Ness Labs is a content website created by Anne-Laure Le Cunff, ex-Google, ex-Burnout and entrepreneur who publishes articles on productivity and mental health. I have been a subscriber to the newsletter since the beginning of the project and a member of the community.
Last November, Anne-Laure created a challenge called “Mindful Productivity Challenge”. I had already tested many productivity methods. I never managed to get any results except for raising my anxiety level.
The challenge was essentially based on the PARI model and its PACT, popularized by Anne-Laure in several of her Ness Labs articles. And, as her method has been very helpful and fits me quite well, I would like to share it with you in this article.
The concept of PARI
With PARI, Anne-Laure challenges our habit of creating SMART goals. SMART goals were introduced by George T. Doran in 1981 to become ultra-popular in the corporate world. But, for our own personal goals, they are not at all appropriate. First, SMART goals are often based on metrics that we cannot control. For example, “I want to reach 10,000 weekly views within three months”. Since you can’t control the number of views, and you can’t force people to come to your site, you create frustration. Thus, SMART goals can lose their relevance for a long time. There is a goal to reach, we do everything to reach it, but we never ask ourselves if this goal still makes us happy.
These are some reasons why Anne-Laure LeCunff recommends PARI instead. We will see that PARI is based on achievable actions that we control and that regularly invite us to reflect or metacognition according to Ness Labs.
PARI is a four-letter acronym that I will describe in detail in the rest of this article.
PACT defines the goal that will be held throughout the PARI system. But, a PACT should not focus on the goal but on what can be produced or created.
PACT is also an acronym, and this acronym allows you to properly define your PACT;
- Purposeful: Your purpose should be important to yourself and have lasting meaning. It is easier to stay motivated if you spend time on something you care about.
- Actionable: Focus on a goal that you can control yourself, that is not dependent on external factors.
- Continuous: The actions that make up our goal must be actionable and easily repeatable.
- Trackable: It must be easy to follow the actions we perform. Did I do this action today or not? No percentages or calculations, just a yes or no.
Here are examples of SMART goals versus PACT:
- SMART: Achieve 60,000 in sales by next quarter.
- PACT: Prospect three new contacts per day.
- SMART: Go under 4 hours in the next marathon.
- PACT: Run 4 times a week.
- SMART: Learn to code a mobile app by the end of the year.
- PACT: Do one iOS lesson a day.
In PACT, there’s no pressure, no finality. We focus on one action each time and observe the results of that action.
Act is doing the PACT action defined above. It means blocking a slot in your agenda to hold the PACT. No to-do lists, no miracle mornings or overloaded schedules. Let’s also leave time for the REACT that we will see later.
It also means finding a time for your PACT that respects your level of energy, time, and motivation. The goal is not to do as many PACT repetitions as possible at all hours until you overwork.
For example, the best time that respects my energy, time, and motivation is in the morning before 9am. And, since I already have two mornings taken for sports and on weekends I get up later, I dedicate three mornings of my week to my PACT. For you, it may be another time depending on your time, energy, and motivation constraints.
REACT is the personal analysis of your PACT. It’s taking the time out of your week to assess whether your PACT is still relevant, still useful, and beneficial. Where SMART requires you to work hard to achieve it. REACT allows time for reflection and allows you to reformulate your PACT if necessary.
If I notice that my PACT is ill-defined, too difficult or no longer fits my schedule, it is perfectly acceptable to change it. This will not be counted as a failure.
It’s a time to reflect that you can do privately in your journal or publicly on your social networks or your site.
Personally, I do this on my Notion at the end of the week using the “Plus Minus Next” method.
Finally, comes IMPACT. This is the time to step out of your comfort zone. You don’t have to wait until the end of PACT to make your IMPACT, as PACT doesn’t really have a time limit.
At any time, you can observe how far one’s PACT has come by producing a project that pushes us beyond our usual limits.
If your PACT was to learn to code three times a week, develop a programming project.
If your PACT was to go for a 5K run twice a week, go for a 15K run once.
IMPACT does not require choosing a very ambitious or stressful project. But, to pick a project that we like to observe the progress made and to continue or modify its PACT.
For me, my PACT is to write three times a week for this site.
My ACT is on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings.
My REACT is on Sunday evenings, with the Plus Minus Next method on my personal Notion.
And, my IMPACT happens whenever I dare to publish an article.
Why do I like this system?
Anne-Laure Le Cunff wrote another article related to PARI, which is entitled “Turning goals into growth loops: the PARI system of mindful productivity”. The PARI system allows for natural self-improvement and the creation of habits that self-feed personal development loops.
Instead of burning out with multiple goals or efforts beyond one’s personal capacity, one creates a sustainable system with many moments of reflection to review one’s methods.
Like a scientist who searches and experiments hundreds of times to find a solution. PARI is devoid of failures, only experiments.
It is a system that allows you to reach your goals while learning about yourself. And, it is a system that you can customize for yourself without being influenced by another productivity guru’s method.
Finally, the IMPACT part, if it is public, allows you to share your experience with others and to learn throughout the PACT.
Systems are for people who care about winning repeatedly. Goals are for people who care about winning once.James Clear