Lessons from a New Self-Earner: 10 Steps for the Improvement of Project Execution

Photo Credit: Steven Depolo
Photo Credit: Steven Depolo

If you read my My Journey Toward Financial Freedom: Understanding Theory vs. Executing Steps post, you know I’m currently focused on the theory behind being a self-earner. The principles behind this can be applied to anything, at least in my opinion. These are all lessons I had to learn from either direct experiences or various mentors I’ve had throughout my life (Paul Hollister and Joe Lin).

Let’s talk about execution. I LOVE coming up with new ideas, hence my 100 Days/100 Ideas series. Unfortunately, ideas simply make for nice conversation and cloud talk without actual execution. It’s an obvious notion, but one that many people forget on their path to creating… anything.

My buddy Pat and I have come up with countless ideas that have gone nowhere. This basically happened because we discussed ideas to death rather than actually making moves.

But, Andre, how do I get out of that mentality?

Funny you should ask. It definitely isn’t easy. In fact, I had to go through a ridiculous number of failures before I actually realized this was a huge problem I have. Yes, I said “have.” It’s sort of like alcoholism; you’re never really cured, you just have to keep it in check. So here’s my own 10-step program to help potential self-earners get over the hump of being their own hindrance.

  1. Come to terms with why you aren’t executing your ideas. It’s tough for most people to be self starters for things they don’t like or are afraid to do. This is part of the reason why most jobs have bosses. A self-earner doesn’t have that luxury (or burden, depending on the side of the coin at which you’re looking). As such, this is something that plagues many folks. Some people have a natural ability to overcome this, but that’s certainly not the majority. I mean, if you didn’t have this issue, you probably wouldn’t be reading this post, right?You are not lazy.

    You are not stupid.

    You are simply a human being going against his/her natural instinct to only work when necessary.

    There’s nothing wrong with this. Accept it and embrace it. It’s who many of us are. Realizing this will make your life a hell of a lot easier as we go further.

  2. Take your idea and split it into 10 distinct checkpoints. Now that you have a better grasp on why you don’t execute ideas, let’s make your goal a bit more digestible. You aren’t doing yourself any favors by envisioning your idea as a single daunting task. Thinking of it as a ton of singular tasks is no less intimidating. Get off that train of thought ASAP.Try taking your idea and split it into 10 definable checkpoints. Why ten? Because it’s an easy number on which to latch. These checkpoints should be major milestones that specifically go toward the ultimate completion of a project or idea. Don’t forget to track the completion of these as they will be one of the motivators for your continued persistence.
  3. Prioritize your checkpoints. Some things need to get done before others.Duh.

    Prioritization is essential in execution because it keeps one from being mired in unimportant busy work. This is the same type of busy work that reinforces procrastination tendencies.

  4. Create small executable tasks to accomplish each checkpoint. Remember step two? Yeah, we’re applying that here. Why? Because a checkpoint is useless without executable tasks. These tasks should be small and manageable. A task should not be “sign up for social media sites.” That’s too vague and open for interpretation. Be concise and direct.Sign up for Twitter with X account name.

    Connect Facebook account with WordPress.

    These types of tasks are straightforward and don’t require much thought for completion. Also, they’ll help keep the forward momentum going. Simplicity is the key to increasing the the success of execution!

  5. Prioritize your smaller executable tasks. Notice a trend yet?
  6. Delegate tasks that you find difficulty in executing. Here’s the big reason why I love collaboration: it allows people to strengthen each other. Adding one or more people to a project can be seen as adding potential points of failure. But being the only person means you’re the only point of failure. Unless you’re perfect, this is a horrible model.Strategically work with those who compensate for the areas in which you are weaker. I, for example, am horrible when it comes to my knowledge of YouTube culture, though I want to venture further into it. My girlfriend is much more knowledgeable and has given me advice on how to move forward. Pat and I are separating work based on our respective strengths to accomplish a singular idea. Any areas where we are both weak will be outsourced. If you don’t have the means to outsource or you don’t have a viable partner/volunteer, that idea may not be the right one for you

    At least not right now. Timing is everything.

  7. Assign yourself daily executable work. I’m stealing this one from Tim Ferris. Your mornings should include a set of five or so executable tasks that go toward completing your ultimate goal, but do not take your entire day. This way you can make progress and not fall into procrastination. If you have a huge task that gobbles up all your time, you may lose motivation. And motivation is a precious commodity. It’s the fuel for execution, so don’t waste it.Don’t forget to track your daily tasks, even the ones you don’t complete. This way you will develop metrics on what you are able to successfully accomplish versus your shortcomings. Reevaluate the failures and just figure out how to get them done rather than giving up.
  8. Celebrate the achievement of checkpoints. Getting to a checkpoint is a big deal. It means you’re one major step closer to your ultimate goal. This isn’t just the completion of a task here. As such, you should reward yourself. Sure, the work isn’t totally done and it isn’t a reason to rest on your laurels, but if you don’t reward yourself, the work may become tedious because the actual completion then becomes the reward. That might feel far away. Even if the work itself is rewarding, why even risk discouragement or tedium?Go do something for all your hard work. If you’re collaborating or employing others, celebrate together. You deserve it.
  9. Find ways to efficiently complete repeatable tasks. Tasks that need to be done daily can quickly become rote, especially if they take a long time. Each week, question the efficiency of the completion of those tasks. Can the work be automated or outsourced? Is there a way to complete them in less time without sacrificing quality? This is the perfect time to do some reasearch on the internet and see if there are solutions or processes out there that will help in this endeavor.
  10. Ask yourself, “What could you do differently next time?” You may fail in executing an idea even if you try following these tips. Relax; old habits are hard to break. Just make sure you take something from that failure.What were your successes?

    What caused you to fail?

    What will you do differently next time?

    Be honest with yourself (it’s crazy how many people lie to themselves so their ego feels okay). Also, even if you haven’t failed, you can still take time to reflect and see what adjustments you would make to improve future projects.

Whew! That was a decent amount of information, but give it a shot! They helped me as I mature into a self-earner. I’m not saying this is the be-all, end-all o of advice, but I think it will help many folks that have ideas that never get completed. There will be more lessons in this series so stay tuned!

Peace out, party people.

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