How to Achieve Your Goals and Launch Your Startup Dreams

It’s been a month since I attended Microconf Europe – a small conference for solo founders and bootstrappers in Prague. It not only manages to provide inspiration but also actionable advice. Combined with that, it’s small enough that you meet almost every attendee (and speaker!) who without fail has been delightful, charming and helpful.

My good friend Jaana Kulmala summed it up perfectly on Twitter

When you’re building a product, #microconf is inspiring – when you have a product, it’s an awesome goldmine
jaana-kulmalaJaana Kulmala, via Twitter

As a result of Microconf, I’m full of ideas on how to improve my SaaS company, grow my customer base and revenue as well as help you start and grow your business – this article is part of that.

So, what happens when you’re inspired? Do you write notes and set goals? Is your head spinning in excitement with newly acquired knowledge? Have you got new ideas and a game plan for success? What happens in a month? Do you review your task list and make sure that you’ve taken action?

Or will you look back in a month and say that you should have done all of those things but you didn’t. You miss the inspiration, support and positivity from those around you, encouraging you to take action and to get things done. That familiar feeling of failure in yourself.

What can you do about the inevitable ‘life got in the way’ problem?

The problem is that most people don’t tick things off their todo list. They might intend to. Many people expect to visit the gym every week but most gyms make money from the people that don’t turn up rather than the ones that do. What makes people tick things off their todo list is mostly to do with willpower (and a few tricks that I’ll give you).

Willpower is a fascinating subject and it can be hard to stay motivated to keep pushing on your ideas. So, I’ve put together a few tips and tricks for you to keep those promises you’ve made to yourself and to keep ticking off those todo items.

Techniques that Work

Compound Your Progress

Similar to the techniques found in making time for your business and yourself, momentum can propel you to success due to the law of compounding.


If you make a one percent improvement every day, after just 70 days you’ll have doubled your success. After one year, you’ll have made a 3800% improvement! The maths is all about compounding:

This example from the great Kalid Asad goes in to more detail.

What could you achieve with a 38% improvement on your life?

Create a Habit

Recent research from Duke University shows that of all the things you do each day, 40% of those are due to habits. Can you leverage this by creating a new habit?

Creating your own habits is like a super power.
matt-smith-stubbsMatt Smith-Stubbs

BJ Fogg, Founder of the Persuasive Technology Lab at Stanford University has a model for facilitating behaviour change. Once you can change your own behaviour, you can create a habit for it. The Fogg Behavior Model shows that when the three elements of Motivation, Ability and Trigger are combined at the same moment, you can effect a behavior change.

Behaviour Change = Motivation + Ability + Trigger

Can you create an environment for yourself where there is a regular moment in time that changes your behavior? If it’s been hard in the past to do this, look at making sure you have the motivation to complete your goals, the ability to complete your goals and the trigger (or call to action) to start.

Ways to Increase Behaviour Change

What If You Can’t?

If you can’t complete the task, or if it looks overwhelmingly frighteningly, don’t fret. It’s normal to feel like this. It can often look like everyone else knows what they’re doing. Firstly, most of the time, they don’t; secondly, they were like you once!

Often tasks seems impossible until they’re done – then they look so much smaller than before.

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”
nelson-mandela Nelson Mandela

Put another way, if you look at an impossible goal, can you break it down in to possible goals and then use the compounding progress rule above? If your goal is to reach 1,000 subscribers or 100 customers, how would you start? Start with the first. Then the second and so on.

They say the journey of a lifetime starts with a single step. Can you reduce the task to something more manageable? Short-term goals are stepping stones; use them to get to the other side of the bank.

Set a Trigger

This could be a daily alarm, a weekly calendar item or a fixed part of your day. Some people work well with sticky notes on the computer monitor. Others work well with a particular song that gets them in the mood for a workout. Perhaps it’s a note you can leave to yourself next to the chocolate cake: finish that blog post before you’re allowed another slice!

Most people don’t reach their goals – be someone who does.

The Recipe for Maintaining Momentum

Making the change in your life doesn’t need to be huge. In fact, you’ll have better luck making a permanent change if it’s by making a small step first. There are two steps to this recipe:

  1. Identify the behaviour change required to achieve your goal
  2. Prove that you can do it with a small win

The idea of this technique is not to complete your goals in one go. It’s to be the type of person that Gets Things Done.

A few examples from James Clear:

Want to lose weight?
Identity: Become the type of person who moves more every day.
Small win: Buy a pedometer. Walk 50 steps when you get home from work. Tomorrow, walk 100 steps. The day after that, 150 steps. If you do this 5 days per week and add 50 steps each day, then by the end of the year, you’ll be walking over 10,000 steps per day.

Want to become a better writer?
Identity: Become the type of person who writes 1,000 words every day.
Small win: Write one paragraph each day this week.

Want to be taken seriously at work?
Identity: become the type of person who is always on time.
Small win: Schedule meetings with an additional 15–minute gap between them so that you can go from meeting to meeting and always show up early.

Keep Your Streak

Nathan Barry wrote 1,000 words every day for a year. He calls it the commitment that changed his career. I think he would agree that it completely changed his life.

Jerry Seinfeld was once asked if ‘he had any tips for a young comic’. Here is his answer:

He said the way to be a better comic was to create better jokes and the way to create better jokes was to write every day.

He told me to get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. The next step was to get a big red magic marker. He said for each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day.

“After a few days you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job is to not break the chain.”
Jerry Seinfeld

Committing to something and no breaking it is a powerful force. Just make sure your commitments are achievable!

Create a Shipping Outline

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the workload. What looked like a ‘quick project’ or a simple todo item has become a behemoth. You just saw the tip of the iceberg. Achieving your goal now looks like a impossible challenge.

You need a cheatsheet!

Plan Before You Execute

Your cheatsheet is to separate planning from execution. Amy Hoy uses a metaphor of a dinner party to explain that you need a ‘backward plan’ by starting with a mise en place. This French term, often used in professional kitchens, translates to ‘put in place’ is to help chefs achieve what they need to do within the tight timescales.

Amy suggests that you prepare for success by organising and planning before you start.

Brian Casel goes in to more detail in this great article on shipping by advocating monthly action lists and detailed outlines.

Some Final Quickfire Techniques

  • Do It In Public – tell others of your goals so that you can be held accountable
  • Be Part of Something Bigger – work in a team or in coordination with others so that your work will go in to something bigger than you could have achieved alone
  • Incentivize – reward yourself with something on completion
  • Disincentivize – penalize yourself for every day you fail to achieve your goal e.g. a monetary fine to your local charity

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