How to make taking action easy

How to make taking action easy

Welcome back to the Effortless Action Newsletter! Every Wednesday, I share findings from across a range of disciplines to better understand “What gets us to take action?”

“What would it look like if this were easy?”

Sorry, not THIS easy.
Sorry, not THIS easy.

If you’ve been in the self-help world for any amount of time, you’ve probably heard of Tim Ferris. And if you’ve heard of Tim Ferris, you’ve probably heard of the quote above.

This quote has been floating around in my head for a couple of years now, but implementing it was a whole other question.

It wasn’t until recently where the light bulb lit up, and I started to implement this question into my life.

Know your numbers…

In goal setting, we learn to set SMART goals. Make them Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. For example, I want to gain 50 Twitter followers by the end of the year. It checks all of those SMART boxes.

Every time I’ve tried to set a goal like that, I’ve failed.

And not even just missed the goal and came up short, I’m talking totally forget about the goal, get overwhelmed, and make regressions. For me, and many others out there, focusing on this output, or end result, is a recipe for shattered dreams.

Here’s what to do instead:

Focus on the input and know those numbers.

Take our goal of growing a Twitter audience. Instead of blindly hoping that we’ll grow by generally putting in the work, start simply by tracking your inputs. How many posts are you making? How many comments are you leaving? How many DMs are you sending? How much time are you spending in idea generation?

Figure out what it is that will drive you to your end result, and just start by knowing those numbers.

For me, this recently came in the form of time tracking.

I really wanted to make better use of my time: be more efficient at work, spend less time on social media, more time writing and reading. So instead of setting abstract goals to improve the end product, I started tracking my time. I build a little spread sheet where I write down what I do every 15 minutes of the day, so at the end of the week, I can look back to see how my time was spent.

Reflect:  How about you? What are you working on improving? Do you know what numbers will fuel your growth? Are you tracking those numbers?

The tracking of numbers sounds great, and sometimes you can see great movement in just being mindful about your inputs, but how do we take this to the next level?

… and systematically improve them…

What systems can you build to start improving those numbers?

Here, it helps to return to the original question we’re focusing on: “What would it look like if this were easy?” Translated, in this case as, what’s the easiest thing you can do to improve your numbers?

In our Twitter example, this may look like batching the writing of tweets and scheduling them out, using & improving your Twitter lists to engage with people, or creating a DM strategy where you can track and measure the impact of your DMs.

To make these improvements systematically, it comes down to building something that’s repeatable, sustainable, and semi-automated.

  • Repeatable:  You want to know what you’ll be doing each week, nearly having an operating procedure of the purpose of the system and how to use it. It doesn’t need to be anything official, but imagine you had to give instructions to someone else on how to improve each week, and they had no idea how to do what you do. What would you write for them?
  • Sustainable:  Make sure this process is slow and not overwhelming. The whole point here is to make gains over time, not to burn yourself out on week 2. Work on making those 1% improvements every week, and overtime they’ll compound to greater than what you could’ve imagined.
  • Semi-automated:  How can you leverage the tools you have to make this system easier to use? Personally, I love using Notion dashboards and databases to track and improve my work. Are there any integrations you can create to make your weekly improvement easier?

For me, this has taken form most recently when it comes to writing. Lately, writing has been a fairly effortful process for me, trying to take different things I’ve learned and bash them against one another till something sticks and I send it out to my subscribers (hey that’s you 😁).

I reflected on our question of the day, and asked myself “What would it look like if writing was easy?”

I reflected on what it was like in the past when I I found that my inputs to the system (my note taking system) was not providing me the content I needed in order to make writing each week easy. So right now, I’m reading “How to Take Smart Notes” and slowly implementing that system into my own workflow.

So now that we have our numbers and know how we could improve them, there’s one more tool to add to your tool-belt.

… by leveraging your environment.

Leveraging our environment is one of the easiest ways to make improvements in our lives.

A bad environment can be a total killer of productivity, but a good one can totally remove willpower and keep us focused.

Trying to lose weight? You can’t mindlessly consume soda and chips if you don’t have any in the house. Trying to spend less time on your phone? If you turn off notifications and put it in the other room, you can better stay in flow. Want to read more? Put a book on the coffee table or night stand.

The examples above specifically use our own laziness to our advantage, putting more physical space in between us and our bad habits, and removing space between us and our good habits. But you can also use your environment as a forcing function.

When the consequences of your inaction are greater than the pain of taking action, that’s when we’re driven to take action, whether you want to or not.

I’ve used this most recently to wake up earlier each morning. I went to Wal-Mart and bought an $18 programmable coffee maker. Not only do I love my morning coffee, but if I leave the coffee on the hot plate for too long, it’ll start to burn the coffee, and who knows, maybe shatter the glass if I’m not careful enough.

Those consequences (plus a little excitement for my morning coffee) are much stronger than my desire to stay in bed. I outsource the decision to wake up early to my past self, so that decision is made and I have to wake up at my set time.


Know your numbers and systematically improve them by leveraging your environment.

Thanks for reading!

Hey you. Thanks for reading to the bottom!

If you enjoyed this, there’s much more to come. I’d love to hear your feedback, you can simply reply to this email.

I hope you have a wonderful day, and as always, I’ll work on creating a catchy phrase to end this newsletter with. (As soon as I figure out how it’d be easy to do.)