchases.
Image credit, ColaYoung, 2019
Several tools and apps can help you put together a roadmap for your business or personal goal, including:
Many of these offer free trials, so you can find out how their workflow operates within your intended purposes. All of them feature collaboration tools, the ability to drag and drop different elements of the roadmap, and track milestones. And all except Confluence offer the ability to import and export data.
Set principles and rules
Once you have a roadmap, you have to use it to develop a set of macro principles that can help guide every micro decision you make on the project.
For example, a motorsports publication wants to double their circulation over the course of a year. They’ve set up a roadmap to get them to the end of the year in a way that achieves this. The guiding principles would include:
- Awareness of their niche and demographic. Do they specialize in Formula 1? Supercars? NASCAR? All of them? None of them? An understanding of their demographic will help them tailor all subsequent actions to the people who are most likely to exchange money for their product.
- A linguistic style guide. This helps them reinforce the publication style and brand voice with every new writer they bring on.
- A pledge to reinvest magazine sales into marketing, PR, and advertising. This may help the publication expand their reach.
- A production target. The more the writers write, the more magazines they can sell. The more they sell, the more capital goes the way of marketing and aggressive expansion.
With these principles in place, they can go flying over any speed bumps they encounter because the guidelines have been created with a particular goal in mind. Any new hires are trained in line with these guiding principles. So even though they’re fresh to the task, newbies can hit the ground running.
These guidelines will also help the publication choose what to prioritize. If their goal is expansion of readership, and the opportunity comes to fund writer training that improves quality, they’ll probably deprioritize that until they’ve reached their expansion goals. The roadmap and principles show the clearest way to meet their objectives.
Strategy helps you allocate resources to support your mission. In short, if you stick to a strategy, it means that every move you make takes you closer to the outcome.
Committing to activity
This is the real doozy. You might think strategizing is the tough part, but you’d be wrong. Putting plans into action competently might be the only degree of separation between you and the next professional.
A world filled with coaches, training, and hand-holding hasn’t at all prepared you for the action you really need to take. We’re accustomed to a crippling fear of failure, but we should embrace it – failure is the best teacher anyone has.
How do you measure the amount you’re doing? What qualifies as “enough”?
Believe it or not, there are actual sums you can do to quantify your output. The more measurable a goal is, the more you’ll be able to taste the fruits of your labor. And the formula is so simple you’ll kick yourself:
Productivity = Units of output divided by units of input.
Or in layman’s terms:
How much do you get for what you put in?
At the start, when it’s just you, your blood, your sweat, and your tears, you can maybe work with time as your input. Let’s say it’s your mission to start a business making small, beaded bracelets using reclaimed materials.
You can start with your metric as:
Productivity = Small, beaded bracelets divided by hours of work
Perhaps you’re able to cheaply outsource the work, or find a workflow that’s much quicker for assembling the bracelets. Thus, your productivity increases as you can get more made per hour. This leads to a massive profit margin, which allows you to invest in different parts of the business.
Suddenly, your goal changes. It now becomes about marketing, social media management, and finding new sales leads. The focus of the business changes to efficiency and reach, rather than productivity. You might instead want to think about this equation:
Efficiency = marketing budget divided by the number of direct sales leads
As the purposes and operations of your business expand, it becomes more complex to gauge the productivity or efficiency of the operation, because you’re using different metrics. At its heart though, lies a very simple question: What are you getting for what you put in?
Don’t be bloody-minded about your strategy or how you measure success. Stick to it, sure, but be willing to change the strategy if it’s not working. Nimbleness and flexibility are the best ways to make sure that you can move with the pitfalls and clear the hurdles.
Apps and programs that can help productivity
It’s 2021. Of course, there’s an app for whatever you need.
Different products can cover different corners of what you may need for productivity, including:
- Microsoft Office (for all your word processing, spreadsheet, and database needs)
- Asana (an amazing app for collaboration and delegation)
- TeamViewer (a desktop app that allows you to remote control a device from wherever you are and communicate through video and audio chat)
- Trello (a project management and prioritization godsend)
- LastPass (for gathering all your passwords together so as not to dent productivity with lost time)
- Buffer (to schedule, create, and track social media posts and promote your wares across a wide range of platforms)
Just remember, there’s no app for getting you off your a** and into the task at hand. That all has to come from you. So make sure you’re finding clarity on your goals and mission, planning a painstaking strategy for success, and going about your business with resolution and focus.
Team Vippi knows you have it in you.
Watkins, M. D. (2007). Demystifying strategy: The what, who, how, and why. https://hbr.org/2007/09/demystifying-strategy-the-what
Simple steps to reverse engineer any goal. (n.d.). https://ponytailsandproductivity.com/reverse-engineer-your-goals/
Kutcher, J. (n.d.). How to reverse engineer the result you want. https://jennakutcherblog.com/reverse/
Chew WB. (n.d.). The no-nonsense guide to measuring productivity. https://hbr.org/1988/01/no-nonsense-guide-to-measuring-productivity
Williams M., et al. (2021). Best productivity tools of 2021: free and paid apps. https://www.techradar.com/uk/best/best-productivity-apps