The Tim Ferriss Approach to Setting Goals: Rig the Game so You Win
This article previously ran on May. 5, 2016
Tim Ferriss, author of three bestselling books, investor in Uber, Facebook, Shopify, and more, knows a thing or two about the importance of asking the right questions, especially when others can’t or won’t.
When it comes to setting and achieving the goals he lays out for himself, the simplistic approach he uses for goal-setting pays off in dividends.
As Ferriss explains in his interview on 30 Days of Genius, the process of achieving his goals starts way back during the very beginning stages of planning which goals he actually wants to accomplish in the first place.
Then, Ferriss asks himself one simple question that’s designed to strip away any hindrances that’ll make his work unnecessarily difficult: “Am I making this harder than it needs to be?”
The act of asking yourself this overly simple question before you begin working toward your goals, is to determine if you’re actually targeting the right goals--in their most basic form. Only then, once you fully understand what you’re pursuing, can you begin rigging the game so you can win it.
When it comes to setting yourself up for success as a writer, Ferriss explains, “The blank page is very intimidating for a lot of people.” He continues, “I was told at one point, your goal should be two crappy pages per day. That’s it. If you hit two crappy pages, even if you never use them, you’ve succeeded for the day.”
This act of setting the bar seemingly low for himself on a daily basis, is a core principle of his goal-setting strategy. For Ferriss, the benefits he recoups from removing the intense pressure of trying to deliver massive results each day, far outweigh the negative psychological consequences of routinely under-delivering.
Even within my business, this all too painful lesson has been learned the hard way on many occasions. When I set out to build an online course on finding a profitable business idea, I outlined a two-week sprint for myself to complete all of the content, activity worksheets, emails, and pages. After hitting the two week mark and realizing I wasn't even half way done, I only gave myself an extra week to wrap up the rest of the course.
Fast forward nearly two months after setting out on a two-week sprint to build my course, I was finally finishing it. After spending over a month feeling consistently overwhelmed and behind schedule, I was completely burnt out from a creative standpoint. That experience, and hearing Ferriss reiterate his own self-taught lessons in this arena has shown me the importance of setting realistic goals.
In fact, Ferriss believes that setting easily attainable goals, is the primary reason he consistently over-delivers. The reason why this strategy works so well for him, goes much deeper than just the obvious: “Alleviating that performance anxiety… allows you to overshoot that goal, continually succeed, and sort of build that confidence and momentum.” He continues, “The feeling that you’re winning, is a precursor to winning on a really large scale.”
There’s much more on the psychology behind goal-setting, how to be absurdly creative, how to compete in a crowded industry and more in Ferriss’ hour-long interview over on 30 Days of Genius with CreativeLive.