I can’t believe it’s 2022 already. Now I’m not going to say 2022 is going to be my year. If the past 2 years have taught us anything, is to only expect the unexpected. Things can change in a heartbeat.
Before the Christmas break, I started to “go slow to go fast”. I wasn’t as active on social media, wasn’t spending hours coding. I gave myself one or two things to do each day, that I hoped would help promote my side projects.
It was great to take time off over Christmas and New Year, I switched off from everything for nearly two weeks. Focusing on spending time with friends and family. The year before, my wife and I spent Christmas and New Year in an enforced lockdown. We missed the social side of Christmas massively.
Did you manage to take time off over Christmas and New Year? Do you feel guilty for doing so?
It’s strange, isn’t it? I’m the same, the feeling of guilt for actually having downtime and being with people you want to spend time with.
I don’t know whether it’s because I put pressure on myself. Thinking that I should be working on something, on one of the side hustles, that then makes me feel guilty.
There was method in my madness, I wanted to get 2022 off to a flyer.
Slow Is Smooth, Smooth Is Fast
Derek used to cycle every day along the coast, pedaling as fast as he could, aiming to reach a certain point along the path in a certain time, trying to beat his personal best. Pushing himself each day trying to eek out a few seconds.
Then one day he decided to cycle at a leisurely pace. Taking in the sights and sounds, watching the birds, looking out over the ocean.
Normally when he reached his imaginary finish line, he was red-faced and completely out of breath. On this particular day even though he was a little sweaty, he had enjoyed his ride.
He then checked his stopwatch to see how long it had taken him. Thinking he would be 20 or 30 minutes, maybe even an hour slower than normal. He was literally 5 minutes slower than his normal time.
All that effort, all that pushing, and commitment, for a 5-minute difference. He said that it wasn’t worth it. This is when he coined the phrase “Slow Is Smooth, Smooth Is Fast”.
When I heard this story a good few years ago it really stuck with me. I try and use this mantra, as well as “progress over perfection”
That’s one of the reasons I wanted to slow down in the run-up to Christmas, to try and not hustle and grind as much. To try and plan my days so I’m smooth in my work.
Slow Down To Go Fast
So, how did I slow down?
As I’ve mentioned, I cut down my activity on social media. I’m not really a lurker and don’t do on it that much. However, I have been trying to post more across the platform I’m on, especially on LinkedIn.
I made the decision from mid-December to stop posting on social media. I also stopped sending out newsletters, and spending as much time in my inboxes, come on we all have multiple emails.
Another thing I did, which isn’t really slowing down, but allowed me to speed up in other areas. Was to batch record, edit and schedule the release of 3 or 4 episodes for my podcast, Find Your Side Hustle.
Taking these things off the table gave me chance to work on a few things that I believed would set me up for 2022.
Scream If You Want To Go Faster
I felt I had the capacity to work on a number of things now.
Around October time I set myself a number of goals to complete by the end of 2021. I was a week or two late with one of them but they have all been achieved now.
The main goal I set myself was to complete a number of features in Elementary Analytics and get them live. I hit this goal on the 5th January 2022. Result!
I also wanted to create a lot of content, mainly blog posts for Elementary Analytics, as well as this blog on my personal website.
In the run-up to Christmas, I was writing and publishing an article every day, for both Elementary Analytics and PHILH. In some cases, I managed to get 2-3 blogs out onto my personal site.
Recharged and Ready To Go In 2022
I’d be lying if I said I was fresh after taking two weeks off over Christmas and New Year. I wasn’t, I’d pigged out a lot and had drunk far too much.
But taking that time off had given my brain a rest, my body a rest, and a chance for my brain to mull over things. In 2021 I read a book called “The Power of The Subconscious Mind”. I was hoping that this was working away in the background, scheming and plotting, ready for 2022.
I had a small to-do list of things that I wanted to work on, and I also use Trello to plan out things like development work, or things I need to do on a website.
So, on the 3rd of January, I sat down at the dining table with 3 pieces of paper, old school I know, and started to plan 2022.
Planning 2022 To Hit The Ground Running
For the past few years, I’ve used these 3/6 month planners that you plan either plan each day out, or write down what you want to achieve each week.
Then every month, and every quarter you review how things have been progressing. Are you getting closer to your goals, and on a scale of 1 to 10 how are you improving.
The people who produce these planners say it’s backed by science, that doing the reviews and structuring your time like this works. Maybe I used the planner wrong or something but I didn’t feel like I was moving forward.
In fact, every 3 months it made me feel like shit. That I hadn’t gotten anywhere and wasn’t making progress. Also, it was hard to visualize things, as you had to keep flipping backward and forwards. Checking what project A’s goals were and what your goal for April was.
It was just too overwhelming. I had to try something different in 2022.
Simplifying My To-Do Lists For 2022
Going back to me sitting at the dining table, with just 3 pieces of A4 paper, how simple could I make it?
I decided each piece of paper should represent a project I am working on. WORD OF WARNING: Trust me on this, don’t have more than 3 projects. I had 7/8 at the end of 2020, I felt like crying.
Taking the first piece of paper, I folded it in half, lengthways. On one half, I drew a line across the top, wrote the project name in the new margin I had just created, and put down a time period. For the first piece of paper, I put “Elementary Analytics – Q1 2022”.
Now I have made sure the time period isn’t too short. As I said with the planners, sometimes a month just isn’t long enough. They recommend putting pressure, leverage on yourself. For me I just felt overwhelmed, I needed to reduce the feeling so I could focus.
Next, I drew 3 columns. In the columns I wrote in what tasks I wanted to achieve, grouped by what sort of task they are. For example, dev work, website, marketing, content, funnels, you get the gist.
Here is what one of the pieces of paper looked like for one of my projects called BAITCAMP.
Tasks That You Don’t Need To Complete
Once I had completed “side 1” of the paper. I flipped it over and drew 3 more columns. This time I gave each column a heading, ‘Outsource’, ‘Automate’ and ‘Hire’.
One thing I’ve learned about myself in 2020, and 2021 is that I try to do too much by myself. I’m not very good at using money to get things done.
So I decided 2022 had to be different. I had to either pay for software or services that could automate things or at least speed things like creating content from a podcast, etc. As well as outsourcing or hiring someone to do a task for me.
Hiring and outsourcing is a tough balancing act. I have hired people on UpWork in the past and it can become expensive, very quickly. It’s something you have to be mindful of. I’ve given myself a monthly budget to spend on growing my side projects. So it’s something to consider.
Here is back the other side of the paper looked like for Elementary Analytics.
Here are the 3 completed sheets of paper. As you can see, I’ve already made a good start to 2022 with Elementary Analytics.
Getting Stuff Done Every Day
As I mentioned earlier in the post. In the run-up to Christmas 2021, I gave myself space to work on a few items, which I broke down into tasks that I would work on each day.
So, how do I manage this process?
The planners just weren’t working for me, what was the best way for me to get shit done?
If you’ve visited my blog before or listened to my podcast, you will know I’m a fan of Tim Ferriss. One thing I did in 2021 was to re-read his book The Four Hour Work Week.
In one of the chapters, he talks about productivity and his simple way of managing each day. Which is kind of where I got the project task list from.
He says to grab a piece of paper, fold it in half, then in half again. Each section should represent a day, and as each section isn’t that big, there are only so many tasks you can write on it.
This has been a game-changer for me. First, it makes me think about what I should be putting on the list. Also, it has made me only write a couple of tasks per day. Sometimes it can hit 5 or 6 tasks, but, for some reason, if a task gets carried over, it doesn’t bother me. In the past, I would stress that I haven’t completed all that I set out to do.
Here is the task list for the day that I’m writing this post. You can see the first task is to get this post done.
In my experience, you don’t need fancy planners, crazy software products, or the newest to-do app on your phone. Simplicity is your friend here.
Take a piece of paper and put it to good use. If you want to really take control in 2022, then let’s go old school and put together something tangible, that you can hold.
Life is complicated, getting more complicated day by day. We are busier than ever, with a seemingly endless to-do list and an inbox that fills up quicker than you can respond.
Adding simplicity and constraints to your list of things to do, helps you think about what should be on the list(s).
It’s the future.