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How to Take Smart and Massive Action in 6 Simple Steps

How to Take Smart and Massive Action in 6 Simple Steps


    Every now and then you hear someone saying, “You need to take massive action in order to get stuff done”. While this type of work is something you should strive for, it has also flaws if you follow the advice blindly.

    In fact, I’m willing to say that working like this can actually make you procrastinate and burn your energy levels to zero on the long run, if you don’t pay close attention to what you are doing.

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    Massive action defined

    Let’s first define the term “massive action”. In my understanding it means taking many big and focused action steps at once that can bring you big results in return.

    For example, you could be writing a book. Instead of getting 3 pages ready in a day, you set yourself a goal to write 10 pages instead.

    When you keep working like this, the benefit is obvious; you finish your tasks or projects faster and can move
    quickly  onto other projects.

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    The downside of taking massive action

    The big problem with taking massive action is that if you are taking action for action’s sake, you are going to burn out fast. You are just keeping yourself busy, but you are not getting meaningful things done.

    For instance, you could be promoting your latest blog post by posting it to hundreds of social bookmarking sites out there. Sure, you are taking massive action, but are you getting any results? Are you focusing on your target audience or “just anyone out there”?

    Instead of taking massive action that way, shouldn’t you just focus on a handful of bookmarking sites that are related to your niche and where your target audience hangs out? Even if you just did this, the impact would be much bigger and you would be less-stressed. In addition, you would saved some time.

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    What are the benefits of taking action the smart way?

    Smart massive action means focus – it gives you the reason “why” (why am I taking action?). You are not just taking action, but you also know what that action relates to. The focus comes when you have set goals and when you take action that is related to those goals.

    Taking action the smart way can also be a motivational booster. When you act, you know you are not procrastinating and that improves your self-confidence. Also, when you take action the smart massive way, you see results faster, which make you take even more action.

    Finally, smart massive action means time savings and less stress. This is quite obvious, since you are focusing on very specific actions. The rest of the “stuff” can be dropped out and eliminated.

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    How do you take smart massive action?

    Now that we have looked at the differences between massive and smart massive action and the benefits of doing the things the smart way, let’s discuss how to put this theory into action.

    In order to take smart massive action, you can take the steps below. Don’t worry about the example I’m using and whether it’s realistic of not (I don’t know nothing about the dogs :). The main purpose is just to illustrate the action steps.

    1. Set your main goal you are trying to reach. The crucial part is to define the concrete goal(s) before taking any action. If you take action, know your “why”. This is your target that you are trying to reach when you take smart massive action. For example, if you are passionate about dog training, you could decide to become an authority in dog training market. You have decided to write a book on dog training, because that would increase your recognition amongst the dog lovers and enthusiasts.
    1. Set sub-goals and time limits. To keep you better on track, you need to split your big goal into sub-goals. This way you know your milestones you want to reach and you are able to see better if you are making steady progress. In this dog training example, you could decide that in order to complete your book, you to have the outline of the book ready in the next 7 days. The next sub-goal would be to have 4 chapters ready (of your 8 chapter book) in the next three weeks. The final 4 chapters would be written in the following 3 weeks after that, so the book writing would be completed in 6 weeks.
    1. Eliminate and outsource. One important part of taking smart massive action is to get rid of tasks that you shouldn’t be concerned of. This way, you are reducing the amount of “waste work” and you can focus on the essential tasks in your projects. You love to write, but graphic design is not your thing. Yet, you realize that you have to pay attention to this aspect in your book too, so you decide to outsource the design work. You also decide to outsource the proofreading part as well. (Note: To be even more specific on the dog training topic, you could decide to focus on Beagles only, so you are able to eliminate all the information that is not related to this breed.)
    1. Act! Now it’s time to take your smart massive action! This requires raw work. In fact, even in the situations of “work smart, not hard”, you still need to put some hours in even if you are focusing on the essential tasks only. This means just raw writing part. However, you don’t settle for finishing 3 pages per day, you decide to come up with 5 pages per day. Now you are truly taking smart massive action, because you are doing something that truly matters and relates to your goal. In order to make the writing part even more productive, you decide to use a timer and work in blocks to get more focused work done.
    1. Block some time, get rid of distractions and choose your location. To get more stuff done with less distraction, you have to figure out the times when to do the work, where to work and how to be the least distracted as possible. By doing these three things, you have a clear work structure in place and you are making sure that your action is not interrupted by something that could have been avoided with a little planning. You realize that the best writing times for you are between 06.00 AM and 10.00 AM in the morning and between 5 PM – 9 PM in the evening. You block the time off your calendar and let your spouse and kids know about this. It is quite obvious, that you mute your phone and disconnect from e-mail or instant messaging during the time you are working. In addition, you know that you are at your most productive in your work room during the working hours, so you “isolate” yourself there.
    1. Review your progress and adjust if needed. Once you start working, you may become blind to your work. This causes you to miss the bigger picture (your “why”) and you are doing things you shouldn’t be doing. To prevent this, you review your action steps and progress on a consistent basis (once again, block some time off your calendar). If necessary, you take corrective action that put you back on track. You come to realize that you have been able to produce only 2 pages for your book for a couple of days. You make a careful analysis and realize that you feel tired when you work. You decide to take some power naps but also get your nightly sleeping patterns improved for better alertness and productivity. This action puts you back on track and you feel much better when you do your work.

    As you can see, just taking massive action blindly is not going to take you anywhere. Instead, you should plan you actions a bit, so that you can get the best results in return.

    When you take smart massive action, you are truly making progress on those things that matter.

    (Photo credit: Chess Player Playing via Shutterstock)

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    Last Updated on April 23, 2019

    How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

    How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

    Stretch goals are a lot like physical fitness. When you adopt a physical sport such as running, continual practice leads to increased stamina, growth and progress.

    While commitment to the sport improves performance, true growth happens when you are stretched beyond your comfort zone. I know this from personal experience.

    For years, I was an avid runner. I ran with a variety of running groups in the Washington, D.C., area and in Columbus, Ohio, where I lived prior to moving to the nation’s capital in 2011.

    While I was initially fearful about slacking off on my exercise habit when I moved to D.C., running enthusiasts in the area provided continual motivation, inspiring me to lace up my shoes day after day. Much to my surprise, many of the area’s running stores (including Pacers and Potomac River Running) boasted running groups that met in the mornings and evenings. So, it was relatively easy for a newcomer like me to connect with like-minded peers.

    I was never a particularly fast runner, but I enjoyed the afterglow of the sport: being completely drained but feeling a sense of accomplishment; setting and reaching goals; buying and wearing out new tennis shoes. The sound of throngs of feet pounding the pavement in semi-unison is still enough to bring tears to my eyes. Yes, I sometimes tear up at the start of races.

    Of all the groups I ran with, the Pacers Store group that met on Monday nights in Logan Circle boasted the fastest runners. I met up with the group week after week only to be the slowest runner. It was difficult to muster the courage to get up every week and meet the group knowing what was waiting for me: sweating and watching the backs of fellow runners.

    Each time I joined the group, I was stretching myself without even realizing it. Instead of feeling like I was transitioning into a better running, for a long time I felt I was torturing myself.

    Then something remarkable happened. I went for a run with a different set of runners and noticed my time had improved. I was running at a faster pace and doing so with ease. What was once uncomfortable for me I now handled with ease.

    The reason I was becoming a better runner was because I was taking myself out of my comfort zone and challenging myself physically and mentally. This example illustrates the process of growth.

    Fortunately, we can create situations that stretch us in our personal and professional lives.

    What Is a Stretch Goal?

    A stretch goal – as authors Sim B. Sitkin, C. Chet Miller and Kelly E. See detail an article “The Stretch Goal Paradox” in Harvard Business Review[1] – is something that is extremely difficult and novel. It is something that not everyone does, and it’s sometimes considered impossible.

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    In general, you establish stretch goals by doing things that are difficult or temporarily challenging.

    For instance, when I was first promoted to a senior communications management role, I knew I needed to beef up my relationships with media personalities. I set a goal to once a month book a day of media interviews in New York City – which is home to many media outlets, including SiriusXM radio, CNN, NBC News, HuffPost, VIBE.

    This was a huge goal because it meant not only identifying the right people to meet with but convincing them to meet with me and my team. While I didn’t end up meeting the goal of doing a full day of media interviews in New York City, I met more people than I would have met had I not established the goal and instead stayed in the comfort of my D.C. office.

    It is important to note that just because you establish a stretch goal doesn’t mean you’ll achieve the goal each time. However, the process of trying is guaranteed to provide some level of growth.

    The Importance of Creating Stretch Goals

    The beginning of the year is a perfect time to assess where you are excelling and where there is room for you to grow. I typically start the year by creating a yearlong strategic plan for myself.

    I think about the things that are necessary to do and things that would be cool to do. I assess the people I should know and think through how to meet them. Then I ask myself if the goals are realistic and what would need to happen for me to achieve them.

    Over time, I have learned that there are five things I can do to set stretch goals:

    1. Get Outside of Your Head

    If I exist within the confines of my imagination, I imperil my own growth and creativity.

    If I examine my accomplishments and celebrate them in isolation of others’ accomplishments, my vantage point is limited.

    I want to be comfortable with what I accomplish, but I also want to be motivated by watching others. In some respects, stretching is about expanding your network of friends, associates and mentors. These are the people who will propel or slow your growth and development.

    Since two are better than one, I always value being able to share my progress with others, seek feedback and then map a plan for success.

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    2. Focus on a Couple Areas at a Time

    When setting goals, it is important to focus on a couple of areas at a time. Most of us are only able to focus on a few things at a time, and if you feel you are unable to tackle all that is before you, you may simply disengage.

    I see this in so many areas of life:

    When people get in debt, if they believe the debt is insurmountable, they refuse to look at incoming bills for fear of facing down the debt. Unfortunately, many businesses go awry when setting stretch goals.

    In “The Stretch Goal Paradox,” Sitkin, Miller and See note:

    “Our research suggests that though the use of stretch goals is quite common, successful use is not. And many executives set far too many stretch goals. In the past five years, for example, Tesla failed to meet more than 20 of founder Elon Musk’s ambitious projections and missed half of them by nearly a year, according to the Wall Street Journal.”

    Goal-setting is like a marathon, not a sprint. It doesn’t all need to happen at the same time, and pacing is extremely important if you want to get to the finish line. It is better to focus on a couple goals at a time, master them and then move on to the next thing.

    3. Set Aside Time Each Year to Focus on Goal-Setting

    When I was a managing director for communications for the Advancement Project, I spent the first part of every year facilitating a communications planning meeting.

    The planning meeting began with the team members assessing the goals the team had established in the preceding year, and whether those goals were realistic or not. If we failed to meet certain goals, we broke down why that happened. From there, we brainstormed about possibilities for the current year.

    For instance, one year we set a goal of pitching and getting 24 opinion essays published. This was audacious because no one on the eight-person team had the luxury of focusing exclusively on editing and pitching opinion essays to publications around the world. We would need to focus on pitching in between the rest of our work.

    We hit this goal within the first eight months of the year. Remarkably, in total, we ended up getting 40 opinion essays published that year, which was an indication that our original goal was too low. We upped the goal to 41 the next year, and amazingly, we hit 42 published opinion essays or guest columns.

    From this experience, we not only learned what was feasible, we also learned the power of focus.

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    When we focused as a team on getting the commentary on our issues out in the public domain, we were successful. The key in all of this is that there was a ton of discussion around which goal we’d pursue and why.

    Equally important, as a manager, I didn’t set the goals alone; the team members and I established the goals collaboratively. This ensured buy-in from each individual.

    4. Use the S.M.A.R.T. Goal Model to Set Realistic Goals

    S.M.A.R.T.

    is a synonym for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. For the sake of this article, the realistic portion of the acronym is most important.

    While you want to set audacious goals, you want to ensure that they are realistic as well. No one is served by setting a goal that is impossible to accomplish.

    Failing to meet goals can be demoralizing for teams, so it’s important to be sober-eyed about what is possible. Additionally, the purpose of setting goals is to advance and grow, not depress morale.

    For instance, my team would have been discouraged had I begun the year asking it to pitch and place 40 opinion essays if we didn’t already have a track record of placing close to two dozen essays.

    By using the S.M.A.R.T. formula, we were able to achieve all that we set out to do.

    5. Break the Goal up into Small Digestible Parts

    I am a recovering perfectionist. As a writer, being a perfectionist can be counterproductive because I can fail to start if I don’t see a clear pathway to victory.

    The same is true with goal-setting. That’s why I join Lifehack’s fellow contributor Deb Knobelman, Ph.D., in noting that it is critically important to break goals into bite-sized chunks.

    When I had a goal of doing daylong media meetings in New York City, I had to think through all the barriers to achieving that goal and all the steps required to meet the goal.

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    One step was identifying which reporters, producers and hosts to engage. Another step was writing a pitch or meeting invitation that would capture their attention. Another step was thinking through the program areas I wanted to highlight and the new angles I could offer to different reporters.

    Since reporters want to cover stories that no one else has written, I needed to come up with fresh angles for each of the reporters I was engaging. An additional step was thinking through who from my team I’d take with me to the various meetings.

    I was clear that, as a talking head, as public relations reps are sometimes called, I needed the right spokesperson in order to land repeated meetings with different outlets.

    A final step was thinking through what I needed to bring to each meeting and which reports, videos and testimonials would buttress our claims and be of interest to media figures.

    As I walked through what was needed to bring my goal of doing daylong meetings to reality, I realized that not only was the idea within reach, but I was excited to tackle the challenge.

    From that point until now, I have learned to break down goals into smaller parts and tackle the smaller parts on the path to knocking the goal out of the park.

    The Bottom Line

    These are my recommendations for setting stretch goals, and there are a ton of other resources to support you in the workplace and in your community.

    For instance, LinkedIn’s Lynda.com platform has a wonderful suite of leadership development videos, including ones on establishing stretch goals. This is a paid resource but may be worth the investment if you lead a team or want to invest in tools for your own growth and development.

    Featured photo credit: Avatar of user Isaac Smith Isaac Smith @isaacmsmith Isaac Smith via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Harvard Business Review: The Stretch Goal Paradox

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