The January Effect

One of my favorite things is discovering tools and techniques which at first glance will have a negative effect BUT when you do them, they have a super positive effect.

For example

• Putting butter, coffee and coconut oil helps you loose weight – BulletProof Coffee
• Put all your eggs in one basket and watch the basket!! – Warren Buffett
• Do less to achieve more. Multitasking is complete Bullcrap – Agile and Scrum

Let’s talk about Cadence..

Cadence is a term used by pro-cyclists and runners. I first heard about the effects of cadence when I got into running. As I was rewriting this post, good mate Pete Williams let everyone know he is launching a book on this topic next year (and he should know, he has competed in Ironman events where you run a marathon and ride a bike for 100k and swim a couple of miles all in one day!!!)

When I was learning to run some years ago, I was told something I was sure would be dead wrong! I was told to imagine every step I take as a beat, just like in a song. When you start running and you’re unfit, you have a very slow BPM (beats per minute). It seems obvious, to conserve energy, move your legs at a slower pace!

Trouble is, it’s completely wrong!

I’ll never forget when the running coach said we were going to run at a pace of 180 BPM! As a musician, I knew exactly what 180BPM meant and I thought he was going to kill me. This is super fast! To give you a comparison, your hottest club banger is around 120-130 BPM.

To really ram the point home, he had us run for five minutes at our normal cadence and pace (for me – very slow!). At the end of the run we measured our heart rate and also recorded how we felt energy wise. After a rest and coaching, we went for another five minute run keeping the same speed, but upping the cadence (remember, this speed of which my feet touch the ground) to 180 BPM. It seemed ridiculous! Still, off I went for the five minute run.

As soon as the five-minute time was up I knew I’d just learned an amazing magic trick! My pulse was a full 10% lower and I felt way fresher than my previous run!

It was a miracle!

If you watch a professional runner, you’ll notice they keep the same cadence regardless of where they are in the race and whether they are going uphill, downhill or on a flat. The only thing which changes is the length of stride (for those of you interested, much smaller strides going uphill, longer strides going downhill!)

Cyclists know this as well! Watch a professional rider and they will keep exactly the same cadence (in their case, how many times the pedal does a full loop over the course of a minute). The only thing which they change is the gearing they use.

Both runners and cyclists (and plenty of others) have realized when you have a fixed cadence you use less energy.

So what has all this got to do with your online business and how to make January go off with a bang? Well it turns out, everything.

When you’re starting out, most people are working a job which brings in all the money for food, shelter and Internet service. By definition, when you are working on your online business it’s very part-time. You have to very deliberately carve out time to build your online business. In the Academy, we call these periods of time “Critical Focus Time™” (or CFT for short). These are 50 minute periods of time where you completely focus on building your online business. These periods of time are crucial to the success of your enterprise.

There is a bunch of science about why 50 minutes but this is another article for another time. Your ability to schedule and then stick to these blocks of time is the best indicator of how successful you will be in an online business. The more consistent you are with your CFT’s the better your business runs and grows.

This is the “cadence” of your business. Just like a professional runner or cyclist your ability to keep to a cadence is THE key factor of your success.

There is no better time to illustrate this than the holiday season! In most parts of the world November and December create major challenges to any endeavors which are in anyway optional. Diets, discipline and online businesses get chucked out the window with the thought you’ll make up for lost time in January! The thing is, you’re absolutely right! You will make it up in January but imagine if you were able to keep a minimum cadence through December – what would January look like then?

Look at this diagram:


The amateur (the red line) starts November with the best of intentions. In North America, everything goes well until Thanksgiving hits. In Australia and New Zealand, it’s Christmas parties and interview school concerts. In Europe, some night markets, warm cider and it’s pitch black at 4 PM!

December is a real test. In truth, most of us decide to phone in December. We let things go knowing January and New Year’s resolutions is just a month away. This is enticing thinking. Having trained online entrepreneurs for 15 years, there’s no question January is a peak time for people spending a lot of energy on their business. As the chart shows, however, this comes at a cost. Let’s have a look at what a professional does.

Side-note: a professional doesn’t mean somebody who is doing the online business full-time. It’s somebody who practices the art of cadence and realizes the importance of routine and focusing on big business building activities.

Important, The lesson I don’t want you to take away from this is you shouldn’t enjoy the holiday season! That’s crazy. You should. Indeed, professionals know how to use the power of rest and partying (another article for another time!) to enhance their performance and avoid burnout.

Look at the difference in completion, if you would just be able to continue to do two CFT’s a week throughout December. Then, instead of starting from ground zero (or below!) You have a solid base to take advantage of all the January enthusiasm and energy. Your results are exponentially better.

There are so many examples of the power of cadence everywhere. Look at Toyota versus Tesla. I know, I love Tesla too, but their manufacturing processes right now are totally Fubar! Even Aesop had it right with his fable of the tortoise and the hare. When you have a moment, check out this YouTube video of a Japanese television show proving conclusively the tortoise smashes the hare! It’s true!

In fact, beating in your chest right now is a prime example of the importance of cadence. Your heart. One of the cool things my Apple watch checks for is heart rate variability (Heart Rate Variability as a phrase is applied in a number of contexts in some cases it’s good!). Doctors know a variation when your heart beats is a potential precursor to a bigger problem. Ideally your heart should be like a drum machine, whether it’s beating at 65 bpm or 150 bpm it should pump right on the beat. What you don’t want is your heart being a jazz drummer, where your heartbeat falls slightly behind or in front of the beat. The greater the variation the greater the problem.

Think about the last four weeks of work on your online business. Are you more drum machine or jazz drummer. Is your entrepreneurial heart rate all over the place? For example, if you did to 50 minute sessions in week one, seven 50 minute sessions in week two, zero in week three and one in week four -if you have you’re suffering from entrepreneurial arrhythmia!!! Just like you’re heart – it’s not good!!

Compare to an entrepreneur who religiously was able to do three CFT’s a week with absolute consistency. Just like your heart, the consistent entrepreneur will be the more successful in 2018. Over 13 years of the challenge and 400,000 students has shown me time and time again the challengers who were able to get into a routine of implementation were always the most successful. The ones who crammed on the weekend inevitably failed.

Where are you?

Let’s use the traffic light method to rate where you are currently at.

Red – you are up and down like a yo-yo. When the mood takes you, you might cram a few hours then something happens and you don’t do any work for a week. There is no way you can predict how much you are going to work on creating your online business in any particular week.

Yellow – you schedule your critical focus time sessions ( or whatever you call them) in advance and you do your best to stick to them. It is not religious however. They do get bumped sometimes because of other things happening.

Green – you are like the Japanese rail network. Super consistent. You evaluate each week and adjust your schedule so you are not caught out. You anticipate challenges which could distract you from your online business and plan to make sure you have a strategy for dealing with it. When you sit down to work, you know exactly what you’re going to do and have an and appropriate roadmap to guide you. If you don’t know what to do, you know how to reach out to somebody who does.

Action plan.

1. How many CFT’s do you do in a week? (If you have no idea, you are going to schedule two, Let’s face it, if you can’t carve two hours out of the 164 hours you have in a week you are not serious about creating an online business).
2. Schedule the CFT’s in your calendar. Do this now. Remember, don’t say what you are going to do, just know, no matter what, you’re going to be working on your online business come hell or high water at these times.
3. Review at the end of the week. Use the following criteria to figure out how many CFT’s you should schedule for the following week.

How to determine how many CFT’s you should do for the next week.

At the end of the week, you will be in one of three categories:

Easy – if you found it easy to complete your CFT’s add one more CFT to scheduling next week.
Okay – if you did your allotted CFT’s for the week but found it challenging, that’s good. It means we are working your entrepreneurial muscles. Keep the same number of CFT’s for next week.
Missed – if you missed, reduce the number of CFT’s you are scheduling for next week by at least one (remember, the minimum is two)

Just like the crew chief in Rolling Thunder (what a movie!), “You need to be on the edge of control, not out of control.”

If you did it easy we need to up the intensity by increasing by one CFT. Don’t be an idiot and double the number of CFT’s, that’s a one-way ticket to burnout town. By stretching yourself each week (just like building muscle) we are building your entrepreneurial capacity. If you double the weights, you will be out of the gym and injured. Same happens in your entrepreneurial enterprise.

If you just managed to do your CFT’s, that’s perfect. You will find over the next couple of weeks you will move from okay to easy and you will be able to increase your capacity.

If you missed. It seems completely counterintuitive to schedule in less work for the following week. Most entrepreneurs try to punish themselves by doing extra and this NEVER works. You need to give yourself the gift of a win by getting back on the horse and setting a super achievable target. Here’s the secret, to your brain, a win is a win. It doesn’t matter whether it was easy or hard. After you have a week where you had a miss (and don’t worry, we all do it!) It’s crucial you give yourself a win. There is no law to say that after you do your CFT’s you can’t add in an extra, but this way you will continue with your business.

What happens the other way? Well, you punish yourself and schedule even more CFT’s for the following week and you miss that week as well! You are in the virtual entrepreneurial cycle of doom. I’ve seen this happen thousands of times, you will burnout and find yourself in front of the television watching the “Housewives of Atlanta”.

As we learn in the Academy, by doing less you achieve more! Give it a try and you’ll see. Does this make sense? Let me know, how’s your cadence?