As a coach a big part of my job is helping clients maintain focus on what matters in what can be a very overwhelming process.
The way I do it isn’t subtle or elegant; it’s stating a few key ideas over and over.
- Consistent sleep & wake times.
- Planning meals in advance and repeating as many as your personal tastes/family dynamic will allow.
- Measuring & tracking accurately.
- Exercising with purpose and progression
- Focusing on your daily process and letting the outcome happen.
These are the things that really matter, not the millions of fine details like how many meals you “should” have or what brand of protein powder to buy (you actually don’t need protein powder either!)
The reason I know this to be true is simply because I’ve lived the mistake of embracing overwhelm, for years.
In my younger years I was so OCD in my approach I kept a 19 PAGE document on my old computer with EVERY SINGLE TIP that I thought I should follow EVERY DAY to get optimal results. And I’d continually add to it as I learned new things.
Now, I wasn’t so dense as to think I could hit everything, or that something as trivial as adding lemon to morning water mattered as much as avoiding mindless 8 p.m. snacking.
But my (flawed) thinking was: if I try to do 500 things a day (but still start with the handful of big important ones) and end up hitting 300, that’s STILL better than just trying to hit the few biggies and not much else.
And that was wrong.
Because even though in both approaches the core tasks get priority, in the more limited one those core tasks get hit MUCH better.
In both scenarios, things like tracking and measuring food take priority, but when I adopted the limited approach I measured slower and more methodically, and recorded more accurate data.
Similarly, sleep and wake times were core tasks across both approaches, but when I was stacked with to-do’s, a 10:00 p.m. bed-time somehow would morph into answering email at 11:30 p.m.; by contrast, in the limited approach I was hitting it six or even seven days a week with relative ease.
Now, the notion that focus is limited and narrow is hardly groundbreaking, nor is adding habits one at a time and starting with what will have the greatest impact.
But where I think the message goes wrong is the underlying assumption — or even the unconscious belief, let’s say — that this is “newbie” advice for those just wrapping their heads around the process, and who are now starting to encounter all the potential rabbit holes.
In fact, in my experience, this is a FAR bigger issue for those in the massive middle category: the advanced beginners. (Or, taking a more pejorative tone, folks who think they’re high-level intermediates on the cusp of entering the advanced category… but are really just “very well-read beginners.”)
They’re making the same mistake I did: thinking you can eventually “perfect” the core important things and should soon start adding more and more ancillary stuff.
But that just doesn’t end well. You wind up a wealth of information but very little applied knowledge.
Because you can NEVER master the truly important things. There’s always room for improvement.
And when you have the humility to accept this and then keep those core things top of mind, you become much more selective with the many “knowledge bombs” you add to your war chest.
Many, dare I say most, have to DROP something they do before adding even one more new thing, simply to stay locked on what is and ALWAYS will be the most impactful.
It reminds me of my Krav Maga instructor. When he first started training the art 40 years ago, the very first thing his instructor taught him was to throw a punch, and every day thereafter it was the first part of his daily warm up.
Fast forward to today, after multiple black belts and hundreds of thousands of hours training and teaching, what’s the first part of his daily warm up: throwing punches. Because there’s still room for improvement.
Less isn’t just more.
Less is mastery.