Units of You

Any given day, you have a finite amount of energy to spend, both mentally and physically.

Once used up, it’s time to rest and recover, and the next day you get another batch of energy. Kinda fun to be alive, isn’t it?

I call this energy ‘units of you’.

How much an actual unit is, isn’t relevant, and it varies day by day.

But, the number of ‘units of you’ that you can spend is finite. Even if you crank yourself out of a dip with copious amounts of coffee (or, god forbid, energy drinks), you’ll still run out.

The problem is that at the start of a day, with a whole new batch of ‘units of you’ at our disposal, we tend to vastly overestimate how many units we have, and how much we can accomplish whilst spending them.

And so we fill our tasklist with items, far more than we can possibly do in a day, and do well.

In other words: we task our future self with a level of commitment and performance that’s wholly unreasonable, and completely unattainable.

Put differently: we bankrupt our future self.

And by the time our future self runs out of ‘units of you’, it sees the remaining tasks, sees the deposit empty, and there you go: let’s procrastinate, let’s put it off until tomorrow.

Come tomorrow, you see how much you didn’t do, and you start out your day feeling bad about yesterday, and schedule even more unreasonable expectations, just to make up for yesterday.

And so begins (and continues) the downward spiral of procrastination.

And to make it even worse: a lot of the work we schedule is hardly relevant, in that it doesn’t actually do anything to drive results.

They might be useful things, but they’re busywork instead of growth-driving activities.

You’ll agree that this is no way to run a business, or indeed to live a happy life.

The solution?

Be stingy with your units of you.

When planning, know that your actual reserve won’t reach to complete everything you want to get done, and schedule only growth-driving activities, and:

Only schedule a few, or even just one. What you put on your tasklist for today should be 100% attainable, even if you run into complications or setbacks.

Ultra-attainable goals, is what I mean.

That way, you’re far more likely to reach them – and when you do, you get a powerful neurological feedback, because hey now! I did what I said I’d do!

And, bonus: you’ll have energy left to do another thing – look at me go!

This however does come with a caveat:

If you make your goals ultra-attainable, there’s a risk that the positive feedback you get, might cause you to rest on your laurels, and make you feel that you’re now free for the rest of the day.

So, make a resolution: when you complete your ultra-attainable goal, first reward yourself with a shortish break – but ONLY after you schedule your next (attainable) growth-driving activity.

After all: if you’re done with an important piece of work and you have units of you left in your reserves, it’d be a pity to let them go to waste, no?

Cheers,

Martin


Also published on Medium.

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