How to gain clarity
A tool to help you with questions ranging from "How do I figure out what I want to do with my life?" to "What do I do to get more sales for my startup next month?"
Most people don't get stuff done not because they lack motivation or intent but because they lack clarity. They don't know what they want or what they are supposed to do. Once you know what to do, doing it becomes far easier.
Having clarity on exactly what you want or need to do is the ultimate productivity "hack". I wouldn't term it as a hack because it has a full-blown process to it.
We avoid gaining clarity by distracting ourselves with superficial work or entertainment because working through our hazy ambitions, goals, and emotions is hard.
Clarity requires figuring out. Figuring out requires independent thinking and analyzing. Gaining clarity is an active task. It won't happen on its own, you won't get it by wishful thinking. It requires work. And it's one of the highest leveraged activities because it brings confidence and helps speed up the execution.
So how do we gain clarity? What's the tool here?
The tool to get clarity is time boxed writing.
The act is simple. Block a time slot of anywhere between 45mins-90mins, absolutely critical. For this slot, you are not doing anything else other than this. Keep all the distractions like phones, notifications, interruptions, etc away. The key is not to quit it in between. The first 30 mins of such a session suck because your mind doesn't want to do the hard part of actively trying to think.
Start with blank paper and pen. It helps to start with a particular problem/situation that you are seeking clarity on but even if you don't have one that's okay. Write down whatever comes to your mind, absolutely anything. If nothing comes to your mind just put out the questions that you find yourself asking often. Write, draw, sketch just get yourself into motion.
When you have your first question, idea, thought down on the paper you have something to start with. Usually, when we start we write down a big question or idea and that seems daunting and overwhelming. The next step is to break down the big problem statement into smaller parts.
Go after each of these smaller parts separately. Break them down into their own smaller components. Keep dividing things. Ask yourself - "Why do I need it?" or "What should I do about it?" or "What will help me solve this?" or whatever feels right in the context.
You just have to spend time lingering on the questions and trying to think. If you do the breaking down exercise up to 4-5 levels, you will eventually find a small part that seems actionable and doable. That's the next step, that's all the clarity you need to act.
An important aspect of this exercise is to understand how much clarity you need. You will not have your entire life figured out in one such sitting, but you don't need that. You just need to find a good enough direction, not the entire path. All you need to have is a direction figured out and the next step clearly defined and ready for execution. All the clarity in the world without action is again useless.
The second, third, and further steps can and will most likely still be quite vague but that's okay. After completing the first step you can come back and do this exercise again.
Such writing sessions are good reminders to check and calibrate on your general direction and like everything it compounds, you keep getting better at breaking down problems, analyzing, and gaining clarity.
Hope this tool helps you.