The Number One Trick To Make Your Project Take Off

JDIWhether you’re trying to launch a business, write a book, raise money for charity basically make progress on anything, there’s one tiny secret that you need to know. It’s the best way to make anything happen, and a lot of people miss it.

What’s the thing that you need to do? (Spoiler – it’s not really a secret)

Take Action.

Great, I hear you say. There goes yet another guy on the internet telling me to “Just do stuff” and everything will be awesome.

Don’t worry, I can hear you groaning from here, but I promise there is more to this post than a “You can do it, go for your dreams” kind of pep talk. There are already way to many of those out there, and most of them seem to come with a “Just follow these 6 simple steps in my $197 eBook and untold internet riches will be yours” type of promise too.

The Hundred Dollar Club isn’t like that. This post isn’t like that.

I’ve got two reasons for writing about taking action:

Firstly, if you’re looking for the short version, then “Take Action” is a good reminder that things can be made very simple. Most of us tend to over think and overcomplicate things. If you want to write a book, there’s no substitute for just writing. If you want to start a business, offering something for sale is the way to go.

Keep in mind that action trumps everything else, and you won’t go too far wrong.

Action is the founding principle of our club. We have only one rule:

Rule Number One of The Hundred Dollar Club: Take Action

Expect to progress by doing, not by watching others.  You will only achieve things through real world action. Doing one thing is better than thinking one hundred. Test yourself against this one rule frequently.  The club members should police this one rule vigorously.

This has served THDC well over the last year, and the power is in its simplicity.

But what is Action? That’s the second reason for writing this post – to take a look at what action really means.

We can think of it as “doing stuff” and in general, doing things is way better for progress than thinking about them. But what things should we be doing?

In our context of building a business or changing what you do all day, there are three criteria for something to qualify as taking action:

1 – Did you create something tangible?

Can I point to the ”thing “which happened because you took action?

2 – Is the thing that you produced open to comment or criticism from someone that matters?

Did you put it in front of potential customers, readers, users or the like and allow them to pass judgement?

3 – Will the thing move you towards your goal?

A tricky one to evaluate, but be honest – does that action help you get to where you want to be? What will you learn from it?

These are pretty simple tests, but can have a very positive impact on you making more progress with less effort if you apply them strictly.

For example, think of a new business starting up. A to do list might include:

  • Choosing a name and getting options for a logo
  • Researching to find a web designer
  • Finding an office space
  • Writing a business plan
  • Incorporating as a business
  • Getting a bank account set up

All of these things will probably need to get done by the business at some stage, but I’d argue that none of them are “action” the way I define it. None of them put anything in front of anyone who matters. Potential customers can’t pass judgement on them. When you’re getting started, these are all things which you need to do after you’ve proven that your project is a valid one.

Imagine if instead, the business was a bakery. Instead of doing any of the list, the founder made a first batch of the cookies they plan to sell, took them to the park and offered them for sale. Or wrote a web page describing the cookies, and took advance orders.

Yes there could be some scrabbling around to meet the first order, but that’s what we want.

Taking action should leave you with a mild sense of panic as to how you’ll catch up behind the scenes.

Far better to be in a place where you know you’ve got a viable business and then polish your operations, than have a well oiled machine of a business with no customers.

What about planning and action?

Given my bias towards action, you might be surprised that I love a plan. Given the choice between planning and action, action wins by a country mile. But action allied to a simple plan is ten times more powerful still.

The real trick is not to over do it. The benefits of planning diminish very quickly once a basic outline is in place. A little time is well spent, a lot is wasted. I think of planning as a map to guide my actions.

Let’s say I’m at point A, I’d like to get to Z and I have no map. I could take a step in any direction (action), and then evaluate where I am.

mapone

If I moved to point B, I’m further away from my goal. (It’s still better than not acting, because at least now you know what the wrong thing to do is, but better to have some idea of the right thing.)

maptwo

Having a plan is the equivalent of directing your actions towards the goal. So a good initial plan for me might look like this.

mapthree

It’s tempting to try to create plan that’s laser targeted – one like this:

mapfour

There is a big problem here. This plan relies on you knowing everything up front. Whatever anyone might say, it just isn’t possible to know that. Remember that our actions have to allow customers to judge what we produce – how can anyone predict what they will think?

That’s the classic problem with over planning – it takes up a lot of time working on things at a theoretical level, which will probably turn out to be untrue once tested.

Time to get practical

Speaking of great in theory what ar you supposed to do with a bunch of diagrams scribbled on a bit of paper?…

What can we do to bring this to life?

You can create a very simple plan by answering these three questions:

1 – What am I trying to achieve?

What does success look like for this venture

3 – What 3 or 4 outcomes will take me towards my goal?

Make sure to think of things you want to happen, rather than what you’ll do.

4 – What actions support each of those outcomes?

Now think about what you’ll do to achieve the outcomes. doing it this way round makes sure the actions have a purpose that’s aligned to your goal.

Then if we evaluate anything we do against what we’ve written in part 4, we can have a pretty simple plan –

  • On the list? Do it
  • Not on the list? Think twice.

As an example, here’s my plan for the second year of THDC:

1 – What am I trying to achieve?

Success is building a sustainable community of people who support and drive each other to make change happen.

2 – What 3-4 things will take me towards my goal?

  1. Attracting more members of the community
  2. Producing resources for the community to use
  3. Fostering interaction and support within the community
  4. Ensuring that the community is as useful as possible to its members

3 – What actions support each of those 3-4 things

  1. Spreading the word, connecting with potential members and potential referees
  2. Writing posts, guides, products doing interviews etc
  3. Nurturing and moderating the community
  4. Answering questions and connecting people who can help each other

I know if I’m doing one of those things, I’m on the right track. If I’m fiddling around with a word press plugin, I’m probably not…

What do you think? What does action look like for your latest venture?

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  • Reality Quest

    I loved this article. :) You’re pretty good with the whole “inspiring people” thing. Keep it going :D

  • http://amperart.com/ Chaz DeSimone

    Here’s a TO DO list that really works…because there’s a TO DON’T list right next to it (“play with WordPress plug-ins,” etc.) Just print a few of these and see how well it works! http://amperart.com/the-to-dont-list/