3 Principles I Used to Help Myself
Reflections on how the principles of Engineer Your Life helped me to launch a business in 2020
Okay, so this week was a big week for me. I take no shame in being immensely proud to have launched Steel Viking Fitness to the first members and have it sell out! Combining that milestone and launching Engineer Your Life caused me to reflect on what chief principles of Engineer Your Life so far were instrumental in running a sold-out Steel Viking session. That way I’m hoping you can see how I’ve put them into practice, but also gain an insight into their practical real-world application. I’ve limited the principles to the top three.
1. I Set the Goal in the First Place!!
When I talk about building your engine of improvement, I like to envision it as some kind of projectile weapon. You need the method of propulsion, such as allocating the hours necessary each week to reach the target, you need good aiming and guidance systems to hit your target accurately, but most of all, you just need to point the bloody thing in the right direction. Even if you’re limited to throwing rocks, you stand a better chance of hitting a target if the target exists in the first place.
I knew, after getting fat behind a desk and losing part of my identity, that I wanted to work in the fitness industry and in February I began to flesh out the idea of Steel Viking Fitness. The plan then barely resembles the plan now, but when I asked myself what I needed to do to get this started the obvious first step was getting qualified and without hesitation booked on to a fitness instructor course.
From there, each step materialised in front of me, and while I had to make the right choices, it was much simpler to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Now, I look up and realise Steel Viking is real, with real customers, real equipment and a real, improved me running the show.
2. Habits vs Discipline
One of the biggest traps I fell into early in my career was believing I wasn’t doing everything because I wasn’t disciplined enough. Discipline can be learnt, however, it’s not an unlimited resource and for most, not a useful place to start. Habits are much more powerful.
I told myself I procrastinated because I wasn’t disciplined enough. I didn’t go the gym because I wasn’t disciplined enough. I ate badly because I wasn’t disciplined enough to cook. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. The real answer? I procrastinated because I hadn’t built up the habit of working at my desk for 8 hours a day unsupervised (it’s different at home than in a place of work). I didn’t go the gym because it was too big a jump from doing zero exercise. I didn’t cook because I never regularly cook or shop on time.
How does this relate to Steel Viking? I formed the necessary habits early on to make sure I achieved my goal. I spoke earlier about a propulsion method and habits was it for me. I started small, as in, to achieve my habit goals I had to do such little things they seem almost stupid. Be at my desk for 0900 and 1400, there’s a start for you. Then I’d track them. You’d be surprised how even the small things you can find challenging to get 100% achievement on a daily basis. You find you have to add to it quickly by creating boundaries — “well, if I need to be at my desk for 1400 then I need to start lunch at 1300.” Slowly but surely these little things become habits you don’t question or think about, and you become a productivity machine. This helped me hugely with getting my qualifications done and building the company.
3. I Created External Memory
This is something I’ve talked about only briefly with Engineer Your Life, but I like to think of the brain as mostly Random Access Memory (RAM). In a computer, this is where things a stored in the short term, like the text you deleted from Word so it is able to ‘undo’ and bring it back if you change your mind. When the power is turned off, in theory, you lose everything stored in the RAM.
This is a bit like your brain, you know you need to turn the washing machine on at 1pm, but it quickly gets overtaken by other thoughts and gets lost or overwritten in your biological RAM and you forget. The main difference between RAM and your brain, is your brain keeps dredging it back up in unexpected moments. Just about to drive to your mother’s for the weekend? “OMG! I totally forgot to turn on the washing machine last week!”
With one thought it doesn’t seem too bad, but now imagine the same thing happening with every thought you have swirling around in your brain and popping up at random moments. It’s nauseating and it takes up a huge amount of capacity in your brain. You need to create external memory to store those thoughts and tasks and get them out. How do you do that? You write. It. Down. Write everything down, all the time.
I do this even for my personal life. It’s surprising how much writing something down takes away the weight of those tasks and makes you feel literally lighter. Instead of a thousand tasks sloshing in your head, you can add them to your ‘bucket’ of tasks. If it’s in the bucket you can stop worrying about it. You’ll find it again at your daily or weekly review. Plus, once they’re in the bucket you can take them out, organise and prioritise them and suddenly a daunting week of ‘must-do’ stuff starts to look a lot simpler.
If it doesn’t, it’s time to cull. What can you take out? Which tasks are vital and which can you send a message to someone and say “hey, I can’t do that meeting this week, I’m swamped, can we move it to next week?” Instead of trying to achieve everything at once you can keep your schedule achievable and work to that instead of giving yourself an impossible mountain to climb.
The same goes for thoughts. Got the best idea ever? Perhaps it’s the best joke ever told? Write it down, quick! This helps at night when you’re trying to sleep. Get them out of your head and you’ll find it much easier to quiet your mind. The added bonus is ideas might not sound so great when they’re written down, that’s good. This is why many great thinkers advocate writing as tantamount to thinking. You simply don’t have enough spare memory to carry on a train of thought and remember exactly what you were thinking 5 minutes previously. This technique helps you refine your own thinking, just like debating does. People like Tim Ferris recommend Evernote for this, I personally just use the native notes app on my iPhone, although admittedly I do have to do a regular clear out as it gets messy quickly.
Each of these three principles have been instrumental in keeping me focused on the goal and getting stuff done effectively and efficiently while also juggling the merger of a company, setting up Engineer Your Life/my personal brand, losing more than 10kg of fat and planning a wedding. Of course, there is much more to each principle, they are multi-faceted and there’s much much more beyond these top three. I will talk more about them and more specifically how to apply them in future posts of Engineer Your Life.
Now I want you to write your own stuff down, what principles here or otherwise have you noticed be prevalent in your greatest successes? Is there a pattern? Comment below, send me a personal message or share on social media!
This article was written by Cameron Readman. If you’d like to know more or receive notifications for future articles, please head over to the Website and subscribe at the bottom of the page!