Forget Magic Pills, Take Small Daily Actions Towards Success

take-small-daily-actions

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step”
– Lao Tzu

Whatever you want to accomplish in your life, no matter how big, always comes down to small daily actions.  And then continuing to take small actions consistently.

So here are 5 points to help you move towards your goals every day:

1. Forget ‘magic pills’, focus on long-term results

Don’t look for ‘magic pills’ that promise to solve your problems overnight.  We all want to get results as quickly as possible.  But as a result we often set ourselves up for failure by having unrealistically high expectations of ourselves.  And then we are frustrated when we don’t see the results that we want.  Instead, of looking for ‘magic pills’, focus on taking small action every single day that will guarantee results in the long term.

2. Review & visualize your vision statements daily

Every day spend a few minutes reviewing the vision statements of your ideal life.  As you read each statement, close your eyes for a few seconds and imagine how great you would feel if your vision was a reality today.  This daily process will keep you motivated and provide a daily reminder of what’s really important in your life.

3. Identify your top 3 small daily actions

Always start your day by identifying your top 3 actions for the day.  Ideally, you should focus on actions that move you towards your most important goal.  This won’t always be possible, since we also have to deal with the daily demands of our work and personal lives. But at the very least, make sure that one of your 3 big daily actions will help you get closer to one of your goals. Do this every single day without fail and you will be amazed how much progress you will make over time.

4. Work on one new habit at a time

Every month pick one new habit to work on — just one.  Don’t try to do more than that. I spent years trying to build lots of new habits all at the same time, but failed over and over again.  It was the same story every time.  I would make a list of several new habits that I wanted to build and would get started working on ALL of them immediately. I would do great for a few days, but after a week or two, I’d find myself falling back to my old habits.  If you want to succeed then do less and focus on building one habit at a time.

For example, I’ve always hated eating vegetables.  Last year, I decided that I wanted to start drinking green veggie juice every day.  I decided that this was the only habit I would focus on for the next 30 days.  It’s now been over 6 months and not only do I still drink green juice every day, I actually love it.  I wish I had decided to to adopt this principle of “just one habit at a time” decades ago.  But it’s never too late to start.

5. Take small actions consistently on a daily basis

Many people want to get results really fast and sometimes believe that big actions will result in overnight success. But long term and sustainable results come from taking small and consistent daily actions over the long term and slowly turning those daily actions into daily habits.

For example, you could decide that you want to improve your health.  Even if you could go running for 7 hours today, it’s very unlikely that you’d get your desired results overnight.  Instead you could decide to run for just 15 minutes every day for the next month and be far more likely to improve your health and also build the habit of running every day.  And those 15 minutes could easily turn into 30 minutes or more if you continued running every day.

What one simple action will you take today and for the next 30 days that moves  you towards you goals?

Craft Your 90 Day Plan to Start Turning Your Dreams Into Reality

 craft-your-90-day-plan

“A goal without a plan is just a wish”
– Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Do you often get frustrated that you’re not making enough progress on your goals?  Firstly, if you have written goals then you are already way ahead of most people.  But even having written goals, doesn’t guarantee that you’ll actually achieve those goals.

I’ve been setting annual goals for most of my life.  Every year, I spend time reflecting on the previous year, thinking about what’s most important in my life and then writing down my goals for the coming year.  It’s a process that I really enjoy.

Despite having developed the discipline of goal setting, I still found that year after year, I struggled making progress  on many of my  goals.  I’d write down a goal at the start of the year and then before I knew it, the year was over and I was wondering how I couldn’t even have made a little progress on that goal in the last 12 months.  Life just caught up with me and I kind of forgot about the goal until it was time to set my annual goals again.

What I lacked was a plan.

A 90 day plan is simply a way to breakdown your major goals into smaller sub-goals.  It’s a way for you to create smaller milestones for yourself and to identify the key tasks that you need to complete in the next 90 days to keep you focused and moving towards your major goals.

How do I create a 90 day plan?

It’s quite simple to create a 90 day plan and should take you less than 1 hour.  We’re all busy, so I know that even an hour can sound like a long time.  But I’d suggest that you try it out at least once and see for yourself how much more progress you’re able to make on your goals in the next 90 days.

And once you see results, you’ll be hooked just like me!  So grab a blank sheet of paper and let’s get started.

1. What did I achieve in the last 90 days?

Make a list of all your accomplishments in the last 90 days towards your major goals e.g. if your major goal is to lose 20 lb. this year, then what did you do in the last 90 days to make progress on that goal e.g. started jogging, stopped drinking soda, started counting calories etc.?  Write down any accomplishments, no matter how big or small.  Allow yourself to have some ‘mini victories’ so that you feel good about making progress towards your goal – even if it’s small progress, it’s still progress.

2. What are my top 5 goals for the next 90 days?

Then for each of your top 5 major goals, write down a sub-goal that you will focus on achieving in the next 90 days e.g. if one of your major goals is to grow your business, then a 90 day sub-goal could be to create a marketing plan to attract new customers.  Try to make your sub-goals as SMART (specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and time bound) as possible.

3. What are 3 key activities for each of my goals?

Finally, write down 3 key activities that you will complete for each of the 5 sub-goals i.e. 15 key activities in the next 90 days.  These will be specific actions that you will take in order to accomplish your sub-goals e.g. if your goal is to be a better husband, your sub-goal could be to create more romance in your marriage in the next 90 days.  And your 3 key activities could include:

  1. Give your wife a hug every day.
  2. Surprise your wife once every week e.g. buy flowers.
  3. Organize a romantic dinner once a week.

It doesn’t have to be complicated.  But you do have to be willing to identify and follow through on these activities.  I would often avoid doing the things that pushed me out of my comfort zone, even though I knew that I needed to do those things.

So be honest with yourself.  Are you really willing to do what it takes to accomplish your goals or not?  If you want to create the body of your dreams, but are unwilling to do any regular exercise and change your diet, then it just isn’t going to happen.

Are you willing to do what it takes?  If you are, then create that 90 day plan today and start turning your dreams into reality.

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Set Your Sights On Your Most Important Goal

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“You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus”
– Mark Twain

What’s the one thing that you can do to dramatically improve your chances of successfully achieving your goals?  Focus on just one goal at a time.  If you’re anything like me, then you’ll be asking “How can I possibly pick just one goal? They’re all important!”.  Because, in order to be successful with our goals, we need to focus.  Hopefully, you’ve already clarified your top values and have clear written goals.  Just those things alone, will put you ahead of the majority of people out there who never set goals, let alone write them down.

Sure, you can have 5 or 10 big goals and try to make progress on all of them at the same time.  But the chances are that you’ll struggle and won’t be able to give each goal the time and energy that it deserves.  I made that mistake for years and then ended up getting frustrated because I wasn’t making the progress that I wanted.  Then finally, I gave up my mission to ‘do it all’ and picked just one goal to focus on.  It felt uncomfortable at first.  But eventually that’s when I started to see breakthroughs in my life.

Focusing on one big goal doesn’t mean that you ignore all your other goals.  It just means that you make a decision on what your most important goal is and where you are going to spend the bulk of your available time and energy.  For example, if my #1 goal was to launch a new business, I would want to focus most of my energy on that.  But that doesn’t mean that I would ignore my #2 goal of improving my health and do no exercise at all.  It’s just a question of what’s most important to you at this moment and where do you want or need to make a breakthrough in your life first?

How To Identify Your Most Important Goal

So how do you identify your most important goal?  Well, some of you may already know the answer to that.  It may be glaringly obvious to you.  It’s the one that you think about all the time.  It’s the one that you have the most hunger for. It’s the first one that comes to mind when you think about creating a better life for yourself.  And if you’re not sure, then ask yourself – which one of your goals would have the most positive impact in your life and is clearly aligned with your values?  It might be hard to pick just one goal, but trust your inner self and make that decision.

1. Write Down a DUMB Vision or Ideal Outcome

On a blank sheet of paper, write down the vision statement for your single most important goal.  What’s the ideal outcome for this goal (even if that might take months or years to realize)?  Does that statement excite you?  If not, then this might be a good time to rewrite that vision statement so that you get really pumped every time you read and visualize that statement as if it were already a reality.  Make your vision statement as DUMB (dreaming, uplifting, motivating and bold) as possible.

2. Write Down a SMART Goal

Next write down what you want to accomplish with that goal in the next 12 months.  Can you realize that vision in 12 months?  If not, the what could you achieve in the next 12 months?  What’s the specific goal that you want to set for yourself?  Try to make that goal as SMART (specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and time bound) as you can.

3. Find Your “Strong Enough Why”

Then make a list of all the reasons why you absolutely must accomplish that goal.  As Tony Robbins says, you need a “strong enough why” if you want to succeed at anything.  So spend 5 minutes brainstorming a list of all the reasons why you MUST achieve this goal.  Think about how much better your life will be if you accomplish this goal and think about what your life will be like if you don’t.  Put as much emotion as possible into this process and you will also find your “strong enough why”.

4. Commit to 3 Next Actions Today

Now identify 3 next actions that you can take immediately or very soon that will help you move towards this goal.  I’d make these actions relatively easy e.g. send an email, buy something, make a list etc.  The purpose of these actions is to start building some momentum towards your goal.  So come up with actions that you can easily commit to.  And then complete those actions as soon as possible.

5. Choose a Simple Daily Habit

And finally, identify one simple habit that you will commit to on a daily basis to make progress towards your goal. This needs to be something really simple that you can do for less than 5 minutes every day, and easy enough that you WILL do it every day e.g. read for 5 minutes, run for 5 minutes etc.  Make it so easy that you just can’t fail.  Building that daily habit will fuel success and before you know it, those 5 minutes could turn into something even more significant that also becomes a daily habit without you even having having to make that much of an effort.

So now you have a simple one-page roadmap for your most important goal.  The key is to complete those 3 next actions as soon as you can and start following through on your daily 5 minute habit every day.  These simple steps alone will help to make significant progress towards your most important goal.

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Dare to Dream & Create a Compelling Future for Yourself

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“Why live an ordinary life, when you can live an extraordinary one”
– Anthony Robbins

What’s the one piece of goal setting advice that you shouldn’t listen to?  It’s when people tell you that your goals are too big or unrealistic.  They tell you that if you want to achieve your goals, then you have to set realistic ones.  They mean well.  They want you to have a better shot at achieving your goals.  But when you make your goals ‘more realistic’, you settle for less than you truly desire and you take the passion out of your dreams.  Don’t listen to that advice anymore.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not suggesting that you should set completely unrealistic goals and somehow you will magically achieve them.  Life doesn’t work that way – both you and I know that.

What I am suggesting is that you create a compelling vision for your future that inspires and motivates you.  And then deconstruct that vision into manageable goals that help drive you towards your vision.

You may not get there this year.  It may take several years to realize your vision, but you will have a ‘roadmap’ on what your ideal outcome looks like and how you will get there.  That’s far more compelling and motivating than a ‘realistic goal’ with no vision e.g. ‘lose a few pounds this year’ vs. ‘create the body of my dreams in 3 years’.

Unfortunately, most people don’t want to wait that long.  We live in a culture of instant gratification.  We want to have everything now.  We want the body of our dreams in 90 days.  We want to make more money tomorrow etc.

But the truth is, that people who successfully achieve big goals, don’t do it overnight.  They do it by having a compelling vision of their ideal outcome.  And then they take small and consistent steps i.e. regular daily action towards their vision and goals.

How to Create a Compelling Future

Let’s walk through the process together:

1. Identify Your Focus Areas

These are the areas of your life that you consider to be most important.  We all have focus areas – whether we know it or not.  So start by reviewing the list of suggested focus areas below and select your top 5.

  1. Business
  2. Career
  3. Contribution
  4. Faith/Spiritual
  5. Family
  6. Financial
  7. Fun & Adventure
  8. Health & Fitness
  9. Personal Development
  10. Personal Life
  11. Relationships
  12. Social & Community

2. Write a Vision for Each Focus Area

Now take a few minutes to write a short vision statement for each of your 5 focus areas. You should keep each of these statements to the point i.e. a few sentences at most works well.  Next, you should focus on the positive i.e. what you want and not what do you don’t want.  You should write these statements in the present tense i.e. as if you have already achieved this vision.  And finally, you should include some passion words in the statements.

For example: a poor vision statement could be something like: “I don’t want to be over weight anymore”.

A much better vision statement could be something like: “I am so happy that I now weigh 130 lb. and have incredible health & vitality”.

It’s not always easy to come up with the right vision statements.  So this is where you really need to put on your ‘creative hat’ and suspend reality for a few minutes.  What do you really want?  What if failure wasn’t an option?  If you knew with absolute certainty that you couldn’t fail, then what would your perfect life look like?

If when you read your vision statements, you feel excited, then you are probably on the right track.  If you feel so sense of excitement or maybe even negative when you read that vision statement, then you need to go back and see if that vision aligns with your top 5 values.  Or you might need to go back and be more creative with brainstorming your ideal outcome for each focus area.

3. Brainstorm a List of Goals

Now it’s time to brainstorm your top 1 year goals.  You have your top 5 values list and your vision statements for each of your top 5 focus areas.

Now you need to start thinking about what you want to accomplish this year within each of your 5 focus areas.  If your financial vision is to double your income, then how much progress could you make on that this year?  Could you increase your income by 20%?

Don’t worry if you don’t know at this stage how you’re going to accomplish that goal.  The key is to identify the goals that align with your values, move you towards a compelling vision for your life and ensure that you don’t settle for less than you deserve.

In the next post, we’ll discuss how to ground those goals and to systematically break them down into daily actions and habits you can build that move you towards your ideal vision.

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How To Focus Your Mind and Do More Productive Work

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 “The key to success is to focus our conscious mind on the things we desire.”
– Brian Tracy (Self-Help Author & Motivational Speaker)

Over the years, I’ve spent countless hours learning new ‘time management systems’, using different productivity apps, making elaborate to-do lists and more.  But I would often (and still do) struggle with focusing my mind when it came down to actually doing some work.  We have a lot of things to juggle in our busy lives and if you’re anything like me, it can be very challenging to deal with distractions, interruptions and a wandering mind.

And then it finally hit me.

It doesn’t really matter what ‘productivity solution’ you use. At the end of the day, your success will come down to your ability to focus consistently every day on your most important priorities.  There’s no ‘app’ for that. It comes down to developing daily ‘mental discipline’.

5 Ways on How To Focus Your Mind

Here are some of the daily disciplines that I’ve adopted over the years.  I hope that they also help you to focus your mind and do more productive work.

1. Review Your Goals & Decide Your Top 3 Daily Priorities

Always start your day by getting clear about what’s really important in your life.  There are two levels to this:

Your ‘Big’ Goals

Leo Babauta at Zen Habits calls these your ‘big rocks’ i.e. the major things in your life that you need to get done.  I just call them my ‘big goals’.  You should have a list of your most important ‘big goals’.  These could be your top 1-year goals, 90-day goals or monthly goals.  It doesn’t really matter, as long as you can map your daily tasks to something bigger and more important.  I try to start every day by reviewing these ‘big goals’ to remind me about my longer term purpose in life and to get more motivated for the day.

You Daily Priorities

I also start each day by writing down my top 3 priorities for the day.  I ask myself “if there were only 3 things that I could do today – what would they be?”.  This really helps me to identify my priorities for the day and to focus on completing them as soon as possible. It also puts me in a different frame of mind, where doing anything else in that day just becomes a ‘bonus’ rather than a ‘must do’.  It’s not always easy to just pick 3 things, but it’s always better to pick 3 and get them all done rather than pick 10 and only get 3 done.

2. Relax, Breathe & Get In The Ideal State

Being relaxed and in the right state of mind can significantly improve your ability to focus and think clearly.

Relax & Breathe

Here’s a very simple, but effective breathing technique that you can use that the start of your day or whenever you need to focus and work on something important.  Find a comfortable place and close your eyes (if it’s possible).  Then simply concentrate on breathing in and out. for about 1 minute. Become aware of your breathing.  Take slow and long breaths in through your nose.  Breathe out slowly through your mouth and pretend as if you are making a candle flame gently flicker but not putting it out completely.

Visualize Success

Take another 30 seconds to visualize yourself working on whatever it is that you need to do next.  For example, if you need to write a report, then try to see yourself effortlessly writing and enjoying the process.  Try to imagine what it feels like to be in the ‘flow’ and enjoy that feeling.  Then open your eyes and start the process!

3. Create “Focus Blocks” of Time To Do Your Work

‘Focus blocks’ are simply uninterrupted stretches of focus.  Being able to focus during a busy day is often a challenge for many people.  Here are some tips for finding your own ‘focus blocks’:

Identify Your Ideal Time

For some people it doesn’t really matter where they work, as long as they can work at certain times of the day.  I recommend starting work early in the day and focusing on your top 3 daily priorities.  I’m not a morning person, but whenever I start early, I always tend to have a much more productive day. If working early in the morning isn’t ideal for you, then you should identify what times of the day you tend to have the most energy and clearest mind.

Identify Your Ideal Places

The next step is to identify the places where you can do your best work.  For some people this could be a coffee shop; for others this could be a meeting room at the office; for others it could be a room at home.  You should try to spend time in your ‘ideal places’ every day.  Perhaps you can start the day early and work on your top 3 daily priorities from home or a coffee shop before you get to work.  Or perhaps you could use a meeting room at work to get some focused time.

Chunk Your Calendar

It’s often very hard to get uninterrupted stretches of focus if your schedule is ‘sliced up’ with meetings throughout the day.  Wherever possible, I would recommend trying to ‘chunk’ your meetings i.e. instead of having a 30-minute meeting with a 30-minute gap and then another 30 minute meeting etc. Try to have your meetings back to back so that you can create longer stretches of time to focus.  And then be sure to block out this time in your calendar just as if it was a meeting with someone.

Limit How Often You Check Email

Instead of checking email every few minutes, my recommendation is to (a) turn off all email alerts/notifications, (b) close your email application when focusing and (c) only check your email 2 to 3 times per day and set a limit on how much time you will spend on email. Setting a limit will help you focus to quicker task completion.

4. Do One Thing At A Time

Contradictory to conventional wisdom, it’s not a good idea to multitask.  Splitting your attention has an impact on your productivity, concentration and energy.  According to David E. Meyer, a cognitive scientist at the University of Michigan, ‘Multitasking is going to slow you down, increasing the chances of mistakes’.  If you want to improve your productivity, then focus on doing one thing at a time.  This will take some work if you are a ‘compulsive multi-tasker’ (like me), but after you’ve tried it for a few days I’m confident you’ll find that you are more productive, less stressed and generally feel a greater sense of accomplishment.

5. Focus Work in Short Bursts

Focus doing your work in short bursts. I would suggest trying 25 minute uninterrupted ‘bursts’ followed by a 5-minute break where you walk around, stretch, drink water etc.  If you find that’s too short, then try increasing the work time to somewhere between 25 to 50 minutes, but no longer.  According to Tony Buzan (author of ‘Use Your Head’ and inventor of Mind Mapping), a learning period of between 25 to 50 minutes produces the best relationship between learning and recall.  You can use a simple timer like this to help you.

I hope these tips help you to better focus your mind and be more productive.  If you have any feedback or other ideas on how to be more focused, then I would love to hear from you.  You can join me on Facebook, Twitter or just email me directly. I will reply.