How to Vanquish A Death Mountain Using a S.M.A.R.T. Goal

I woke up in a panic. Every day. And there was largely one reason for this feeling: I knew there was a mountain (not a figurative mountain, a literal mountain) of things I had bought for resale that were waiting for me to photograph and list. The mountain would stare me down and I would bravely enter the fight once again, only to be beaten back by the sheer volume – it was like there was an invisible force behind the mountain that was pummeling me but I didn’t have a name for it. Almost every reseller can relate, and I know this because there is a term given to such mountains: “death mountains”, because they will either actually kill you or at least exist as a fixture in your life until the day you die. Quite frankly, I was sick of that feeling. Constant overwhelm is no way to live. I prayed for direction and at just the right time, I read the book “Smarter, Better, Faster” by Charles Duhigg. In this book, Duhigg outlines a variety of productivity strategies and honestly, I intended to do nothing with any of them for the first 95% of the pages I read. Only something happened. Near the end of the book, the author mentioned how he was struggling to write the book I was reading, and how he practiced what he was writing about to actually write the book (it’s like a picture of a picture) but that sparked the novel idea, “Hey, I could actually try doing this goal setting thing with my work overload.” Let me explain more precisely the ‘goal setting thing’.

The author spent a good deal of time outlining a process of goal setting known as S.M.A.R.T goals – an acronym explained as follows:

S - Specific 
M - Measurable
A - Attainable
R - Relevant
T - Timeline

How was this going to give me the advantage in my death mountain battle? It seems sort of vague at first glance so allow me to show you how I followed this outline. First, in order to set any kind of specific goal, I had to quantify. I had never bothered to count exactly how many items I had in the death mountain. How many was it, you curiously ponder? It was 447 listings. Gasp. (That was my reaction, too!) Now I had sized up the monster, and I set the specific goal of listing 50 items per week more than I purchased. Did you just do a double take there? Because you probably should have. Even knowing how big the mountain was, I had well-thought out reasons for continuing to source inventory even while tackling this death mountain. I don’t feel the need to explain all of my reasons so I’m just going to play the “I’m the boss and I said so” card.

My goal was specific and was also easily measurable. All I had to do was make a chart and track each day’s quantity purchased and quantity listed. At the end of the week, the quantity listed better be more than the quantity purchased or not only would the mountain not have shrunk at all, it would have swelled larger yet.

Was my goal attainable? Well I knew from years of experience how many items I could realistically list per week, and that 50 items was actually no big deal. What I didn’t know was exactly how many items I would end up buying every week, and therefore, the exact amount I would need to list to be at 50 MORE than quantity purchased. Hmmm. In my opinion it’s better to start somewhere even if you aren’t completely sure you will succeed. I felt enough confidence that the goal was attainable but was willing to reevaluate if needed.

Wait, was this even a relevant goal? Go back and read the first few lines of this post. I was sinking under the weight of this deadly mountain, it was dragging me by the neck week by week and all my efforts to attack it somehow turned to rainbow sprinkles in mid-air. Relevant? Yes, if I wanted to outlive the death pile.

Timeline. This was very helpful. I just did some quick number crunching. If I could list 50 items above what I purchased each week, I could be back to walking on actual carpet instead of a clothing mountain in just 9.3 weeks. I started the first week of October so 9.3 weeks would put me at December 4th, but I chose November 30th as my deadline because I didn’t like the idea of this spanning so many calendar months. Here is how it went, week by week:

WEEKNumber of Items BoughtNumber of Items ListedWeekly Total (Items listed less items bought)Size of Death Mountain – Running TallyGame Point to Me or Death Mountain
9/30/196890+22425Me, but not by much, sheesh, that was eye opening
10/7/1960160+100325Me, laid the smack down on you, Death Mountain
+82243Me, death to you, Death Mountain
10/21/196972+3240Me, but that was close, way too close.  
10/28/1937151+114126Me.  Get the wine ready…. (and any edible thing made of chocolate) 
11/4/196699+3393Me. Oh come on already.
11/12/191180+6923Ok so the reality is maybe the pile will never reach zero unless I stop sourcing, but let’s just go ahead and award the victory to the decisive winner, me:)

I finished two weeks early, and oh, I feel such relief!! So now going back to the beginning of this post, I mentioned there was an invisible force behind the death mountain that I didn’t have a name for. The death pile was the visible enemy, but the real (invisible) force behind the mountain was something seemingly benign: math. To be fair, I love math and don’t consider it a foe, but as John Bogle puts it, there are “relentless rules of humble arithmetic” – and indeed, this is what was causing my near downfall. In ten plus years of reselling, I never bothered to keep track of the most basic and critical numbers – exactly how much was I buying and how much was I listing each week? No wonder the death piles were winning the day. My advice to any reseller in a similar boat is to track your numbers, and I mean diligently. Know how much you list every week, quantify your purchases for the same week, and if you don’t want to get behind, make sure the list numbers match or exceed the purchase numbers. Sometimes the solutions to our problems are not all that complicated, but we are so busy and overwhelmed, we don’t stop to analyze what we are doing and why it’s not proving effective. Preaching to myself here, folks.

In conclusion, S.M.A.R.T goals can tackle many things, from work overloads that need to be tamed to financial dilemmas that generate the same distraught feelings. Make a plan and start with a specific goal (example: pay off that high interest credit card), make it measurable (I will pay 100$ more than what I charge on the card every month – vastly easier if you stop putting new charges on it, just saying), attainable (I have the necessary income to do this or I will cut another non-essential budget line item until it’s repaid), relevant (I’m sick of being run over with sky high interest rates and it’s killing my ability to save), and put yourself on a timeline so you don’t meander along aimlessly (I will be done in six months…or less!) Whatever it is you need to tackle, set a S.M.A.R.T goal and get it done. Give yourself a lifelong break from “death mountains” and go climb some real mountains!

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