How to Find Your Way Forward (and Finish Strong)

Mike Vardy

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Imagine you’re on a golf course. Actually, you’re on the green. You’re so close to the end—it’s mere steps away. The landscape may still have its ups and downs—its peaks and valleys—but the hazards are gone, and you’re perhaps just one shot away from your outcome.

Or are you?

Are the hazards gone?

Are you sure?

Perhaps the physical hazards are gone, the visible ones. But there are still hazards that can creep up on you while you’re at this point in the journey.

And you are the source of those hazards.

You get in your own way, especially when you’re so close to the end. There are a multitude of reasons why this is the case, not the least of which is fear.

Fear rears its ugly head throughout your time on the course, and it really makes itself known as you get closer to the end. Fighting fear is hard, too. Because it constantly finds new ways to attack. Steven Pressfield discusses this at length in his books The War of Art and Turning Pro. I use both of these books as touchstones when I lose sight of why I’m doing what I’m doing.

But I also do other things that Pressfield mentions in his work—albeit perhaps in a bit more of a nerdy slant.

For example, I use the color green as touchstone. Not because it is a pleasing color to surround yourself with, but because of my fondness for a certain ring-wearing superhero.

Of course, I’m speaking of the Green Lantern.

To be fair, there isn’t just one Green Lantern. There are many. My favorite happens to be the most popular one, Hal Jordan. And while I was disappointed with how the live-action movie version of my favourite hero turned out, I’m still a huge fan. That’s because his power comes from the tremendous amount of will he possesses.

That’s a power we all have. How much we’re willing to tap into it is another matter altogether.

The Green Lantern’s ring allows him to construct anything that he can will it to. Ultimately, we can all do the same. Everything that a Green Lantern builds is used for a purpose; it’s more about why something needs to be constructed than what needs to be constructed.

I tend to look at our lists and tasks in the same manner. I ask myself why I’m doing that task—or why I need to do it—rather than what I need to do. By doing that, I’m creating something with a greater purpose—something that will lead to a better result because I asked the right question. I asked about the why over the what.

Willpower means that the “why” comes first—well before the “what” enters the picture.

The what only comes in first place when you are afraid that you aren’t doing what you are really meant to be doing. And what keeps pushing you in that direction?

Fear.

Which just so happens to the power that fuels the Green Lantern’s arch-enemy, Sinestro and his Yellow Lantern Corps. Fear keeps you in check, and keeps you checking off boxes that don’t really mean all that much in the grand scheme of things. You don’t explore boxes that are worth more than that because you’re afraid to go there. Because every little bit that you go beyond your comfort zone, gets that much scarier.

But with will at your side, you can go there. And you can keep going there time and time again, keeping fear at bay.

So I wear my Green Lantern ring often when I write. I have a miniature Hal Jordan on my desk right next to my “Beat Resistance” plate that I received when I bought Pressfield’s book Do The Work from Seth Godin’s Domino Project. I also have a Vision bobblehead there as well, which reminds me of my vision statement.

But the one thing that makes sure I see things through to completion is a picture of my two children placed inside a frame with the following quote underneath:

“A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove . . . but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child.”

The title on the frame is “Priorities,” and unless I work on—and finish strong with—my short game, then I’m not keeping them at the forefront.

Find your touchstones. Use them to not just finish . . . but to finish strong.

Now I don't just strap on my Green Lantern ring and use that to propel myself forward to finish strong. I need some sort of construct as well. Something that has proven to work time and time again.

Let me finish off this article sharing that process with you, using the end of the month as the "thing" I want to finish... and finish strong.

There are certain aspects of the calendar that I really appreciate, and the end of the month is one of them. Even more so than the end of the calendar year (which – as I’ve written about – doesn’t hold as much significance for me), the end of the month is a time where I can get set for the next 30 or so days while looking back at the 30 days prior.

I start and end my days the same way and over the past few months, I’ve done the same with a calendar month. By doing so, I’ve found that I get a solid reset and recharge every 30 days – something that has definitely boosted my overall productivity. I’ve been able to scale my plans up, map my days better, and align myself with my monthly and daily themes a lot better since starting to end my months in a similar fashion. Essentially, by ending my current month right I start my next month off right as well.

Here’s how I do it.

1. Connect with the past

I don’t do a weekly review and haven’t for some time. Instead, I conduct semi-monthly reviews. I set aside an hour every two weeks and take a look at what the previous two weeks or so have presented to me. Because I keep a daily journal reading what I wrote upwards of two weeks’ prior allows me to reconnect with what I’ve done and what I had set out to do.

2. Calibrate

Looking back at my journal entries really allows me to align everything again as the month comes to a close. I can calibrate myself so that I have the ability to move forward with fewer questions and more resolve. This part of the process involves deliberate postponement of certain actions (which is easy to do in Todoist if you run the pointer/cursor over the small calendar that comes up when you are in the date field of a task), reviewing the various modes I use to tackle my work so that I can see what ones are working, what ones need to be improved upon through clarification (or outright dropping them), and aligning all of my actions with my daily themes as much as possible.

3. Choose the course

At this point, I’m looking ahead to the Monthly Theme I've set for next month and further defining what path I want to take to give that theme the attention it deserves. Choosing the course involves being very intentional. I am plotting a course of action and using my daily themes and mode-based working process to make measured progress on what I really want to make happen in the month ahead. I eliminate a lot of things to do this, which is now easier to do because I’ve spent the time looking back and then course correcting in the steps before choosing the way forward. My wheels are seasoned from the past miles they’ve traveled, better aligned thanks to the calibration they’ve undergone, and are now greased and primed for the road ahead.

If you fail to review regularly, then I encourage you to try this kind of end of month process to help you move forward with more precision, focus, and resolve in the months ahead. Taking just one hour to connect with the past, calibrate accordingly, and choose your course on the 30th of every month can help you go a long way.

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I'm Mike Vardy, better known as The Productivityist, and my goal is to offer ideas, insights, and information that will help you craft your time better and become more personally productive.

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