Better than yesterday

There is no magic button

They say the money you earn when you're young is the most valuable money you'll ever make.

Why?

Compound interest.

As you put early money into savings and investment accounts, it grows. $25,000 becomes $50,000, becomes $100,000. The earlier you stow money away, the more time it has to grow, and the more valuable it becomes over your lifetime. 💰

The same idea applies to your work 👀

The *progress* you make when you first start out is some of the most valuable progress you'll ever make.

That’s because, without the first set of successes (or failures), you can't reach the next set. Or the next. Small improvements don’t lead to stepping stones; they are the stepping stones that carry you forward.

This improvement stacking is called compound effort. It's an old idea built on creating routines, showing up, and getting shit done every day. 🏃

How to start compounding your efforts 📈

1. Set incremental business goals 🏆

Many success stories happen slowly, then suddenly. A musician plays and practices for a decade, then gets a break. A businessman has a string of jobs that culminates in a great idea.

Unfortunately, the “then suddenly” piece tricks us into thinking overnight successes exist. That, if we look hard enough, we’ll figure out a magic button we can press and—poof!—become tomorrow-millionaires, too. 💫

There is no magic button. More often, there’s 20 or 30 years of hard work.

Ditch the idea of overnight successes. Instead, focus on small—but ambitious—milestones. Things like 2 or less critical bugs this month, 5% more signups by Q3, or talking to 50 more customers by the end of May.

When you hit one, move on to another. This is how you create your own slowly, then suddenly.

2. Build good habits 🔗

You have habits. You already know that. What you may not know is they account for about 40% of your day. This is why experts like James Clear aren’t exaggerating when they say our life is the sum of our habits.

Think of them as bricks that you put down every hour. Bit by bit, you build your days, weeks, and life. What bricks you should put down depend on what you’re trying to build (see #1).  

But an important step is recognizing you are laying bricks, and you do get to choose which ones you put down—and ultimately what you build. 🏰

3. Create routines 📅

Routines are how you string habits together, how you create space for them to take effect. When it comes to work, the space I carve out is 9-to-5, Monday to Friday. For a working mother and entrepreneur I know, it's 8pm to 11pm certain weeknights. Some successful CEOs are into the whole god-awful 4:30am thing. 😝

But if analyzing the routines of hundreds of founders and creatives points to anything, it's that there’s no universal formula. What works for Mark Wahlberg certainly doesn’t work for me, and what works for me probably won’t work for you.

Pay attention to how you work for a while (when are you most energized?), and find a routine that works for your rhythm. Then stick to it.

What your routine looks like is a lot less important than whether you have one.

4. Choose focused efforts, not frantic busyness 📍

Effort for effort’s sake isn’t going to compound. At least, it’s not going to compound into progress; it’s more likely to culminate in burnout. 😣

To compound your efforts in a goal-oriented way, make sure you’re focused on a few key improvements—like the ones I mentioned up top.

Put another way, don’t run in circles; cover as much ground as possible. In the context of running, picture these two options:

  • You could burn a lot of calories pounding out 8 laps around a track.

  • Or, you could burn those same calories dashing from your front door to a happy hour two miles away.

Personally, I’d rather end up at a destination, not where I started. Remember, busy doesn’t equal business.

5. Leap when you’re almost ready 😅

To compound your startup efforts, you have to get started.

If you don’t feel “ready,” keep in mind that few people are perfectly ready for anything. Articles get published because there’s a due date, not because the writer thinks they’re finished. Fixes go live because something is URGENT: BROKEN!...not because the fix-it code is flawless. (How often do you download an update to fix the update?)

Leap when you’re almost ready, then do that again tomorrow.

What marginal gains are you making? 🚶

James Clear calls all this “aggregation of marginal gains.” It means small improvements add up.

He did the math to prove it to you.

Starting tomorrow, let’s say you get 1% better, every single day, for an entire year. On April 18th, 2020, you’ll be 37 times better than you are today. 37 times better! Imagine...what would that look like for your startup?!  

Better yet, don’t imagine. Start making small improvements. Because this isn’t a nice idea. It’s something you can make happen.

How are you doing 1% better than yesterday? What marginal ways are you pushing your business a little further, each and every day?