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.
Don’t forget the middle. It is where all the difference is made.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?)
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.
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!’
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
You can start something good.
You can quit something bad.
You can make a habit of something positive.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 monetarybonus 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 personal growth
Your peace of mind
Your bucket list
Your personal legend
Anything that will make you laugh.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The world is full of lazy people. You can find them in schools, government jobs, businesses, and superglued to couches. They are in every sector of society. And they are easy to spot. Because they don’t move very fast.
At the other end of the human spectrum you will find the Rise and Grind crowd, the Every Day I’m Hustling crowd and the I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead crowd. Most of us self-identify with these more aggressive, work-hard-play-hard types. But there is a surprising reality you should know. Sometimes lazy people outperform the hard chargers.
How could it be possible that the tree sloths sometimes outperform the workhorses? They do this by adhering to The Lazy Person’s Key To Success:
Do small things with large consequences.
The Fallacy of Activity
It is easy to keep busy without getting ahead. Have you ever watched a human doggy paddle in a pool or pond? It’s not pretty. By swimming doggy-style (#snickering), humans create a lot of motion, but very little progress. Don’t do this. It is a waste of time, energy and calories.
Instead, do the little things that create enormous impact. Remember that 80% of your results come from 20% of your effort. Which means that you can be both lazy AND successful by performing the small tasks that generate large results.
Make the right phone calls
Ask the right question
Ask for what you want
Know a guy
Read the directions
Create a top 10 list and post it to your blog for successful people to read
You don’t have to work hard to be successful. The quality of your actions far outweighs the quantity of your actions. By doing small things with large consequences you are using minimum force to create maximum results. Find the small activities in your world that make the greatest impact. Then perform them repeatedly. It’s not just lazy. It’s efficient and effective.
But remember, when the the Rise-and-Grinders also do the small things with large consequences, they eat lazy people for breakfast. (Gulp)
Pass the syrup.
If you know someone who could benefit from this little secret, please share it with them.
Time is the world’s most precious resource. That’s why great success requires great time management. In fact, knowing how to properly budget and invest your time is even more important to your ultimate success than budgeting and investing your money.
When I began planning to launch The Weaponry, my advertising and ideas agency, there was a tremendous amount of work to be done. I knew that how I spent my time during that first year would determine the fate of my startup. As I neared the end of each work week I noticed something interesting about my progress. I repeatedly saw how the activities on one particular day were making all the difference.
The Most Important Day
There are at least 7 different opinions on which day is the most important. Elton John thinks it is Saturday. Mick Jagger is a Tuesday guy. The Mamas and Papas all say Monday, repeatedly. However, 3 years into my entrepreneurial journey I know Paul McCartney was right. That’s why I can state wth great confidence that the most important day for achieving great things is yesterday.
All of your success comes from what you did yesterday. The relationships you developed yesterday strengthen your support system today. The progress you made yesterday becomes momentum today. The exercise you performed yesterday creates today’s strength, endurance and health. The time you invested yesterday becomes the time you saved today.
The reading you did yesterday creates the knowledge you have today. The travel you did yesterday becomes today’s memories and experience. Your preparation yesterday makes you ready today.
Yesterday At Work
As a business owner I know that today’s workload comes from yesterday’s business development efforts. As a professional ideator I know that my creativity springs from what I absorbed yesterday. As a capable human, I know that my confidence grows based on both the successes and failures I experienced yesterday. And the eviction notice I didn’t get comes from the rent I paid yesterday.
One of the things I am most grateful for are those activities I had the foresight and energy to do yesterday. The workout I completed. The process I created. The book I read. The research I performed. The relationship I fostered. In the moment procrastination often feels like the easier route. Which is why it is so valuable to view the moment as if it were yesterday.
There is a great Chinese proverb I think about often.
The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is right now. -Chinese proverb
The truth is that in less than 24 hours today will be yesterday. And when the clock strikes midnight you will either be smarter, stronger and more prepared, or you will be in the exact same position you are in today.
Big success is a result of the accumulation of small actions. The To-Do list you complete today will become tomorrow’s momentum. That momentum will help you power past barriers that would have previously stopped you.
Today will soon be gone. Tomorrow is a mystery. But yesterday is your library, your museum, your toolbox and your bonding agent. Yesterday is where the wind in your sails comes from. And the winds of yesterday determine both the direction and the speed at which you travel today.
*If you know someone who could benefit from this story, please share it with them. And if you want to see where this ship heads next, consider subscribing to this blog. Tomorrow you’ll be glad you did.
I never wanted a mobile phone. In fact, I held out as long as I could. I finally broke down and bought my first non-land line phone in August of 2005. My wife, Dawn was 38 weeks pregnant with our first child. I wanted to be a responsible parent. That meant being accessible when my wife went into labor, and for all of the craziness that would inevitably follow.
The Garter Snake
My first phone was harmless enough. It was a little blue flip phone that was used for phone calls, and nothing else. Yes, it had a camera. But the images it captured were no better than what I could sketch with a dull crayon.
Two years later the ad agency I worked for issued me a Blackberry Pearl, which meant that I could get my email on my phone. Now I could never escape work. Oh, there was also a rudimentary mapping feature. And buttons. Because back then we thought it was more important to have buttons that screens. Those were quaint times.
The Black Mamba
In 2009 I was issued my first iPhone. It had an amazing camera that could capture hi-def photos and videos. It had apps that did everything but make me breakfast. Since then I have rarely been more than 50 feet from my iPhone.
The technology packed into these smart phones is mind-blowing. They have completely transformed life as we know it. And right now I am focused on how much of my time and focus have been stolen by this little fucker.
Don’t get me wrong. I fully understand that this technology has put the world at my finger tips. That is precisely the problem. I was born with a curious mind that likes to connect dots. I like information. I like to be entertained. I like to know what my friends are doing. And the smart phone has fed my every desire.
Listen All Y’all It’s A Sabotage!
Like Lorelei, the Sirens, and The Gameshow Network, smart phones create a constant distraction. Distraction is the enemy of productivity, imaginative thinking and quality time. My smart phone has repeatedly broken my focus. It has stolen some of my most valuable time, both at work and in my personal life.
On my drive home on Friday afternoon I was analyzing my week. I hadn’t accomplished as much as I thought I would or could. But why? I kept coming back to the little black distraction.
The smart phone is the Everlasting Gobstopper of distractions. On any given day I could grab it to check my emails, texts and Slack messages. Then when I am curious about the weather I can grab the phone again. If I want to check in on my company’s cash flow, I can check that on the phone too. Along with the latest updates on my bank account, flight itinerary, the financial markets, and my favorite sports teams.
I can tune in to a quick podcast, listen to music, or get breaking news anytime, anywhere. Then there are the all-knowing twins of Google and Wikipedia that can answer any question that has ever been asked before. This is all before we even mention social media like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat. The distraction is broad and deep. So I am making changes.
This weekend my phone became a phone again. I haven’t used it to explore any curiosities. I didn’t carry it with me yesterday. I didn’t plug it in last night. I don’t even know exactly where it is right now. As a result I have been productive. I have made great progress on several important goals. I had a great new business idea. And I feel more like myself.
When you discover chronic distractions you have to eliminate them, or they will prevent you from accomplishing your mission. Smart phones can cause the same type of sabotage as alcohol, drugs, gambling and other vices, simply by diverting your attention. Smart phone time seems harmless enough until you recognize the opportunity cost of that wasted time. Time is our most precious commodity. You must defend it vigilantly if you want to achieve great things.