I’m very passionate about improving. I think that self improvement is the key to unlocking our full potential in life. We’ll never know what we’re capable of unless we continue to improve and get better. I’ve tried dozens of strategies over the years in an attempt to get better at certain things, but there’s one strategy that has by far been the easiest while still bringing me the results I wanted.
The Red X Strategy
The red X strategy is simple. Let’s say you want to quit drinking soda (something I wanted to do for 5 months before volleyball season). Get a big wall calendar. Every day that you don’t drink soda, put a giant red X on that day. After a few days, you’ll see the streak starting to form, and you won’t want to break it. This may seem silly because you might be thinking to yourself that you could easily just have a soda after 4-5 days. I thought this strategy seemed a little silly until I tried it. It worked like magic. I absolutely did not want to break my streak and didn’t have an issue getting to my goal.
After implementing this strategy, I realized it’s really part of a broader, equally effective strategy: Track what you want to improve.
Track What You Want to Improve
By simply measuring what we want to improve, we’ll find ourselves improving. I wanted to read more. I simply started writing down the books I was reading and keeping track of how many I was reading throughout the year. By “counting” or measuring, I was able to read 50 books in a year. Previously, I would estimate my average total to be 5-10. Just by writing down the book I was reading and then sliding it over into a column for “finished” was all the momentum I needed. Here’s a quick screenshot of how I tracked the books I read. Nothing fancy. I also marked which month I completed the book so I could identify if I was on pace for 50 in a year.
If you’re wondering what this tool is, it’s called Trello. It’s a free tool that I use for several things, and it’s super easy to track things like this.
I also used the “track what you want to improve” strategy to lose 20 pounds. Each day, I measured my weight. As I saw the number start to drop, it started to give me confidence and consciously (and unconsciously) affected my eating habits as well as my workout habits.
In addition, I’ve used this same strategy to move up in weight at the gym. I simply recorded what weight I did for all my lifts (bench press, squat, deadlift, etc.). When I go into the gym next time, I know what I did last time and it forces me to try to improve by just a couple of reps or go up in weight. It forces me to incrementally improve each workout, which over time leads to large increases.
You can even apply the red X strategy to goals such as reading 50 books. Maybe you figure out the average book is roughly 250 pages. That works out to 12,500 pages for all 50 books. Divide that number by 365, and you get roughly 35 pages per day. If you read 35 pages in a day, mark a red X. Now you don’t necessarily have to record all your books like I did, but you know if you keep the red X streak going, you’ll finish 50 books.
Do you track and record what you want to improve? I encourage you to try the red X strategy for your next goal. It works like magic.