Bits of Chris
The Bits of Chris Show
#2 - How to Do Big Things Without Motivation

#2 - How to Do Big Things Without Motivation

Consistency Compounds Over Time

Key Points

  • Motivation is fleeting, you can’t rely on it

  • To do big things, you need consistency

  • You get consistent by making it a habit

  • You get a habit by starting small

  • You start small by taking the big thing you want and setting a process goal around the smallest unit of work you can do everyday

  • I then shared two examples of how this worked in my life:

    • Writing my first book

    • Transitioning from finance to tech

  • Time will pass no matter what


  Welcome back everyone. This is episode two of the bits of Chris' show. Thank you for joining me yesterday. I really appreciate it. I also appreciate some of the feedback I got in listening to myself. I noticed I already have a few things to work on. I think I said like, and so a bit too much, we're going to try to work on that today. But day two, I woke up and I'm not motivated to do this anymore. And I thought, oh shit, this is going to be a long, 30 days. But that brings me to today's topic, how to do big things. When you're not motivated.

I think motivation is fleeting.

That's pretty obvious it comes and goes. And if you think you need to be motivated, you're not going to get much done.

If you're waiting around for motivation to hit you. You're never going to go after the things you want to do. So motivation is not the answer with how to do big things. In my opinion, the answers to build consistency. Consisting meaning you show up every day and you just do the thing. There is a quote from bill gates that feels relevant right now. He said most people overestimate what they can achieve in a year. And underestimate what they can achieve in 10 years. Well, I think we could take that a step further. And just say most people overestimate what they can do in the short term. But underestimate what they can do in the long term. So, if you think about a to-do list for a single day or a week, You're probably overestimating what you can get done, but then if you zoom out to maybe a month, two months, or even a single year, You're probably underestimating what you can accomplish. And I have a few examples of this that I'll get to later. But if motivation is not the answer to doing big things, then how do you. Be consistent.

And the answer there is. You make whatever you're doing a habit. So, how do you build a habit? There are some amazing books on this topic. I won't get into those today, but I think one or two pieces of advice on how to build a habit. The most important thing is to start small. Make whatever habit you're. Trying to do. A bite size, tiny step that, you know, you can succeed at every day. Because. If doing this podcast is Edie evidence.

You can lose motivation very quickly. And so you need to just build it into your routine to find that consistency to power through those dips in motivation. And as you do more. As you get a little more success that motivation will come back and it might come back stronger and it will be easier at times, but it definitely ebbs and flows throughout any big project. So it's important to have whatever habit or whatever thing you're trying to do.

Be small, something attainable, something you can do every day.

So if our goal is to be consistent and we do that by building habit and the best way to build the habits by starting small, how do we start small? Well, you should take that big thing you're trying to do and try to find the smallest unit of work. That you can do every day. And make that goal a process-based goal, not an outcome based goal.

So, for example, if you're going to write a book. Make your goal, a process oriented one. I don't say I'm going to write a hundred pages. And don't say I'm going to write 500 words even. The process there is writing a little bit every day, but just set a timer, make it really focused on just showing up and doing it. For example, when I wrote my personal finance book, my goal every day was to just write for five minutes. And I would say 70% of the mornings that I woke up. I did not want it right. And a lot of times I would just right for the five minutes and walk away, go do something else. But some of those days when I didn't want to write, I would write for five minutes and then I would keep going. And. That could have taken up to an hour, some mornings again, starting from that rolling out of bed, not wanting to do anything. So starting small can lead to. Some real powerful results. In the day-to-day. But it also just keeps you moving forward. And I think one of the biggest problems with a long project is. Humans.

We want that instant gratification more or less, even if we are disciplined or thinking with the big picture. And so you have to. Give yourself these little wins to keep it going forward.

Jerry Seinfeld has a famous story or method that he shares where he put an X on his calendar every day he was writing jokes or doing stand-up, something like that when he was coming up. He had a goal to just either perform standup every day or write jokes every day. And as long as he did, he put an X on the calendar and then his focus became just doing that every day.

So he could put that X on his calendar and string together. Those successes. And I think that's really what you need to do when you're trying to be consistent and being consistent is the thing you need to do. In order to do big things.

Another way you can start smallest trying to scope down your initial milestone. So again, with the example of a book, Instead of thinking you need to write a 300 page book. Just make your goal right now, writing the first chapter.

And with that smaller scope, you get a little closer and as, and as you get closer to that finish line. The motivation tends to come back in my experience. So if you set incremental milestones, you can have maybe a more consistent distribution and motivation to make your day-to-day easier.

You can always expand the scope later. So don't be afraid of scoping it down now. And you can have that longer term vision in mind as you work towards more intermediate milestones.

So to recap. In order to do big things. We don't want to rely on motivation. We want to build consistency. To build consistency. You need to make. The thing you're doing a habit in your daily routine. And the best way to do that is to start small. By using a process oriented goal every day that you can achieve. And scope it down. And if you're thinking.

You don't want to be patient enough, or if you're thinking. I need to get my big thing done now. And you bite off more than you can chew, or you take too big of a swing right away.

You might regret it. And I would suggest you really heed the advice of starting small and scoping it down.

Now I want to share two examples of how this has helped me over the years. I started to touch on the first one, which is writing that book. And it took me 10 months to write. But the key was doing it every day for at least five minutes showing up to right. Because as I said earlier, most mornings I did not want to write.

And it would have been very easy for me to never make progress and just do other things. But because those days I didn't want to write. I moved the needle for five minutes. I was able to get closer to finishing a chapter or finishing a section. And seeing some progress and then motivation would tend to find its way back, making the next day easier.

But also the magic of just getting started with that small process oriented goal of just doing five minutes. Would often lead to me doing way more than five minutes. But by making that barrier to entry super low. It became really easy to get those consistent wins. And I knew every morning, That's all I had to do.

So it became easy to take some pressure off. And get a success that day. So I think when you do find that small unit of work, really make that process go for yourself. Just as small as possible, you can always do more than that. But make it small so you can build a habit, especially when you're starting out.

Another example is when I left day trading to get into tech. That was a. Maybe a two year journey. And I knew the goal was in mind of, I wanted to get a job as a software engineer. But I didn't have a background in tech and I had only been. Coding at my trading job for maybe a year, year and a half or so. And that was all self-taught and there wasn't many people around me to help. Develop my engineering skills.

So how to do a lot of that on my own, or with resources online.

And the goal I had there every day was basically to spend one to two hours. Taking online courses or writing code in the morning before going to work. Back then I was a big proponent of the Pomodoro technique where you focus for 25 minutes and then you have a five minute break and you have a little timer running to track these units of work. And so I would measure my. Success in the number of Pomodoros I did focusing on learning something new.

And it took a while. But after doing that for a year, year and a half, I started to get deeper into interview rounds. I started to actually have. This full computer science curriculum underneath my belt. And I started to do more interesting projects at work. So a year and a half of saying, let me get two to four Pomodoros of learning in every morning. And I had the skills to become a software engineer. And I think it was. Difficult because during that process, I didn't know when that was going to end.

I didn't know when that jump was going to happen. And so that can be a challenge, but by making the goal something I could completely control and by making it relatively small of just learning for a certain period of time every day, That back then. I didn't have any kids, so it was easy to get an hour or two of time to myself.

But by making, keeping things small, it

allowed me to progress day over day, week over week, and then a year and a half later, I had a new career. You know, same thing with writing the book five minutes a day, 10 months later, I had a completed book that was close to 200 pages.

And so to wrap up.

Big things take time.

Motivation is fleeting. If you need to do big things, you want to have small, consistent wins. Strung together over a long period of time. Your results will come from the compound effect of a lot of little wins. So start small. Focus on the tiniest bit of work you can do every day. And then focus on that process. Getting that done.

And a month, a year, 10 years from now. You will surprise yourself because the thing is that time is going to pass no matter what. So you can look back and say, oh great. You know, five minutes a day for the past year. Now I have a book instead of a man I'm still waiting for that motivation to come. And with that. We're over the 10 minute mark that's episode two. Thank you so much.

I appreciate your listening. Let me know how this is going, or if there's anything valuable you got from this episode. And we'll see you tomorrow.

Bits of Chris
The Bits of Chris Show
Former day trader turned Staff Data Engineer. Talking about adapting to AI in tech, career growth for engineers, Time Rich Investing, and maximizing your Joyspan.