For A Successful 2017, Audit Yourself And Find A Purpose

There is a lot to be said for planning out a year. (If you still need to plan your year: this guide will help.)

At a certain point, though, you can only add so many things into your life before you need to start subtracting to make room for all the new.

One of the best ways to start doing that is to track your time.

Most people think they’re utilizing every single minute of every day, but if you actually track your time you’ll see plenty of holes.

When I spent time tracking what I was doing during every hour of every day, I realized I was wasting a lot of time waiting on responses from people. Once I realized this, I found productive things to do while I wait for edits, responses, or anything else that depends on someone else getting back to me.

So many people claim they don’t have time, yet can tell you every detail of what happened this season on Game of Thrones.

(On a side note: Consuming media isn’t a bad thing, but consuming media at the expense of your goals is where people start to get in trouble.)

Finding A Goal

The first step is to know what goals you want in your life.

If you don’t have goals, you have no idea if you’re using your time well or not and when you have free time, you don’t know what to do.

When you have a vision for your life, or at least an overriding goal for the year, it’s easy to ask yourself, “Is what I’m doing right now getting me closer or farther from that goal?”

Your time becomes clear.

This is what a lot of “productivity experts” overlook: having something to work toward.

Who cares if you meditate, clean your room, exercise daily, plan your day, or anything else if it’s all meaningless? I’ve seen on a lot of posts on productivity forums along the lines of, “My life is totally in order yet I feel empty inside… why?”

Simple: Because we humans are meant for more than to be tidy.

Being tidy for the sake of looking like you have it together doesn’t make sense. Being tidy because that helps you spend less time on clutter and more time on what matters makes sense.

Having goals, values, a purpose gives meaning to the small tasks.

You might not know what your life’s purpose is, but having literally anything to work toward gives meaning to the day-to-day grind.

Plus, it removes that, “What should I be working on?” feeling when you have downtime.

Track Your Time

There are multiple ways to track your time.

Some prefer digital tools like RescueTime that can track your web activity.

Some prefer paper, and what has worked for me is this planner, where I can track each day 15 minutes at a time. Plus, each day is blank so you can track the days you want without wasting paper when you miss some days. I don’t work at my computer all the time, so I had to find something else I could take offline.

Every 60 minutes I go back and write down what I worked on for the past hour.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s hard to keep writing it down and I actually had to set a 60-minute timer to remember to do it, but it’s eye-opening.

When you complain about not having enough time to work on that creative project, but then write down “Facebook” as what you’ve spent the last hour doing, you understand where your time has gone.

Cut, Cut, Cut

Once you have an accurate look at your week and where your time went, this is when you need to re-prioritize.

There are a million reasons our time goes out the window. Not being organized enough, having too many things on our plate, saying “yes” to too many things, falling into time-wasting activities, and so on.

You can’t audit your life until you have an actual overlook at where your time goes.

This is when you can make plans for the time-sucks that eat away at your life.

For example, here are some things I’ve altered:

  1. I made my Facebook password ridiculously complicated and I sign out after being done. Having a complicated password prevents me from signing in at any moment. I also took Facebook, along with some other social media platforms, off my phone so I stopped burning time on those mindless activities.
  2. I meal prep as often as I can. One huge time suck was cooking every single day, so I’ve been working to change that. I don’t want to eat out every day, because that’s a financial drain, but just having things prepared has made everything so much easier.
  3. Stopped multi-tasking. I thought I was getting so much done when I would multi-task, but after tracking my time I discovered this wasn’t true at all. Doing multiple tasks took longer than me focusing and doing one at a time.
  4. I now only consume media I really enjoy. Sometimes we all get sucked in to keeping up with the “hot” things of our time, but that can be such a waste of time. I stopped watching a lot of TV shows for that reason.

Keep Modifying

It’s normal to fall off the wagon when you’re trying to build new habits or shift your focus, but if you keep tracking and trying to improve, you can make your life better with each passing day.

What have you realized was a complete time-suck, and how did you change it? Leave a comment!

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Black Friday, Consumerism, and Character

It has always amazed me how America goes from being grateful for everything we have (Thanksgiving) to immediately feeling like we need to spend money to fill some void in our souls for the next few weeks until Christmas.

(Actually what I’ve really realized is that people barely spend any time actually being grateful and they spend most of it overindulging, but that’s not the point of this post.)

Through analyzing consumerism, I’ve realized so many people buy things to feel like they live exciting lives instead of actually living an exciting life.

There’s nothing you could buy on Black Friday that can actually change your character. It can give you the appearance of someone exciting, but it doesn’t actually make you that way.

Once I realized this within my own life, I no longer have a strong pull to shop all the time or buy junk to impress people I don’t actually like.

I can’t even imagine what Theodore Roosevelt would say about our consumerism in the new world. He’d surely think it was over-the-top and at an excessive level. Of course, he thought capitalism was a good thing, but not at the expense of character development.

People buy fancy tech gear, yet they never do anything creative with it.
People buy athletic shoes that they only use for taking laps around the processed food aisles at the grocery store.
People buy fancy TV’s so they can keep watching Netflix alone.
People buy another book on business instead of actually launching the one that they have been dreaming of starting.

You can’t buy character, morality, or values. Those are things you must earn, but only a select amount of people want to put in that kind of work.

If you want a better 2017, focus on the values you need to develop instead of the items you need. I get it, your family expects gifts. There’s not much you can do there, but you can choose to opt-out.

Creating the life you want will always come from your own efforts and determination, not some cheap plastic that will end up in a landfill and take far too long to decompose.

Just something to mentally chew on as you navigate this holiday season.

Either way, it is Thanksgiving and I just wanted to say thank you. Thank you for ever reading any of my posts. Thank you for taking the steps to live the strenuous life. Thank you to T.R. for existing and leaving us all a legacy to study.

Build Your Stamina For Life

When you want to get in shape, you’re aware that you must build your body through baby steps. You lift weights, do cardio, and make it progressively harder.

But when it comes to the mind and our lives, we forget these principles. We think we can just wake up and be disciplined, committed, and focused because it’s a new year or Monday or whatever new day you decide you’re going to get it together.

Instead of approaching it like fitness, and building a plan to make it progressively harder, you expect perfection from day one.

I’ve put myself through this trap too many times. No amount of planners, visualizing, goal-mapping, or anything else actually builds the discipline required to make these come to life.

It’s the small, committed steps that make the biggest difference.

The next day that’s slightly harder than the day before.

How long have you ever lasted on a completely new schedule? Only a few days, right?

Same with the gym if you start out too heavy and overwhelming right away. You’ll pull muscles and want to start skipping the gym immediately.

I would also argue that it is important to build your mind for discomfort and hard life struggles we all have to endure. Too many people live lives of comfort, only to be crushed by life with the smallest setback.

Comfort is a killer. It kills dreams, goals, passion, and grit.

Note: Comfort is different than contentment. People confuse the two all the time.

Comfort = complacent. The definition is, “A state of physical ease and freedom from pain or constraint.”

Contentment = gratitude. The definition is, “A state of happiness or satisfaction.”

You can be satisfied with where you are, but complete freedom from constraint is not the right state of mind.

Being uncomfortable is a good thing, not a bad thing.

The problem is that a lot of us have struggles, but no purpose. When you’re focused and determined, struggle becomes easier.

Just being in pain all the time mentally or physically with no purpose is the root of an unnecessarily hard life. When you struggle in life and have nothing to work for, that is the root of some forms of depression. That’s when life seems unfair and thoughts of “why me?” begin to creep in.

Being in pain in the pursuit of something great makes the pain have a purpose.

Discipline is a great tool to build a quality life, but building discipline in the pursuit of a mission is what makes a legendary life.

Your mission can change, your goals can change, your passions can change, but never stop moving forward.

Whatever your goal is, you can make today harder than yesterday. You can build the beginning steps to achieving that goal. You can accomplish just a little more today than yesterday.

 

Staying Hungry When Life Is Tough

Photo by Samuel Scrimshaw via Unspalsh

Photo by Samuel Scrimshaw via Unspalsh

Life is tough. Period.

Even people with vast amounts of privilege still have their battles.

Buddhism has the rule of Dukkha, often translated to suffering.

When you accept that suffering is a part of life, you can move forward. If you think everything is supposed to be “easy” and all forms of pain are “bad” then you’re going to constantly meet mental roadblocks and fall into the “Why me?” pity party.

Struggles and problems force you to grow.

For a lot of us, that’s a hard pill to swallow.

Life has ups and downs and it can be hard to stay hungry for your goals when life is kicking you in the teeth.

However, if you look at almost any successful person throughout history, they all had times that were incredibly hard on their journey.

Even Theodore Roosevelt suffered through his wife and mother dying on the same day.

A great related post: How to Deal With Sorrow Like Theodore Roosevelt.

What matters is the pushing through, but that’s easier said than done.

Not every person is the same in how they deal with struggle.

In past posts, I’ve mentioned coming to a career crossroads recently.

After escaping into the woods for a week to think about my next steps, I came to one conclusion: It was time to put my head down and get to work on all of the ideas I had.

Thinking about my problem wasn’t going to bring me any closer to a solution. Clarity can only be found through action.

Even in tough times, it’s important to not dwell. The dwelling on issues is what makes mental holes hard to climb out of.

What I learned on my vacation is that sometimes rest isn’t the answer. Sometimes you already know what you need to do, if you’ll just actually put some trust in yourself to make it happen.

It’s hard to listen to your own inner voice when the whole world is telling you how you “should” feel all the time.

When life is kicking you around and beating you up, listen to your own gut for once, because it knows more than you think.

The Wrong Path

Sometimes, your gut is screaming at you that you’re on the wrong path.

You’re in the wrong relationship/job/city/career/etc. and you’re just too stubborn to acknowledge it.

The Wrong Work

Sometimes, you’re doing the wrong work.

I don’t necessarily mean you’re in the wrong career, but you’re like a hamster running in a wheel: You’re not making the moves that matter.

For example, when I first started out in the writing field, I thought I wanted to be a journalist, then a copywriter, and now I’ve realized that all I truly wanted to do was write blogs like this that help other people.

Of course, I’ve learned the hard way that it’s not just about writing well, it’s about marketing, too. I could spend all day writing, but if no one finds it, it doesn’t matter.

Make bigger moves in life.

Take Bigger Risks

Sometimes when life is kicking us around, the struggle comes from soaking in mediocrity.

My life is always shit when I’m not pushing hard enough.

I feel like everyone else around me is succeeding and I’m rolling around in an endless merry-go-round.

When I stop whining, I realize it’s because I’m not putting more on the line.

Taking risks is the only thing that truly pays off.

Daily Reminders

Some people think they’re a little “woo woo”, but a vision board can help a lot.

It’s important to soak into your subconscious your new vision for your life as often as possible.

If vision boards aren’t your thing, write out your goals every single morning.

Never, ever forget what is important to you.

A Deeper “Why”

Sometimes what you think you want, isn’t what you really want.

Maybe you think you want a mansion, but upon further thought, you realize you just want to be able to provide for your family and never worry about money again.

One great exercise for this is to ask yourself what you want and follow the answer up with “Why?”

For example:
“I want a mansion.”
“Why?”
“So I have enough room for my friends and family.”
“Why?”
“Because I want to be able to provide for them.”
“Why?”

You get the point.

Get with a friend and challenge each other to go deeper.

You’ll know you found your true purpose and motivation when it chokes you up a little bit.

Accountability

Maybe your struggles come from stopping and starting on the goals you want.

Get accountable. Find someone who will hold you to what you promise, even if you’re only friends online.

There are few things more motivating than having to report to another person your progress for the week/day/month.

Needing Perspective

If you really feel down in the dumps, remember that there is someone out there who would kill for the life you have.

Go volunteer.
Go help someone.
Spend time with someone who isn’t as lucky as you are.

Get out of your own head and into the world around you.

Stay Focused

There were too many times when life was kicking me around and I backed down instead of just putting my head down and staying focused on what mattered.

It’s cheesy, but it’s absolutely true: When the going gets tough, the tough get going.

What Deserves Your Attention?

Photo by Gilles Lambert via Unsplash

Photo by Gilles Lambert via Unsplash

Everything wants your attention, but what deserves your attention?

Everything in today’s world wants our eyeballs.

The news makes us all terrified.
Social media makes us afraid that we’re missing out.
Another inflamed argument on Facebook grabs your attention.

This is a never-ending loop we all fall into: reading things that don’t enhance our lives.

Sure, it’s important to stay informed on the world and what’s happening, but when it is during a time you should be working, it’s only a negative.

Steve Kamb over at Nerd Fitness made a great post about this topic, and it’s something I haven’t stopped thinking about since reading it.

After working for a few years in marketing, I have intimate knowledge of how companies go the extra mile to get our attention.

It’s debatable how ethical some of the ways are, but the main thing to know is that they’re doing it all the time.

I get it, companies need to make sales.

However, you need to be just as tough with your time as they are with their tactics.

Of course Facebook wants you on their site 24/7.
Of course ads are meant to be ridiculous to get your attention.
Of course Tinder wants you to be on there swiping your thumbs off instead of actually out in the world meeting people face to face.

What deserves your attention?

That’s the big question: Which of these things deserve your attention?

That’s what I’ve asked myself when I find myself deep in something that has my attention.

Will this distraction contribute to your legacy?

Nothing comes before your legacy work

Whatever it is you want to be known for and contribute to society, there is nothing in the world more important than that.

I always remember that humans have survived an incredibly long time before now without the internet and without these distractions. So, no, that article is probably not going to change my life.

(But keep checking in on this blog, please. 🙂 )

Nothing comes before your goals this year

If you’ve planned out your year (I have post on this: here), then you already know what needs to be done.

You know what you need to focus on this month, this week, this day, and this hour.

Keep those goals next to your computer at all times so you stay focused on what matters.

Side note: If you need more tips on staying focused when you’re online, here’s a great post from the Art of Manliness on setting up systems to make it happen.

Does it actually contribute to your life?

There’s an argument to be made for doing activities that make you happy.

Maybe you have a favorite YouTuber, TV show, book, or group of friends you love to hang out with.

You should absolutely include those things in your life (only after you finish your work).

However, we all also make too much time for the things that don’t make us happy.

  • Checking in on people on social media that we don’t care about.
  • Reading news articles that have a clear bias and are out to make you intentionally angry (aka every single political article in America this year).
  • Seeing what your ex is up to on Instagram.
  • Feeding the rage machine online.
  • Consuming useless content that provides no actual value.
  • Hanging out with people you can’t stand.

All of those things need to be deleted from your life as often as possible

None of those deserve your attention, not now and not ever.

Every time you find yourself distracted, pull yourself back to what matters and remind yourself WHY you want the goals you want.

Stay focused.

Make The Required Sacrifice: The REAL Secret To Success

Photo by Liane Metzler via Unsplash

Photo by Liane Metzler via Unsplash

 

In a world focused on constant “life hacks”, it’s hard to find tangible advice for success.

Endless apps, Medium posts, YouTube videos, morning routines, blogs, “successful” people on Instagram showing off watches and cars they don’t actually own… The supply of bad advice is endless.

The only real way to learn about success is from the people who have actually achieved something worth admiring.

In al my years of reading about successful people, I’ve learned they all had one major thing in common: they practiced their craft relentlessly.

They put in the time and they reaped the rewards.

That’s what none of these con artists online want to tell you, that real success requires the dedicated time and effort. It’s not an overnight phenomenon.

No book, video, blog, or pill will solve the years that go into being good at anything.

If you want to be shredded for the summer, you need to consistently go to the gym and stick to your diet. On a side rant, only losers complain about people on steroids. People on steroids have to work hard, regardless of any “cheating”. The fact is that getting in shape is easy, but staying committed is hard.

If you want to be a writer, you must sit in your chair and get writing. 1,000 words a day is the minimum. It’s simple, but staying consistent is hard.

If you want to be an actor, you must practice as often as possible and get metaphorically slapped across the face with rejection over and over.

All accomplishments require discipline

No matter what your goal is, there are sacrifices that must be made and time that must be put in. If you aren’t willing to dedicated yourself to both of those, just walk away from the goal right now.

After almost a decade as a paid writer, I’ve heard from hundreds of people who “wished they were a writer”, but almost none have taken the action steps to make it happen. Getting started as a writer is easy: you write. Your work is embarrassing to read at first. Then you stay committed and you get better.

All goals can be broken down to simple action steps that must be put in day in and day out. Staying consistent requires you to become a person who stays disciplined through all the trials and tribulations of life. Not every day will be perfect, but every day will be closer than you were yesterday.

This is the crossroad I’m at right now in my own life, deciding what I’m willing to commit to and what I’m willing to sacrifice in the direction of my goals. If I’m not willing to sacrifice and commit, I should just turn back now and give up.

If there’s something you truly want, the time to decide is right now. RIGHT NOW. As you read this. Not later. Not when the “time is right” (there is never a right time). Not when you retire. Not when you graduate. Right now.

The action steps

Here’s how I’m breaking this down in my own life:

1. List your goals

Go crazy and dream big. List out everything you want and have even thought about wanting in your life. Go through goals for relationships, work, travel, finances, health, family, hobbies, philanthropy, awards to win, materials items to posses… all of it.

2. List the sacrifices for each and also the work required for each goal.

Write out everything you know it would take to achieve these goals. The necessary sacrifices, like time away from your family, less Netflix time, being sore, dealing with writers block, moving to another country, dealing with rejection, etc.

Then write out the work you must put in to make it come to life: staying committed, studying your craft, showing up when you don’t want to, going to events, showing up to classes, doing unpaid internships, ALL the work it takes.

Also know that it could easily take decades before you see any return on investment from your hard work. Which leads to the third step:

3. What are you willing and ready to do?

Take an HONEST look at the list. What are you willing to commit to? What are you willing to give up?

Be real with yourself. Cross off the goals you aren’t ready for. Know you can come back to them at another time when your life is different, but now you can put your mind at ease knowing you can stop thinking about those for this moment.

Narrow your list down. It’s nice to imagine a life where we are working on 10 big goals at once, but you won’t get the results because of the time it takes alone.

Are you willing to wake up early?
Put yourself out there?
Put your ideas into action?
Stay committed when you don’t want to?
Spend less time partying?

If you’re having trouble deciding, here’s one of the few truths I know for sure:

You must always do the thing you’re afraid to do. If it brings up any kind of fear, consider it.

Goals should both excite and terrify you. If they don’t, go back to step 1 and search your heart again for new goals. Aim BIG. Forget aiming small, that’s in the past. Your future can be anything you decide it to be right in this moment.

4. Put it in your planner.

Here is where it gets real.

Side note: One of the best books I’d highly recommend on planning out goals is the book Wishcraft: How to Get What You Really Want by Barbara Sher. It’s an old book, and not as big as popular as other ones, but it’s a gem. Her other book, Live the Life You Love and I Could Do Anything are also amazing as well. I’ve read hundreds of goal planning books, and those are the best.

Anyway, the point is that if you’re serious about these new goals, you need to make the time for them.

Look at your “commitment” category and see what the first steps are. Put them in your planner NOW. (Also, if you don’t have a planner, it’s time to get one.)

You need to start on these steps today. Your goals can’t wait.

Or, do the Jerry Seinfeld productivity hack where you get a calendar and mark an “X” on every day you work toward your goal. Then your goal is to never, ever break the chain.

You know what you need to do. You know the sacrifices and the commitment you have to make.

Now the decision is whether you want to live the life you’ve always wanted, or to let another year on the calendar go by and wishing you wouldn’t have wasted it.

I know I don’t want to let 2016 go by and have 2017 be here with nothing to show for it.

Don’t read another thing. Don’t debate another moment.

Decide. Commit. Succeed.

Pick ONE Thing And Make It Right

Too many of us wait around to “find our passion” or “figure it out” instead of simply picking one idea and getting to work.

As Elliott Hulse says (I’m paraphrasing):

There is no right decision, you pick an idea and MAKE it right.

Meaning, all of the options are generally equal, but it’s up to you to pick one and make it the right decision for your life.

Back quite a few years ago when I was trying to pick the college I wanted to attend (I applied to 10 and got into 5), all new areas in the country opened up as an option.

I was debating between staying in Michigan or going to college in either Colorado, California, or New York.

At the time it was insanely stressful and I was always worried about making the “wrong” choice.

The thing is, I had to decide. I finally decided on Colorado, and I’ll never know what would have happened if I picked the other states, but making the decision instead of wallowing in indecision is what ultimately mattered.

Once I got here, I was able to make it the right decision through hard work.

That’s the thing I need to continue to remember: every decision can be made right.

I continuously find myself waiting until some fictional day when I’ll have a decision “figured out” and I’ll know exactly what choice to make. Instead, the best thing is to just decide and get to work.

Yes, some decisions require thinking and time, but once you make a decision, see it through. Too many people make decisions, break them, make a new one, break them, and end up going in circles.

Whether it is workout programs, career choices, new living locations, jobs, relationships… whatever it is, you will get miles ahead if you get started.

This website is one perfect example of this exact problem. There were endless things I could write about when it came to living a virtuous, strenuous life. However, I allowed those options to consume my action steps and instead of simply writing consistently, it has sat here waiting to be brought to its true potential.

Now that I’ve remembered the simple virtue of decisiveness, that will never happen again. (The virtuous life can solve most of the problems we encounter in life.)

When you pick one and put forth the consistency required to make it start to come to life, that discipline bleeds over into other areas of life.

Back when I worked as a personal trainer at my college gym, I noticed time and time again that when my clients were consistent with working out, they started to stay consistent in the other areas of life that mattered.

Currently, I’m at a career crossroads, and I am not sure which path to pursue yet.

To deal with this, I’ve started a new workout program and I’m simply going to increase the amount of days I go and put in consistent effort.

Every time I stay consistent with my weight lifting, all kinds of new opportunities come my way and decisions become clear because I made a decision in one area of my life and put the work in.

I’m not much into the woo-woo aspect of life, but it’s amazing how much clarity comes through simple action in one direction. Like Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.”

I’m not saying you have to figure out every decision in your life, I’m saying by simply picking one area of your life and making one decision, that will clear up all kinds of mental blocks in your way.

Sometimes life gets confusing simply because there are too many undecided options in our lives. Too many options can limit our overall happiness. Here’s a great article on this exact topic from the Art of Manliness if you feel like this is a problem in your life.

It’s as simple as a decision.

How to Plan and Dominate 2016

This site is about the pleasure that comes from putting in hard work and focusing on leaving a legacy.

This journey isn’t for most people. It’s one I find myself continually struggling with: the ease of comfort instead of the worthwhile journey of effort.

2015 is over. You can’t go back. Spend zero time feeling bad about any unaccomplished goals and instead focus on the year ahead.

After browsing around the internet, I realized that most of the conversation about the new year has a thick layer of sarcasm about setting goals. People say that the only thing that changed is the date on the calendar. I disagree.

At any point in time, you can choose a different life. You can quit that bad habit, start going to the gym, get organized, get off the couch, donate your tv, start dressing better, laugh more, delete people from your life, change your sleeping schedule… Anything you want as long as you decide and commit.

Success is as simple as a decision.

Every “guru” out there wants you to believe you can’t simply change your life with a decision. You need the new gadget, a perfect plan, their program, their book, or whatever else the world is constantly trying to sell you.

If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn’t sit for a month. – Theodore Roosevelt

All you need is the right frame of mind, some goals, and a strategic plan.

From there, it’s the values of discipline and tenacity that will make them come true.

This year will be your best year if you decide it will be. When you put in the hard work day in and day out, you’ll find yourself closer to your goals at every step.

Most people want the success now, even though they were lazy all throughout 2015. Success comes after you’ve put in the hard work, not any time sooner.

This is why I’m dedicating 2016 to insanely hard, focused work so 2017 can be a better year. I’m mentally preparing myself for the grueling work of long days, focused effort, and staying consistent. I’m aware I do not have the accomplishments I desire now because I fell of the bandwagon constantly in 2015. That’s why I’m in the same place living the same life.

I’m not going to coddle myself and say that hard work is easy and that everything comes to me if I just visualize, I’m going to understand that it’s going to take struggle. (Just to note: I do believe in the power of visualization, but it must be paired with focused effort.)

Doing what needs to be done isn’t always fun. Even when I added 14 lbs. of muscle on my body, there were days where I didn’t want to do it, but I knew the end result would be worth the struggle.

That’s all I’m asking from myself and from you this year: Know that it won’t always be sunshine and rainbows, but it will be worth it in the end.

Here’s a behind the scenes look at my own planning process:

1. Write out all the categories.

While it can be good to focus on three main areas of life, I tend to go a little overboard to keep all the areas of my life in balance.

In the past when I focused only on three things, I found myself out of balance because other areas were neglected.

Here are some of the areas I have listed:

  • Financial
  • Fitness/Health
  • All of the websites I write for (broken into separate categories)
  • My job as a CMO
  • Freelance writing and clients
  • Writing (passion projects)
  • My dog
  • Fun and travel
  • Business
  • Family, friends, social
  • Personal development
  • Home
  • Service to others

It might seem like a lot, but keeping all of these continually moving forward and not letting them slip through the cracks removes about 99% of useless stress.

I carry a small notebook with me everywhere, and at the end of each day I filter my “to-do’s” and ideas into each category in my Trello account. Here is my Trello home page:

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For some people, that’s insanely chaotic. For me, it’s incredible and I rarely miss anything I have to do. When I need to plan something out or remember it, I know exactly where to put it.

I used to have general areas, but then I would miss really important events and things in my life. This way, I have a handle on everything.

There is no such thing as a perfect system for everyone. Do what works best for you.

Your categories will be different, but feel free to test my system to see if it works for you.

2. Set goals for each category.

You might not have goals for every single category, and that’s perfectly fine.

Here’s a huge secret to goal setting: Set goals that focus on your own effort instead of a goal outside of your control. If you want a six-pack, focus on going to the gym 300 out of the 365 days this year.

Too many people set goals that depend on outside circumstances such as landing a book deal, finding a relationship, or buying a house instead of focusing on their own efforts.

For example, when I was a full-time freelance writer, I always wrote down that I wanted to hit certain financial goals each month.

However, in the world of freelancing some months are awesome, some months are horrible. I’d be hard on myself when I didn’t hit my goals even though I was working relentlessly to make it happen. Instead, if I had focused on sending out a certain number of pitches, I could focus on my own efforts day in and day out instead of feeling like a failure constantly. Putting my feelings of accomplishments into other people’s hands and waiting for their “approval” was a bad idea.

Do not overlook the importance of feeling good with your hard work. Hating yourself for not achieving your goals means you’ve set the wrong goals, not that there’s something wrong with you. You should go to bed with satisfaction knowing you put everything you have into your day instead of with bad feelings because the world didn’t give you what you want.

Do what you need to do, and pay no mind to if the world responds.

A strange phenomenon usually happens when you focus on your own efforts: the world responds accordingly. You will be pleasantly surprised, but only if you stay focused on your work and feeling positive.

The world might not cooperate with the goals you have for yourself, but you can always put forth your own effort.

Devote yourself to the PROCESS, to the hard work, instead of the outside circumstances.

A study done at the University of California found that people were 42% more likely to achieve their goals when they wrote them down. Take the time to go through each area of your life and write down what you want.

Also, the stronger reason “why” you can tie to each goal, the greater chances of it happening.

3. Break those goals down.

Take each goal and break it down by quarter or month.

What is vital to the overall goal?
What has to be set in motion over the next one to three months?
Which goals can wait?

From there, break everything down by week.

Weekly planning is HUGE, by the way. Out of all the things you do, investing an hour or two on Sunday to mapping out the week ahead will change your life if you haven’t started this practice already.

It’s up to you how detailed you want your break down to become. Personally, I break goals down by: 3 years, 1 year, quarterly, and monthly. Then, I have a monthly planning session each month to see where I’m at and break it down by week.

There is no doubt it’s a lot of work, but even doing this for one area of your life you care about the most will change everything.

4. Set a schedule and reminders.

Look at your goals and get right into your planner.

Dreaming is great, but doing is where the magic happens. Write down when and where you will accomplish your tasks throughout the week.

It’s up to you how detailed you want your schedule to become and how you choose to map it all out. Some people use digital planners, some use paper, some just use one sheet of paper… Feel free to try a wide variety of options and see what works best for you.

However, do not jump from one to another at lightning speed. Too many people are addicted to trying the newest planning software. Stick with one for at least a month to see if it works for you.

Never forget that it’s more about getting the important things done than having the fanciest system. Theodore Roosevelt accomplished more than 99% of people and he did not have an iPhone or the internet. He focused on getting things DONE.

Although I use digital trackers like Trello to keep all my paperwork and to-do’s in order, for my day to day planning I still use a paper planner. I’ve had far too many times where technology failed me and I couldn’t access my task lists, so I still have my paper planner. Crossing through something on paper seems to also be more satisfying than clicking a button.

Commit every single morning to your goals and your mission. Create a morning and evening routine that get you set up and focused for the day.

5. Set yourself up to succeed.

I mentioned earlier that achieving goals requires discipline and tenacity. Understand that life will get in the way. Understand that you will be challenged. Understand that it takes time to build willpower.

One tip to combatting these outside forces is to be BRUTALLY honest about what distracts you. For example, I know I’m a GIANT sucker for ice cream. Few things ruin my willpower like ice cream. My solution? I never, ever buy any unless it’s for a cheat day.

Studies have shown time and time again that willpower is a depleting force throughout the day. Even the strongest people can crack after a tough day.

Go through all your goals and list the possible things that will knock you off track of your goals, then make a list of what you will do to combat these forces.

When generals plan to go to war, they don’t just say, “This plan will go perfect and nothing will happen.” NO. They say, “Here’s our plan, but if the enemy does x, y, and z, we will do this to combat that.”

Plan your life the same way. Adjust as you go. Every day start fresh no matter what happened the day before and if you fell off the wagon. Just keep on keeping on.

Another idea is to also plan in fun. My working day has had much better success by scheduling in the internet browsing for fun. Instead of feeling like I’m missing out on good YouTube videos, I know I’ll have time to binge this afternoon after I come home from the gym.

Don’t completely deprive yourself of what you enjoy, just put it in the schedule at the right time instead of letting it distract you from what you need to focus on right now.

That’s my planning system, and I’d love to hear about any goals you have this year. Leave a comment below or Tweet me: @SLManifesto!

The Importance of a Morning and Evening Routine

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Getting your day started and wrapped up on your terms is essential to maximum productivity.

We’ve all been there: You plan to have a productive day, and then the first distraction rolls in. Then the next one starts. Then the one after that.

Before you know it, half the day is already gone and you haven’t done a single thing that matters to you.

The same goes for the evening. When I find myself drifting without a routine, all of a sudden it will be 2 a.m. and I’m still awake doing mindless activities.

If you want to live a better life, you have to get the things done on your to-do list that matter the most.

Of course, there will be days where you have to break the routine, but I find that if I stick to a routine most days of the week, I get more done.

The best part about a morning routine is that most interruptions haven’t entered your life yet, so you can focus on what matters. It’s much easier to go through the day knowing you have made progress toward your ultimate dream instead of feeling resentful that someone else took your time from you.

1. Know what matters most

If you don’t know your ultimate goal, here is a great article from Art of Manliness to help you figure out your goals: Create A Life Plan.

You could also spend time meditating and trying out new things to discover what you feel most passionate about. A lot of people aren’t sure what they want to do with their lives, so they put everything off until “later”, only to realize they’re much older and should have started when they were younger. No matter your age, you can start today to discover your life’s calling.

2. Eliminate all distractions

This is especially important in the morning. If you check your e-mail or your phone first thing in the morning, you’re asking for everyone else to derail your day. Everyone else can wait.

This was a hard one for me at first. Waiting to check e-mail took about 3 months of trying for me to break. I finally had to remove e-mail completely from my phone at night so I couldn’t be tempted to hit that button.

3. Keep tweaking as you go

There are plenty of morning and night routines that might work best for you. Try keeping a journal and taking notes of what went right and what you want to change.

You’ll have days where you miss. Stay focus on what matters to you and get right back on the horse when you can. Don’t let one off day completely ruin your progress.

My morning and night routine:

Morning:

– Wake up at 6:30 and brew some coffee
– NO internet or cell phone under any circumstances.
– Take my dog for a small walk so she’s quiet during my work
– Sit down and start writing for about an hour or two
– Stretch for a little bit (to try and combat all the sitting)
– Plan the rest of the day depending on what I need to get done

Evening:

– Exercise (I’ve always been an evening exercise fan)
– Come back upstairs and review the day
– Brain dump everything on my mind. What’s nagging at the back of my mind? What do I need to do soon? What open loops do I need to close? Getting these out and on paper helps me sleep better
– Plan the next day, especially what I plan to get done first thing in the morning so I can sit down and get right to work.
– What can I set up this evening to make tomorrow immediately successful? Sometimes this consists of preparing the coffee, washing my outfit for the next morning, finding a notebook I need for a writing project, etc.
– Tidy up the important areas: my kitchen counter and desk. Clutter never used to bother me until I realized how nice it was to wake up to a completely decluttered surface area.

Do you have a certain routine? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!