Protect Your Process
Feb 01, 2019
What does it take to make a change in your life? What makes the difference between grand plans real progress? In one word…Process.
Significant change, requires more than simple resolve. Resolve is the first step, to be sure. However, without a process resolve will fizzle out and you’ll be left exactly where you started.
I recently listened to author Dan Brown’s Masterclass and he had a chapter titled, “Protecting Your Process.” In this lesson, Dan explains that writing a novel is a long process, not something you can accomplish overnight, no matter how inspired you may be. Writing a novel requires you to implement and stick to a process of writing, a little bit each day. The same logic holds true for making changes to our Life Design.
Most of us intuit this. If we want to get in shape, one trip to the gym isn’t going to get us there. If we want to strategically redirect our career, that isn’t going to happen in an instant. If we want to mend a damaged relationship, it is unlikely that a single act or conversation is going to fix what is broken. When it comes to big things, important things, we must design a process for getting us from where we are today to where we want to be.
We realize this, yet we find it very difficult to actually DO this. Instead of doing a little each day, we start with all kinds of motivation and momentum, only to find our energy and enthusiasm lagging just a few weeks, days, or even hours in.
How do we create and stick to a process?
Here are a few tips:
- Establish an Absolute Minimum. Whatever your process may be, break it down into a small chunk that you will do every day, without fail. No matter how unmotivated you may be that day, you must do the absolute minimum. Two of my coaches and mentors Laura Divine and Joanne Hunt used to call it the One-Minute Minimum. You don’t have to do an hour of exercise or twenty minutes of meditation, but you must do at least one minute. Do one single minute of whatever you’ve committed to and then let your body tell you from there. You may find that you’ve got more motivation that you originally thought.
- Be Tough on Process, Gentle on Outcome. When it comes to your process, you must be absolutely disciplined. You cannot simply say, “I don’t feel like it.” You can’t wait for circumstances to be perfect. Your process should be designed in a way where that doesn’t matter. It is hard. Even the One Minute Minimum concept requires remarkable discipline. How do you avoid losing commitment? Although you must be ruthless with your process, it helps to be gentle with yourself when it comes to your results. Often, we become frustrated or discouraged when our efforts seem to yield no results or, even worse, bad results. Remind yourself this is part of the process. It is a NECESSARY part of the process. Regardless of what life-realm you are working, (work, relationships, creativity, fitness) you will have bad days. You will have times when your investment seems to yield crappy results. The key is to divorce your daily results from your daily commitment to your process.
- Create and Stack Habits. Habits are activities that you structure into your life which require little or no thinking because they are completely routine. Habits are patterned behaviors that become even stronger the more often you do them. Well-designed habits decrease the amount of mental energy required to get something done and help to overcome the inertia required to get moving. Dan Brown’s writing habit is to get up at 4am every morning to do his work. Now, I’m a morning person and even to me that sounds awful, but the idea of having a writing habit every day is a good one. In his book Atomic Habits, James Clear recommends ’stacking’ habits. In other words, linking your habits together, either to get added benefits or to break a complex goal into achievable chunks. If you are working on your fitness, you might get into the habit of going to the gym every night by getting into the habit of putting your workout cloths next to your briefcase the night before when you go to bed. No matter what your Life Design endeavor, stacking habits is a powerful technique.
- Build in Rewards. Because the process may not yield big visible results every day, it is helpful to build in some reward structures that help to keep your motivation high. Don’t design a process that is brutal from start to finish! Do you have an addiction to a particular television show? Perhaps one with dragons? How about creating a process whereby you get to wait said show only while walking on the treadmill? Have a favorite snack that you know you shouldn’t be eating? How about allowing yourself a small portion AFTER you’ve done your morning writing? Get creative and have fun!
Big or complex changes require you sustained effort over time. Changes of this nature always involve missteps and wrong-turns. Changes of this nature may not happen overnight and it may be that you cannot see the results of your effort over the short term. When working with this type of challenge the only way to make progress is to design a process and then protect that process with everything you’ve got!
If you have not done so already, check out the video above where I go into some of the ways that I’ve been designing and protecting the processes in my own life.
Photo by Thomas Quaritsch on Unsplash