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Slaying the Dragon

I am fired up right now. Why is that? It’s because I’ve just knocked off the biggest project on my to-do list… a behemoth that has hung over my head for months, the launch of not 1 but 2 online courses on Udemy. One is called The Negotiation Mindset and the other is How to Get a Raise or Promotion, but I’ll talk about them a bit more in a future episode.

Today I want to explain how I got it done, because it wasn’t easy. Seriously, it was almost as hard as writing my book, but then after that needing to produce and act and edit a movie.

Like going through bootcamp or doing an extreme diet and workout plan, this was a concentrated effort.

So if you’ve got a major task that’s been weighing you down, here are some tips for maximum focus. These worked for me, so make any adjustments to your lifestyle and apply what works for you. Here we go.

Get incredibly focused on one goal

It’s been said many times before that one of the main challenges of an entrepreneur is having too many scattered ideas. That was certainly the case for me, as I have this podcast, a book, 4 articles a month, and am teaching 2 online classes simultaneously among other things.

But as I tried to lay out my goals for the next few months, whether it was speaking or consulting or internet marketing, it always came back to one thing: Finish your online course.

So I made a specific decision to make this priority #1 above anything and everything else.

Invest in the best

In the creation of this course, I made some key hires. The first was Eric Pearson to shoot and produce all the video. I had worked with Eric before when doing my book trailer, and we really got along. Next was Justin Farrar to do the editing. From my loose knowledge of the film industry, I knew that anything video-related is immensely tied into the skill level of the editor.

So despite being a control freak (I prefer to call it having a specific vision on the project), I really tried to defer to them as much as possible as the experts. This project was far from cheap to produce, but I think it would have been even more as expensive, and not as well done, had I cut back.


So whether you’re writing a book or building a website or doing an iPhone app, make sure you’re working with skilled people.

I can also attest to what happens when you don’t. I needed to make some icons for the course very quickly.
– I thought it would be an interesting experiment to crowdsource it, so I tried to use a lower cost site called 48hourslogo.com for $99. I wasted a few days and only got 1 option. They refunded my money.
– I then tried the more established 99designs.com, but cheaped out some more by doing a $199 contest instead of a $299 logo (in my defense, it was a hybrid of both). I got 22 results on the last day, some from the same designer, but I was wildly disappointed in the results. Once again they gave me my money back.
– I then went to my old designer Brandon Werner, who came back under time and on budget with exactly what I wanted. I was so happy I paid him 20% more than I had said I would.

The takeaway here is that if I had done things right the first time, it would have saved me a lot of effort.

Set a deadline

This should probably be called “Keep setting deadlines until they stick.”

deadlineSince the first shoot was in December, my first deadline was to finish this by the end of the year, to be ready for New Years Resolution crowd looking to get a raise. Once the first day of filming ran into two, I instantly knew that this was a much bigger project than I anticipated. Combine that with the holidays, and we were looking at January.

My new target deadline was in February, potentially Valentine’s Day, so I could do a “love your job” marketing campaign.

The good news about February for me, is that after the Super Bowl, there are no sports for me to watch, and no fantasy football to play. It’s bitter cold so I go out less. I have no travel obligations. In other words, the perfect month to get things done.

Once again in working with my editor, I instantly knew that this was a much bigger project than I anticipated.

Fortunately, there was one massive deadline looming, the SXSW conference. I was getting on a plane March 6. I wanted it done before then. I needed it done before then. Not only would the conference be a great way to promote the course, the 4 days afterward were a vacation for me.

There was no way I was going to the conference saying “It’s ALMOST done.”
There was no way I could relax and reward myself if I missed my goal.

It was all or nothing.

Ruthlessly streamline your life

As someone that is still ramping up a business in year one, I’m trying to keep an eye on all costs. What’s interesting is streamlining my life and saving money went directly hand in hand.

As a single guy, I realize that this might not work if you’re married and/or have kids, but there’s something to be said to committing to a project and getting on board with those around you to say it’s going to be different for a few weeks, but we’re building something for the long term.

Here is how I ruthlessly streamlined:

– I ate the same (relatively healthy) meals for a few weeks straight.
You want specifics? How about a shopping list:
Eggs, peppers, onions, cheese, wraps, turkey, pasta, almonds, fig newmans, smoothies, carrots, yogurt, ice cream sandwiches, a bottle of wine and Trader Joe’s sweet apple chicken sausage.

– I wore the same clothes for a few weeks straight.
No, not when I went out with friends, and yes I showered every day. But when working from home, why not throw on the same jeans, tshirt, and sweatshirt every day. Fast, comfortable, less laundry cost.

– Combine social and business events
While there were definitely a few nights I rewarded myself by hanging out with friends, otherwise I always combined meetings and networking with having lunch or my coffee break.

The takeaway here is to limit wasted time and effort.

Ruthlessly schedule your life

The efficiency this month came from adhering to a strict schedule. Instead of a sleep late/work late schedule, I shifted my hours to up early/bed early. My routine:

7am: Wake, Fig Newmans, and gym
8: Smoothie and check email, surf social media, wake up my brain
830-945: Work on project #1 unless a more pressing project takes precedent
945: Shower
10: Breakfast: Coffee; eggs, cheese, grilled peppers, chicken sausage, caramelized onions on wrap
1015-2: Work on project #1 unless a more pressing project takes precedent
2-230: Break, lunch: turkey and peppers on wrap, almonds, fig newmans, carrots
230-430: Work on project #1 unless a more pressing project takes precedent
430-5: Power nap, yogurt
5-8: Work on project #1 unless a more pressing project takes precedent
8-9: Dinner: pasta, grilled peppers, caramelized onions, cheese, chicken sausage
9-10: Any wrap-up work
10-1130: Ice cream sandwich, glass of wine, movie or read

You get the idea.

Yes, of course my days varied a bit, but not much. I listened to my body, sometimes pushing how hard I had worked, sometimes going on a walk to stretch and get air, talking on the phone with family and friends, and working on other projects.

But for those 2-3 weeks, this was about it. Remember that it won’t be forever, and the payoff for me was going to be 13 days of NO routine. Getting up and going out at all hours, visiting new cities, going to a dozen different restaurants, and meeting 100 different people. It’s called delayed gratification, and I think it’s a lost theory these days.

Make something awesome that you are proud of

This would all be for naught if I wasn’t insanely excited about what I was building. Once I had my focus, nothing was going to stop me.

I knew I was taking a huge risk by investing a lot of time and effort and money on this, but actually, there is a bigger risk at doing something safe. I wanted to be bold. I wanted to push the envelope. To do so, I needed to sacrifice and I was willing to do that.

So if you have what a friend calls a BHAG… a big, hairy, audacious goal, do the following:

Get focused on what it is
Invest in the best
Set a deadline
Streamline your life
Ruthlessly schedule
Make something you are proud of

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