The Power of Projects
Since starting my fitness transformation two weeks ago, I’ve been thinking a lot about August Bradley’s approach to goals. He reckons we achieve goals through either habits, projects, or a combination of the two.
♻️ Habits are things we want to do consistently, potentially for an unlimited amount of time.
- I’ll brush my teeth every morning and evening
- I’ll practice piano for 45 minutes every day, except on Sundays
💪 Projects usually have deadlines and a specific desired outcome:
- I want to get above 90% in my end-of-year exams.
- I want to get six-pack abs in time for my beach holiday
Habits help us stay consistent. Projects focus our mind and energy.
Successful projects usually have strong associated habits. I want to finish my book by June, for example, so I’m trying to write for 3 hours each morning. A project minus habits is usually problematic – you’re unlikely to get 90% in your final-year exam without some sort of study routine.
You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems. – James Clear, Atomic Habits
When it comes to fitness though, I’ve had the opposite problem: I always thought that habits were enough (eg going to the gym x2 a week). So I never gave myself a short- or medium-term project to get excited about. Like “get down to 14% body fat by June”, or “deadlift 150kg”.
Well OK, other than that one doomed quest to get 6-pack abs.
But now I do have a fitness project – or at least a project in the making. Gordon (my videographer and now gym buddy) is setting me a bunch of fitness targets over the next 3 months, with x3 gym sessions a week. He’ll decide on the specific target figures after putting me through some fitness tests… 🤮
And I’m actually looking forward to my gym sessions now: it feels like “this is a fun little project to try out, let’s see what happens”. Having a project gives you this sense of urgency and purpose. Even if the associated habit is unsustainable (eg reading x20 books a month), you might tee yourself up for sustaining a lighter version afterwards (eg x5 books a month).
If I started a YouTube channel from scratch today, I might set myself the short-term project: make four videos in a month. That’s a very specific, self-contained thing I know I can do. And I wouldn’t think in the back of my mind “whoa, do I have to do this forever?”
No. It’s just four videos. It’s just a fun project.
Here’s my take: if we charted our life progression on a graph, I’d say that habits are responsible for the slow upwards trajectory. They’re the necessary baseline, and give compounding returns. But when we also throw projects into the mix, things get interesting. We see these sudden upwards spikes on the graph: bursts of short-term progress that push us up to the next level, and make the process a bit more exciting.
So, if you’re struggling with forming a habit, try switching it up, and giving yourself a short-term project.
Have a great week!
🌟 Intentional Life Design
My amazing life coach Corey Wilks is doing a live 5-week course called Intentional Life Design. The point of the course is to improve you decision making, and help you figure out what you want to do with your life. It covers the topics Corey and I work on in our 1:1 sessions, but in live cohort format.
🥷 Self-Sabotaging Behaviours: Perfectionism, procrastination, overcomplicating things, shiny object syndrome, imposter syndrome, analysis paralysis.
🚫 Limiting Beliefs: Fear of failure, fearing what other people will say, feeling trapped in life.
😕 Not Knowing: Not knowing what you want, or how to achieve it.
There are only 30 places available, and sign up closes on the 28th of April. If you’re interested, here’s a link to the course. Not sponsored, not even an affiliate link, I just love Corey’s way of doing things and I reckon you will too.
♥️ My Favourite Things
🎬 YouTube Video – Why every Johnny Harris video goes viral by David Mora. Really well-edited breakdown of Johnny Harris’s formula. Basically, JH bombards you with ‘visual evidence’ – cool maps or “look at this tweet from the former mayor of Kyiv’. And once you’re intrigued, he gives you the context for what you’ve just seen. The main theory here is that people are more willing to listen to context/analysis once they’ve actually ‘experienced’ the thing.
🎙️ Deep Dive – 6 Lessons That Improved My Life – Season 2 Round Up. Unsurprisingly, I’ve learnt a tonne from interviewing a whole season’s worth of guests. This video showcases six of my favourite moments.
📚 Shortform Book Summary – Learning How to Learn, by Barbara Oakley and Terrence Sejnowski. I already do this with most non-fiction books, but it’s good to have a reminder👇
“I never knew words could be so confusing,” Milo said to Tock as he bent down to scratch the dog’s ear. “Only when you use a lot to say a little,” answered Tock.
From The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. Resurfaced using Readwise.