How to get the most out of each workday.

Yesterday when I arrived at work I sat down at my desk to plan my day at The Weaponry. I firmly believe that you must get on top of each day before the day gets on top of you. #ItsBetterOnTop

Like Lynyrd Skynyrd, I plan my days in 3 steps, mister.

  1. I open up my daily calendar to see my obligations for the day.
  2. I open Stickies on my laptop to see My Priorities List. I created a list that includes my clients, business development efforts, and major life goals.
  3. I open up my notebook and create my Daily Success List.

The Success List

At the top left corner of the page, I write Success List, because names matter. Then I add the date, for historic purposes.

Next, I fill the rest of the header section of the page with my 3 major career goals. I do this to keep them in mind, and to make sure the rest of the day aligns with my major goals. Because each day is like a tool we can use to achieve our dreams. Which means each day is kinda like a dreamcatcher, only without the feathers, string and rearview mirror.

After the page header has been properly transformed into a navigational tool, I begin my list.

Yesterday, I had no external obligations on my calendar. So I was free to make it the perfectly productive day. Which is probably why this topic is top of mind today.

With no meetings of any kind required of me, which is a real rarity, I filled my success list with my priorities.

The list included:

  • Creating a new planning process for one of our service offerings
  • Contacting several clients
  • Prepping for the implementation of our new 401(k) plan
  • Contacting potential future Weapons
  • Reaching out to friends in my network for no good reason
  • Strategic work for a client
  • Creative work for a client
  • Naming work for a client
  • Scheduling a client presentation
  • Reviewing an updated video script
  • Checking in on a logo design project
  • Contacting my tax accountant
  • Contacting my realtor
  • Contacting my favorite banking professional
  • Checking on our plans for an upcoming film and photoshoot

Making It Happen

When I was done creating the list there were 24 action items on it. The 24th action item was the most important. It simply said, Schedule Day Full. Which meant that now that I had my list of things to do for the day, I had to put them on the calendar in order to create a concrete plan to make the day productive. I then filled the rest of my calendar from 9:30 am to 5 pm with actions to take.

This meant that by 9:30 am I had transformed my day of no obligations into a day packed with actions and priorities. As a result, I knocked off 22 of the 24 items on my success list.

I even scheduled an hour for lunch at noon. Because eating food keeps me alive. And like the BeeGees, I find that staying alive is important to my long-term success. Over my lunch hour, I watched several videos on MasterClass, which I have added to my self-improvement program. More on that in another post.

Key Takeaway

Create a Success List every day. Start by listing your long term goals, and let them guide your actions and priorities on a daily basis. Schedule your workday full each day. And make sure to eat lunch and learn something new. Do this day after day, and not only will you cross your daily actions off your list, you will start crossing your long term goals off the top of the page.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

Suddenly it is now or never for your 2020 goals.

You started 2020 with exciting goals to achieve. But the aspirations of New Year’s Day probably feel like a lifetime ago. Whether you set goals specifically for 2020, or goals to achieve in your lifetime, you began the year with something important you wanted to accomplish. If the wild ride that is 2020 has caused goal amnesia, take a moment now to remember your goals for the year. (cue the Jeopardy music…)

It’s go time.

Today is December 1st, and you are down to your last month of 2020. The next 31 days are what you have left to work with to make personal and professional progress this year. Don’t let the remaining time slip away. These are the days to remember. Cause they will not last forever.

Remember, self-imposed deadlines are the key drivers of accomplishment and self-improvement. And as Buddy knows, elf-imposed deadlines are the key drivers of elf-improvement.

Don’t worry if you can’t complete everything in 31 days. A good start is plenty valuable. In fact, the more you can accomplish in the next month, the better you will be positioned for a great 2021.

Things You Can Still Do In December

  • Lose weight
  • Start exercising
  • Read a book
  • Start writing a book
  • Begin a business
  • Create a meetup group
  • Expand your network
  • Look for a new job
  • Volunteer
  • Give Blood (A life goal I accomplished in November.)
  • Learn a new skill ( I just subscribed to Master Class)
  • Develop a new product or service
  • Take a class
  • Learn to ski, skate, scat or ska
  • Improve your business development efforts.
  • Begin to learn a new language
  • Create a plan for your financial security
  • Spend quality time with your family. (Over Thanksgiving my family focused on family game nights again.)
  • Reconnect with an old friend or family member
  • Quit smoking, drinking or drugging (It only takes one day as I wrote about here.)

Pro-gress Tip

Break the goal or project you want to make the most progress on into 31 smaller pieces. Do a little each day. Or break the goal into fewer chunks, depending on what day you first read this post. However, if you are reading this on December 31st I suggest you skip the last 2 paragraphs and get straight to work.

Remember, the best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. (I recommend starting with elephant ears covered in powdered sugar and cinnamon.) And the best way to complete your 2020 goals in December is 1/31st at a time.

Key Takeaway

Get going. The rest of the world may use the excuse that the end is near and give up, but the positive procrastinators say It’s Go Time! Don’t let these 31 days slip away. They are your opportunity for progress, change, new beginnings, or completion. It’s not too late to salvage 2020. Let the progress you make over the next 31 days be your holiday gift to yourself.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message today, please share it with them.

If you want results stop chipping and start chopping.

Not all actions are equal. Which means the return on your invested time and energy is not equal. Occasional effort put into an activity, practice, or exercise is not the same as fully-dedicated effort with a plan, a schedule, and a timer. #TimeToMakeTheDonuts

Chipping

Chipping is the occasional effort you put towards a task. Sometimes you go for a run, eat a salad, read, or play an instrument. Chipping is going to church at Christmas and Easter, which makes you a  Chreaster. Chipping is shooting hoops in the driveway, sometimes, in your flip flops.

Chipping means you partake occasionally, when you feel like it. You write, sometimes. You study, now and then. You work late once a month.    

Chipping lets you say you tried. But it doesn’t move the needle. It doesn’t build momentum. And it won’t help your New Year’s resolution survive until February.

Chopping

Chopping is focusing on your goals, making a plan, writing it down, creating a schedule. Chopping means declaring a goal. Or declaring war. Chopping means setting a timer to your activity. Chopping is creating a habit. Chopping is swinging away and working up a sweat like clockwork. Over and over again. Like Nelly and Tim McGraw.

Key Takeaway

Chipping allows you to say you tried. Chopping brings down the tree.

Between the sunrise and sunset lies the real magic.

This week I am on vacation at the beach. I’ve noticed that people at the beach love sunrises and sunsets. Shocker, I know.

Every morning vacationers and locals alike walk the beach at sunrise and take pictures of the sun coming up. The same think happens each night as the sun sets. It’s almost like a song from Fiddler On The Roof

But I notice that no one is taking pictures of the sun in the middle of the day when Earth’s favorite fire ball is in mid arc. But that is where the magic happens.

It is not the beginning or the end that makes the difference. It is the missable middle. When the work is performed. When actions are taken. When time and effort and attention are invested. That’s where the wow of the day lives. It is where the stories of our lives, careers and relationships are formed. Unless you are a lady of the night, or a cat burglar. In which case, I am impressed that you also read blogs. Who knew.

Highlighting the sunrise and sunset is like focusing on the bookends on a bookshelf.  They may be pretty. But they are not the value. The value is on all the pages in the books in between. Be sure not to miss them. They are full of gold.

Key Takeaway

Don’t forget the middle. It is where all the difference is made.

Why you should set an alarm every day.

I am a reflector. I reflect on what went right and what went wrong nearly every day. In the last days of 2019 I reflected on what I did right that year in hopes of doing more of what worked in 2020. Little did I know that a tiny virus was about to create the greatest global disruption in human history. And much of what worked in 2019 would be taboo just months later.

Following my blog post 19 Things That Worked For Me In 2019 I got a lot of positive feedback. People told me they picked up new ideas, were motivated or inspired by some of the activities I wrote about.

However, there was one point that I shared that generated a strong thanks-but-no-thanks response from a large number of readers. Interestingly, it was the #1 thing on my list. It was the action that set up all the other actions.

Set An Alarm.

I set my alarm for 6:00am every weekday, and no later than 6:30am on the weekends. I get up and write, read or workout right away. The alarm helps me get the most out of every day. And I mean every day. Weekends, vacation days, holidays, beach days, leg days and Hollandaise.

When I started this alarming habit several years ago I started gaining traction on my dreams. I started accomplishing more. I felt like I was pulling ahead in life. Because the most valuable time I could find to invest in my goals and dreams was early in the morning.

Buzzer Beater

I am keenly aware of the fact that I will be dead long before I want to be. So I try to do all the things I want to do while I still have the time. And my alarm clock has helped me add hours to my days. Which puts more life in my life. Like Mikey’s cereal.

The Wake-Up Call

If 2020 is the year you are going to make great progress on your lifelong dreams you are going to need some help from your alarm clock. Like Rodney Dangerfield, that little noisemaker doesn’t get the respect it deserves. Because it doesn’t just squawk in your earhole. It can help make your entire life more fulfilling.

When It All Starts.

The idea of a long lazy morning in bed has no appeal to me. The opportunity cost is too high. I started my business early in the morning. I think early. I write my blog early. I work out early.

Early in the morning no one bothers you. You have energy and focus and hope. Take advantage of that. Block your time. And milk it for all it’s worth. #wholemilk

Go to bed early when you can. Get as much sleep as you can. But don’t get to the end of your days with regrets that you didn’t do all that you wanted to do when you had the time to do it.

Key Takeaway

Don’t sleep in on the weekends. Or holidays. Or ever. Set an alarm. Get up. Get things done. Read something. Learn something. Do something. Get more out of your time. And if you don’t have a great reason to get up early on the weekends and on vacation, find one. Your life will be more enjoyable once you do.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share this with them.

The one book you should read this year.

I am constantly trying to enhance the performance of my brain. I don’t do it with aftermarket parts. Or with surgery. Or with drugs. Although I have heard some really good things about drugs from my crack dealer friends.

Reading Rainbow

I enhance the performance of my brain by reading books. I read as much as I can. As a result, my thinking keeps improving. With each book I read I become more capable, insightful, empathetic and resourceful. I am collecting dots and connecting dots. And today I arrive at better ideas faster than ever before. Granted, I had a lot of room for improvement.

The One Recommendation

If you want to improve your thinking and your doing, I highly recommend reading The One Thing, by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan. This #1 Wall Street Journal Best Seller is one of the most influential books I have read in the past 20 years.

Focus

The One Thing’s main focus is to teach you how to focus your thinking and your efforts. We are often faced with a brazillion things we could do with our time. As a result, we often do nothing. Or the easiest thing, the closest thing, or the most urgent thing. But not the one most important thing to help us get to our goals.

There is no trickery to this book. It is simple and logical. Yet it is eye-opening and insightful. (Although opening your eyes is typically outsightful, right?)

Dominoes Delivers

The books starts by encouraging you to look at your actions like knocking down dominoes (the game piece, not the pizza joint). We need to focus on the first domino, and then the next, with purpose. By doing so we can make great things happen, one domino at a time.

Dominos from the one thing
This is how your actions work.

Determining Your Priorities.

The book shines a spotlight on the erroneous short term thinking that typically fills our daily to-do list. It points out the critical difference between a To-do list and a Success List. A key lesson here is, ‘That which matters most should never take a backseat to that which matters least.’  In other words, your priorities need to call ‘Shotgun!’

80/20

Keller and Papasan explore the 80/20 rule of Pareto Efficiency, which states that 80 percent of your results come from 20% of your effort. (Not that 80-years olds should not make out with 20-year olds. But that should also be a rule.) They then propose applying the 80/20 rule to your 20% activities. This enables you to find the most important of the most important activities to focus on.

Multitasking Vs Monotasking

The book blasts the notion of multitasking. It instead promotes the idea of complete focus. Or what I called ToFo, in the post Why you should invest more of your time in Total Focus.

66 Day Magic

The book breaks down the critical difference between self discipline, which is hard, and habits, which become easy and automatic. I loved learning that on average it takes us 66 days to create a new habit. Which means that if you made a resolution to start a new activity on January 1st, and could make it to the end of the first week of March, you would likely keep that habit rolling forever. But most people quit in January or February, and never create a new habit. Then again, those resolutioners stop coming to the gym by the beginning of February, leaving more room for me, so I am not complaining.

66 Day Habits
By 66 days habit kicks in, and self discipline is no longer necessary. You will know when you are there because a big red star fish will appear on your line.

Forget The Balanced Life

The authors share the idea that a balanced life doesn’t enable us to do amazing things. Instead we need to be constantly balancing our lives, so that we can go all in on our goals for long stretches, to create extraordinary results. Then we can balance those periods with longer stretches of time with family and friends, relaxing and recreating. But if we never get ourselves out of balance by going all-in on one thing, we will never achieve great things.

The Focusing Question

Finally, the book introduces the key focusing question for your life:

‘What is the one thing that I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?’  -The One Thing By Gary Keller and Jay Papasan

This question can be asked as a big picture question, and as a small, focusing question. Meaning, it can help you discover the one thing you should be doing with your life, and what is the one thing you can do, right now, to make it happen.

The one Thing for all areas
The One Thing applies to all areas of your life.

Key Takeaway

If you want to supercharge your thinking and your actions, pick up this book. It will teach you how to focus, prioritize and act to get the most out of your precious time. It will help you think about your long term goals, and what you need to do now to achieve them. And it will help you say no to things that just don’t matter.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this book, please share this with them.

This year treat your spare time like valuable gemstones.

Happy 2020! I absolutely love the Mulligan that every new year brings. If you are like most people you’ve resolved to make this your best year yet. According to a quick and dirty research project I conducted there are four basic ways to improve your life with a New Year’s resolution.

  1. You can start something good.
  2. You can quit something bad.
  3. You can make a habit of something positive.
  4. Or you can generally just stop being lame.

Best! Year! Ever!

I have one goal that will help make 2020 the best year in my career and personal life. Simply stated, I want to make the most of my remnant time.

What That Means

We all have a slew of things we have to do. Those include our standard work and home obligations. Make sure you take care of those must-do’s or your fresh new year will spoil before February. But like that poor forgotten ‘r’ in February, we all have time in every day that we are overlooking.

Today I’m envisioning all that I can do with my remnant time over the next 12 months. In fact, I am considering adding this quote to the back of the next round of business cards I print this year:

“Guard well your spare moments. They are like uncut diamonds. Discard them and their value will never be known. Improve them and they will become the brightest gems in a useful life.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Apparently Ralph Waldo was into the bling.

Go Rumpelstiltskin in 2020

Today consider what you can do with the time hidden between your must-dos. Instead of killing that time with digital thumb twiddling or catching Zs, spin that time-straw into gold.

The Perfect You Project

I challenge you to use your remnant time to do the things the perfect version of you would do. Read something, write something, create something, solve something, learn something, experience something, accomplish something, improve something. Or maybe buy a thesaurus and find other words to use instead of something.

Compounding Interest

Like compound interest, even little moments add up over the course of a year. Two months ago I began picking up my daughter’s guitar each night and practicing for just a few minutes. And while I’m no Eddie Van Halen, a little invested time each night enables me to play most Christmas songs well enough to not get booed off stage at a nursing home.

Entrepreneurship

I started my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry in my spare time. I looked for little moments at night, on the weekends or over my lunch hour to research, plan and create the business. And like Andy Dufresne, by using my remnant time wisely, I was able to create a path to the place I always wanted to be. Except, unlike Andy, I didn’t have to crawl through an active sewer pipe. And chances are, neither will you.

Key Takeaway

Make the most of 2020 by making the most of your spare time. Use it to make magic in your career. Strengthen your connections to family and friends. Start that business you always wanted to start. Read more. Finally do those things you have always wanted to do. Use you spare moments to have more fun, learn something new, and accomplish more than ever. Start today. You have 1440 minutes every day to work with.

 

Now you have 6 days to make magic.

We are almost at the end of 2019. But more importantly, we are almost at the start of 2020. A new year. A new decade. And a chance to make the movie you are starring in turn out just the way you want it to. #happyending

6 Days To Finish Strong

But right now you have 6 days. 6 Days to finish 2019 strong. To tie up lose ends. You have  6 days to put more marks in the win column. To complete things you started. To connect with people. To get your steps in. To start, make or do that thing you said you would start, make or do this year, but still haven’t.

6 Days To Start Strong

You also have 6 days to give yourself a running start at 2020. To hit the new year and new decade with momentum. You have 6 days to start building a new habit. To put plans in place. To make this year THE year for realzies. You have 6 days to write down your goals and a plan to achieve them. You have 6 days to plan a year of adventures and vacations and bucket list-worthy activities.

The Swing Days

These are the 6 swing days. The 6 days between Christmas and New Years can make your year. If you waste them all no one will notice. Much of the western world is in neutral right now. Or in a return line at Target. But if you take advantage of the fact that not much is expected of you right now, you can make a sprint to the finish line, or a sprint to the starting line that could change everything. (Note: swing days are not affiliated with swingers or swinging. However, you are so money. And you don’t even know it.)

Me Time

I did much of the hard work to launch The Weaponry, my advertising and idea agency, during this period 4 years ago. This year I will be in the office working during at least 3 of the next 6 days. I will work to give my business an unfair advantage by running while others are resting. And I’ll spend some of my time resting faster than other people rest.

Planning Time

I will plan my vacations and vacation days for 2020 over the next 6 days. By planning them out I pace myself, and make sure I don’t get to these same 6 days next year burnt and crispy. I don’t want to end my year as a couch zombie, because I don’t have the energy to do anything else.

It’s Go Time

Don’t be that person who says they don’t have time for the things they really want to do. Take time now. Plan time in the upcoming year. And make time work for you.

Key Takeaway

Time is your most valuable asset. You have 6 days left to spend wisely. Invest your 6 days where you will get the best return on your investment. Think long term. But act right now.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

What will you do with your bonus hour?

There are not enough hours in a day to do all of the things you would like to do. That is just a fact. Time is the most precious commodity on Earth. It’s worth more than diamonds, helium and CBD. At the end of your days you won’t wish for more money, a nicer car or a fancier home. You would trade all your worldly possessions (and some of your purely regional possessions) for more time.

Bonus Hour

Today marks the end of Daylight Saving Time. Most people focus on the negative fact that the sun now sets earlier. But don’t be a Debbie Sundowner. Today is a great day. It is the one day a year when the universe, Father Time, and the American Clocker’s Panel give you a bonus hour.

At 2am local time you received your annual 1-hour time bonus. With that additional hour the universe also handed you an important question:

‘What will you do with your bonus hour?’ -Universe

When you receive a work bonus, a tax refund or a lottery payout, you spend a lot of time thinking about what you will do with the money. But have you spent any time thinking about what you will do with your extra hour? You should. Because until you can buy a time machine from Marty McFly, your hour is more valuable and more precious than any monetary bonus you will ever receive. 

Invest Your Time

Take a moment today to think about how you will invest your bonus hour. If you came to Albrecht Time Investment Advisors LLC, we would encourage you to invest your time in one of the following areas:

  • Your health
  • Your family
  • Your faith
  • Your friendships
  • Your personal growth
  • Your peace of mind
  • Your community
  • Your future
  • Your career
  • Your hobbies
  • Your bucket list
  • Your experiences
  • Your personal legend
  • Anything that will make you laugh.

Key Takeaway

Don’t waste time. Invest it in the most important areas of your life. By spending your time wisely you will enjoy a richer, more fulfilling and more impactful experience on Earth. Remember, you will be dead sooner than you want to be. So take advantage of all the time you can get while you are still here.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

How to get inspired when you are running behind.

Do you ever feel like you are running behind? I do. All the time. I have high expectations. Which means that I also have goals, lists and timelines. But I find myself running behind my established deadlines all the time. Which means I would probably fit right in at United Airlines.

I’m late! I’m late! For a very important date!

I am frequently behind on both my long-term and short-term goals. I am often behind on my daily to-do list as well. I can’t tell you how many times I have approached the last hour or two of my day at work or home, looked at the list of things I wanted to accomplish that day, and been shocked at how little I had crossed off.

Don’t Give Up

I don’t let myself get discouraged in those moments. In fact, I am thankful to recognize how little I have achieved while there is still time to do something about it. Because in those moments I am always reminded of my 9 years as a track and field athlete.

Life is like a track race.

Over the course of my track career at Hanover High School and the University of Wisconsin I saw amazing things happen at the end of races. I saw runners who looked as if they were destined for last place do amazing things. They didn’t give up. Instead, they kicked.

The Kick

In track and field The Kick is the late race attempt to shift to a higher speed than you were running the rest of the race. The Kick is used to finish strong. It is used to overcome the slower pace you had run to that point that put you behind. In full disclosure, I never had a track kick. I had more of a wave goodbye as other runners left me behind to contemplate my dietary choices.

Inspiration

I saw hundreds of inspiring Kicks in person during my track career. I saw hundreds more as a lifelong fan of the sport. I am always amazed to see how a strong, short, focused effort can completely change the outcome of a race.

Kicking At Work

Today, when I find myself behind late in the day, or late in a timeline, I don’t throw in the towel. I kick. I look at what I can still accomplish. I push distractions aside. I focus. And I sprint.

I have found that these late in the race sprints have the same ability to change outcomes in business and life as they do on the track. A concentrated effort over a short time often produces an entire day’s worth of productivity and progress in just an hour or two. Even better, I have had days where I crossed more off my daily to-do list in the last 20 minutes than I did in the previous 8 hours.

Key Takeaway

It is never too late to Kick. Whether you are talking about daily goals or lifetime goals, career or personal aspirations, your Kick can change everything. When you find yourself behind, use the time you have, to give everything you’ve got, to accomplish as much as you can. You’ll be amazed at what a difference it makes in the final outcome. And at the end of the day, the end is all that matters.

Here is a great collection of finishing kicks to inspire you today.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

** The cover image for this post is of Sarah Disanza, who has joined me and my team at The Weaponry. She knows a thing or two about kicking too.