One of my all-time guilty pleasures is reading productivity pr0n. I have no idea whether reading any of this actually makes me more productive, but regardless, I still have a soft spot for the genre. Here I'll give a brief synopsis of a book called The Front Nine.
The Front Nine is written by “productivityist” Mike Vardy. Vardy has spent a considerable chunk of his professional career thinking about productivity and how people can really hone in on the things that matter and disregard the things that don’t. In a TED talk in 2011, Vardy cogently defines lifehacks as “a clever, novel, or unexpected productivity or organizational solution.” Proper use of lifehacking, Vardy argues, allows us to “speed the right things up so we can slow the right things down.”
In this book, Vardy pursues a simple question: Why are we so bad at following through with the projects we think are important, and what can we do to get better. Using golf as a metaphor for the various stages of seeing a project through, Vardy points out that there is a big gap between deciding on a goal and actually turning your goal into a step by step process to carry out your goal. Just as your mental game is important in golf (or any sport for that matter), your psychology is important when setting a goal and seeing it through.
Part One: The Drive
This is the smallest step in The Front Nine action plan and it involves how well you start off a project. Vardy writes:
“If you start off full throttle but veer off course, it actually may keep you further away form your desired outcome than when you first started. If you are too focused on direction, but sacrifice making significant progress forward in the process, then you may never get to any outcome at all.”
In order to prepare for the tee-shot 1) Be honest with yourself and the landscape of your life and 2) Don’t rush it
Part Two: The Fairway
This is the longest stretch in The Front Nine and it deals with hazards, trajectories, and exploration. It is very easy to put a plan in action but the fairway is where you have to roll up your sleeves and get down to working your plan. Indeed, Vardy argues:
“Having a plan is the starting point, but if you fail to work your plan then you’d better plan to work that much harder to achieve success.”
When shooting from the fairway, you always want to be focused on your end goal (where you want to end up). To figure out the next shot to take after the drive Vardy suggests using something called the IDEA Criteria:
- I - Ideals that must be adhered to.
- D - Does not interfere with anything else that I am excited about
- E - Excitement about the idea must be lasting
- A - Able to generate direct or passive income
Vardy also suggests pausing in the middle to take a look at what you have done and what you have to get done. He uses something called the “Midway Manifesto”
"My mission is to reflect on the beginning of the hole, see what I’ve not done and reboot it, then see what I have done and celebrate it. Looking forward, I will take what’s left to be done and do it, and with the rest of my plans I will stand firm. I’ll add things as I need and make sure that I heed the voice that tells me, "I must get finish."
If you are stuck there are three things you can do. 1) You can indulge (just go with it). 2) You can insist on pushing through what’s on your plate. 3) you can evaluate why you keep “getting stuck” by asking whether you get stuck often and why.
He also proposes the use of a "F***-It" list. On this list should be things that you are afraid to do—or were afraid to do, but realized that you wouldn’t be complete without doing them. This list should be comprised of things that are going to take guts to accomplish.
Vardy also speaks heavily about the power of reflection in order to keep track of what you have done and what you still need to do. He proposes writing down your reflection, reading your reflection to yourself, block out time to adequately reflect, and act it out.
Party Three: The Green
This is the last part of The Front Nine and it deals with seeing a project through its very end. The main point of this section is that if you have an emotional context for pursuing some goal, it is more likely to be completed. Examples include doing things to learn, doing things you love, doing things for people you care about, doing things to get better, and/or doing things to be kind.
If this sort of stuff is interesting to you, check out the book. It will take an hour to read.