How I get stuff done! | 5 steps to achieve any goal

Consistency is the habit that separates people who say “I wish I could…” from those who actually get on with it and put in the work.

It’s not glamorous and it’s not easy, but it will change your life for the better. It helps you get things done, improve your skills and achieve your goals…and I’ve got a very practical 5 step plan to help get you started today.

I recently read “The 12 Week Year” by Brian P. Moran and Michael Lennington, and this video is partly inspired by that book. I highly recommend you read it if you’re interested in delving deeper into the ideas I’ve discussed here.

Scroll down for the video transcript, and why not subscribe to my channel for more!

THANK YOU for visiting my website! I’m Laura Kidd, a music producer, songwriter and podcaster based in Bristol, UK. It’s great to meet you.

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Have a lovely day xo

How I get things done! | 5 steps to achieve any goal

I want to talk to you about consistency.

Consistency is the habit that separates people who say “I wish I could…” from those who actually get on with it and put in the work.

It’s not glamorous and it’s not easy, but it will change your life for the better. It helps you get things done, improve your skills and achieve your goals…and I’ve got a very practical 5 step plan to help get you started today.

I’m Penfriend but my friends call me Laura, and I’ve been a properly full time artist since February 2019. I spend my days right here in my home studio The Launchpad writing songs, making podcasts, making videos and coming up with all sorts of other creative projects.

I am not, and never have been funded by a record label, my parents, my husband Tim or anyone else except the supporters of the things I make, so massive thanks to you.

Before taking the full time artist plunge, I was a freelance filmmaker, photographer, session musician and social media manager making music on the side and hoping to make it my full-time job “one day”. I’m telling you this because, even though I’ve been successfully working for myself for 17 years now, I’ve only very recently discovered the power of consistency, and it’s been an absolute game changer.

Recently I read “The 12 Week Year” by Brian P. Moran and Michael Lennington, and this video is partly inspired by this book.

As we go through my 5 steps, I’ll use the example of me very recently starting to make weekly YouTube videos to illustrate what I’m on about and give us a chance to get to know each other a bit better.

Step 1: Define your goal

It’s impossible to know whether you’ve reached a goal if you never define what that goal is, and if you don’t know you’ve reached a goal, you don’t get that warm glow of accomplishment that makes all the hard work feel worthwhile, and spurs you onto your next goal.

So, you need to write down what you want to do.

Be really specific with this – in my case, it wouldn’t be particularly useful to write “be successful on YouTube”, because success is something that’s different for everyone. I would never know if I ever reached that goal, because it’s not properly defined.

A good Jedi mind trick is to write about your goal as if it’s already happened, so in my example:

“I am sharing encouraging weekly videos with practical tips on creativity, mindful productivity and digital minimalism on YouTube. I’ve earned 5000 subscribers and counting, I’m having interesting discussions in the comments and I am starting to receive emails with exciting offers of collaborations around the topics I’ve been discussing on my channel. Even better, I have found my holy grail – the perfect doughnut.

I like to write things like this on Post-It notes, in my bullet journal, or on my whiteboard because then I can keep an eye on them. I used to make complicated spreadsheets to plan out all of my goals, which was fine – I do love a spreadsheet – but for me, out of sight is out of mind, and I just kept forgetting about them.

Step 2: Believe in your goal

Many people live full, happy and productive lives without ever writing down the reasons WHY they’re doing things, but if you’re interested in making more of your time, or if you’re feeling like you don’t know how to get started, or what to get started on, writing down this reason why, really defining it, is a hugely helpful tool when – not if, but when – you want to quit.

Spending a bit of time investigating the reasons why you want to reach your goal is never wasted. You might discover you don’t have a compelling enough reason why, and that might mean you realise this goal isn’t for you after all, and that’s fine!

There’s no shame whatsoever in deciding to move on from a goal, even if you’ve had it in your head for a long time. You have to do what’s right for you now, and letting go of a long held dream that just doesn’t fit where you are in your life is a brave thing to do, plus it opens you up to finding an exciting new dream to work towards.

WHY do I want to have an active YouTube channel, with a rising subscriber count?

It’s because I want to help. I think everyone has useful life experience to share, and over my years of making and releasing albums independently, freelancing and generally making it all up as I go along, I’ve learned a lot of stuff. I started thinking that if I was able to offer any practical tips or encouragement to others, then choosing not to do that would be really selfish. That’s my fundamental reason for wanting to make these videos, and the reason for wanting the subscriber count to grow is to be able to share this information more widely, and to make ongoing connections with people like you so I can keep sharing the videos, music and podcasts that I make with people who would get value from those things.

Over the last couple of years I’ve gathered so much information, advice and encouragement from watching videos by people like Matt D’Avella, Casey Neistat, Lizzy Pierce, Beckie & Chris, Thomas Frank, Ali Abdaal, Mary Spender, Wheezy Waiter, Peter McKinnon and, most recently, Laura Try, so it feels right to give something back to the community.

And I’m not going to gloss over the financial aspect of YouTube: there are so many areas where musicians are expected to contribute their work for nothing, that it’s an exciting prospect to enter a community of people where there’s a system for creators to be paid if their work is deemed to be of value by that community. BUT I know that monetising my channel isn’t a good enough goal on its own, so if I wasn’t interested in the other aspects I’ve just described then I wouldn’t be committing to sharing videos like this on an ongoing basis.

By the way, at the time of filming I have 1355 subscribers, so if you’re interested in seeing how my 12 week experiment progresses…please subscribe!

And if you do manage to find a compelling enough reason to embark upon your journey towards your goal, write that down and keep it handy – you’ll need it in step 4.

Step 3: List your actions

The next step is to work backwards from your goal, and make a list of actions that will get you step by step from where you are now, closer to where you want to be. Write everything down, even if it seems silly or small. A plan is not a plan until it’s written down – before that, it’s just a bunch of ideas swirling around in your brain. You might remember to do some of the things, but probably not all of them, and there’s just such power in seeing what you’re going to do and ticking it off as you go along. That sense of forward motion really helps to keep things on track.

Here’s my list:

  • Watch a lot of videos on YouTube about making videos on YouTube (but learn when to stop watching and start making!)
  • Take Matt D’Avella’s Master YouTube course – which was brilliant, by the way
  • Create Apple Notes folder for keeping track of video ideas
  • Set up existing video equipment and see if there’s anything else I need
  • Test my setup
  • Tidy my studio
  • Script my first video

Completing that list took me about 6 months, and that’s okay. Now I’ve finally got started, my weekly actions are:

  • Research next video
  • Script next video
  • Outline the following two videos
  • Shoot video
  • Edit video
  • Upload video
  • Start scripting next week’s video if I have time

It’s a lot, but I only stand a chance of doing it if it’s written down.

Step 4 is the key to the castle. EXECUTE CONSISTENTLY

Once you have your list of actions, book them in. Use a paper or online diary or calendar to make appointments with yourself, that you will keep.

You’re making a commitment to yourself here. If you’ve found a compelling reason to work towards this goal, you do not need to be wasting time every day deciding whether to execute your action or not. In “The 12 week Year” they talk about “choosing greatness in the moment”. Humans will always default to choosing comfort, unless we have a strong enough vision why we should choose discomfort.

I can’t tell you how many times over the years I’ve woken up, asked myself “will I run today?” and replied “nah, can’t be arsed”. SO MANY TIMES. These days I’m so proud of being able to show up for myself when I say I’m going to. It’s such a good feeling. 

Consistency is what it’s all about. I find physical goals easier to understand, because it’s more obvious to me that if I can’t do a full pushup today, that’s not because I’m a bad, untalented person with no future, it’s because the muscles I need to be able to do a pushup aren’t strong enough yet. If I were to find a training plan to learn how to do pushups, and carry that out consistently over a number of weeks or months, I know that one day eventually  I’ll be able to do a full pushup.

It’s harder with non-physical things we wish we could do already – I’d love to be able to paint really well, for example, and if I picked up a paintbrush and had a go today I’m confident the result would be pretty disappointing. If I took a course in painting, and practised my new skills regularly, my painting would certainly improve, and so I know the only thing between me now and future painter me is consistent hard work. But, to be honest, I don’t have a strong enough reason why I should put all that work and time into improving my painting skills, so that’s something I don’t have to feel guilty or regretful about any more. I’ll let other people be great at painting, and support them instead. Hooray!

For my YouTube channel, I’ve booked in Thursdays and Fridays for making videos, with a weekly upload schedule of Saturday morning at 7am. It’s late Friday afternoon when I’m filming this, so I’m cutting it a bit fine and I’ve realised I need to get started much earlier in the week – maybe Monday or Tuesday! – BUT because my WHY is strong and my determination slash stubbornness is also very strong, I will be executing all my actions on time, uploading this video at 7am tomorrow, and learning from my mistakes for next week.

When – and I do mean when – you falter, and feel like you can’t be bothered to keep up with your plan, and what’s the point of any of this anyway, go back to your list of reasons why you’re doing this. Read through them, ponder them, read through them again, give yourself a break and then get back on it. You don’t have to give up because you missed some appointments. Just start again.

I know that working towards my goals isn’t usually going to feel like a freaking party, but because I really believe that I’m spending my time in valuable ways, and moving steadily towards my big goals in life, I’m all in.

This feels like a good moment for an inspirational quote:

“You can’t build a reputation on what you’re *going* to do…” – Henry Ford

And how about this bonus unicorn? You’re welcome.

Step 5: Track and score

Tracking your actions will make you feel good and make you want to do more things so you can tick them off. That’s just science.

I track my exercise habits in my bullet journal – I create a monthly spread with a column for each action, and I add a cross when I’ve done each thing. At the end of each week I add up how many miles I’ve run, because that makes me feel proud, and I find I really enjoy looking at the page fill up with crosses throughout the month. I get a real sense of progress from that.

Another of my favourite parts of “The 12 Week Year” is the idea of tracking actions and results, but only scoring yourself on the execution of your actions.

In my YouTube example, I have two actions per week, each worth 50% of my total score:

Action 1 – work on videos 2 days a week

Action 2 – upload a new video every Saturday

Scoring the actions not the results is another new thing for me, and I love it. Just because I write down a random number of subscribers I’d like to have in 12 weeks time doesn’t mean that will happen based off the actions I’m taking. If I don’t reach 5000 subscribers in 12 weeks, but I do spend my two days a week working on videos and I upload every Saturday as planned, I haven’t failed just because I guessed a number wrong. I’ve achieved a lot more than I would have done if I didn’t have a plan, and I didn’t stick to the plan.

I know it’s addictive – numbers are everywhere online and it can feel like the world is judging us poorly if those numbers are smaller – or bigger – than we want them to be, but we’re human beings, not robots, and numbers are meaningless without context.

Bonus step 6: tell a friend

We’ve talked about accountability to yourself being a wonderful thing to work towards, but telling someone else what you’re doing is a very powerful tool. Tell a trusted person about your plan, someone you know won’t tell you it’s stupid or pointless – choose wisely, because you don’t need that sort of energy when you’re working hard to change your life.

You can do this!

Speaking of telling supportive people about your plans, that’s what I’ve just done in this video, haven’t I – so please do check back next Saturday and feel free to have a go at me if I haven’t uploaded my next one.

Step by step, slow and steady wins the race.

Now, where’s that doughnut?

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  1. Stephen Noyce says:

    Hi Laura , thanks for posting a very inspiring video . I’m already doing a few of the things that you mentioned but now I understand why I should be doing the other steps as well , especially writing things down .
    Is there any possibility that you could do a video / podcast about how we could properly assess our own work . I write a lot and have been keeping a record of it for some time . I’m amazed at how ‘poor’ some of my pieces are but also surprised at how ‘good’ ( I use the term loosely ) some of my other pieces are . I try to finish everything that I start , so if a song isn’t particularly strong to start with then it generally stays average throughout its journey . How do you approach writing in respect to – strong melody / lyrical depth / arrangements etc . I love listening to your podcasts but is there any chance that someone could interview you about your writing process ?
    Thanks , Steve .

  2. Thanks Laura, it is really great and useful to hear you share your experiences so eloquently, and I am reading the 12 Week Year book now. My situation is that I have been freelance for a long time, but as a writer, with various projects to juggle at once. Now, I am trying to move music-making more into the ‘work’ part of my life and see it alongside other work projects. Here is my question: it really struck me that you are assigning particular days to making your weekly video. Have you always been good at giving days a particular purpose, or is this a new technique, and how are you finding it? Do you see all the days in a particular pattern across the week, or do you break them down into half days etc? Any advice on this – I am pretty random currently and just do ‘the next thing’ most of the time. Thank you!

    • Laura Kidd says:

      Rebecca, I’ve been mulling your question over since the weekend! There’s a section in the book about time blocking, which is something I’d already started doing prompted by Cal Newport. I think that will really help – booking in blocks of time which are for the music-making, appointments that you have to keep like you would any other work commitment. They really don’t have to be long blocks, the inner critic video goes over that actually:

      Assigning specific days days for specific things is a recent idea for me, but it’s just an extension of the time block planning. Getting a collaborative album finished in the near future requires at least a whole day per week and videos take ages too, so I have a more simplified work output at the moment than at other times! Planning out the ideal week ahead massively helps me, because I can see how quickly the week fills up and can try and get a handle on what’s actually possible in that time. Of course, the plan goes off course but at least there was a plan in the first place, and this is how you can prioritise your music blocks as well.

      You can do it! xo

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