Effortlessly Conquer Your To-Do List Using Two-Week Sprints

Look at your to-do list… How does it make you feel?

Overwhelmed?

Excited?

Exhausted?

The idea of productivity is addicting.

I don’t mean the actual act of getting stuff done (because we would never procrastinate if that were the case), but looking at Pinterest for productivity ideas, googling and reading about HOW to actually get more stuff done…

At some point though, we have to put on our grown up panties, roll up our sleeves and actually get to work.

But sometimes, it’s impossible to figure out where to start because EVERYTHING feels important and instead of doing SOMETHING, you decide to do absolutely. nothing.

But sometimes, it's impossible to figure out where to start because EVERYTHING feels important and instead of doing SOMETHING, you decide to do absolutely. nothing. Click To Tweet

… and then you end up on YouTube watching random videos about aliens (or maybe that’s just me).

In the past few weeks we’ve been talking a whole lot about productivity. The post about prioritizing did so well that I wanted to expand on it and get into the nitty gritty details about how to execute on the things you’ve prioritized so that you’re actually putting all of this into action and not just learning for the sake of learning

What Is Sprint Planning

If you think of a marathon, it’s pacing yourself to go a long distance.

In terms of getting stuff done, being able to go the long run is definitely helpful but looking at it as a marathon makes it infinitely more difficult to get focused.

When you sprint, you’re focused on going a short distance, as quickly as you can.

In terms of productivity, we break our goals into two-week mini projects and focus on getting those done. We don’t worry about the two weeks after the sprint that we’re in, we are solely focused on our current sprint.

Update June 2018: I now only do one week sprints and it actually helps even more.

After all, distraction is the enemy of productivity.

Distraction is the enemy of productivity. Click To Tweet

Know Yourself

Through my journey of trying to figure out how to get through this monster of a to-do list, I’ve learned a few things about myself:

  • If my to-do list gets above 7ish tasks for the day, I get overwhelmed.
  • I like to work based on my level of energy at the moment.
  • I can’t function unless my workspace is organized.
  • Don’t even talk to me about relationship building until my admin stuff is done.
  • The higher the priority, the more I find myself NOT wanting to do it.

Why is all of this important?

If you don’t know what works for you, you’ll never find a system that works… and truthfully, it’s an ongoing journey of polishing and refining so you can ACTUALLY get stuff done.

What works for me may be the complete opposite of what works for you, but you’ll only know that if you are constantly analyzing your systems and tweaking them to make sure they are working for you.

Find Your Tools

I’m obsessed with powerful platforms that are INCREDIBLY easy to use and have a beautiful interface so I use ToDoist to organize my tasks.

In fact, a lot of people complain that there’s TOO MUCH white space in the app.

I like it.

Truthfully, you can do most of the features I’m going to mention here on a few other apps, but ToDoist has become part of my workflow and I’m just totally obsessed because of some of their smaller features that I didn’t even know I needed until I had them (more on that later).

The only caveat is that to get access to all of the features, you’ll need to upgrade to premium which is $30/year.

Honestly, this is my fourth year upgrading and I continue to upgrade because I love ToDoist… I’ll happily pay the $30 if it’s going to save me HOURS of stress and frustration.

In addition to having a to-do list app, you’ll also need to use a calendar.

They don’t work independently of each other, they work in unison like the right and left hand to your productivity machine.

If you need help getting your calendar in order, this post will be helpful for you:

Organizing Your To-Do List

I’m going to get into the nitty gritty detail of how I plan my to-do list and I don’t want you to get overwhelmed… At the end, I’m going to walk you through a few really simple steps that I’ve figured out to maintain this and how to categorize your tasks so your brain always stays organized.

Projects

At it’s very core, you need to group tasks together based on the goal they’re working towards… That, my friend, is a project.

I’m almost embarrassed to tell you how many times I’ve restructured my projects and how I organize them, but I’ve been using this system for awhile and it REALLY seems to be working for me…

My first group of projects is called “Grind”.

These are repetitive tasks that you have to consistently keep doing to grow and sustain your business… They’re annoying but they have to get done. These are things like lead generation, marketing, checking in with the virtual assistants that make this organization run, existing business and networking action items.

Grind projects are important because they keep the wheels of your life and business spinning and are often the first ones you’ll delegate when you’re able to hire help.

The next category I call “growth”. These are mini projects that are going to take a week or two to complete.

I only work on one at a time and I recommend that you do the same — it’ll give you a greater sense of completion once you’ve finished the project.

psst. Remember when I said before that this post gets super detailed and technical?

Don’t scroll along without implementing as you learn or you’re just going to get more overwhelmed.

Brain Dumping and Prioritizing Your Projects

You know when you commit to a new project and you get super excited about it so you start obsessing over it and thinking about all of the possibilities?

Awesome.

Start by making a list of all of those projects that you want to work on and get excited about.

Make sure that each project is small enough that you can complete it within one to two weeks.

If there’s a big project that you want to work on, break it down into smaller steps that can be completed within that one to two week timeframe.

I find that being able to complete something every week or two really does WONDERS for your sense of accomplishment and your motivation.

When you create the project, dump all of the action items into the project. Don’t worry about giving them dates or anything, just make a list of everything you’ll need to do to make it happen. This serves two purposes:

  1. It gets it out of your head so that you’re not obsessing over it.
  2. It gets you into the mindset for action and possibility rather than thinking about all the reasons why it won’t work or can’t be done.

As an added benefit, all that insomnia you’re feeling because your brain won’t stop?

That’ll start to go away too because it’s all out of your head!

Our brains are thinking machines, not memory machines… and when you force your brain to be a memory machine, it gets overwhelmed and stressed.

Just get it out of your head and you’ll feel like you just went through a mental cleanse.

After you’ve made your list, pick the top 3-5 projects you want to focus on and put them in your growth section while the rest can go in the “mid-term growth” section (more on that in a few).

Here is where I highly recommend you go check out our guest post about prioritizing because as you’re going through this activity, you’ll likely face a point where you start feeling like multiple projects are equally important.

Remember you can get everything done, just not all at the same time.

Ask yourself the focusing question, “what is the one thing that I can do right now that will make everything else easier or unnecessary?”

You can get it all done, just not at the same time. Click To Tweet

Start there.

Growth Projects

Your highest priority and most urgent 3-5 projects are your growth projects.

I like calling them “growth projects” because they are the things that will keep you out of a rut, keep you learning and implementing new things in your life and business.

These are the things that should be top of mind.

Within each project, start listing off all of the things you’d need to do to make it happen… It doesn’t have to be perfect, you’re sort of just brain dumping at this point.

Once you’ve picked the first project you’re going to focus on, give those tasks dates that you’ll do them. Remember, this project should be able to be completed within 2 weeks. If it’ll take longer than that, find a way to break it into two separate projects.

Just to be super, insanely clear… You are ONLY assigning dates for the project that you’re currently working on.

Forget about the other projects right now… Your only focus is to get that one done.

While you’re assigning dates, make sure that it’s in alignment with your calendar. If you know that you’re going to be going to an event or have a big meeting on a specific day, you’ll probably want to lighten your workload for that day.

One of the single best things I’ve implemented into my life is to HALF my workload.

Cut your workload in half if you want to double your productivity. Click To Tweet

That means if you think a project is going to take a week, give yourself two weeks to complete it. By doing this, you allow yourself “white space” to be creative, regain energy and deal with fires as they come up.

That means if you gave yourself 3 tasks for that day, put the most important one for that date and leave the rest for another day.

Will you get less done?

Actually, no.

I know, that sounds counterintuitive but I promise it’s changed my life.

Now, I find myself going ahead of schedule because once I finish that one task, I’m already on a roll and am ready to knock out a few other quick ones.

Whereas before, I always felt like I was behind and was putting so much pressure on myself that I was getting way less done because I was overwhelmed.

Here’s an example of one of my Growth Projects:

In this project, I’m planning a workshop series for our Miami chapter.

Because this will take me two weeks to complete, most of the days only have one task from my growth project assigned to it and the days that have two tasks are because the other task will take less than 10 minutes.

Since I started implementing this, I’ve actually been able to gain some work life balance back and really start enjoying my life again instead of slaving away working 24/7.

Multitasking

Before you raise your pitchforks and start fighting for your right to multitask, think about something for a second…

Let’s say you have a 1 gallon jug to pour from into 10 cups.

If you distribute it evenly, none of the cups will fill. If you’re lucky, each cup will end up 1/2 full.

However, if you fill one to the rim, then go to the next, you probably won’t get to all of them, but you will have successfully filled a few of the cups.

This same concept applies to productivity.

When you’re filling 10 different cups (projects) halfway, you’re never actually finishing anything. Your mind is constantly scattered between each of the projects so your brain has no white space, is constantly fighting to figure out what the priority needs to be, you stop being creative because your brain goes into overload and you’re constantly working but feeling like you’re never actually getting anything done.

On the opposite hand, if you focus on one project at a time, you get into flow and are making significant progress on that one project. Since you’re finishing it before moving onto the next project, your sense of completion is high and you’re constantly experiencing little wins.

Success breeds success, so if you can create more opportunities to be successful, you’re building a habit of being successful.

Because after all, success is a journey, not a destination.

So seriously, raise your right hand and repeat after me…

“I, ___, solemnly swear, affirm and pinky promise that I will focus on ONE growth project at a time and will not move on until it’s done.”

Which now leads me to my next point…

Because you have two weeks to finish each project, it doesn’t give you time to be a perfectionist.

Perfection is the enemy of done.

Perfection is the enemy of done. Click To Tweet

Finish your mini project for the two weeks and then move on to the next.

Mid-Term Growth Projects

Your Mid-Term Projects are all of the projects within the next 3-6 months that you want to work on, just don’t have a clear cut plan for yet.

You’ll want to create individual projects for each of these so when ideas pop into your head, you can add the task to that project.

Our brains are thinking machines, NOT memory machines so if you make a habit of getting stuff out of your head, your level of stress and anxiety will go down DRASTICALLY.

My mid-term projects for the next 3-6 months are all focused on getting our Empire Builder Academy launched.

You’ll notice some of the projects have a bunch of tasks while some of them don’t have any.

Once I finish my current growth projects, these mid-term projects will then start to take the place of those growth projects.

By separating the two (immediate growth vs. mid-term gorwth), it’s made it INCREDIBLY clear what my priorities are and I’m not distracted by every other shiny idea that I might have at the moment.

The key takeaway here is to get it out of your head and into ToDoist so that you can focus on actually being productive instead of all of the things that you want to do.

Self

All of the projects under the self category have to do with my personal life.

For some people, they don’t like to keep their personal and professional lives together… I personally believe it’s impossible to balance your life if you don’t have them together.

The tasks that go into my self project are everything from having a recurring reminder to get my car washed, checking credit karma, picking up my dry cleaning or other things of that nature. We’ll talk more about this in a minute, but I also have a reminder to do my “Sunday ritual” so that I can keep everything together and keep all of the plates spinning without burning out.

Self-Development

One of the most important projects is the one where you focus on self-development.

In fact, studies show that 90% of people lose their growth mindset once they’ve settled into their careers… and yet 10% of the population maintains 90% of the wealth.

That cannot be a coincidence.

At the end of the day, if you’re not growing, you’re dying.

This should include courses you want to take, things you want to learn and books you want to read.

Someday Projects

We talked about our growth projects (top 3-5 mini projects) and our mid-term growth projects (mini projects within the next 3-6 months), so what do you do with all of the projects that you want to do but just don’t know when you’ll get around to?

Drum roll pleaseeeee….

Someday projects.

This category of projects will keep you away from shiny object syndrome.

Come on, you know exactly what I’m talking about…

You’re sitting at a restaurant and you get this incredible million-dollar idea and your mind goes off on a tangent about all of the possibilities.

If you know that it’s not realistic for you to do it right now but you don’t want to forget about it, put it in your someday projects.

You’d be surprised how quickly you’ll get around to it when you’re crushing your priorities one step at a time.

Labels

If you noticed in the “growth project” section with our Miami workshop series, there’s little tags under each task like “relationship building” or “content creation”.

Most apps have some sort of ability to do this, they just might call it something different.

As much as I’ve played around with my projects, I think I’ve played around with labels even more.

I find that using them as “contexts” it allows me to batch my tasks so that I’m doing all of the admin work at the same time, all of the phone calls and so on.

Each of these tasks are aligned with how I time block my day.

Projects because projects are a group of tasks that are meant to achieve a specific goal while labels clarify where and when you’ll do that task.

Morning tasks

These are your ritual tasks that you do first thing in the morning and might include reading or checking your calendar.

Admin tasks

Admin tasks are pretty much any task that doesn’t require you to talk to another human.

These are your empire supporting tasks that keep the whole machine running… They’re generally the redundant, annoying tasks but they have to get done.

It’s also good to be clear on these because they’re generally the first ones that you’ll delegate when you’re ready to hire help.

These are things like responding to emails, prepping for appointments, wishing people a happy birthday on Facebook, scheduling social media posts, planning which networking events you want to go to for the week or cleaning up your desktop.

Relationship Building tasks

I’ve changed the name of this label a bunch of times but I find that I stick with relationship building because that’s the end goal and it keep me motivated to continue building connections.

These could be following up with someone you just met, touching base with a client lead, checking in a specific person, lead generating or in my case, reaching out to people who join our Meetup group.

Content Creation

Content Creation is exactly what it sounds like — creating content.

For me, that means writing these blog posts and the weekly newsletter, putting together the social media promotions for all of this and our events, or recording videos for our diamond experience and online courses.

Lunch Tasks

I don’t always have tasks in the lunch tasks section but I keep it as a reminder that if there’s something quick to do, I can just do it over my lunch.

For example, my printer has been acting weird lately so calling HP has been on my to-do list for MONTHS because it was in my admin section and I kept putting it off. I moved it to my lunch section and got it done the next day.

Sometimes we avoid tasks because we don’t know where to start or they don’t fit into our current workflow so just changing how you approach that task will change your entire mindset and actually get it done.

Errands

I know these labels are super creative and out of the box, so can you guess what “errands” is?

Yup, you guessed it. Running errands.

This filter gets used more directly than the others. If I’m out and have some time to kill, I’ll check my errands filter to see if there’s anything I need to do while I’m out because I know once I’m home, there’s no way in hell that I’m going to go back out.

Night Tasks

Night tasks are those that I do when I finish up for the day. I had to add this in because I work from home and if I don’t put them at night, I’ll end up doing them during my working hours.

These are things like checking my mail, ordering stuff off of Amazon (because who doesn’t love Amazon) and resetting my space so that I can work functionally.

Next Closing Tasks

Next Closing is one of my favorites because whenever there’s something that I’ve been looking forward to buying but can’t convince myself to actually purchase yet, I put it into this label.

Most of these tasks don’t have due dates, they’re just there so when I feel like splurging on myself or my business, I’m spending money on stuff that I’ve wanted for awhile, not just impulse buys.

If you want to have something like this, you could also do “next paycheck” or something along those lines.

Waiting On Tasks

Waiting On tasks are for things like waiting on a package to deliver or waiting on a response from someone.

The waiting on tasks are for you to remember that you need to follow-up on something you’re waiting on.

Filters

Labels (as mentioned above) are the “where” you’ll do the task. Regardless of the due date, ToDoist will show you every task that’s within that specific context.

Filters on the opposite hand balance the where, what and when of the task.

There are literally dozens of ways you can use filters.

To give you an idea of how they work, here’s Todoist’s walkthrough of how to use them:

I use my filters VERY similarly to labels.

Again, labels aren’t associated with a date — If I select the “admin” label, it’s going to show me EVERY admin task, regardless of when it’s due.

Filters can be associated with a level of priority, due date or pretty much any other thing you want to.

I like to keep it simple by associating my labels for just that day.

My filters are exactly the same as my labels, except they’re only today’s tasks within that label.

By breaking up my to-do list into time blocks (or chunks), I can batch my tasks and do all of the similar tasks at the same time.

It makes it easier to stay focused, get more done and actually feel a consistent sense of accomplishment.

Time Blocking

What does your typical day look like?

Is it different every day or do you have a routine?

What time do you check your email?

What time do you make your follow-up calls?

What time do you go to lunch?

If your days are scattered, you’re KILLING your productivity.

Focus on doing your similar tasks together and schedule them on your calendar.

I know what you’re thinking…

“I can’t do that, I need to ____ ASAP.”

Listen up.

If you communicate with those you work with and let them know what to expect when they work with you, I guarantee you that they will be totally fine with it.

The problem is that most of us never actually communicate what someone can expect when someone they work with us, so we are at the mercy of their whims.

Give yourself a daily schedule with time blocks and then match your filters to those time blocks.

Planning to make phone calls between 9-11? Awesome. Make a filter.

Planning to write between 1-3? You know what to do.

Filters work well with time blocking because they give you focus.

This slimmed down approach to having mini task lists for your day will make you fall in love with your life again because you’ll work more efficiently, have more balance and be able to switch between tasks faster.

Finding The Time To Complete Your To-Do List

Sunday Ritual

One of the biggest challenges for most people is staying focused enough to actually get the tasks done and not getting overwhelmed by the sheer number of tasks on their to-do lists.

This system, like any system, will definitely require some maintenance to make sure that it KEEPS working for you.

I don’t like when my to-do list gets above 7ish tasks (that’s not a random number, that’s usually how many tasks can fit on my ToDoist dashboard without me scrolling) so I’ve had to edit my system to make sure that my regular day doesn’t get above that.

Pay attention to how you feel about your systems and you’ll figure out where the little tweaks that need to be made are.

You’ll also find that as you grow in your career and as your roles and responsibilities change, so will your approach to productivity.

As you grow in your career and your responsibilities change, so will your approach to productivity. Click To Tweet

As I mentioned before, your “grind” tasks are those that are generally repetitive while your “growth” projects are those mini sprints.

Every Sunday evening, I’ll look at the next 7 days of tasks alongside my calendar to make sure that I don’t have any days that are going to be crazy overwhelming and I’ll assign dates to my growth project for that week.

I cannot stress enough how important it is to NOT assign dates to every single project, no matter how tempting it is…

Because if you fall behind a day or two, you’re going to be stressing out like a crazy person to catch back up.

Self care is INCREDIBLY important and making sure that you take time to get your ACTUAL house in order will save you an insane amount of stress throughout the week.

You know what I’m talking about… Throw a load in the laundry, “reset” your home (clean up so you can actually find stuff in the morning), give yourself a manicure and a face mask.

I know what you’re thinking, “really?”

Maybe manicures and face masks aren’t your thing, but commit to at least an hour or so of pampering on Sunday evenings…

Me time will recharge you enough to deal with all of the stresses that the week will bring. Click To Tweet

That little bit of “me time” will recharge you enough to deal with all of the stresses that the week will bring.

Make a commitment that you’re going to give yourself 2-3 hours on Sundays to get your life back in order, which leads me to…

The Compound Effect

If you’ve been following the blog for awhile, you’re VERY familiar with my obsession of human behavior, habit formation and personality styles.

I’m also naturally an “all or nothing” type of person, which means that I burn hot for a little while and then burn out.

Instead, I’ve really embraced the compound effect… Doing the small, seemingly insignificant tasks over and over and over and over and over and over again, even when you don’t think it matters and even when you don’t want to for the pursuit of teeny tiny incremental improvements.

Since adopting that philosophy, I’ve worked out 5x per week for the past six months, had my best year of real estate and have completely changed MEB.

There’s nothing sexy about doing the little things consistently, but it’s the only way to continuously grow without burning out.

Consistency is the only way to grow without burning out. Click To Tweet

If you struggle with this, I highly recommend you read the Compound Effect, the Slight Edge, the Power of Habit, Grit, the Miracle Morning and the 12 Week Year.

I know that sounds like a lot, but if you read those six books back to back, you will come out a different person on the other side.

I’ve written EXTENSIVELY about how important reading five books within a topic is and you can check that out right here:

Tasks Without Dates

Don’t be afraid to leave tasks without a specific due date.

If it’s something that isn’t urgent, create the task and add it to a project with a filter but it doesn’t need to have a date.

That way, you’re not overloading yourself with tasks that aren’t necessarily time sensitive and when you get around to them, you get around to them.

This works especially well for errands that you need to get around to but don’t have a specific deadline, like getting alterations done.

Remember, life happens so you don’t want to book yourself solid with tasks and then you don’t have any room for life to show up.

ToDoist Quick Add

As a quick last note, this feature alone is why I’m in love with ToDoist.

When I’m on my computer and I need to add a new task, I simply hit CMD+Shift+A and a bar pops up so I can quickly add a task.

From there, it reads natural language and I can file it away to it’s rightful place in literally five seconds flat using their “cheat codes”

  • Date: the date accepts natural language so you can type things like “in 2 days”, “every first Monday” or “next week.”
  • Project: as you’re typing, hit the pound key and then start typing the project, so for example #self would file it away in the self project.
  • Filter: what kind of task is it? Admin? Relationship Building? When you start typing, use @ to add it to a filter. It would look like this, “@admin”
  • Priority: I don’t use these often but if something is super important, you can type p1 and it sets it as priority one. There are four priority levels and the fourth is the default so really there are three.

When you’re done typing, here’s what it’ll look like:

Your productivity system will be a never ending work in progress, but you can get it done.

How many times have you looked at your to-do list and instantly felt a little depressed, overwhelmed or frustrated? It's not you, it's your approach. By implementing a little to-do list organization, you can feel empowered to get things done without feeling like your selling your soul just to reach your goals. Click through to learn how to use sprint planning to MASTER your to do list and to download the free 10-page workbook to help you put it into action.

9 Boring Things To Automate That Will Make Your Life Easier

You should probably know, I get claustrophobic…

Like REALLY claustrophic.

… But when it comes to doing things like unsubscribing from HUNDREDS of annoying emails or having to log into a bunch of different accounts to pay bills every month, the idea of being trapped in a small box actually doesn’t sound that bad.

Maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, but you get the point.

I’m all about getting a TON of stuff done the easy way…. The secret to that?

Systemizing and automating like a boss.

There’s a huge difference between the two, so let’s chat about that before we get started with HOW to do it.

 

Systemizing

Systemizing is making things easier by going through a pre-designated process… but the process doesn’t actually do the task for you.

For example, let’s say you use a spreadsheet to make sure that all of your bills are paid. Maybe you like to log into each account, pay the bill and mark it off of your spreadsheet.

That’s systemization.

 

Automating

Automation is totally set it and forget it.

Using the example above, having autopay set up so that the money comes out of your account every month is automation.

There’s a time and place for both automation and systemization, and it totally depends on the situation and we’re going to get super into how to do both.

 


1. Managing Your Money

Paying Bills, Tracking Credit + Financial Overview

If you’re anything like me, you like things to look pretty and be super simple so it doesn’t require you to think too hard to make it happen.

Enter: Mint.

I FREAKING LOVE MINT.

You can easily set up and track budgets, see where you’re spending your money, track your credit, get an overview of your finances (and keep track of where you’re spending your money — I spend wayyyyyyyyy too much money on food), you can keep track of your net worth (which factors in everthing from student loans to your home), and even pay your bills quickly in. one. place.

Oh, and did I mention that it’s free?

(If you pay your bills using one of your connected bank accounts, it’s free but if you pay using a credit card, it’s like $5 per bill).

Heck yea.

A picture speaks a thousand words and a video speaks a million, so here’s a million words for you:

 

Get Cash Back While Shopping Online

If you struggle to save money, say I.

Good, let me make this easy for you.

First things first, do you like shopping online?

Of course you do.

Now what if I told you that you could get cash back everywhere you shopped online?

Amazon? Yup.

The Apple Store? Yup.

All of your favorite stores? Yup.

Oh, and every so often they’ll have extra bonuses… Like right now, Samsung is 8% cash back.

I’m more of an Apple girl, but whatttttt.

I recently bought stuff from one of my favorite stores that was 75% off for a holiday sale PLUS they had double cash back which got me an additional 8% back. I basically paid 17% of actual retail price.

With their browser extensions, every time you go to a site, they’ll tell you how much cash back you’re going to get:

Ready to start saving online? eBates is your new bestie.

 

Automatically Invest Money

There’s so much love AND hate for investing online, but whatever your opinion, I figured I would include the best ones here.

Acorns is awesome because you can set up automatic withdrawals from your accounts to invest OR you can set it up so that your spare change gets invested. For example, let’s say you go grab a drink with a friend and it costs you $10.21, Acorns will round up your purchase and invest the remaining $0.79…. They call it “micro investing” and it’s a super easy way to start being smarter with your money.

When you first register, their super friendly user interface makes it insanely easy to get started:

 

Invoicing + Accounting

If you’re a small business, solopreneur, creativepreneur, infopreneur, mompreneur or whatever other kind of -preneur, Freshbooks is your new best friend.

Accounting software is notorious for being hard to use, confusing and overwhelming… Freshbooks takes a totally different approach to accounting by simplifying the user interface and making sure the stuff you actually need to know is top of mind.

You can handle everything including invoicing, expenses, time tracking, projects, estimates, payments, reports and yes, there’s an app.

 


2. Meal Planning + Meal Prep

We all know that we need to eat better (and more consistently)…

That’s like the worst kept secret in the whole wide world.

What works for me might not work for you so I’ve included a few different ways to simplify your eating…

 

Done For You Prepared Meals

These are the most expensive option but will also save you the most time and money. You won’t need to go to the grocery store, cook or anything else… You just need to reheat and eat.

This is awesome for someone who’s on (or transitioning to) a strict diet or someone who doesn’t have the time to cook or eat, so they’re used to snacking rather than eating actual meals.

Just a tip, they don’t heavily season the food due to taste preference so they advise you to season it on your own. With each of these, you can purchase a meal plan or you can purchase a la carte.

LeanMeals: LeanMeals is the most popular of the group I’ve found. They make it super easy to decide how many portions you want with how many calories and how many days per week. They’re one of the cheaper ones, however they don’t have organic ingredients and they don’t have vegan or vegetarian options.

Fresh n’ Lean: They are known for their high quality ingredients that are natural and organic. They have a regular plant-based menu, a low carb plant-based menu, high protein and paleo menus. You can choose easily choose how many days per week and how many meals per day you want.

Flex Pro Meals: FPM is pretty cool because kids eat free, it gives you the ability to follow their predetermined meal plans, choose lunch and dinner only or build your own with the IIFYM method making this the cheapest option.

 

Ingredient Prep

You’ve probably heard all of the rage about the companies who send you a box with all of the ingredients and then you follow the instructions to cook.

These are awesome if you actually like to cook but hate shopping and prepping or I’d imagine if you’re a couple who’s looking to eat out less but don’t want to have to shop, cook and everything else. There are literally dozens of companies that do this and even Amazon is looking to get into this field, so some of the most popular are HomeChef, Blue Apron and Hello Fresh. They all have their little perks, like SunBasket and Green Chef are organic.

Most of them offer a super discounted deal for the first week, so I highly recommend you try a few to see which one you like the most before committing to one.

 


3. Grocery + Toiletry Shopping

Oh man, I’m literally in LOVE with Amazon Prime.

Seriously, I think I’m addicted.

In fact, it’s not surprising…

In The Power of Habit (one of my all time favorite books), they did a study on Amazon and found that Prime subscribers spent almost $1500 more PER YEAR than non-Prime subscribers.

Obviously Prime does wonders for Amazon’s bank account. Between that and one-click checkout, Amazon is dangerous.

Butttt that doesn’t make it any less amazing.

If you don’t know about Amazon Fresh and Amazon Subscribe, it’s about to get THAT much better for you…

You know when you’re running low and deodorant and you’re like “I need to get more”, then you forget to stop at the store and then you wake up one day and your deodorant is gone?

Has that happened to you too or is it just me?

(Please don’t leave me hanging here).

Amazon Subscribe & Save makes it super easy to set up your deliveries so that you get your deodorant, conditioner, paper towels, whatever you need on whatever interval you want it.

Here’s an example:

On a different note, depending on where you live, Amazon Fresh and Instacart can make sure you NEVER have to go grocery shopping again because they’ll have groceries delivered right to your door.

 


4. Make Your Apps Play Nicely Together

I’m probably going to write an entire post about how to make your apps work nicely together, but here’s a quick summary for you.

You know when you have one app that does something REALLY well, but it doesn’t have another feature?

If they integrate, it’s not a big deal… But what happens when they don’t?

For example, my CRM is Contactually (which I’m absolutely in love with).

… But when I’m doing open houses for my real estate business, there isn’t an easy way to have people sign in.

I use an app called Spacio for my open houses and I use Zapier to get them to integrate.

On this site, when someone subscribes to my email list, it adds them to Thrive leads which integrates with ConvertKit but ConvertKit and Contactually don’t integrate, so I use Zapier to get them to integrate.

Zapier integrates over 750 apps that wouldn’t normally integrate… There’s a free plan that allows you to create 5 zaps and you can upgrade to have more if you need it. Here’s a quick snapshot of their most popular zaps.

IFTTT is awesome for setting up automations on your phone… It works with iOS, Android and yes, even Microsoft.

Along the same lines, Apple just bought the Workflow app. My guess is that Apple is going to integrate Workflow into it’s backend operating system, making it easier to get your apps to work together more easily. IFTTT is limited for iOS because Apple is way more strict than Google on what they allow apps to do, so I think Workflow will do a lot of what IFTTT does for Android.

 


5. Posting To Social Media

My absolute favorite social media scheduling tool is SmarterQueue.

I’ve tried Buffer, HootSuite, MeetEdgar and pretty much every other social media scheduling tool and keep coming back to SmarterQueue.

I really don’t like the user interface of HootSuite because it feels like it was made in the 90’s. I love the simplicity of buffer but it doesn’t recycle posts automatically for you. MeetEdgar got me hooked on post recycling, but I

would’ve had to sell my future first child to afford it…

So meet SmarterQueue.

I LOVEEEE SmarterQueue because it’s affordable and since I’m constantly promoting blogs and interaction threads in our Facebook group, I schedule posts once, it goes through the list and once it gets to the end, it starts over and posts them again.

A lot of people get nervous about having their communities seeing the same posts over and over again but with social media algorithms, only about 2-5% of your community is actually seeing your posts. It takes a lot of time up front to set up the posts so that you have enough to keep your feeds interesting, but once it’s set up, you don’t have to touch it again if you don’t want to… THAT is automation.

If you don’t need post recycling and are fine with regularly creating your posts, Buffer is the way to go.

 


6. Handling Your Emails

If you’re ANYTHING like me, email is the BANE of your existence.

Unfortunately though, it’s a necessary evil… So you can’t exactly refuse to participate, but you CAN manage it better.

 

Unsubscribing

First things first, to get to inbox zero, you need to unsubscribe from all of those annoying email lists. If you’re on one of the major email service providers like Google, Yahoo, Outlook or AOL, Unroll.Me is about to be your new best friend.

This is going to take FOREVER to do at first, but I promise it’s SO worth it.

When you register, it’s going to load Unroll.Me with all of your email subscriptions….

You are going to be BLOWN AWAY by how many subscriptions you’re actually on.

They have three different options: keep in inbox, add to rollup or unsubscribe.

If you keep it in your inbox, that means emails from that service is going to continue going to your inbox. If you add it to the rollup, it’ll be sent as a daily digest with all of the other “rolled up” emails. If you unsubscribe, it’ll miss your inbox completely and go straight to junk.

When I started using Unroll.Me, I was getting a few hundred emails a day… Now, I only get the emails that I actually want. It makes email WAY less overwhelming.

For perspective, I’ve used Unroll.Me to unsubscribe from over 2000 email subscriptions. TWO-FREAKING-THOUSAND. I think it took me about an hour or two to sit there and unsubscribe from all of them but you know what? That hour or two it took me to unsubscribe has literally saved me probably 100x that amount of time and frustration.

 

Following-Up and Keeping In Touch

As mentioned earlier, my all time favorite CRM is Contactually.

It’s easy to use, pretty and INSANELY powerful.

Like many of the other apps, it’s going to take you awhile to set up, but once you’re up and running, it makes handling your people a breeze.

Contactually has “buckets” which are groups of contacts that you can decide how frequently you want to follow-up with. Once you’ve set up your buckets, you’ll start to get reminders of who to follow-up with so that you can stay in touch with your people.

Taking that a step further, you can set up templated follow-ups and follow-up programs so that you don’t have to think about what you’ll say to them.

Thinking is the enemy of action, so systems like this make it INFINITELY easier to keep in touch.

Even if you don’t use the same follow-up email every time, having a starting point will make your life easier.

Their follow-up reminders are my favorite part of the system, but they have a bunch of other features that I really like too. For example, they have pipelines that help you visualize your upcoming business, they automatically pull your email history so you can see when you last emailed someone (or they emailed you) and a bunch of other stuff.

On the dashboard, your scheduled tasks will also show up, but I’ve narrowed down based on JUST follow-up reminders so you can see what they look like. I love Contactually because of how simple AND powerful it is:

 

Send and Receive Email On Your Schedule

You know when you send an email and expect a response, but like two weeks later, you’re like “oh crap, I forgot to follow-up about that?”

What if that NEVER happened again?

Enter Boomerang.

This little beast is awesome because you can schedule when to send an email, clean up your inbox by removing an email until you need it and even set a reminder to follow-up on a specific email.

The only drawback is that it only works in gmail.

The same company came out with Inbox Pause and Respondable which are also incredible tools to keep you in control of your inbox.

Here’s a sample of how it works:

 


7. Proofreading + Editing

Of every part of leading MEB, my absolute LEAST favorite is proofreading and editing.

I’d rather listen to a thousand nails on chalkboards than have to sit here and reread every email newsletter or blog post that I write or to have to edit every video for the Empire Builder Academy… and that’s not the slightest exaggeration.

Now, I’m fortunate enough to have someone to edit for me so I don’t have to do it anymore, but when I was still doing it, Grammarly was the only way I could possibly manage it.

Grammarly is awesome because it’s like spellcheck on steroids.

It doesn’t just check spelling, it also checks grammar and makes sure that your text is actually readable.

It’s a free extension for Safari or Chrome.

 


8. Scheduling Appointments

You know when you’re going back and forth with someone in email or text trying to figure out a time to meet?

What if you NEVER had to do that again?

Well, my friend, today is that day.

Calendly is awesome because you literally send the person a link, it syncs with your calendar and they can pick whatever time works for them.

You can even set it up so that it sends them reminders before the event so they don’t end up cancelling or forgetting.

It’s literally the only way that I can network as much as I do.

The interface is super simple… When you send them the link, they get to pick what day and time works best for them, plus you can ask questions or remind them of other stuff to bring to your meeting.

 


9. House Cleaning + Errands

Even if every other area of your life is in order, if your house is still a disaster, you’re not going to feel like your life is in order.

Sometimes, you just need help.

Apps like HANDY and TaskRabbit will make cleaning your house and running errands a total breeze.

They both do a lot of the same things, but their list of services is comprehensive.

They cover everything from organizing your closet to mounting a TV, cleaning your house or picking up your dry cleaning.

Even superheroes have help (if you’ve seen the Flash or Arrow on Netflix, you know exactly what I’m talking about)… Take the help when you need it.

Even if it’s going to cost you, the question is how much is your time worth?

Chances are, it’s cheaper to hire someone to do it for you than to do it for yourself.

In closing, most of these will help you get your life in order, but you’re still going to have to do some maintenance to keep all of your systems running. I highly recommend that you set some time on Sunday evenings (or

whatever evening of the week you prefer) to go through and handle all of this. If you’re still overwhelmed by this concept of keeping everything together, this article might help you:


The best advice is the simplest advice... And here's your super simple advice: if you have to do it more than once, find a way to systemize or automate it. We only grow to the point that we get overwhelmed, so the only way to experience your next breakthrough is to leverage in the form of tools, systems and people. Click through to learn how to systemize and automate your life so you can get more done with less stress.
The best advice is the simplest advice... And here's your super simple advice: if you have to do it more than once, find a way to systemize or automate it. We only grow to the point that we get overwhelmed, so the only way to experience your next breakthrough is to leverage in the form of tools, systems and people. Click through to learn how to systemize and automate your life so you can get more done with less stress.

You’re Not Too Busy — The No-Excuse Guide to Prioritizing Better

By Trina Griep, Strategic Analyst at City of Edmonton and Owner of Readviews

We all have to make decisions about priorities every moment. We ask ourselves questions all day long and make choices.

We prioritize even when we don’t realize it…

Netflix over washing the dishes? Priorities.

Calling a friend on her birthday over sending a text? Priorities.

Setting priorities is all about what, when, and how.

Setting priorities is all about what, when, and how. Click To Tweet
  • What are you going to do?
  • When are you going to do it?
  • How are you going to do it?

How do you decide what to prioritize and when? Does that last-minute briefing to the boss come before the client phone call that is incessantly replaying in your head (and one that you could solve in a few minutes)?

 

Deciding WHEN to Do It

Prioritizing your day actually begins at the end of the previous day.

Prioritizing your day actually begins at the end of the previous day. Click To Tweet

Before you leave work for the evening, take 30 minutes to schedule out your priorities for tomorrow.

This half hour is a good time to craft questions, ensure that you have agendas or other pre-reading material completed. What time is dedicated to meetings or conference calls? What research or notes will you need squared

away? Being prepared turns you into a superstar. Showing up to a meeting or conference with well-thought-out questions and the pre-reading done makes you the organizer’s best friend. It’s a great way to build relationships quickly. You show that you value other people’s work.

Put this end-of-day prep time into your calendar. Mark it off as something, so it’s obvious you’re getting ready for the next day. For example:

  • Check calendar and tasks for tomorrow
  • Pre-reading and agenda review for tomorrow
  • Prioritizing for tomorrow

Treat this time as sacred. It is your chance to unwind from the day, get prepared for the next and to leave your work at work. If someone does book you right to the end of the day, simply move your review time up so you can give your full attention to the meeting that was called.

If you have free space in your calendar, now is the time to fill those holes with tasks that require your effort. Filling in these holes allows for you to understand where your time is going and can also answer the question as to whether you have enough to do — or if your time could be better spent on different tasks.

 

Deciding WHAT to Do

What Should Go in Your “Free Time”?

Time isn’t free. Time is an absolute gift and squandering it is the worst thing you can do. Using time and focus to accomplish what you need to is extremely rewarding. It also helps you to develop your reputation as a reliable person. Everyone loves relying on someone who is there for them and can deliver.

Time isn’t free. Time is an absolute gift and squandering it is the worst thing you can do. Click To Tweet

So, it’s the end of your day, you know what meetings you’re attending tomorrow and you’re prepared for them. What you see left on your calendar is some white spaces. Eeek!

I run by the rule: “If the meeting isn’t booked at least a day in advance, I want a phone call.”

If your calendar is booked, the organizer will need to call you and check in. Again, it’s about respecting the gift of time. You aren’t obligated to give many people that free time. If someone really needs you, they’ll call and check in for the time they’re requesting.

What goes into those wonderful white spaces then? Everything on your to-do lists. Seriously.

 

Getting All Of Your “Stuff” In Order

Start with all of your lists. Home, work, honey-do, personal, etc. You might be looking at your task list and shaking your head. You believe that the tasks have colluded to come together and overtake you. Friends, this is not the case. You need to put them in their boxes and work it through. You’ve got this. Start with identification:

 

Self-Care and Family-Related Responsibilities

If you don’t take care of yourself and your closest relationships, you can’t take care of business. Self care is a huge part of the game and it goes right to the top of the list.

Examples:

  • Working out
  • Meditation/Yoga
  • Time with friends
  • Time with family
  • Taking a bath
  • Calling a friend
  • Cooking

 

Deadlines

Tasks that have a clearly defined deadline go into your white space first. This takes care of the time sensitivity.

 

Short-Term Projects

I define short-term projects as six months or less. I slot time to review the status, ensure the course is still on track and develop key pieces that don’t take too much time but will contribute to success. Always review communications, interim reports, updating lessons learned or history documentation.

 

Long-Term Projects

I define long-term projects as six months or more. I make sure to review long-term projects regularly and follow the same protocol as short-term projects. Note: Long-term projects may be made up of several short-term projects. Regardless, assess their value in the bigger picture.

 

Response Times

Identify time to address phone calls and emails. Decide when you read the message whether the message requires immediate action or if it can wait a day or so. As email users, we all need to get better with subject lines and content. See EmailCharter.org for my favorite ways to get attention via the subject line, organize my email and work with others digitally.

  • Action Items: I use an ACTION label on everything that I need to respond to in a reasonable amount of time. I have my inbox filtered so that items labeled with ACTION come right after my unread items.
  • Awaiting Response: I also have an AWAITING RESPONSE label so that if I sent something out and didn’t receive a response, I can effectively follow-up follow up. I also have this filtered to show up right under my ACTION label.

 

Training and Self-Improvement

As a professional, you need to be continuously following some sort of improvement plan. It’s for you, it’s for your company, it’s for your generation. Sincerely, the better you are, the better the people around you become.

Block off 30 minutes to two hours a week to learn.

Sincerely, the better you are, the better the people around you become. Click To Tweet

 

Power Hour

Once a week, I dedicate one hour to administrative tasks  so that I (and my team) can stay organized. This means: Filing items in common areas, taking time to delete old emails, cleaning out my locker, cleaning my desk, etc. This is the time to complete lower-level, mundane priorities that make everyone’s life easier. I keep a running list in the calendar event so I know what I need to get done during that time. I also do this at home so I remember to restock the toilet paper.

 

Assign Time to Priorities

I love this fun exercise! I have general guidelines for how I assign time slots and I really love trying to complete a task before the timer runs out (more on timers later). Estimating how long something is going to take is one of the most important tools in my kit. It takes practice to gain an understanding of how long a task will take you, so overestimate.

 

Smaller Tasks (25 Minutes Max)

I like to break my day down into 30-minute chunks. Science has found that adults can only focus for up to 20 minutes at a time, so a 25-minute chunk (thank you Speedy Meetings) allows for 20 minutes of focused work, five minutes to figure out what you’re doing next and prepare for it, then five final minutes to travel. Again, arriving to a meeting early makes you a freaking hero nowadays. I want to point out that since you did all the pre-reading and have your questions all ready to go, you’re ahead. BOOOM.

Here are some examples of smaller tasks:

  • Morning Hold (25 minutes) — This time is mine and I defend it pretty vehemently. It means that if my bus is late getting to work, I’m not worried about it. It means that if I want to get a peppermint tea and get to my overnight emails for half an hour, that’s up to me. How you start your work day is very important and that first half hour helps to set up the rest of your day and gives you a chance to destress if you have a crap start. It’s like hitting restart.
  • Email (25 minutes)
  • Phone Calls (10 minutes each)  — Note: Write who you are calling and the phone number in your event details. Include reasoning in the event description.
  • Report Writing (Should be two pages or under. One page should take you about 20 minutes to type.)
  • Proofreading/Editing (25 minutes)
  • Agenda review or pre-reading (Aim for under 10 pages.)
  • Reviewing your calendar for the next day (25 minutes)

 

Longer Tasks (30 minutes or longer):

  • Strategic tasks – writing, imagining, artistic endeavours
  • Pre-reading for meetings (10+ pages)
  • Feedback, development or mentoring conversations
  • Reflection (Always 30 minutes minimum.)

If you’ve finished your emails in 10 minutes, take note so that when you evaluate your time usage after two weeks, you’ll have a very clear picture of where your time went. Another name for this is “time logging.” It is very important in learning to prioritize your time.

 

More Tips

  • If you finish a task earlier than expected, thank your laser focus. It’s important to recognize that you put in the work.
  • When you’re done with that pat on the back, get back to grinding. Move everything else up in your day so that when you get to the end, you have more time for reflection and evaluating the next day’s calendar.

Of course, there are other methods that you can use to prioritize your tasks, such as Brian Tracy’s ABCDE method, which is essentially grading each of your priorities. This method relies on you knowing which priorities need to be done and which can be eliminated from your list.

Now that you’ve carefully chosen your priorities and put them into your calendar, how do you go about getting them done and dealing with surprises like a massive reorganization announcement or an insane amount of phone calls in one day?

 

Deciding HOW to Do it

Now that everything that you need to get done fits nicely into the white spots, your calendar is full, you’ve consolidated the multiple places that you keep your to-dos and assigned a time frame to get them completed in.

Now it’s go time.

Kidding.

It’s time to see how accurate your planning was and be prepared to choose flexibility over rigidity. You loaded your calendar so you could have focused time to get tasks done, but if you see other opportunities arise during the day for more high value activities, you may choose to adjust your schedule.

There is a saying that a task will only take the amount of time that you give it. If you’re working in a focused manner on the singular task, you are much more likely to get that task completed in a higher-quality manner than if you were to also be answering the phone, answering email and working on the assignment. I highly recommend using laser focus to complete as many tasks as possible during your day.

A task will only take the amount of time that you give it. Click To Tweet

Why?

Because it takes time to get back your focus for each distraction that you encounter and this study found: “…interruptions lead people to change not only work rhythms but also strategies and mental states. Another possibility is that interruptions do in fact lengthen the time to perform a task but that this extra time only occurs directly when reorienting back to the task and it can be compensated for by a faster and more stressful working style….”

Let’s say that you were going to work on your blog post for 30 minutes. Seven minutes in, your mom calls and wants to chat about a recipe she found. You let her know you’re busy and three minutes later you’ve hung up.

You won’t be completely focused on your post for another several minutes. Now you’re behind on the work that you wanted to get done.

Alternatively, you could have set aside your phone for 30 minutes, scheduled time to return texts, voicemails and emails, and had a laser focus on your blog post. Here’s what the time breakdown looks like:

 

Helping You Focus

If you have dedicated an hour or more to a particular task, I recommend that you use the Pomodoro technique to break up the task into 20-minute blocks with a five-minute break in between, as well as a longer break after an hour is complete. As mentioned before, 20 minutes is the maximum amount of time that adults can focus, so it’s good to set the time limit, work diligently and end up with a product after each segment.

Once it’s the end of the day, check how you did. Did anything surprise you? Did something take longer than expected? Were you able to whip through your emails in half the allotted time?

 

Wrapping Up

My life is precious and important to me and I will use every moment to make it amazing. Click To Tweet


How you use your time tells others what you value, who you value and reveals your true level of productivity. Setting your priorities comes down to who you are and who you want to be in the world.

Do you want to leave a legacy?

How do you want to be seen by others in your industry?

How do you want to be seen in your family?

Your peer group?

When you take the time to learn about yourself and what you are doing with the finite resource of time, you will discover part of who you are. Over time, the compounding effect of using your time wisely will ensure that your goals are achieved, your life is fulfilling and your regrets will be few because you chose how to spend your precious moments of life wisely.
Your schedule is a reflection of your priorities... and if you're not getting everything done that you need to, it just means that you need to reprioritize and match your calendar to your new priorities. Setting priorities is all about what, when, and how. You're not too busy, you just need to prioritize better.

The Practical Guide To Time Management So You Can Get More Done With Less Stress

*Guest Post*

When you think of time management, what do you think of?

If you’re like most people, it probably sounds like some far away, rarely attained treasure that you can only find in the land of leprachans, unicorns and fairies.

… and you might even spend HOURS Pinteresting (is that even a word?) articles about productivity, time management and maybe you even have a whole drawer full of planners…. but you just can’t seem to figure it out.

Put simply, time management is a process where one’s time and tasks are organized and prioritized. While the definition above refers to “working hours,” time management does not have to be limited to work.

 

Better Time Management = Less Stress

Generally, we think of productivity as getting tasks done quickly.

Howeverrrrr, productivity refers to completing tasks (regardless of how fast they get done).

You might be thinking, “that’s all well and good, Elizabeth. But what do I care about being more efficient or productive?”

I’m so glad you asked!
Increased productivity means that more tasks can be completed in less time and you’ll be less stressed.

Why wouldn’t you want to get more done and be less stressed about it!?

 

How Do Time Management and Productivity Relate?

How many times have you been running late somewhere, completely forgotten about something or flat out missed an opportunity because you just couldn’t get your life together?

The goal of time management is to make sure you’re using your time wisely, so by getting really good at managing your time, you’ll also get more done, faster.

This works because time management (often in the form of a planner), allows you to chart out all tasks and events so you can plan ahead of time and since most of us are visual people, a planner or calendar allows us to see everything that is happening.

To reduce your stress, focus on planning your time, rather than increasing your productivity.

Better time management = less stress Click To Tweet

Sometimes, life happens and you can’t avoid plans changing, but time management can lower your stressthat’s caused by overlooking, overbooking, disorganization and forgotfulness.

Having everything planned leaves way less room for error… and when you get better at managing your time, you’ll waste less time too.

That’s a really long way of saying that effective time management will make you more productive.

 

How To Manage Your Time

Time management is more common than you might realize as many people use calendars, planners or schedulers—all of which are forms of time management.

Do you use one of these forms of time management?

If so, you have already increased your productivity (at least a little) simply by using one.

To take that up a notch, here’s how to master your schedule:

 

Know Yourself

First things first, knowing yourself is the most important part of being more productive.

Knowing yourself is the most important part of being more productive. Click To Tweet

So many people buy a planner with the intention of increased productivity and end up tossing it aside.

This is because they chose a method of time management that doesn’t fit their needs….
… and if your method of time management doesn’t fit your needs and personality, it won’t work. Period.

Not only do you need to find a method that works for you, you need to work the method… And Be realistic.

Find a method that works for you and work the method. Click To Tweet

If you can’t stand using your phone for planning, then don’t.

… and if you need to write things down to remember them, get a written journal!

There will significantly less hiccups in your schedule when you are aware of your abilities and level of patience.

For example, if you know that you can whip a project together in 30 minutes, then plan to do it in a small 30-40-minute window in your schedule, but if you can’t do this or causes you too much stress, give yourself more time.

And lastly, realize that this is a learning process that will take some time to figure out.

I finally figured out my favorite planning mediums roughly 3-4 years ago and it’s taken me this entire time to really get an idea of what was a good fit for me (I am still perfecting it!)… And that’s okay!

Nothing works instantly, not even instant mashed potatoes!

Nothing works instantly, not even instant mashed potatoes! Click To Tweet

 

Ways to Practice Time Management

There are dozens of ways to practice time management and it starts with knowing yourself, but if you don’t have a means to plan, knowing yourself won’t help your productivity.

 

Planners and Schedulers

Planners and schedules come in a million forms. These can be store-bought, homemade, on the computer, in app form, etc. Here are a few extremely common planner types and an app that I highly recommend!:

 

Bullet Journal

My favorite form of scheduling is the bullet journal.

I personally use my bullet journal constantly.

So, what is a bullet journal?

It’s a journal or notebook filled with hand-written planner pages. This is the most customizable option that I am aware of because you literally do whatever you want with it.

Because of the customizability, I will always suggest giving the bullet journal a shot.

The bullet journal’s biggest downfall is that the creation of the journal pages take time.

If you don’t care to take the time to plan your own pages, this option might not be for you….

… BUT, if you aren’t sure or are intimidated by all the fancy bullet journal pages you have seen on Pinterest, check out my post on simple bullet journal pages. These are pages that are easy to do quickly and don’t require artistic ability.

The most common bullet journal pages include the mind-dump (or ideas page), a key page, monthly calendar, weekly planning, and an array of tracking pages.

If you are looking for ideas, feel free to check out my personal bullet journal or this Pinterest board that I’ve dedicated to bullet journal ideas and how-to’s.

 

Store Bought Planners and Journals

If you don’t have an interest in bullet journaling, the store-bought planner is the next closest option.
You can find these planners at any office store, super store in the office department, Amazon, and with a simple Google search.

These planners come with a plethora of designs, sizes, page options, etc.

While they are far less customizable, there are so many options out there. More often than not, people choose the store-bought planner because it saves a lot of time and is still tangible.

Myhomework.com (For Students)

Myhomework.com is both an app and a website.

However, if you are a student, GET THIS APP! You will not regret it.

I have told countless friends and peers about this app and every single person has thanked me and told me how useful it has been to them. It has surely saved my education!

I would like to go into further detail about how to use it, since it is not too well known.

First, obviously, you should download the app (or visit the website) and sign up. Don’t worry, its free.
Next, you need to add your courses.

There is an option to search for your classes, but I have never been able to use this option.

I opt to manually input my classes and I also recommend color coding your classes to match the notebook, folder, binder, etc. that you use in those classes.


Once you have added your courses, grab your syllabus, get comfortable, and add your classes!

When you do this, make sure you set aside some time, because it can take a while.

To make it go significantly faster, I recommend using the website because you can add multiple classes at once.

When adding classes, you are able to add a description for the assignment (this is what you will see on the list or if you choose to set a reminder), the class it is for, type of assignment (i.e. test, study, read, paper, presentation, etc.), due date and time, whether or not it repeats, priority, any files you’d like to attach (such as instructions or notes), a reminder, additional information, and you can also mark it as completed (note that when you are looking at the list of homework on a mobile device you can hold down on the assignment to mark it as complete).

I recommend taking full advantage of all those options. I also encourage playing around in the settings because you can choose to have completed assignments visible or not, among other customizations.
 

Choosing A Calendar

Calendars are another, broader, method of planning and time management.

The planners above are also calendars; however, I am noting calendars as something separate as it may be incorporated in a planner, yet planners have far more to offer.

 

Google Calendar App

This app is a widely-used app on Android devices and is available for Apple devices.

I love using this app because of the friendly user interface, color customization, it connects to my google account, can be shared with friends and family members and you can set reminders for events.

In addition to the calendar option, there is a task option available; however, I do not use this so I can’t really give advice on that.

Paper Calendar

Paper is the first, and probably most commonly used, calendar.

A paper calendar can be printed, bought in a store, or drawn up. Most often these are found hung up on walls and sitting on a desk or countertop.

For some people, paper works really well because of the concrete nature of writing stuff down.

 

Whiteboard Calendar

The whiteboard calendar is my favorite.

I use this along with my bullet journal because it is great to have at a glance and for others to write notes on or view.

While I keep detailed to-do lists and events in my bullet journal, I use my whiteboard calendar for events, appointments, meetings, and vacations.

You can, however, use a whiteboard as your sole planner as many of them come with a notes section that could be used for a to-do list.

 

Microsoft Office Calendar

Microsoft Word and Excel are also ways to create more personal calendars and planners to print… . Microsoft Word comes with various pre-made calendars
… Or you can create your own by inserting and customizing a table.

Excel is already in grid form, just resize the spaces to your liking and add borders to the spaces you’d like to be visible.
You can leave them on your computer or phone if you’d like, but there are better options which I would recommend over these.

 

Putting It Into Action

Color Coding

Now that you’ve chosen a planning or time management method, I highly highly highly recommend you find a way to color-code.

Color coding is when you identify different categories by color.

For example, I use green for work, pink for the blog, red for errands, teal for events, yellow for holidays and so on. If you can’t color code, try using symbols instead.

I recommend color coding because it makes glancing at your planner easier and quicker.

Why spend a ton of time trying to read your planner, when you can understand it at a glance?

 

Be Realistic

You probably won’t be able to stay organized if your sole method of planning is not easily accessible.

If it isn’t on you when you need it, how helpful is it really?

If you don’t want to carry around a planner, try using an app instead.

If you don’t like technology or don’t have a smartphone, choose a written planner.

Do you need something very general? Use a calendar.

If you need specifics (i.e. weekly or daily planning), use a planner or bullet journal.

You get the point, right?

Be realistic and know what you need.

 

Plan Time to Yourself!

The last thing I’d like to talk to you about is planning “me-time.”

Planning time for yourself is so often overlooked but it is incredibly important to make sure that you don’t burnout or become overwhelmed.

If you do end up burning out, you need to take a step back and take some time to yourself, away from your to-do list.

Without me-time, you are wayyyy more likely to burn out and quit planning altogether.

Your body and mind will make time to recoup and if you don’t leave time for this, you will end up forgetting or pushing aside other scheduled items.

Ever just feel too overwhelmed to even do anything? Yeah! That is what I’m talking about!!

You won’t get anything done if you’re stressed, burnt-out, or overwhelmed. 

Don’t let it get to that point, so take a timeout!

 

Key Takeaways:

  • Daily planning is the key form of time management for increase productivity
  • Time management that suits your needs will decrease stress and increase productivity
  • Plan your schedule to suit you
  • Avoid being overwhelmed and burn out by planning “me-time

 

What Now?

Get a planner, calendar, or list and start organizing your time and tasks on it!

Like what you read? Read more from Jihi Elephant here or follow Elizabeth on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Google+ for blog updates!
When you think of being one of those ninjas that can get everything done in a day, do you laugh at yourself and say that could never be you or do you get excited at the possibility? In this article, you're going to learn how to get your time management in order so that you can get more stuff done.

How To Execute On Your Ideas When You Feel Overwhelmed

So you know when you have an idea that you’re like “this is going to make me a bajillion dollars”?… and then you go to start putting pen to paper to start brainstorming your idea… but nothing comes out? You’re literally staring at a blank page and all those amazing ideas that were just in your head seemed to die when you picked up that pen.

The problem is the idea is super abstract when you first start thinking about it so your brain doesn’t know how to process and organize the thoughts. In order to accommodate that, you need to give yourself some structure and help your brain put the puzzle pieces in order so that you can see the whole picture.

For each of these steps, give yourself a set amount of time to do them. If you drag it out, you’ll end up in “analysis paralysis” — you know what I’m talking about! When you’re stuck in “research mode” and you never actually pull the trigger.

 

1. Get to Googling (and YouTubing and Pinteresting)

Recommended Timeframe: 3-7 days

YouTube and Google are the two biggest search engines in the world… and Pinterest is right behind them. Contrary to what you might think, Pinterest is a search engine not a social site (when’s the last time you were actually social on Pinterest?)

Google will help you get some basic info on the topic and you’ll learn a lot from blogs. Next, head on over to Pinterest. I freaking LOVE Pinterest…. There’s a ton of info there and you will get even more details on the topic you’re looking for (and no, it’s not just recipes and crafts). There’s content on Pinterest for absolutely everything.

Lastly, head on over to YouTube. You’ll find webinar replays, instructional videos and walkthroughs to help you with your topic. You’ll learn so much by just spending a few hours researching your topic and learning about other people who’ve done it before you.

When there’s a new project that I want to work on, I will literally spend a whole week researching everything that I can about the topic… It’s sort of obsessive to the point that I won’t sleep because I want to know everything I can about it. The more I learn, the more I want to learn. If I had to guess, I probably read and listen to at least 50-100 pieces of content about that one topic before I decide how I want to implement it. If that sounds overwhelming, it’s easier to do than to sit in your brain and try to figure out how to organize your thoughts.

As a side note, just because it’s been done before doesn’t mean you can’t do it, too… and just because it HASN’T been done before doesn’t mean it can’t be done. I love to find things that people have used in different industries and repurpose it into something that I can use to give to you.

Make sure that you bookmark all of the stuff that you like — you may not realize it now, but that one little idea that you didn’t think was that big of a deal will be the one thing that reshapes your whole idea.

 

2. Read Five Books On The Topic

Recommended Timeframe: 30-45 Days

Next, pick out the one major topic that you need to learn to start executing on the idea. Go on Amazon and search for that topic. Find the top rated books and read at least five on the subject. This is my absolute favorite way to learn about a new subject quickly… and if you think you’re not a reader, it’s probably because you’ve been doing it wrong.

You probably haven’t been reading with purpose of applying the information that you’ve learned and you haven’t built the habit of it. It’s sort of like eating healthy or going to the gym… It’s hard at first and then it just becomes who you are.

Related: Reading Is The Cheat Code To Life

Reading just one book isn’t enough… You have to get a few different perspectives and opinions. This will also help you understand common practice, the language and you’ll start developing your own opinions about it.

I suggest you read 10 pages or 1-2 chapters at a time and every time you put the book down, write down the one thing you’re going to implement as a result of what you just read. Doing it this way will help you keep track of your idea and start putting some order in place for it.

 

3. Take An eCourse (or two or three)

Recommended Timeframe: 30-45 Days

This is something I just started doing recently and it’s been awesome. I truly believe in the saying “people have lived before you”. The people who’ve done it before you have been through all of the trial and error that you have yet to go through. During an ecourse, you’ll learn how to apply the information — not just learn the information. You’ll cut your learning curve by 100% because you don’t have to learn the hard way.

Before you hop into an ecourse, make sure that you verify the success of the person teaching it, go through their free content (they’ll usually have a blog or podcast so you can get a feel for their style and you’ll learn a lot there too) and look for reviews and testimonials of the course.

 

4. Structure Your Idea.

Recommended Timeframe: 1-3 days

By now, you’ve learned enough about the topic that you can start structuring your own ideas for how you want to do it. At this point, you’ll start noticing how much easier it is to brainstorm and get the ideas out of your head with some structure to it.

You may even find that your idea has evolved and changed since before you start this journey… That’s a good thing! That means that you’ve learned a ton and you’ll probably skip a bunch of the trial and error that you would’ve gone through without going through this process.

 

5. Start Talking To People.

Recommended Timeframe: 1-2 Weeks

If this is something that you want people to buy, before you go developing the product or service, take the time to talk to your potential clients. Talk to your friends, family and other potential clients.

Share your ideas with them and don’t get defensive if they don’t like it. It’s better to know that they don’t like it NOW than waiting until you’ve already built it to tell you they don’t like it. When you master your audience, you’ll know that you’ll be successful at whatever it is that you’re putting together.

If they disagree with you or don’t like certain elements, ask them why they feel that way. Get them to go deep!

Once you’ve talked to them, go back and tweak your idea again. Your idea should be a living, breathing idea — it’s not carved in stone.

 

6. Ask Yourself The Focusing Question.

By now, you’ve built out your idea and it’s time to start putting it into action.

I find that the absolute best way to go about doing this is to ask yourself the focusing question from The One Thing, “what is the one thing that I can do right now that will make everything else easier or unnecessary?”

Hint: The honest answer probably won’t be the one that you want to do… but it’ll be necessary.

 

7. Do That Action.

Surprise, surprise! Now that you know what the most important thing is… Go do it. We didn’t go through this whole process just for the sake of the idea. We went through all of this for the sake of taking action.

If you find yourself getting stuck here, it almost always has to do with fear…

Fear of success, fear of failure or fear of rejection. This is when you keep doing the “busy work” because you’re afraid to actually start.

Fear of Success: Massive success would require us to change and we don’t like change. This fear can also come from having succeeded in the past and then losing it all — you’re afraid that success leads to inevitable failure. To fix this, start focusing on why you’re doing what you’re doing rather than focusing on the result of the activity that you’re avoiding. (Related: Why Everything Goes Wrong At The Same Time + How To Fix It)

Fear of Failure: This one goes without saying. The biggest piece of advice I have for you here is to treat everything like an experiment. If you’re doing an experiment and something doesn’t work, what do you do? You find a different way. Again, focus on WHY you’re doing what you’re doing and let go of the focus on the result of the activity.

Fear of Rejection: This was always my biggest thing…. When I was a kid, I never wanted to tell anyone about my goals because I was TERRIFIED that people wouldn’t support me or judge me if I failed. To handle this, I went ahead and surrounded myself with different people. It wasn’t that the people I was around weren’t supportive, they just weren’t visioaires and couldn’t think as big as I liked to.

Related: How To Share Your Goals So That People Support You

Related: Stop Feeling Guilty For Outgrowing Your Friends

 

8. Prepare to Fail… A lot.

This is the one that most of us struggle with the most and as a result, we stop at number six because we’re afraid we’ll fail at number seven.

You’re going to fail… A LOT. That’s ok!

That’s where the growth happens and this is where you earn your brownie points.

The best advice that I can give you is not to be attached to the result. If you know that what you’re doing is the right thing to do, don’t worry so much about what the outcome is going to be. Allow yourself to commit 100% without fear of failure.

Treat it like it’s an experiment.

Related: If You Feel Like You’re Not Good Enough, Read This.

 

9. Repeat steps 7-9 until the project is complete.

Lastly, do 6-8 over and over and over and over again until your idea or project is complete.

When you break down your ideas into smaller steps, they become less overwhelming and easier to put into action. Stop letting your awesome ideas run away from you.

I’ve also created this workbook to take everything you just learned here and put it into action. It will walk you through the entire process of researching your ideas and then starting to execute on them. Here’s to much success!


Execute on your ideas

How To Find The Time To Reach ALLLLL Of Your Goals Without Killing Yourself

Have you ever had a phase in your life when you’re doing really well in one area of your life but you almost feel guilty because another area is suffering and you’re left wondering how people achieve this mythical work life balance?

Maybe you’re KILLING it at work but your family resents you for it because you’re never there for them.

… Or maybe your social life is awesome but you’re not taking care of your body.

Here’s the thing…

Balance means being able to create success that’s sustainable and fulfilling, rather than a life where you’re constantly sabotaging your own success.

Balance means being able to create success that's sustainable and fulfilling, rather than a life where you're constantly sabotaging your own success. Click To Tweet

Say what?!

Yup.

Let’s say you’re killing it at work but your spouse hates that you work so much… You’ll probably start working more to avoid having to deal with the negativity from your spouse, whether that negativity is confrontational or passive aggressive.

By working more, you might end up adopting self-destructive habits to maintain your energy and the spiral continues.

… And then we’re left wondering why “everything goes bad at the same time”.

It’s because we weren’t focused on balance.

Like it or not, the other areas of your life that you’re ignoring will demand attention whether you want to give it or not.

Like it or not, the other areas of your life that you're ignoring will demand attention whether you want to give it or not. Click To Tweet

To avoid that from happening, let’s talk about the 7 ‘S’ words that are the different areas of your life and then how to establish balance between them.

 

It’s not just about work life balance…

I’m not just talking about work life balance… Because work life balance is implying that work should get the same amount of time and attention as your life when that’s not the case. There are SO many areas of your life that need your focus too and when you’re not clear on that, you’ll still feel out of balance.

Instead of just talking about work life balance, let’s talk about the 6 S words.

 

The 7 S Words

The goal of balance is to be at a place of contentment where you are at peace with your life.  That doesn’t mean that you’re not aspiring to greater things, it’s simply focusing on ensuring that you’re succeeding in all areas of your life.

As we’re going through this, don’t just sit here and scroll through… Focus on how you can put it into action.

I’ve created a totally free workbook for you so you can break this down and find the balance that you’re looking for:

 

It Starts With You

The first three S Words are focused on you.

Self: If you’re not taking care of yourself, every other area of your life is going to be unsustainable. Think about it this way… If you hate how you look, don’t feel good about yourself, are unfulfilled and hate to wake up every single day, how in the world do you expect to succeed everywhere else in your life? You might be able to for a short time but you won’t be able to sustain it.

Self-Development: Tony Robbins says that the recipe for fulfillment is growth and contribution, so it’s no wonder that 78% of the workforce aren’t fulfilled in their careers. Just because you’re in a job doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be invested in your own personal growth. Our brains are designed to learn and grow so push your brain outside of it’s comfort zone and continue learning.

​Spirituality: I know this is a hot button issue so before we get into this, by definition, spirituality means the quality of being concerned with the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things… The reality is that whether you believe in a higher being, your own consciousness, the little voice in the back of your head or a universal energy, all of these are forms of spirituality. How often are you getting in touch with yourself? How often are you taking time to be present and express gratitude? How often are you having purposeful conversations with yourself or your higher being?

 

Relationships With Others

The next 3 S Words have to do with your relationship with other people.

Spouse + Seed: Your immediate family should take priority over any of your “other” relationships.

Service: ​It’s no secret that you feel good when you give. The more you give, the more compassionate you become and the more connected you are to the world around you. This isn’t just about giving money…. Your time, resources and connections are part of service too.

Social: Humans are social creatures. We survive in communities so building and maintaining relationships is super important. Social counts as any relationship outside of yourself — spouse, kids, family, friends and coworkers. If you’re struggling in your personal relationships, are having a hard time connecting with them or have some negative animosity, balance will be incredibly difficult.
While we’re talking about other people, everyone has these 6 priorities, the difference is that we all prioritize them differently.
For some people, their number one priority is going to be security and they’re probably going to be less of risk takers than someone whose number one priority is self-development…. Someone who’s priority is social may care about their physical image more than someone whose number one is spirituality.
There’s nothing wrong with any of these, just realize that they are different and the goal is to understand yourself so that you can understand others and have better relationships with them.

 

Money

The last S Word has everything to do with money. It’s important to note that this stands on it’s own because it’s meant to be used as a tool to fund the perfect life, it’s not meant to be the end all be all.

Security: This is your financial security… Are you behind your bills? Is the debt racking up? Are you dipping into your savings or are you overspending? All of these things will weigh on you and keep you from being able to reach your goals.

 

Turning The S Words Into Balance

First things first, it’s important to note that if you were to prioritize the 7 S Words and rank them from most important to least important and then rank them based on how you’re currently spending your time, you’ll almost inevitably find that they’re directly related to your level of happiness and peace of mind.

Instead of giving you high level theory, I created a workbook to help you put this into action.

In this workbook, you’ll go through the exact same process that I use during our workshops to help people break this down.

You’ll outline a typical week for you to see how you’re currently spending your time and then dig deep to prioritize the S Words. Then, you’ll decide on which areas you want to work on and make minor tweaks to your schedule so that your schedule aligns with your priorities.

You can download the free 7-page workbook right here:

 

Stop Separating Your Personal and Professional Lives

I find that a lot of young professionals try to keep their personal and professional lives separate and then are constantly wondering why they’re unfulfilled and burning out.

Instead of separating the two, look for ways to merge them.

… Yes, I’m aware this goes completely against all of the old school rules of professionalism but your sanity and peace of mind deserve it.

When the lines are blurred, you’re able to be more authentic to yourself because you’re no longer trying to display different versions of yourself at different times… You’re just you.

Not to mention, this also helps in building relationships because people will know what to expect with you, regardless of the atmosphere.

There isn’t enough you to be two people, so stop trying to be.

Ready to put this into action?

Download the workbook right here:

How To Wake Up Earlier + Design Your Perfect Day (Even If You’re Not A Morning Person)

I recently had a real heart-to-heart with one of my closest friends.

I set big goals for the year and I’m not on track for them…. He knows it and he knows how much I want it so he called me out on my shit because that’s what a great friend does.

If you have a bunch of people around you who never call you out when you’re slacking, those aren’t your friends… and if you get defensive when people call you out when you KNOW that you’ve been slacking, you don’t want to achieve your goals as much as you say you do.

That conversation lit a fire under me.

Not just because I realized I was slacking but because he reminded me how much he counted on me to achieve MY goals so that he could achieve HIS goals.

That’s how accountability works… We all succeed together.

That’s coopertition for you (coopertition is competitive cooperation — we are super supportive of each other and it’s still a competition for who’s going to be the best) or the popular term all over the internet is community over competition.

As I was falling asleep last night, I gave myself a hype talk…

It was sort of like Mufasa talking to Simba from the sky in the Lion King (don’t judge me).

I reminded myself that we don’t adjust our goals, we adjust our activities… That means I needed to 10x everything that I’m doing

The year is flying by… and waiting till Q3 isn’t going to get us to achieve our goals.

During that self hype-talk, I remembered someone telling me sometime, somewhere (yea seriously, I don’t even remember who told me this but it’s great advice)…

 

If you want to do more in a day, wake up earlier.

If you want to do more in a day, wake up earlier. Click To Tweet

How simple is that?!

I find the BEST advice is the simplest advice.

Think about it…

If you stay up till 5 in the morning, you’re probably not going to do anything productive (my mom used to say nothing good happens after midnight and the older I get, the more I realize she was right — even if you’re working, you’re probably not at your full energy)…

… But if you actually get up at 5am and actually get up, you’ll likely be way more productive.

The BEST advice is the simplest advice. Click To Tweet

Back when I was in a relationship, my ex and I committed to getting up at 4:30am every day so that we could workout, read in the morning and get to the gym by 7:30.

If you were to ask him, he’ll tell you how much I hated it and complained every day… But it really was a blessing.

Have you ever stepped outside at 4am?

It’s amazing.

The universe has secrets to tell you that it doesn’t want anyone else to hear and it feels like you’re privileged enough to have a private conversation with whatever spiritual being or metaphysical energy that you believe in.

The universe has secrets to tell you, you just have to wake up early enough to hear them. Click To Tweet

So after my pep talk, I was pumped to get up at 4am this morning.

… And if you’re in our Facebook group, you know about my struggle this morning… I did NOT want to get up.

I literally had to negotiate with my mind… but NOT getting up wasn’t an option, and so I did.

Once I was actually up and washed my face, I was ready for my morning and it was an awesome day.

 

My perfect morning goes like this:

4:00am – Brush my teeth, wash my face and stretch for a few minutes

4:30am – Write (this is my time to write these newsletters, blog for both my real estate business and Millennial Empire Builders, putting together courses for the Empire Builder Academy, scheduling my social media posts, creating email challenges and all of the other content that I annoy you with 😉 )

6:00am – Go to the gym

7:00am – Get ready, eat breakfast and have a dance party (because we all could use more dance parties at 8:30 in the morning)

8:30am – Brain dump before I start my day

We could all use more dance parties in the morning. Click To Tweet

And let’s get this straight… I am NOT a morning person.

Actually, now that I think about it… I’m not a night owl either.

I’m a sleep person.

In order to maintain my energy, I need 8.5-9 hours of sleep, however I have to get it… That’s just how my body works.

So go ahead and ask me how often I do my perfect morning routine….

HAH!

I wish I could say it was every day… But it’s not.

It’s a work in progress but the days that I do stick to that schedule, my days are INFINITELY more productive, I eat better and feel so much more accomplished after.

So here are a few of my favorite ways to get up earlier…

 

STOP TELLING YOURSELF YOU’RE NOT A MORNING PERSON.

Your thoughts become things…

If you keep telling yourself that you’re not a morning person, that thought is so embedded into your brain that your subconscious believes its true.

Being a “morning person” is just a habit that has to be built like going to the gym.

We have 90,000 thoughts in a day and a huge percentage of them are the same thoughts we had yesterday.

The more that you tell yourself that you’re not a morning person, the more you convince yourself that you’re not. Our thought patterns control who we are, the decisions we make and how we feel.

 

WAKING UP EARLIER STARTS THE NIGHT BEFORE

If you wake up in the morning after a night of terrible sleep, can’t find anything and are rushing, there’s a 100% chance that you aren’t going to have a powerful start to your day.

I would even argue that your morning starts the second that you get home.

The perfect morning starts the night before. Click To Tweet

Think about it this way — if you get home, throw your stuff down and plop down in front of the TV… Then it’s 6 hours later, you’ve barely eaten anything, have watched more TV than you planned to and realize it’s past your bedtime but you still have stuff to do…

So you end up staying up later to do whatever it was that you were supposed to do earlier.

Instead of “taking 10 minutes to rest” when you walk in the door, stick it out a little longer and have a ‘come home from work’ routine.

Where do you put your keys?

Make dinner.

Put your stuff away and prepare for tomorrow.

Make sure you give yourself a bed time and 30-60 minutes away from social media and TV to wind down before bed.

Once you’ve done that, you can hang out for a few hours with some peace of mind and don’t have to worry about those lingering annoyances of still having stuff to do before bed.

In the workbook that I put together for this post, you’ll identify your potential distractions, lay out your perfect day and even get your priorities in order… and you can download it right here, for free:

 

WAKE UP EARLIER THAN USUAL — IN 15 MINUTE INCREMENTS

Do not… I repeat, do not go waking up from 7am to then deciding to get up at 4. It’s not going to work.

Do not go waking up from 7am to then deciding to get up at 4. It's not going to work. Click To Tweet

We get super excited about the potential of achieving our goal so we go from waking up at 8am to now waking up at 5am… and then our body is like what the hell are you doing to me?!

As a result, it only sticks for a few days because your body hasn’t had time to adjust.

Instead, actually get up at the time you’re supposed to for a week.

If you keep setting your alarm at 7am because you know that you need to get up at 8am, stop it…. Force yourself to get up the first time.

Your body won’t like it at first but it’ll get easier.
By doing this, you’ll retrain your body to get up at that time and you’ll start to get tired around your bed time which will make falling asleep easier.

This could take a few weeks to get used to.

Once you’re used to hopping out of bed to brush your teeth and wash your face and have done that for a week or two, set your alarm 15 minutes earlier.

Do that for a week… and keep doing that until you get to your desired wakeup time.

That way your body will have time to adjust.

Which leads me to my next point…

 

HAVE A MORNING ROUTINE

First things first, get up, fix your bed (it’s harder to get back into a fixed bed once you’re up) and brush your teeth and wash your face.

You are not ‘you’ when you’re laying in your bed… The inner stubborn, temper tantrum five year old inside of you is in control and usually gets his or her way when it comes to hitting the snooze button.

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Once you’re up and wash your face, you’re up… So hop out of bed and wash your face.

While you’re doing that go listen to something positive – this is so easy… Go on YouTube and search motivation, go to iTunes and subscribe to a few podcasts or download the TED app.

There’s a million different videos and podcasts to get you ready for your day.

If you’re really in need of a schedule for your mornings, I highly recommend that you pick up the book The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod. Here’s my improvised version of the routine outlined in the book:

  • Do a quick meditation (even if it’s just a minute or two to visualize your perfect day and give yourself a little pep talk)
  • Get moving — go do a workout… It’ll make you eat healthier, have more energy throughout your day and you will already have more time to yourself than most people take in a week.
  • Learn something new — whether that’s reading 10 pages (if you do this, you’ll read 18 books in a year), listen to an audiobook or watch a quick video that teaches you something. In order to feel fulfilled, you need to be growing and giving… If you grow first thing in the morning, you’re setting the stage for a great day.
  • Write something — whether you’re writing down your plans for the day, writing your schedule or just writing down a quick thought, get whatever is in your head down on paper. Your brain is a thinking machine, not a memory machine.

 

LISTEN TO SOME HYPE MUSIC

Lastly and what I think is most importantly, get excited for the day… Listen to something that will get you awake and ready for the day.

Whether that’s on the way to work or while you’re making your breakfast, it’ll get your energy up.

Maybe 4am is unnecessary for you but waking up earlier can help pretty much anyone get closer to their goals so long as you use that time productively.

You’ve heard people say that being “busy” isn’t the same as being “productive”, so I created this workbook to help you plan out your perfect day and it even includes an hour by hour breakdown to help you plan the day that will help you build extraordinary habits and an extraordinary life


How to Reach Your Goals When You Have No Willpower

What keeps you accountable to your goals when your motivation fails you?

If you said nothing, you might find that you’re having a hard time reaching your goals.

The good news is that this is an easy fix.

We know that big goals require you to build new habits and we also know that building new habits is uncomfortable as I’ve laid out herehere and here. The quick fix to a lack of willpower is to add accountability around those new goals.

In order to achieve your goals, you’re going to have to get uncomfortable… This is nothing new. It’s easier to stay in bed at 5am than go to the gym, play on Facebook when you’re supposed to be making phone calls or going out when you should be sleeping… and it’s wayyyy easier to say ‘I’ll just start tomorrow’.

Sometimes, your big why just isn’t enough. No matter how many vision boards you make or no matter how much you intend to do it, you just can’t find the willpower to do it.

… But when you have a deadline or someone to report to, you’re a whole lot less likely to slack off.

Introducing… Drum roll please!

Accountability. 

You might have just cringed a little (like I did when I first learned about it)…

… or you might be thinking something along the lines of:

  • I don’t need accountability
  • My bank account keeps me accountable

If you said the first, I mean this in the most humble and compassionate way possible – that’s all ego. If you didn’t need accountability, you would have achieved your goals already. We all need some sort of accountability.

Embrace it my friend, don’t fight it. Our willpower is finite so accountability steps in where willpower fails.

If you said the second, having your bank account as an accountability partner will make sure that your bills are paid but it will keep you in a state of stress, unfulfillment (because you’re only living to pay bills rather than living to reach your goals) and you will likely only do enough to meet your requirements (which means you will continue living paycheck to paycheck).

There’s a lot of negativity around the word ‘accountability’ because so many people go about it the wrong way.

If your way of holding people accountable is harassing them about why they did or didn’t do something (or people are doing that to you), how is that perceived?

Yep, like an attack.

And then what happens?

Yep, you guessed it. They (or you) will become defensive almost every single time. There’s a different way to approach accountability. The key is allowing the person being held accountable to take ownership of their actions or lack thereof and you are just the person helping them see that.

 

What are you going to be held accountable for?

The first thing you’ll need to decide is what you’re going to be held accountable for.

You can choose to be held accountable to a specific activity or to a specific result. I like to be held accountable to consistent activities over the result for a few reasons…

First, setting accountability for the result can put you in a state of “by any means necessary”… and contrary to popular belief, that’s not always a positive place to be in. When you’re willing to do anything, that’s how you get yourself in trouble.

The most effective way to decide on your most important goal right now.

Seriously, what’s your MOST important goal? I know they all seem important so ask yourself which goal will make everything else easier?

Got it?

Awesome. Now, ask yourself what ONE activity that you can do (whether that means doing it once or doing it consistently) that you can do to help you reach your goals. Don’t go crazy making commitments that you aren’t going to keep so start with one thing and leave it at that (trust me, this is coming from a true recovering over-committer).

Maybe your goal is to lose twenty pounds. You might decide that you’re going to workout three times a week and you’re going to send a picture every time you’re at the gym so your accountability partner knows that you’re actually there.

 

What’s the consequence?

Now that you have the activity, you need to decide what happens if you don’t meet your commitments.
Some of the best examples that I’ve seen for accountability (and some of which I’ve participated in) are as follows:

  • Having to send a picture at the gym every morning at 6am and having to write a check to your partner if you don’t make it there five times per week (someone from my office did this with me, he slacked off and I bought a pair of shoes with his money. I rubbed it in his face for a few weeks and he stopped slacking off at the gym)
  • Telling your kids that you will take them to Disney if you hit your specific goal. Kids are great accountability partners because they’ll be on your case to make sure you did what you said you’ll do and you never want to let your kids down.
  • Writing a check to an organization whose values you strongly disagree with and setting a specific goal (say writing a certain amount of pages or talking to a specific number of people). If you don’t hit your numbers, your accountability partner gets to send the check to the organization that you disagree with. This one is awesome because even when you’re not in the mood to hit your commitments, that voice in your head going “I don’t want my money going to ___ organization” is loud enough to get your butt moving.

There’s a million ways to hold someone accountable and it doesn’t always have to be money involved (like the kid example above), but I find that it’s a great motivator. No one wants to have a check cashed for not doing something, especially if it’s for something that you don’t agree with.

 

Who’s going to hold you accountable?

The people that you allow to hold you accountable should be someone who you respect and don’t want to let down, not someone who is going to let you off easy.

If you’re going to use the check example, don’t write it to someone who you wouldn’t mind them spending your money. I know that sounds weird, but hear me out.

If your commitment is to go to the gym three times a week and you write your daughter a check for $100, when it’s time to actually go to the gym, that little voice in the back of your head will go, “it’s your daughter… You’d give her $100 if she needed it anyways.”

Accountability should HURT if you don’t hit your commitments, so make sure it goes to someone you don’t want spending your money.

Make sure it’s someone you trust and who won’t cash your check unless you fail to hit your commitments, just don’t give it to someone who you would give money to anyways.

There’s a guy in my office who wrote me a check and his commitment was to workout 3x/week. I let him off the hook once and the second time that he missed, I went and bought myself a pair of shoes.

The next day, I went into the office wearing the shoes. He didn’t know that I bought shoes with his money and he complimented them…. So I told him he bought them for me and then rubbed it in for like a week. He hasn’t missed accountability since 😉

 

Accountability Questions

Here are the six accountability questions.

Whether you’re working on a team, are an employer or a parent, these come in handy.

By asking these questions, the answerer is forced to self-reflect and answer for themselves.

They won’t feel attacked but will get clarity on their progress and it will help make it clear for them what their next steps need to be.

  • What was your goal?
  • How did you do?
  • How do you feel about that?
  • Based on how you did, what’s your new goal?
  • Is there anything that might keep you from doing that?
  • If you needed training or support to do this, what might it be?

Every time that I use these questions to guide my accountability conversations, they’re massively impactful and we both walk away with a ton of clarity and ready to take on the world.

Ready to put some accountability around your goals? I’ve created this cheatsheet to help you kick those goals into high action so you can start seeing results.


reach your goals when you have no willpower

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