Some time ago I wrote a blog post about using Micro-Quotas to achieve your goals. Despite writing about them I hadn't put them into practice in a formal way until I decided to formalize the system in a side project called Kwota.io. This blog post is the direct result of a blogging quota I put in weeks ago. I am currently holding myself to 3 blog posts per week, among a number of other quotas that I will share here.
I currently have 7 different quotas that I am filling on a weekly basis accounting for 16 different actions I must take weekly. I am planning on adding more as I ramp up productivity.
The Default Quota
The beautiful thing about quota systems is that every time you fill an action you are accomplishing something, and accomplishing things feels good. To get the ball rolling every week I have a simple quota that goes like this:
- I will fill this quota at least 1 time per week.
In my current Trello-based system this card is called "Move this card to done". All I am required to do is to open up my quota management system and fill the quota by marking it done. This may seem stupid, but the act of completing this simple task starts you on the road to success by starting the cycle of accomplishment.
My Life For The Code Quotas
In support of My Life For The Code I've committed to filling the following quotas weekly:
- I will write a blog post at least 3 times per week.
- I will contact someone new about a podcast interview at least 2 times per week.
- I will record, edit, and release a new podcast episode at least 1 time per week.
This website and my podcast is a multifaceted system. I don't have a particular goal I am chasing by pumping out content, but I have a strong feeling that doing so will lead to good things. One benefit is that I am building a network and an audience of people who I otherwise would not have. I am improving my written communication skills with every post. Contacting/interviewing people helps with my email and oral communication skills, and also requires me to get out of my comfort zone by cold contacting people. Technical articles require research and a working understanding of the material. Put all this together and the benefits of these few actions are tremendous.
Health and Fitness Quotas
I've been a bit of a pudgy guy for most of my life, and I seriously want to change that. I am currently pursuing a weight of 180 lbs. I have not weighed that little since 2003, right after graduating high school. Here are the quotas I currently have listed for health and fitness:
- I will do body weight exercises from YAYOG at least 4 times per week.
- I will run at least 1.5 miles at least 3 times per week.
- I will fast for about 36 hours at least 2 times per week.
None of the above activities require me to go to the gym, something I greatly value.
YAYOG is the book You Are Your Own Gym by Mark Lauren. It is a book of body weight exercises. There are program in the back of the book I've been following for some time. I use this to build fat-burning muscle.
Running I am doing for cardiovascular health, and to get my endurance up for when I play touch football this summer. It also gives me quality time to listen to audio books. The added calorie burn is nice, but I am not doing it for fat loss.
I've adopted intermittent fasting as a primary technique for calorie reduction and overall fat burn. Despite what some people might say, fasting isn't starving yourself. Starving people don't eat at all. 36 hours is a bit on the extreme side. I eat Saturday and then don't eat until Monday morning. I do the same on Wednesdays. If you have never heard of intermittent fasting I would recommend checking out this article on NerdFitness. I've also discovered that at certain times during fasting I have an extreme level of focus and awareness that allows me to get stuff done I am otherwise too sluggish to accomplish. I would recommend trying this to anyone (of course check with a doctor first).
More Quotas To Come
The above are the quotas I currently keep formally. I plan on continuing to add new quotas until I begin to consistently fail to accomplish them despite my best efforts. This should give me a good baseline on where my limits are. Thinking about it now, I should probably add some additional quotas regarding diet and caloric intake. I should probably add another towards the completion of side projects. Close X many features per week. This would also encourage me to plan features out instead of jumping around aimlessly.
Before I move on to a bit about how I manage my quotas I thought I would make a note about changing quotas.
John Sonmez, the founder of SimpleProgrammer and prior guest on my podcast, made a point in one of his articles, videos, or on a podcast that he does not change things in mid-flight. That is, if he commits to running 3 times per week and after the first run thinks maybe it wasn't such a good idea that he will complete the other 2 runs before he actually makes the decision to change his schedule. This prevents you from making emotional decisions to stop doing something because it was too hard one time.
His advice is sage in this matter. If you pick up a quota system I wouldn't recommend making changes to it until you at least fill the existing quota. I've now made the rule that I am only allowed to remove or modify my quotas on Sunday. This way I am required to at least see the week out if I have a hard time some day.... and let's be honest, we all have rough days from time to time.
I am currently using Trello to track my quotas. It works well enough but there are features and usability things I would like to add and address by creating Kwota.io.
Trello is a great tool for a lot of things. It is a more than adequate tool for tracking quotas and their fulfillment. Here is a look at how I currently organize my quotas in Trello:
The at the beginning of the week I move all my cards into the This Week list. As I complete them I move the cards from the This Week list into the Done list. When the week is up I make and modifications I want and restart the process over again. This works well and I would recommend using it if you would like to implement a quota system for yourself.
I am building Kwota.io to function for the express purpose of quota management. These are some screenshots from my current, rough implementation of features. I haven't had a lot of time to devote to this project and I've had to learn a bunch of web related frameworks I haven't used before so progress has been slow.
You can tell I am a master at writing copy! errr... maybe not. I have sign up and sign in seemingly working using the mechanism I wrote about in my recent post Building a Website with Node and a Bunch of Other Stuff, Part 3.
Here is a look at my quotas in Kwota:
Why Not Give It A Try?
We all have goals that we want to achieve. I, personally, want to be a healthy self-made millionaire. Goals alone, however, are not enough. If you want to achieve something you need a system. In the short time I have been using them, micro-quotas have helped me to blog regularly, get my podcast up and running again, and focus on my health. If you feel stuck why not give this technique a try? Move some of those goals from red to green.