Part 13: Success Cycles
We are human. We cannot be 100 percent 100 percent of the time. We cannot improve every area of our life simultaneously. We cannot do everything at the same time. When we try is when we fail, burn out or blow up.
Nature works in cycles. As with the seasons, there is a time to learn, a time to produce, a time to harvest and a time to rest. Farmers, schoolchildren, and even professional athletes operate in seasons. That approach to life can help you excel, too.
I want to explain an advanced achievement strategy that will help you make greater progress toward your goals—faster.
It’s a concept called: Working in Success Cycles.
Let me give you an example. Let’s say you and I are going to race from Los Angeles to New York City. We both have planes. You have a 747, which travels at a cruising speed of 875 mph. I have a mere Learjet, which travels at 400 mph. Now, if I fly straight through, but you have to land and take off in the 10 states in between—taxiing, parking and going through your preflight checklist before taking off again—who is going to win? Me. Even though you travel twice as fast in the air, I will still win because instead of wasting time repeatedly stopping and taking off, I just stay in flight. Even if I am traveling slower, I will still win—by a large margin.
This is how most people spend their days—constantly starting on projects, stopping to do something else, and then having to once again go through the process of getting their head back into the project and recapturing their rhythm. If you spend your day “multitasking,” you may not be getting a whole lot done. Days turn into weeks, months, years, and finally into a decade of constantly taking off and landing and not getting very far.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Many years ago, I learned a strategy called Success Compression. The concept is that you can get more quality output by being supremely focused on an activity, by staying “in the zone” for a sustained period of time.
When I learned this principle, I started structuring my goals around 90-day cycles. Depending on what I wanted to accomplish, I would break the tasks into compressed chunks within those 90 days—three 30-day cycles or six two-week cycles.
When I was building a national distributorship, for example, I focused solely on recruiting for 30 days. Focusing on this task, and this task alone, I could get into a solid rhythm, getting hotter and hotter each day. I found I could recruit more in 30 days than I could in almost a year when mixing that activity with everything else. The next 30 days would be dedicated to training, and then in the following 30 days, I’d be focused on recognition, sorting leaders and driving group campaigns. After a two-week break, I’d start another 90-day cycle.
By compressing key tasks into extended windows of time, I could not only stay in flight at the 400 mph rate, but I found that I started flying faster with the same energy applied and that my success was compressed (time)—and even multiplied (results)!
There is another great value to working in Success Cycles. We can only push so hard for so long without breaking down and burning out. The mind and body desire oscillation. Without it, we will turn to artificial means if needed: caffeine, amphetamines, alcohol, drugs or sleeping pills, etc. You cannot keep an intense focus for too long without time for recovery. When we relentlessly spend energy without allowing for sufficient recovery, we become mental and emotional flat-liners. We slowly, but inexorably, wear down.
Flavius Philostratus (170-245) wrote training manuals for Greek athletes and perfected what he called “work-rest ratios.” Russian sports scientists resurrected his principles in the ’60s and applied it with stunning success to their Olympic athletes. The theory explains that a period of activity must be followed by a period of rest to allow the body to replenish fundamental biochemical sources of energy. This is called compensation.
There are two common problems that affect performance: under-training and overtraining. Under-training is obvious, but overtraining causes equally damaging performance consequences that include persistent injury, sickness, anxiety, negativity, anger, difficulty concentrating, loss of passion and mental staleness. Overtraining causes toxins to build up inside us that lead to burnout and breakdown.
To build muscle, you must use focused intensity to stress and test the muscle. But only in recovery does it grow back bigger and stronger than it was originally. If you keep challenging the muscle without giving it time to recover, you will only continue to break it down.
Ever see a marathon runner? Even though they are working their muscles, they typically have little muscle mass. They are constantly destroying their muscles without giving them a chance to recover and rebuild.
That is what happens to your creative potential if you do not build recovery time into your annual, quarterly, monthly, weekly, and even daily cycles. Without recovery time, you hurt your performance and stunt your growth.
Here is what I like to do. I break my year down into quarters. I then pick a main theme for each quarter—one major area of focus. Then I break down the three months into supporting acts to the play of the quarter. Then I pick a few key behaviors to focus on during each month in that quarter. (I put those key behaviors on my Weekly Rhythm Register to measure progress.)
Let me give you an example. During one of the quarters last year, I decided I was going to figure out and get serious about this social media thing. I didn’t even have a Twitter account (didn’t really know what it was or what it was used for), hadn’t been on Facebook more than twice ever and had about 20 connections on LinkedIn. I decided it was going to be the quarter of social media.
Then I picked a platform for each month: Month 1: LinkedIn, Month 2: Twitter, Month 3: Facebook. I chunked it down even further so that for the first three days of each month, I did nothing but learn everything I possibly could about that one platform—how it worked and how to work it.
Then I devoted an inordinate amount of time to that particular social media platform compared to the rest of my responsibilities that month.
The bottom line is, after that quarter, I had built a following on each platform (LinkedIn: several thousand, Facebook: almost 5,000, Twitter: 58,000) bigger and faster than many people I know who are still “multitasking” with it.
After that quarter of focused effort, I spend very little time maintaining those networks, but they continue to grow on their own because I put so much effort into getting them off the ground. It’s like the rocket example: Ninety percent more energy is expended getting it 3 feet off the ground than is used to orbit all the way around the earth. Most people don’t ever expend enough focused energy to get off the ground.
Here is the recommended formula:
1—Pick a theme for each quarter of the year that represents a major priority to accomplishing your overall 2010 goals.
2—Break the quarter down into cycles: three four-week cycles, two six-week cycles or four three-week cycles—whatever makes the most sense.
3—Define the key behaviors needed for each cycle.
4—Spend the first few days of each cycle “launching” the cycle with intense focused effort.
Thoughts, questions, supporting ideas to share with the group? Leave your comments in the section below.