We all have daily drivers. They are the influencing forces that determine how we spend our time each day. They can be internal or external. Productive or not. (And if we are getting technical, the drivers could also be Donald, Minnie or a 1-wood.)
Your drivers, whatever they are, become your operating system, your scheduler and the determining factor of how you budget your most valuable resource — your time.
What drives your day?
A to-do list.
Your email inbox.
People who call and stop by to talk.
Your success list.
Addiction to cat videos and bargain yarn sites
Requests of family and coworkers.
There is no driver. Days are just giant improvisations.
To create each day for maximum success, my morning routine involves getting on top of my day before my day gets on top of me. To do this I start with a daily success list.
My Daily Success List
At the top of the page I write the major areas of my life (like my business The Weaponry, my health, my family, my writing etc.) and the related initiatives I am prioritizing.
Then I write a few motivating cues and phrases about making things happen at the top of the page. Like:
‘Move all trains forward’
‘Things do not happen. They are made to happen.’
‘Get sh!t done!’
‘More & Better!’
Or dollar values related to goals. (Like Dr. Evil’s $100 BILLION Dollars….)
I list my prioritized actions for the day.
I find time for each of the actions on my calendar.
Then I start attacking the list.
(Note: WordPress served up a number-on-number outline above, versus numbers-to-letters-to-Roman numerals, which would be clearer. I would try harder to fix it, but I have other things to do today if I want today to be a success.)
Know your goals and long-term priorities and let them drive your days. Start your morning thinking about them. Script action items that help you make progress towards them each day. Find time in your schedule for those actions to make sure you have time to get them done. And protect that time. It is the only way to assure you will make progress each day.
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Life is a curvy journey. There is a definite beginning, a muddy middle, and a certain end. The government issues you a certificate to mark the start and endpoints. But the rest is up to you to chart.
Do you know where you are right now? Knowing where you are on your path is key to navigation. So is knowing your ultimate destination. So take a moment to evaluate where you are on your journey, like Steve Perry. You can use this evaluation on your personal life, professional career, or spiritual journey.
Where are you right now?
On the right road. This means you are doing what you expected to be doing right now. You have chosen a career you like or a role in your family or community that you enjoy, and it aligns with your vision. Keep going.
On a detour. A detour means you were on the right road, but something has forced you off. Now you are having to find a new path forward. If you are on a detour keep your eyes open for opportunities to get back on track. It may take a series of approximations and corrections. Just make sure you a still magnetized to the original destination.
Driving aimlessly Yes, you are driving. But there is no destination. You are traveling just to travel, not with purpose. While this can be an interesting way to see what is around you, it is also a way to lose time, like Morris Day. It helps to set a limit on how long you will allow yourself to move this way. Then it’s time to pull out the map and determine where you need to go next. Which may also require you to redefine your ultimate destination.
Lost You thought you knew where you were headed. But somehow you have gotten turned around, bright eyes. A job, a boss, a workplace, or a significant other has made you question whether you were on the right path for you. Maybe you have never found your purpose and have been driving aimlessly for too long. It’s time to stop and think about your purpose, your goals, and your ultimate destination. Think about what makes you happy. Write your own obituary. The way forward can often be found through this exercise because it forces you to start again with the end in mind.
On a dead-end road. There is no path forward on the road you are on. If you find yourself here, turn around now. Any other road is better than this.
In a Cul-De-Sac This is like a dead-end, only it is really comfortable. You may be in a job that is paying you well, but it is not getting you all the way to your original goals. Or you may be settling for good enough. The Cul-De-Sac can be very comfortable today. But may lead to significant regrets in your final evaluation.
Headed directly towards a clear destination This is the ultimate goal. If you know where you are headed and you are pointing in the right direction the only question is how fast are you moving? Check your speedometer, Casey Jones. Are you moving fast enough to get to your destination on time? Are you moving too fast, and likely to damage the equipment at your current pace? Or do you need to give it more gas? Chances are you could give it more gas.
To get the most out of life it is important to regularly evaluate where you are on your journey. Noting your where and when coordinates will tell you what you need to do next to get to your destination on time. Know your endpoint. Use all the navigational tools you have available to help you get there. And keep moving forward.
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Until yesterday it had been 366 days since I last had a cake under my candles. The 2019-2020 Adam Albrecht season saw many more wins than losses. I enjoyed serious adventures. I made new friends. I experienced my first global pandemic. Because local pandemics just aren’t pandemic-y enough for me. My pace of personal and professional growth for the year met my expectations. So I gave myself a passing grade.
Now I am excited to kickoff a great 2020-2021 Adam Albrecht season. Each year, on opening day, I like to establish new goals for the year. Here are the latest.
Faith: Read The New Testament again. I read a lot. But I haven’t dug into The Bible with purpose for a few seasons now. So, I’m making this a New-Testy kind of year.
Fitness: Drop My Covid Weight. Back in March, when we all boarded the CoronaCoaster, I felt healthy, fit and ready for spring break. Now I have 8 pounds worth of lockdown weight to burn off. I’m aiming to hit an even 210 pounds this summer. Which is less than I weighed when I graduated from both high school and college. Thankfully it’s finally warm enough in Wisconsin to get summer, summer, summertime fit, like Will Smith. Remember when he used to be a rapper?
Marriage: 12 Dates Wih My Wife. If Dawn and I have a real date every month, all feels right with the world. Granted those dates may be curbside pick up at Culver’s. Or masked hikes through Costco. But I don’t care where we go. I don’t care what we do. I don’t care pretty baby. Just take me with you.
Parenting: Meaningful Life Conversations With Each of My Children Every Week. My children are 14, Turning-13-This-Week, and 9. Which means they are in the thick of childhood changes, challenges and life lessons. I want to make sure that I am helpful during this time, and not just an annoying old guy who keeps telling them to hand over their electronics at night.
My Parents: Talk Every Week. My Mom used to call my Grammy every Saturday morning like clockwork. I want to develop a regular weekly check-in with my parents. Maybe during my commute. Assuming we will have commutes again.
My Business: I want to add 3 great new people to The Weaponry, my advertising and idea agency. Great people are the heart of a great business. Finding great people to add is both important and challenging. So that’s what we’re going to do. If you are one of those people, or know someone who is, let’s talk!
Finances: Increase My Net Worth By 25%. Tracking your net worth is an import habit to help you understand, maintain and improve your financial health. I want to improve mine by 25% over the next 12 months. Much of that will be related to how the financial markets recover. But it also means acting on new opportunities that are available due to the financial cliff that we all just lemmingied off. Or hadn’t you noticed?
Volunteering:Give Blood. I have some. Other people need it. Let’s make this happen. 10-4 Good Bloody.
Relationships: Expand The Breakfast Meet Up Club. Earlier this year I started a breakfast meetup of really badass guys who live on Milwaukee’s North Shore. It’s comprised of entrepreneuers and highly successful businessmen who are also husbands and fathers. We meet once a month to trade ideas on how to be great, and talk about the important things that guys don’t always have a chance to talk about with other guys. I want to add 3 more impressive cats to the group this year to bring us to an even 10.
Book: Publish My First Book. Thanks to the COVID-19 lockdown I am much further along on this project than I expected to be at this time. Now I’d like to put the hammer down, get my Johannes Gutenberg on, and get this thing to a printing press.
Home: Make A Home Base Improvement Decision. Dawn and I have been exploring the idea of some remodeling, buying a new home or building for years. But you can explore forever and never arrive anywhere. I would like to arrive somewhere in the next 12 months.
Birthday’s offer a great time to reevaluate your life. Each year on your birthday check your trajectory, your happiness meter and your contribution to others. Push yourself to do more each year. Life is like a soap opera. Which mean we only get one life to live. Take advantage of it. And make sure that each season of You is worth watching.
I spent the last hours of my 39th year reflecting on my life. I wrote down a long list of things I was proud I had accomplished so far. It was good to take a 40-year view of life. In fact, I consider this moment one of the pivotal moments in my adventure on Earth. It helped put my journey and path in perspective. After I took inventory of all the good things I had accomplished and experienced I turned my attention to the future.
I asked myself a simple question:
If life ended right here, what things would I regret not doing?
This was an exciting question. Because it would form my to-do list for the next chapter of life. At that point I felt like I was living up to most of my expectations. My personal life was great. I had a wonderful wife (Dawn), a daughter (Ava) and two sons (Johann and Magnus). My parents, sisters and their families were all doing well. I have a huge and wonderful extended family and great friends around the world.
My career was going very well. I was the Chief Creative Officer of a 275-person advertising agency called Engauge, and we were about to finalize a deal to sell the agency to Publicis, the giant advertising agency holding company out of Paris.
The 4 Things
With my personal and professional life on track, what were the things that I would regret not doing if died the next day? There were 4 things that quickly rose to the top.
More international travel. I had visited 11 foreign countries at that time. But that left about 200 that I hadn’t seen.
Starting an advertising agency.
Starting a real estate business.
This became my checklist of things to accomplish in the decade ahead.
The Advertising Agency
Within 2 years I began plans to launch my own advertising agency. And within 3 years I had actually left my job, started the advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, and had clients in Atlanta, Boston, Quebec, Milwaukee and San Francisco.
The Real Estate Business
By the end of that 3rd year, Dawn and I had bought a new house and converted our home in Atlanta into a rental property, complete with tenants and rental income. Which meant that we had birthed our real estate business.
The International Travel
Last year I had a really exciting opportunity to travel to India to film a video for a great client, Fifth Third bank. My experience there was incredible. In fact I summarized it in this popular blog post, 20 interesting things you notice when you travel to India. Now America is the only country that reads my blog more than India.
I am excited to be making good progress on these 3 areas. Which are the toughest 3 on my list to accomplish. Which leaves just one of my goals for the decade unaddressed.
Yesterday morning when I got on the elevator to go to my office I saw a flyer posted above the keypad. There was a blood drive, from 10am to 2pm in the office space directly above The Weaponry. I was thrilled. This was the sign I needed. And today was the day!
A quick bit of background. My Dad, Robert Albrecht donates blood like it is his job. He is the equivalent of a Million Mile Flyer for giving blood. But I had never given blood myself, and have always felt bad about this. When I was on the track team at the University of Wisconsin our coaches discouraged us from giving for training and performance reasons. After graduation I simply never found the on-ramp to giving. I have no fear of blood or needles or ‘I gave’ stickers. I just hadn’t done it.
At 11am I left my office and made my way to suite 307. I was more excited than most people to donate blood. But then again, most people don’t have donating blood on their bucket list. I walked in the room and was greeted by a blue scrubbed technician. I said, ‘If you have any time slots still available I am full of blood, and willing to give some to you.’ She laughed and told me there was an open slot at 11:50am.
I was thrilled. And at 11:50am I was back and got the process started. I signed in on a clipboard and was taken to a semi-private cubicle for my pre-screening. They took my driver’s license and entered a bunch of information about me into a computer. Then they had me scan a binder previewing the questionnaire I was about to take.
Then I took the questionnaire. It was crazy. It asked if I was, or ever had been pregnant. It asked if I took any drugs, received a blood transfusion, had AIDS or Cancer. It asked if I had ever had man on man sex, or sex with a prostitute. #thingsIhadn’texpectedtoreadthatday.
When I was finished with the 45 question survey I only said Yes to one question. The technician then reviewed my answers and said, ‘It looks like we have just one question to review.’ It says that you have traveled outside of the US or Canada in the past year. I proudly said, ‘Yes!’
The technician asked where I had traveled. I told her I had been to India. She then asked me what area I visited. I replied that I had been to Bangalore, in southern India.
She then pulled out a binder to check on any restrictions that may apply, based on my travel. Once she found what she was looking for she turned the binder around towards me. She put her finger next to the word India. She then slid her finger to show me that travelers to India were prohibited from donating blood for one year, due to the threat of Malaria.
I was denied.
She told me to come back at the end of September and they would happily take my blood. She then handing me my parting gift. It was a ticket that provided free admission for four people to Mt. Olympus Water Park in Wisconsin Dells. While I love a good water park, this was little consolation for not being able to check off one my major life goals.
But I couldn’t help but smile, reflecting on the last few hours of my 39th year. That night I declared I would launch my own business. Which lead to exciting international travel. Which prevented me from donating blood. In other words, I still have unfinished business.
Take inventory of your life. Give gratitude for all you have and all you’ve done, both personally and professionally. And think about the things you will regret not doing next. Write them down. Prioritize them. And give yourself a deadline to accomplish them. Then take action. Even long lives fly by. If you don’t recognize, declare and take action towards the things you want most, they will never happen.
I am excited to have made such good progress on 3 out of 4 Decade Goals. In September I expect to knock off another. Unless, of course, I have more exciting international travel before then. Which is always a possibility. Afterall, it is on my to-do list.
*If you know someone who could benefit from this story, please share it with them.