Recently I had an important project on my plate. I needed to find some financing for a property, and I had been struggling to find it. More accurately, I had been struggling to figure out how to find it. It had been on my list of projects for several months, and was becoming increasingly urgent.
A couple weeks ago, I stepped back from the situation and tried to look at myself from the outside. I asked the question, “can I objectively say I’ve given this effort everything I’ve got?” The answer was no. I had indeed been trying, and had been working on it in earnest, but I wasn’t truly giving it everything I had. I knew deep down that I could do more.
One Monday morning, in a moment of disgust, frustration and panic, I told myself: “I’m going to give this funding project everything I’ve got. EVERYTHING. Like my life depends on it.”
This, it turns out, was a great moment for me. I decided to trick myself into fairly literally thinking that my life was dependent on my finding and securing the funding that week.
Previously, I had been allocating my time sort of casually. I’d put a couple hours on the calendar here and there throughout the week to work on this project. But once I was I was in the mindset of “my life depends on it,” that totally changed. If my life was truly going to end on Friday at 5pm if I hadn’t found the funding, would I casually say, “sure, I’lll carve out a couple hours for that this week”? Of course not. Instead, this project would be my one and ONLY priority. Nothing else would matter: sleeping, eating, other projects. Nothing would make any difference. Suddenly, things seemed extremely focused, clear and uncluttered.
This was a whole new sense of urgency to me; it was a whole new meaning to the word “priority.” Suddenly this wasn’t one of many “priorities”–it was THE priority. Multiple times throughout each day that week, I would remind myself of the mindset I had committed to: this is do or die, by Friday at 5.
I can tell you this: this mental exercise seriously altered how I allocated my time and energy. I had an urgent, one-track mind, and I made a ton of progress that week. Way, way more than I had made in all the previous weeks combined. Every night, before going to bed, I’d ask myself, “did I give it EVERYTHING I had today? Did I leave it all on the field?” Every night the answer was yes. And every night, I was able to sleep soundly, knowing I had done everything in my power to make this happen.
In the end, did I actually find and secure the funding I needed by Friday at 5? No, I didn’t. But I did meet the lender I had been looking for, and was well on my way to getting the funding (which has since closed). Even though my life didn’t literally expire that Friday night at 5pm because I had “failed” in meeting my deadline, my week was anything but a failure; in fact, quite the opposite.
Takeaways From This Experience
There were several very important lessons in this for me, and I wanted to share them:
- I always have another gear I can shift into. There’s almost always room to give at least a little more effort.
- I often use the term “priority” too loosely; I’ve said things like “ABC is a high priority, but XYZ is a low priority.” I now realize that something is either a priority, or it’s not. Either I’m giving it my all, or I’m not.
- Playing the mental game of tricking myself into thinking I would literally lose my life at the end of the week if I hadn’t solved my problem gave me a whole new sense of perspective. I lived that week in a dead sprint, and that level of focus felt great.
- There’s a natural sense of peace that comes when I know I’ve given something everything I’ve got. I know, at that point, that the outcome is out of my hands; I’ve done everything I can to impact the things I can control.
So, the next time you’ve got something mission-critical on your plate, trying playing the “Like My Life Depended On It” game. You just might find it works for you, like it did for me.