We all have ambitious goals that we have attempted and failed at at some point in our lives. Whether it's starting a new training program, running a successful Kickstarter campaign to launch a new business, learning a new language or raising money for a cause; it's often easy to lose enthusiasm once you get out of the planning stage and actually have to get stuck in and start being productive.
These plans all seem very exciting when you first start thinking about them. When you first decide you want to promote a new business idea on Kickstarter or that you're going to stick to a new training program it can feel like a fantastic idea that will change your life for the better and help you to become happier, richer and a more rounded individual. The problem is when you then set out to actually do these things and you find that it takes up too much time, money and effort with no immediately obvious results. Marketing a business idea means sending tons of e-mails out to people for example, starting a training program means going to the gym every day and making lots of protein shakes, and learning a language means taking time out every day in order to listen to podcasts or study books.
This is when things can become a little too 'fiddly' in other words, and this can end up killing your momentum and your enthusiasm. Surprise, surprise, you then fail to reach your goal and are left without the wonderful results you were hoping for.
So what's the solution? Well one great productivity tip that may be able to help with specifically this problem is called 'prep and pickup'. It's discussed in Tim Ferriss' 'The Four Hour Chef' and may just be the answer you're looking for.
What Is Prep and Pickup?
The general concept of prep and pickup is simple – that you will do all of the fiddly and boring bits before you start your new program/plan and then outline the minimum amount of work for you to do on a daily basis to reap the rewards of all that sewing.
Let's use the example of the Kickstarter campaign which is how I first heard about it. Kickstarter, in case you're unfamiliar with the concept, is a website that lets you raise funds from the general public for a business idea/creative project. Here you will create a video pitch and you'll ask for a certain amount of money from the community. From there you then have a set number of days (around 7-30) to raise that money from donations in exchange for 'perks' – someone might donate $1 and get a thank you letter for instance, or $100 and get a free copy of the product as well as their name in the credits.
The problem is that Kickstarter has a lot of projects that you will need to compete with for attention, and that means that you'll end up quickly getting buried unless you are willing to put in lots of time and effort by sending e-mails to blogs and creating press releases etc.
I once set up a Kickstarter project of my own which was raising money for an app idea I had. Unfortunately, when it came down to raising the cash in that short space of time I found myself stressed by the pressure, while also being generally too busy to spend the necessary time on writing those messages. This all led ultimately to my failing to get the exposure in the allotted time and so missing my target for raising the cash…
Were I to have used prep and pickup though, I would have written out countless press releases beforehand, I would have gathered the e-mail addresses of influential bloggers, I would have recorded videos, I would have written content to send out to my viewers and generally I'd have done all the leg-work before launching the campaign. I'd then have written a calendar or timeline of when I would release which updates and which press releases/social media posts so that I could simply follow that without having to give it any thought.
Ultimately this would have resulted in my being able to just click 'paste' and 'send' occasionally in order to run an ambitious campaign and spread the word. Anything extra I did would have been a bonus, but I would be guaranteed to gain at least a small amount of exposure.
This would have then given me a near-infinite amount of time to do the grunt work, thus removing any stress. I simply wouldn't have launched the campaign until I had all the necessary raw materials ready. Likewise it would have allowed me to work on the project while it was still fun and exciting before it became a boring 'job' that had to be completed. Psychologically, the minute you place a time-limit on anything or tell yourself you 'have' to do something, it becomes like a job and this makes it less fun and a lot easier to lose enthusiasm for. Thus as soon as things get 'real', they also tend to get dull…
Other Examples of Using Prep and Pickup
The majority of people reading this won't be launching a Kickstarter campaign of their own, but hopefully you'll have already thought of a few scenarios where you could use this approach yourself.
If not, then here are some examples that might apply more directly to your situation…
Exercise Routines: If you're planning on losing weight or getting into shape, then there are various things you can do beforehand to make the process simpler and easier later. You could layout all your gym clothes for the next two weeks for instance, you could buy in lots of protein shakes, or all the ingredients for lots of healthy meals, or you could just write out a very precise periodised training program to follow. You could even cook all your meals ready and then freeze them so that you only have to grab a Tupperware and heat it up every evening (large freezer required).
With all the right foods/supplements already in your kitchen it will be easier to stick to your diet than to break from it, and with an easy training program ready to follow you'll find you can much more easily just start training too.
Learning a Language: How can you set up everything necessary to learn a language and that way make it simple for you to just 'pick it up' as necessary? Well this would mean deciding how much time you have to practice every evening, then setting up a simple way to use that time the most effectively. This could mean downloading a series of podcasts and aiming to listen to one a day for example, or it could mean buying some comics in a foreign language and setting out to read one of those a night (comics are great for learning languages as you can use the images to work out what's going on). Prepare your materials and set a routine up and then just follow that every day.
Promoting a Business Plan: When it comes to launching a business you can use a similar strategy to the one I outlined above for Kickstarter. This might mean creating lots of promotional materials, identifying useful contacts and places you can promote yourself, and creating other materials like websites and logos all prior to the actual launch. Then you'll have everything ready to fire away as you need to. You can even try using a site called 'Buffer' which allows you to create hundreds of Twitter posts in one sitting and then have them gradually sent off over the following months.
These are just three examples of ways you can use prep and pickup to enhance your productivity and efficiency. There are many other ways it can be applied, so try it yourself and see what a difference it can make!