Today I'd like to discuss a mistake I often see when someone sets their sights on something new, such as starting a private project or making a New Year's resolution at the turn of the year. And since the New Year is approaching quickly and you may also have plans that you want to implement soon for 2023, I would like to discuss this mistake and the solution briefly.
A user wants to start a new business.
Above is an exemplary post I saw on Reddit today. The user would like to invest 2-3 hours a day in addition to his full-time job to raise his business as an entrepreneur. He describes his daily routine, which he imagines, as follows:
- 1.5h to get ready, shower, .... and commute
- 9h of work (1h lunch)
- 2h for commute, shower, dinner, ....
- 3h Switch to founder mode and work on my startup
- 1h reading on the bed
- 7.5h of sleep
He asks if spending 20-35hrs on the private passion project and the 40-hour job is feasible.
The answer is yes, but not as he defined it.
First, the positive: the user is discussing the time allocation, not the task itself. Many people would make the first mistake here and put the new project as another project or checklist item on the to-do list, hoping that at some point while working through the checklist, the moment will come when the new project will be tackled.
But this is a fallacy. We love to procrastinate, and when we look at our to-do lists to pick something we want to get done now, we will always choose the easy, quick, and familiar tasks first. The intricate checklist item of raising a whole new business competes with more accessible checklist items like cleaning up the apartment. So it then happens that the problematic, unfamiliar tasks get pushed further and further back. "Tomorrow is another day!"
The user understands this and wants to create a daily time box where he invests time and works on his new project. Excellent!
Now comes the mistake I would like to point out in this text. He assumes he can spend another 2-3 hours AFTER his regular job to split into the role of an Entrepreneur to get his new business off the ground.
In this role, he will need a lot of creativity, make many decisions, and make many new, previously unknown ground. It is, by definition, a task that will take enormous amounts of willpower. And he wants to manage that (sustainably) after work? Not a chance.
The mistake is that the user overestimates his future self's emotional state and mental power and does not yet see how hard it will be to take care of such cognitively demanding work after the job.
No chance! You can force yourself to do it for a few days with willpower. But trying to pull it off for weeks and months will fail.
Willpower is at its peak in the morning when you get up, and everything you do throughout the day will siphon off some of it. Even ordinary things like picking out your clothes for the day (aware of this, Steve Jobs always wore the same kind of turtleneck, so he didn't have to decide for anything else).
Later in the day, less willpower will be left.
Do your most important work in the morning when you're full of mental energy.
This is the number one productivity rule and why morning routines are so popularly discussed: because that's when you organize the most precious time of the day and try to allocate it as well as possible.
So what can the user do concretely? He has to find a way to get his entrepreneurship role done before the core working hours. There are two paths here:
- Option 1: He has a flexible job (software developer, for example) and negotiates with his boss that he will start 2 hours later and stay 2 hours longer - a slight shift of his typical working hours.
- Option 2: He goes to bed 2 hours earlier and gets up 2 hours earlier. This way, he can work on his own business two hours before his actual work. In this way, he exchanges his free time in the evening (where he would, for example, watch Netflix or meet friends) with the new working time in the morning.
Option 2 is the way I chose to be able to work on Deliberate Diligence, and that's the reason I manage the cadence of writing daily. Otherwise, there would have been umpteen days where I would not have had the strength in the evening to be creative.
By the way, I noticed the second thing in the user's schedule: one hour for lunch is a lot. I realized at some point that I don't need that much at lunch (nothing, really) and have been skipping it ever since. This way, I gained another hour of high-quality-worktime because, at lunchtime, there's usually a lot of willpower left. It also eliminates the afternoon slump because the stomach has nothing to digest.
My key message is this: Do what is important to you first thing in the day! Directly and without detours after waking up. For one person, it's exercise. For someone else, it's family time or desk work. This way, you can ensure that you'll consistently work on the things that matter and have an actual impact.