Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Basic Three Step Black Belt Training Program

As I move along creating the foundation to help you and I master our life through GTD and more, I wanted to build on my last post called “The Dojo Kun of The Black Belt Project.” In that post, I discuss the difficulty in finding a starting point because everyone is at different stages in their life and in their own personal development. Because of that, I suggested that the best place to start is at a point where you might be an individual who is “stuck”, so to speak. At any given time, you might find yourself in this frame of mind where you have a difficult time taking action either because of your emotional state at the time or because you are in a situation where things are in flux and you are not sure what to do.

Even if that’s not you, or not you at this time, the basic strategy that I am going to lay out today has its benefits and that’s because I’m going to use it as the starting point for becoming a black belt at any area of your life where you might want to focus on at any given time. For those of you who have gotten a good handle on your systems, I may risk offending you but I’m hoping that you will humor me as I feel that creating a system to create action is at the core of achievement. Many people have great ideas but for one reason or another can’t take action. Sometimes too, it’s the most basic strategies that yield some powerful results. As an example, take David Allen’s Getting Things Done next action thinking. This simple question – “what’s the next action?” I think is the engine that moves the GTD system.

Similarly, I think the basic three step strategy I am going to lay out also has an extreme amount of power. The core concept behind the basic Black Belt Project strategy is about developing your “getting things done” muscle. When you first begin to make changes to your life, your first option might be to take the drastic step of taking massive action. This is a great strategy. But for a lot of people, they haven’t the inner mental strength to lift such a heavy weight. And many times, they can only maintain that pace for a while before they tire out. If you think of getting yourself to a black belt at life as a marathon, you wouldn’t start by running 26.2 miles right out of the gate. You would start with much smaller distances and maybe even by walking. This helps you build up your endurance and if you go slowly enough also helps you prevent injury. This kind of approach can help you pace yourself and help you get moving again. Once you develop your inner discipline by starting slowly, you can create momentum and run greater and greater distances in faster and faster times.

OK, with that said, let’s begin.

The Basic Three Step Black Belt Project Training Program

Here are the three steps:

  1. Take small steps

  2. Make small progress

  3. Raise the bar

Let’s talk about each step and then I will walk you through a mini example.

First, I’m going to suggest that you start with small steps. I’ve alluded to this in the past indirectly in some articles and videos I have done. But, to institute major changes in your life, it’s really just a collection of smaller steps along the way. Start by figuring out what the smallest step in the process are and then write that first step down in a checklist that you can print out and set in front of you.

Next, make the commitment that you will complete that one step tomorrow if it’s the only thing that you do. Do it first thing to get it out of the way. Check it off your list. After you do that, you must commit to take at least that one action from that point forward.

At this point, you’ve set the standard for your day. It might only be one thing, But what you have accomplished is a major step forward if you have had problems getting moving.

This brings us to the third step in the process and that is, you must the raise the bar and increase the weight to build the muscle of your inner discipline. You do this by adding one additional step to your checklist of things you want to do the next day.

Make a commitment then to do no less than what you have put on your checklist. If you do more, that’s great. But do no less.

Continue to do this and continue to increase your daily resistance. What you’ll find is that you will start to create momentum. It will be easier to get through that list.

If you have read this far, you might wonder how this applies to GTD. So, let’s do an example.

I think the cornerstone of a black belt GTD’er is the daily review and the collection of checklists that you develop. If I haven’t developed this, the first thing I might want to do tomorrow is make sure that I check my voice mail and return my calls. While this is actually more than one step, I can personally say that I have been avoiding my phone messages and slacked on calling people back right away.

The first thing I would do then is create a checklist with one item on it.

  • Check voice mail

Tomorrow, I would check my voice mail if it’s the only thing I did. I would then ask myself what is the most next logical item I could add to the list and I would raise the bar. Maybe that might be:

  • Add calls to return to my calls list.

And then I would make it my personal mission to make sure that I completed those two tasks. This would then increase my endurance and help me create momentum. I would then repeat the process.

This is a simple example but I hope you can see how these three steps can be the basis of building your life to black belt. In my next post, I’m still considering covering a few basic concepts before we delve into more specific things. I hope that you will join me.

Related Article

Michael Kuhn

Black Belt Project: Build Mental Strength


Do you have any ideas on how to apply the GTD system to full time job and college student?

@Jeremy: I'm not sure I understand your question exactly but I think you are asking if you should have separate project lists, next actions, etc? I separate out my project lists into categories and would recommend that. Maybe a school project list and a work one. I would use one calendar for sure. The key is to make your system as simple and efficient as possible. I will delve into this once we get a little deeper into the process.