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Want Motivation? Stare Failure in the Face

While most of my posts involve ideas, knowledge or some (rudimentary) form of wisdom, this one is going to focus on a tool. Don’t worry, I’m not trying to sell you some software (unless you don’t have Microsoft Office, in which case I can’t help you). I just want to provide you guys with a tool I use that has given me the motivation to achieve my short and long-term goals.

Whether you are an athlete, a writer, an artist or any other profession that requires a specific skill, achieving your goals is an accumulation of daily tasks. These are practices that you do every single day no matter what happens so that you can be at your best. Sometimes you need a little extra motivation to get these tasks done – this will provide it.

Every Day Green or Red

Below is a screenshot of what I do in order to motivate myself to be better every single day. On the X-axis is a day of the month and on the Y-axis is the specific task I am required to accomplish. These are the things I want to do every single day in order to increase my productivity and achieve my goals. Below I will clarify the specific tasks I have created and why they help me. Then I’ll clarify a bit more about how you can create your own list.

Mine is not really in any kind of real order as you can see. Exercise is at the top of the list (which has been very difficult with hip injury that required surgery). I also have lists for other health related things, like carbs, sugar, water, and whether I am getting enough fruits and vegetables.

As you can see, I also have restrictions on media that I watch (usually TEDx videos or interviews). I make sure to include a “brain buster,” which is some form of brain challenge that I might not get through my usual routine of work. I make sure to maintain cleanliness and avoid spending excessive amounts of money.

Also important to maintain a clear and well functioning mind, I cut out alcohol, porn, masturbation, and I only check email and Facebook three times per day maximum. Finally, I round out the list with exceedingly important things like eye contact and social skills as well as my business, blog, and university responsibilities.

Staring Failure in the Face

I’ve actually only been doing this for the past week. One week ago was the first day I started to really focus on documenting whether I accomplish my daily tasks and what I found was quite astounding. When I tried to avoid email and Facebook before, I maintained a somewhat unconscious habit of clicking the tab to open. Even when I quickly exited out after realizing what I had done, the email and Facebook was not at all easy to overcome.

As the chart clearly indicates, after a few days I had it down. I started wanting to see the green rather than the red, which screamed “YOU FUCKING IDIOT!” from the spreadsheet. You see, that’s motivation. You have to give some real meaning to that red color, but when you do, it is enough to push you through what you need to do.

When you use the excel spreadsheet to track your progress there is no lying to yourself. You can’t come up with an excuse and justify why you didn’t do something. It is either a red box or a green box. You failed in your task or you succeeded. That’s it.

Deciding Your Routine

Your routine is probably going to look a whole lot different than mine. If you don’t like The Economist, don’t read it. If you don’t think meditation will help, don’t do it. Make the effort to think about what it is that will improve your life and add it to your list. Maybe you want to learn a new language – make it part of your daily task list to do so.

After a while, you’ll start to notice how automatic these things become. When people start to offer you foods that once tempted you, it is no longer hard to say “no, thanks”. When an excuse disrupts you from going to the gym or doing your work, it is no longer hard to get focused and do what needs to be done. This morning I was pressing the gate code for my apartment when I realized it took me a moment to even remember the numbers. In most circumstances, it is so automatic that my brain just does it anyway. This is how the daily practice must work in your life.

It isn’t time consuming or difficult to create an excel spreadsheet and track your progress. Start with two things. Add a few more. In my experience, it has helped me to achieve a lot in only a short period, which is exactly the kind of tool every motivated individual is looking for.

Disclaimer: As much as I’d like to claim credit for this idea, it was actually brought to my attention by an unnamed (that I know of) member of RSD Nation. I tried to get in touch, but haven’t had a reply. Kudos to him, but I’m sure he’d understand sharing the wisdom with my experiences.

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by Connor Kozlov

Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed my article. I'm Austin, TX based and I love the Paleo diet, meditation, proper fitness, and entrepreneurship. But I'm really about PLAY!

11 comments… add one

  1. You can use https://chains.cc to track your goals.

    1. Thanks for the advice! Good one!

  2. How many people does stuff like this actually work for and how many people take this stuff and just turn it into more unfulfilled expectations which leads to more inability to accomplish which only reinforces the vicious circle of not being able to accomplish ones goals?

    I mean I cant imagine ever trying to better myself in such a rigid manner. If I tried to hold myself to even a fraction of the things on that list I would just disappoint myself.

    And ironically, I accomplish more when i dont put ANY expectation on myself to accomplish. I tried the list thing and it failed, petered out after a few weeks. But ive been doing a mile a day + lifting and eating 1500cal a day for about half a year now without the use of any kind of list or putting any expectations on myself. sometimes i dont run my mile, and thats okay. sometimes i eat 2500 calories, and thats ok. i give myself wiggle room, and that is what allows me to succeed versus locking myself into this ultra-rigid daily regiment.

    maybe its just me? i dunno. i guess im saying that theres more than one way to succeed and better yourself besides putting these kinds of expectations on yourself. not that this doesnt work, either. im saying its different from person to person.

    1. I think you hit upon it best in the last paragraph. Definitely more than one way to succeed and if that is your method, more power to you. It is definitely different. I just found this to be helpful and I believe there are others that find it valuable as well.

      As per your weight lifting every day, one mile run, and 1500 calories, I would recommend changing that a bit. If you are interested, shoot me a PM with some more biographical info and I’ll let you know what I think from an alternative perspective. It is counter intuitive, but some of the tips might be helpful. Keep up the good work.

  3. this is a great idea – its tangable

    1. Thanks! Hope it proves useful.

  4. Excel tip: If you ever want to use the data in some other way, please use text for values and color it using conditional formatting. My brain winces at the idea of using formatting as data.

    Example use: setting up a filter per day to see what you did and didn’t do on a particular day: I’m not sure you can do it based on bg color. And of course you can’t export the colors to CSV if you’d like to move your file to Google docs or whatever.

    1. Wow, thanks. I’m not the savviest excel spreadsheet maker in the world. Thanks a lot!

  5. When the chart looks like these guys nothing could be more motivating

  6. Reply
    1. Nice! I love Art of Manliness. I read a book about Benjamin Franklin recently. What a guy even if he is idolized in the wrong way here in USA.


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