Updated: May 12, 2021
Our brains don’t like big, overwhelming tasks. It takes up too much cognitive energy thinking of the future and planning ahead for it. So instead we want to break down our long-term goals into smaller little chunks with a few concrete actionable steps. We do this by setting what I like to call macro and micro goals. Performance adaptation is a systematic series of actions where we don’t just react to what is happening in the moment but is a part of the on-going change process. We do this by having a structured feedback loop and adaptive processes built into our goal setting framework. One effective way to do this is something known as the 100-day plan. It is a framework for setting these appropriate macro and micro goals. Kevin Roberts, CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi talks about 100-day plans: “Getting started is deceptively simple. First list around 10 things you need to achieve over the next 100 days. Start each plan with an Action Verb and use no more than 3 words each. Make sure each action is measurable and that each one is a stretch. You’ll know when something is a real stretch and when you’re just creating a list with things you can tick off”.
The 100-day plan breaks down your entire year into three blocks of time in which we set a macro goals which are then broken down further into micro process goals that if completed, get you a step closer to the overall outcome you want. So, let’s say you have an outcome goal of making a certain team, or landing a great job this year. Most people would leave their goal setting at that and call it a day. But what we need to do is break that goal down into smaller chunks that are part of the process and are within your control. With this, we break down your entire year (365 days) into 3 blocks of 100 days. But wait! Doesn’t a year have 365 days you might ask? Doesn’t this leave us with 65 days left over? Yes, well done. But don’t worry it will be our little secret. Block 3 will have 100 + 65 days. Each block has a theme or macro goal that will be the focus of that particular block and will increase your chances of the outcome. We then break the macro down even further into more process steps or micro goals that are actionable and can be checked off the list.
Performance adaptation is a systematic series of actions where we don’t just react to what is happening in the moment but is a part of the on-going change process
In the example below, the outcome goal for this athlete is to make the University basketball team next year. In order to do so, this athlete came up with 3 main focus areas that will increase their chances of making the team: Increasing strength, increasing focus, and improving their shot percentage. These goals are a lot more within our control compared to making the team, which has many variables affecting the result (such as other competition, the fact that the coach picks the team, etc.). So, by keeping these as your main focus rather than the end result, the outcome is actually more likely to occur. The micro process goals underneath it are the things this athlete can actually do in order to complete each block. Ultimately, we are flipping the model on its head. We start with the most basic, tangible thing we can do that helps us get a step closer to the outcome, without ever focusing on the outcome.
We begin with the long-term goal (macro) in mind and break it down further into the most actionable steps you can find. In the example above, going to the gym 3-4 times a week is totally within your control, which will help you increase strength, and ultimately increasing strength gives you a better shot at making the team. This is just one example of the micro goals that help the macro. In the 100-day plan you will create up to 10 micro (process) goals that will get you closer to the ultimate target. But don’t fret if you are not sure whether the micro goals are appropriate enough. The good thing about this method is that the process is designed to be flexible. Pick three dates throughout each block (usually 25, 50, 75 days in) where you come back to it, review and adjust accordingly.
For example, say you come back 25 days in and find going to the gym 3-4 times a week too challenging. Adjust it to a more realistic target such as 2-3 times a week. We may also increase the challenge if we find the goal too easy. Using the challenge/skill ratio as your guide find the appropriate goals to set by constant self-reflection. This process works for any goal you might have such as getting a job, building a business, or any other performance. MAPPING OUT YOUR NEXT 100 DAYS
To start, get a blank piece of paper and think about what your main objective is for the next 365 days. It doesn’t have to be at the beginning of the year, as most people tend to do it. We can start at any time. Once you have your main outcome write it at the top of the page and then create 3 different blocks of 100 days each (with block 3 having 165 days). Think about a sub-goal that can go underneath the main outcome. This is your macro goal that will be the main focus for the next 100 days. In the example above, block 1’s macro goal was to increase strength. A good goal to have, but it obviously lacks something tangible and measurable. The micro goal is where we get to the specifics of how you will go about reaching your macro goal. Going to the gym 3-4 times a week will help increase strength, which in turn helps this athlete make the University team. The difference being that the micro goal is completely within your control and can be adjusted. Think of what macro goals will be appropriate for your ultimate outcome. Once you brainstormed the process, you can use the worksheet provided at the bottom to outline Block #1.
You have two options of how to outline your first block: create 10 process goals that specifically tie into your outcome or pick 10 things you would like to accomplish in the next 100 days. This all depends on what outcome you have in mind. If you are an athlete with a specific goal of making a team, then perhaps creating 10 process goals will be more useful. For those of you without a clear target the better route might be to create a mix bag of process goals such as financial goals, professional goals, and health goals. It’s also important to remember your goals shouldn’t be a burden but rather used as guideposts for your progress. Make sure to make them flexible and adjust as needed. If halfway through your goals are too easy or too challenging, then change them! It may take a few blocks for you to get the hang of it, but eventually you will find a system that works best for you. Be sure to be patient with yourself and don’t discouraged with a lack of improvement right away. Remember that small progress is still progress. Check out this article for some tips to manage setbacks.
As an added resource, be sure to watch this brief video going through a visual explanation of the process.
And, as promised, you may download a worksheet template below.
The 100-Day Plan and many other mental skills are covered in my new Mental Training Foundations course.
PS. This article was an excerpt from my latest book - Mind without Mind. Check it out by clicking the image below.