I quit my first job out of college at Intel after 14 months, then I was fired by Facebook after 9 months, and THEN I quit/was fired from Mint… and 24 business ideas later, I was finally able to build AppSumo — which has now become an 8-figure company.
Maybe that resonates with you if you haven’t found what you want to do with your career or your life. If you’ve started a bunch of things you haven’t stuck with and you don’t know where you’re going wrong or how to be productive and take control of your day, then this post is for you.
Here are the 3 things we’re going to cover:
- #1: We’re going to break down exactly why most people struggle to stick with things
- #2: We’re going to interrupt that pattern using the Law of 100
- #3: I’m going to give you 9 proven strategies that you can use to be more productive and accomplish all the goals you have for yourself
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Why Most People Struggle to Stick With What They Start
In 2018, I started a podcast called Noah Kagan Presents. I did around 50 episodes total and got about 30,000 downloads an episode — which is amazing!
And then I gave up completely.
Does that sound familiar to you?
Have you been trying to learn chess or maybe guitar or business or podcasting… and you also gave up a little bit early?
Comment below with a time when this happened to you and let’s support each other.
Let me contrast that with the story of the guys from Buffer.
I remember these guys commenting on my blog in 2010 and they were saying something like We’re doing social sharing, blah, blah, we’re starting this business… and I remember thinking to myself, They are so going to fail. I can’t wait for them to fail.
I don’t know why I was such a hater.
It’s over 10 years later now and their business is doing $20 million dollars in recurring revenue and they’ve built a big team — and it’s really impressive.
So what’s the difference between my podcast and Buffer?
The main most important thing is that they stuck with it. Success takes time.
What discouraged you the last time you gave up?
I know for me with my podcast, I wanted to get 100,000 downloads an episode, and so when I only got to 30,000 downloads I was discouraged and gave up completely.
Now, that would actually be amazing! I’d love to be at 30k.
So I asked the Buffer guys — How did you keep going all these years when maybe you weren’t getting attention or you were failing or you weren’t making that much money?
All Leo said was that when he was growing up, he was so poor that doing anything with Buffer was better than going back to where he was from.
And that was inspirational to me.
That was his “why.” So it might be something interesting for you to think about — what is the why behind what you’re working on? And remind yourself of that as you go.
On the other hand, I had an unrealistic goal. I turned my podcast into a “job” rather than something I was excited to do.
I should have just figured out how to change my goal and my mindset to make my podcast more sustainable and enjoyable.
Give this a try…
Let’s do a little quick experiment.
I want you all to jump in with me and try this out for yourselves.
Imagine the project you stopped working on months or years ago. Maybe for me, it’s the podcast. Imagine where you’d be today if you would have kept going.
Close your eyes for a brief moment as you do this.
You’re still reading this you rule breaker — I said close your eyes.
Really think about it.
Now, think about something you’re starting today. Maybe it’s chess or a newsletter or a business or even a relationship. Maybe it’s a blog or a hobby like guitar.
I want you to imagine yourself 10 years from now, and picture how great you’ll be at that thing. Think about how much you’ll have progressed at it. How much success you’ll have. How grateful you are that you didn’t give up.
That was pretty nice, wasn’t it?
So I think about that with chess when I wasn’t feeling good playing yesterday, and I think about how in 10 years I’ll be so much better and how great that will feel. And that motivates me to keep going through it.
How to Break the Pattern (of Giving Up)
So now that you have the mental picture of you succeeding at your goal, how do you stay consistent?
The answer is?
The Law of 100.
Let me tell you about a crazy study from the University of Florida — this is amazing.
They took a photography class and broke it up into two groups: the “Quantity” group and the “Quality” group.
The Quantity group had to take 100 pictures to get an A grade by the end of the semester, and the Quality group could turn in just one photo by the end of the semester — but it had to be perfect to get the A grade.
Can you guess what happened?
The Quantity group kicked the Quality group’s ass.
The Quantity group experimented more! They learned from their mistakes and they got better with time.
That’s what the Law of 100 is about.
So the solution to all of you out there wondering how to be productive is for you to start with your first 100 — whatever it is for you — with complete disregard for your results.
I know that’s a little counterintuitive and backwards, but that is how you’re going to accomplish the things you want.
- If you want to start a podcast or a YouTube channel, put out 100 episodes
- If you’re doing a newsletter, get 100 subscribers
- If you’re starting a new hobby like chess or guitar, practice for 100 days
- If you’re creating a business, get your first 100 customers
Just focus on that first 100.
And then, after that, you can decide whether you want to give it up or not. Don’t worry about whether people are watching or liking or engaging or buying or following — just put it out.
For the first 100, it’s about you doing it, rather than anyone else liking it.
The reason I say ignore the results is that if you get so fixated on your views or your revenue or downloads, it might discourage you from keeping going.
So just focus on knowing that you have to abide by the Law of 100 and then at 100 you can start thinking about stopping if you want to.
9 Tips to Finish What You Start
Now, even though I recommend sticking to the Law of 100, that doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy.
So these are my 9 crucial tips to help you make sure you get to that 100 without giving up so you can be as productive as possible at whatever you want to succeed at.
How to Be Productive Step #1: Pick Your Day
So every Wednesday I send out a newsletter — no matter what.
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But no matter what, every Wednesday I’m sending out that email. So pick your day of the week and stick to it. It’s easier to stick to a goal when you have a certain day you have to ship an email or an episode or something else by.
How to Be Productive Step #2: Reduce the Friction
If you’re doing YouTube, have your camera out all the time so all you have to do is hit the record button and make your video.
If you want to make chess a habit, have your chessboard set up on your table.
For business, if you want to email a customer every day, have a list of your 100 customers ready so every day you just have to glance at it to email the next one.
My point here is that keep it easy to make your goals a habit. Reduce any friction that allows you to make an excuse to not do it.
How to Be Productive Step #3: Get an Accountability Buddy
Every Sunday for the past 8 years I emailed my buddy Adam Gilbert of MyBodyTutor.
I’d tell him everything I did last week and everything I’m going to do in the upcoming week and it’s super helpful. He calls me on my shit, he asks me how things are going, and it keeps me accountable to make sure I’m progressing.
Who is someone in your life that will help you on your journey? Ask them to be your accountability buddy!
You can also join the OkDork group — there’s a lot of smart people there that will help you for free.
How to Be Productive Step #4: Join a Community
One of my good friends is giving up caffeine — he’s trying to do it for at least 30 days (I recommend 100 days, of course).
But for him, he’s actually joined a Facebook group about quitting caffeine and it’s actually surprisingly supportive to see that other people are struggling and succeeding on the same journey that you’re on. It helps you feel less alone and that you know that you can do it.
So find a community that’ll help support you on your journey — whatever it is that you’re trying to accomplish.
How to Be Productive Step #5: Take a Break
Yep, take a break.
I know that’s not what you’re expecting but when it comes down to how to be productive, sometimes the best thing you can do is just take a step away from it all.
Some days when I’m feeling a little bit out of it, I go for a walk or a bike ride. Maybe I’ll get a little bit more sleep and I come back refreshed and get at it the next day instead.
So take a break if things aren’t feeling right — but do not give up on the Law of 100.
How to Be Productive Step #6: Notice What’s Working
It’s so much fun to be improving and feeling like you’re making progress.
The two things in our life that we all feel good about is creation and progress, so as you’re making videos or building a business or learning a hobby or starting a new relationship, notice when things are going well and do more of that!
How to Be Productive Step #7: Have a Clear Why
If you’re starting a business, remind yourself daily WHY you’re doing this.
For me, I want to see you guys get results for yourself. For Leo at Buffer, he didn’t want to go back to being poor.
What is it for you? Why are you doing a podcast? Why are you doing the business? Why are you doing the hobby?
Having that “why” and reminding yourself of it can help you get through the hard times.
How to Be Productive Step #8: Make it Fun
If something’s not fun, guess what?
You can change it!
When I was doing my podcast and it started feeling like a job, I could have just taken a step back and figured out what parts of my podcast are fun and which parts are not fun. Then, I could have hired someone to do the less fun bits for me, and I could have done more of the stuff I enjoyed.
What do you need to change up in your recipe to make it more enjoyable?
Do you need to outsource something? Can you switch up the format? Can you change your day of the week?
It doesn’t mean give up — it just means adding in a little bit of hot sauce and mixing it up a little bit so you can keep going to the Law of 100 and beyond.
How to Be Productive Step #9: Reward Yourself
The final one: Set up a reward for yourself so you have something to look forward to.
When you finally get to that 100th episode or email or guitar song or date — make sure to reward yourself for it. It could be as big as a trip to the Bahamas, or for me, I aim to go get breakfast tacos every Friday morning if I’ve accomplished a lot of things I wanted to get done that week.
It’s my reward for staying consistent with the things that I really want to do, and let’s face it, what’s more rewarding than tacos???
So what’s a reward that you’re excited about when you complete your Law of 100? Write it down somewhere so you don’t forget.
Now go out and master your productivity!
This isn’t a freeloader blog post — I want you to commit right now to doing the Law of 100.
You don’t have to wait til next week. You don’t need more money.
You can start right now.
The secret to how to be productive is to stick to the Law of 100 and use those 9 tips I talked about to help keep you going. Plus, remember why the hell you’re doing it and visualize where you’ll be in 10 years if you stay consistent to keep you motivated.
If you do all these things, I promise you’ll be a productivity master.
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