The Starting Small Framework Action Pack :-)

Putting Starting Small together

Over the last three days, we’ve gone over three ideas that align with starting small.

  1. Ignition
  2. Time Consistency
  3. Forcing Functions

The ideas are a piece of a toolkit which I call the Starting Small Framework. The Framework helps me start and consistently create.

In fact, you are looking at a product of that framework now (the blog).

I hope that you get a chance to use this on your projects. If you do, let me know how it goes at adam@theadamthomas.com.

Supercharge with Forcing Functions

Forcing Functions Push You Further

I’m not a betting man, but I bet parachutes aren’t on your mind.

In fact, I’m sure that you haven’t thought about parachutes in a long time. I am betting that you are like me in a sense that you don’t ever think about parachutes.

Well, rarely.

The only time I think about parachutes is when I am on a plane.

You know what would make me obsess about parachutes?

If I were jumping out a plane

That is a forcing function.

Forcing functions are a tool that forces a decision some kind. And they are powerful.

They don’t have to get to life or death though for effectiveness.

Let’s bring the camera in a little more to something that isn’t so extreme, your alarm clock.

Alarm clocks force you to decide as they go off. It isn’t a life or death decision (most days), but it is useful in making you decide.

You might select snooze, but you do decide.

There are frameworks like the LEAN Framework that build on this concept to help people do amazing things.

I want to make things even simpler.

There are two tools that you can build into your starting small toolkit that will push you further. They both work with reminders and deal with uncomfortability.

Exercise:

Forcing Deadlines:

For your idea, select a date for you to do something public with what you learn. (Reminder)

When you decide the time, tell your friend that remembers EVERYTHING (we all have one, it was the person you didn’t want to tell when you read “tell”). (Forcing Function)

ex. I want to learn how to write HTML, I promise to make a website for my photos by November, I am going to tell Bobby along with the date.

Forcing showing your work:

When you work on something, use a Porodomo timer. (Reminder)

During the “long break,” snap a picture of what you are doing and put it on Social Media. Start an anonymous Twitter handle if you worry about identity. (Forcing Function)

 

Small Time Chunks Better Than Big

Time is the secret weapon

Yesterday we discussed why your time commitment has to be the inverse of your passion for the project. No one wants to look like a liar or a failure. If you internally commit to an idea and your time commitment isn’t there, then there you are. By swinging for the fences too early in terms of time, you kill your drive.

So, you’ve set aside 10 minutes to get started Monday morning, and it goes well.

What’s next?

You commit to at least 10 minutes tomorrow.

And you do that every day after that.

Small, controlled consistency is compelling. 

A few reasons:

  1. It forces you to make smaller milestones, which makes you more likely to make something happen. We feed off of small wins. The more small wins you have, the easier it is to get up for the next one.
  2.  You spend more time thinking about the idea. After you walk away from the “office,” your subconscious doesn’t quit. It continues to tinker with the notion. All the inputs that happen to you interact with it providing you with inspiration for tomorrow’s work.
  3. You don’t have to work for just 10 minutes. By making the barrier to entry so low, you know you can take care of the work without making yourself feel like a liar. All the work after that 10 minutes is a useful bonus.

So, your idea is starting to get compelling. You got it off the ground, and you are spending time on it daily. There is one more piece of this that makes this framework very potent.

We cover that part tomorrow!

Your Ignition is the Inverse of Your Initial Commitment

Don’t commit too much to new ideas

New ideas are great. It means that there is a project on the horizon, and shipping projects feel good.

The newness of an idea is fun. The hard part, though, is turning that curiosity into something finished. That involves the process.

My old process might sound familiar to you. It included slicing large blocks of time out of my calendar where I was going to do the work. From there, I would sit down, and try to do 5 to 10 hours of work on this one idea.

Sounds good in theory, but it was awful in practice. The amount of time wasn’t an issue. The amount of preallocated commitment was. I made a promise that was too hard to keep to myself.

When you run into promises that are too hard to follow, it’s easier not to start on the project then fail to hold your word. I didn’t know it at the planning stages, but just by committing that amount of time to that idea in huge chunks; I sowed the seeds of the project’s defeat.

A lot of promising things didn’t ship.

I recently discovered a process that allows me to take on ideas, and ship them, with a higher completion rate. It requires going the other direction, promising less time.

It sounds counter-intuitive, but committing something small makes starting much easier.

If I plan on working on something for two minutes, well, it’s that much easier to get going.

So, committing small is an excellent ignition point – what about sustaining that little commitment better and how do I make sure that I don’t work on it forever?

Well, over the next two days, we will talk about just those topics.

For now, think about how you can lower the amount of time commitment to the ideas you have. It’s a quick way to see your project completion percentage go up.

Don’t Rush – Box Breathe and Chill :-)

How do you get out the bed?

Your technique matters:

  • When you leap, you are on a one track, emotionally led mindset. When you jump out of the bed for Christmas morning or to not miss your international flight has the same energy behind it. It’s frantic, and you miss everything except your objective(oooh presents)
  • When you slither, you are groggy, and you meander. You spend a lot of time trying to orient yourself. Your mind isn’t healthy yet. You hope you don’t crash into anything on your way to the bathroom. It’s not fun, and potentially painful (ouch!)
  • When you do so calmly, you are alert. You smoothly get out of bed as you stretch, check the clock, and yawn. You feel like you have a choice.  This form of waking up is ideal. (Yay!)
The first two ways of getting up are reactive states, either by prompt or circumstance.
The last way is a proactive state, where you have the energy to decide and the head space to think through it.
This mindset doesn’t just affect getting up, but everything we do.  Sometimes the other two states are necessary, but only in emergencies. In life, being proactive is better.

Exercise

  1. Think about the act of what you are doing, is it reactive or proactive
  2. If it’s reactive, ask yourself, do you have to be?
  3. If it doesn’t have to stop for a second. Breathe deeply for 4 seconds in, hold your breath for 4 seconds, exhale for 4 seconds, and hold for 4 seconds (if you are curious – this is box breathing, and it’s a Navy Seal technique)
  4. Reassess and get proactive 🙂
 Every once in a while, just ask yourself if you are reactive. If you are, this exercise gets you back into that proactive space.

You Don’t Know And I Don’t Know

It’s fine, but don’t hide.

It’s easy to run with a new project when you’ve gone through it before.

Working through the unknown is much harder.

We use strategies:

  • Asking for more “research.”
  • Trying to “figure it out.”
  • Faint, open-ended requests designed to either give us the answer / shift blame.

All strategies for hiding from the work. 

This post isn’t telling you not to do those things. Those bullet points are due diligence, and it is necessary.

But, if you keep coming back to those points, ask yourself, am I hiding because of the fear of the unknown?

If yes, start.

 

Priorities and Boundaries Concerning Meetings – The Small Decisions That Affect Them

Don’t forget the small decisions

I am a big fan of calendaring these days. 15 to 30 minutes on Sunday allow me to keep track of the incoming and outgoing quite efficiently.

With that said, I noticed something when I started keeping track of the meetings and my lateness (by paying for everyone’s food/drink. If you want to remember something add a pain point). I realized that small decisions made after the meeting created more tartness than any other reason.

  • More than the train
  • More than getting up late
  • More than making sure I complete my habits

What is a small decision post meeting?

It’s the little discussions that happen after the meeting finishes, after “closing remarks” that keep it going.

Some examples:

  • Follow up details for the next meeting
  • Clearing up misunderstandings
  • Goodbyes

All of these things are critical to maintaining a relationship, and all of them quietly add a few minutes. It takes a meeting from 4 – 4:30 and makes it 4 – 4:45.

So, when scheduling a meeting, make sure you either:

  • Establish boundaries before the meeting and state that there is a hard out earlier than necessary to get out
  • Add padding to your schedule to account for it (if you didn’t set the meeting)

Don’t Just Jump In, Outline First

Outline it all; it saves you time.

When I:

  • Sit down to write; I want to write it all out at once.
  • Start a business; I want to quickly put together the partnerships.
  • Start building an infrastructure; I want to get the systems in place immediately.

My first instinct is to follow the genius myth. Except, after I think about it, I remember –

When I:

  • Write all at once; it discourages me because I don’t know where the story goes.
  • Go for Partnerships early; I don’t know what I truly offer (or better yet – even need).
  • Build out all they systems; most systems go unused and I have to replace them.

The first thing I do as soon as I remember those memories, start an outline.

An outline is a forcing function that makes me start to consider what I need. It deals with those problems I listed above.

When I outline:

  • I know where the writing is going, so I save time.
  • I see what I need from each partner, and if it is worth talking to that person.
  • See the systems and how they play with each other. 

Even if you are in a situation that leaves you with little time,outline. It helps you manage that time more efficiently, no matter the situation.

That Moment Can Go Boom!

There is a moment where our emotions take control.

It’s not wrong.

Don’t blame your emotions. Don’t try to shut them out. It’s a normal occurrence.

You aren’t a robot. Trying to shut down your emotions like a robot has awful consequences. They don’t just go away; they just hide elsewhere.

So, feel free to experience them at the moment. But only in that moment.

They start small, but those emotions grow if you let them. If you do let them, they also have terrible consequences.

Think of it as a fuse to a stick of dynamite.

It’s no problem if it burns for a second, but if you let it go long enough…

BOOM!

Find Out When It’s Slow

It’s when you can focus

In the restaurant industry,  the business comes in shifts. Two stand out.

There is the “heavy” shift, meaning the restaurant is busy. People focus. They just handle incoming requests.

On the other hand, there is “slow.” This is the time where the restaurants distinguish themselves. 

  • The good restaurants do prep, get the dining room in order, take stock of what happened and make adjustments for the next rush.
  • The bad restaurants use it to catch their breath and don’t think about what’s next.

Our lives follow the same rhythm. 

There are times when we are going fast, just trying to keep up, and time where we can to level up.

Pay attention to your rhythm and look for the “slow” time. It’s there where you leverage your best self.